Q: How do I become involved with the Master Gardener program? A: The first step to becoming a Master Gardener is to call your county’s cooperative extension center to find out whether it offers a Master Gardener program. About 30 counties in Oklahoma offer the program, and if your county doesn’t, perhaps one in your area will. In Oklahoma County, applications are being accepted for 2009 Master Gardener training until May 8.
Love of gardeningTo become a Master Gardener, you must love gardening and be 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 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and offer instruction in gardening, lawn care, fruit production, landscaping, tree planting and care, pruning, insect and disease control, soil improvement, and a long list of other horticultural subjects.
Willingness to shareIn exchange for the education, Master Gardeners must donate 60 hours of their time to assisting others in their community by helping answer gardening and landscaping questions from people who 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 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at the Oklahoma County Extension Center to answer questions.
Coursework, examThe cost of the Master Gardener program is an $80 coursework fee. After completing the 12 weeks of training, participants must pass a certification exam, which will qualify them for the title of Oklahoma Master Gardener. Since the program got under way in Oklahoma County in 1978, more than 5,000 Oklahomans have become Master Gardeners. They have donated more than 500,000 volunteer hours of service to the state.
Continuing to learnIn addition to volunteering their time to beautify our state and share information with others, Master Gardeners meet once a month to extend their knowledge of gardening subjects. They also travel together to see gardening projects. Becoming a Master Gardener is a positive thing you can do for your community. It’s also a great way to help increase your knowledge of gardening. If you would like more information about the Oklahoma County Master Gardener program, give us a call at 713-1125. Bill Geer is director of the Oklahoma County Extension Service. His column addresses frequently asked horticulture questions.