One Master Gardener's Experience

By Amy Vu, UF/IFAS Orange County Urban Horticulture agent and Master Gardener program coordinator

A woman standing on an attractive deck that includes planters for fruit trees and other potted plantsDuring her training for the 2017-2018 Orange County Master Gardener class, Andrea never imagined the amount of knowledge that would be gained in the four months of horticultural training. The Master Gardener program changed the way she approached horticultural practices—in her own yard and in her relationship with others.

After moving to Florida less than three years ago from Western Pennsylvania, Andrea and her husband gleaned information from surrounding garden clubs and other societies. However, the Master Gardener class trained her more than she could’ve imagined while helping her realize what she could do better in her own yard to be more Florida-Friendly.

As a direct result from the instruction and information given during the fall Master Gardener training, she made incredible changes. She changed her mulch, reduced the amount of irrigation she uses (resulting in a 35% decrease in water usage), increased the diversity in her landscape, used plant propagation techniques that helped reduce costs, learned how to fertilize and prune appropriately, and abides by the first Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principle, placing the right plant in the right place.

Through the course, Andrea began to speak more confidently about research-based horticultural practices, and felt more comfortable in conversation about horticulture. She also became aware of what the landscaping company she uses for her home was doing, and through that, built a stronger relationship with them. After speaking with the company, she was pleased to find out that all of their practices were directly in line with what the class was learning in the program.

Before the training, Andrea had very little horticultural knowledge. But after completing the program, she decided to volunteer at the Orange County Extension's plant clinic answering homeowner horticulture questions. The Master Gardener program teaches members about gardening, landscaping, and other horticulture topics, but more than that, it creates a positive effect where Master Gardener volunteers are making a difference in their own space in this world.

April is National Volunteer Month, when we celebrate the work that volunteers do year-round. Volunteer Month recognizes and promotes the spirit of service, and raises awareness about how volunteering changes lives and strengthens communities.