As the popularity of home gardening soars, members of the Oktibbeha County Master Gardeners are making plans for a number of activities to provide technical assistance and encouragement to area residents. That includes seasoned gardeners and those who may not know where to begin.
During this unsettling period when the global pandemic forced huge adjustments in normal activities, the U.S. Burpee & Co. reports it sold more seeds than at any time in its 144-year history.
“Not only were many furloughed Americans confined to work from their homes,” said Hampton Fowler, president of the local Master Gardeners organization. “The sudden lack of social and sporting opportunities — coupled with business and school closings — had folks scrambling to find outdoor activities while confined to their homes,” he added.
Packed garden shops across the state are further testimony to the popularity of all things “gardening”, added Tom Seitz who is heading up the upcoming plant sale conducted by the Master Gardeners. It is held to fund scholarships for students pursuing degrees in horticulture at Mississippi State. He and some 50 members of the local organization have been working since February, planting and tending a variety of plants including edibles and colorful plants and flowers for the sale.
The discounted plants may be purchased at the Starkville Farmers Market on Saturday, April 24, and again on Saturday, May 1. It will be held in the public park on Lampkin Street, adjacent to Firehouse No. 1. Hours are 8-11 a.m. Master Gardeners will be available to offer advice and assistance on the care and ideal growing conditions for purchases.
In a related activity, the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service offers a six-week curriculum each spring to allow interested citizens to learn more about gardening, especially in this region of the state. The cost of the program which includes all materials, supplies and one year membership in the organization is $125. All classes this year will be conducted online. Deadline to register is April 15. For more information, call 662-323-5916.
When classes are completed, interns volunteer for 20 hours of service in order to qualify as Master Gardeners. For others who may just want to learn more about gardening rather than membership can take the online classes for $200.
Other projects include the annual Tomato Battle for the largest tomato in the county, assistance to the Catch-A-Dream Foundation and working with elementary students to give them hands-on gardening experience.
“One of the most rewarding parts of the International Master Gardeners program is working side by side with other, often more experienced gardeners,” said Joe Dier, who co-chairs the membership committee with Page Leftwich.
The Oktibbeha County Master Gardeners has received numerous state awards for its activities. Membership has almost doubled in the past two years.
For more information, contact the Oktibbeha County Extension Service, 662-323-5916.