In 1972, there was a county with a single Extension Agent located somewhere in Washington and he noticed that much of his time was devoted to homeowners with questions related to backyard gardens and home lawns. In order to help provide research-based information for these inquiries and lighten his workload a little, he started the Master Gardener program. His idea was to train individuals who had expressed interest in the basics of horticulture and then allow them to serve their community sharing the knowledge they had gained.

From there the Master Gardener program blossomed (pun intended) into a program with certified Master Gardener volunteers across the nation. As an outreach arm of the Extension service, Master Gardener volunteers receive research-based information on everything from basic soils and botany to lawns, vegetables, and flower gardening.

We have had a Master Gardener (MG) program in Richland County since 2008. Generally, I try to offer the program every other year which means that I would have held classes last year. I don’t have to explain why I did not hold classes last year, but I am optimistic that I will be able to in 2021.

If all goes as planned, I will begin teaching the MG program starting Tuesday, February 16 in the evenings from 6 to 8. Because of the requirements of the course, classes will be held every Tuesday through April 6.

I briefly touched on it above, but the MG level 1 course starts out with basic botany and soils. Other topics that will be covered include annuals and perennials, vegetable gardening, small fruit and tree fruit production, lawns, tree care, composting, and more. There is a fee of $100 to cover the costs of course materials but all MG’s who complete their 50 hours of volunteer time will get half of the fee returned to them.

To become certified as a Level 1 MG participants must complete 50 hours of volunteer time after completing the courses. Upon completion members are then eligible to take a course and be certified as a level 2 MG and can go up to level 3. There are additional volunteer requirements for each level as well.

If you are even remotely interested in becoming a Master Gardener, please give me a call at 433-1206 or send an email to timothy.fine@montana.edu. There must be a minimum number of 10 participants for the classes to happen and, unless restrictions change, cannot be more than 25. There is also an online option for those not comfortable taking the classes in a classroom, in person setting. For more details about the online courses, contact me at the number or email provided above.

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