Well, I received it! My Master Gardener 2010 official certificate of completion! I had such a busy year, it is hard for me to believe I also completd 16 weeks of classes from early January thru mid-April this year. But it didn’t end there, the classes were followed with an open book exam then 60 hours of volunteer work during the months of May thru Sept on outreach projects. Many projects were presented prior to beginning our outreach activity hours. It was so difficult to select, but I did a mix of creating some container gardens at the MG office, helping at a local community garden in Thompsonville, CT (this included giving a couple classes and revamping a perennial garden bed), and working at some agricultural fairs later in the season. I also helped with a garden id project at the ag buildings. As part of the program, I also completed a tree, shrub, and vine identification project by the end of August. And there was office work time in the Extension Master Gardener Office in Vernon/Tolland where Master Gardeners diagnose and answer questions about plants, plant problems, insects and more.
The Master Gardener program is all about providing education and information to the public about horticultural-related topics. And it all begins with a solid foundation of learning, and more importan,t direct experience gained by participating in this programs requirements and various activities. I can hardly believe I completed this program while keeping up with my workload from my small professional landscape design business and other gardening events held this past year for the first time.
Of all the MG activity involved, I guess I have to say, working in the Cooperative Extension Office was the most beneficial to me because I was able to see what types of problems the home gardener experienced and understand where they needed help. I’ve gain horticultural education years prior via the degree program at UCONN, but the MG program offers a different type of learning – where you meet not only other very avid gardeners in the classes, but the people in the community that just want to do gardening correctly, or should I say “better” (for gardening should not be totally correct!)… or just want to have answers to problems they encounter along the way at their home gardens. The Cooperative Extension Offices are designed to help the public, and I suspect many people in the community are not even aware they exist! But this service is available. Make note!
I also strongly believe the program is a great bargain. You learn, practice, experience, and teach (if you are up to the challenge of intense classes and time commitment for the program’s requirements) throughout the program and also receive a tremendous amount of amazing reference material that you will surely use as you continue your gardening experiences. In 2010, all of this was included in the MG fee of under $400! There is an application process, but don’t let it scare you if you think you want to backup your gardening hobby with some solid horticultural knowledge. I’m sure anyone with the desire to learn and the ability to commit to the program would be accepted – at least I think so, but I’m not a coordinator so I can’t say for sure – just my opinion! I don’t make the rules, I’m just trying to say, I think it is worth pursuing if you are interested and can manage the time.
After all was said and done, I couldn’t even attend the graduation ceremony in late October because I had another family commitment, and then I didn’t even have time to go pick up my certificate from the office! So they eventually mailed it to me! I guess once February rolls around in 2011, I can spend more time reflecting on all that I did during this program, how much it benefited me as a gardener and person in the trade, and soak in the accomplishment.
Lastly, I’ve often pondered, what would have been better?… Going to MG Program first then take the UCONN Degree Program– or doing it as I did, taking the degree program (finished in 2005) and taking MG 5 years later? But that is like asking if the chicken came before the egg? There is no correct answer! Both are amazing opportunities and provide layers of learning about horticulture. I feel very fortunate to be able to do both! And I know it will help me to better service my clients and gardening friends.