Master gardeners volunteer organization offers valuable advice
A master gardener is an extensively trained amateur gardener. First formed in 1985, and incorporated as a registered charity in Ontario in 1998, the Master Gardeners of Ontario Inc. (MGOI) are a passionate, and diverse, group. Today, there are approximately 750 fully qualified master gardeners in 38 groups in various communities across the province. Annually, they contribute over 38,000 hours to the public good in the form of current horticultural information. In short, this volunteer-driven organization is a valuable resource to anyone who has gardening questions, or a desire to learn more about gardening as a hobby.
Master Gardener Belinda Gallagher, owner of Hooked on Horticulture Consulting, is the Chair of the Lake Simcoe South Master Gardener group. When asked about her role, she says, “the main role of the Master Gardener continues to be that of educating the public, and while many members of the program garner great personal satisfaction from participation, providing advice on gardening is the key.”
Gallagher defines a Master Gardener as an individual who has some previous experience in gardening, enjoys gardening and enjoys teaching others.
CANADA BLOOMS runs from March 8th to the 17th, and Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer all of your questions. This group loves a challenge, so bring problematic plant parts, soil concerns and suspicious creepy crawlies to get help with your gardening dilemmas. mgoi.ca
Become a member
To enrol, go to mgoi.ca and connect with a group nearest you, and then join the Master Gardeners in Training (MGIT) program.
Sign up for the educational component and commit to the volunteer hours. Once you complete the program, you receive a certificate that designates you as a Master Gardener.
Each program is somewhat different, but includes basic gardening education that provides a solid foundation for providing advice to other gardeners. MGITs are expected to complete their courses in two years.
The local coordinating committee decides what is required in order to maintain your Master Gardener designation. Activities must be information-oriented, and reflect the needs of the community. Each volunteer must contribute a minimum of 30 hours of service each year, which includes offering advice, writing articles or fact sheets, responding to requests made by the group, and helping with administrative duties, as well as giving garden clinics and demo’s, and providing horticultural information to hospitals, nursing
homes, YMCA, therapy programs, and the like. “As people become more interested in ‘greening’ the planet and their own properties, particularly growing their own vegetables, Master Gardeners will play a larger part in educating the public,” says Gallagher. “Receiving advice from someone who has been there, and done that, is what sets the program apart.”
Expert gardener, Mark Cullen, is an author (Escape to Reality), broadcaster and a Member of the Order of Canada. His son, Ben, is a fourth-generation urban gardener. markcullen.com