Starting Small

Master Gardener volunteer Terrie Wallace shares her experiences

An older woman in a blue jacket and waering glasses smiles at the camera. She is standing in front of a large historical home in Portsmouth.

Dedicated Master Gardener volunteers answer home and garden questions big and small each weekday at the UNH Extension Infoline. Get to know the volunteers behind the Infoline with this ongoing series of profiles—and learn how you too can become a Master Gardener.

Terrie Wallace is relatively new to gardening. When she retired in 2014, she was searching for an online gardening course to augment the skills she’d learned caring for her dozens of houseplants. She had limited outdoor gardening experience, but wanted to learn more. A friend suggested joining the N.H. Master Gardener program, and in 2018, Wallace took the course.

“I’m really glad I did,” she says. “You don’t have to be a gardener for decades, or have to have learned about gardening from your mother or grandmother—you can be like me, someone without a lot of experience, and go through the program and still be a useful volunteer.”

Wallace’s evolution as a gardener has mirrored the advice she gives to callers. She and her husband have about four acres of land at their New Boston home. This year, they grew some tomatoes and peppers, along with roses, hydrangeas, day lilies and other flowers. Wet weather and hungry deer thwarted many of her gardening plans, but Wallace sees it all as an important learning experience.

“I’m following the usual Master Gardener advice and starting small,” she says. “It’s been a learning experience, and I’m learning so that I can help someone else, but also help my own yard and garden.”

As an Infoline volunteer, Wallace says she learns something new each day—oftentimes about topics other than gardening. One recent caller wanted information about a furniture refinishing course she took in New Hampshire sometime in the 1960s or 1970s.

“She thought it was through UNH Cooperative Extension and had lost her booklet, and she wanted to know if we could provide her with a new copy—she remembered the booklet was yellow,” Wallace says. “Of course, there was no way to get the booklet, but instead I found information about refinishing furniture that was helpful to her.”

Wallace also volunteers at her church library and with the New Boston Historical Society. Her Master Gardener work is very rewarding—especially since she began as a relative novice.

“You don’t have to be a champion gardener to be involved and find it fulfilling,” she says.

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Larry Clow
Former Production Editor