It’s never too early to start thinking about Master Gardner program

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 7, 2008

It may seem just a tad early to be mentioning this, but I want to give all of our gardening enthusiasts something to think about before the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Many have probably heard about the Master Gardener program, so today my goal is to inform gardeners about the next Master Gardener training and to tell not only what the program provides but also what it requires. 

First, let me answer the question, “What is the Master Gardener Program?” The Master Gardener volunteer program is a great way to gain horticultural expertise at a low cost, meet other avid gardeners, share gardening experiences, get connected to the community and belong to a well-respected educational organization.

It is an educational exchange program offered through county offices of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.  Through this program, individuals are trained and certified in horticulture and related areas.

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In exchange for educational training, individuals are asked to volunteer their time to help county Extension offices with horticulture projects that benefit the local community. Master Gardeners help extend the educational arm of the university to the public by providing horticultural information based on university research and recommendations. Here in Warren County, 32 certified Master Gardener Volunteers are on the roster.

The Master Gardener training provides more than 40 hours of classroom instruction in horticulture and related areas. Class instructors include Extension specialists, agents, and other horticulture professionals. Class topics include botany, soils, vegetables, ornamentals, insects and diseases, and lawn care among others. Curriculum material will be provided to support the classroom instruction. 

In exchange for 40 hours of educational training, individuals are required to return 40 hours of volunteer service within one year of their training. After the first year, volunteers are required to return 20 of volunteer service and to attend 12 hours of educational training to remain certified as Master Gardeners. 

A one-time $85 fee will be charged for entry into the program. This covers the cost of training class refreshments, supplies, a 1-year membership in the state Master Gardener association, and provides funding for the future development and growth of the statewide program. 

Does it sound like the Master Gardener program is for you? The Warren County Extension office and local Master Gardener volunteers will host the next training beginning on Feb. 24 and continuing each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon until April 2.  All classes will be in the Extension Service office from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. 

The first step is to contact the Extension office and let us know you are interested. We will then send an application, which the prospective student will be asked to complete and return to the Extension office by late-January. This allows us ample time to order training materials.

The Warren County Master Gardeners meet in the Extension Service office on the third Tuesday of each month except December. Prospective students are invited to drop in on the next scheduled meeting on Jan. 20 to meet the current volunteers and to get a glimpse of what the program is all about.

John C. Coccaro is county Extension director. Write to him at 1100-C Grove St., Vicksburg, MS 39180 or call 601-636-5442. E-mail him at