“Ask a Master Gardener”

From Engineer to Master Gardener: NAVFAC Pacif...

From Engineer to Master Gardener: NAVFAC Pacific Employee Serves Community Selflessly (Photo credit: NAVFAC)

Would you like to know what is knocking out your Knock Out rose? Why the bloom is off your lilac? Do you have tomato trouble? The lavender blues? Are you eager to learn about safe, effective and sustainable horticultural practices?  And, would you like to help share these with the community? In either case, the Master Gardener program may be for you.

If you need to have a plant or insect identified, a plant disease diagnosed, or just a gardening question answered, then “Ask a Master Gardener”. The volunteers generally are available at such venues as library plant clinics, farmers’ markets, fairs and other special events and, many, at the end of a phone line or email. They are always eager to help.

There are Master Gardener programs offered in every state. Each program varies according to the respective MG coordinator. Some programs offer classes during weekdays and some during the evening, usually in multiple week sessions, and all fairly intensive. There usually is a fee and class size is limited.

Following the training, Master Gardener “interns” volunteer in the neighborhood of 40-45 hours during the first calendar year to earn their Master Gardener credentials. Thereafter, they are required to volunteer a determined amount of hours set by each program, plus receive 10 hours of advanced training to remain active.

The program is open to all levels of gardening expertise; a willingness to learn and help educate the public are the main requirements.

No one is expected to “know” everything after the training either. Trainees are taught the best resources to research in order to help people with their questions — where to look for the information is the important thing. In order to help keep Master Gardeners up to date on the latest information, there are a wealth of resources and advanced training. You could be learning the latest about the Emerald Ash Borer, about water-wise gardening, or vegetables you can grow in a pot. In turn, you can help pass all of this along to the home gardener. On-going training is a vital part of the Master Gardener program.

There are volunteer opportunities for everyone’s taste. They include Grow It Eat It statewide programs helping people to grow their own food; plant clinics at the libraries and farmer’s markets; telephone and email hotlines; speaker’s bureaus which provide talks to garden clubs and community groups; tables and demonstrations at special community events; demonstration gardens you can dig in; landscape design advice for public sites; and more, depending upon how each individual program is structured.

For more information on how a Master Gardener can help you, or on how to become a Master Gardener, contact The American Horticulture Society. http://www.ahs.org/gardening-resources/master-gardeners

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Guest blogger Linda Waters is a Master Gardener and assistant to Horticulture Consultant and Master Gardener Coordinator at the University of Maryland Extension in Montgomery County Maryland.

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