Whether you want to volunteer one day or every day, there are dozens of garden-type volunteer groups anxious to know you. Here is how to get started:
- Decide what you want to do and how often. Some programs call for a “commitment” — meaning you promise to give a certain number of volunteer hours. Others are a come-when-you-feel-like- it kind of job.
- Think about your interests. If you like to grow vegetables, or maintain flowers, or prune trees, there are a number of nitty-gritty get-your-hands-dirty type of volunteer spots begging to be filled.
- If you like to talk to people, you are really in luck. Most public gardens need docents to lead informative walks through the grounds. All of the botanical gardens, including Strybing, Filoli Center, and University of California gardens at Santa Cruz and Berkeley, regularly use large groups of trained docents for their tours.
- Talking to kids is another option. The University of California Master Gardeners training program is a good bet. An offshoot of this group is the Master Composters program, with volunteers who give workshops on worm composting to schoolchildren and other groups.
Here are just a few of the opportunities for garden volunteers:
- San Jose Heritage Rose Garden. Spring and Taylor streets, San Jose. Volunteers are needed to care for the roses. Training is provided. There are regularly scheduled workdays every Wednesday and Saturday 9am until 12 noon in winters and 8am until 11am starting in June. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.grpg.org (408) 298-7657.
- San Jose Historical Museum. 1600 Senter Road, adjacent to Kelley Park, San Jose. Garden Club welcomes more volunteers to help maintain grounds. Call for next general cleanup day. Call Laurel Perusa or Mary Force at (408) 287-2290.
- Hidden Villa. 26870 Moody Road; Los Altos Hills, Volunteers are needed to maintain the grounds, conduct hikes and workshops, and help with other projects. Call Minka van der Zwaag, manager of volunteer and visitor services, (415) 949-8656.
- Our City Forest. For information on the Our City Forest training program and details on other special events, call the Tree Hotline, (408) 947-6213.
- Rose Garden Neighborhood Preservation Association. Naglee and Dana streets, San Jose. Call for the next volunteer day. Call the Rose Garden Hotline, (408) 236-2130.
- Master Composters. For details on how to become a Master Composter and to join the next training class, call Sharon McCray at (408) 299-4147.
- Filoli Garden. Canada Road, Woodside. Become a Friend of Filoli and learn about their volunteer opportunities. For information, call (415) 366-4640.
- Master Gardeners. The University of California Cooperative Extension holds a 1Cweek training session for Master Gardeners in the Santa Clara County program. For information, call Nancy Carrison at (408) 299-2636.
- The Elizabeth Gamble Garden Center at 1431 Waverly, Palo Alto has several volunteer programs and welcomes volunteer assistance. Call (415) 329-1356.
- In the Oakland area: The Lakeside Park Garden Center is a collection of various display gardens of different themes. There is a Palmatum, a Succulent Garden, a Rhododondron Garden, Greenhouses, and many more, including a new garden being developed to demonstrate appropriate plants and plantings for our local mediterranean climate. The Morcom Rose Garden is a popular strolling park and in need of help in keeping weeds down, etc. It is a very pleasant place to be even if you are working! To volunteer at either of these parks, call District Supervisor Dave Skinner at (510) 238-3208.
- Other. If you’are interested in a particular garden, park or historic house, ask at that location how you can help. Also, inquire through your city’s parks and recreation department about volunteer needs. County parks need volunteers to help clear trails and work with visitors, and a call to your county parks department will put you in touch with volunteer opportunities.
Much of this information came from Joan Jackson, Mercury News Garden Editor.