Master garden enthusiasts train for months to aid public

" Master garden enthusiast" has such a reliable ring. It seems like a status that can be accomplished just after Mr. Miyagi of "The Karate Kid" teaches you to "wax on, wax off" for a couple of years.

The reality is, becoming a master gardener has more to do with being a servant than being a master.

The local branch of the volunteer program of the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension started in 1975. There are now 135 master garden enthusiasts in El Paso County, all specialists in fielding plant questions from the community and offering their time in gardens across the county.

As individuals quit, move or pass away, organizers look to replenish the ranks with new volunteers each year.

" We're not looking for people who know everything about gardening," said master gardener Scott Wilson. "We're trying to find individuals who have an interest in offering and dealing with the neighborhood." An initial class on Wednesday is the mandatory primary step to ending up being a master garden enthusiast. The class is the only way to pick up an official application - none will be available at the extension workplace; none will be sent by mail.

The application is no assurance: In 2005, 45 individuals applied to become master gardeners; 29 were accepted into the program.

It's an extensive procedure, with apprentices needed to go through a plant boot camp. They complete a 15-week course (8 hours each Thursday) on soils, insects, plant and tree recognition, weeds, turf yard and meteorology.

you can look here After all that, the students are anticipated to be able "to offer the general public with info about fostering a successful home garden in the Colorado region," inning accordance with the Extension's objectives.

But horticultural education is only the start. Apprentice master gardeners need to serve 50 volunteer hours throughout the next six months, 40 which should be invested at the Extension's aid desk.

They can give up the volunteer requirement, however will have to pay the complete $495 course cost, instead of the $195 for those who offer.

And offering is the real education. When nervous homeowners can be found in bearing a dead branch from their treasured aspen or a piece of brown grass from their new sod, the master garden enthusiast is their final expect salvation.

" Anything you can potentially picture, we have somebody who has asked that concern," said Wilson, who has been a master gardener for 3 years. "When somebody generates a sample of a dead tree branch and you can help them figure out what's incorrect and assist them fix it, it feels excellent."

After 6 months of service, these students lastly become full-fledged master gardeners.

But the work isn't over.

To remain a master gardener, one must finish 12 hours at the help desk, 12 hours of social work in the plant world, and 12 hours of education each year.

Most of these go-getters do even more than that.

Bob Short, the only master garden enthusiast remaining from the inaugural class of 1975, said need for their services has actually grown as more residents discover they can choose up the phone and get help.

He joined the program after his retirement as a meteorologist from the Air Force. He's seen more than 1,000 master gardeners come and go, however he perseveres.

" I personally have gotten a lot of satisfaction out of (being a master gardener)," stated Short, who volunteers each week at the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden. "When I'm doing my own work, it's good to understand what I'm doing. And it's nice to share it with people.

" There's so damn much info out there, therefore much of it is undependable. CSU and the master gardeners are attempting to put out good information, not offer anything. The inspiration is pure."

As Short's time at the xeriscape garden shows, the service options for master gardeners go well beyond the help desk. Master gardeners were instrumental this previous year in planting gardens at The Classical Academy and the Carnegie Library downtown.

They likewise teach classes. Gardening in the Pikes Peak Region, a series of eight classes, remains in full speed right now, taught primarily by master gardeners, and more than 500 individuals are expected to attend.

The master gardener program is focused on homeowners and the yard garden. It can be challenging to garden successfully in this region, and it's great to have someplace to turn when things aren't going well. Thanks to master garden enthusiasts, everybody in El Paso County has that resource at their fingertips.

Why do these individuals do it?

" I take pleasure in being valuable," Wilson said. "What makes it beneficial is when you get a call back and they state 'Thanks. It worked.'".

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