ASHLAND • Do you like to get your hands dirty? Do your love plants? Do you enjoy learning? Then you are a great candidate for Master Gardener Training.

The Benton County Extension Service will hold Master Gardener training classes on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from Tuesday, Feb. 25 - Tuesday, March 31 at the Benton County Extension office. The classes will be from 1-5 p.m. each day and will be conducted through the Mississippi State University Extension Interactive Video System.

There is a one-time fee of $100 for participation in the Master Gardener Program. Contact the Benton County Extension office at 662-224-6330 to register. Deadline for registration is Friday, Feb. 7.

Through this program, individuals are trained and certified in consumer horticulture and related areas. Class subjects include: soils, botany, entomology, honeybee care, plant propagation, weeds, ornaments, turf grass, vegetables, plant disease and fruits and nuts.

The training schedule is as follows:

Feb. 25, Introduction Botany with Dr. Jeff Wilson; Feb. 27, Soils with Dr. Larry Oldham and Honeybee Care with Dr. Jeff Wilson; March 3, Entomology I with Dr. Blake Layton and Urban Tree Care (Elective) with Dr. Jeff Wilson; March 5, Entomology II with Dr. Blake Layton; Ornamentals with Dr. Jeff Wilson; March 12, Turfgrass with Dr. Jay McCurdy; March 17, Weeds with Dr. John Byrd; March 19, Vegetables with Dr. Rick Snyder; March 24, Fruits/Nuts with Dr. Eric Stafne; March 26, Diseases with Dr. Alan Henn; March 31, Propagation & Reporting with Dr. Jeff Wilson and April 2 test date.

In exchange for 40 hours of educational training, individuals are required to return 40 hours of volunteer service within one year of their training. This service should help county Extension offices with horticulture projects that benefit their local communities.

After the first year, volunteers are required to return 20 hours of volunteer service and to attend 12 hours of educational training to remain certified as Master Gardeners.

Continuing education is offered to encourage long-term commitments. Most certified Master Gardeners serve five to seven years. The Master Gardener approach helps the local Extension office reach a broader audience than is possible with only one or two agents. It also provides the local office a way to serve the public and, at the same time, develop a supportive clientele group.

Volunteers help extend the educational arm of the university to the public by providing horticultural information based on university research and recommendations.

The Master Gardener Volunteer program is a great way to gain horticultural expertise at a low cost, meet other avid gardeners, share gardening experiences, get connected to the community, and belong to a well-respected and educational organization.

Trainees will also receive a 3-inch binder full of gardening resources from MSU Extension Service and will make great new friend and have an opportunity to give back to your comment through volunteering. For more information call 662-224-6330.

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