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Now is the season to become a master gardener

Are you one of those gardeners who think summer is too short? You discussed your garden produce or flowers with neighbors, and have eaten, frozen or canned the good stuff from your garden. Maybe you've cleaned your tools and hung them up for the winter. And when the mail arrives you wonder when the seed catalogs will begin to arrive. Maybe there's more — you could become a Master Gardener! Here's how:

The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener program is an internationally recognized volunteer program. It began in 1972 at Washington State University and now exists in all 50 states, Canada and the United Kingdom. Nationally, there are nearly 100,000 Master Gardener volunteers from all walks of life. They reach about 5 million people each year — the equivalent of more than $100 million in value to communities.

In Minnesota, the Master Gardener program began with a class of 25 people in 1977. The University of Minnesota Extension Service coordinates the Master Gardener program. It has strong ties to the research and outreach of the Department of Horticultural Science at the University. The Master Gardeners programs benefit schools, community gardens, environmental programs and farmers markets.

Becoming a Master Gardener is more than pulling weeds. Although they do love digging in the soil, the scope of their involvement in the community is as follows:

• teaching classes and workshops

• answering phone inquiries concerning home horticulture

• teaching and demonstrating horticulture techniques in community and school gardens

• assisting youth horticulture projects

• media interviews and articles on horticulture topics

• speaking to schools and youth groups on gardening topics

• holding plant clinics

• assisting with county horticulture days and county fairs

• representing the program at state fair exhibits

• teaching horticulture in hospitals, nursing homes, and retirement centers

• assisting University of Minnesota faculty with research projects and variety trials

• empower people to grow their own food

• work with foresters

• improve the state's water quality with shoreline plantings and rain gardens

Master Gardeners are paraprofessionals that are vital to the University Extension's goal of providing research-based information to Minnesota residents.

The steps to become a Master Gardener include completing an application, have an interview, and pass a background check. Sometimes a short test is given.

In the Master Gardener class you will learn about soils, entomology, gardening resources, diagnostics, trees, herbaceous plants, lawn care, plant pathology and more as you complete the 48 class hours of the Master Gardener Core Course HORT 1003 training through the University of Minnesota. It is taught by Extension educators and faculty, and is available online, or at the University of Minnesota — St. Paul campus. The online class begins Jan. 12 through May 6, 2018. The in-person course will be held at the Arboretum Jan. 12 through Feb. 3, 2018 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The registration deadline is Dec.1, 2017. Cost is $320.

After completing the Master Gardener Core Course HORT 1003, your internship will continue with 50 hours of volunteer time to be completed within the first year of participation. When your internship is complete, you'll start the next calendar year as an active Master Gardener in your community. To maintain your active Master Gardener status, you will complete at least 25 hours annually thereafter as certified active Master Gardeners. Active volunteers are also asked to participate in continuing education of 5-12 hours per year, depending on the county in which you volunteer.

More information is available online at www.extension.umn.edu/garden/master-gardener/become. For application to the U of M Master Gardener Program, contact Sally Shearer at the Hubbard County Extension office at 732-3391 or sshearer@umn.edu prior to Nov. 3.

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