LSU AgCenter Master Gardeners Beautify Louisiana Teach Others

Robert J. Souvestre, Robbins, M. Leron, Coolman, Denise, Brew, Rafash E., Sistrunk, Myrl W., Cummins, Denyse B.  |  6/11/2005 1:35:29 AM

Graduates of the Louisiana Master Gardener program help teach others how to care for lawns and gardens, as well as volunteering in their communities on a variety of other projects. For example, those from East Baton Rouge Parish assist with plants at the LSU AgCenter’s Burden Center and its variety of display gardens.

Graduates of the LSU AgCenter's Master Gardener Program do more than plant gardens. They also help educate the public about the environment. For example, Julie Putman, a Master Gardener from Northeast Louisiana, is shown using the Enviroscape model to demonstrate water quality issues to a group of students at Earth Day activities at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe.

News Release Distributed 06/10/05

The LSU AgCenter is taking the learning process outside to teach volunteers how to make the state more beautiful by successfully planting flowers, shrubs, vegetables and other portions of the landscape.

The education is coming from LSU AgCenter agents and volunteers in its Louisiana Master Gardener program.

Graduates of the Master Gardener program are doing several projects around the state designed to enhance the natural beauty Louisiana is known for.

One example is a project Master Gardeners are doing in Bastrop. Dr. Ron Robbins, an LSU AgCenter area horticulturist in Northeast Louisiana, said Master Gardeners there are serving as educators at schools in Bastrop and Monroe.

"We have volunteers in Bastrop who are teaching students at H.V. Adams School about landscaping, plant preparation and safety," Robbins said. "They also are teaching the parents and teachers about landscaping and beautification.

"At Robinson School in Monroe, Master Gardeners are teaching students and teachers about beautifying their school by landscaping different parts of the school grounds."

The project in Bastrop is being financed through a "learn and serve" grant the Master Gardeners helped secure, Robbins said, adding that another project the Master Gardeners in that area will work on is a community beautification project where they will beautify sections of U.S. Highway 165 that run through Bastrop.

The Master Gardeners program is growing all over the state. Bob Souvestre, Louisiana Master Gardener program coordinator for the LSU AgCenter, said the state’s Master Gardener program provides invaluable training and educational opportunities.

There are 22 active Louisiana Master Gardener programs, with more than 1,217 Master Gardeners in Louisiana who have received training from the LSU AgCenter and are, in turn, volunteering in their communities.

"This program is designed to recruit and train volunteers to help meet the educational needs of home gardeners while providing an enjoyable and worthwhile service experience for volunteers," Souvestre said.

The first class of Master Gardeners in Lincoln Parish just graduated. Terri Cooper of Louisiana Gardener Magazine is one member of the class and said it was a "wonderful" experience.

"I have really enjoyed being a part of Master Gardeners," Cooper said. "I had heard about the program and knew it would be beneficial for the community because it would provide information and materials people need to learn how to grow plants."

According to Rafash Brew, an LSU AgCenter area agent in North Central Louisiana, the Lincoln Parish class was comprised of 25 members.

"Everyone was very positive and upbeat about the program," Brew said. "We had a varied group – from farmers to educators to homemakers and so on. We had such a good response we’re planning to have another class next year."

The Lincoln Parish group is planning to show off what they’ve learned by having an expo in the fall at the Ruston Civic Center. They also are working to form an association, and they will do a project for the city soon.

Northwest Louisiana Master Gardeners recently raffled off an "Extreme Garden Makeover." Denyse Cummins, an LSU AgCenter area horticulturist in Northwest Louisiana, said the garden makeover will be used as a learning experience.

"This will be an excellent opportunity to teach people about growing gardens in Louisiana," Cummins said. "We will plant the winning garden in the fall, which is the best time to plant gardens in Louisiana. Plants and shrubs planted in the fall have better root systems and don’t need as much water as those planted in the spring. Plants and shrubs planted in the fall also come up twice as big in the spring."

The winning garden also will be included in the Northwest Louisiana Master Gardeners Annual Spring Garden Tour, Les Tour Des Jardins, beginning in 2007.

The Master Gardener program attracts members from both large and small communities – and its efforts sometimes span larger areas.

One example is a landscape project recently completed by the Delta Master Gardeners, a multi-parish effort including members from Concordia, East Carroll, Madison, Richland, Tensas and West Carroll parishes. The project involved landscaping at the West Carroll Parish Library.

Myrl Sistrunk, an LSU AgCenter agent in West Carroll Parish, said this is one of the first projects that group has undertaken since completing Master Gardener training in March.

"This project involved the Master Gardeners plus seven additional adult and youth volunteers," Sistrunk said. "Funding was provided by the library board."

The Louisiana Master Gardener program is divided into two parts – instruction and service.

In the first part, participants receive 40-50 hours of intensive, practical horticultural training. A few of the topics covered in the program are soils and plant nutrition, basic plant pathology and entomology, vegetable gardening, fruit culture, woody ornamentals, annuals and perennials, lawn management, environmental horticulture and problem solving.

After successfully completing the classroom portion, which involves regular attendance and passing a final exam, participants receive the title of Louisiana Master Gardener and an official name badge. Then Louisiana Master Gardener graduates volunteer a minimum of 40 hours of service to complete the last part of the program.

To learn more about the Louisiana Master Gardener program, go to http://www.lsuagcenter.com/mastergardener/.

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Contacts: Rafash Brew at (318) 368-9935 or rbrew@agcenter.lsu.edu
Denyse Cummins at (318) 741-7435 or dcummins@agcenter.lsu.edu
Ron Robbins at (318) 323-2251 or rrobbins@agcenter.lsu.edu
Myrl Sistrunk at (318) 428-3571 or msistrunk@agcenter.lsu.edu
Bob Souvestre at (225) 578-1030 or bsouvestre@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer: A. Denise Coolman at (318) 547-0921 or dcoolman@agcenter.lsu.edu

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