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Learn to grow with the Colorado Master Gardener Program

Gardening is a popular hobby and leisure activity that provides outdoor physical activity, contact with nature and sharing with others.

For many gardeners, digging in the soil, pulling weeds and harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables is comforting to the soul, taste buds and pocketbook. Taking out some daily frustrations on the weeds can help you unwind and turn a stressful day into one that can be quite rewarding. Spending quality time in the garden allows the gardener a chance to slow down, be creative and enjoy simple pleasures.

If you have a love of gardening and would enjoy sharing your passion with others, perhaps you should begin thinking about becoming a Colorado Master Gardener.

Those of us who have transplanted to the San Juan Mountains from other states might find gardening at 7,000 feet a challenge to our gardening skills and sometimes downright frustrating. Do not despair — the Master Gardener Program will help you gain the knowledge, skills and ideas necessary to turn your yard into a fantastic home garden.

To become a Master Gardener, your only pre-requisite is to have a passion for gardening.

The term “Master Gardener” does not mean that you have expertise in all subject matters related to gardening. The hands-on expertise comes from the 55-plus-hour training program, ongoing continuing education opportunities, information provided by the CSU Extension-Archuleta County office and the knowledge shared by other local Master Gardeners.

The Colorado Master Gardener program is specifically designed to use the services of trained volunteers who have horticultural knowledge and a willingness to share that knowledge with other county residents. Many newcomers and inexperienced gardeners in Colorado are in great need of gardening advice. The Master Gardener training will give you the skills needed to diagnose and solve gardening problems and give you the confidence to share your expertise with others. Master Gardeners provide the following types of services to Archuleta County:

• Answer gardening questions that come into the Extension Office.

• Design programs related to gardening.

• Create and maintain demonstration gardens.

• Work at the Archuleta County Fair and plant clinics.

• Demonstrate new gardening techniques.

• Help educate children about gardening.

• Participate in many other exciting community gardening projects.

There are plenty of opportunities to develop public speaking skills, learn to use computers, hone your photography skills and other technologies. All of these activities are very rewarding, and the feeling of accomplishment Master Gardener volunteers receive through the service they are providing is very gratifying.

The ongoing success of the Colorado Master Gardener program in Archuleta County is largely due to hundreds of volunteer service hours donated by our dedicated Master Gardeners. The public positively benefits by being able to talk with knowledgeable local gardeners face to face and to receive non-biased, research-based information. Besides having fun and meeting new people, there are lots of benefits to becoming a Master Gardener, such as:

• Teaching and sharing gardening skills and information to others, fostering more successful gardeners.

• Helping individuals make informed decisions about gardening and solve gardening problems.

• Using horticulture to empower gardeners, develop partnerships, and build stronger communities.

• Promote environmental responsibility through water conservation and least-toxic pest control.

• Beautify the community by teaching about appropriate plantings for our climate.

• Flexibility to conduct the types of volunteer service you enjoy most.

• Lifelong learning about plants, soil and horticulture with practical classroom instruction and hands-on experiences.

The Master Gardener program and training is conducted by the Colorado State University Extension via distance technology and face-to-face. The Master Gardener training courses are taught by Colorado State University Extension professionals and experts. The program covers the challenges specific to gardening in southwestern Colorado. A sample of topics covered includes:

• Soils, Fertilizers and Soil Amendments.

• How Plants Grow.

• Mountain Gardening.

• Vegetables.

• Small Fruits.

• The Science of Planting Trees.

• Lawn Care.

• Weed Management.

Classes typically meet once a week from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. for 11 consecutive weeks. Cost of the training, which includes a copy of the Master Gardener Manual, is $275 per person and must be paid prior to training. Married couples who register together and receive only one copy of the training materials can participate at a reduced price of $445 per couple. Partial scholarships are available through the Archuleta County Extension office and can be requested on the application form. Those participants who do not wish to participate as a Master Gardener volunteer will be required to pay the full registration cost of $625 for the training.

If you would like to learn more about successful gardening in the Pagosa Springs area, call the CSU Extension Office in Archuleta County today at 264-5931 to reserve your space in the 2013 Colorado Master Gardener Program, which tentatively begins Jan. 31. Registration opens Oct. 8 and will remain open until Dec. 21.

To receive the title “Colorado Master Gardener,” the volunteer must complete the following requirements within the first year:

• Complete the Colorado Master Gardener training program.

• Attend a minimum of 80% of the training classes.

• Complete a minimum of 50 hours of Colorado Master Gardener volunteer service.

To maintain the title of “Colorado Master Gardener” volunteers must complete the following activities annually:

• Complete a minimum of 24 hours of Colorado Master Gardener volunteer service.

• Complete necessary volunteer reports.

• Attend a minimum of 12 hours of continuing education.

• Pay an annual fee of $25 for program administration and distance learning continuing education.

The Master Gardener program is innovative and flexible in its outreach and works to match volunteer skills and schedules. Each year, Colorado Master Gardeners all over the state help people make the right choices for their garden care. Anyone who would like to play an active role in the education of gardeners of all ages in the Pagosa Springs Area is invited to join our Colorado Master Gardener team.

Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.

Calendar

Oct. 4 — Shady Pine 4-H Club meeting, 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 — Colorado Mountaineers 4-H Club meeting, 2 p.m.

Oct. 8 — Livestock Committee meeting, 6 p.m.

Oct. 9 — Rocky Mountain Riders 4-H Club meeting, 6 p.m.

Oct. 10 — Pagosa Peaks 4-H Club meeting.

Learn more about our upcoming events on our web page at www.archuleta.colostate.edu.

This story was posted on October 10, 2012.