The Louisiana Master Gardener program, a service organization of the LSU AgCenter, continues a wide array of volunteer activities around the state.
Rene Schmit, LSU AgCenter Master Gardener coordinator, oversees more than 1,700 members in 44 parishes.
There are now 23 Master Gardener associations throughout the state with a wide range of programs, Schmit said.
“They get involved in everything from plant health clinics to manning booths at fairs and festivals,” he said. “In Shreveport, the master gardens raised funds to provide $20,000 in grants for community education.”
Some of the Master Gardener associations are involved with youth gardening programs and working with the schools. Others have established community gardens.
As Master Gardeners continue to grow in numbers, they increase the number of people learning about gardening and becoming involved in gardening, according to Schmit.
“East Feliciana Parish Master Gardeners are working with home-schooled students to get them involved in gardening,” he said. “In the river parishes, the master gardeners are working with the schools to generate interest in gardening.”
A recent Master Gardener Appreciation Day at the Hammond Research Station demonstrated how much their volunteer service to the LSU AgCenter means, said Regina Bracy, resident coordinator at the station.
“This is just a way to show our appreciation for all of the volunteer efforts they give to the AgCenter,” she said. “This is also an educational program for them because we have beautiful grounds; we have some the newest plants, and we have plant evaluations here.”
Over 270 master gardeners attended the program that featured presentations on plant genetics by LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. Mississippi State University horticulturist Gary Bachman gave a presentation on his favorite plants, and LSU horticulturist Allen Owings gave tours of the sun garden.
Gill’s presentation on plant genetics explained the difference between varieties and genetic manipulation by man and by nature. He talked about new varieties and discussed the variations that can be encountered by using seed from hybrid plants.
“Hybrids will produce only one good generation crop with ‘hybrid vigor,’ where the best genes are expressed,” Gill said. “In the following seed generations, the genes are mixed. Therefore, growing the hybrid seeds is not practical.”
Gill explained that genetic mutations, good and bad, are produced by radiation and chemically induced changes to the DNA of the plant. Man-made radiation is usually from high intensity X-rays.
“The Master Gardeners need to know this information so they can pass it on to the public,” Bracy said. “And since most Master Gardeners also are avid gardeners themselves, an event like this gives them an opportunity to just come out here to have fun and to learn.”
For additional information on the Louisianan Master Gardener program, or to become a Master Gardener, contact your LSU AgCenter parish office or visit the web site at www.LSUAgCenter.com/mastergardener.