Penn State Extension recruiting prospective Master Gardeners

archive photo SHNS ¬ Planting trees and woody shrubs is simple. Understand and work with nature, and your garden will thank you.

Penn State Extension in Berks County will train a new class of Master Gardener Volunteers beginning in August. Applications are now open and admissions will be decided in June.

“Master Gardeners are first and foremost volunteers,” explained Beth Finlay, the program’s county coordinator. “They have a job description, which is to serve as volunteer horticultural educators to the public, translating and dispensing researched information from Penn State’s College of Ag Sciences. They may do this in a variety of programs, such as staffing plant clinics, speaking to groups, teaching classes and workshops, creating and staffing educational displays, working with children in schools, and developing and maintaining Master Gardener demonstration gardens as teaching centers.”

In Berks County, the Master Gardeners work with populations as diverse as senior citizens, pre-schoolers, Berks County Prison inmates, high school students and home gardeners. They deal with everything horticultural: perennials and annuals, soil science, lawns, vegetables, trees and shrubs, plant pathogens, houseplants, fruit trees, beneficial insects and pollinators, and more.

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Applicants to the Master Gardener Program must be residents of Berks County and must be prepared to complete their required volunteer hours by contributing to Master Gardener projects within the county.

The 2013 Master Gardener training course will consist of 16 classroom sessions presented Wednesday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon at the Berks County Ag Center. The lecturers are Penn State Extension staff and educators. The course will begin August 21 and run though December 11, excluding Thanksgiving week.

Candidates are required to attend all of the training sessions, pass a final exam and complete a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service to earn their certification. To maintain that status in ensuing years, each Master Gardener must complete at least 20 hours of volunteer time and 8 hours of update training.

Admissions will close May 10. Interested parties should contact Penn State Extension immediately at 610-378-1327 or dzk2@psu.edu for more information and an application form.