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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Program teaches gardening

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Don Pigg of Sikeston prunes shrubs Tueday afternoon.
BENTON - Some may say you can't teach an old gardener new tricks.

But that isn't true, said several seasoned gardeners who have completed the University of Missouri Extension's Master Gardener Program.

"I always learn something from every class," said Judy Scherer of Benton, who has worked at Diebold Orchards for several years. "The first class is going to be on plant anatomy and you just forget all of that stuff."

Don Pigg of Sikeston, who has also taken the course, agreed. "There are always things you can learn about plants, how to take care of them and all the various aspects," he said. He has always had an interest in gardening and even took a landscaping course in college, but participated in the program to learn more.

"When you take the class, you just know enough to know that you need to know a lot more," added Joy Whitten of Sikeston. Like may others at the class she completed, she just wanted to learn more about gardening.

Whitten learned several things from the class. While her rose bushes still aren't perfect, she had four survive this year, which is an improvement. She also learned more about mulching and lawn care. "I thought you just piled it real high, but you don't do that - you only need two or three inches," she said.

The 11-week course has something for everybody, said Donna Aufdenberg, regional horticulture specialist who is helping with the program. Each week has a different focus, with sessions on anatomy, soils, woody ornamentals, trees, fruits, vegetables, lawn and weeds, insects and other topics.

"We're trying to fulfill a need in Scott County," Aufdenberg said of the session scheduled to begin Sept. 13 at the extension office in Benton. While the nationwide program has been held in Southeast Missouri for the past 10 years, this will be the first training in Scott County.

Scherer shares Aufdenberg's hopes of forming a larger, more educated gardening community in Scott County. "There's lot's of things to be done, from beautification to helping senior citizens who still love to garden, but can't do all the weeding and planting," she said.

And since Master Gardeners are required to volunteer for at least 30 hours the first year after completing the course and 20 hours in subsequent years, it gives them a lot of time to share their knowledge and help others.

"It's really easy," Aufdenberg said. "You can help a fellow gardener put in a garden, help maintain at churches and school - anything you're not paid for."

Pigg and Whitten put their skills to work by helping beautify Norton Park by the Sikeston City Hall. "We cleaned up some of the planting beds, put in some other flowers and tried to keep it maintained," he said.

They volunteered to beautify the park again this year, but someone else had already offered their services, Whitten said.

Pigg also helps with the plant sale at the Dogwood-Azalea Festival. Scherer, whose son is an FFA advisor, helps prepare the FFA floral team for competition. And Leona King, another Diebold employee, maintains a butterfly garden at the orchard. Since she lives in sandy soil outside of Benton, she also helps people garden in the sand.

Volunteer hours may also be fulfilled by going to garden tours, seminars or meetings. And Master Gardeners also have to keep up with continued education, by attending informational sessions and keeping up with newsletters.

One thing Scherer, King and Whitten like is that since they've completed the basic training, they can attend the class in the future at no charge. And all intend to go back and refresh their memory.

For King, a folder given to the participants, organized into various sections with information about all aspects of the course, was one of the most helpful items. "It's really handy," she said.

And both seasoned and beginning gardeners add a lot to the program, through the questions they ask and experiences they share, Aufdenberg said. The Master Gardener Program was developed because of the numerous plant questions Extension Offices receive during the gardening season, Aufdenberg recalled. "It helps them (the offices) out to have people in the communities to help answer gardening questions and educate the public, " she said.

Area gardeners who have questions or need help should contact their local extension office, where there is an ongoing directory of Master Gardeners.

And Pigg encouraged anyone interested in gardening to participate in the program. "You always learn something from the classes," he said. "They broaden your basic knowledge about plants, and you learn how to take care of and enjoy them."