By David Graper – South Dakota Master Gardener Program Interim Coordinator
Do you like to garden? Do you like fresh, home-grown, nutritious vegetables and fruits? Do you want to learn more about how to take better care of your lawn, trees or shrubs? Are you curious about how plants grow and what they need to grow and be healthier? Do you want to make new friends that are also interested in these things? Do you like to teach and help people? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, then perhaps becoming a South Dakota Master Gardener is the right thing for you to do to satisfy those desires.
Master Gardener training classes are now being formed for 2015. The registration deadline has been extended to April 24. Classes will be offered in the Watertown, Mitchell and Hot Springs/Custer areas this year. You do not have to live right in those cities to participate however, since the majority of the training is offered online so you can get the training in the comfort of your own home in a very open schedule with the first sections available online starting May 4, 2015. But there are four days of required, hands-on training, to finish out the complete training course. The four, day-long, hands-on sessions give trainees the opportunity to learn skills such as planting, pruning, plant propagation, along with plant and pest identification by seeing and doing. These will be held in each of the training sites. Participants will be able to choose from the three locations for their hands-on training.
Master Gardeners work in their community to promote and teach gardening. Opportunities include writing articles, giving talks, working at fair booths, helping in community and school gardens, teaching and answering garden questions. The training gives a well-rounded education preparing them to help their communities. Currently there are about 850 active Master Gardeners across the state, many of which are also active in one or more of the 19 area groups of Master Gardeners. In 2014 Master Gardeners contributed more than 12,700 hours of volunteer service, worth over $240,000 to South Dakota individuals, families and communities.
The South Dakota Master Gardener program began back in 1985 when Dean Martin organized the first classes. When Dean retired in 1988, training was put on hold until 1993 when training resumed. Each year training is scheduled to occur in different locations across the state so that individuals from all over the state will have an opportunity to take the training at a site relatively close to home. The majority of the training is offered online, making it convenient for more people to participate in the training and only have to make arrangements to be away from home or work for four days to participate in the hands-on training sessions.