Please tell me a little about becoming/being a MG

karmann(z5 NY)June 27, 2005

Firstt, I'll start off by saying that I know these things vary from state-to-state and even county-to-county. I also plan to call my local Master Garden program for more specific information. Right now, I'd love to hear just a little anecdotal experience from some of you.

I am slowly going through the posts on this forum but it takes a bit of time to go through it all and get my specific questions answered. I just thought I'd start by posting my questions.

They are advertising now for Master Gardener class applications in the fall in my area. I'd like to see about doing this.

I am 45 years old, self-employed, with a lot of flexibility in my work schedule. I can take off weekdays or weekends as needed. I have extremely limited gardening experience (just started about three years ago) but am beginning to love it passionately and am seeking more knowledge and experience. I just have a few smallish perennial beds and have also planted numerous ornamental trees and shrubs.

Do you think I'd be considered a candidate? Or do they- generally speaking, of course- look for people who have been gardening for a lot longer? And with a lot more knowledge?

Are many/any of you Master Gardeners? Can you tell me a little about it? What kinds of jobs have they asked you to volunteer for? How have you liked being part of this program?

I am resourceful and plan to do lots of other info-gathering on the topic. I appreciate any time you might give me. Maybe if you aren't a MG yourself, you know of some? What kinds of things have you heard about it?


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Karmann, might I suggest you stop infinitely researching the Master Gardeners and go ahead and sign up. You can continue looking into what it means to be a Master Gardener but in lots of cases these classes fill up fast. You don't have to know a lot about gardening, in fact, if you do they may have to knock your brains out so they can retrain you. What the Extension Service (a branch of government) is looking for is volunteers. I have never done one minute of phone duty - the type of volunteer work I do is Chairing the Flower Show at the local Fair and working in classification plus entering the design section and building an educational exhibit. I also do quite a bit in our Demonstration Garden, which I really enjoy. I speak on various topics and I wrtie for our newsletter and several other newsletters. I didn't do all this at once, just over the course of 25 years.
What has it meant to me? A lot. The title has been a big part of my credentials as a speaker and a writer. But of course the public thinks I know more than I do. In fact, they assume the title Master Gardener means I know EVERYTHING and they are perplexed when they ask me a lawn (most common) question and I have no answer. I usually say that I am uninterested in growing a million identical plants just so I can walk on them. I then refer them to the local Extension office. As a Master Gardener for 25 years I can say that it is a continuous learning process. The thing that I haven't learned yet is when to keep my mouth shut. The real beauty of the MG program is the camaraderie with other dedicated gardeners. There, like me, you will hopefully make friends for life of some of the members. I will repeat this philosophy: A garden is not a destination, it is a journey. So take that first step.

Here is a link that might be useful: BittersweetGardens

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 12:52PM
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karmann(z5 NY)


Thanks! And while I may infinitely research, I also did take that first step and leave a message (phooey!) on the machine of the MG program phone. I hope they at least call me! I would love to take the classes. And the more intense, the better I'll do.

Oh, and loved the lawn plant comment. Will have to remember that one. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 4:26PM
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Karmann, Eddie is right. I just finished the class in NE Arkansas (Craighead County) this past Feb. It is a volunteer organization and they need volunteers. Different members have different talents... more seasoned members may do as Eddie and chair a plant sale or sit on a committee for designing a project garden. Other members with less knowledge may be asked to complete their volunteer hours by pulling weeds at one of those project gardens. So your experience is sometimes not that important.

Our class was very basic knowledge stuff. We are resources for the public to obtain knowledge, even if it means referring them back to the extension office. Many people are not aware of what services their local extension office provides, and as a government agency they don't usually "advertise" much. If their services are not being utilized by the public, the gov is going to cut or eliminate their funding. The MG program is one way the extension office receives "referrals" which in turn increase usage of the extension office's resources, which in turn keeps the funding from being reduced or eliminated. So in my experience, your dedication to providing the required volunteer hours is just as important (if not more) than your current knowledge.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 12:54AM
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That's the best explanation I've heard yet on why we need to turn in our volunteer hours.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 1:24PM
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I took the class in 2000 and have enjoyed every minute of both the classes and the volunteer time. It has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

In VA our mandate is to be educators, not laborers. Therefore, we can't count hours for actual labor (weeding, planting, etc.) unless we're holding some kind of class or demo at the same time. If we are overseeing these types of activites with an aim to helping the group learn more about gardening then the hours count. This is obviously not the case in some areas so you'll need to check locally.

We do clinics at the local garden shops and libraries and parks. We have a very active help line at the office that receives a diverse range of questions. We provide demonstration plantings (water wise gardening) for the county fair with handouts available to the public. Some clerical type work is involved but not much. One of our main projects is Grass Roots. For a very small fee a MG will go to a clients home, measure the lawn area, take soil samples, and evaluate the lawn for weeds and other things. The homeowner then gets a personalized recommendation for fertilizer, lime, weed control, overseeding or renovation, etc. Also they get a newsletter 4 times that year with lawn care tips. Because we are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, this is aimed at reducing pollution of the bay from runoff of excess chemicals applied to lawns.

As far as experience goes, I have gardened all my life but our class was made up of people with a wide variety of experience, from a degreed landscape architect to a few with very limited knowledge of gardening but a willingness to learn.

Being a MG is obviously not for everybody. It does take commitment and a love of dealing with people. But it is very much appreciated by the clients we help and by the Extension Service. The ES couldn't do their job nearly as well without us.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2005 at 7:58PM
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gardenmaker79(zone 4/5)

Karmann, I just graduated from a master gardening class on Jan3,2005. This is a very nice class and I really enjoyed it. I did most of my 40 volenteer hours weeding a flower bed that has been not been weeded in over 3 years. I have not finished weeding yet but I am now certified as a master gardener. I got the requied volenteer hours in less then 6 months. In our state once you reach that goal you can go on to become an Advanced Master Gardener. This means doing an additional 50 hours of volenteer work and 25 hours more of education. I am hoping to compleat this by Sept. or the end of the year. We do get 2 years to compleat this but I would like to compleat it this year.
Being a master gardener has been alot of fun and I agree with Eddie and gardengail you need to keep trying tell you get to sign up. This is avery nice class and you can learn alot of new things. I didnt know as much as I do now but mostly I learned where to find answers and to send people to the extention office for the right answers. I dont know all the answers but I do know where to get them or where to send people for the right answers.
We as master gardeners are out in the commity and get to meet new people and it helps to get the word out on where to get help when needed. You do get to make new friends and to help where the help is needed.
I will be weeding this flower bed I started tell its done. It is in the middle of a media where people get off the freeway and enter a local town. I dont see this media except when I am down there working but thats ok. I know I am making a different. It shows each time someone stops and says thank you, you sure can see the difference. I will have way over the hours I need by the time I am done but thats ok I like what I am doing. I do work full time so this may take all summer but thats ok becouse I know its looking better each time I pull a weed.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 1:05PM
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I have taken three Master Gardener courses. One in Richmond,VA.Chesterfield Co. (the best one) One in Geneva, IL. and again in Charleston,SC. Each one was different. The reason I took so many is that my husband kept getting transferred. I only was able to pay back my 40 volunteer hours in VA and IL before moving. In VA I answered phones in the Extension office for my hours before being certified. I remember the library being well stocked. At any time,if you don't know the answer to a question, then you can take a number and call them back after you have had the chance to look it up.
In Geneva, I spent many of my 40 hours working in a community garden that was tilled, planted, watered, and harvested by Master Gardeners, the phones were also a choice.
Here in Charleston, I answered phones, worked plant problem clinics at Hardware Stores, Garden Festivals,Fair,etc. The Extension Service host a large booth at the fair every year. I make myself available to Habitat home owners for gardening questions, and house calls through the Habitat office.
The MG program needs volunteers to educate the public because the Extension Service Agents can't get to everyone so they train us as their soldiers to go out and help the public out. Each State was different in what they taught the most of. In 1989, VA taught alot about pesticides and their use on certain pests,plants, etc.Identifing insects and what they attack. I learned soooo much from these people. Then Geneva,(Cook or Kane Co.)I think 1991,taught alot about flowers, plants, where and how to grow.I learned alot about deciduous plants(plants that loose their leaves in winter). Charleston (1996)concentrated on plant ID, Fruit growing and taking care of lawns. Of course all three taught the basics. You don't have to know anything, just be willing to learn and give back. I've taken something from each of them. I only regret not being able to give more than my 40 required hours in VA and IL.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2005 at 11:33PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Not everyone has the same background in gardening. There are too many possible kinds of gardening and very few people have the chance to try more than a few of them. In addition, the applicant may have other talents or training that will benefit the program. Our membership ranges from age 14 to 92 and there are close to 300 people involved. I often find myself thinking how glad I am that another MG is taking care of a particular job because I would make a hash of it and I have lots of volunteers to help me with my projects which are sometimes rather unusual.In other words, it takes all kinds. Sandy

    Bookmark   July 10, 2005 at 2:45AM
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