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Garden column: Master gardener classes gearing up soon in Northeast Florida – Florida Times

If you have an interest in gardening and serving your community, check out the master gardener classes that are gearing up in Northeast Florida.

Master gardener is a title given to individuals who receive in‑depth horticultural training from county extension agents and, in return, give 75 hours of volunteer service helping their local extension office. The program is under the direction of the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Master gardeners join the program for a variety of reasons. Transplants from other climates find that gardening in Florida has special challenges and they want to learn how to duplicate their previous successes. Some grew up on a farm and are returning to their roots. Others simply enjoy digging in the dirt and want to have a nice landscape. Whatever the reason, there is a common bond among gardeners and they are an eager, nurturing group that loves to share information and plants.

The county extension offices in several Northeast Florida counties train master gardeners in late summer and fall. If you are a resident of Duval, Clay, Bradford, Nassau, St. Johns, Putnam or Baker counties, the classes coming up are open to you.

Most master gardener trainings will be held on Wednesdays beginning in late July and ending in October. Training sessions begin at 9:30 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m. The cost to attend the program varies, so check with your county extension office.

Training will include topics such as basic plant science, plant propagation, entomology (insects), plant pathology (diseases), nematology, vegetable gardening, fruit culture, woody ornamentals, turf management, animal pest control, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, irrigation basics and planting/care of common landscape plants. The master gardener training is the most comprehensive horticultural classes offered in our area.

Master gardeners give their volunteer hours to extension offices in many ways. Many Duval master gardeners help residents by answering telephone calls about gardening and landscaping issues. In addition, they troubleshoot plant problems brought into the office, test soil for pH, conduct plant clinics, teach 4‑H youth about plants, plant and maintain demonstration gardens, teach groups about landscape techniques to protect the environment, work with school garden projects, help clients at the Canning/Nutrition Center, and assist with city beautification projects.

Applications for a limited number of openings are being taken in area county extension offices for upcoming classes. Anyone may apply for the program regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, or disability.

Terry Brite DelValle is a horticulture extension agent with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.

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