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Green thumbs wanted!

PHOTO BY DEBRA BURROWS Master Gardeners and apprentices participating in a hands-on pruning workshop at the Clinton County fairgrounds in March 2021.

It’s that time of year when Penn State Extension accepts applications from those interested in training to become Master Gardeners. We’re looking for people interested in increasing their gardening knowledge and volunteering to share that knowledge with others.

Clinton County currently has 22 certified Master Gardeners who enjoy working together and serving our community. Each of them successfully completed an intensive basic training program focused on plants, pests, pruning, diseases, soil, composting, weeds, invasive species, growing fruits and vegetables, and much more. They pass along that knowledge by conducting workshops, answering questions through a garden hotline, making presentations to community groups, maintaining demonstration gardens at the Clinton County Fairgrounds, writing gardening articles for local newspapers, holding plant sales, etc.

During the past year, Master Gardeners in Clinton County put in over 2,200 hours of volunteer service time despite the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic. We moved our monthly meetings outdoors, rescheduled events to comply with COVID guidelines, and tripled the number of gardening-related newspaper columns we wrote.

Calls to the garden hotline increased by more than 60% in 2021 and Master Gardeners redoubled their efforts to respond to the many questions received. We had to cancel our annual spring plant sale due to the pandemic but added a plant sale in September and used the opportunity to highlight the benefits of planting in the fall.

Over 600 native trees, shrubs, and perennials as well as native cultivars, bulbs, and transplants from Master Gardeners’ private gardens were made available at the sale which was held on Sept. 18 at the fairgrounds along with a several workshops presented by Master Gardeners and Extension staff members. We are now turning our attention to welcoming and preparing a new group of Master Gardener trainees.

The Clinton County Master Gardener Basic Training course is scheduled to begin in October and conclude in March. The class schedule is a mixture of weekly webinars, virtual class meetings, and monthly on-site workshops where trainees engage in hands-on activities such as propagating plants, identifying insects, pruning, etc.

Because the webinars are recorded, trainees can watch them at their convenience during the week and then come together as a group for a virtual class meeting to review, ask questions, and get to know each other and talk with certified Master Gardeners. Weekly quizzes help trainees to measure their progress.

Once basic training gets underway, trainees have the opportunity to begin volunteering as apprentices alongside certified Master Gardeners. Each apprentice is required to complete a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service to qualify for certification.

Trainees Amy Strong, Melissa Green, Donna Krempasky, and Jacqueline Miller, who completed basic training in March 2021 and help with the fall Plant Sale, wrote newspaper articles, answered hotline questions, maintained our demonstration gardens, and completed a class project focused on designing a native plant garden to meet their volunteer service requirement. They were very successful and will be formally welcomed as newly certified Master Gardeners at our annual dinner meeting in October.

My fellow Master Gardeners and I would like to invite local gardeners to consider applying for the next Basic Training course, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 19, 2021. Many gardeners will find that their green thumbs get a little greener as they expand their knowledge by participating in basic training.

Additional information and the Basic Training application are available at https://extension.psu.edu/programs/master-gardener/counties/clinton/becoming-a-master-gardener-in-clinton-county . Those with questions can contact Master Gardener Amy Strong at 570-858-0189 or als7485@psu.edu.

The application deadline for Basic Training in Clinton County is Sept. 30, 2021.

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Debra G. Burrows, PhD is a retired Penn State Extension Educator and certified Master Gardener. She can be reached at dcb3@psu.edu

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