DO YOU WANT TO BECOME A MASTER GARDENER? By Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

The Okaloosa County Extension Office is taking applications for the 2010 Master Gardener Program.

The Master Gardener Program in Florida is a joint endeavor of University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension and gardening volunteers in participating counties. The program is designed specifically to recruit and train volunteers to help meet the demands placed on extension personnel by home gardeners.

The primary requirements for participation in the Master Gardener Program are:

∞ A sincere interest in horticulture.
∞ A willingness to work with and help other people.
∞ Time and flexibility to complete all the requirements of the program.

Master gardener training classes will be 9:00am to 1:00pm each Friday beginning August 13th and ending November 19th. Most of these classes will be at the Okaloosa County Extension Office, 5479 Old Bethel Road in Crestview. Instruction will include classroom training conducted by county extension agents and UF/IFAS Extension specialists. Training will include sessions on plant physiology, insects, plant diseases, care of landscape plants, vegetable gardening, fruit gardening, lawn management, landscape design and irrigation.

After successfully completing the program, participants will be ready to begin 75 hours of service agreed to in return for training.

Volunteer activities allow Master Gardeners to continue to learn while assisting the public. For instance, all master gardeners answer phone calls in the extension office from other gardeners wanting landscape or garden information. The volunteers learn as they research the correct answers to these questions. This is a great way to sharpen garden problem-solving skills, and it is a tremendous public service.

Master gardeners help maintain a teaching landscape at the Extension office in Crestview. They help with other projects such as speaking to groups or giving technical advice to schools with garden projects. They create, install and staff educational exhibits at local events. Master gardeners may return some of their volunteer time by working in plant clinics, assisting the 4-H youth program, etc.

There is a charge of $120 for the course. This fee covers the cost of all course materials. Space is limited. Only 10 to 20 participants will be trained for the 2010 program.

To receive an application for the 2010 Master Gardener training, call the Okaloosa County Extension Office at 689-5850 or 729-1400, Ext. 5850, between 8:00am and 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Applications must be returned no later than July 19th to be considered.

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