Are you a candidate for the Charlotte County Master Gardener Program? Do you enjoy meeting and talking with people? Do you like searching for answers to gardening questions that you or others have?

If so, you may be just who we are looking for! Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who provide the public with gardening programs and activities that draw on the horticultural research and experience of the University of Florida Extension Service.

Each Master Gardener receives research-based instruction in all areas of Florida home horticulture and is kept up-to-date with the latest developments in home horticulture from the Charlotte County Extension Service. In return, Master Gardeners volunteer an equivalent number of hours sharing their knowledge and experience with interested gardeners in the community. Your chance is coming — the 2019 Training is just around the corner!

Charlotte County’s Master Gardener Program, along with similar programs in other counties in Florida, is directly linked to the University of Florida as part of its national Land Grant College charter. It is this tie to the University that provides Master Gardener’s state-of-the-art gardening knowledge. The Master Gardener Program is a world-class national program of trained volunteers who work in partnership with their county Extension office to extend horticultural information throughout the community. The first Master Gardener program was started in Washington State in the early 1970s and has been in Charlotte County since 1983. The Training Class of 2019 will be our 36th year with this program!

Our own Master Gardeners work on a variety of programs and activities. Master Gardeners who work the Plant Lifeline, open Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m., answer questions and diagnose plant insect and disease problems. Others operate booths at shows and fairs talking with people about gardening; some even work within the subject of horticultural therapy. Many volunteers conduct talks; others even host gardening radio call-in programs! An educational Demonstration Garden is also maintained as well as weekly plant clinics open across the county. What else? There are opportunities for advanced training, tours and conferences.

Who can be a Master Gardener? Literally anyone who enjoys gardening and has a desire to share their knowledge and skills in their community can become a Master Gardener. Candidates apply and are interviewed prior to attending the intensive, yet enjoyable, training course on all aspects of home horticulture or gardening. Volunteers then volunteer the required amount of time in bringing our educational message to the community. Volunteers are kept up-to-date with regular in-service trainings. Trips, tours and other special activities round out the experience, which is as social as it is educational.

December and January are the months we begin to recruit for the next class which is scheduled to begin the first week of March 2019! Now is the time to apply. Give our office a call at 941-764-4340 for more information. Check out the application called a “Sprouting Kit” online — print it out and send it in — https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/media/sfylifasufledu/charlotte/docs/pdf/sprouting-kit-2018..pdf. Or, talk with a Charlotte County Master Gardener Volunteer — they will tell you why gardening is America’s number one hobby! Continue this tradition and consider becoming a Charlotte County Master Gardener volunteer!

For more information on all types of gardening topics in our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m. at 941-764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times — http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotteco/files/2018/03/Plant-Clinics-Schedule.pdf.

Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov.^p

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