Master Gardener program coming

MARQUETTE – Don’t let a 1,000-page training manual, weeks of training or hours of volunteer service scare you away from becoming a Master Gardener.

You might want to think of it as a means to expand your gardening knowledge and make new friends.

The Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Program will be from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays from Aug. 28 to Dec. 4 in room 109 at the Northern Michigan University Learning Resource Center on Tracy Avenue.

The cost of the program is $300. Online registration, which ends Thursday, can be completed at

Rebecca L. Krans, consumer horticulture editor with MSU Extension based in Crystal Falls, said people participate in the program for a variety of reasons.

“Some used it professionally if they’re in the ‘green’ industry,” Krans said. “Some just like gardening.”

There’s also the volunteer component, she acknowledged, that allows them to give back to their community.

One of those volunteers is Carol Fitzgerald of Marquette, who completed the Master Gardener program in 2008. She helps maintain the gardens at the Peter White Public Library.

Fitzgerald said she went to the library to see if help was needed with its garden, and it was. She since has expanded the floral life there.

“I like the library,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s just such an amazing place for our community.”

Linda Andriacchi of Ishpeming Township finished the program in 1998 and has been involved in horticultural pursuits ever since. She has cleaned up the garden at her church, St. John the Evangelist Church in Ishpeming; taught classes at community schools; and attended seminars.

The program, Andriacchi said, opens up a new world of gardening opportunities, and anybody who’s contemplating taking it should do so.

“It’s really a very thorough course,” Andriacchi said.

Master Gardener volunteers complete a 13-session practical curriculum grounded in university research. The training includes classes on plant and soil science, integrated pest management, diagnostics, annuals and perennials, woody ornamentals, lawns, vegetables, small fruits, tree fruits, gardening practices to protect water quality and household and nuisance pests.

After completing training, Master Gardener trainees must complete 40 hours of horticulture-related service within a year to earn their Master Gardener certification and use their newfound knowledge to help their communities.

Examples of projects include:

– Designing and caring for gardens at parks, senior centers and other public sites.

– Teaching others how to garden.

– Creating vegetables gardens to meet local nutritional needs.

– Sharing environmentally friendly gardening practices at community events.

– Beautifying community sites for special events or activities.

– Staffing plant clinics.

– Working with students to design an elementary school garden.

– Helping a neighborhood association establish an urban garden.

– Creating a horticulture therapy program at a senior center.

Scholarships, Krans said, are available for those in need. For more information about the program, call her at 906-875-0606.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is