BY BARBARA STORZ
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, in both Hidalgo and Cameron Counties, will hold its annual Master Gardener volunteer training from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. beginning Tuesday, Sept. 11 and running through Oct. 30. Classes will be held at the respective county offices with some joint classes at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Research campus in Weslaco. A couple of field trips will also be joint adventures, including one to Rivers End Nursery in Bayview, home of a tropical and subtropical fruit tree nursery.
The Master Gardener program is a national volunteer program sponsored by the horticultural departments at our nation’s land grant universities. In Texas, Texas A&M, the state’s land grant institution, sponsors this community volunteer program through its AgriLife Extension horticulture department in approximately 125 counties in Texas.
Master Gardeners learn how plants are identified as well as study soils, turf grass, vegetable and fruit gardening. They also learn about using native plants in the garden and how to design landscapes according to the amount of water required for each respective plant in order to maximize water efficiency. Attendees will be introduced to EarthKind Landscaping principles.
After completing the required classroom studies, the Master Gardener class participants complete volunteer service hours, representing Texas A&M to receive their Master Gardener certification. Acceptance into the program is by application. In Hidalgo County, Ashley Gregory, Extension horticulturist, provides direction and in Cameron County, the Master Gardener volunteer program is under the direction of Jennifer Herrera, Extension Agent for Horticulture.
“Volunteering at a school vegetable garden or a community garden provides a real sense of accomplishment and purpose,” said Master Gardener Ricardo Carranza. “I have had the opportunity to provide educational gardening programs for school children and families and it is very rewarding.”
“After certification is complete, there are numerous opportunities to take advanced classes and participate in a statewide Master Gardener conference each year. Working together for the good of the community is a great way for class participants to meet new friends and gain a whole new perspective about this special place we call the Rio Grande Valley,” said Ashley Gregory, Extension horticulturist in Hidalgo County.
The cost of the program is $200 for 50 hours of instruction, field trips and the Master Gardener manual. An orientation will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug 14 at the Hidalgo County Extension office to answer any questions applicants may have. A similar meeting will be held on the same day at 10 a.m. in the Cameron County office in San Benito. For information on the Hidalgo County program, call (956) 383-1026, and for information on the Cameron County program, call (956) 361-8236.
Applications and information on the Master Gardener program will also available at the Growing Growers Farmers Market from 9 a.m. until noon today in Firemen’s Park on the corner of 1st and Business 83 in McAllen.
Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her 7 a.m. garden program Saturday on 710 KURV Radio, or contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.