Masters of the gardens

(Slideshow and story) Photos by Derrick Knutson

By Derrick Knutson

There was no shortage of green thumbs at the Chisago County Master Gardeners 14th annual Spring Gardening Bonanza Saturday.
The Master Gardener program, offered by the University of Minnesota Extension, is celebrating its 35th year in the state, and the bonanza is one of the most well attended events affiliated with the program in Chisago County.
Over 100 people pre-registered for an array of classes to learn about gardening-centered topics such as growing blueberries, edible gardening and vermiculture, where attendees wormed their way through the ins and outs of utilizing worms to create nutrient-rich compost to aid in the growth of plants.

A worthwhile course
Sue Humble, the coordinator of the Chisago County Master Gardener program has over 20 master gardeners under her purview, and many of them were on-hand Saturday, teaching classes and offering horticultural knowledge to anyone who wanted to pick their brains.
The program got its start in Chisago County in 1982 with just two residents taking the course through the U of M.
One of those residents, Richard Hanson, is still a master gardener and said he’s thoroughly enjoyed getting his hands dirty and volunteering his time for the past three decades.
“I saw it advertised for a couple of years and I decided to see what it was like,” Hanson said of how he got involved with the program.
His inherent interest in gardening has kept him involved over the years.
“I’ve been interested in gardening since I was a little kid,” he said. “In fact, I think I was about 7 or 8 when I kicked my parents out of the garden and told them, ‘This is my domain.’”
Humble said becoming a master gardener takes commitment, but it’s a worthwhile course for those passionate about gardening and sharing knowledge.
To become a master gardener, applicants to the program must pay to take a course through the U of M and be ready for some volunteering.
“The first year they have to volunteer 50 hours, and then after that it’s 25 (per year),” Hanson said.
He mentioned the Extension helps point master gardeners toward volunteer opportunities, such as the bonanza or the county fair.
Humble said Chisago County also has a “pre-intern” program that allows people interested in being a Master Gardener to get their feet wet in the program to see if they like it before paying for the course.
Hanson recommends the program to anyone with a little time to spare and an interest in gardening.
“If they’re interested in gardening and they figure they’ll have time to volunteer, the course is very worth taking,” he said.
For more information on the Master Gardener program, contact Sue Humble at 651-674-2333.

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