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  • Writer's pictureMike Brown

Cultivate a Relationship with Durham's Master Gardener Volunteers

Calling Landscaping Subcircle member Jackie a "master gardener" is not just a nice compliment -- it's a certifiable fact.

Picture of Jackie MacLeod
Jackie MacLeod

In 2019, Jackie completed the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer training held by the NC Cooperative Extension for Durham County, enabling her to join other volunteers in providing research-based gardening information to the public.

The ... program began in North Carolina in 1979, and has grown to 88 programs in counties across our state. Extension Master Gardeners Volunteers are trained to help connect North Carolinians with the vast reservoir of horticultural knowledge and research developed at North Carolina A&T University and NC State University. Durham County Extension has nearly 100 volunteers in the Extension Master Gardener program. They help Durham residents learn more about a myriad of gardening topics, answer questions, conduct demonstrations and workshops, and help maintain Durham’s community garden at Briggs Avenue.

Once interns have completed their initial training, Extension Master Gardeners volunteer 40 hours of their time to the community every year. Beyond their initial training experience, they are able to attend lectures and workshops offered by state and national experts.

According to Jackie, the 15-week training included both classroom time and field trips and -- instead of a test -- concluded with a major project presentation to her teachers.

"The project has to meet a lot of specific criteria," she said. "You design a garden space for which you have to be able to triangulate and explain the movement of the sun throughout the year. Once you’ve added plants -- with environmental sustainability in mind -- you then address what weeds are likely to become a problem and how you will combat them."

Master gardeners in demo garden, watering plants
Working hard in the demonstration garden. Photo by Mary Knieram.

You may see Durham's Master Gardener Volunteers at the Farmers Market or at special events throughout the city and county. "We're there explaining what Master Gardeners can do for you, which is basically to help you with any problem you have in your garden. Not just soil testing -- which, by the way, you can get for free from October through April. You can call them or send an email or picture, or even bring them a twig that looks diseased and say, 'Help me, what's going on?'

"Master Gardener Volunteers are a great offering to the community that is very underutilized."


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