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Veggie 101 classes available

March 31, 2009|By ANNETTE IPSAN

Would you like to grow your own vegetables?

Concerns about health, safety and costs have stimulated growing interest in starting backyard vegetable gardens.

Food tainted with contaminants has been making headlines. Food costs are spiraling upward, growing 6 to 7 percent in the last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. People are looking for healthier food that tastes good, costs less and is as safe as it is healthful.

It's true. Home-grown tastes better, lasts longer, and provides more nutrition because it doesn't lose vital nutrients in transportation.

Even the White House is putting a vegetable garden on the first family's lawn, breaking ground a few weeks ago. Many homeowners want to do the same. Industry surveys are showing double-digit increases in the number of home gardeners.

Many people can tap into their agrarian roots and remember how to create a vegetable garden. They recall biting into sun-warmed tomatoes from their parents' garden or their grandparents' garden.

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But many others have no gardening background. They need a basic course to teach them the nuts and bolts of vegetable gardening.

Enter the Master Gardeners' Veggie 101 course, designed to help beginners learn the basics and give existing gardeners a vital refresher.

On April 18 and 30, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Veggie 101 class will be held at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Sharpsburg Pike in Boonsboro.

The six-hour class will teach participants how to get the soil ready, pick easy-to-grow vegetables and start them from seeds or small plants. They will learn how to make compost, choose the right tools and defeat garden thugs from weeds to wildlife

Master Gardeners will teach the Veggie 101 classes. Trained volunteer educators with the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension, Master Gardeners teach safe, effective, environmentally responsible gardening techniques through talks, demonstration gardens, plant clinics, classes, information booths and therapeutic horticulture programs.

Local Master Gardeners aren't alone in their efforts to teach vegetable gardening basics. The local Veggie 101 class is part of a statewide Master Gardener initiative called "Grow it! Eat it!" that encourages people to grow their own food. The campaign's modest goal is to inspire one million food gardens in Maryland.

The cost for the Veggie 101 class is $20. You can register in person at the Extension office or by mail by sending a check payable to "Washington County EAC" to Veggie 101, Maryland Cooperative Extension, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713.

Class size is limited to 25 students. Registration is required and due one week before the class date. No refunds will be offered after that date.

We - the Master Gardeners and I - are here to help you succeed as vegetable gardeners. Whether you sign up for the Veggie 101 classes or just need help picking the right varieties or troubleshooting a problem, you can count on us for research-based information that will help you grow your own healthy, tasty, affordable food.

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.edu

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