So, What is a Master Gardener?
At the beginning of each science class we teach in elementary schools throughout Tulsa County, we typically ask a question: Who knows what a Master Gardener is?
We get all kinds of answers (as you might imagine): someone who is good at gardening (we hope); someone who likes insects (most of the time); someone who likes plants (always yes).
Truth is, the question does not come with a simple answer because Master Gardeners do so many different things.
First of all, Master Gardeners are individuals who have decided they want to learn the proper way to grow and care for the wide variety of green and growing things we find on this Earth. But it takes more than desire to become a Master Gardener; you have to apply and go through an interview process before being accepted. Each year between 80 and 100 people apply for the 40 positions that become available each year. If you are accepted, you then complete over 80 hours of training taught by Oklahoma State University professors on a variety of horticultural topics.
After this, some say the real learning begins—because you serve for a full year as an intern working alongside certified Master Gardeners learning the ins and outs of what we do.
By definition, Master Gardeners are volunteer educators of the Oklahoma State University Extension service on a mission to provide research-based horticultural information to local home gardeners and the community. But that mission can take many forms.
One of the ways we fulfill that mission is by staffing a horticultural Diagnostic Center five days a week at the OSU Extension office. Monday through Friday between 9am and 4pm, Master Gardeners are available to answer your questions via phone, email or in person. Last year more than 4,000 residents of Tulsa County visited with us concerning their gardening issues.
Master Gardeners also teach classes to the general public. This spring we have two series of classes: our Urban Gardener Training, and our Lunch and Learn classes at the Tulsa County Central Library downtown. These classes cover a variety of topics including plant biology, soil chemistry, growing fruits and vegetables, lawn care, trees and shrubs, flowers, container gardening, etc.
Master Gardeners also teach a variety of science-based classes to elementary school students throughout Tulsa County. Topics include insects, seeds, butterflies, soil, trees, etc., and my personal favorite: worms! Last year we taught almost 700 of these classes to approximately 16,500 students! Each year we also host an Insect Adventure for over 1,000 students, which helps these students gain a respect for the wonderful variety of insects we share this planet with and the many benefits they provide.
You may have seen Master Gardeners out in the community at an Herb Festival or perhaps at our beautiful Home & Garden Show exhibit. Or you may have unknowingly visited one of our homes in the Master Gardener Garden Tour we host each spring.
Some Master Gardeners visit nursing homes to spend time with our seniors while engaging in a little horticultural therapy to brighten their day. Other Master Gardeners spend time landscaping yards for Habitat for Humanity homes so these new homeowners don’t just get a house but a beautifully landscaped home. And other Master Gardeners spend hours planting and maintaining beautiful flowers in planters in the Brookside and Blue Dome districts to help make Tulsa a more beautiful place to live.
Where does the money to do all of this come from? As a nonprofit organization, we have to raise the money, and one of the primary ways we do that is through our annual Spring Plant Sale. In our sale this year we have over 200 varieties of annuals, perennials, herbs, tomatoes, grasses, etc. You can view them in our online store in a variety of categories including sun, shade, part-shade and more.
So, the answer to the question “What is a Master Gardener?” comes with a complicated explanation, but one thing that remains constant through all Master Gardeners is that we share a love of gardening and are here to help you.
You can get answers to all your gardening questions by calling the Tulsa Master Gardeners Help Line at 918.746.3701, dropping by our Diagnostic Center at 4116 E. 15th St., or by emailing email@example.com. To find out more and to shop our plant sale please visit TulsaMasterGardeners.org