Last updated: May 13. 2014 4:06PM - 680 Views
By Emily M. Hobbs EHobbs@civitasmedia.com

Sherry Matthews/Sampson IndependentMaster Gardner Sallie Bean works with one of dozens azaleas the group had for sale during April and early May.
Sherry Matthews/Sampson IndependentMaster Gardner Sallie Bean works with one of dozens azaleas the group had for sale during April and early May.
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Sampson County residents are being offered a chance to dig deep and plant a seed with hopes of gaining skills in gardening and growing this year. You don’t have to know everything about gardening to become a Master Gardener, and the classes are focused on learning and applying knowledge.

“We augment the services of the local county extension,” said Faith Alley, president of the Sampson County Master Gardeners, a volunteer organization under the N.C. Cooperative Extension.

“We share information about gardening in Sampson County, plus environmental stewardship and community landscaping,” explained Alley.

Master Gardening classes are going to be offered so interested people can come out and learn all about gardening and get some skills as well.

“We also help with soil samples and plant clinics for homeowners,” noted Alley. People can call or come in and show the volunteers their problem plants and perhaps get a diagnosis if there is disease or pests.

“It’s expensive to do a yard,” said Alley. “You don’t want to waste your money.” Having those clinics assists people in getting answers to their concerns.”

Four times a year the Master Gardeners get together and invite the public in on Saturdays during each of the four seasons.

Each time there is a different topic, and Alley said that folks from different counties even come in to attend the clinics. Topics that have been previously covered include everything from weed identification to taking care of roses.

“These classes are very well attended,” detailed Alley. “They are an excellent resource for residents of Sampson County.”

“We raise awareness of this extension and promote this resource,” she explained, mentioning that they also do a lot with the 4H program making seed packets for the kids in the Teen Court program.

“People move here and don’t know what grows here,” said Alley. The Master Gardeners can help someone who is relocating here to learn what works well in our climate.

The 16 week classes are part of the training to become a Master Gardener. Plus they must do 40 hours a year of volunteer service over the course of that year.

“All the volunteer hours add up to millions of dollars,” added Alley. Projects have included community gardens and the welcome sign at the U.S. 421 industrial park. Right now they are planning their next project and hope to have approval on it soon.

“The next classes will be offered one day a week, and we are looking into doing evening classes,” she explained. “There are a lot of teachers that want to become Master Gardeners. The classes are offered on a weekday, and they also include field trips to local gardens like a topiary garden in Wilmington.

Recently the Master Gardeners wrapped up their annual azalea sale which they do in partnership with Jim Darden. Last year was the first time offering the azalea sale, which runs for three weeks, from April to May, and the Master Gardeners share in the profits which go towards other projects.

“We had customers come from Jacksonville and Fayetteville return that came last year,” said Mary Burke-Bass, one of the Master Gardeners. “We had three-year-old azaleas as well as some that were five- to -seven-years-old.”

The all volunteer organization also teaches and sharse information as well as recruits new members. Meetings are held once a month and are one hour of business and one hour of education.

“The seed money that we raise goes towards educational programs for the public and community landscaping,” explained Alley.

“We also work with Nancy Olsen in the Sampson Community College’s horticultural department,” said Burke-Bass.

The dates of the next set of classes have not been determined but there will be some soon, and both ladies encouraged folks that are interested to reach out to the Cooperative Extension and let them know they are interested.

Alley said Master Gardener is kind of a misnomer in that you don’t have to know a lot to come and learn about gardening in these classes.

“People should join because they love to garden and want to learn more,” Alley added. The Master Gardener program was started in the early 90s in Sampson County and started in North Carolina in 1979. The program was founded by Washington State University Cooperative Extension in 1973.

“It’s a way to meet new people, a gardening family, a well of people,” said Burke-Bass.

“It’s all volunteers and we teach and we learn,” Alley said. Volunteers can be found all over the United States and in Canada, with over 4,000 volunteers in 73 different countries.

This year’s classes will be held at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension office. To get registered and find out more information contact the office at 910-592-7161.

Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122. Follow us on Twitter: @SampsonInd

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