Becoming a Master Gardener | Living the Country Life

Becoming a Master Gardener

If you love working with plants and people, consider becoming a Master Gardener. All it takes is some time, and the willingness to volunteer and share your knowledge with the community.

Radio interview source: Janet Carson, Extension Horticulture Specialist, University of Arkansas

It's nice to have a Master Gardener in the community, one that serves as a wonderful resource for all kinds of gardening questions.
Janet Carson is an extension horticulture specialist at the University of Arkansas. She says Master Gardener courses are offered in all 50 states through local extension offices. The classes are tailored to your area. 
"We have a standardized curriculum in Arkansas, and it's 40-hours so most counties do five 8-hour days," she says. "One day we cover the basics of horticulture which is botany, entomology, diseases. And then we usually devote a day to ornamentals where they learn about flowers, trees, shrubs. They learn about soils, they learn about fruits, vegetable gardening, how to take care of a lawn, house plants."
Fees for the class vary from state-to-state, even county-to-county. Some counties give you a portion of that back after completing the course.  
Carson says most counties issue a take-home test every week for review, and then an open-book exam at the end. They don't expect you to retain that amount of information in such a short time, but they do want you to know where to find it. 
Once you become a Master Gardener, you're expected to volunteer 40-hours for your local county over the next year. 
"But they also must get 22-hours of education, which they can accrue quite easily, because we have so many educational programs throughout the state," says Carson. "Then every year after the first year, they're required to give 20-hours of volunteer service and 20-hours of education."
Carson says because of the popularity of vegetable gardening, community gardening, and edible landscapes, many counties are now offering Master Gardener courses during the evening and on Saturdays. This has made it easier for young people to take the classes.

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