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PHOTO BY DEBRA BURROWS Master gardeners and apprentices attending a hands-on pruning workshop at the Clinton County Fairgrounds in March 2021.

It is at this time of year that Penn State Extension accepts applications from those who wish to take training to become master gardeners. We are looking for people interested in increasing their gardening knowledge and volunteering to share this knowledge with others.

Clinton County currently has 22 Certified Master Gardeners who enjoy working together and serving our community. Each of them has successfully completed an intensive basic training program focusing on plants, pests, pruning, diseases, soil, composting, weeds, invasive species, growing fruits and vegetables, And much more. They impart this knowledge by running workshops, answering questions via a garden hotline, making presentations to community groups, maintaining demonstration gardens at the County Clinton Fairgrounds, writing gardening articles for local newspapers, organizing plant sales, etc.

Over the past year, master gardeners in Clinton County have contributed more than 2,200 hours of volunteer service despite the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic. We’ve moved our monthly meetings outside, rescheduled events to comply with COVID guidelines, and tripled the number of gardening-related newspaper columns we’ve written.

Calls to the garden hotline increased by more than 60% in 2021 and the Master Gardeners have redoubled their efforts to answer the many questions received. We had to cancel our annual spring plant sale due to the pandemic, but added a plant sale in September and took the opportunity to highlight the benefits of planting in the fall.

More than 600 native trees, shrubs and perennials as well as native cultivars, bulbs and transplants from Master Gardeners’ private gardens were made available during the sale held on September 18 at the exhibition center with several workshops presented by Master Gardeners and extension staff. We now turn our attention to welcoming and preparing a new group of Master Gardener trainees.

The Clinton County Master Gardener’s Basic Training Course is scheduled to begin in October and end in March. The class schedule is a mix of weekly webinars, virtual class meetings and monthly onsite workshops where trainees engage in hands-on activities such as plant propagation, insect identification, pruning. , etc.

Because the webinars are recorded, trainees can watch them at their convenience during the week, then come together as a group for a virtual class reunion to review, ask questions, get to know and speak with certified master gardeners. Weekly quizzes help trainees measure their progress.

Once the basic training has started, trainees have the opportunity to start volunteering as apprentices alongside certified master gardeners. Each apprentice must complete a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service to qualify for certification.

Interns Amy Strong, Melissa Green, Donna Krempasky and Jacqueline Miller, who completed basic training in March 2021 and participated in the fall plant sale, wrote newspaper articles, answered questions from the hotline, maintained our demonstration gardens and completed a classroom project focused on designing a native plant garden to meet their requirement for volunteer service. They have been very successful and will be officially welcomed as newly certified Master Gardeners at our annual dinner meeting in October.

My fellow master gardeners and I would like to invite local gardeners to consider applying for the next basic training course, which is due to start on October 19, 2021. Many gardeners will find that their green thumbs get a little greener as they go. ” they broaden their knowledge by participating in basic training.

Additional information and the basic training app is available at https://extension.psu.edu/programs/master-gardener/counties/clinton/becoming-a-master-gardener-in-clinton-county. Those with questions can contact Master Gardener Amy Strong at 570-858-0189 or [email protected]

The deadline to apply for Basic Training in Clinton County is September 30, 2021.

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Debra G. Burrows, PhD is a retired Penn State Extension educator and certified master gardener. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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