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Tips on Buying Container Plants

This time of year, true plant lovers know how tempting it is to walk through a garden center full of vivid blooms and beautiful foliage. It is difficult not to pick up at least one extra plant.

“While a spontaneous purchase can turn out to be a real blessings in the garden, more often impulses lead to wasted money and plant materials. There is either no planting spot suitable for the plant or the plant doesn’t fit the needs of the garden”, says Mallory Kelley, a regional horticulture agent in Montgomery County.

Avoid Impulse Buys

Kelly offers some suggestions to help you avoid impulse buys and choose healthy plants on your list.

First, know your needs. How much attention are you willing to give a specific plant? Is the planting area sunny or shady? Moist or dry? Know the size and color requirements of your landscape. Avoiding plants that don’t suit these needs will save you time, money and worry.

Examine Each Plant

Kelley says, “once you know what species you need, examine each specific plant.” Often the plants have been on the shelf a long time without proper care and attention and are no longer the best buy for your money.

Gently tap the plant out of its container and look at the roots. If the roots swirl around the bottom of the mass and there is little remaining soil, the plant is “pot bound” and has been constricted too long in a pot that is too small.  This environment can lead to stunting, poor performance and, in many cases, death.

Check For Insects

Bedding plants, such as impatiens or begonias, packed too close into flats are likely to have increased insect and disease problems. These same plants can become overgrown, tall and lanky.  Choose plants that are small and stocky. Many insect pests feed underneath the young, tender leaves and may go unnoticed without special attention. A garden center employee should be able to assist you in identifying any insect you may find.

Following a few simple recommendations in your plant-shopping routine will save time and money, and in the long run, provide you with a healthier garden.

Source: Extension Daily

Crank up the Mower for Spring Lawn Clean-up

The sun is shining. Flowers are blooming. Bees are buzzing. And the birds are singing.  Spring is near.  It just a great time of the year to get outside, enjoy the spring weather, and do some much needed yard work.

By mid March, most home lawns look sort of ragged.  It’s not that the grass isn’t growing much or needs mowing; it’s just all those winter weeds out in the lawn have gotten bigger. Weeds can be an eyesore and you may be motivated to go out on one of those sunny days and spray them.  But don’t bother because you would likely be wasting your time, herbicide, and money. Most selective herbicides do not work on full-grown weeds. For annual weeds, like those in your lawn, they mature in early spring and begin reseeding themselves for next year. Their life cycle will be ending soon and they will begin dying. So for right now, forget using a herbicide on your lawn.

The best way to get rid of nuisance lawn weeds in the spring is to just crank up the lawn mower and cut them down. Running over the lawn a few times will help hide and suppress some of those pesky weeds that may have escaped or sneaked in and will make the lawn look much better.  Bagging the grass clippings and weeds a few times in the early spring (as well as in the late fall) will suck up those weed seeds and small debris that has gathered on the lawn the last few months.  If the lawn still has leaves and small twigs scattered around the lawn, bagging or picking them up is a must.  Excessive leaves and leftover piles of grass clippings on the lawn can serve as mulch and may smother any new growth.

Don’t get me wrong, herbicides are a great way to control weeds.  However, in order for them to work properly, they must be applied at the right time of the year. Timing is critical. Unfortunately, March is not the right time to start controlling winter weeds. The month of March is more of a transition time when winter weeds are maturing, reseeding, and dying and summer weeds are starting to germinate.  Simply mowing the weeds down will suppress them and ultimately help clean up the yard. If you bag the clippings while mowing, you will also reduce the number of weeds and seeds left behind on the lawn.  Plan on applying a pre-emergence herbicide in the fall so you don’t have such a weedy lawn next year.

Remember a major weed problem in the lawn is a sign of poor management and improper cultural practices. Sound cultural or management practices such as proper fertilization and liming, adequate watering, proper mowing height, and correct turfgrass selection for the site will result in less weeds and a dense, healthy attractive lawn. If the real problem is not corrected, then the use of herbicides will provide only a short-term fix and, in all likelihood, weeds will reoccur. The key to having no weeds is having a dense, healthy lawn.

Although mowing and clean-up is okay in the early spring, applying fertilizer too early isn’t a good idea for warm season grasses. Don’t get overly anxious with wanting to force the grass to green-up.  Wait to late April and May after any chance of a late frost before fertilizing.  Don’t waste your time and money guessing; know what nutrients your lawn really needs.  This includes most weed and feed products commonly found in stores; they all contain lots of nitrogen fertilizer.  Always follow the recommendations of an official soil test.

Generally, most people wait until the lawn has gotten fairly tall and thick and may actually need baling before the first real mowing of the year is done.  No reason not to start early this year. Whether you want to have that perfect lawn or you’re just excited about riding the lawn mower again, doing a little spring clean-up will help get that lawn back into shape for another year.  There is nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass (or weeds) in the spring!

by Shane Harris

Fertilize Old Pecan Trees to Improve Production

Have you ever wondered why the nuts on your pecan tree are undeveloped?  There are several pests that pecan trees can get.  These pests include pecan scab, downy spot disease, fungal leaf scorch, pecan phylloxera, and black pecan aphids.  These pests decrease the productivity of the tree.  Homeowners can not spray big pecan trees like the commercial growers.  But, planting disease resistant trees, along with proper fertilization, will help your pecan production.

Some of the recommended pecans that are scab resistant are hard to find at nurseries and may need to be ordered a year in advance. Pecan nurseries and much more information on pecan trees are listed on the Alabama Pecan Growers Web site at www.alabamapecangrowers.com.

Cross-pollination should be considered when planting pecan trees.  A particular pecan cultivar does not receive pollen at the same time the tree sheds pollen. Generally, the more different cultivars (types) of trees in the planting, the greater the chance for cross-pollination.

If you already have an established pecan orchard, fertilization is about the only way to increase production.  Of course a soil test is the best way to know for sure how much to fertilize your pecan trees.  But if you have not had a soil test done, there are some general guidelines to follow for fertilizing your pecan trees.

You should apply the following:  1 pound of 13-13-13 per tree per year of age up to 25 pounds per tree.  Plus, 1 pound of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) per tree per year of age up to 20 pounds per tree.  Plus, 1/10 pound of zinc sulfate per tree per year of age up to 2 pounds per tree.  Plus, 5 pounds of dolomitic limestone per tree per year age up to 100 pounds per tree.

That may sound confusing.  Basically, if your trees are more than 25 years old you need 25 pounds of 13-13-13, 20 pounds of ammonia nitrate, 2 pounds of zinc, and 100 pounds of lime per year per tree.

For large trees, apply all of the fertilizer in March.  For younger trees, apply all of the 13-13-13 fertilizer, lime, and zinc in March.  Apply half the ammonium nitrate in April and the remainder in June.

The use of a mechanical spreader may help ensure an even application of the fertilizers.  Do not disturb the soil before applying the fertilizer.  Spread it under and around the tree in an area twice the branch spread of the tree.  The dolomite lime is the cheapest, but pelletized lime is easier to spread.

Remember that many pecan trees tend to be alternate bearers.  That means if they produce a heavy crop one year they may produce a light crop the next year.  Fertilizing is very important, but there are other things you can do to increase production.

Overcrowding can be a problem.  When the trees are close together and the limbs begin to overlap you may want to remove a few limbs.  This will increase air circulation and sunlight in the canopy of the tree. Mulching the trees can also help.

Plant Asparagus and Be Rewarded for Many Seasons

Asparagus may be one of the most costly vegetables at the supermarket.  However, this perennial vegetable may be one of the easiest to grow.  Perennials are plants that live for many growing seasons.  Perennial plants dieback in the winter and come back in the spring from the same root system.  Asparagus plants will produce for 20 years, if not longer, providing the tender green spears every spring. It will take 2 – 3 years before the asparagus reaches full production.  So, before you begin planting, choose the perfect site and prepare the bed well, it’s going to be there a long time.

Variety

There are several varieties of Asparagus officinalis altilis to choose from.  Most have heard of Mary Washington.  This is an older variety that has been a standard for many decades.  It is a female variety.  No, you do not need more than one variety, and it doesn’t matter if you have male or female plants.  I really like some of the newer male hybrids such as Jersey Knight and Jersey Gem.  Often, they produce more spears.  The male plants do not produce seeds which can lead to seedling asparagus that may become a nuisance in the garden.  There is also a purple cultivar of asparagus that grows well here, Purple Passion.  Once cooked, it will turn green. Green, purple, blue, or yellow, fresh asparagus spears from the garden is hard to beat.

Planting Time

Dormant asparagus crowns can be planted as early January through March in Alabama. Use one year old crowns or plants as it takes one to two years longer to produce asparagus from seed. Purchase the plants from a garden store, nursery or through a seed catalog. Set crowns out in the Spring.  The most common planting method is to dig a trench 10 to 12 inches deep and just as wide.  Incorporate rotted manure or compost in the bottom of the trench before setting the crowns into the trench.

Environment

Set plants in the sun – Asparagus, like most vegetable plants, needs full sun.  Full sun means at least 6 – 8 hours of uninterrupted sunlight every day.  Asparagus beds planted near trees may receive full sun at the time the bed was prepared.  Remember the trees will grow and years from now, the bed may become shaded.  Plan accordingly.   Plant asparagus along the perimeter of the vegetable garden so it will not be in the way of garden equipment.  .

Soil-  Asparagus prefers a high organic soil. Most soils in Alabama will have to be amended to grow asparagus successfully.

Fertility– Asparagus has medium to high fertility requirements.  A soil test is the best way to calculate fertilizer requirements. Before planting, incorporate 1 pound of actual nitrogen into the planting bed.  Another pound of actual nitrogen can be applied after harvest.    One pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet is equal to approximately ¾ lb of ammonium nitrate per 100 feet of row.

pH – 6.0 to 7.0

Moisture – Asparagus requires a moist soil – about 1 to 2 inches of water per week (more on a sandy soil; less for a clay soil).

Spacing and Depth

Set the crowns 12 inches apart in the trench.  Asparagus beds or trenches should be at least 3 feet apart.  Place the crowns on top of a small amount of loose soil in the bottom of the trench.  Make sure the roots of the crown are spread out over the soil.  The crowns should be covered with 2- 3 inches of soil.  The asparagus will grow up and through this soil.  When it does pull the soil in around the crowns and cover them up with a couple of inches of soil.  Again, the asparagus plants will grow through.  Cover them again and repeat until the trench is filled.  Take care of the plants. Asparagus is a fern like plant.  Let it grow until frost turns the asparagus plant brown.  At that time you can cut down the brown ferns.  Early the next year, use your soil test results to fertilize the plants.

Harvesting and Storage

 Early in the year, you will see the asparagus spears start to poke through the ground.  But, be patient.  Do not harvest any asparagus the first year, much like blueberries.  Harvesting too much too early will result in a week plant.  The second year, you will be able to enjoy about 6 weeks of harvest…and maybe 8 weeks the next year. Harvest the spears daily when they are 5 to 7 inches tall.  Snap off above the soil line.  Harvest in the early morning and use or refrigerate immediately.

Nutritional Value

Asparagus is low in calories and carbohydrates, and compared to other vegetables it is relatively rich in protein.  Asparagus is an excellent source of potassium, vitamin K, folic acid, vitamins C and A, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamin B6.  It is also a very good source of dietary fiber, niacin, phosphorus, protein, and iron.

by Dani Carroll

Prune Muscadines For Bigger & Better Berries


It’s a chore to prune muscadine grapes, but it definitely pays off in the long run, especially if you like picking and eating big berries in the summer or having homemade jelly with your morning biscuit. Although homeowners may be tempted to prune very little or not at all, the quality of the fruit will suffer and the overall management will become more difficult.  Pruning the past season’s growth of muscadines must be done each winter to ensure a high-quality crop and vigorously growing vines as well as balance vine growth with fruit production.  The goal of growing muscadines is to maximize production without compromising fruit quality, or in other words – produce bigger and better berries.

Failure to prune for even one year makes production difficult. An unpruned muscadine vine eventually becomes a mass of tangled, unproductive, and diseased growth that is impossible to manage and harvest. A vine that is fully established and trained to a trellis system requires annual pruning, usually in late February or March, to maintain productivity. The objectives of pruning include removal of dead, damaged, or otherwise undesirable wood. Pruning also regulates vegetative growth and maintains the quality and quantity of the crop.

Pruning consists of three distinct tasks: (1) pruning the previous seasons growth (one-year-old) to fruiting spurs; (2) spur thinning (removing parts of some spurs and, in some instances, all of others to lessen crowding); and (3) removal of tendrils to prevent girdling.

Removal of Previous Season’s Growth

For most varieties of muscadines, cut back all of the previous year’s growth, which is light brown, to two to four buds. A short spur variety may have two or three buds and a long spur variety may have four or more buds. Be sure to remove all extra canes from the trunk except the permanent arms or use those canes to replace damaged or dead arms. Theoretically, vines with longer spurs (canes) yield more, but they must have the capacity to support the increased shoot growth and adequately mature the greater fruit load that results from leaving the spurs longer. Vines that are pruned to long spurs must also be grown in good, high-fertility soils and must never be subjected to drought stress.

Spur Thinning

Spur size is compounded with each annual pruning, and crowding can occur after four or five years. Gradual thinning of spurs each year after the third bearing season will minimize yield reductions caused by the spur wood removal. Removal of spur clusters in an alternating pattern each year allows for thinning and spacing without excessive yield loss.

Removal Of Tendrils

It is essential that all tendrils that are wrapped around permanent vine structures, such as the main trunk or spurs, be removed to prevent girdling and death of important plant parts. Tendrils are difficult to cut. A sharp knife is the
best instrument for the job. Tendrils also are difficult to see; take care to assure that they are not overlooked.

Unless a vine is pruned yearly, fruit-bearing wood develops farther and farther away from the main trunk. Eventually there is only a thin layer of new growth over a mass of tangled, non bearing wood. Neglected vines will eventually produce less and less each year. 

by Shane Harris

Seed Starting Workshop on February 23rd

Although spring is still a few months away, believe it or not, it’s time to start preparing for the spring vegetable garden. Most warm weather vegetables we enjoy growing and eating will be planted later on in the spring. But in order to have vegetable transplants by April, seeds must be started indoors many weeks prior to planting.

Why would someone grow their own vegetable and flowers from seed?  Plant selection and variety are one main reason many gardeners grow their own. Many like trying something new and become frustrated when the retail choices are limited.  Although seeds can be expensive, overall, one can actually save money if you grow several transplants.  Growing your own vegetable plants is also fun as well as a challenge. Not much to do in the winter; if one has the space and time, growing transplants can also be very rewarding.

Many companies specialize in growing transplants.  Give them credit, they know how to grow them.  There are many advantages to just buying commercially grown transplants:

  • It is much easier because all the work has been done.
  • Inexpensive if you only need a few plants
  • Do not require any of your time
  • Such companies have better growing conditions and care

However, there can be some disadvantages to purchasing your transplants:

  • It can be difficult to find “good quality transplants”
  • Your choices are limited to only a few varieties
  • Transplants may introduce diseases, insects, and weeds into your garden
  • Transplants may not be available; hard to find many of them July.

If you are interested in learning how to sow seeds and grow your own vegetable transplants or flowers, then join us at our Seed Starting Workshop on February 23, 2017.   This event will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall in Dadeville.  This hands-on activity will show and discuss the materials needed to grow transplants successfully at home. Cost for the workshop is $10 to cover your supplies.

To sign-up or for more information, contact the Tallapoosa County Extension office at 256-825-1050. Contact Dani Carroll if you have specific questions about the workshop.

Plant and Seed Catalogs Inspire Gardeners

The last few years, usually in winter, I have received in the mail a few various plant and seed catalogs. I’ll pick it up and take a minute to glance through it. Not that I’m likely going to order anything, I just like to look. What always intrigues me are the really nice colors photos that correspond to the items being advertised.  There will be lush pictures of super-size tomatoes, new types of watermelons that get humongous, ever-flowering ornamental trees in all sorts of wild colors, and fantastic, spotless fruits of all kinds.  It is simply amazing.  Just order their super seeds and plants and your garden will look like their photos.  Yeah, right. Although all these wonderful photos and talk are simply just marketing and selling techniques, they are sort of inspiring.

Looking through plant and seed catalogs makes one wish it was spring already so one could get started planting and growing things.  But unfortunately, it is still mid winter and still cold.   Not much growing going on.  However, you can go ahead and order your seeds and begin planning your vegetable garden.  Nothing wrong with getting a head start.  You can also go ahead and order any fruit trees and small fruits that you might like to grow.  Don’t put if off. The month of February is the ideal time to start new plantings and get them set out before spring.

Plant and seed catalogs may also inspire those of you who might not be experience gardeners to have a garden this year.  A garden or orchard doesn’t have to extravagant to be successful.  Start off small with a few crops that you like to eat.  There are many varieties of vegetables and fruits out on the market; I bet there is one you can grow. And if you don’t have the traditional ground space for a garden, try raising your crops in containers or raised beds.  In fact, you might be even more successful and productive this way.

A word of caution.  Before ordering and buying plants or seeds from any source, be sure they are adapted for growing in our area.  Don’t be fooled into buying something that won’t survive in our Alabama climate. Caveat Emptor: “Let the Buyer Beware”.

Do Research Before Buying Fruit Trees

Having a home orchard with lots of fruit trees and eating fresh, home-grown fruit in the summer is a dream for many people. However, wanting a home orchard and having a home orchard is two separate things. It can be a wonderful thing if managed right or it can turn into a nightmare if done wrong. Much of the success or failure of having a home orchard lies primarily on the variety of the fruits chosen.  Simply going out and buying just any type of fruit tree is easy enough and sounds like a good idea, right?  Doing just that and not doing your homework can result in a very bad investment.

Before you order a fruit crop from a catalog, find out what varieties of fruit trees and small fruits grow best in our area. The truth is that it is very difficult to grow most of those types of fruits you see in the grocery store and catalogs.  Alabama climate conditions of hot and dry summers and mild winters just won’t let you have that perfect orchard full of fabulous fruit. That is why other states are known for growing certain fruits. Peaches tend to grow better in Georgia, oranges do well in Florida, apples are perfect in Washington, and everything grows in California.  But don’t worry, fruit can be grown in Alabama and be grown successfully.  You just have to know which varieties will work in Alabama.

If you want to grow apples, then try these varieties: Gala, Fuji, Rome, McIntosh, Jonathon, Smoothee or Granny Smith.  For peaches, try Redhaven, Sweethaven, Belle of Georgia, and AU Glow. If you like pears, then you might want to try Orient, Kieffer, or Moonglow (soft).  AU Producer, AU Roadside, and AU Cherry are great varieties of plums.   You won’t go wrong with varieties of figs like Brown Turkey, Celeste, LSU Gold, and LSU Purple.  A few blueberry varieties you will enjoy are Tifblue, Premier, and Climax.  Cardinal, Earliglow, and Chandler are a few suggested types of strawberries.  Navaho, Kiowa, Cheynne, and Apache are examples of blackberries that will do great.  If you like grapes, go with mucadines since they will do much better than bunch grapes.

With so many plant and seed catalog companies out there, there is a wide variety to choose from.  Sometimes it is very hard to tell who may be the best or if it even makes a difference.  The best way is to just compare or talk to someone who has experience with that specific company.  With many of the seed and plant catalog companies now on the internet, you can easily shop around to find the best deals.

But let’s face the facts.  It doesn’t matter how great the color photos are or how super the variety is if the garden isn’t care for and managed.  You still have to do the little things, but if you do, then you too will have some very nice photos to show.

2017 Master Gardener Course Begins January 27th

Ever had trouble achieving that perfect lawn?

Not sure how or when to prune those fruits trees and landscape plants?

Still confused about how much fertilizer to put around growing vegetables?

Frustrated by all the weeds that pop up each year in those flower beds and lawn?

Determined to win the battle against insect pests and plant diseases this upcoming growing season?

Want to learn how to compost garden and yard waste?

Tired of wasting time and money on plants and garden products that die or just don’t work?

Answers to all of these questions and so much more will be addressed in the 2017 Tallapoosa County Master Gardener Course.  Plus, if you have a passion for gardening and volunteering, then you should be a Master Gardener.  Even if you don’t have a green thumb, come take the course and join the fun; you’ll learn a lot.

The Tallapoosa County Extension Office will again offer the Master Gardener Volunteer Program in 2017, with a starting date on Friday, January 27th.  All classes will be held during the day from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the county Extension office located in Dadeville.  Applications are now being accepted and will be accepted through Friday, January 20th . The fee associated with this course is $130 per person.
Topics to be discussed include soils and plant nutrition; composting; plant physiology; plant diseases; pesticide education; landscape design and plant selection; weed identification and control; entomology and pest management; fruit culture; plant propagation; home lawn care; vegetable gardening; care and maintenance of landscape plants; herbs; and bedding plants. Classes begin January 27th and will run 13 consecutive weeks until April 21st.  All classes will be held on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Dadeville.

The Alabama Master Gardener training program will consist of 13 weeks of horticulture related classes and training. The course provides more than 50 hours of classroom and hands-on instruction in horticulture and related areas. Classes taught include soils and plant nutrition; composting, plant diseases; landscape design and plant selection; weed identification and control; entomology; pesticide education, fruit culture; plant propagation; home lawn care; vegetable gardening; wildlife control, care and maintenance of landscape plants; bedding plants, and more.

Courses are taught by specialists from Auburn University, Extension agents from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, fellow certified Master Gardeners, and local horticulture professionals.

Those interested in participating in the Master Gardener Program are encouraged to call the Tallapoosa County Extension office to sign up or receive more information.  Those of you that have put-off taking the MG course the last few years or wish to wait and take it at later date are highly encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity this year.  There are no guarantees the course will be offered next year.     Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity.

For more details. please contact the Tallapoosa County Extension office at 256-825-1050.

by Shane Harris,  is the County Extension Coordinator for Tallapoosa County.

The Christmas Tree Debate – Real vs Artificial

Christmas tree in snowy night

The Christmas holiday season is here again and the time has come to put up a Christmas tree.  One question that is raised each year is whether to get a real Christmas tree or use an artificial version. The ultimate goal is to have a beautiful Christmas tree for everyone to enjoy, but deciding which type to use usually comes down to personal preference. It is an important decision that has to be made, yet it can be a difficult one.  It is debatable on whether a real or artificial tree makes the best Christmas tree; there are pros and cons of each type.  Let’s look at the positives and negatives of each type and then you can make an informative decision.

Artificial Christmas trees have been around for many years and are now more common than ever.  The major advantage of using a fake tree is convenience.  It can be used year after year, doesn’t create much of a mess, and doesn’t have to be watered and maintained.  Many of the newer artificial trees look very realistic, now come with built in lights, come in array of seasonal colors, and are partly decorated.  Once the holiday season is over, you can just pack it up and store it until next year.

One disadvantage of artificial Christmas trees is that they can be sort of expensive, although in the long run they do pay for themselves.  The biggest flaw of artificial trees is they are indeed fake – some are cheap, look pathetic, and are an embarrassment.  Artificial trees do not have the same effect as real trees in regards to natural fragrance and appearance.  Most are made of plastic and metals with many not even coming close to looking like real trees.  A pole with green arms sticking out just doesn’t quite work, nor does it put you in the holiday spirit.  Another negative is that one also has to have the space to store it year after year.

Selecting a real living tree for a Christmas tree has been a tradition for centuries. They are many positives of using a real one.  First, the beauty of a real Christmas tree is simply spectacular. There are many species to choose from, they offer a natural pleasing fragrance, and they come in a variety of textures, sizes, and shapes.  There is something that can be said about the experience of going to the tree farm or nursery and picking out your very own Christmas tree.  It can be made into a special family event.  Real trees are also biodegradable and can be recycled into mulch or as a fish reef after the holidays.

Real Christmas trees do, however, have some negatives.  Purchasing a good looking, better quality tree will cost you several dollars.  They aren’t cheap unless you want a cheap looking tree. The cost you put into a real tree or two can sometimes be about the same cost of an artificial one. Another disadvantage is they have to be watered regularly to keep them looking good and to prevent them from drying out.  They can potentially become a fire hazard if they dry out and are near a heat source.  Clean-up can also be a big mess.  When the time arrives to take down the Christmas tree, the tree will likely be drier and will have started dropping lots of needles. There is also the problem of all the real trees not being recycled.  Instead, they wind up out with the garbage and in the landfills.

Whether you choose to have an artificial Christmas tree or a real Christmas tree, may it bring you joy and beauty this holiday season.

by Shane Harris, Tallapoosa County Extension Coordinator

Would You Like to Become a Master Gardener? Here's How.

master-gardener-banner

You have likely heard someone claim to be a Master Gardener. You may have even seen them working in your community or may have even spoke with them on the phone. But some of you still may not fully know and ask, “What is a Master Gardener?”.

Well, this special group of people are indeed avid gardeners, and possibly experts in some area, but they are more than just dedicated and skilled gardeners.  Master Gardeners are more importantly ambassadors of the local county Extension office; they are volunteers who love helping and educating people about things related to home gardening.  Their goal and primary mission is assisting Extension in helping all people, solving problems, and serving the needs of the community.

mg-class-photo-2 The Alabama Master Gardener Volunteer Program is an educational program offered through county offices of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Through this program, individuals are trained and certified in horticulture and related areas. These individuals, in turn, volunteer their expertise and services to help others through educational projects that benefit the community. The Master Gardener Program trains volunteers, who work through Extension, to bring the latest horticultural information and practices from the world of research to their communities’ landscapes and gardens.

The Alabama Master Gardener training program provides more than 50 hours of classroom and hands-on instruction in horticulture and related areas. Classes taught include soils and plant nutrition; composting, plant diseases; landscape design and plant selection; weed identification and control; entomology; pesticide education, fruit culture; plant propagation; home lawn care; vegetable gardening; wildlife control, care and maintenance of landscape plants; bedding plants, and more. Courses are taught by specialists from Auburn University, Extension agents from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, fellow certified Master Gardeners, and local horticulture professionals.

mg-class-photo-1In exchange for the training, participants are obligated to return an equal amount of volunteer service time on projects that benefit their communities.
These projects can range from working on community horticultural projects, to helping answer questions through the county Extension office, to conducting youth programs. To become a Certified Master Gardener, one must return at least 50 hours of approved community service.

So the question now is would you like to become a master gardener? If so, here’s how.  The Tallapoosa County Extension Office will again offer the Master Gardener Volunteer Program in 2017, with a starting date on Friday, January 27th.  All classes will be held during the day from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the county Extension office located in Dadeville. The fee associated with this course is $130 per person. Interested participants are asked to complete the application and submit to the Extension office.  Applications are now being accepted through Friday, January 20th .

Please contact us at 256-825-1050 if you have any questions.