A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Friday, September 16, 2005


I went to the orientation for the Master Gardener certification program this morning. I wish I had brought my camera. The extension office for my county is in a wonderful park. They are building gardens for and by the Master Gardeners. So far they have a spectacular herb garden and a vegetable plot that is larger than my entire yard. 100' x 100' vs my own lot of 50' x 100'.

They spent several hours explaining the training program (rigorous and extensive) and the time commitment of mandatory service then an additional 60 hours of volunteer service to complete the certification. Just my luck, Middlesex county has the longest and most in depth training program of all the counties that offer Master Gardener programs in New Jersey.

They also gave a pre-test to find out where our skill levels are. It went just as I thought it would. When I went to computer school a few years ago, I entered the program confident that I already knew a lot about computers. I found out very quickly that I knew next to nothing. I was so lost that I considered dropping out of the program. But I am very stubborn. I looked around the classroom and said to myself "Self, you are a smart person. If everyone else here can learn this stuff, so can you". So I buckled down, studied harder than I ever had and not only made it, but was the first person in my class to earn a professional certification and the first person to land a job in the IT field. I was also the oldest person in the class, older even than the teachers and 1 of only 2 women (we had started out with 4 women) who made it through. The other woman was the youngest person in the class and the second person to land a job. We were quite a team!

So when they handed out the pre-test today, I knew exactly how it would go before I even looked at it. I've been gardening all of my life but I know NOTHING.

Compare and contrast winged carpenter ants and winged termites. That's what I hire an exterminator for.

Dahlias - bulbs, corms, tuberous roots, rhizomes or something else I can't remember. I don't know, I don't grow them.

Ditto gladioli.

When is the best time to fertilize pine trees. You're supposed to fertilize them?

Define IPM. If I knew what the letters stood for, I would.

Name the three R's in solid waste management. Any idiot can see that there are no letter R's the words solid waste management.

I think my favorite question was the "name and describe the parts of a flower". The accompanying diagram looked NOTHING like a flower. The only part I could "name and describe" was the stem!

I couldn't answer about half the questions. It was a great preview of some of the things we will be learning. So starting next week, every Friday morning from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM, I will either be sitting in a classroom, working in a greenhouse or working outside. And on the weekends, instead of attending events and wandering aimlessly around, I will be working at them.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it?


At 8:45 AM, Blogger Beverly said...

I took a Master Gardener course once. I've been thinking of going back. Gladioli are from corms. Dahlias are tubers. When I went I got a real nice name tag and a huge notebook that collected dust for years. And I learned about dirt. Have fun in your classes.

At 12:09 AM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Beverly - you're right! I forgot about the nifty pin they promised us when we finish. Middlesex County likes to do everything bigger and better, so we are getting TWO huge binders. My first question was if we were expected to lug both binders into class every day (no, thank goodness). I hear that soil is the most boring subject of all the ones we will study. Thanks for the good wishes!

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Takoma Gardener said...

Wow, this and the next post were extremely interesting to me and show me all the stuff I don't know, either, and want to learn. I'm so frustrated by the MG program in my county - it's during work hours, so only available to retirees. And I took a one-day design course recently at a local nursery and it was useless - the description of your course is *exactly* what I was looking for. I'm fuming again just thinking about it.

At 3:42 AM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Takoma Gardener - I work nights so with a little sleep deprivation, I can attend the MG classes during the day. I don't understand why they only offer them during the day.

At 7:45 AM, Anonymous Judith said...

I hope you will attend next year's national Master Gardener Conference in Newport, RI--it is the URI Master Gardening Assoc I am a member of--I started in 1997 & have acquired about 600 hours of volunteer hours & still have lots to learn! It is great you are in the program. Good luck & enjoy!


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