By Julie Krienke
DELANO From apples and rhubarb to onions and asparagus, there is not much that the Singer couple does not garden.
Bob and Jackie Singer moved onto their nearly 40 acres of land south of Delano 15 years ago. Since then, gardening has become a full-time job on the Singer farm.
“We probably maintain a good six acres between all the flower and vegetable gardens,” Jackie said. “My passion is more for flowers, and Bob’s is for the plants.”
According to Jackie, the passion for gardening began when she was a child.
Both Bob and Jackie attended Duluth East High School and met several years later. Jackie attended nursing school at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, until she moved to Delano with her husband.
Jackie is now a member of the Wright County Master Gardeners as well as the Big Woods Garden Club of Delano.
The Wright Country Master Gardeners work through the University of Minnesota.
Master gardeners are community volunteers who must be trained and certified by the University of Minnesota in horticulture and gardening practices.
Currently, there are more than 50 master gardeners in Wright County who have been trained in community horticulture practices.
Master gardeners provide gardening information to their local community, and they answer gardening questions.
“It’s all about educating people about gardening,” Jackie said.
“It started in Washington State in 1972 because the urban gardens had become a big deal,” Jackie said. “Washington State started this program for people who had a profound love of gardening.”
In order to become a master gardener, individuals must complete 48 hours of classes through the University of Minnesota, as well as 50 hours of a community project.
After the first year, individuals become a certified master gardener. Once gardeners become certified, they must complete 25 hours of volunteer work every year to maintain their certification.
“This is a real fast program,” Jackie said. “It’s all about teaching and helping people with their gardening. We educate the public on proper gardening techniques and answer their gardening questions.”
Jackie hoped to become a master gardener to help beautify the City of Delano.
“I thought, maybe I can help this town out if I become a master gardener, and I think I have,” Jackie said. “I had always wanted to be one, so I became a member.”
Jackie received her master gardeners certification about 13 years ago after completing all of the required training.
Gardeners must also complete an internship to receive their master gardeners certification.
“My project was taking the Mighty Crow 4H and teaching the kids how to plant seeds and weed the garden,” Jackie said. “Then we gave the fruits to the local food shelf.”
According to Jackie, a local master gardener started a club called the Big Woods for her internship project.
The Big Woods Garden Club is a local organization that was founded in July 2002.
However, the organization has not always been called the Big Woods Garden Club.
The Delano Garden Club existed until members decided that the organization should have a name that depicted where they were living.
“When the pioneers came, this was called ‘The Big Woods,’” Jackie said.
The Big Woods Garden Club is all about community education. The club provides a variety of gardening related educational programs.
“We do have a passion for gardening around here,” Jackie said. “Every year we try to do some kind of project to help the community,”
Recently, the Big Woods Garden Club has planted at the local library and downtown. “We are planting 18 pots downtown this year,” Jackie said.
“I think this has benefitted our area tremendously,” Jackie said. “We’ve just done so much.”
The Big Woods Garden Club has hosted a highway cleanup, a festival in Montrose, maintained the city planters, organized a large garden tour in July and a plant sale in May.
In addition, this work is benefitting the City of Delano more than we know.
“All money raised goes back to the community,” Jackie said.
According to Jackie, both the Big Woods Garden Club and the Wright County Master Gardeners try to do something every month.
The master gardeners will be at the Wright County Fair with an information booth.
Now, most of Jackie’s experience deals with the master gardeners. “It’s a lot of work,” Jackie said. “We have meetings once a month at someone’s house.”
“The biggest thing with the master gardeners is helping people with any of their gardening questions and needs,” Jackie said. “As far as the Big Woods Garden Club, we’re just trying to make Delano a beautiful place.”
When it comes to her personal farm, Jackie works with her husband to maintain their gardens.
The biggest challenge is keeping things watered. “It probably takes a couple hours in the morning to water everything,” Jackie said. “I have a ton of containers all over.”
However, the couple does not sell any of their plants or produce. “We give everything away, and we do a lot of canning,” Jackie said. “We either can or freeze a lot of stuff.”
The couple enjoys making sauerkraut, pickles, salsas, and spaghetti sauce. They also have a small orchard, and they freeze all the apples and rhubarb.
Canned items include onions, potatoes, beans, and asparagus. “It’s what don’t we have,” Jackie said. “We pretty much have everything.”
The only plant that the Singers do not grow is corn.
“The reason we don’t have corn is because it cross pollinates if in close proximity,” Jackie said. “Gosh, there isn’t a whole lot we don’t grow.”
Yet gardening can be a demanding job. “It’s weeding one of the gardens, planting or harvesting,” Jackie said. “It’s pretty much a fulltime job because we’re mowing and weed whipping, too.”
According to Jackie, Bob is now retired and has expanded the operation.
However, the couple makes time for a date day. “That’s a no gardening day,” Jackie joked.
Jackie’s favorite part of gardening is seeing the fruits of her labor. “It’s just a fun thing to see people happy,” Jackie said.
The Singers’ neighbors are commercial peony growers, and Jackie often helps them with gardening needs. Owners of Countryside Gardens, Barb and Laverne Dunsmore maintain a vast field of peonies.
The Singers also have an intern this year, Carole Miller, who just completed her core coursework. She hopes to become a master gardener and is currently working on her intern project.
“Ultimately, I try to live by this saying,” Jackie explained. “Spreading random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. We just try to help and make everything beautiful.”
If you have questions for the Wright Country Master Gardeners or are interested in becoming one, call (763) 682-7394. For information about the Big Woods Garden Club, call the 2010 President Sharon Clark at (763) 955-3118.