For the love of plants and gardening

Go green with the 2007 master gardener training class


June 28, 2007




People develop all kinds of neurosis and psychosis from a mother-in-law. I wouldn't tell my husband that though. However, the one thing that my mother-in-law did for me was instill a love for plants and gardening.


Oh, yes, she did the other stuff, too. But my passion for gardening came from her. So when my husband complains that I spend too much money buying plants, I remind him that it's his mother's fault (God rest her soul!).


Any guess what plant my very first gift from her was? Why the mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), of course.




Gardening is a wonderfully therapeutic thing. You can get your hands dirty and no one gets after you. Washing the dirt off, you can get wet and cool off by playing around and spraying down yourself and your spouse or children with a water hose after a hard day's work. The birds sing and the butterflies flitter around.


I love being out in the yard. I'd rather mow grass than do housework. And besides, the buzz right now is going "green."


There are a lot of people who possess a green thumb. But not everyone is as "green" as the next one. For some of us, killing a precious houseplant that a husband or cherished friend gives us, is mortifying.


So how do we develop a green thumb and quit throwing out dead plants?


Trainees from last year's class learn about insects and butterfly development from master gardener Roy Cook, center with hat, in the butterfly garden at Victoria Educational Gardens.





The Victoria County Extension Office, in conjunction with the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, will again hold master gardener training classes beginning Aug. 2. They are every Thursday (except Thanksgiving week) until the end of November. The cost is $135 plus the optional cost of transportation to visit the botanical gardens in Corpus Christi.


For your hard-earned money you get educated by leading authorities in Texas on various topics that I will mention later. This fee also helps to pay for speaker travel expenses and for their program handouts, which are filled with valuable information. You also get the Master Gardener handbook, which is loaded with gardening reference material. Plus, you get to have your yard or flowerbed soil tested to determine which nutrients exist in your yard and which are missing. Additionally, a field trip on a bus to the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens gets everyone out of the classroom and in the field to view great examples of gardening at its best. And there is also a required background check that will enable you to work with the children (more than 1,000 each year) who come out to our very own Victoria Education Gardens for school tours.


The speakers procured for this program are some of the best in their fields. You will learn about plant science that is essential to everything else in gardening. How can you propagate properly if you don't know which end is up? How do you apply pesticides to your yard and to problem areas if you don't know how they will be absorbed? What do you do if you find bugs on your plants? Are they good bugs or bad bugs?


If your claim to fame is your vegetables and herbs, then come learn more to further sharpen those skills and increase the enjoyment you derive from being in the garden.


What about perennials and roses? Everyone loves roses. But are they as difficult to grow as everyone says, or are you just not aware of their criteria for optimum growth? Do you know what plants are annuals, biennials, or perennials? Perennials can make picture-perfect areas of otherwise barren space. With water being an issue in Victoria in the summertime, how do we manage to keep our yards green and healthy?


Our speakers will help you to sort out all kinds of interesting details to help you manage your yard.




The following topics will be covered in the 2007 Master Gardener training class:


Responsibilities of master gardeners; junior master gardener training

Botany (plant science)

How and what makes plants grow

Diagnosing and understanding plant diseases

Plant propagation

Pesticide safety/application techniques

Working with Victoria soils; tree species, care and maintenance

Growing vegetables and herbs

Identifying and understanding insects

Perennials; roses; Texas Superstars

Water gardens

Home fruit and nut management

Tour of Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens

Landscape horticulture

Principles of "Earth-kind" practices

Turf grass varieties; irrigation

Plants recommended for Victoria


While in the training program, you are assigned the title "trainee," and once the program is completed, you become an "intern." With the completion of 50 hours of volunteer service, you then are ready to wear the badge that designates you as "master gardener."




For an application go to and click on "Members," then "2007 Master Gardener Training Application."


Contact Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County at 361-575-4581 and request additional information from Joe Janak, county extension agent, or Vikki Fitzpatrick, ag secretary. The registration deadline is July 27.


Who knows? You may even learn something "green" about gardening that you can share with your mother-in-law or the spouse of one of your own children.


The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas 77901; or, or comment on this column at