By Jay Salton
For many people, gardening is viewed as a solitary activity, one suiting individual tastes, maybe even a chore. For a select group, though, it can be a way to participate in the local community, a bit of knowledge they can impart to others while bringing designated areas to their fullest, most beautiful potential. Many of these avid gardeners become Extension Master Gardener Volunteers (EMGV), or Master Gardeners, a volunteering opportunity offered throughout the state, including in Henderson County, through North Carolina State University.
Dedicating their time to various projects and public gardens across the county, Master Gardeners are here to spread their horticultural knowledge, seeking to improve gardens throughout the state and address individual plant issues.
“We see many sick plants brought to us by the public,” says Henderson County extension agent Steve Pettis. “Lately we have been looking at weather-related diseases in vegetables and ornamentals. Powdery mildew disease on dogwoods and vegetables and spider mites on dwarf spruce are just two examples.”
The job of caretaker for public and charitable gardens requires dedicated, passionate people. The work is volunteer-based, so the gardeners have both a passion for what they are doing and the heart to give back to their city and the people in it. It is rewarding work, though. The results of their hard work are right in front of their eyes and are appreciated by hardcore nature lovers and casual passersby alike.
“Master Gardeners tend to be folks who love gardening and the outdoors, have a strong sense of community and are looking for an opportunity to serve others,” says Pettis.
Henderson County is lucky to have one of the strongest EMGV programs in the state. They also had seven of their members mentioned on the one hundred top Master Gardeners list in 2016, with two in the top ten.
Some of the many locations where Henderson County Master Gardeners work on projects are Bullington Gardens, the Bountiful Harvest Community Garden, Flat Rock Playhouse Theatre Garden, The Pollinator Garden at Flat Rock Park and the Boys and Girls Club Garden. They also write articles for newspapers, give lectures and answer questions from the public in the Extension office.
To become a Master Gardener, one must apply in October, with applicants being chosen in November. Selected applicants take a weekly class from January through April, pass a final exam and put in 40 hours of volunteer work throughout the rest of the year. Then they are set free to seek out approved projects, to which they must dedicate 25 hours per year.
The gardens of Henderson County are successful, popular areas because of the people dedicated to keeping them scenic, inviting and full of life. A Master Gardener’s work is never done, and for the sake of the community we hope they continue to thrive in our region.
For more information on the EMGV program or to apply, visit ncstategardening.org.