Meet the Master Gardeners: Jim Blom


When did you start gardening?

When I was eight or nine, I walked to my grandpa’s farm and worked. My grandfather grew a lot of his own food to feed his nine children.  I pulled weeds, turned the soil, and picked strawberries. I always ate a few when he wasn’t looking. When I had a home of my own, I began growing my own flowers and vegetables.

What are your favorite plants?

I try to grow something new every year, and this year it’s penny purple picotee. I grow zinnias from seed, and I like to use marigolds and sunflowers in the garden at my church that I maintain.

What is the focus of your garden?

I am working towards a pollinator garden, which is a challenge for me because I have a lot of shade.

What is your favorite gardening tip or advice?

Know your environment! Determine your soil condition, drainage and sun exposure first, and then pick the plant. I’ve done this backwards a few times and it doesn’t work. Sometimes you have to accept that the plant you want to grown in a certain area is not going to grow very well there.

Describe a gardening mistake you’ve made.

I planted blueberries last year without testing the soil beforehand, and they didn’t grow very well. When I tested the soil the next year, I discovered that the soil was not right for them because the pH level was 7.2. Blueberries need a pH level of 5.5. Always test your soil first!

What Extension Master Gardener activities have you participated in?

I graduated in 2003 and was President in 2005. I’ve worked at the Fairgrounds Demonstration Garden every year. I function as a utility man who fixes everything that is broken, including wheelbarrows and fences. I’ve participated in the Garden Show, I help calculate volunteer hours for the Master Gardeners, and I compile the roster that lists everybody’s phone numbers, addresses and pictures. In 2015, I was awarded Master Gardener of the Year.

What is/was your career outside of the Extension Master Gardener program?

I wanted to be a chemist but I flunked out of college my junior year.  I enrolled in the Air Force and was trained in missile facilities during the Korean War.  I was stationed at McConnell Air Force Base where I was on a four-man crew responsible for maintaining a missile with a war head attached to it that was ready to fire at any time. After the war, I went back to school and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering at Wichita State University on the GI Bill.  I had a top-secret crypto clearance and I was hired by Western Electric to be on the SAFEGUARD Project, which was a government created anti-missile system.  When that program was terminated, I transferred to a telephone service company and worked as a software repairman.

If you are interested in becoming an Extension Master Gardener, application information can be found under the “About Us” tab on our website.


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