Are you an avid gardener, but would like to know more about gardening, plants and horticulture? Would you like to meet people who share your interest in gardening? If so, you may be interested in becoming a MASTER GARDENER.

What is a MASTER GARDENER? Master Gardeners are individuals who have an interest in horticulture, have taken the Master Gardener training offered by the extension service and share their time and expertise with other gardeners. It is the acquisition of knowledge, their skill in gardening and giving back to the community that distinguishes a Master Gardener from other gardeners.

The purpose of the Iowa Master Gardener Program is to provide unbiased, scientific-based, horticultural information to the citizens of Iowa through the volunteer efforts of Master Gardeners. Master Gardeners are residents of a community who take an active interest in horticulture. They receive training in horticulture through the ISU Extension. In return for their training, Master Gardeners volunteer in extension horticulture programs and projects, which enhance the community.

The requirements to become a Master Gardener include a $195 fee to cover the cost of educational materials and a commitment to do 40 hours of extension service. Individuals receive instruction in a wide range of horticulture and related areas: houseplants, herbaceous ornamentals, turf grass, vegetables, woody landscape plants, plant propagation, fruits, soils, wildlife management, pesticide safety, integrated pest management, plant pathology, entomology and garden design.

Training will be offered for Benton County this fall. Training sessions last for three hours and are held twice a week. You would also be expected to attend at least one Saturday on-campus session. The instructors are state and local extension specialists as well as knowledgeable, local gardeners. After completion of the training program, individuals become Master Gardener Interns. They are promoted to the title of Master Gardener upon completion of their 40-hour service commitment. Master Gardeners can remain active members in following years by attending ten or more hours of in-service education and contributing twenty or more hours of community service.

Training for the Fall 2014 Master Gardener class is being offered jointly by the Benton and Linn County Extension Offices in September, October and November on Tuesdays & Thursdays at 6:30 pm. If you are interested in becoming an Iowa Master Gardener, contact the Benton County Extension Office at phone: 319-472-4739 for an application or to find out more information. Applications will be accepted until August 18th and interviews will be scheduled in August to select participants for classes that begin in mid September.

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