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Gardener's Dirt: Master Gardeners help organize others; share fruits of labor

By By Doyle Hines - Victoria County Master Gardener Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
Nov. 3, 2011 at 6:03 a.m.

Gonzales County Master Gardeners, from left,  Doyle Hines and Larry Finch are shown doing clean-up work in historical Gonzales City Cemetery.  At the completion of this work, the cemetery will be landscaped, with plans and work by Gonzales County Master Gardeners.

Texas Master Gardener Association

95 Master Gardener groups

Approximately 1,200 individuals trained annually*

6,393 Master Gardeners in state

Approximately 520,000 hours of volunteer service annually*

*Year 2009 Statistics

Source: Texas Master Gardener Association Annual Report

Texas Master Gardener Requirements

Minimum of 50 training hours

Minimum of 50 volunteer hours

Victoria County Master Gardener Association

300 plus individuals trained in 13 years

144 Master Gardeners currently active

To remain certified

21 volunteer hours, 15 at Victoria Educational Gardens

6 CEU's

Thirteen years ago, the Victoria County Master Gardener training program began with just 13 trainees through efforts of Texas AgriLife Extension.

Since then, more than 300 people have received this intensive training and been certified as Texas Master Gardeners; 144 are active and retain their certification by annual continuing education and community service hours.

From neighboring counties

While mostly from Victoria County, residents from neighboring communities have trained in the Victoria County Master Gardener program. These members have met all qualifications for the Victoria program although some live in Calhoun, DeWitt, Fayette, Goliad, Gonzales, Jackson, Lavaca and Wharton counties and commuted to Victoria to take the course and maintain their certification.

Offsprings evolved

In 2002, Jackson County formed its own group, and last year, Gonzales County followed suit. Each time, members of Victoria County Master Gardeners helped form the groups in their communities.

This part of Texas is truly better educated in gardening because of the fruits of labor of Victoria County Master Gardeners who make up one of the most successful groups in Texas.

How group began: The Gonzales Master Gardeners are now instructing the second year of the Master Gardener program in Gonzales. In the summer of 2010, Gonzales County Extension Agent Dwight Sexton called for the help of some Master Gardeners of surrounding counties to help organize and sponsor a Master Gardener program for Gonzales County.

Answering the request for help were Jim and Gail Johnson from Guadalupe County, David DeMent, of Hays County, and me, from the Victoria County association. Gail was the leader in knowing what forms were needed and how to fill them out to satisfaction. Thus the program was off and running with these four people forming the organizing committee. Finding a place to hold classes was one of the first challenges for, which the local IOOF graciously allowed the use of their building.

First year formation: The first year was a busy one to get all the requirements filled to the satisfaction of Extension Service while conducting classes at the same time. The new training program consisted of 66 hours of classroom training plus field trips beginning in September and ending in May.

One of the field trips was the Victoria Educational Gardens in Victoria. Dick Nolen and the Victoria group were very helpful and allowed us to participate in the fall plant sale and even had do's and don'ts to suggest, which led to Gonzales County having its own plant sale.

First year projects: The Gonzales Master Gardeners and local students undertook several projects the first year. First was the Eggleston Children's Garden. Raised beds were built close to one of Gonzales' historic houses and close to the elementary school. The students from school planted vegetables in the garden and were excited when, at harvest time, the school cafeteria staff made a salad from the produce so the children could literally enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The Master Gardeners presented two public education programs during the winter and spring on topics of tree care and companion vegetable gardening.

These programs were free to the public and were well attended. The Gonzales Beautification Committee was joined by the Master Gardeners in a project of working to clean up and landscape the old Gonzales City Cemetery. Through years of neglect it had grown up with crepe myrtles and other shrubs and had to be cut out before plans could be made for the landscape.

The gardeners were given hour credits for the time worked on this project. Gonzales Memorial Hospital was also a recipient of the talents of the Master Gardeners. This is a work in progress. The hospital provided the financing and the gardeners are doing the planning and work to make a Memorial Garden in one of the patios at the hospital.

With the labyrinth in the center with foliage and a real waterfall in the flower beds, it will be a peaceful and restful place for patients and visitors to visit.

May graduates: In May, the Gonzales Master Gardeners graduated 16 certified Texas Master Gardeners who had completed both the classroom requirements and the 50 hours of volunteer service needed to earn their designations as Texas Master Gardeners. Ten other students completed the class and will continue working on their volunteer hours to earn their certifications. The organization has been receiving much recognition from the community and individual citizens for the difference they are making in the community. It has been a great learning experience, and the satisfaction of having another great organization in our town has been good.

As a Master Gardener in Victoria County, I am proud of being a part of the successes of both programs and encourage others interested in gardening to consider applying to being a part of a very worthwhile group - in either county. What you learn and do will be to your credit and satisfaction.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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