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Master Gardeners make the rounds

October 05, 2009|By ANNETTE IPSAN

Where can you find Master Gardeners? Everywhere in Washington County, making the community a little better one plant and good deed at a time.

Volunteers with the University of Maryland Extension, Master Gardeners are dedicated educators. They teach people safe, effective ways to garden that build healthier gardens and communities. The ripples of their teaching are felt throughout our neighborhoods.

Check out those teenage girls digging in the dirt at San Mar Children's Home. They are planting vegetables and the seeds of self-esteem. This year, Master Gardeners taught them about bugs and butterflies, planting and harvesting, botany, ecology and more as part of a horticultural therapy program.

Meanwhile, the women at W House are gaining confidence, along with gardening skills. Herbs thrive under grow lights inside while the outdoor harvest continues. A new compost tumbler is making food for the soil while the ladies are fed with fresh produce from their gardens.

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Visitors to the Hagerstown City Farmers Market find fresh answers to their gardening questions at the Master Gardeners' plant clinic. The first and third Saturdays of each month from 8 a.m. to noon, our volunteers troubleshoot garden problems and dispense advice on topics such as organic pest control and native plants.

On Pennsylvania Avenue, you'll find more Master Gardeners working in the gardens at Western Maryland Hospital Center. These gardens offer beauty and comfort to patients, staff and visitors. Plans are moving along swiftly for the new Linn Hendershot Memorial Garden.

Kids are laughing, planting and tasting veggies in local schools' C-SAFE gardens.

"Ew, it's a worm," says one little girl with pigtails, triggering a lesson about earthworms as soil builders.

At Bester Elementary, Girls Inc. and other sites, children are learning from Master Gardeners about the joys of growing tomatoes, basil and giant zucchini.

If you went to Boonesborough Days a few weeks ago, you probably saw the Master Gardeners' display. Visitors learned the finer points of fall gardening, composting, growing vegetables and managing insects. Master Gardeners set up these educational displays at area events to share the gospel of good gardening.

What else do Master Gardeners do? They teach from an historic four-square garden at the Rural Heritage Museum, hosting Second Sunday workshops on everything from gourd birdhouses to rye grass baskets. At Hagerstown Community College, they restored a memorial garden and crafted a native plants garden.

Our Bay-Wise volunteers review and certify backyards that demonstrate environmentally responsible techniques. And at our newest gardens at the Agricultural Education Center, Master Gardeners show residents how to grow their own vegetables organically as part of a statewide Grow It, Eat It initiative.

Master Gardeners love to garden. And teach. And share. And learn. If this sounds like a good fit for you, why don't you join us? We are now accepting applications for the next Master Gardener training class that will be held Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Feb. 11 to April 8. Call or e-mail me, and I'll send you an application and tell you anything you want to know about our program. We'd love to add another green thumb to our group.

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

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