Extension Master Gardeners: Green and Growing!
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Throughout the year, Extension Master Gardeners help to make our region a greener place to live by sharing research based horticultural knowledge with gardeners of all ages and ability levels. The Pender County Extension Master Gardener program is currently accepting applications for individuals to become volunteers, with training classes beginning after the holidays.
Who Are Extension Master Gardeners?
Master Gardeners are members of the local community who enjoy learning, gardening and volunteering. Persons who become Master Gardeners receive intensive training from their local Cooperative Extension office. In return, they volunteer to help the organization meet a tremendous demand for sustainable gardening information and advice.
In the Cape Fear region alone, over 500 Master Gardeners volunteer with the Cooperative Extension offices in Pender, New Hanover, Brunswick and Onslow counties to answer lawn and garden questions, teach gardening skills, and maintain gardens that demonstrate good plants for our region.
Helping Gardeners Grow Greener
By offering practical advice and research based information, Extension Master Gardeners help both novice and experienced gardeners enhance their landscapes and grow their own fruits and vegetables using methods that conserve water and require fewer chemicals. During 2012, the 62 volunteers who are part of Pender County Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener program shared sustainable gardening advice with over 1600 gardeners through their ‘Ask a Master Gardener’ clinics held at community events like the Blueberry Festival in Burgaw and each month at the Poplar Grove Farmer’s Market.
In addition to their role as a gardening information source, Extension Master Gardeners work with Extension agents to teach classes to both young and old. Pender Master Gardeners are currently working with first, second and third graders at Penderlea, Burgaw Elementary, and South Topsail Elementary, where each month they teach these eager future gardeners lessons about plants, bugs, and soil. As part of this program, each student in the participating classes was recently given a pack of pansy plants to take home and grow. The plants were donated by Another Place in Thyme, a wholesale nursery in Castle Hayne.
Pender County Master Gardener Volunteers also practice what they preach, which is evident in the demonstration gardens they maintain at the Pender Extension Office in Burgaw and the Hampstead Library. At both of these sites, Master Gardeners tend displays of trees, shrubs and flowers that are labeled to help local residents learn which plants grow and thrive in our challenging climate with minimal care.
Should You Become an Extension Master Gardener?
Anyone with an interest in both gardening and volunteer services can apply to become an Extension Master Gardener volunteer. Applicants should be comfortable working with a diverse range of people and willing to share their knowledge with both new and experienced gardeners.
In addition, applicants should have the time and desire to be part of an intensive, science based training program and be able and willing to volunteer with Extension’s outreach programs. Because Cooperative Extension’s greatest demand for volunteers is during office hours (Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.), applicants should be available to volunteer and attend training during these times.
How You Can Become an Extension Master Gardener
The first step in becoming an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer is to complete the Master Gardener training course. Providing at least 40 hours of instruction, the course will prepare you to answer gardening questions and diagnose common problems related to cultivating lawns, fruits and vegetables, and landscape plants.
Most county Cooperative Extension Centers offers Master Gardener training once a year during the winter. The Pender County Extension Center is now accepting applicants to their Extension Master Gardener program. Training will begin in late January, with classes meeting most Tuesday’s and Thursday’s from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. through the first week of April. Full details are posted online at //pender.ces.ncsu.edu/mg.
Visit www.ncstategardening.org to find out more about the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program in North Carolina.
Visit your local Cooperative Extension office to learn more about gardening and landscape care.