Extension Master Gardener program offers training

Extension Master Gardener program offers training
We all find ourselves faced with nagging gardening questions during the year. Wouldn't it be nice to know why your tomatoes have dry, leathery rot on the bottom of the fruit or how to grow the biggest, most beautiful roses, or even why your fruit trees didn't bear fruit this year?

You can find out the answer to these questions and many more by attending the 2007 training session for the Extension Master Gardener program.

Next spring we will be having an Extension Master Gardener training session in Yankton at the Yankton County Extension Office starting on Wednesday, April 18, 2007 and running through June 20, 2007. The training will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Wednesday.

You don't have to be a gardening expert to become an Extension Master Gardener. The program is more about connections – connecting people with other gardeners and connecting people with reliable information. It doesn't matter if you have gardened for years or if you are a novice gardener. You'll learn, you'll meet new friends and you'll become an enthusiastic and accomplished gardener prepared to assist others in your community.

Extension Master Gardeners (EMGs) are very important to a community. They serve as a vital link in getting practical research-based horticulture information to the public through the local Extension offices. The EMG program is a nationwide program and is also in several Canadian provinces. In the United States the EMG program is coordinated through the land-grant universities.

If all this sounds like fun, than the EMG volunteer program may be for you. All you need is an interest in gardening, some time to volunteer in the community and a desire to share your knowledge with others. Believe me, it is fun to share this newly found knowledge with other gardeners.

Roger Swain, former host of The Victory Garden show, once said, "Gardening is a skill too priceless not to be shared." I totally agree with his statement! We gain so much by sharing our gardening knowledge and skills, by far we gain more then we ever give!

South Dakota EMGs participate in over 60 hours of daytime training covering topics like lawn care; selection and care of ornamental trees and shrubs; insects, disease, and weed control; soils and plant nutrition; vegetables, fruits, and flower gardening; plant propagation; and houseplants. The training is conducted by SDSU Extension staff and specialists.

In exchange for the training and becoming certified as an EMG, participants donate a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service to the local Extension program over the next two years. Participants become a part of Extensions educational outreach into their communities and the type of volunteer service can vary according to the participant's skills and the community's needs. It's a dynamic combination of practical gardening experience teamed with the research-based information of the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service to help people put knowledge to work.

One excellent opportunity for volunteering includes answering questions from gardeners in the local extension office. EMGs are not expected to know all the answers "off the top of their heads," but where to find the answers. EMGs may also fulfill their volunteer hours by being involved in demonstration gardens or in local garden walks, by giving talks to civic groups or working with kids or senior citizens in local community gardens. Some EMGs are also involved in answering the phone line for Garden Line on Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m.

Each year Extension Master Gardeners throughout South Dakota get together at an annual conference to share ideas and receive continuing education. This is a great opportunity to get together with other EMGs and brush up on current issues. For 2007 the update will be held in Mitchell. The date has yet to be announced, so stay tuned.

The cost of regular training, which includes the over 60 hours of training and the South Dakota Master Gardener resource manual, is as follows: single individual – $160; two individuals sharing a manual – $210. Each participant is expected to then contribute 50 hours of volunteer service over the next two years to complete their training and become a full-fledged Master Gardener. If an individual desires, they may sign up at a cost of $450, which provides the same training materials and resources, but removes the 50-hour payback requirement.

Come join the fun of the Extension Master Gardening program. The only requirement is an interest in gardening and horticulture and the desire to help others learn more about gardening. For more information, please call the Yankton County Extension Office at 665-3387.

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