CHARLESTON - Being a master gardener doesn't take a green thumb - just a willingness to learn and pass on the knowledge.
As indicated by the Missouri Masters Gardener program's mission statement - "Helping Others Learn to Grow" - the Missouri Masters Gardener program is for "folks that are interested in horticulture and learning something about horticulture and who are willing to help other people," according to Anthony Ohmes, regional agronomist for the Mississippi County Outreach and Extension Center in Charleston. "This will give them to the tools to train others."
A preliminary signup for master gardener training from the Mississippi County Outreach and Extension Center is scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at the county library in Charleston
Those who are truly interested need to attend so Ohmes can determine if there will be enough participation to make the program feasible or not.
"It's not going to go over if I only have five people," he said. "Anything less that 20 will make it difficult to have a quality program."
During the preliminary signup, those in attendance will "go over the core manual and what it is to be a master gardener and go over an orientation video," Ohmes said, which should help determine who is ready to commit to a master gardener program.
The core course is the first level of master gardener training and usually includes 30 hours of classroom instruction, with students spending three hours in each of 10 subjects.
"That number is flexible," Ohmes said. "These are usually selected to meet the needs of the audience."
Five of the subjects will be core basics: studies of insects, diseases, weed control, basic plant growth and development, and soils and nutrients.
The other five vary depending on local needs and interests and on the availability of experts.
Examples of these are the study of annual and perennial flowers, woody ornamentals like azaleas, fruit and nut trees, vegetables and "turf management" for better lawn care.
While taking courses, participants are considered master gardener trainees, according to Ohmes. "Once you complete the course you are a master gardener intern."
After fulfilling a volunteer requirement of 30 hours within one year, the participant is then certified as a master gardener.
Whether an activity is an accepted form of community service is "up to discretion of local coordinators and state coordinator," Ohmes said. Participants can't log any time they are paid to work.
Some may wish to "maintain flower beds at city hall" or other public facilities, Ohmes said while for others "It can be answering the phones at the Extension's office answering horticultural questions."
Maintaining the master gardener certification requires 20 hours of volunteer service per year.
"It's up to the individual what they want to do, how far they want to take it," Ohmes said. "The goal is to create a group of people that are well trained in horticulture, and those trainees go out and train other people. It's a good outreach program."
Ohmes will coordinate the program with help from Tim Baker, regional horticultural specialist for the Mississippi County Outreach and Extension Center in Charleston. Ohmes described horticulture as dealing with flowers and vegetables, fruits and nuts. "Agronomy deals with crops that are grown for food and fiber," he said.
Master gardener programs got their start in the early 1970s when University Extensions in the Seattle, Wash., area offered them as a response to a growing interest in home horticulture.
Programs have been offered in all 50 states since then. The Missouri Master Gardener program got its start in 1983 in St. Louis through a joint effort by the University of Missouri and the Missouri Botanical Garden.
The course will start after the first of the new year, according to Ohmes. "Some time early spring - February ideally - but that's extremely flexible," he said. Classes will be in the evening one night per week.
The cost of the program is $35. Money from the fee goes to state Master Gardener office. "That fee provides name tags, certificates of completion, and a subscription to the state master gardener newsletter," Ohmes said.
Participants will also need the "Grounds for Gardening" binder textbook which costs $30.
"It's a great program," said Ohmes, "but there's a commitment to it and some work involved."
For more information call Ohmes at the University Extension office at 683-6129.