Dallas County Extension Office will be hosting a master gardener training program beginning Jan. 16 for those who want to learn more about gardening.

The master gardener class is taught by horticulture experts and includes more than 40 hours of web-based and face-to-face local training as well as a one-day session at Iowa State University campus.

Iowa master gardening training includes many aspects of gardening including soils, botany, houseplants, animal ecology, trees, herbaceous ornamentals, fruits, turf, and landscape design. Specialized, unique topics like plant diseases and entomology are also covered. To see a full description of the topics covered, visit the Iowa Master Gardener website at www.mastergardener.iastate.edu.

In his role as the local Master Gardener chairman, Judd Bristow is passionate about the importance of the program. "I am obsessed with how to get people, especially young people involved in the Master Gardener program!" said Bristow. "While everyone is busy, consider the benefits of shifting your recreational or leisure time to an activity such as gardening."

Master gardener participants are expected to share their time and knowledge in approved projects within their local communities. Trainees complete a one-year Master Gardener internship consisting of 40 hours of approved volunteer service projects. "Accomplishing the first year volunteer hour requirement was easy," said Bristow. "I volunteered at St. Patrick’s School in Perry, providing landscape information and guidance."

In subsequent years to maintain active Master Gardener status, an additional 12 hours of volunteer service and 6 hours of educational updates are required annually. Master Gardeners are committed to passing this gardening knowledge on to others. Since starting in Iowa in 1979, the Iowa Master Gardener program has trained over 10,000 people.

To register for the class, contact the Dallas County Extension and Outreach office at 515-993-4281 or email casimon@iastate.edu. More information and the application form are on the Dallas County website at www.extension.iastate.edu/dallas. The course fee is $195. Early registration deadline is Dec. 13. But as class size is limited, and we are on a first come, first served basis.

"This course would make a super early Christmas present for a family member or friend," said Cathy Simon, ISU Extension and Outreach Horticulture Education Coordinator. "Enhancing gardening skills from this course could easily last a lifetime."