Master gardeners

^iWlfi^ A master gardener isn't someone you hire but rather someone you can con** sult and consider a resource. Master gardeners have to follow a certification process. Throughout the country at Cooperative Extension Service offices (staffing and budgeting permitting, I should add), classes train avid home gardeners or anyone else who's interested in horticulture. Candidates take a core course, often in the fall or winter when life outdoors is less busy.

Certification follows only after the student has completed additional classes and a certain number of hours volunteering in the community. The volunteering can involve anything from manning the phone help line to assisting with community plantings (including school gardens), working with 4-H, holding plant clinics at garden centers, staffing county and state fair booths, assisting with horticulture therapy projects, or helping with workshops that educate the public about gardening.

The hours and courses required for certification varies from office to office, state to state. Getting certified doesn't make a person an expert; it just shows that he or she has made a commitment to learning more about and serving in the local horticultural scene.

Master gardeners aren't paid, so you can't really haul them over to your yard and get them to do your work for you. However, they can help you with questions and point you toward helpful resources. And who knows? In time, you may decide to become one yourself.

To find a master gardener, call the nearest office of the Cooperative Extension Service. You can also run an Internet search or go to master_gardeners/index.htm.

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