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Homegrown

Master gardener gets her hands dirty at Charlestown

Created date

October 26th, 2010

Pat Kasuda digs dirt! For me, going to work in my garden is like going to my own personal sanctuary, says Kasuda, a master gardener who lives at Charlestown in Catonsville, Md. A graduate of the 2009 master gardener program through the University of Maryland Extension, Kasuda says gardening is her way to relax and socialize with others who possess a green thumb. And the bonus is enjoying the fruits of her labor. I find growing my own fruits, vegetables, and flowers so rewarding, she says. As a child I wondered through the garden with my grandfather and father. I loved picking vegetables and eating them fresh. I enjoyed watching the little miracles happen as plants matured, flowered, and produced their fruits.

Putting roots down

So when Kasuda and her husband, John, decided to sell their Glen Burnie house complete with a huge butterfly garden, perennial flower garden, rose garden, and a 30-foot by 20-foot water garden featuring a water fall and fish, and move to Charlestown, having a place where she could garden was at the top of her list. The ability to keep my fingers in the soil really made a difference in our choosing to call Charlestown home, says Kasuda. You certainly don t have to give up what you love when you move here. I have so many opportunities to garden. There are in-house horticultural projects, container gardening, patio gardening, and plot gardening. In fact, Kasuda placed her name on the waiting list for a garden plot at Charlestown long before she moved to the community. When we began researching Charlestown, I called the grounds department and asked what kinds of gardening opportunities there were. That s when I learned about the gardening plots, she says.

Grow it, eat it

Charlestown features a community garden area with 100 ten-foot by ten-foot-sized plots free to community members and available on a first come, first serve basis. Kasuda grows several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and eggplants in her garden. I think in today s economy, there is no better way to benefit from our environment than to grow food to eat, says Kasuda who participates in the Maryland Cooperative Extension Grow It Eat It program. I also enjoy preservation of the food that I grow and love to entertain with my homemade products. Kasuda helps the Maryland Cooperative Extension solve gardening problems and teach environmentally sound practices. To maintain her master gardener status, she meets annual continuing education and community service requirements. As a master gardener, I m required to complete ten hours of advanced training each year along with 20 hours of volunteer services, she says. To achieve that, I do a variety of things, including working at information booths at community events and fairs, maintaining demonstration gardens, answering garden questions at plant clinics, and teaching horticulture to beginning gardeners and youth.

Natural state

Kasuda is also a member of the Charlestown Garden Club which hosts tours of the area s botanical gardens, wildlife reserves, and other places to promote an interest in protecting the environment. She also belongs to the Nature Trail Club where she maintains the butterfly garden. She says she feels fortunate to be surrounded by Charlestown s beautiful landscape. I love to interface with visitors as they come to enjoy not only the flowers but also the many butterflies that are prominent in our area, says Kasuda. It is exciting to walk around and view the many native trees and plants that surround the community. And with the changing season, there is an opportunity to view Charlestown s beautiful landscape. Through years of training and hands-on experience, Kasuda says the most important thing she learned about gardening came from working with her father and grandparents. The right timing for planting is essential, she says. The right time for pruning is essential. And the right time to pick is essential. But the most essential thing is having the time to enjoy gardening. Interested in achieving ' master gardener status? Master gardeners must successfully complete a master gardener training program and then volunteer their time. Master gardener training classes are conducted annually by Maryland Cooperative Extension specialists, agents, and other horticulture professionals. For information on the Maryland Master Gardener Program, call the Home and Garden Information Center at 1-800-342-2507 between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. weekdays, or visitwww.extension.umd.edu. Master gardeners interested in touring the grounds of Charlestown and Charlestown residents who are seeking opportunities to get involved may contact Pat Kasuda at 410-242-2257 or via e-mail at: pjkasuda@verizon.net.

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