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Master Gardener kicking off 2013 season
Posted Jan. 28, 2013
By Dave Ostdiek
Communications Specialist, UNL
Around the time when Groundhog Day rolls around, gardeners get that look in their eyes: How long until it’s time to play in the dirt again?
Gardeners can dig into their favorite pastime even before spring starts, by joining the Master Gardener Program, sponsored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in several communities in the Panhandle. The program allows gardening enthusiasts to gain knowledge directly from experts, while providing service back to the community.
UNL Extension will offer Master Gardener training beginning in February for 2013 volunteers. Anyone who is interested in plants and is willing to volunteer is encouraged to participate.
A series of six weekly training sessions for beginning Master Gardeners will take place Tuesday evenings from 5:30-8 p.m., beginning Feb. 12 in Alliance (Box Butte County Extension Office) and Scottsbluff (Panhandle Research and Extension Center), and Feb. 19 in Sidney (Western Nebraska Community College).
These sessions will cover basic horticultural information. They will be offered via the internet, with local UNL Extension educators at each site to help answer questions. The topics are:
- Feb. 12: Adaptive and Native Plants
- Feb. 19: Drought Recovery and Water Wise
- Feb. 26: Soils and Soil Management
- March 5: Lawn Disease and Insect Control
- March 12: Container Gardening and Extension Master Gardener Orientation
- March 19: Household Insects and Bedbugs
(At the Sidney location, the sessions start Feb. 19.)
For advanced master gardeners, four daytime sessions are planned from Feb. 25 through March 21. Dates and topics include Feb. 25 (Trees), March 4 (Principles of Waterwise Landscapes), March 11 (Waterwise Landscape Design), and March 21 (Landscapes and Turf). The sessions will take place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Panhandle Center. The topics are advanced, but the sessions are open to everyone.
The cost for participants is $30 for either advanced or beginner sessions. The cost to attend both advanced and beginner sessions is $45. Individual sessions are $10. Participants can also purchase an optional Master Gardener Handbook as a reference.
Anyone who wants to participate or who has questions should respond by Feb. 8, by contacting local Extension Educators: Jim Schild, Scotts Bluff County, 308-632-1480; Karen DeBoer, Cheyenne-Kimball-Banner Counties, 308-254-4455; or John Thomas, Box Butte County, 308-762-5616.
In exchange for training, master gardeners volunteer 40 hours back to local communities.
Schild explained the advanced training program’s focus on water-wise landscapes: “We felt that with the drought of last year and the potential for this year, there are a number of problems that are specific to drought on turf and trees, and we will cover those.”
There are two benefits to joining Master Gardeners, according to Schild.
“The first and most obvious is the participants increase their knowledge about gardening in the High Plains Region. The second benefit is that Master Gardeners volunteer to work in their communities on landscape and gardening related issues.”
They help at county fair, maintain public spaces, assist communities in obtaining grants to improve parks, record radio public service announcements with helpful tips, assist with events such as the Theater West Garden Walk, or help with landscaping projects with local churches, schools, and communities.
Scotts Bluff County averages about 30 master gardeners every year, including 20 or 25 in the advanced group. If each donates about 40 hours of time, that’s 1,200 hours of community service.
Several master gardeners in Scotts Bluff County say the program is a way for them to learn more about and share a lifetime interest.
Retired physician Don Gentry of Gering joined after retiring in 2008. He had been involved in gardening for his whole life, but couldn’t find time earlier. Gentry has a great interested in trees, so as a Gering Park Board member, he takes part in the spring and fall surveys of the Northfield Park Arboretum, and he and his wife take care of a flowerbed in Northfield Park. He also has helped care for the grounds at the Methodist Church in Gering, and shared his interest with youth by interpreting the Northfield Arboretum for a Webelos group.
Anita Gall, who owns a local landscaping business, has been a Master Gardener since about 1992. “I was going to start working for a garden center and I thought that it would give me a good basis for information,” she said. Gall also liked staying on top of new research.
Gall finds herself answering a lot of questions, making visits, giving advice, presenting programs and recording radio public service announcements (PSAs). Her favorite part of Master Gardener is “helping to teach people the proper way to take care of their plants and to learn more about their plants and landscapes. I also like helping people to make their yard a place that is unique to them, is functional but is also a relaxing and fun environment for their families.”
Connie McDonnough has been involved for seven years, and for a year before that in Wyoming. “When I retired this was one of my goals to participate and to learn more about gardening,” she said.
McDonnough has volunteered at the Serenity Garden Club's community garden along Monument Valley Pathway, recorded PSAs, helped with the rain garden by the Scottsbluff Fire and Safety Building, the bioswale at the Lied Scottsbluff Library, and the planting by the Avenue A and 18th Street parking lot. She also helps with the Theatre West Garden Walk.
Gardening has been one of her passions, and McDonnough always feels like there is more to learn and to expand my experiences. “Through the Master Gardener program I have had up-to-date information on a wide range of topics that is based on research and local experience. Also I always enjoy spending time with others who share this love of gardening.”