Gardening in Gwinnett: Gwinnett Master Gardener applications accepted now

Are you interested in gardening? Do you want to volunteer more? Why not become a Gwinnett County Master Gardener?

Through the Master Gardener program, thousands of people in the United States and Canada have been trained as volunteers. In 2007, 180 Gwinnett County Master Gardeners have volunteered more than 12,000 hours of their time to increase the horticultural knowledge of residents.

The Gwinnett Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a training program offered through the Gwinnett Cooperative Extension office. Volunteers are trained and certified in horticulture and related areas, and then, in turn, volunteer their expertise and services.

The Master Gardener volunteers assist their County Extension Agents with horticultural projects that benefit the community. They bring the latest horticultural information and practices from the world of research to their communities' landscapes and gardens.

The Georgia Master Gardener Program was started in Atlanta in 1979 as a means of extending the educational outreach of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.

Typical volunteer activities include environmental gardening demonstrations, plant clinics, phone and site consultations, compost demonstration sites, newsletter production, youth gardening, community gardening and beautification, manning information booths at fairs and festivals, and horticulture therapy.

How to become a Gwinnett Master Gardener

The Gwinnett Extension Service is accepting master gardener applications from early September through late October for the 2008 class. A selection committee of Gwinnett county Master Gardeners scores each application to narrow the field down to 22 interns a year.

The selection committee is looking for candidates who will be able to offer community service. Before applying, ask yourself this question: Will I be able to volunteer in the community after taking the classes?

The Master Gardener Program is designed to develop highly skilled volunteers who agree to give a minimum of 50 hours of service in exchange for 40 hours of horticultural training from extension service professionals. After the initial year, participants volunteer a minimum of 25 hours each year to remain certified as a Master Gardener.

Gwinnett is part of the Metro Atlanta Cluster, which means we combine our Master Gardener interns with Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton county interns for a class of about 90. Because of the size, we only do one class a year.

If you live outside these counties, check with your local county extension office about Master Gardener programs in your county.

Upon acceptance into the program, volunteers are required to complete a 20-session (twice a week) training program that will cover topics ranging from landscape design, propagation and turf to nuisance wildlife control. Again, the intent of the program is to train you in subjects that will prepare you to assist the local county agents.

Our classes run early January through March every year from 10 a.m. to noon Mondays and Wednesdays at the DeKalb Extension Service.

Class participants usually take a mid-term exam and will be required to pass a final exam on the material covered. The cost of the program is $130, and includes a thick Master Gardener textbook, name badge, all classes and materials.

For more information on the program, call the Gwinnett County Extension Service at 678-377-4010 or visit www.gwinnettextension.org. Click on "Horticulture," then "Master Gardeners."

The deadline to apply is Oct. 12.

Timothy Daly is an agricultural and natural resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.