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Skaggs: Program helps you master gardening

POSTED: August 29, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Working for free may not appeal to most people, but for those who truly love gardening, a little digging in the dirt without pay is not a problem.

As graduates of the UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences Master Gardener Program, they volunteer their time to assist local county extension agents across Georgia.

If you live in Hall County, are interested in gardening and have a volunteer spirit, you should consider applying to the 2009 Master Gardener class offered by Hall County Cooperative Extension.

The Master Gardener program is a 10-week series of classes taught by local county extension agents, UGA extension specialists and green industry experts.

The 2009 Master Gardener class will begin in January and be held at the Hall County Agricultural Service Building in Gainesville. The class meets Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

The classes will cover many horticultural subjects including plant physiology, tree care, plant pathology, insect identification, organic gardening, turf care, woody plant identification, gardening for wildlife, ornamental ponds and composting.

The cost of the class is $125, which, when you consider the quality of the two textbooks, is a bargain. Also, another part of payment involved with the program is the promise to complete a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service for a year following the class.

After the first year, you must complete 25 hours of volunteer service per year to maintain your Master Gardener status.

Once enrolled in the course, you are invited to participate in the events and activities sponsored by the Georgia Master Gardener Association and the Hall County Master Gardeners. These include monthly meetings, field trips and educational conferences.

While participants gain knowledge they can use in their own landscapes and gardens, the real success of the program is the work and dedication of the volunteers.

Master Gardeners serve their communities through a variety of projects that promote their love of gardening and teach others to protect and preserve the environment.

In 2007, Master Gardeners in Georgia volunteered more than 175,000 hours of their time. Hall County Master Gardeners led the state in 2007 contributing more than 16,000 hours of volunteer service, valued at over $280,000.

Hall County volunteers educate the public through "Ask a Master Gardener" plant clinics, the Junior Master Gardener program, the Lunch & Learn Gardening Series at the Hall County Library, the Gainesville Garden Expo and other workshops and seminars.

For more information or to receive an application for the 2009 Master Gardener class, call the Hall County Extension office at 770-535-8293.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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