From the ground up: How to become a Master Gardener

Besides questions on plants, lawns, insects and flowers, a lot of you ask “What is a Master Gardener”?

A Master Gardener is someone who loves gardening and is interested in learning more about horticulture and sharing that knowledge with others. Master Gardeners are members of your community who take an active role in educating themselves about gardening, then passing that information along to you in many ways. Linn County Master Gardeners sponsor a popular Winter Gardening Fair, offer garden walks, present classes to the public, answer questions and run a learning “hands-on” greenhouse along with several display gardens. We also love to talk about our passion; whether it’s yard, garden, trees, shrubs, pests, vegetables, perennials and the list goes on.

I became a Master Gardener in 2007 and the list of things I have learned in the last seven years is long. I became a Master Gardener so I could continue to learn, volunteer with terrific people who share my passion and encourage others to expand their own knowledge of all things horticulture. The most rewarding part of being a Master Gardener is being able to share what I have learned with others. Gardeners do like to share. I also encourage people I meet who love gardening to join us all the time — and now is the time.

Master Gardeners attend classes taught by Iowa State University Extension staff and specialists. The program offers 40 hours of instruction, covering topics such as lawn care, flower and vegetable gardening, ornamental trees and shrubs, fruit crops, houseplants and more. Training also covers insects, disease and weed control; soil and plant nutrition; as well as pesticide safety.

In return, participants are asked to volunteer 40 hours of service back to their local county extension programs by the end of the calendar year following completion of class hours. Linn County Master Gardener projects are varied and include: educating youth and the community, answering questions on the Hortline, organizing horticulture-related events, presentations and classes, planting and maintaining demonstration and community garden plots and much more.

The deadline for applications is Friday for classes beginning in September. Training is at the Linn County Extension Office September to November. There is a $195 fee for the training, which covers the cost of a binder of extension publications and class outlines. Financial assistance to cover 50 percent of the class fee is available for those who qualify. Those interested should contact the Iowa State University Linn County Extension Office at 383 Collins Rd. NE, Suite 201, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402, (319) 377-9839, Kathy Wimer at, or visit gardener-class for complete information.

I encourage anyone interested in learning more about horticulture to apply.

•Lisa Slattery is a Linn County Master Gardener.

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