Extension Office making plans for next gardeners course

Published 10:46pm Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Dallas County Extension Office is now accepting applications for the 2013 Master Gardener’s Volunteer Class.

“It is actually a volunteer based program, and we help people get trained in master gardening so they can then help share the knowledge,” Callie Nelson, county extension coordinator, explained. “It’s an educational outreach program that is provided of course through us and people go through it and it’s like taking an entry level horticulture class.”

Nelson said participants will learn about everything from plant physiology, which is how plants grow, to plant pathology, which is plant disease.

“They learn about the different types of gardening. They learn about fruits and vegetables; they learn about herbicides and pesticides. They learn all about soil, what makes good soil to grow plants in — so it’s very detailed,” Nelson said.

Classes will meet Thursdays at the Central Alabama Farmer’s Cooperative, beginning Thursday Feb. 28 between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. and will last 10 weeks.

And Nelson said that the phrase “master gardener” should not intimidate participants, as the class is meant for anybody, no matter how much gardening experience they have.

“It really works well, even if you don’t know that much about gardening, because you can come in and you can start to learn the correct techniques and correct ways from the beginning,” Nelson said. “But then also people who have been gardening for a long time will come and they learn so much more than what they just learned on their own. We’re looking for people who have never gardened all the way up to those who consider themselves to be seasoned gardeners.”

The class will be taught by professors from Auburn University and extension agents and specialists from cooperative extension, who will be able to answer all sorts of questions, which will be a great resource for both beginners and seasoned gardeners, she said.

The classes also include field trips, Nelson said.

“Usually those are scheduled in advance and most of the time people have to take a day off of work to go on the field trip,” Nelson said. “And where we usually go on a field trip is Chilton County, because that’s where they do all the research for extension on fruits and vegetables. So we usually go up and visit with the guys who are doing the research on the latest on growing blackberries and kiwis and that kind of thing.”

Nelson said because students will learn so much about gardening, the class is a great opportunity for people to become more self sustaining.

“I have a lot of people who come in and say, ‘I just want to know how to grow part of my food, that way I don’t have to worry about where it comes from, what it’s been sprayed with,’ or they just want to pass that love for gardening onto their children,” Nelson said. “Especially in areas where we have low income families, you can have a garden and you can buy seeds and grow a whole patch of greens or tomatoes and be able to help feed your family and neighbors. It will teach you all of that.”

The class, which began in Dallas County in 2003, requires students to give back 50 hours of volunteer service to help other people learn about gardening within a year of the class, then they will be considered a master gardener, Nelson said.

Dallas County is one of two counties in the Black Belt region to offer the classes, but Nelson explained that the program is offered nationwide.

The cost for the 10 week course is $115, and the deadline for registering is Feb. 15. The class is limited to 25 participants, with a minimum of 15.

“Other counties across the state like Mobile, Montgomery and Autauga, they have really strong programs,” Nelson said. “But here, I think sometimes the price scares people. They don’t want to pay the $115.”

Nelson said the $115 covers all the course materials, field trips, any refreshments and or lunch during the fieldtrips, and more.

“I just think that it’s a great opportunity for people to become more self sustaining,” Nelson said. “We used to be a society where we provided most of our own food, but we’ve just gotten away from that. This program can help you get those skills back.”

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