Sign up now for Master Gardener training The South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service will offer Master Gardener training this spring in Brookings, Beresford, Wagner, Hot Springs, and Selby. The Extension Master Gardener program trains volunteers to serve in providing horticultural information to the citizens of South Dakota. The training consists of more than 60 hours of classwork provided by South Dakota State University specialists and educators. SDSU Extension Horticulture Specialist Rhoda Burrows said topics include basic botany, insects and diseases, plant propagation, pruning, fertilizing, plant selection, and other aspects of growing landscape plants, fruit, and vegetables. To earn the designation of Extension Master Gardener, graduates of the classroom training are also required to complete 50 hours of volunteer service as interns with the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service. They are then presented official badges and are designated certified Master Gardeners. Volunteer service can vary, depending on one's skills and the needs of the local community. Some volunteers answer telephone requests for information, host plant clinics, or speak to groups. Others assist with demonstration gardens, farmers markets, youth gardens, 4-H activities, or write articles for local newspapers. Still others help with research projects such as the South Dakota tree inventory, or serve as a volunteer coordinator. The training schedule for the four locations is as follows: Brookings, Tuesday and Thursday evenings, March 17 through May 14; Southeast Research Farm at Beresford, Fridays, April 17 through June 12; Wagner, Thursdays, May 7 through July 2; Hot Springs Tuesdays May 19 through July 14; and Selby, Wednesdays, May 20 through July 15. Classes run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with the exception of the Brookings location, which will run from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The cost of regular training, which includes a large binder and other materials, is $160 per individual (or $210 for two individuals sharing materials). If an individual desires, he or she may pay $500 to take the classroom training only without the 50 hours obligated service, but will not receive Master Gardener status. "The South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service invites you to become an Extension Master Gardener," Burrows said. "Classes are filling rapidly, so those interested should get their applications in as soon as possible." For further information and application materials contact the host county Extension offices: Brookings County (605) 696-8280, Beresford contact Yankton County at (605) 665-3387; Wagner contact Charles Mix County office at (605)487-7666; Hot Springs contact Fall River County at (605) 745-5133, and Selby contact Campbell County office at (605) 955-3305. Information and application materials are also available online at the South Dakota Master Gardeners Web site, http://hortmg.sdstate.edu.