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For the love of plants, Master Gardeners start next classes in February

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Kay Johnson, a Master Garden member from Springfield, volunteers his talents at the new rooftop garden atop Hickory Hills School. He also volunteers at the Demonstration Garden planted each year at the Springfield Botanical Gardens.

Kay Johnson, left, a Master Garden member from Springfield, volunteers his talents at the new rooftop garden atop Hickory Hills School. He also volunteers at the Demonstration Garden planted each year at the Springfield Botanical Gardens. With him is Michelle Benzen, a parent volunteer at the school. Master Gardeners provided a $1,000 grant for indoor plant lights for the school.

If you want to learn more about growing flowers, vegetables, fruits, trees, shrubs, lawns and landscaping, join Master Gardeners of Greene County for the next Master Gardner training program.

Master Gardeners are people who love plants and love seeing things grow and bloom, but for three decades, this organization has been providing gardening education to the public and maintaining our public gardens.

Volunteers staff the booth shared by Master Gardeners and Friends of the Garden in February 2015. Training for a new class of Master Gardeners will begin Feb. 4.

Volunteers staff the booth shared by Master Gardeners and Friends of the Garden in February 2015. Training for a new class of Master Gardeners will begin Feb. 4.

The title of Master Gardener is achieved after completing a core training program which covers plant propagation, soils, plant nutrition, vegetable gardening, a growing fruits, woody ornamentals, herbaceous ornamentals, managing lawns and turf, landscaping, insects, pesticide use, plant diseases, and pruning ornamental trees and shrubs.

The goal of the Master Gardeners program is first to train volunteers to provide the public with research-based information about safe, effective horticultural practices that will build sustainable, healthy gardens, landscapes, and communities.

Master Gardener trainees complete 30 hours of volunteer work during their first year. This may involve helping out in the demonstration gardens, the Xeriscape Garden, master gardener hotline, or in other educational projects sponsored by Master Gardeners.

Members staff educational booths at fairs and festivals, offer talks and workshops through the speaker’s bureau, and write a column for the News Leader titled, “Ask a Master Gardener.”

Programs for children include the Young Sprouts program each spring. Volunteers work at the at Hickory Hills School rooftop garden. After completing the first year traineeship, Master Gardeners complete six hours of continuing education and volunteer for at least 20 hours each year, though many members contribute hundreds of hours.

Master Gardeners offer donated plants for sale the last weekend of April each year as a fund-raiser for their activities.

Master Gardeners offer donated plants for sale the last weekend of April each year as a fund-raiser for their activities.

The next training program will run from Feb. 23 through until April 7, 2016, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6-9 pm. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Master Gardener please contact Kelly McGowan at mcgowank@missouri.edu.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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