I got a really exciting Christmas present this year: I’m going to gardening school! More specifically, I’m signed up for the Master Gardener course offered through Michigan State University Extension. If all goes well, I will actually be a Master Gardener in a year or so.
What’s a Master Gardener?
Master Gardener programs are generally offered by state university extension offices and vary a lot from state to state. The general idea, however, is to provide basic horticultural (i.e., gardening) training to individuals who then go out and do volunteer outreach and education in their own communities
Even though it comes with an impressive-sounding title, being Master Gardener doesn’t meant that you have to be an expert on all things gardening. Rather, its more like being a Gardening Ambassador to your community. Volunteers answer gardening questions, give presentations, and develop community gardens and programs. It’s a big committment to get certified; in Michigan, it takes 40 hours of education and 40 hours of volunteer time during the first year.
It’s been a really long time since the program was offered in the part of Upper Michigan where I live (i.e., the part with cruddy, shallow soils and a miniscule growing season), but there are more than 20 people in the class. Our coordinator has to come from 2 hours away, so the class has been set up in a “weekend warrior” style with a full day of class (8a-5p) one Saturday a month for seven months, rather than the usual 4-hour class. It’s a little intense. Here are the topics that will be covered:
- Water Quality / Soil Science
- Plant Science / Annuals and Perennials
- Tree Fruit / Integrated Pest Management
- Woody Ornamentals / Small Fruit
- Indoor Plants / Diagnostics
- Vegetables / Lawns
- Household Pests / Volunteer Orientation
What am I looking forward to?
I was really excited that the class was finally going to be offered locally. And, with a little luck, I can actually attend enough classes to be eligible to go on and do the volunteer portion and actually become a Master Gardener. It’s not about the certificate—I’m really looking forward to connecting more with other gardeners, learning new tricks, and getting inspired to try new things. I’m also intrigued at the community service aspect and have one or two ideas rolling around in my head for potential projects.
I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!