CHARLESTON -- Whether it's choosing the right plants to show off during the annual Dogwood-Azalea festival or simply learning which pesticides to use in a backyard garden, completing the University of Missouri Extension's Master Gardener Program could come in handy.
"It was a resource for me," said Master Gardener Martha Ellen Lankheit of Charleston. "I can't say I'm an expert, but I have the literature to refer to and it's kind of fun to help someone when they're planting or developing a lawn."
In spring 2004 -- before Donna Aufdenberg, regional horticulture specialist began helping with the program -- Anthony Ohmes, an agronomist for the Mississippi County University Extension in Charleston, decided to offer the course after receiving inquiries from local residents.
"People in the county and area were asking me about it and I decided to give it a shot," Ohmes recalled.
Now almost two years later and at the request of local residents, Ohmes is offering another Master Gardener training session.
Classes are tentatively planned for 6 p.m. Tuesdays beginning March 28 at the Clara Newnam Library in Charleston.
"Master Gardener training programs go on routinely throughout the year, somewhere in Southeast Missouri. There's lots of opportunities to do it," Ohmes said.
Master Gardener training is an intensive 10-week, 30-hour course in home horticulture followed by a 30-hour volunteer commitment. Each session features different guest experts.
"It's very self-explanatory. It's on gardening and techniques, and it's all types of gardening," Ohmes said.
Topics include fundamentals of plant growth, insect and disease identification and management, lawn management, vegetable gardening, growing annual and perennial flowers, ornamental trees and shrubs, soil improvement and fertilization, fruit production and pecan management, landscaping, pesticide safety and alternatives.
"It's for anybody interested in horticulture. It's once a week for 10 weeks. And you do have to reserve time for the classes," Ohmes said about the course. All kinds of people attended in 2004, Ohmes said.
"Mostly it's those that have a real interest in gardening and those interested in community service because one of the biggest aspects and learning aspects is helping others by spreading the knowledge," Ohmes said.
In 2004, Ohmes said 29 people attended the training offered in Charleston. Many were with the Charleston Garden Club, some from Diebold's Orchard and others came individually.
Lankheit was one of the 29 who completed the Master Gardener training in 2004.
"I've always been interested in gardening," Lankheit said. "I thought it would be nice to have some experts come into town and plus meeting with the others in our class was a good way to share gardening tips."
All participants received a large binder full of different information, all divided up for reference, Lankheit said.
"We all were very happy because we didn't have to take tests," Lankheit said with a laugh. "And the idea of the program is we will have some knowledge and we'll share with the community."
As part of the community service, Lankheit said she and others in the program helped build the rose garden by the Charleston City Hall.
Lankheit said the best part about the program was hearing experts and sharing knowledge with other participants. Anybody who likes gardening would enjoy the program, she said.
"One thing about gardening is you continue learning new things, and new plants keep coming out on the market -- and you have to be aware," Lankheit said. "You're always learning something new and trying new things."
Those interested in participating in the program should contact the Mississippi County Extension Center at (573) 683-6129 as soon as possible. Once a name and address is provided, an enrollment packet will be sent to them.