The first Extension Master Gardener program got its start 50 years ago at Washington State University, and to celebrate the golden anniversary, next week has been designated National Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Week.
What began with 300 volunteers in Washington state has grown to more than 84,000 volunteers across the country, University of Missouri Extension horticulturist and state Master Gardener coordinator David Trinklein said.
“It’s both inspiring and gratifying to work with Master Gardeners,” he said. “They show an eagerness to learn and have a passion for helping others.”
Nationally, Extension Master Gardeners connect with tens of millions of people each year, “rolling up their sleeves to empower local communities through horticulture — one person, one question, one garden at a time,” he said.
The program has a presence in all 50 states and three countries. Extension Master Gardeners are found at farmers markets, school gardens and classrooms, community and educational gardens, leading garden tours, contributing fresh produce to food pantries and staffing helpdesks ready to answer questions about gardening and horticulture.
In Missouri, Master Gardener volunteers help their neighbors use research-based practices that can improve their quality of life while conserving natural resources. Additionally, Master Gardeners inspire lifelong learning through continued exploration and discovery.
Trinklein said Master Gardeners in Missouri last year donated 133,208 hours of volunteer service to their communities worth an estimated $3.99 million.
To become a Missouri Master Gardener, individuals complete a 30-hour core training course then give 30 hours of volunteer service back to their communities in approved MU Extension activities. Training is offered in person and online.
More information about the Missouri Master Gardener program is available at local MU Extension centers and online at mg.missouri.edu.
Removing garlic mustard
Virginia bluebells, mayapples, spring beauties and other native plants are fighting invasive species for a place in Illinois forests.
But forest owners, land managers and natural area visitors can help by scouting for and removing garlic mustard.
“Garlic mustard is a high-priority invasive species for Illinois,” Christopher Evans, research and forest specialist with University of Illinois Extension, said. “Large infestations limit the growth and productivity of native plants and threaten the long-term health of forests.”
Garlic mustard’s early spring growth quickly can take over the first understory, becoming a monoculture in a few years. Infestations take away light, water and nutrients from native plants, which threatens the insects and wildlife that rely on them.
“The best way to manage garlic mustard is to keep it out of your forest,” Evans said. “Large infestations take a lot of time and effort to control, but catching plants before they spread is the easiest way to keep your forest healthy.”
Prevention methods include cleaning boots, tires and horse hooves to remove seeds. Monitor for garlic mustard plants every spring along forest edges, creeks, trails and in disturbed areas.
Garlic mustard plants are easiest to identify and remove when they flower, which starts in late February downstate and in mid-April in northern Illinois. The flowering stalk is one to four feet tall with triangular, toothed-edged leaves, and its small flowers have four white petals. Those visiting recreational nature areas should report sightings to staff and with the EDDMaps app or online at eddmaps.org.
Evans said there is a six- to eight-week window in spring to remove plants before they produce seeds and spread further. Removing garlic mustard is a multi-year process. Control options include mowing, cutting, hand pulling, prescribed burns and herbicides.
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