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Jan Maas/Master Gardener: You can grow with us; How to become a Beltrami County Master Gardener

Do you really enjoy being outside during the warm months, digging in the earth and watching your garden grow?

Are you the one that friends and relatives turn to when they have gardening questions? Do people refer to you as the one with a "green thumb?" If so, have you ever thought about becoming a Master Gardener? Maybe you have, but quickly dismissed the idea because you just didn’t feel like you knew enough.

Truth be told, none of us Master Gardeners feel like we "know enough," but we’ve learned where to go for answers in the areas that are not our strong suits. That’s what the Master Gardener Core Course is all about. The course teaches basic information on a wide array of gardening topics taught by horticulture faculty at the University of Minnesota. The course materials are a wonderful resource for all the topics that are taught.

The Master Gardener program is a volunteer opportunity and our mission is education through promotion of research-based horticulture information. Each Master Gardener must volunteer at least 20 hours each year. These hours can be achieved in any number of ways from writing articles (yes, I get volunteer hours for this), helping at the fair, giving talks at the library or for other groups, working in the schools with children, helping on the garden tour or garden workshop, or even answering a neighbor’s question on what’s eating her rosebush. Those are just a few of the volunteer opportunities.

In order to be a Master Gardener in Beltrami County, the course must be completed online. It is doubtful the course will be offered face-to-face in Beltrami County anytime soon. The course starts in January and is completed in April. There is a total of 48 horticultural training hours. The cost is $275, of which one half will be reimbursed by the Beltrami Master Gardeners after the completion of internship hours. The first year after completing the core course is the internship and that year 50 volunteer hours are required for completion.

Now that I have piqued your interest, how do you go about getting registered for the core course? First of all, you have to complete the application. Email our local extension office at or call 444-5722 for information. The deadline for applications is Oct. 25.

Once you have applied, your application will be reviewed and an interview will be scheduled. The interview is done by two Beltrami County Master Gardeners and is very non-threatening. Mostly the interview is a way to meet you, learn a bit about your gardening experience and answer any questions you may have. You also must pass a background check, which is required by the University of Minnesota.

The Master Gardeners are not "all work and no play." We enjoy social events throughout the year, visit each other’s gardens, share cuttings and extra seedlings and learn from each other. However, we are in need of more members. If you are interested in gardening, please consider becoming a Master Gardener. It’s a rewarding experience.

To find reliable information about gardening and other horticultural topics, go to the University of Minnesota Extension website,

> Local master gardeners will also answer your gardening questions via a voice-mail service. Call 444-7916, leaving your phone number, name and the nature of your question. A volunteer master gardener will give you a call.