Sarah Browning, extension educator
A chilly winter’s day is a great time to stay indoors and enjoy a good book, a warm fire in the fireplace and a hot cup of cocoa. But for gardeners, winter is also a time to dream and plan the gardens for next summer. Gardeners will soon be scouring mail-order catalogs to compile their 2023 plant and seed orders. But for Nebraska Extension Master Gardener volunteers, winter is also a time to gain new knowledge, meet new friends, and prepare for a fun volunteering season. What is a master gardener?
The Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program (NE-EMGV) is one of the largest volunteer organizations in the country. The first Master Gardener program was established in 1972 at the Washington State University Cooperative Extension. Now there are EMGV programs in 49 out of 50 states through each state’s Landgrant University. There are also EMGV programs in Canada, South Korea and England.
At Nebraska Extension, we teach adults and youth in many different settings, from the county fair to classrooms and demonstration landscapes. Our volunteer master gardeners do the same. All you need to get started is a love of plants, fun working with others, and time to share your knowledge and skills.
After the training, volunteer master gardeners assist Extension staff in providing clients with the information they need to create and maintain beautiful, healthy landscapes while conserving water and protecting themselves and the natural environment from the stresses of improper landscaping to protect applied or excessive amounts of pesticides and fertilizers. They instill a love and appreciation for nature in children and teach gardeners to grow healthy produce; Create habitat for pollinators, beneficial insects and wildlife; and manage invasive insects like the Emerald Ash Borer.
Volunteer Master Gardeners also answer questions emailed or phoned to the Extension Office, diagnose plant samples, and assist in the maintenance of community gardens.
Through the program, volunteers meet many great people who share a love of gardening and make a meaningful contribution to their communities by helping their neighbors maintain beautiful, sustainable green spaces.
How to get started Complete and submit an application. Two master gardener programs are available for residents of Lancaster County and the surrounding area.
Evening Training Courses – Complete an online application at https://mastergardener.unl.edu/, click “Become a Master Gardener”. Or contact Teri James, email: [email protected], (402) 472-8973. The program cost is $225.00 per person. Application Deadline – January 13th.
Weekday Training Courses – Complete an online application at http://go.unl.edu/mgapplication or contact Mary Jane Frogge for more information. Email: [email protected], (402) 441-7180. The program cost is $225.00 per person. Application Deadline – January 13th. Highlights 2021 For several years, master gardeners have been instrumental in cultivating and donating fresh produce to those in need. In the Lincoln area, produce comes from several gardens, including a teaching garden at the People’s City Mission and the Backyard Farmer Garden, among other locations. In 2021, over 70,000 pounds of produce was grown and donated across the country.
East Campus Master Gardeners also maintain the Backyard Farmer Garden. Many viewers of the TV show visit the garden every summer. Visitors are amazed at how ornamental and edible plants mixed and interwoven together can create such beauty! It gives many visitors great ideas to try in their own gardens.
Finally, in 2021, 92 Lancaster County Area Master Gardeners volunteered 3,357 hours, worth $92,000.00 to their communities. Based on 2021 Nebraska Independent Sector Volunteer Value of $27.49/hour. Lancaster horticultural staff and EMGs responded to 5,438 customer contacts.
Please attend training in 2023 and become a Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Volunteer! Your suggestions are welcome!
Is there a lawn and garden topic you’d like to learn more about? Sarah Browning is an Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension and can be contacted by phone at 402.441-7180, by mail at 444 Cherrycreek Road, Lincoln, NE 68528, or by email at [email protected]