In the Garden

Become a master gardener

Have you ever wondered if you would enjoy being a master gardener? If you are interested in learning about horticulture and teaching it to others, you may want to consider applying for the program.

Applications for the next class of Master Gardeners in Henrico County are being accepted now. Training begins in January.

The class is limited to 24 participants, and the cost is $135. A personal interview is required as part of the admissions process.

“We’re looking for someone who has a true interest in learning more about horticulture and who wants to help impart that knowledge to others,” says Jim Smith, a Henrico Master Gardener who serves on the training committee.

Those selected for the program receive intensive training in horticulture and related subjects in exchange for a 50-hour volunteer commitment in the first year.

“We want people who are interested in staying for more than one year,” adds Smith who has been with the program since 1996.

Master Gardeners staff a telephone helpline, give plant clinics, provide plant diagnostic services, teach classes in schools, and take on other projects approved by the Extension Service.

“Our Master Gardeners have made such a difference,” says Lisa Sanderson, the Henrico Extension Agent who has coordinated the program in Henrico for the last five years. “Their volunteer hours add up to the equivalent of between five and six additional Extension staff members.”

“Since 2009, Henrico Master Gardeners have logged more than 10,000 educational contacts,” she adds.

Classes meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Henrico County Human Services Building on Parham Road. Classes run from Jan. 22 until the end of March. Before the first class, participants are paired with mentors at a luncheon on Jan. 10, 2013. During the course of the program, participants are required to take open-book mid-term and final examinations.

The tuition covers the cost of the instruction, the Master Gardener training manual, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Pest Management Guide.

Classes are taught by a variety of instructors with expertise in specific fields. Topics include basic biology, plant propagation and diagnostics for diseases and insects, pruning, lawn care, fruit and vegetable gardening, flower gardening, indoor plant care, and landscape design.

“We cover a lot of material in a relatively short period of time,” says Sanderson.

“The training is very comprehensive,” she adds. “You don’t have to be a well-seasoned gardener before you enter the program. You just have to be committed to learning and volunteering.”

Of all her job duties, Sanderson says she enjoys working with the Master Gardeners most. “The people are really wonderful,” she says.

“I can truly say being a Henrico Master Gardener has been a joy,” adds Jim Smith. “I’m an environmentalist and a conservationist, and I’m able to make a contribution.”

Smith also enjoys working with the Henrico Master Gardener Association, which helps administer the program. “I really enjoy the administrative and management part,” he says.

The application is available online, or you can call the Extension Office at 501-5160 to have one mailed to you. The application deadline is Oct. 26.
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