A frosty winter 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 time to dream and plan next summer’s gardens. Soon gardeners will be looking through mail-order catalogues, making up their 2023 plant and seed orders. But for Nebraska Extension Master Gardener volunteers, winter is also a time to gather new knowledge, meet new friends and prepare for a fun season of volunteering.
What is a Master Gardener?
The Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (NE-EMGV) program is one of the largest volunteer organizations in the country. The first Master Gardener program was created in 1972 at Washington State University Cooperative Extension. Now there are EMGV programs in 49 of 50 states through each state’s land-grant 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. So do our Master Gardener volunteers. All that’s needed to get started is a love of plants, enjoyment of working with others and time to share your knowledge and skills.
After training Master Gardener volunteers assist Extension staff to provide clientele with the information they need to create and maintain beautiful, healthy landscapes, while conserving water, and protecting themselves and the natural environment from exposure to improperly applied or excessive amounts of pesticides and fertilizers. They instill a love and appreciation in children for the natural world and teach gardeners to grow healthy produce; create habitat for pollinators, beneficial insects and wildlife; and manage invasive insects like the emerald ash borer.
Master Gardener volunteers also answer questions emailed or phoned-in to the Extension Office, diagnose plant samples and help maintain community gardens.
Through the program, volunteers meet many great people who share their love of gardening and make a significant contribution to their communities, helping their neighbors maintain beautiful, sustainable greenspaces.
How To Get Started
Complete and submit an application. Two Master Gardener programs are available for residents of Lancaster county and surrounding areas.
Evening training classes- Complete an application on-line at https://mastergardener.unl.edu/, click on “Become a Master Gardener.” Or contact Teri James, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, (402) 472-8973. Program cost is $225.00 per person. Application deadline – January 13th.
Weekday training classes- Complete an application on-line at http://go.unl.edu/mgapplication, or contact Mary Jane Frogge for more information. Email: email@example.com, (402) 441-7180. Program cost is $225.00 per person. Application deadline – January 13th.
For several years, Master Gardeners have been instrumental in growing and donating fresh produce for 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, along with other sites. In 2021, over 70,000 pounds of produce were grown and donated statewide.
East Campus Master Gardeners also maintain the Backyard Farmer garden. Many viewers of the television show visit the garden each summer. Visitors are amazed at how ornamental and edible crops mixed and woven together can create such beauty! It gives many visitors great ideas to try in their home gardens.
Finally, in 2021, 92 Lancaster county area Master Gardeners volunteered 3,357 hours, a $92.000.00 value to their communities. Based on the Independent Sector’s Nebraska’s 2021 volunteer value of $27.49/hour. Lancaster horticulture staff and EMGs responded to 5,438 client contacts.
Please join us for training in 2023 and become a Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Volunteer!
Feature image – Master Gardeners helping in the 4-H horticulture division at Nebraska State Fair