Uof I Master Gardener courses resurrected

The UofI Master Gardener has been brought back as the Tri County Master Gardener Training program. Stock photo
Philip A. Janquart
After three long years, the University of Idaho has resurrected its Master Gardener course.
 Re-tooled as the Tri County Master Gardener Training program, participants once again have the opportunity to delve deeper into what many consider both a practical and therapeutic hobby.
 The training series begins Friday, Feb. 9 at the Payette Public Library, located at 24 S. 10th St. in Payette and runs from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (Please bring your own lunch.)
 The series will continue every Friday through April 26, 2024. The cost for individual participants is $120, though UofI is offering a special deal for volunteers.
 “This year is unique in that the University of Idaho gave us a little bit of money to get this up and going again, so if individuals complete 30 hours of volunteer time, we will reimburse them $100 of that $120,” said UofI Extension Educator Joey Peutz. “That doesn’t usually happen; it’s kind of a unique thing we are doing for our first year back. We are not always going to have that extra funding to support notebooks and all the labs and everything that comes with it.”
 The program, she noted, actually has two components.
 “A Master Gardener is someone who would like to learn more, go deeper into developing their gardening skills, but it’s also a volunteer development program,” Peutz said. “They will give time back to the community and help the UofI Extension’s outreach efforts. That means helping us to answer questions in the community. We get a fair amount of people coming in and just asking questions, and we will probably set up plant clinics where people can bring samples in and talk to a volunteer. We have a list of volunteer opportunities, so that’s a piece of it.”
 The program was hampered across the state beginning in 2021, in part, by the pandemic, but was destined to be discontinued in Washington County when former UofI Educator Mary Ridout left the extension office. 
 Ridout, who holds a doctorate in Agriculture and Natural Resources from UofI, accepted a position at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario prior to the 2021 growing season. 
 Tyler O’Donnell was ultimately hired to fill the vacancy. His areas of expertise, however, include livestock, animal breeding/genetics, 4-H youth development, and rangeland management. Without Ridout’s specific expertise in horticulture, the Master Gardener program remained inactive until recently.
 “At the end of 2022, we did a statewide needs assessment and then had specific focus groups and … people were asking for Master Gardener workshops at this end of the Valley,” Peutz said. 
 The university has been working to bring the program back and has now developed a plan to make it work.
 “Our hope is to rotate it through the three counties,” she said. “So, it will start in Payette, but might rotate to Washington County next year, and then Gem County the year after that.”
 Leading the program, which is open to residents in all three counties, is Peutz, O’Donnell, and Gem County Educator Rebecca Mills.
 “Because none of us are horticulturists, we’ll have guest speakers that are experts in their particular area,” Peutz said. “Most of them, of the 12 weeks we are offering the program, will be in person, with one or two individuals who will participate via Zoom.”
 Participants will learn everything there is to know about gardening, including plant propagation, composting, and garden design, in addition to an entire section on trees; how to plant, prune, and select them.
 “We will also have a section on edible gardens, you know, your fruits, berries, herbs, and vegetables; and we’ll be talking about bugs, weeds, and perfect lawns,” Peutz said.
 To sign up for the program, visit https://tricountymastergardenertraining.eventbrite.com. For more information, call UofI’s Payette County Extension Office at (208) 642-6022.


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