For Love of Nature: Consider becoming a Master Gardener this spring – Lynchburg News and Advance


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Though it may seem counterintuitive, as winter sets in, there’s no better time to think about gardening.Gardeners are already ordering seeds and searching for new or different varieties they haven’t tried before.If you have a green thumb, or would like to learn how to get one, the best way to learn is from the experts.The Hill City Master Gardener Association is launching a new Virginia Master Gardener class with orientation on Feb. 10. Applications are due Jan. 31 and may be found at Master Gardener training consists of 50 hours of horticultural education presented by experts, along with a comprehensive textbook and electronic instruction.Pruning, entomology, herbaceous plants, organic gardening, building soil, lawn care, vegetable gardening, plant diseases, composting and other topics are studied in this program.Classes will be held on Monday and Thursday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon at the Elks Club, 6235 Old Mill Road, Lynchburg. Classes begin on Feb. 14 with graduation scheduled for April 14.
There is a fee of $135 for a comprehensive handbook, a pest management DVD and a background check for the service activities that involve school-age children.In exchange for the education and certification, Virginia Master Gardeners are required to volunteer a minimum of 50 hours in the first year and 20 hours in each subsequent year. In addition, Master Gardeners must complete a minimum of eight hours of continuing education per year to maintain their certification.What really sets Master Gardeners apart from other home gardeners is their training in horticulture. Master Gardeners contribute their time as volunteers, working through a local extension office, to provide horticultural-related information to their community.Hill City Master Gardeners work in Lynchburg and Amherst and Campbell counties, presenting educational programs at nine elementary schools and various community organizations, as COVID-19 precautions permit.HCMGA also operates community gardens at the Boys & Girls Club, Jubilee Family Development Center, Poplar Forest, DePaul Community Center in Madison Heights and Bedford Hills Elementary School.Due to the widespread and growing interest in gardening as a healthy outdoor activity, as well as for greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables, HCMGA is building a community garden on the campus of HumanKind to provide educational programs on gardening, current environmental practices and healthy lifestyles.They also staff an information booth at the Lynchburg Community Market and at the help desk in the Lynchburg Virginia Cooperative Extension office, provide educational speakers for community meetings and organize the Festival of Gardening each May.While all this volunteer work is great for the community, gardening is also wonderful for the volunteers.Working the soil releases chemicals that have been shown to increase happiness, as do sunshine and fresh air.Gardening requires physical labor to help keep you in shape.Finally, there is great joy in growing your own food safely, as well as planting flowers, shrubs and trees that provide food for pollinators and other wildlife, while adding beauty to your surroundings and your neighborhood.Shannon Brennan can be reached at [email protected]

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