Do you have what it takes to be a Master Gardener?

Earlier this year, I joined the ranks of volunteers called Colorado Master Gardeners.

These are the folks you call at the Colorado State University extension office and ask what’s eating your roses, how to diagnose plant diseases, and when to spray your peach trees. They help troubleshoot problems and provide a lot of education to home gardeners.

Now is the time to apply for the 2013 Master Gardener course. Class size is limited, so if you’re interested, you should apply now.

If you’re wondering what sort of stuff you would learn: I learned about soils (doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s really interesting and important), growing plants, diseases, insects, irrigation and fertilization, among other things.

Surprisingly, I remembered a lot about plant biology from my high school botany class (thanks, Mr. Rieniets) and built on my basic knowledge of growing plants from my background as a farm kid.

Honestly, I learned more in Master Gardener class than I did in some college courses, and I use that knowledge almost every day.

If I’ve piqued your interest, you might want to consider the following criteria.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the top five signs that you *might* be a Master Gardener applicant.

1. You love learning.

You’re a person who is always noticing things and wondering why you killed that plant. Or you dug up a bunch of grubs in your turf and you want to know if they’re good or bad. Be ready to embrace the research-based science and share it with others.

2. You’re looking for a way to get involved in the community.

Everyone has yard problems. Many people move here from other places and don’t realize what a challenge it can be to even grow a lawn. You could help them have a successful landscape.

Each apprentice Master Gardener commits to a minimum of 50 volunteer hours per year, which can be completed in a variety of ways.

3. You have time (or make time) to educate yourself.

I’m not just talking about the once-a-week class. I’m talking about being someone who invests in knowledge.

I’ve learned just as much helping others and reviewing the research for their various problems as I did sitting in class. The hands-on part of being a Master Gardener is extremely rewarding.

4. You enjoy gardening.

Even if you don’t have a great space for a garden at home, for whatever reason, you like the idea of learning how to garden or would like to be a part of the team of people who create and maintain the gorgeous gardens at the extension office. Then you could have one of the nicest gardens in the county.

5. You’re excited to interact with incredibly intelligent, resourceful people.

I’m talking about the class instructors, advanced Master Gardeners (some whom have gardened in the valley longer than I’ve been alive) and your fellow apprentices.

Last year’s class included recently retired professionals, workers in the green industry (landscapers, etc.), independent business owners and people who work 40 hours a week and managed to finagle one day a week to participate in class and complete their volunteer hours.

I was lucky enough to randomly sit with fellow apprentices who turned out to be the “cool table,” and made friends with total strangers with whom I enjoy volunteering. And be ready for hilariously understated gardener humor.

Entomologist Bob Hammon makes penstemon and grasshoppers more interesting than you can imagine, if you listen closely.

This year’s class costs $150 for residents in Mesa, Delta, Montrose and Ouray counties. This funds your Master Gardener manual (it’s huge), supplies and supplemental materials.

If, for some reason, you would like to take the course but you cannot commit to the volunteer hours, you can take the course for $450 (but you won’t be a real Master Gardener).

Class will be at the Mesa County Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursdays starting Jan. 17 and ending March 28. Contact Susan Rose at 244-1841 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for information or to receive an application.

Erin McIntyre is a writer, master gardener and owner of the gourmet pickle company, Yum Pickles. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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