Earn a green thumb through Master Gardener course

Published 4:00 pm Monday, January 8, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Garden enthusiasts who want to increase their knowledge and further improve their gardens have an opportunity in the Master Gardener Volunteer Program Course.

Those looking to start their first garden are also welcome to participate, since the course as no prerequisites.

“Other than a few house plants, I knew nothing about growing outdoor garden plants, so for me, it was a good learning experience,” Class Facilitator and MG treasurer Pat Farmer said of the course.

The course will run from Jan. 24 to April 11. Classes are held each Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Chilton County Extension Office.

The deadline to register for the course is Jan. 18. Cost for the course is $150 and includes the extensive Master Gardener Manual and a Master Gardeners T-shirt.

“I enjoy learning … so I enjoy all of the classes,” Class Facilitator Trisha Williams said. “We have classes on vegetable gardening, fruit gardening, annuals, perennials, shrubbery, indoor house plants. We learn about soils and fertilizers. We learn about insects.”

Other topics include landscaping, identifying weeds, lawns and orchards.

Classes are taught by Auburn University professors, retired college professors, Master Gardeners and former Regional Extension Agents.

Williams said everyone has “a good background” for teaching on his or her area of focus. The program focuses on “research-based information,” she said.

Williams said she has enjoyed making new friends and being able to answer their gardening questions through the program.

“My husband and I have made wonderful life-long friends through the Master Gardeners,” Farmer said.

As a facilitator, Farmer said she has enjoyed helping others learn more about horticulture and meeting new people through the course.

“It is hard for me to say what my favorite part of this program was, because all of it was so great,” Master Gardener Susan Cleckler said. “I didn’t want the class to end because of the camaraderie and friendships that were made during this special class time.”

There are tests on the material covered each week, but his or her are open book tests.

“I was so surprised at how much I got out of this course,” Cleckler said.

Cleckler said Master Gardeners can continue their studies beyond the initial course with advanced certificates opportunities in specific areas of gardening.

Farmer said she still uses her manual as a resource eight years after taking the initial course.

In addition to attending classes, potential Master Gardeners must complete 50 hours of gardening or Extension Office volunteer hours in order to receive certification. Williams said many of these hours can be completed with the Master Gardeners Association.

“With the local office coordinator and agents, we help communities with information on gardening, landscaping, community projects, civic projects as well as educational activities,” Cleckler said.

For more information about registering for the Master Gardener Course, call the Chilton County Extension Office at (205) 280-6268. Registration forms are available at the Extension Office, located at 504 First Avenue in Clanton.