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Master Gardener applications are available

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Colorado State University Extension in the Tri River Area (Mesa, Delta and Montrose counties) is seeking applicants interested in becoming Colorado Master Gardeners or Colorado Certified Gardeners.

The Colorado Master Gardener Program is designed to help county or area CSU Extension offices meet the increasing demands by the gardening public for unbiased, research-based information. It enlists volunteers, trained by professional staff, to help educate and assist local residents through direct contact, classes and a variety of other methods, representing the Tri River Area Extension Offices.

Current employees of the horticultural industry can also participate in these classes for continuing education for a higher fee without the time commitment of volunteer hours. The Colorado Certified Gardener certificate can be used on resumes and in advertising.

Colorado Master Gardeners are members of the local community who have an interest in horticulture. They are enthusiastic, willing to learn, have a desire to help others and are able to communicate relevant research-based knowledge to a diverse audience. What really sets them apart from other home gardeners is the special training they've received in horticulture and the time spent working through their local Extension office to provide horticulture-related information to their community.

The classes will be held at the Mesa County Fairgrounds using live speakers with the exception of online class for two sections (Woody Plants and How to be a Master Gardener). Classes include demonstrations and hands-on exercises. Part of the educational process consists of 50 hours spent as an apprentice in the Tri River Area Extension offices during the growing season, from April to October.

The apprentice Master Gardeners answer telephone requests for information, general plant questions and assist people who come to the office with samples of plants for identification and/or diagnosis. They can also work booths at CSU Extension approved events such as the Lavender Festival.

Anyone with an interest in plants and gardening can apply. Master Gardener applicants must also be able to attend 80 percent of the sessions of the training program and all of the homework and fulfill the 50 hours of apprentice time during weekday office hours. Prior education or experience in gardening is not necessary but will be considered.

Because of the time commitment involved, those who are employed must make special arrangements to participate in the program or may take it at full price and earn the CGC.

Applications can be picked up at the Mesa County Extension Office at the fairgrounds, or are available electronically and must be returned no later than Friday, Dec. 8.

For those wanting to take the course without giving the required volunteer time back to the program, this course is also available for a higher registration fee. Fees for Master Gardener volunteers will be $170 plus 50 hours of volunteer service; Gardener Certificate students' fees will be $530 (with no volunteer commitment). Optional textbook is available for an additional fee or online for free.

Classes begin Jan. 18 and are held every Thursday through March 29.

For more information, contact Susan Honea, horticulture program coordinator, at the extension office at 970-244-1834.

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