Master Gardener class begins Feb. 23

Published 12:08 am Monday, February 8, 2010

A new Master Gardener class begins on Feb. 23. Before I tell you the many reasons you should become a Master Gardener, let me give you a brief history of the program.

The Mississippi Master Gardener Program, offered through the Mississippi State University Extension Service, began in Hinds and Harrison Counties in 1991-1992. The Adams County Master Gardeners had their first class in 2001.

Without additional new classes, the first class dwindled to only five members but they hung on with determination, and several members attended their first state conference in 2004.

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Finally things started to come together with classes beginning again in 2005. Membership grew to more than 50 and continues to increase each year. We are now one of the most active counties in the state. We are fortunate to have David Carter as our county extension director.

So what is the Master Gardener Program? The instructional portion of the program consists of 40 hours of training in horticulture and related topics including basic botany, soils, ornamentals, fruits and nuts, vegetables, lawns, plant diseases, entomology, weed science and plant propagation. Upon completion of the coursework, a trainee must complete 40 hours of experience to become a Master Gardener.

Don’t be scared off by the experience requirement! We have so many fun projects you will accumulate hours quickly. One of our ongoing projects is the Junior Master Gardener program which involves several area schools. The children get hands-on experience planting flower and vegetable gardens and learn the basics of gardening.

At Historic Jefferson College and the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians we maintain the trails and signage. Last year a small group conducted research for new signs at Jefferson College. The Wanna Be’s program offers tours of area gardens by Master Gardeners willing to share their experiences and plants. We get in the Christmas spirit by cutting greenery and decorating at Melrose.

If that isn’t enough, we offer many additional educational opportunities. At our plant sale at the Copper Magnolia Festival we had workshops on making propagation boxes, self-watering containers, and worm boxes.

A panel of Master Gardeners was available to answer many questions local gardeners have. In October we co-hosted a program conducted by the Mississippi Urban Forest Council designed to provide information to homeowners, businesses, nurseries and local governments on the proper selection and maintenance of trees. We recently offered instruction on pruning crape myrtles at the Natchez City Cemetery and we routinely distribute timely garden tips at Belk’s Senior Day.

And to top it off, we hit the road! We went on a field trip to Jefferson Island and toured the Rip Van Winkle Gardens. We then headed to nearby Avery Island and toured the Jungle Gardens. And of course, some of us visited the Tabasco factory before heading home.

I hope I have convinced you to join us. No previous experience or training is necessary. You just need a willingness to learn and share knowledge with others. You will have the opportunity to interact with individuals with similar interests and connect with the community through service.

So, the nuts and bolts. Classes begin on Feb. 23 and meet from 1 to 5 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday for five weeks.

The registration deadline is Feb. 9.

For additional information contact David Carter at 601-445-8201 for details.

Karen O’Neal is an Adams County Master Gardener.