Quick and Dirty: What It Really Means to be a Master GardenerMaster gardeners have a love of gardening and a passion to share it
with others, but despite the esteemed title, they don’t have master’s
degrees. “I don’t really like the word ‘master,’” says David Cook, UT
Extension Agent for Davidson County.
“With gardening and horticulture
you could and you should learn something every day.”
The lack of an extensive time and financial commitment is exactly
what makes the master gardener program so popular. Though programs vary
from one extension service to the other, enrollees take approximately 40
hours worth of classes—often once a week for about three months—and are
exposed to basic knowledge in every aspect of horticulture from soil
science to botany and entomology.
“People get whole college degrees in
soil science and we try not to scare students off with too much
chemistry,” Cook says. “But we cover a lot in these classes and by the
time it’s over people always want to learn more.”
Just like every other aspect of gardening, the most important part
of the master gardener program is getting outside and making things
Though students have the option to take the classes solely for
their own benefit, certification is only awarded upon completion of 40
hours of volunteer hours over the course of one year.
How are master gardeners making your community a happier, healthier place to be?
No Stupid Questions – Though it boggles the mind,
Cook says he gets more than 2,000 garden-related phone calls a year from
citizens in the community—everything from “what’s the best type of
apple tree to plant?” to “how do I grow grass where it’s never grown
before?” Master gardeners man the phones at extension services, armed
with their trusty handbook and plenty of support. “In a way, they’re
training themselves,” Cook says.
Keep History Alive – Historical sites often have a
large need for grounds maintenance but not the budget to match. Cook’s
master gardeners donate their hours to beautify Nashville’s city
cemetery and the Hermitage, the home of former president Andrew Jackson.
Spreading the Word – Master gardeners main
demonstration gardens and educational booths at field days and fairs in
their community to connect with the public on a one-on-one basis.
Bringing the Outside In – Outreach doesn’t have to
be outside. Master gardeners create projects and programs for special
needs children and adults, senior citizens and other special interest
Heal the Sick – Master gardeners hold community plant clinics and diagnose all kinds of diseases. No appointment or insurance required!
“A lot of my students tell me, ‘I wish I’d learned this earlier in
life,’” Cook says.
“It’s never too late to learn and this is an exciting
program. We don’t hand out the title ‘master gardener,’ our students
get out in the community and earn it.”
Visit this site
to find a master gardener program in your area.
By Danny Bonvissuto, December 10