July 26, 2007 at 6:51 a.m.
When the cherished rose vine transplanted from grandma's garden is wilting and all the money on earth couldn't replace it, where does the worried gardener turn to for advice? Master Gardeners.
Countless reasons motivate people to seek out Master Gardeners, a popular and well known organization. If 656 names on the mailing list is any indication-- the Chisago County Master Gardeners are in demand.
Master Gardeners, as a program, turned 30 in 2007.
The Master Gardeners are volunteers whose job it is to educate the public about a variety of horticulture subjects. The program carries on the university and extension philosophy of life long learning and research and to promote stewardship of the environment. Master Gardener training is usually scheduled in January or February and sometimes into March of each year. The "core training" can be done on-line or at various locations. The very first step you would take to become a Master Gardener is to contact the Chisago County Extension office.
Starr Carpenter, from the North Branch office, says Chisago County master gardeners are the best. The group is "very good at outreach and educating the public," she mentioned.
Jerry Vitalis serves as president of the Chisago County Master Gardeners. He likes to joke that the only reason he's president is because nobody else wants the job. Vitalis trained as a Master Gardener in 1991 and he said over the last 10 years or so, the local group has carved out an important place for itself.
Master Gardeners are accessible. There was a booth at the Chisago Lakes Home Show and they'll be at Almelund Threshing Show (August 10,11,12) They were at the county fair.
Monday nights you can contact them during plant clinics at the North Branch office. Or, you can call the voice mail number (674-4417) and leave a question for a response later.
Vitalis says 700 people have attended classes offered by the Master Gardeners covering a variety of topics, from orchard maintenance to tackling noxious buckthorn.
The Master Gardeners also sell native plants, onion sets and bare root stock as fundraising activities. Vitalis reported 3,100 bareroot plants were sold this year, 4,500 onion sets and 400 native plants were also sold in the spring offering.
Interest in native plants has especially taken off in the last few years.
Master Gardener Tom Dickhudt (retired Chisago Lakes superintendent) said the native plant portion of the program basically got started when some master gardeners were being called to "rescue" plants facing development pressures or plants that were in the way of road projects.
Native plants' importance to sustaining local ecosystems is becoming more and more recognized, Dickhudt added, and the native plant outreach and public educational component of Master Gardeners is a "very relevant" effort.
According to the university there's 2,600 trained volunteers in the Master Gardener program in the 87 counties. Volunteers should expect to commit 25 to 50 hours to doing horticultural related service.
Vitalis said county master gardeners are a varied bunch. There's a navigator (spends several weeks at sea) retired teachers and everything in between. Volunteers get to spend time in areas they are interested in or have skills. A couple who enjoy writing---Vitalis and Peggy Boike-- submit Master Gardener columns to this paper and to five other papers in the region.
The plant clinics run 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays, call 651-674-4417 to talk with a MG. After hours call the same number, press extension 18 and leave your question. The office staff tallied 831 calls last year.