Do you have an interest in horticulture and want to learn much more? Do you have an interest in volunteering in the River Parishes to make our community better? If so, the Master Gardener Program may be right for you.
The Louisiana Master Gardener (LMG) Program began in Baton Rouge in 1994 to extend the educational outreach of the LSU AgCenter. (Washington was the first state to have a program, back in 1972.) In 1998 it was extended to other parishes and now about 90% of Louisiana parishes enjoy the benefits of the local programs.
Our River Region Master Gardeners are recruited from and serve St. James, St. John, and St. Charles Parishes. It is at heart a volunteer educational organization, asking a certain number of service hours annually to renew membership. Our local programs include school gardens, booths at fairs and farmers markets, beautification projects, and maintaining a demonstration garden. We also welcome new ideas and projects to extend relevant and needed efforts.
Much more than just a lawn care service, our members are educated in many aspects of horticulture before going out into the public to offer expert advice. The beginning of the membership process includes a class covering about 14 horticulture topics. Vegetable and flower topics get much of the attention. But class participants also learn about soils, botany, wildlife, trees, and more.
Under a new and successful format first implemented a few years ago, students first watch three-hour presentations at their leisure online. These are taught by LSU professors and other (sometimes local) experts. Then we meet for labs together (this year every Thursday morning) to reinforce lessons, share questions, and get much-needed hands-on experience. Some labs will include travel to research plantations and demonstration plots. Last time, students expressed that they learned as much in the labs as they did in the lectures, and got to know each other in the process.
We are now accepting applications for a course starting May 19. We’ll have an informational meeting April 21 and are asking applications be turned in by April 7. There is a $225 fee for the course to cover binder and book materials, lab supplies, and a few snacks along the way. (Compare that to college tuition.) We do have a minimum number of participants to be able to have the class so please get the application to us soon and invite a friend or two! For more information and an application, contact the St. James, St. John, or St. Charles LSU AgCenter offices. (My contact info is always in my tag line. For St. Charles it’s Gabriel LoCoco – GLoCoco@agcenter.lsu.edu.)
If you want to know more about gardening, landscaping, or anything else horticultural, contact the St. John & St. James Parishes Horticulture Extension Agent André Brock at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, the LSU Ag Center’s website can be accessed at www.lsuagcenter.com with lots of user-friendly information, including this article.