Lloyd and his wife, Debbie, have been married 42 years and during that time have moved 14 times due to the demands of his job. In his pre-master gardener life, Lloyd worked in the senior care industry. He was president of National Active Living and vice-president of sales and operations manager for Hearthstone with 3,300 employees reporting to him. His territory covered 37 states which kept him on the road quite a bit. Still, with all the required traveling, he managed to get a bit of gardening in; primarily vegetable gardening.
Retiring to Texas he made a prophetic discovery. Vegetables he was used to growing in Ohio didn’t survive in Texas! This served as the motivation to explore the master gardener program. What plants and vegetables could he grow here? The master gardener program gave him those answers.
He started his internship in 2015 and really enjoyed the course. He said, “I still use the resource materials I got in the course.” An important part of the training was rotating through the demonstration gardens. He explained it exposed him to many different aspects of gardening. Unsurprisingly, he enjoyed working the vegetable gardens, but he also found the hydroponics garden really interesting.
Taking his new-found knowledge of Texas gardening skills, Lloyd constructed a raised bed garden and established a small orchard at his house. Now, he grows all kinds of Texas friendly vegetables and his orchard includes oranges, lemons, limes, peaches and blackberries. Lloyd laughingly told me about using pantyhose to protect his watermelon and cantaloupe this year. He said he learned the technique in the classes as one method to protect his fruit from pests and establish a vertical garden to save space and get more yield. He didn’t say where he got the pantyhose.
Because of the restrictions caused by Covid, Lloyd spends more time in the garden these days and has expanded to include decorative plants. He now grows hibiscus, coneflowers and gardenias in containers.
Lloyd also talked about his frustration in trying to grow blueberries. He said they are finicky plants, or at least his are. He buys them each year and they die. He thinks he has finally figured out what the problem is. Each year he’s put out fire ant poison and watered it in. He believes that is part of the problem. He’s also found they don’t like water straight out of the hose. He’s had to start watering them using rainwater or letting water sit in a watering bucket he uses for several hours. Lloyd’s not sure why that seems to work, but his blueberries are happier this year.
Asked about his favorite plant, he said jalapeno. “I haven’t been able to kill it, it’s good all year long and it’s great for grilling poppers. I love stuffing them and grilling them.” There was a suggestion his neighbors are a lot friendlier since he started sharing his poppers.
In discussing the master gardeners’ association, Lloyd shared a few thoughts. He felt the program is successful because people are engaged and see an opportunity to serve the community in many ways. The program is what you make of it and the effort put into it. Certainly, there are individual learning opportunities, but the program offer so much more. There are opportunities for personal growth; for working with the public to teach about various aspects of gardening, answer gardening questions or researching and writing about horticulture issues specific to Montgomery county. Whatever the need there always seems to be someone willing to help. The social aspect is also important, there have been many lasting friendships made since joining the master gardeners’ association.