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.
Visit Olivette Aviso’s home in Epping during the growing season and you’ll likely find her tending to her container garden, where she grows a variety of herbs, tomatoes, peas and other vegetables. She developed an interest in container gardening the decade she lived in Arizona. When she moved back to New Hampshire two years ago and into a mobile home park, she realized her container gardening knowledge would once again come in handy.
“I became interested in container gardening in Arizona because the climate is so unfriendly to gardening. You have to work with things creatively,” Aviso says. “Now I have four fairly large containers I use as my garden. You have to work with what you have, and I’ve learned a lot in the process.”
Being a gardener means being adaptable, and it’s a trait Aviso carries over into her duties as a N.H. Master Gardener volunteer. A Master Gardener since 2004, Aviso says she keeps an open mind and stays prepared for any questions that might come her way during volunteer shifts at the UNH Extension Infoline.
Aviso’s fielded questions on everything from taxes to sheep shearing to pressure canners. “They run the gamut,” she says. “It’s like finding a shiny new penny every day that you’re there. And the other Master Gardeners who volunteer are wonderful people. They share freely with callers what they know. It’s just a great experience.”
Aviso began gardening at an early age. She grew up in New York City and remembers watching her grandmother “dig in the dirt” and tend to the family’s flowerpots. That early fascination with gardening grew into an interest in biology and nature and, eventually, health. Aviso later became a nurse. “I was very interested in what I could do to grow better food for my family and understand what other people could do if they were interested in the same thing,” she says.
Working with other Master Gardener volunteers offers plenty of opportunities to explore those interests, according to Aviso. A longtime member of Toastmasters International, Aviso especially enjoys talking with Infoline callers and doing the necessary research to answer their questions. No two questions are alike and no day is ever boring, she says.
During her years as a Master Gardener in Arizona, she worked closely with the group’s Speakers Bureau. And during a recent Master Gardener course in the Seacoast, Aviso met home gardeners, farmers, commercial gardeners and others who were eager to start volunteering. Her advice to potential Master Gardeners? Gardening is about more than having a backyard plot, and the subject is more engaging when one’s idea of gardening is wide open.
“Each situation is unique, and that really challenges me,” she says. “And I love a challenge.”