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Extension educator can help you with your gardening questions

September 02, 2008|By ANNETTE IPSAN

"What do you do?"

It's a simple enough question. But for those of us who work with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, the answer is never short.

Since I have a bit of space and time, let me tell you what I do and how I can help you.

Extension is the education arm of the University of Maryland. We are all teachers, whether we work with farming, nutrition, finance, health, 4-H or gardening issues. Our job is to share the latest research-based information so you can live better.

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My job is to teach people how to garden well. I share information on safe, effective ways to garden that build healthier gardens and communities.

How do I do that? I answer your gardening questions, teach classes, give talks and train Master Gardener volunteers.

What's the best way to grow blueberries or prune a grapevine? What types of trees will do well in a wet spot in my yard? What can I do about those dark spots on the bottoms of my tomatoes? I answer dozens of gardening questions like these every day.

My answers are based on scientific research from university resources. I will give you tips, instructions and fact sheets to answer your questions and help you garden smart using environmentally safe techniques.

I also identify plant and insect samples. I can tell you whether a bug is good or bad and what controls work best. I can determine whether a plant has a disease and recommend treatment options. If I can't answer your question, I can tap a network of university experts. You most often have your answer in a few days.

What's the best way to bring me a sample? Pop it in a sealed plastic bag and attach a slip of paper with your question, name, address and telephone number on it. Drop it off at the Ag Center on Sharpsburg Pike any weekday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

The best plant samples are fresh and show the symptoms you want me to diagnose. A few leaves are good, but an 8-inch section of a branch is better. Insect samples should be fresh, too, to help me identify them correctly.

I also offer classes on the latest gardening techniques. One that's coming up soon is a "Woods in Your Backyard" class that can help you create and manage a backyard natural area. It's being held here at the Ag Center on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. It costs $20 per person or $25 per couple and requires pre-registration. Call or e-mail me to learn more.

I give educational talks to local garden clubs and other groups, too. I have a dozen talks ready to go on everything from bird and bugs to composting and container gardening. I'm giving a free talk called, "Good Bugs, Bad Bugs," at the library in downtown Hagerstown on Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. Call 301-739-3250, ext. 136, to register.

I also coordinate the Master Gardener program which trains volunteers to teach others how to garden smart.

Master Gardeners teach kids how to garden at area schools; manage demonstration gardens at local hospitals, museums and treatment centers; host information booths at events like Boonsboro Days; and offer plant clinics at the City Farmers Market in downtown Hagerstown the first and third Saturdays of the month from 8 a.m. to noon.

Master Gardeners receive 40 hours of intensive horticulture education from university experts and ongoing continuing education at monthly meetings. They give back to the community at least 20 hours of volunteer time each year. Call or e-mail me if you'd like an application for our spring training class.

Annette Ipsan is the Extension educator for horticulture and the Master Gardener program in Washington County for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. She can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1604 or by e-mail at aipsan@umd.org.

My job is solving gardening problems. How can I help you?

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