Growing knowledge

Purdue Master Gardener Program
covers lawn, garden techniques

Participants’ service project
brightens their communities

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(January 2010) – For those who spend winter dreaming of warmer days and spring flowers, the Purdue Master Gardener Program offers the perfect way to beat the chill.
The Purdue Master Gardener Program in Indiana began in 1978 as a way to encourage continuing education in horticulture and is coordinated through the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service. From four initial counties the program has expanded to most of the state – this spring more than 75 counties will offer courses. Jefferson Extension Educator Lonnie Mason says that Jefferson County has been involved in the program for about the past 10 years while Scott County has been active for the last 20 years. Mason estimates that about 15-20 students a year participate in the Jefferson County classes.

Fred Whitford

Photo provided

Fred Whitford, Purdue Extension
specialist, teaches a class on proper
application techniques during last
year’s Master Gardener series.

Ken Schneider, 53, of Hanover, Ind., explains his decision to take part in the program saying, “I have always loved gardening.” He encourages those considering the classes, “Go for it! You learn skills that can help you in the lawn or garden.”
The registration deadline for the Jefferson County program is Jan. 6. A $90 fee is charged to cover the cost of materials. Those interested may contact the Extension Office for an application. Most sessions will take place at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, though a few classes may meet at other area sites allowing for more varied demonstrations.
“It’s a 12-week program structured around different topics,” Mason said. “There’s a different speaker every time.”
This year’s courses will run from the end of January through mid-April, with classes meeting Mondays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. At the end of the course, participants may take the Master Gardener test and then at the completion of 35 hours of community service will be certified as Master Gardeners.
Classes cover topics ranging from plant and soil science to tailoring care to particular types of lawns. Students will learn how to improve their skills with vegetable production and ornamental plants while other classes may include landscaping design and tips for keeping indoor plants.
Schneider particularly enjoyed the fact that he was able to use many of the lessons directly in his own yard. “I loved learning about different techniques, such as correct time and way to fertilize a lawn, different pests and control of pests, correct pruning techniques.”
After completing the course work and passing an exam, the final step in certification is community service work. The varied community service projects reflect the interests of the aspiring Master Gardeners and allows them the opportunity to apply their knowledge beyond their own homes.
“Some have worked in highway beautification projects, identifying plants in a local park, and at Madison in Bloom as hosts,” recalls Mason.
Schneider adds that some students chose seminars or presenting school demonstrations as their project work. Schneider himself has devoted many hours to projects that are now enjoyed in towns. “I volunteered at the Lanier Mansion working in the flower beds, volunteered at Yell Dew Gardens in Crestwood, Ky., planting; and my main project, helping in the yard and gardens at Heritage Apartments,” he said.
The involvement of the students in the Master Gardener program does not end with their certification. Participants are encouraged to share what they have learned with other hobbyists. This summer, Master Gardeners will have the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program in England that will include lectures and tours of world celebrated gardens. Closer to home, Mason explains that students who participated in previous sessions of the Jefferson County program are invited to return for classes on special topics that were not offered as part of their earlier training. Often times, the Master Gardeners’ community projects will take on a life of their own.

• For more information on the Jefferson County Master Gardener Classes, call Extension Educator Lonnie Mason at (812) 265-8919.

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