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Volunteer Spotlight: Courtney Cowgill

Colorado Master Gardener℠ (CMG) volunteers are a dedicated group of individuals who are knowledgeable and passionate about sharing gardening, landscape and horticulture education. This month we are highlighting Courtney Cowgill.

When and why did you join the Colorado Master Gardener program?

I completed Green School in 2018. I have been a lifelong gardener, mainly growing vegetables and house plants. I also own five acres of pasture land, virtually destroyed by livestock over-grazing by previous owners. The pasture was mostly sand, bare dirt, and noxious weeds. Without success, I spent a lot of time researching what I could and shouldn’t grow in my attempts to revegetate that acreage.

I applied for the CMG program hoping to find answers to my pasture project. I knew I would also learn new gardening skills, an additional benefit. I have achieved success in both growing plants and restoring my pasture. Every time I volunteer as a CMG, I learn a gardening fact or process that has dramatically improved my gardening skills and results. Volunteering to work in various gardens has become a learning opportunity where I take home (and implement) some good ideas.

What inspires you about the program?

Working with other Master Gardeners has been fantastic. All are happy to share their expertise and experience. Some have been Master Gardeners for more than 20 years. They are happy to explain the “whys” behind the gardening methods. In my five years of experience working with other CMGs, none has refused to answer a question or made me feel stupid because I did not know the answer.

I now mentor new apprentice Master Gardeners for their first growing season. That has been a mutual learning experience as we review our written training materials and Zoom online classes together. Working as a Master Gardener is a continual learning process.

What have you learned that you didn’t know before?

My biggest “Ah-Ha” moments are learning about “regionally appropriate” plants to grow in this area. These are plants that are either native to our area or are native to areas with similar weather and soil conditions. Planting natives that are used to rapid temperature swings, intense sun, and arid conditions is the key to success.

What would you want someone to know about the CMG Program that may not be commonly known?

The CMG program has an extensive and positive image in the Metro area. My neighbors now ask me about their gardens, lawns, trees, plants, and pastures. I have met most of my neighbors in my entire neighborhood because they called me with a gardening or plant question.  There have been many calls that I can’t immediately answer, but my CMG-trained research skills helped me find the correct solution or recommendation. I am comfortable referring the difficult questions to the CMG helpline for answers I don’t know or can’t find. There is a CMG somewhere in Arapahoe County who does know that answer and is happy to share it.

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