Master Gardener Course: Registration due this week!

Do you enjoy the feeling of helping someone, teaching them something, especially about gardening or growing plants? Are you interested in the latest information on shade trees, lawn grasses, diseases or SuperStar® plants for your back yard? Then the Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Victoria County organized Master Gardener program may be what you are looking for.

While open to all, men are especially encouraged to sign up to participate in activities that will allow them to learn how to enhance their yard and landscape and teach others of the successes. In the last 13 years, 148 of the 245 people, or 60 percent who went through the 16-week course, became certified Master Gardeners by completing their 50 hours of volunteerism and "still active" in the program today.

That speaks pretty highly for a volunteer organization with some members active for 14 years now. In 2009, these volunteers held 50 educational events, reaching 4,518 people. Their volunteer hours alone reached nearly 15,000 in 2009, or nearly 300,000 hours in 14 years, valued more than $1.5 million to the community plus more than $500,000 raised in establishing the Master Gardener Pavilion and the Victoria Educational Gardens.

So, what's on tap for the 2010 training? Sixteen weeks of training sessions will be held each Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m. from Aug. 5 through Nov. 18, with graduation on Dec. 14.

To really know gardening, you must understand plants and how they grow. Once that is accomplished, you'll learn about diagnosing diseases and identifying insects; the good and the bad - and how to manage them. Then plant propagation or learning how to grow more of your favorite plants from seed, cuttings, roots, buds or grafts will be taught. This will be hands-on training.

Next, you'll learn about the recommended trees, shrubs, perennials, roses and SuperStar® plants and how to care for these. The same applies for vegetables and herbs for your garden. Sampling your own soil and learning what it means will be a great benefit to your gardening success. Topics on the latest recommendations in growing backyard fruits and nuts and learning home landscaping principles and EarthKind® gardening practices really are advantageous.

Turfgrasses, varieties and their management will be discussed. For all those pests that need controlling, you'll learn about pesticide safety, organic pest control and application techniques. Other topics will include: Perennials, roses, bulbs, pesticide safety and application techniques, rain water harvesting, composting and lastly, you'll receive training to teach youngsters through the Junior Master Gardener program, conduct children's tours, educate the public with the skills you learned, write news articles such as "The Gardeners' Dirt" in the Victoria Advocate, and present programs.

Applications to qualify for the Master Gardener program will be accepted until noon, July 23. The registration fee for the 16-week program is $135, plus about a $30 fee for an optional bus tour of various gardens. Forms are available at the County Extension office, 442 Foster Field Drive or by calling 361-575-4581. If you can commit 16 Thursday afternoons to enhance your knowledge and donate back at least 50 hours of volunteer time in 2011, mostly during the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. time period, the Victoria County Master Gardener program is an exciting endeavor waiting for you.

Joe Janak is a Victoria County extension agent.