Q: How do I become involved with the Master Gardener program?
A: The first step to becoming a Master Gardener is to call your local OSU Cooperative Extension Center and see if it offers a Master Gardener program. Right now, about 30 counties in Oklahoma offer the program and, even if your county doesn't, hopefully one in your area will.
In Oklahoma County, we're currently taking applications for the 2013 Master Gardener training until May 4.
Really, the only requirement to become a Master Gardener is that you love gardening and are willing to share that love with others.
You also must attend a series of classes that begins in early September and continues through November. The classes meet every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and offer instruction in vegetable gardening, lawn care, fruit production, landscaping, tree planting and care, pruning, insect and disease control, soil improvement, and a long list of other horticulture subjects.
In exchange for the education, Master Gardeners must donate 60 hours of their time to assist others in their community by helping answer gardening and landscaping questions of individuals who either call or come by the Extension Service office. Most Master Gardeners find that answering these requests becomes one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives.
Last year, Oklahoma County Master Gardeners assisted more than 20,000 area residents with gardening questions.
In addition to setting up information booths at garden festivals and during community programs, Master Gardeners are on hand every working day from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Oklahoma County OSU Extension Center to answer questions.
The only charge for the Master Gardener program is a $100 course work fee. After completing the 12 weeks of training, you must take a certification exam, which will qualify you for the title of Oklahoma Master Gardener.
Since 1978, when the program first got underway in Oklahoma County, more than 6,000 Oklahomans have become Master Gardeners.
Altogether, they have donated more than 600,000 volunteer hours of service to our state with a conservative value in the millions of dollars.
In addition to volunteering their time to beautifying our state, Master Gardeners also meet once a month to extend their knowledge of gardening subjects.
They also travel together to see gardening projects throughout our area and are one of the most dynamic groups meeting in our state.
Becoming a Master Gardener is one of the most positive things you can do for your community.
It's also one of the best ways to help increase your own knowledge of gardening. I
If you would like more information about the Oklahoma County Master Gardener program, give us a call at 713-1125.
Ray Ridlen is an agriculture/horticulture educator for the Oklahoma County Extension Service. His column addresses frequently asked horticulture questions. For more information, call 713-1125.