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Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticulturist Utah State University Extension Thanksgiving Point Office All rights reserved
Have you ever wished that you knew the difference between a hosta and a houtnea? Do the relationships of rusts, mildews and leaf spots have you confused? How about the difference in damage from a weevil or a cutter bee? Does your plant need magnesium or manganese? The answers to these and many others may be closer than you think.
Utah State University Extension Service is looking for a few good gardeners. Actually, you do not even have to be particularly knowledgeable about growing plants you just need to want to learn. The way to learn is through the Master Gardener Program.
A good part of my career as an Extension horticulturist for Utah State University has been spent teaching, working with, advising and learning from Master Gardeners in many counties throughout the state. Few parts of my job have been as satisfying as those relationships that I have formed and those things I have learned. It is a concept that helps those who learn and those who teach.
For some 25 years, the program has been helping gardeners throughout the State. Ogden native Dave Gibby started this program at Washington State University. While he worked as a horticulturist, he found the demand for gardening advice was overwhelming. Hundreds of people wanted him to answer questions, give talks and demonstrations and assist with a myriad of other projects. He found that with some excellent training, gardeners could learn the basic university recommendations and in turn, help others solve pest problems, select the right plants for the area and help with other horticultural needs.
Master Gardeners take an intensive set of classes that cover a wide range of horticulture topics. The classes include basic plant science, insects, diseases, soils, fertilizers, vegetables, fruits, flowers, trees and many other subjects. In return for the classes, the participants agree to donate back time to Utah State University to help others with gardening needs.
If that seems a little intimidating, don=t let it be. The classes are taught by teachers who want to you to learn and want you to have fun while you learn. During one class, you might be looking at insects, the next night you might be testing your soil and the next you might be selecting flowers for your own garden.
As interesting and helpful as the classes might be, the volunteering after the classes is even better. Finding your niche on how you can best help others is a part of the concept of master gardening.
Many thousands of people throughout the state routinely use the services of Master Gardeners each season. Visit many of the gardens throughout the state and your guide might be a Master Gardener. Hear a garden talk at your church or club and it might be a Master Gardener making the delivery. The person who assists you at the nursery or garden center might have also graduated from the class.
Master Gardeners are involved in dozens of projects. Most counties have a speaker’s bureau that you can call to schedule someone to come and talk about garden subjects from bulbs to tree care. They can extol the virtues of plants from ageratums to zinnias and a few hundred in between.
Visit your county fair and they will likely have a question and answer booth to help you r gardening needs. They help with diagnostic clinics in many counties. Take in a part of your plant to find out why it might not be growing well. They can identify the problem and recommend a solution.
In Weber County, they assist with the Ogden River Parkway. In Davis County, they spend much of their time assisting with the development of the Utah Botanical Center. They maintain extensive iris, rose and peony collections. Salt Lake County volunteers have several demonstration sites including the State Fair grounds.
Utah County Master gardeners help with at the Thanksgiving Gardens and teach dozens of classes to county residents. They also judge county fairs in many of the surrounding counties. Tooele county residents hold clinics and help with gardening needs throughout the county.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the classes is getting to meet other gardeners with similar interests. You might never know about the kindred spirit who grows the same exotic plants that you are growing until you take the class.
Most of the counties along the Wasatch Front have a Master Gardener program. For information on these programs, call the number listed below.
Master Gardener Programs in Northern Utah.
Davis County call (801) 451-3411.
Weber County call (801) 399-8201
Utah County call (801) 370-8463. Participants who qualify for this class will receive a season pass to the Thanksgiving Gardens.
Salt Lake County call (801) 768-3170 Cache, Box Elder, Uintah, Washington, Iron and Tooele County call your local USU Extension Service office.