Do you like to play in the dirt?
The Harrison County Chapter of the West Virginia Master Gardeners Association is giving the public the opportunity to do just that with a free hands-on clinic covering a variety of topics.
The annual Spring Clinic, to be held from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at the 4-H Center, Route 19S, is one way the association fulfills its purpose of helping county extension agents keep up with the growing number of gardening questions.
Master Gardeners provide knowledgeable information and education about gardening free of charge to the public, according to Rebecca Eneix-Chong, a certified Master Gardener.
"The clinic provides a forum for citizens to get answers on how to take care of all those plants they may be getting for Mother's Day, vegetable gardens, yards, orchards and more," she said.
The clinic also features an Expo to allow businesses and community groups to sell and showcase their plants and gardening products.
Master Gardeners will be available to answer questions on specific gardening needs and will inform visitors of new projects planned to benefit area citizens such as "Plant a Row for the Hungry Program" and the Demonstration Garden project.
Lee Reger, president of the local chapter of Master Gardeners, explained the Demonstration Garden project:
"The Harrison County Commission graciously donated 2,600 feet of ground at the 4-H Center to our chapter for further education via hands-on classes. We will be able to show people the do's and don'ts of gardening as soon as the weather clears," said Reger.
Five door prize raffles will be held for those present throughout the day.
Dr. John Jett, Monongalia County WVU extension agent, will instruct a class on biointensive organic gardening.
"It is a more concentrated means of gardening using double digging methods to turn the soil and the incorporation of a lot of organic matter in the form of compost or cover crops," he said.
Reger says that these clinics provide an opportunity for the Extension Service to extend its outreach programs to a greater population "to provide education and training by Master Gardeners."
The success of the program, begun in 1972, has been remarkable with over 50,000 Master Gardeners across the country and in Canada completing the Extension Service Master Gardener Program.
The West Virginia Program, which consists of 30 hours of instruction and a final exam, has trained more than 300 Master Gardener volunteers in over 17 counties.
In addition to the course work and exam, each candidate must fulfill a 30-hour volunteer commitment before becoming certified. Certification must be maintained each year by receiving no fewer than six hours of continuing education and performing no less than six hours' volunteer work, explained Eneix-Chong, who will instruct a class on growing herbs or medicinal plants.
Some of the public service projects completed by the local chapter have included plantings and garden spaces for the Clarksburg and Bridgeport public libraries and Fort New Salem, a perennial bed at a local nursing home and gardens for low-income elderly.
"We received the Earth Team Award presented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service for a residential composter project, held in cooperation with the West Fork Soil Conservation District and Solid Waste Management. We built the composters, compiled instructions for their use and distributed them to the public free of charge," said Eneix-Chong.
Master Gardener classes are offered each year beginning in January. To enroll, call the WVU Extension Office at 624-8650. The Extension Office can also answer any questions concerning the spring clinic.
Lifestyles writer Darlene Taylor can be reached at 626-1439 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.