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Science and the Environment

Master Gardeners Give Back to their Communities

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Michele Skalicky

Barbara St. Clair loves to get her hands dirty.  An avid gardener, St. Clair became a University of Missouri Extension Master Gardener about six years ago, now, she’s president of the Greene County chapter.  Her desire to work in the Xeriscape Garden on S. National led her to become a master gardener…

"When we moved from the country into town, and I wanted to do a lot of extensive flower gardening, I used to come by here and see what grew well, what looked good."

St. Clair loves spending time in the garden, and she knew that becoming a master gardener would give her another excuse to spend time working in the soil…

"I love gardening, so any excuse to garden, so, obviously, this is a much bigger garden than I could ever hope to have at my own house, but I also love gardening with other gardeners, and, so I get to meet and talk with and visit with and share plants with other equally obsessive people."

It takes a lot of training to become a master gardener.  Patrick Byers is regional horticulture specialist with the University of Missouri Extension in Greene County and coordinator of the master gardener program here.  He says members receive training in horticulture and then give back to the community…

" Master gardeners have the motto 'helping others learn to grow," and that kind of sums it up, but they're involved in many different activities in the community."

They plant, organize and maintain two demonstration gardens in Greene County, including the Xeriscape Garden, which showcases sustainable landscape management.  They also operate a hotline for anyone with gardening questions, and they speak for various community organizations.

Training is about 30 to 36 hours and covers a variety of topics.  Once training is finished, master gardeners commit to volunteer 20 hours a year and they must continue to learn.

St. Clair says the training is great, but the actual volunteering is even better…

"To me, the real training happens after you've gone through the sitting and getting kinds of programs and you get out into the gardens and you start working with other gardeners, and you learn by doing."

Master Gardener training starts February 12, 2012 in Greene County.  Some surrounding counties also have chapters, and their training times are different. 

For more information, call your local University of Missouri Extension office.