Master garden enthusiasts train for months to assist 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 few years.

The fact is, ending up being a master garden enthusiast 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 began in 1975. There are now 135 master gardeners in El Paso County, all professionals in fielding plant questions from the community and volunteering their time in gardens across the county.

As people give up, move or die, organizers look to renew the ranks with brand-new volunteers each year.

" We're not searching for individuals who know everything about gardening," stated master garden enthusiast Scott Wilson. "We're looking for people who have an interest in offering and working with the community." An introductory class on Wednesday is the compulsory initial step to becoming a master garden enthusiast. The class is the only method to pick up a formal application - none will be available at the extension workplace; none will be sent by mail.

The application is no warranty: In 2005, 45 individuals applied to end up being master gardeners; 29 were accepted into the program.

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

After all that, the students are anticipated to be able "to offer the public with details about cultivating an effective house garden in the Colorado area," according to the Extension's goals.

But horticultural education is only the beginning. Apprentice master garden enthusiasts need to serve 50 volunteer hours during the next 6 months, 40 which need to be invested at the Extension's aid desk.

They can pass up the volunteer requirement, but will have to pay the complete $495 course charge, instead of the $195 for those who volunteer.

And volunteering is the real education. When nervous house owners come in bearing a dead branch from their valued aspen or a chunk of brown grass from their brand-new sod, the master gardener is their last hope for redemption.

" Anything you can perhaps imagine, we have someone who has asked that concern," stated Wilson, who has been a master gardener for three years. "When someone generates a sample of a dead tree branch and you can help them determine what's wrong and assist them repair it, it feels excellent."

After 6 months of service, these trainees finally become full-fledged master garden enthusiasts.

The work isn't over.

To stay a master gardener, one need to complete 12 hours at the help desk, 12 hours of social work in the plant world, and 12 hours of education each year.

The majority of these go-getters do far more than that.

Bob Short, the lone master gardener staying from the inaugural class of 1975, stated need for their services has actually grown as more locals learn they can select up the phone and get help.

He signed up with the program after his retirement as a meteorologist from the Air Force. He's seen more than 1,000 master gardeners reoccur, however he perseveres.

" I personally have gotten a lot of fulfillment from (being a master garden enthusiast)," said Short, who volunteers every week at the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden. "When I'm doing my own work, it's nice to know exactly what I'm doing. And it's nice to share it with people.

" There's so damn much information out there, and so much of it is unreliable. CSU and the master gardeners are aiming to put out excellent details, not sell anything. The motivation is pure."

As Short's time at the xeriscape garden programs, the service options for master gardeners work out beyond the assistance desk. Master garden enthusiasts were important this past year in planting gardens at The Classical Academy and the Carnegie Library downtown. They compose articles for the paper and take photos. They're producing a Junior Master Gardener program.

They also teach classes. Gardening in the Pikes Peak Region, a series of eight classes, remains in full speed today, taught mostly by master garden enthusiasts, and more than 500 individuals are expected to attend.

The master garden enthusiast program is concentrated on house owners and the backyard garden. It can be hard to garden successfully in this region, and it's nice to have somewhere to turn when things aren't working out. Thanks to master gardeners, everybody in El Paso County has that resource at their fingertips.

Why do these individuals do it?

" I enjoy being handy," Wilson stated. "What makes it rewarding is when you get a call back and they state 'Thanks. It worked.'".

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