Brock: The Master Gardener program may be right for you – L’Observateur

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Are you interested in horticulture and want to learn more? Do you have an interest in volunteering in the parishes of the river to improve our community? If so, the Master Gardener program may be right for you.

The Louisiana Master Gardener (LMG) program began in Baton Rouge in 1994 to expand the educational reach of the LSU AgCenter. (Washington was the first state to have a program, in 1972.) In 1998, it was expanded to other parishes, and now about 90 percent of Louisiana parishes benefit from local programs.

Our River Area Master Gardeners are recruited and serve the parishes of St. James, St. John and St. Charles. It is essentially a voluntary educational organization, requiring a certain number of hours of service annually to renew its membership. Our local programs include school gardens, stalls at fairs and farmers’ markets, beautification projects and maintenance of a demonstration garden. We also welcome new ideas and projects to expand relevant and necessary efforts.

Much more than just a lawn care service, our members are trained in many aspects of horticulture before going out to the public to offer expert advice. The beginning of the membership process includes a class covering approximately 14 horticulture topics. Topics on vegetables and flowers get a lot of attention. But course participants also learn about soils, botany, wildlife, trees, and more.

In a new format successfully implemented a few years ago, students first watch three-hour presentations at leisure online. These are taught by LSU faculty and other (sometimes local) experts. Then we meet for labs together (this year every Thursday morning) to reinforce lessons, share questions, and gain much-needed hands-on experience. Some labs will include travel to research plantations and demonstration plots. Last time, the students said 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 will have an information meeting on April 21 and ask that applications be returned by April 7. There is a $225 course fee to cover binding and book materials, lab supplies, and some snacks along the way. (Compare that to tuition.) We have a minimum number of participants to be able to have the course, so please send us the request quickly and invite a friend or two! For more information and an application, contact the AgCenter offices in St. James, St. John, or St. Charles LSU. (My contact information is still in my tagline. For St. Charles, it’s Gabriel LoCoco – [email protected])

If you want to know more about gardening, landscaping, or any other horticultural activity, contact St. John & St. James Parish Horticultural Extension Officer André Brock at [email protected]. Additionally, the LSU Ag Center website can be accessed at www.lsuagcenter.com with lots of user-friendly information, including this article.

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