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Master gardeners learn, and in turn, educate a community

Master gardener demonstration garden

The Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office of Atlantic County in Mays Landing is built and maintained by Rutgers master gardeners. It includes a woodlands garden, vegetable garden and native/perennial garden and is used to demonstrate plants and growing methods that work best in this area.

The Master Gardener Program is a public service program that provides university training to volunteers for the purpose of enabling them to serve their communities through horticulture. In our area, the program is managed by Rutgers University and administered through the Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension of Atlantic County in Mays Landing.

The first Master Gardener program was started in Washington state in 1972. The extension agent was overwhelmed by the volume of requests for information about gardening coming into his office. He came up with the idea of providing specialized training in horticulture to gardeners in exchange for a commitment to spend a specified number of hours doing volunteer community outreach work. The state universities were sought out to plan a training program for volunteers and a format that would provide information to the public.

Forty-one years later, Master Gardeners programs have spread to all 50 states and several Canadian provinces. Master gardeners have undertaken a wide variety of projects including the Master Gardener Helpline, coordinating environmental and planting projects, demonstration gardens, work with school groups, newsletters and radio, television and newspaper activities.

Master gardeners of Atlantic County are or have been involved in many area projects: implementing a demonstration garden at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension office in Mays Landing, building a sensory garden for Pomona School in Galloway Township, ongoing therapeutic gardening programs at the Seashore Gardens Living Center Alzheimer’s Sensory Trail and Healing Garden, a native garden at Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, gardens at four of the Atlantic County Libraries, ecological landscape plans for the Atlantic County Golf Course and several other projects across the county. The Master Gardeners also run a vegetable, perennial and native plant sale in May available to all county residents. The 2019 sale will be in conjunction with a community education event. Representatives from 4H, ACUA master composters and Rutgers environmental stewards will join the master gardeners in presentations and workshops throughout the day.

Our local program consists of twenty-two classes on topics including soil classification and fertility, plant propagation, insect identification, landscape design, native plants, weed identification, plant pathology, lawn establishment, pesticides and safety, vegetable production, arboriculture, small fruit production, floriculture and tours of local vegetable and flower farms and vineyards.

No formal education is required, just a love of gardening and desire to share your knowledge with the community.

There is a fee for the class to cover materials and supplies. Applications are now being accepted for the class beginning in February. For more information, call the extension office at 609-625-0056.

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