Anyone who loves to garden can become a master gardener

July 14, 2005
Victoria County
Master Gardener

What are master gardeners? What do they do?

Highly trained, educated and dedicated, master gardeners are people just like you. We are an elite group of gardeners of all ages and educational and ethnic backgrounds. Strangely enough, we all fit together due to our common passion for gardening and learning.

The Victoria Master Gardeners, through Victoria County Extension, invite others to join. It is a unique opportunity to make a difference in our community. Master gardeners meet people and make friends on a different level than before. They get to talk "gardening" as never before, conversing in terms familiar with one another. The benefits are too many to list here.

The first master gardener program in Texas began in 1979 in Montgomery County. Few could have predicted it would spread throughout Texas like wildfire, and blossom into one of the most effective volunteer groups in the state. In the 1990s, the Texas Master Gardener program exploded, fueled by success and visibility.

Victoria County's first training program was in 1997, with 12 members enrolled. To date, we have trained more than 100 master gardeners, most of whom remain certified and active.

Let me share a few of my own experiences with you. In 1993, my family moved to Victoria and, for the first time, I had a wonderful big yard. It was like giving an artist a blank canvas, and I started filling it up. I had successes and failures. As my circumstances changed, I soon had a lot of time on my hands. Since I have been an avid gardener for a long time, becoming involved with a gardening group came naturally to me. When I read about the master gardener class, I knew this was for me.

I became a master gardener in 2003, and became certified in 2004. I continue to reap rewards in knowledge and friendships.

Master gardeners educate the public about working with plants, types of soil, plant diseases and pests. We are trained by professionals, and our goal is to take our information to different groups - children's groups as well as adults.

We are active in the community with our own Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG) next to the Officer's Club at the Victoria Regional Airport. At VEG we have an educational greenhouse, built and maintained by master gardeners. We also co-sponsor the Annual Garden Tour in the spring and conduct a fall symposium - with plant sales during both events. We teach children to garden, give tours at VEG, speak to civic groups, and answer telephone and written inquiries.

A terrific lineup of classes is scheduled to begin Aug. 11 from 1 to 5 p.m. every Thursday into December at the air-conditioned 4-H Activity Center at the airport. They are only held in the fall. Call the County Extension Office at 361-575-4581 for an application. Return it with a check for $135 by July 29. The fee covers the cost of the classes plus materials. I think this will be our best year. You can expect an introduction on the first day, and meet our county agent, the master gardener president and board members and some of the people you will be working with. An outline of the classes will be given, and at that time, you can decide whether or not you want to be in the master gardener program.

There will be classes on botany, plant propagation, pesticide safety and application, soils, insects, plant diseases, vegetables and herbs, fruits and nuts, perennials and roses, plants local in nature and turfgrass during the 50-hour course. There will also be a new class on environmental horticulture. A field trip is planned to a nearby gardening destination.

All volunteer organizations have obligations, and ours is no exception. To be certified, one must complete the 50 hours of classroom training and volunteer 50 hours of service by assisting with VEG, answering horticultural phone calls at the Extension office and volunteering on various committees and/or various approved projects. Those who complete the requirements in classroom training and volunteer service hours earn their certification. Once you become certified, you must meet annual training and volunteer hour re-certification requirements and can attend all the training sessions taught at following years' classes at no additional expense.

People in the training class often join interns, those who have completed classroom training, and certified master gardeners in approved projects and training opportunities. These include field trips, gardening lectures and monthly membership meetings for fellowship, to learn from others and plan programs and projects.