Are you a gardener or landowner who would like to learn more about the soils and plants of the area?
Would you like to learn how to fix that problem area in your yard? Would you like to take your gardening knowledge and experience to the next level?
The Halifax Virginia Cooperative Extension Office is taking applications for the upcoming 2023 Master Gardener course that will start on Tuesday, Jan. 10.
The Master Gardener program is a volunteer program offered by Virginia Cooperative Extension, an educational arm of Virginia Tech. The program is designed to prepare residents to become Master Gardener volunteers who help spread best practices and research-based information from the two land grant universities to the community. There are currently 64 active Master Gardeners who serve the residents of Halifax County and Southside Virginia.
Anyone can become a Master Gardener. Residents don’t need a degree in horticulture or extensive gardening experience. They do, however, need to have a desire to learn and share information about plants of all types and care about protecting the environment. Although it helps to have practical experience or knowledge of gardening, beginners and those who don’t have a “green thumb” finish the course with a wealth of knowledge that hasn’t been tainted with years of “bad practices,” and develop new confidence in their gardening abilities.
Halifax Master Gardeners, once trained, spend their time sharing that knowledge with others in the communities. Some of what they share is how to put the right plant in the right place, how to control pests without harming the environment, how to use/conserve water and how to plan and plant gardens as well as planning landscapes that are beautiful, functional and sustainable.
The course takes three hours out of each week for 16 weeks to become a better gardener and to develop the skills and abilities to share with neighbors and fellow Southside citizens. Participants will gain knowledge from some of the best instructors we have in Southside Virginia. The group draws educators from professionals from Virginia Tech, botanists, researchers and experienced Master Gardeners.
Participants will learn how to apply research-based answers about the culture of vegetables, herbs, fruits, nuts, lawns/turf, flowers, bulbs, houseplants, trees and shrubs, ornamental grasses and roses as well as integrated management of insects, diseases and other pests. Participants will get a greater understanding of soils and nutrient management as well.
In addition to the training, participants will meet people with common interests, develop enduring friendships and gain satisfaction and recognition from using talents to enhance the quality of life.
Master Gardeners will continue to learn “on the job,” and may participate in advanced training opportunities. Active Master Gardeners will automatically receive a subscription to “In Season” newsletter from Virginia Cooperative Extension, along with a local Southside Master Gardener bi-monthly publication, “The Garden Chatter,”
With the privilege of taking the classes, comes the responsibility of “helping others learn to grow.” When signing up for the program, a person makes a commitment to give back at least 50 hours of time volunteering during the first year.
For example, one can help with the help desk, help maintain and improve landscape design, or provide tours at the Southside’s only botanical garden, Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens.
A Master Gardener may work on educational displays for public educational programs throughout the county and towns. Participants will have an opportunity to assist in some of the joint projects with educational services with other partnering nonprofit organizations throughout the county. Some of the educational programs our Master Gardeners are involved in include plant care, tool care, rain barrel, hypertufa and other workshops, pruning clinics, and other proposed and existing horticulture related classes at different venues in Halifax County.
Teaching others about gardening and land care is rewarding. Master Gardeners engage in youth educational activities through Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program. Soil and plant sciences are part of the curriculum for public and private schools. Some may want to assist with educational programs through the joint efforts at the Southern Virginia Botanical Gardens at Edmunds Park and the Healthy Harvest Community Garden in Halifax.
Opportunities abound and are available to enjoy helping others in the community or public or private school gardens. Other options include a horticulture therapy garden, staffing informational booths at public events, giving gardening talks or demonstrations in the community or even providing administrative assistance to the Master Gardener program. Sign-ups for volunteer opportunities begin during the classes and continues throughout the year. Many Master Gardeners choose to continue “helping others learn to grow” year after year. Some Master Gardeners have been teaching and volunteering for over 33 years.
I can tell you from experience that being a Master Gardener is rewarding, enjoyable, and yes, at times, challenging as you learn new environmental skills. And, if you ask any of our active Master Gardeners, they will tell you about the fun and comradery they enjoy as volunteers.
If you are interested in taking the course and help both yourself and others, you can obtain an application by going to https://halifax.ext.vt.edu/.
Applications are available at the Halifax Virginia Cooperative Extension office located at 171 S. Main Street (next to the Library) in the town of Halifax.
You can learn more about the Master Gardener Course and Program by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, stopping by the office or by calling 476-2147, option 0 and asking for the Master Gardener coordinator or an on-duty master gardener.