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Master Gardeners seeking recruits

Class begins early next year

POSTED: November 5, 2013 12:59 a.m.
 

The Forsyth County Master Gardeners organization is looking for some new green thumbs.  

A class is forming for the 12-week educational program, which will begin Jan. 7 at Lanier Technical College.

That’s good news for Bonnie Williams, who serves on the Master Gardeners’ executive board as coordinator of the program’s community gardens.

In total, Forsyth County has 13 public gardens at various sites such as libraries, schools and senior centers. They’re all maintained through the efforts of local Master Gardeners.

“Right now, we’re short on gardeners,” Williams said. “That’s our big need right now, people power. So we definitely need some new recruits.”

The Master Gardeners educational program is held based on community interest and need in the organization, Williams said.

“We definitely felt the need for it again this year,” she said. “We skipped 2012 and had a class in 2013. Now we may start up with the program every year again. It just depends on the need.”

The program is offered through the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and uses UGA professors to teach many of the courses, which will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through March 27.

Tuition cost is $200, which includes a textbook, all training materials and a Master Gardeners name badge.

Heather Kolich, one of Forsyth County’s extension agents who works closely with the Master Gardeners, said the course is perfect for anyone who has an interest in learning more about gardening, plants and how to properly care for them.

Since education is a major part of the organization’s mission, she said, candidates also have to have a desire to share that interest with others.

“You don’t have to be an expert in gardening,” she said. “All you have to do is have an interest in gardening and a willingness to share what you learn with other people in the community.

“We don’t necessarily release experts into the world, but once you finish the Master Gardener program, you know how to find the answers.”

During the program, participants will cover a wide range of topics including: basic botany and plant physiology; soil and plant nutrition; plant pathology; weed identification and control; composting and mulching; and site analysis and landscape design.

Additional topics such as pollinators, urban agriculture and container gardening may also be discussed.

After the educational component of the program, graduates have one year to complete a 50-hour internship of volunteer service with other local Master Gardeners or the Extension Office.

“You go through the class —and it is an intense class, but when people graduate they have a grand sense of accomplishment — but the class is not the end,” Kolich said.

“Then you start the internship and that’s when you start putting it all together and you’re learning is just exponential.”

To maintain their standing as a Master Gardener, participants must continue to contribute at least 25 hours of community service each year.

While that may sound high, Williams said the time passes quickly for those in the organization.

“You just get the bug to learn, no pun intended, and to keep on learning,” she said. “You get new products on the market, you get new pests that come in from other countries, and so you have to learn how to deal with all of these things.”

She said more than anything those in the organization enjoy the art of caring for plants and socializing with one another.

“You get out here with other Master Gardeners and the time just flies by because everyone enjoys what we’re doing and we all enjoy each other’s company,” she said. “It’s great fun.”

 

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