Growth in gardening: Master Gardeners

The Master Gardener program was developed in 1972 to help handle the overwhelming number of home gardening questions that were constantly flooding local agricultural extension offices. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOE URBACH

Do you love to garden? Do you want a better, greener, healthier lawn? Are you thinking about landscaping with native plants? New to the area and want to garden successfully? Do you want to learn how to grow prettier flowers or a lush vegetable garden? Do you want to learn how to grow the healthiest plants possible? Do you want to learn the tricks to composting efficiently? Does your idea of fun involve getting down and dirty in the garden?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above you might consider becoming a Texas Master Gardener by taking the upcoming training course offered by the Hays County AgriLife Extension Service. The next set of classes begins on Wednesday, September 13th.

If you have been reading my weekly column here in the “My Town” section of the Sunday paper for any length of time, you may have noticed the bit at the end in italics which lets you know that I am a Master Gardener and volunteer as a trainer for our association in Hays County. I am proud of that. I enjoy working with my fellow Master Gardeners and I love teaching and interacting with the new people that come to take the training course for many, many different reasons.

Master Gardeners come from a variety of backgrounds. They are passionate about serving their communities and sharing gardening best practices. Master Gardeners are individuals who have taken the Master Gardener training and share their time and expertise as volunteers in community gardens, city beautification projects and farmers markets to name a few. It is the acquisition of knowledge, the skill in gardening and giving back to the community that distinguishes a Master Gardener from other gardeners.

We are not volunteer gardeners, nor do we compete in any way with professional horticulturists or designers; we provide research-based gardening information to the public, we learn and grow in knowledge by networking with each other and with the many professionals and university resources that support the Master Gardener program.

If you like working with plants and people, you can become a Master Gardener. Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who assist the Cooperative Extension Service, a government agency that provides gardening advice to the public.

In recent years, the Texas Master Gardener program grew to include over 7,000 volunteers. This is the largest corps of Master Gardener volunteers in the entire nation. These volunteers assisted their local Extension offices by answering over 23,000 phone calls. They presented well over 2,000 presentations that reached audiences of over 88,000 people. Master Gardeners demonstrated appropriate plant selection and Earth-Kind practices in over 275 gardens throughout the state. They reached youth through some 460 gardens that focus on learning opportunities for children. Master Gardeners furthered their efforts by offering gardening information on more than 50 individual county websites.

In 2016, Texas trained over 1,000 new volunteers. New and tenured volunteers provided the greatest number of educational hours in the history of the program this year. They provided 556,180 hours of educational service. These hours equate to 300 full time employees and an economic impact of $12 million dollars.

As a Master Gardener candidate, you’ll receive indepth training in horticulture and backyard gardening from university and extension specialists. You’ll learn about the basics of vegetable and ornamental gardening, as well as landscaping with native plants, composting, plant diseases, insects and much, much more!

Along with your training, you can volunteer to serve with our local extension office. We will help match your talents and interests with the needs of the extension office and the gardening public. If interested, you might be tapped to teach small groups through classes and workshops at libraries, botanical gardens, or fairs and other events. Or you may answer individual gardener’s questions by phone, by mail, by e-mail, or in person at an information booth. You may also want to assist in preparing gardenrelated newsletters, or work with special audiences such as physically challenged adults or troubled teens. It is all up to you, you can be as involved as you want to be.

Once you become a Master Gardener, you are then eligible to receive updates and further specialist and technical training through our local extension office, and state or national offices if you wish. You may also want to participate in statewide or regional meetings, and even attend a national conference for Master Gardeners. The program has so much to offer.

The Master Gardener program was developed in 1972 to help handle the overwhelming number of home gardening questions that were constantly flooding local extension offices. Today, Master Gardeners can be found throughout the United States, and a similar program exists in Canada and over 20 other countries around the world.

As I mentioned, I am a trainer for our local Hays County chapter of the Texas Master Gardener Association, and I would like to personally encourage you to join us for the next Master Gardener training class that begins in mid-September.

I am excited about the role Master Gardeners are playing in the improvement of Hays County in our home landscapes, gardens, historic buildings, schools and community garden plots, in responding to personal and business needs in landscaping, disease, and insect problems, and through volunteer work assisting at the Extension Office. Through the Master Gardener program, we have fun and learn through lectures, tours, hands on activities and by sharing our own knowledge with each other and the community at large.

The training class for fall 2017 will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in San Marcos at our Extension office. Classes will meet in San Marcos, Dripping Springs, Wimberley, and/ or other Hays County locations. During the class speakers from the horticultural/gardening industry will present programs to expand your gardening knowledge base. We have over a dozen different speakers scheduled for this set of classes.

Certified Master Gardeners will assist you and educate you through their experiences. Classes will meet during the day for 4- to 6-hour classes starting at 8:30 a.m., Wednesday mornings. The course completion date is set for Nov. 15, 2017.

The deadline for all applications is 5 p.m., Aug. 25, 2017 or if the class meets a maximum number of 25 students. Please contact the Hays County Extension Office, 512-393-2120, as soon as possible and get your application to reserve your spot in the class. Come grow with us.

Joe Urbach is the publisher of GardeningAustin.com and the Phytonutrient Blog. He has lived in the Central Texas area for over 30 years. Urbach is a certified Texas Master Gardener from Hays County and is currently serving as the director of training. For more information on the Master Gardener program contact the Hays County AgiLife Extension Service at 512-393-2120.

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666