Master Gardeners give gifts all year long

December 07, 2010|By ANNETTE IPSAN | Special to the Herald-Mail

Do you want to learn more about gardening? Do you enjoy teaching others? Are you looking for a way to give back to the community? You could be a Master Gardener.

Master Gardeners are volunteers with the University of Maryland Extension. They get 40 hours of training from university pros, then share their knowledge in one of a dozen different projects. As the coordinator of the program, I like to think of it as a gift that keeps giving.

Master Gardeners answer gardening questions at plant clinics at the City Farmers Market and at libraries. They work with kids at schools and at San Mar Children's Home, teaching growing basics while tying in lessons on nature and nutrition.

At teaching gardens throughout the community, Master Gardeners show others how to grow their own food, create rain gardens, and grow heirloom vegetables and native plants. Gardens at Western Maryland Hospital Center are therapeutic for patients, visitors and staff, offering beauty, respite and healing.

You'll find us at events such as the HCC Flower and Garden Show, Boonsboro Greenfest, the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival and Boonesborough Days, spreading the gospel of good gardening. That's our mission: to teach safe, effective gardening techniques that build healthier gardens and communities.

Our Bay-Wise program brings an environmental message into your backyard, offering free yard reviews to share best practices in protecting the Chesapeake Bay. Ace the review and you get a handsome yard sign that says you are helping to save the bay.

Master Gardeners teach classes, too. Our "Grow It Eat It" and "Veggie 101" classes have taught hundreds of people how to grow their own food. Talks on bugs, composting, pruning and a dozen other topics are offered each year through our speaker's bureau.

All that giving adds up. In 2009, Master Gardeners gave nearly 4,000 hours of service to the community. I am terribly proud of all of our volunteers. They give freely and generously.

Their giving has a very human face:

  • The woman at W House who said she looked forward to our visits because she knew someone cared.
  • The patient at Western Maryland Hospital Center who grinned as he gave us a 25-pound watermelon he grew for a workday lunch.
  • The child who wouldn't eat anything green asking for a second slice of kale pizza.

As we are helping and learning, we enjoy the company of our Master Gardener friends. We are a community bound by mutual love of gardening, and genuine enjoyment and appreciation of each other's talents. We learn and grow together.

So, if you'd like to give yourself - and our community - a gift this holiday season, consider becoming a Master Gardener. The class is forming now, with classes starting in February.

For an application, call 301-791-1604 or e-mail

Have a blessed holiday season.

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

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