Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Judy Walker
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Reflections from a Master Gardener

Master Gardener Intern


August 30, 2018

Judy Walker

Last month, the Carlton County Master Gardeners met at the home of local master gardener Doug McLellan. Before offering us a beautiful spread of homegrown refreshments, Doug led the group on a tour of his truly stunning property. Winding our way past a large garden, an old barn, a hillside root cellar, a future sugar maple forest, and the remains of a Civil War era homestead, we encountered heirloom vegetables, flowers and herbs, raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries, elderberries, nannyberries, hackberries, blackberries, hazelnuts, butternuts, walnuts, pie and Nanking cherries, five varieties of apples, four varieties of pears, bush apricots and two varieties of plums. A pollinators' paradise for the hives the McLellans maintain near their orchard.

Doug shared these thoughts about gardening:

Q:  When did you first start gardening?

I first started gardening in earnest in 2006.  We had a garden before then, and we had the orchard, but at the time it was much smaller.  That summer is when I started to go overboard.

Q:  You have so many different and beautiful things happening on your property. How did that transpire?

I have to say that it was a group effort.  Completely. Without my wife Tammy and my two daughters Juliet and Emily Robyn helping and encouraging the project, it would never have gone beyond the first vegetable garden.  The kids haven't always been crazy about weeding, or working when the weather is not ideal, but they have been an unbelievable help. Tammy has been a great sounding board (and voice of reason) along the way, too.  

Q:  Did you have a grand plan?

Not at first.  Before we got serious about gardening, it was never our intention to have all these things going on.  We just thought it would be nice to have another couple of blueberry bushes and a few apple trees.

Q:  Did you start small, and add over the years?

Absolutely.  Since we never really had a grand plan at first, it was all very ad hoc.  It wasn't until a few years later when we started asking ourselves, "If we are going to do this, we should plan years into the future instead of trying to patchwork it every summer."

Q:  What do you love the most about gardening/growing things/ managing your property?

I love the peace and quiet of being out amongst the trees and plants.   I like sharing the skills of plant stewardship and seed saving with my kids, and I enjoy spending time with my wife in the fresh air.   There is also something to be said for that sense of accomplishment that comes along at harvest time, or when the flowers fill the air with amazing smells and a riot of colors that stops you in your tracks.

Q:  Why did you decide to become a master gardener, and how did it assist you in your gardening goals?

It was a combination of things getting bigger, and always learning our lessons the hard way.  By taking the MG core course, I gained some very valuable knowledge. But more importantly, I knew that I would make new friends in the group and that I would be able to ask them questions when I needed help.  And I do.

Q:  Do you have a favorite tip/technique to share? Like "When gardening, always..."  

Start small.  If you bite off too much too soon, you could have a giant garden full of weeds, and that can be very dejecting to someone just starting out.

or "When gardening, never..."?  

Give up.  Plants have died on all of us.  Keep trying and don't be afraid to ask questions.


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