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Maggie Schwegman: Understanding Master Gardening and garden club differences

Hopefully, other communities are as lucky as the Bemidji area is to have a Master Gardener organization and the Bemidji Garden Club. There are differences in the nature of the groups. The following information should help you decide which group might interest you.

— Master gardeners:

The primary goal of master gardening is to provide research-based information to the public, to teach others to have more success gardening in our northern Minnesota climate. Teaching people to protect the environment, to beautify the community, and to increase productivity in our vegetable gardens are other goals.

Master gardeners are representatives of the Extension Service of the University of Minnesota. They must complete a 48-hour course in horticultural topics through the University of Minnesota, either by classroom instruction or online. Following the coursework, there is a first-year requirement of 50 hours of educating the public through volunteer work in a variety of ways. Master gardeners continue to educate themselves and volunteer to maintain certification, finding great satisfaction and enjoyment in fulfilling these tasks.

Beltrami master gardeners sponsor two major semi-annual events: a Garden Party and a Garden Tour. They run the Horticulture Area at the county fair, maintain a horticultural hotline, appear on the radio and write articles for several area newspapers. They speak at Brown Bag lunch programs sponsored by the Kitchigami Regional Library System and to other groups. This busy group meets monthly.

If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, call the Beltrami County Extension office at 444-5722. A local Master Gardener will contact you to answer your questions and send you complete information about what you need to do to pursue this satisfying endeavor. 

— The Bemidji Garden Club:

You should know a little garden club history. The club has been in existence for many years, but in recent years had declined. The Master Gardeners took notice and strongly supported a renewal of the club, feeling our area was really missing something of value. With their guidance, the “new” club was formed.   

Local garden club members love to garden and want to learn how to be better gardeners. The club meets on the third Monday of each month. Meetings include a time for socializing, a short business meeting, and a garden question-and-answer period followed by a program of interest.

The club’s primary project is upkeep of the gardens at the Bemidji Public Library, which includes the “Little Bird” garden, a joint project with the Friends of the Library.

We encourage “garden gate visits” which are impromptu visits (upon invitation) to members’ gardens to view great plants or to help provide ideas for a garden that is having trouble. We have a plant sale each spring that is open to the public. We support the Master Gardeners in manning the horticulture area at the fair. We have two potlucks each year, just for fun.

The club is organized at the local level but is part of the Horticulture Society of Minnesota. All the garden clubs in the state are organized into districts; Bemidji Garden Club is part of the 12th District. Although each club has its own projects and interests, all can participate in the 12th District activities. These include two yearly meetings and a major project, the annual Flower Show. The show is usually held in July in Bemidji and is open for all to enter. Flower arrangements and individual flower and vegetable specimens are eligible for entry.

If you have questions or are interested in joining the group, please call Dot at 444-8388. You are welcome to attend a meeting or two before you join. Yearly dues are $15.

Seek horticultural information on the University of Minnesota Extension website at