A collective assortment of green thumbs

Master Gardeners offer education on various aspects of gardening

The Chisago County Master Gardeners recently met at the Chisago County  Senior Center in North Branch.  Photo by Derrick Knutson
The Chisago County Master Gardeners recently met at the Chisago County
Senior Center in North Branch.
Photo by Derrick Knutson

Nearly every week, there’s a column in the Post Review written by one of the Chisago County Master Gardeners.

Those columns cover a variety of topics: Japanese beetles, how to manage certain types of weeds and the benefits of composting with leaves are just a few examples of column topics.

People who read these columns might wonder, “Who are these ‘Master Gardeners,’ and where are they getting their information?”

The Chisago County Master Gardener program is an initiative run through the University of Minnesota Extension, and its mission is to “support Extension by providing volunteers trained in horticulture to educate the public with research-based information on the best practices in consumer horticulture and environmental stewardship.”

The Master Gardener program exists in all 50 states, Canada and the United Kingdom, and there are nearly 100,000 Master Gardener volunteers.

In Chisago County, there’s a dedicated group of volunteers headed by coordinator Sue Humble. Some have been with the program for decades, like Richard Hanson, of Harris, who started in 1982.

Over the years, he’s built a wealth of information about plants and gardening, and he’s considered one of the foremost plant propagation experts in the county.

Then there are those new to the program, like pre-intern John Deters.

Deters, of Wyoming Township – who joked that his wife gathered some information on the program and told him, “You’re going to do this” – has nearly 15 years of experience volunteering with Great River Greening Corporation doing restoration projects with native plants and vegetation.

He was curious about the Master Gardeners, so he applied and was accepted to the pre-intern program, which requires him to attend four meetings of the group and volunteer 10 hours.

Those who keep going with the program take a class through the University of Minnesota, and then have to volunteer 50 hours, usually at events like the Chisago County Fair, The Almelund Threshing Show and the Master Gardeners Annual Spring Gardening Bonanza.

The cost of the university course is $275, but those who complete the pre-intern program are eligible to be reimbursed $100 after they complete the course and another $100 after they complete the 50 volunteering hours.

To keep Master Gardener status, participants have to volunteer at least 25 hours per year after the initial 50 and record five hours a year of continued education.

At the volunteering events, the master gardeners often answer questions from residents curious about gardening.

Donna Tatting, of Forest Lake, who has been with the program for nearly a dozen years, said some people might be intimidated about joining the Master Gardener program because they feel they need to know “everything about gardening,” but the focus of the program is really about having the ability to research and find answers.

“If we don’t know the answer, we’ll find it for them,” she said.

Bob Walz, of North Branch, who joined last year, said people might be able to go on the Internet to find some of the answers to their gardening questions, but oftentimes there is conflicting information, which can be confusing.

Walz said he and the other Master Gardeners can tell people, “This information came from the University of Minnesota.”


Representing the County

Joy Oberg, of Almelund, a Master Gardener for the past year, said in addition to representing the University of Minnesota Extension at events throughout the county, the Master Gardeners also represent Chisago County.

“We are assisting Chisago County residents in horticulture problems that they have, whether it’s growing in their gardens or growing sustainable wetlands,” she said.

Walz said the Master Gardeners program is affiliated with county government, but its not like many of the county government programs.

“What makes us different is that we don’t have a major budget,” he said. “We are all volunteers. For a very small investment (the county government) gets a lot of visibility in the county and a lot of service people.”

To learn more about the Master Gardener program or to have gardening questions answered, contact Sue Humble at 651-674-2333 or [email protected]

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