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East County Wednesday, May 15, 2019 3 months ago

Lakewood Ranch area gardener loves life with weeds

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Rosedale woman still loves gardening ... even after a lifetime of weeding.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Rosedale Golf and Country Club resident Linda Lestock remembered as a child carrying a salt shaker out to her family’s garden in Wayne County, Mich., and plucking a juicy red tomato.

She would sprinkle it with salt and take a bite as if it were an apple.

“There was so much produce, (my mother) would can it. We could use it all year round,” Lestock said.

She would help, pulling weeds from rows of corn, tomato, squash and asparagus. At 77, weeding is still Lestock’s favorite gardening activity. It’s one she does at home, as well as at University of Florida Manatee County IFAS Extension Office, where

she volunteers through the Master Gardeners Volunteer Program.

It trains volunteers to assist the horticulture agents by educating the public about effective, environmentally sound, research-based methods of cultivating plants in the home garden and landscape.

Lestock and other Master Gardeners on May 15 celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Master Gardener Volunteer Program in Manatee County.

“There’s so much to learn here,” Lestock said. “We’re gardening all year long and there’s something new to learn each season.”

Lestock joined Manatee County’s program 12 years ago after volunteering as a Master Gardener in Michigan starting in 1998. She joined the Master Gardener program initially because it combined her interests of gardening and volunteering.

After moving to Florida, she found the program to be a valuable tool for adapting her gardening experience to Florida’s unique conditions.

“Florida gardening is so different. It’s reversed basically,” she said.

She said she loves to share that experience with others.

In Manatee County, Master Gardeners give tours of four demonstration gardens while also maintaining them. They organize a plant sale fundraiser during the Manatee County Fair, man educational tables and booths at community events or at libraries, lead horticulture-related classes and speak to homeowners associations.

Lestock enjoys working on the demonstration gardens at the IFAS office, keeping the soil shed there organized and serving as a guide at Rye Preserve during season. She now volunteers upwards of 300 hours per year.

Like the other Master Gardeners, she also works in the plant clinic, answering questions about sick plants, identifying insects and plants and addressing other questions that arise. Master Gardeners also can provide free irrigation evaluations, among other assistance.

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