Need to escape the winter blues? Enroll in this year’s Master Gardener course
By Lori Adler, reporter
From those wanting to perfect techniques to those simply looking to learn new skills, gardening fans need look no further than this year’s Master Gardener course. A flagship of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, the Master Gardener program helps spread gardening know-how throughout the community.
Designed in the 1970’s as a way to help community members with gardening questions, the Master Gardener program utilizes the train-the-trainer technique to spread gardening knowledge.
“That’s how the master gardener program works,” Merry Lehner of UW-Extension and Oneida County Master Gardener course instructor explained, “Educating people in our community to give back to the community the knowledge that they need.”
The 36-hour course includes a variety of garden topics including a botany overview as well as specifics on insects, plant diseases and dealing with wildlife, to name a few. There are even optional sections on organic gardening and landscape design. Students will be responsible for reading chapters and watching video lectures prior to each class. Class time will then be spent on discussion and labs, as well as the occasional field trip. Upon completion, students will be Certified Master Gardeners.
In return for receiving all this knowledge, master gardeners are asked to provide 24 hours of volunteer service each year. In Oneida county, volunteer opportunities include working at the annual plant sale, helping teach gardening to children at Crescent school and working in the community garden to grow vegetables to be donated to the food pantry. Many of the volunteer opportunities utilize partnerships with other extension services and community organizations.
Lehner said, “What the volunteers find out very fast is how much fun it can be to partner with these other people. It’s not just about learning this stuff and going back and benefiting yourself. We want to share it with others.”
In addition to volunteer work, master gardeners must complete 10 hours annually of continuing education in order to keep their certification. This could be attending talks, workshops or lectures, or simply listening to the public radio program, “Garden Talk.”
The course had been held every other week in the past, but a survey of recent students suggested that completing the course prior to the gardening season would be preferable. So this year, the classes will be held weekly. Generally, course participants include both men and women, a wide range of ages and a variety of different gardening skill levels.
“It really is fun to have a more diverse group,” Lehner remarked.
The course begins with orientation on Thursday, January 23, at 6 p.m. and continues with classes weekly on Thursdays, 6-9 p.m, starting January 30 running through mid-April. Classes will be held at the extension office at the Rhinelander-Oneida County airport. The course fee is $90 which covers the cost of materials, speakers and field trips.
Oneida and Vilas counties rotate every other year in offering the Master Gardener course, so Vilas county residents are encouraged to participate in this year’s Oneida county course. Vilas county master gardeners complete their volunteer hours in Vilas county.
For more information or to register, contact Merry Lehner at UW-Extension (715-365-2750 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit wimastergardener.org.