I finally decided to take the plunge and become a Master Gardener this spring. I recently moved to Indiana. New to the area I recognized becoming a Master Gardener would be a great way to make friends with fellow gardeners, become active in the local community and learn the specifics of gardening in my newly adopted home town.
My classes started the second week of January, meeting once a week until the last week of April. Kurt Campbell, Extension Educator for Ag and Natural Resources for Purdue, organized our classes and taught a chunk of them. He did a wonderful job encouraging socializing. We didn’t need too much help; the class was made up of 19 verbose students. Apparently we were one of the bigger more talkative classes in recent history. We had a good time sharing our personal gardening stories, favorite local nurseries and plotting out all the new things we were going to try in our gardens that we learned in class.
Each class was a different topic. We covered:
- Plant Science
- Weed Identification and Control
- Pesticide Safety and Alternatives
- Soil and Plant Nutrition
- Woody Ornamentals
- Insect Pest Diagnosis and Control
- Plant Disease Diagnosis and Control
- Home Lawn Care
- Home Fruit Production
- Herbaceous Ornamentals
- Indoor Gardening
- Home Vegetable Crop Production
I loved that we had guest speakers for many of the topics. They were local horticulture business owners or State Extension Specialists. Not only did I learn a lot from them, but now I know who to contact to learn more about bee keeping or which variety of apple is best for my zone and soil type.
For the last class we did a field trip to the Fingerle’s River Ridge Farm, a local small farmer who grows vegetables year round in a series of green houses and in the summer on a two acre plot of land. It was a fascinating look at how productive an intensively managed vegetable garden could be, especially with a little added protection from row covers. I think we all left with a bag of spring mix lettuce, freshly dug carrots or leeks as well as a whole lot of ideas to implement in our own gardens.
At the end of the class we took a written test to make sure we had learned enough to graduate to Master Gardener Interns. (We’ll get to be full Master Gardeners once we complete 35 hours of approved volunteer service.) There was quite a bit of concern that it would be hard to get the minimum of 70% and fail. Many questions were asked to make sure everything on the study guide was understood. In the end all the hard work paid off and everyone passed!
I miss my weekly class and I can’t wait to see everyone again at the monthly Master Gardeners Club meetings.