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A new crop of Master Gardeners

The Gwinnett Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a training program offered through Gwinnett Cooperative Extension office. Through this program, individuals are trained and certified in horticulture and related areas. These individuals, in turn, volunteer their expertise and services to help others through horticultural projects that benefit the community.

The Georgia Master Gardener Program was started in 1979 in Atlanta as a means of extending the educational outreach of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Master Gardeners serve many roles in aiding the local county extension office to deliver educational horticultural programs and information.

Perhaps you would like to be a Master Gardener. To do so, you have to apply to the program and be accepted and complete 13 weeks of training taught by specialist covering many differing topics related to gardening, such as landscape design, propagation, turf and nuisance wildlife control.

The classes meet from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the DeKalb Extension Office, 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032, from Jan. 6 to March 29. As part of the program, each person is required to volunteer for at least 50 hours within one year of the training. Volunteers are involved in many different activities, including environmental gardening demonstrations, plant clinics, phone and site consultations, information booths at local fairs and festivals, and a multitude of other activities.

Gwinnett residents have the opportunity to become a Gwinnett County Master Gardener right here in their home county. The Gwinnett Extension Service is accepting applications for the program now through Oct. 2 for the 2010 class. There is a selection committee of Gwinnett County Master Gardeners that looks over each application to narrow the field down to 27 interns.

What they look for in candidates is what the Master Gardener program is all about, and that is community service. Before applying, ask yourself this question: Will you be able to volunteer in the community after taking the classes?

You may want to check out the Gwinnett County Master Gardeners by attending its monthly meeting on the third Monday of every month (except December) at the Bethesda Senior Center at 6:30 p.m. It consists of a potluck dinner and a guest speaker. The public is invited.

The one thing that unites all Master Gardeners is a desire to help people. You do not have to be an excellent gardener; we provide the necessary training. The program offers many enriching and rewarding opportunities in serving the community. You just need a sharing heart and a desire to help others.

If the description of the Master Gardener program is of interest to you, consider applying. More information on the program and how to apply can be obtained by calling the Gwinnett County Extension office or download an application from the Gwinnett County Master Gardener's Web site at www.gwinnettcountymastergardeners.org. 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 $140 and includes a Master Gardener textbook, name badge, all classes and materials. The deadline for the applications is Oct. 2.

Timothy Daly is an agricultural and natural resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or tdaly@uga.edu