Douglas County is lucky to have an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program. In 2008, they volunteered enough hours to account for more than three full-time employees.
Some people think Master Gardeners are just volunteers who perform good deeds in the community. Others think it is an education program. Both thoughts are correct; the easiest way to say it is that Master Gardeners volunteer to educate others in the community about gardening.
The word Extension in front of Master Gardener refers to K-State Research and Extension. K-State is one of many land-grant universities that have Extension programs. In Kansas, there is a K-State Research and Extension office in every county, although some operate as part of a district. We strive to share the research of the university with the residents of our respective counties through programs such as Master Gardeners, 4-H, Master Food Volunteers, Slice of Ag, Walk Kansas and various workshops, programs and field days.
To become an Extension Master Gardener, one must participate in a training course that covers all aspects of horticulture AND volunteer 40 hours in approved activities. Each year after that, a volunteer must receive 10 hours of education and volunteer 20 hours each year.
In 2009, the training course will be one day a week, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays, from Aug. 25 to Nov. 17. Applications will be accepted May 1–June 8 at the K-State Research and Extension–Douglas County office.
The volunteer activities of the Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners are fully financed by grants, donations and fundraisers staffed by association members. The primary fundraiser is the biannual Garden Tour; other fundraisers include sales of plants and gardening calendars. The only cost of this program to county residents is a small amount of administrative time covered by paid staff. Managing the program with paid staff allows the volunteers to spend more time in activities.
Master Gardeners maintain Demonstration and Learning Gardens at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, the Monarch Watch butterfly garden on Kansas University campus and a low-maintenance garden between the Douglas County Courthouse and the Judicial & Law Enforcement Center. All of the gardens demonstrate adapted plant materials and sound horticultural practices.
A rain garden, a shade garden, a low-water use garden, a butterfly garden and an ornamental grass garden are all available for viewing any time at the fairgrounds gardens. Many of the plants are labeled during the growing season.
The horticulture hot line is another great service of the Extension Master Gardeners. You can call year-round, but Master Gardeners will be answering the phones and the computer from April 1 to Oct. 31. (If you call now, you will get to talk to me. I know it is disappointing for some people.) The hot line is a great place to ask just about anything garden-related; you’ll get the best research-based, educated answer we can provide.
You can also visit with Master Gardeners each Saturday from May to October at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market. Sometimes they are at special events at local garden centers, and they often help with events like the Douglas County Fair and the Kaw Valley Farm Tour.
Other activities include, but are not limited to: a Junior Master Gardener program at New York School, a produce distribution program to collect and distribute excess produce from local gardeners, the Garden Tour (June 6-7) and a speakers’ bureau who can give educational talks on horticultural practices to your organization.
I get the pleasure of working with these wonderfully dedicated people throughout the year.
— Jennifer Smith is the Douglas County Extension Agent–Horticulture for K-State Research and Extension. She can be reached at 843-7058.