Gardeners with green thumbs are used to answering questions from family and friends about what to do with ailing shrubs, wilted flowers, or underproducing veggies. Maybe you save and share seeds? Have a large community garden? Constantly give plants away to everyone who visits? If you are passionate about all things plants, becoming a Louisiana Master Gardener may be the next step toward furthering your horticultural skills and sharing that enthusiasm and knowledge with the larger community.
The Louisiana Master Gardener program began in 1997 and is available statewide through the parish LSU Agricultural Center offices. Through the program, students of all ages and backgrounds complete 12 weeks of classes that cover everything from botany to soil science, plant propagation, safe pesticide use, fruit and vegetable production, entomology and organic gardening.
Students work from a printed manual while also listening to lectures by LSU specialists in their respective fields, as well as taking part in hands-on training activities. A final exam and project complete the class work. The New Orleans-based Louisiana Master Gardener training takes place in the summer at the Garden Study Center in the New Orleans Botanical Garden, where students become intimately familiar with the gardens and their inhabitants.
Once trained, students must complete an additional eight hours of garden-related education, which can include workshops, lectures, garden tours, or classes offered through the many garden clubs and organizations in the area. In addition, candidates must finish 40 hours of horticultural community service, which can take many forms.
Current Master Gardeners work across the city on educational garden projects, events, and school gardens. Some favorite volunteer opportunities include community garden projects, public butterfly and pollinator gardens, events like the Spring Garden Show and AgMagic on the River school field trips, and several demonstration and research gardens in New Orleans City Park.
Through taking the class and volunteering, many Master Gardeners develop friendships from a shared love of gardening. Twenty hours of yearly service as well as six hours of continuing education are needed to remain in the program. Through additional training and outreach, Louisiana Master Gardeners become more professional and confident in their gardening abilities, acting as an extension of the LSU AgCenter’s mission to serve the public and provide research-based educational information about all things plants.
Applications for the 2018 Master Gardener training course will be going out in early March. We encourage those with a passion for plants to apply. To receive an application, please email GNOGardening@agcenter.lsu.edu. If accepted, students will need to pay a class fee as well as have access to an internet-capable device such as a laptop, tablet, or smart phone.
For more information on the Master Gardener program as well as gardening information, please visit lsuagcenter.com. You can have all of your garden questions answered by emailing them to AGCenter@theadvocate.com. To sign up for the GNO Gardening Newsletter, please email GNOGardening@agcenter.lsu.edu.
My neighbor has a large palmetto tree growing on our property line and claims it is an endangered species and can’t be cut down. Is this true? — Susan
The palmetto tree, also known as Sabal palmetto, can be found growing in the southern and coastal United States, as well as in Cuba and the Bahamas. Palmettos are hardy to USDA Zone 8, making them popular choices for tropical landscape design. They are commonly planted for their hardiness to cold temperatures as well as tolerance of salt spray and drought. They are tough and thrive in our area. The Sabal palmetto is not an endangered species anywhere in its growing range and can be purchased from many local garden centers.