Earth action hero: Planting sustainability as a Master Gardener

There are gardeners and there are Master Gardeners. Karen Valerio puts her green thumb to task as a sustainable steward at her Bloomington home and as a Master Gardener at the University of Minnesota. Through every turn of the trowel, she stays current about horticultural developments and helps community members with their gardens. Maybe you’ve seen her volunteering around town?

“I love working at the Bloomington Farmers Market because it supports the people where I live,” Valerio said. “It’s fun to talk to all the gardeners. We get questions about pest control, weed issues, watering, transplanting and lots more.”

Brimming with native flowers, shrubs and trees, her yard and gardens warrant a double take. To Valerio, sustainable gardening means installing plants that are earth friendly, reduce chemical use, and provide food and shelter for native insects. Little choices can make a big difference.

“Consider installing a bee lawn,” Valerio said. “We have a handout at the Master Gardener table at the Market.” (For bee lawn information online, visit

Growing native plants for bees, butterflies and other insects is an easy choice and is a gardening trend.

“Add some coneflowers, asters and grasses. After the first three years when the plants mature, maintenance is very low,” Valerio said.

To find out more about becoming a master gardener, visit or call 612-596-2130.