Becoming a Master Gardener

Becoming a Master Gardener

  • By Nancy Moore
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  • December 2016-Vol.2 No.12
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I am one of the newest batch of Master Gardener Interns. This means that this past spring over the course of 3 months, we have had a massive amount of information poured into our heads. We have been educated by a variety of incredibly knowledgeable speakers whose wealth of information astounds me. From abiotic stress (who even knew what that was?), to vegetable gardening, to pruning, to water quality, to plant propagation, to native plants and why they are important to keep in our landscapes, we have covered more topics than I have fingers to count them on. It has been a stupendous experience.

And what I have learned is this: I know nothing!! Forget the idea of being a “master” of anything at the end of our 3-month training. It will take years and years to reach a point of expertise in any given area. Shucks!

The value of the training is the learning and exposure it gives you to know how to obtain information and how to impart that information to others. We are now aware of the many resources out there and how to use them– for example, that using .edu sites and extension sites are preferable to using commercial sites when researching a topic

Taking a soil test.

Taking a soil sample.

We impart only science-based information. We now know there is an Integrated Pest Management Plan (this is going to take me a long time to wade through—the content material is not quite as riveting as the latest mystery novel. Actually, now that I think of it, it sort of IS a mystery novel—at least to me.) We have been introduced to some fine gardeners throughout the state and sources of good quality supplies. We have learned about soil pH and the value of a soil test. That by itself is worth the price of the course.  We have been introduced to many of the projects going on throughout Albemarle County, which are run by Master Gardeners, using both their expertise and their muscle power. We have met some seriously accomplished local gardeners. We have sweated with anxiety standing in front of the class, giving our short presentations. It is the best course I have ever taken.


The Senior Center Rose Garden- A Piedmont Master Gardeners Project.

During our 3-month training, we flew from topic to topic faster than a mosquito finds a human victim to bite. I volunteered in one of the MG demonstration gardens at the Senior Center Rose garden one Friday morning and learned about using fish emulsion as a good fertilizer. I immediately went out to buy some. But then it rained for 2 weeks and I forgot about fish emulsion. By then we were on to pruning. The fish emulsion is still setting on the floor of our kitchen unopened. After the lesson on pruning, I got a pruning saw for my birthday and could hardly wait for daylight so I could begin my next project… getting rid of a beautiful but overly vigorous vine that was growing up into our chimney, one that had been indentified as an invasive plant by a neighboring gardener. We had just finished the class on invasive species and I was not going to let that thing live to see another season. Did I know exactly what I was doing? No. But it was fun and I felt like I was making headway! I’m going to be a Master Gardener! (Too bad that it turned out to NOT be the invasive variety and we now have a gaping hole on the side of our house where we once had lovely green foliage.) Two steps forward, one step back, I always say!

If you love plants and gardening and have time to attend one day per week classes and do lots of reading (OK, and the time for a few panic attacks from the sheer amount of material you are presented with), the Piedmont Master Gardener Program might just be the next step for you. Any of the newest interns would be thrilled to tell you about their experiences. And someday I may even know enough to actually answer a question when working the Horticulture Help Desk!

Here is how you too can become a Master Gardener:

Call the Extension office at 434-872-4580 to get the application. Deadline 12/09/16 or contact your local Extension office

  • Cost: $190, need-based scholarships available (Cost may vary by location)
  • Commit to Training class – 70 hours, all day Mondays, 9-4 pm, February 13 – May 1, complete a 1 year Internship with 50 volunteer hours, then annual maintaining of 20 volunteer hours and 8 hours continuing education
  • Here are some of the topics covered during the training course: Botany, Soils, Water quality, Trees & Shrubs, Integrated Pest Management, Small Fruit and Berries, Vegetable Gardening, Weeds, Entomology, Propagation, Herbs, Plant Diseases, Native Plants, Urban Ecology.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is here to train, enable and support members of the community who wish to become educated and then give back to the community their time and energy volunteering. All of our volunteer projects address community needs through outreach education that provides science base, environmentally sound horticulture practices. Come join us…we are a fun filled group eager to learn more about gardening and share that knowledge with others!




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