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Ask a Master Gardener: Become a Master Gardener in 2023!

By Harry Surline, President, Mobile County Master Gardeners

Every other week, Lagniappe includes a column by a Mobile County Master Gardener. Do you wonder what a Master Gardener is or what a Master Gardener does outside of writing an article? There are many answers to those questions, and hopefully, I can answer some here, and even make you think about becoming a Master Gardener.

Do you ever go by a home and think that person has a good eye for making their yard look attractive and interesting? That person might be a Master Gardener who learned landscaping skills through their intern training and work in the Dream Garden at the Jon Archer Agricultural Center.

If you have a garden, do you ever see bugs, caterpillars, or flying insects clewing away on your flowers or vegetables and think I need to get rid of these varmints. Or maybe you wonder what are these insects? Master Gardener training prepares you to research insect identification and learn which ones are harmful or beneficial. Master Gardener interns learn that buying an insecticide may not be the safest or best way to control insects; we are taught about Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is the best way to control insects and make your plants healthier and your yard safer.

Maybe in your current or past job, you have enjoyed teaching or helping people learn. Master Gardeners do just that for home gardeners by answering their questions, teaching science-based gardening techniques in presentations, and getting our hands dirty planting vegetables or flowers while describing how to be a successful gardener to homeowners or potential gardeners such as students.

If you have read this far, I hope you are thinking, “Maybe becoming a Master Gardener would be a good thing to do to make gardening more fun and more successful. Or maybe I can learn to design that shade garden that I want to create.” Becoming a Master Gardener opens many opportunities to learn, teach, and be successful in the garden, as well as meeting people with similar interests who are fun to be around.

The Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program which gives the Alabama Cooperative Extension System the ability to share horticultural information with more Alabama home gardeners. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is a partnership between Auburn and Alabama A&M universities and volunteers.

The first step to becoming a Master Gardener is to call the Mobile County Extension Office (251-574-8445) and ask to be added to a list to receive a link to register and pay for the course. The registration/ payment period is June 1-30. The Master Gardener classes begin on Thursday, August 10 (9:00 am – 2:00pm) and continue through November 9, 2023. The course charge is $150 which pays for materials.

During class time you will learn from horticulture experts and participate in short projects designed to teach research-based information. There will also be field trips. Some of the classes include Soil & Plant Nutrition, Basic Botany, Beneficial and Pest Insects, Plant Care and Management, plus other classes designed to make you more knowledgeable about home horticulture. If you want a super green lawn that makes the neighbor envious, you will learn how.

An additional requirement for becoming a certified Master Gardener is completing 50 hours of volunteer activities such as working in the Dream Garden, completing class projects, and answering gardening questions on the Master Gardener Helpline. Whoa! What is this answering questions on the telephone stuff? To answer questions, you will need to research most of the answers before responding and you will have experienced Master Gardeners and Extension Agents backing you up if you have questions. It is a great way to develop research skills and present information. Master Gardeners are teachers.

On the first day of classes, I look forward to meeting all of you who want to become Mobile County Master Gardeners.

Look for the Master Gardener Tent at Market in the Square when it starts up in May by Michael Johnson

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