Mastering the garden: Interns graduate program

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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Becoming a “master” at anything takes some time, tenacity and lots of effort. But, 10 area residents can now boast their mastery of gardening.
On Tuesday, May 16, the Escambia County Master Gardener interns were honored with a graduation ceremony at the Escambia County Extension office.
This spring, there were 10 participants in the Master Gardening training. Training consisted of 14 weeks of course material including topics like soil and composting, basic botany, integrated pest management, plant care and management, home lawns, vegetable gardening, and plant diagnostics.
Following training, interns were required to pass quizzes on the topics presented. In addition to coursework, Master Gardeners provide service to the community. Approximately 25 service hours were completed by each intern with another 25 hours to be completed by the end of the year.
Wendell Ray, one of the graduates of the program, said the course and information he learned went beyond his expectations for the class.
“The Master Gardener class exceeded my expectations,” Ray said. “The classes, videos, labs, and book were a wonderful learning experience. Making some great friends and learning from their vast knowledge was a highlight of my participation.”
Learning about important resources was also a welcome part of the course for graduate Joanna Varner.
“As a result of this course, I am more educated in what works best in various parts of my state and why,” Varner said. “I also know where to look and who to go to for research-based information. I have more hands-on learning experiences as well as many new friends I can call upon for help and advice that have been a part of this journey with me.”
In addition to learning about the gardening details for our area, Drake Dalton said the opportunity to meet like-minded people was good.
“This has been such a fun opportunity to meet and to learn with others who love plants as much as I do in our community,” Dalton said.
Carol Holland, also a graduate, said the class provided details and information for a good experience.
“The Master Gardener class has been a wealth of information as well as a learning experience,” Holland said. “Meeting new friends and volunteering for different projects has been fun along with the training and teachings of our teacher Jack LeCroy. Thank you for the learning opportunity and the knowledge that I now have.”
“Awesome experience – both gardening and meeting new people,” said Craig Jerkins, another grad of the program.
Millie Murphree, Escambia County Extension Coordinator said the group was a joy to watch as their learned and combined their efforts.
“It was rewarding and exciting to see a diverse group of individuals come together and to form a team who are armed with research-based information and servants’ hearts,” Murphree said. “This group will provide a solid foundation on which we can build a future of research-based gardening here in Escambia County”
The Master Gardener training is a hybrid course integrating online and in-person learning activities. The course content is developed using research-based horticultural information approved by Auburn University.
The objective of the course is to equip volunteers with reliable, research-based, gardening information needed to assist and support Extension’s mission to educate the citizens of Escambia County and the State of Alabama.
Registration for our 2024 class will begin in the fall of 2023 with coursework starting in late January or early February of 2024.
Anyone interested in becoming a Master Gardener or just for more information, call the Escambia County Extension Office, located at 175 Ag Science Dr. in Brewton, or contact us by phone (251) 867-7760 or email ( As always, Extension programs are open to anyone in the community. If your county does not offer Master Gardening training, we would love to have you in Escambia County, Alabama.

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