Perfect site for gardener training

Published 6:24 pm Friday, February 3, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve figures winter is the perfect time to start training gardeners for summer outdoor projects. That is why the center is set to host another round of Master Gardener courses starting Saturday, Feb. 4.
Courses and instructors are selected by Michigan State University's Extension program in Berrien County, which has been organizing the program since 1990. MSU(E) also creates the curriculum for programs across the state. But, Joanne Davidhizar, the Berrien County Extension Director said she tries to pull from a pool of talent that is familiar with Southwest Michigan.
The facilities at Fernwood are also a large reason for the success of the Master Gardener training.
Course topics include lawn care, tree and small fruits, woody and herbaceous ornamentals, vegetable gardening and managing household pests. Executive director of Fernwood and instructor for the woody ornamentals course is Peter van der Linden. “The amount of information given in the training does not necessarily equal complete relaxation,” he said.
Just taking the course is not the end of the learning process, though. Both Davidhizar and van der Linden agreed the required volunteer work that follows the training is where people really begin to grasp the techniques.
Students are required to complete 40 volunteer hours during their first year and asked to perform 15 hours each year after taking the course.
In order to complete the Master Gardener training, Davidhizar said each of the seven courses must be completed. Those not interested in obtaining the Master Gardener certification can still attend individual classes as well. The first course is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 4 at Fernwood. Fernwood already has a full roster for the winter but Davidhizar said people can try contacting the Van Buren County extension program for openings at 657-7745. Fernwood can be contacted at 684-5274.