Extension opens Master Gardener class

Looking for new volunteers who want to share some horticultural expertise with the community, the Virginia Cooperative Extension is now reviewing applications for its 2016 Master Gardener class.

Frederick County Unit Coordinator Mark Sutphin said that the class will cap off at 25 people and involve around 60 to 70 hours of classroom instruction with an additional 50 hours of volunteer service to complete over time. Various experts will teach a wide variety of home horticulture topics that line up with their field of speciality. Classes will educate volunteers on soil, pesticide safety, landscape design and insect pathology, to name a few.

“There’s a wide range of topics trying to give an overview of the horticultural world, a pretty broad spectrum,” he said.

Sutphin said the program is developing a new class on urban nutrient management, which focuses on water quality and home lawn runoff control.

“It is the result of community needs and it is a statewide focus…due to continued requirements to clean up our watershed and to improve bay health,” he said.

Susan Garrett, president of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners association, took the 2010 class after developing an interest in the learning opportunity and sense of group support.

“I wanted to give back, so this is then a place where I can do that,” she said. “It’s a place where I have met amazingly wonderful people that I would have never known.”

She’ll be teaching a class about the nonprofit association itself, which she said shares a tight bond with the extension’s program.

In recent years, Garrett said some of the classes have focused on developments like research on stinkbug predators or the emerald ash borer, an invasive species in North America responsible for destruction of ash trees. This year, she said the classes will be taking advantage of using a new textbook from the extension, which is covered under the $225 tuition fee.

Whether working with the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s educational outreach programs or answering questions from neighbors on the Greenline, Garrett and Sutphin both said the master gardener volunteers are drawing from a huge knowledge base.

“We’re fortunate here in the Northern Shenandoah Valley to just have a wealth of knowledge and experience,” Sutphin said.

Classes will be held from 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the MidAtlantic Farm Credit office in Winchester starting Feb. 6. The extension will accept applications through Jan. 8, and more information can be found at http://nsvmga.org/join.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com