By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
It’s never too early to start planning for a bountiful harvest of your own-grown delicious vegetables and fruits for you to enjoy a home-grown feast at your table, to generously share with your family and friends, or to sell at your local farmers market.
A perfect way for novices to learn the fine art of gardening or for experienced gardeners to more fully develop their Green Thumb skills will be coming soon to the Harrison County 4-H Center, located on Rt. 19 south of Clarksburg. That’s when the WVU Extension Office in Harrison County will again be presenting its annual gardening instruction event – the WVU Master Gardener training and volunteer certification program.
This nationally acclaimed program will begin Tuesday, Feb. 23 and will run consecutively on Tuesday evenings through Tuesday, April 26. Classes are set from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. One Saturday hands-on training event in the field is included in the program.
According to WVU Extension Agent Larry G. Campbell, who has worked with the program since 2000 and is a Master Gardener, the curriculum is inclusive for all skill levels.
“The Master Gardener program is suited for any level … whether you don’t know anything about gardening or you are knowledgeable about it,” he explained. “We give a lot of information. And we try to target the class instruction on the needs of each participant based on their experience.”
Participants will learn about various horticultural topics such as plant diseases, soils, composting, entomology, turf management, landscaping, botany, tree risk management, pruning, organic pest control, vegetable production, small fruit and season extension.
Campbell said knowing how to extend your garden season is one important skill in being a successful gardener.
He explained that a common mistake people make is planting too late. “Leafy greens, such as kale, lettuce, spinach and kohlrabi, do better in the cool time of the year.”
He said he’s had a lot of productivity and quality success by extending his own garden’s season.
“Spinach and kale grow right through October,” he said. “I’ve even had it under cover in December.”
Campbell said using hot beds, cold frames and low tunnels are some of the gardening techniques used to expand the growing season, and they’ll be taught during the program.
Campbell noted that participants in the Master Gardener program must attend 40 hours of horticulture instruction. After this training is completed, participants must also perform 40 hours of community service in various horticulture-related projects during the year.
“Many of these projects are done in conjunction with the service activities of the Harrison County Master Gardener Association, which conducts the Master Gardener Spring Clinic at the Harrison County 4-H Center,” Campbell reports. “After completing the program, participants become certified ‘Master Gardeners’.”
Campbell explained that the program has a two-fold purpose – to not only increase an individual’s knowledge about gardening so that they become more proficient gardeners, but to also apply and incorporate that knowledge more broadly, so others benefit as well.
“We try to give that information back out into the community through service,” he stated. “And the program also equips people to go out and pass on their gardening knowledge to their own family, friends and neighbors.”
Campbell said gardening has become quite popular. “There has been an increasing interest in gardening for, at least, the last ten years,” he stated. “People are wanting to be more healthy and are eating more healthy foods, such as locally sourced fruits and vegetables. And, generally, those are tastier.”
Growing your own produce is an excellent way to eat healthy, smart and deliciously.
The cost of the 9-week program is $80, which includes the price of an extensive gardening manual and other class materials.
For registration forms and more information about the training, contact the WVU/Harrison County Extension Office at (304) 624-8650 or Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Forms are also available online at http://harrison.ext.wvu.edu/master gardeners/membership.
Registration must be completed and turned in to the office by February 9.