Sunday, February 5, 2012

Remembering Stephan Megerdichian and His Gardens

Several of us are remembering a neighbor who recently passed away, Stephan Megerdichian Sahaki, with a donation to the Los Angeles Master Gardener program.

Mr. Megerdichian loved to garden.  In Iran, where he lived until the 1990s, he had rose bushes. In Sherman Oaks, his last home, he had geraniums happily tumbling through the railings of his balcony to brighten the streetscape. It is a tradition in his culture to send huge bouquets of flowers for display at the funeral and the grave. Forgive us, but we have chosen to make a gift in his name to a program that will keep blooming forever.

Master Gardeners in Service to the Community

The Master Gardener program is part of the University of California Cooperative Extension program for Los Angeles County. Offered every spring, the Master Gardener Volunteer Training Program provides intense gardening training to enable volunteers to help low-income residents grow their own food.  They learn about organic gardening, growing vegetables, fruits, flowers, shrubs, trees, soils, composting, pests and harvesting.

After their training, the Master Gardeners provide free gardening workshops and give technical expertise to community, school, shelter and senior gardens throughout Los Angeles.

In 2011, the 236 Master Gardeners volunteered 14,909 hours, serving 132,363 low-income gardeners in Los Angeles County at 271 locations including community gardens, school gardens, homeless and battered women’s shelters, senior gardeners and fairs and farmers markets.

University Caliber Knowledge Applied to Your Backyard

The 64 Cooperative Extension offices in California are local “problem-solving centers,” according to the Extension’s Los Angeles County website. They are the “bridge between local issues and the power of UC research.” Their focus ranges from helping farmers (both commercial and backyard) solve pest problems, grow more efficiently, apply smart water-use strategies, promote healthy diets and nutritious foods.

The website offers the home gardener wonderful information including Los Angeles-focused gardening tips and checklists by month, gardening articles on a wide variety of subjects, informational brochures on growing tomatoes, saving water, pruning trees and amending soils.

The Extension also offers classes as part of its Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative. Planning ahead to a bounteous harvest, you can also get involved in the LA County Master Food Preserver Program. This 12-week program teaches you how to use canning, pressure canning, freezing, drying and fermenting to preserve food.

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