Flower power

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The deadline for registration for the Dallas County Master Gardener Volunteer Program &045; Jan. 23 &045; is fast approaching and there are still slots available, according to Kathi Needham, herself a Master Gardener who has been involved since the program’s inception in 2001. Class size is limited to 20 because of space. The cost is $75.

Needham beams brightly as she speaks enthusiastically about an outstanding program for people who love gardening and who enjoy sharing the knowledge with others. The next series of classes begins at the Dallas County Extension Office on Feb. 5. The class time is 5:15

to 9:15 p.m. weekly. It is taught by Auburn University faculty members who are outstanding in their field, she said, and the program’s central purpose

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is to help the local home gardener.

Needham, who together with her husband owns The Bridgetender’s House Guest Suites in downtown Selma overlooking the river, describes the Master Gardener Volunteer Program as a fantastic opportunity for persons who are interested in horticulture &045; from those whose hands have never touched a garden tool to those who manage large estates. The program is designed to increase participants’ knowledge in a very short time and then to give them an opportunity to share that knowledge

with others &045; either through individual

or group projects. &uot;There’s something for everyone,&uot; she said.

In exchange for the 40 classroom hours over 10 weeks, participants promise to give 40 hours in community service. According to Rudy Yates, Dallas County Extension Agent, projects may include speaking to youth on gardening or working on a community beautification project, but all projects must meet prescribed criteria.

Also, those who complete the program and do the volunteer service are eligible to become members of the Master Gardener Association in Dallas County, which meets monthly (except for December, June and July). Association members continue to offer 10 hours of community service annually. Needham said that the group now has 42 members, who have access to a continuing flow of cutting-edge horticultural information through a statewide network of programs, conferences and workshops.

Needham spoke of one project undertaken by Master Gardener Carol Henry, involving seasonal rotation of plants in the atrium of the West Central Alabama Rehabilitation Center. An example given for a group project is the extensive work being undertaken at Keenan’s Mill north of Selma, which is in process of being restored. In time the Master Gardener Association hopes to complete a demonstration garden in that location.

An annual group project is the &uot;Master Gardener Cookbook&uot;; 2003 was the first year of publication, according to Needham, and last year’s books are still available for $3 by calling Needham at (334) 875-5517.

The group also has a booth at Earth Day celebrations in April and at the fair in the fall.

Needham said that the Master Gardener Program is a national movement, but has only come to Alabama fairly recently and only in some counties. Much support through the county extension office is required, and in many cases, due to statewide cutbacks and personnel, staff time is not available.

The Dallas County Extension Office, however, has been enthusiastic about the program from the beginning and Needham believes it has a bright future.

In fact, it’s so popular that it is not unheard of for people from Montgomery and Augtauga counties to come to Selma/Dallas County for this program since these nearby county

programs always

have a waiting list &045; all the more reason, she commented, for Dallas County residents to sign up now.

Needham said that during the 10-week course participants develop lasting bonds. They always share a meal, which they bring in or order in, she said.

To apply to the program, visit the Dallas County Extension Office, located at 429 Lauderdale St., or call (334) 875-3200 &045;

no later than Jan. 23.