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Purdue Extension Master Gardeners Help Indiana Gardeners Grow

Home horticulture and gardening continues to be an area of knowledge desired by many Indiana residents. An increased interest by consumers to learn to grow their own food has led many people to seek gardening information. Purdue Extension provided in-person and virtual basic training for gardening enthusiasts who desire to volunteer in consumer horticulture education projects. The training is at least 40 hours and covers required topics: plant science, soils and plant nutrition, plant disease diagnosis, weed ID and control, insect ID and control, invasive species, pesticide safety and alternatives, lawn care, herbaceous and woody ornamentals, vegetable and fruit gardening, and animal pest management. Participants who complete basic training and pass an exam become Purdue Extension Master Gardener Interns and commit to contributing volunteer hours assisting with gardening education in Indiana communities.

In 2022, 456 new interns completed training. As they reach 40 hours of volunteering, they will become certified Purdue Extension Master Gardeners in about two years. During the year, 2,727 Purdue Master Gardeners logged 158,097 volunteer hours valued at over $4 million. Master Gardeners logged 38,630 education hours in their communities and made 356,738 contacts with clientele. Master Gardener associations throughout the state awarded $31,500 in scholarships to high school and college students to study horticulture or other related fields, and donated 49,805 pounds of produce grown in 47 educational demonstration gardens to local food banks.

Of the 908 Master Gardeners who responded to the annual impact survey, nearly all (95.5%) reported they changed their gardening practices as a result of involvement in the program. Most-cited changes in practices were: 1) increased use of pollinator plants or use of practices that protect pollinators (16.3%), 2) choosing the right plant for the right place (15.1%), 3) removed/replaced invasive plant species (14.1%), 4) reduced yard waste headed to landfills by composting and/or leaving grass clippings on the lawn (13.6%), and 5) used environmentally sound pesticide practices (12.5%).

Master Gardeners shared their changed practices: proper fruit tree pruning techniques, raised bed gardens and cover crops, more native plants, created local pollinator garden, received Monarch Watch Certification, planning to add rainwater barrels this spring, soil improvement based on results on soil analysis, mulching the vegetable garden rather than hoeing. Master Gardeners shared skills gained for the community: increased confidence in knowledge of gardening to help others, confidence to answer questions from others, confidence to share knowledge of gardening with friends and neighbors who seek assistance, and working with city departments and leaders. After applying their skills, Master Gardeners reported these results: 1) increased efficiency of gardening practices (35.9%), 2) saved money by choosing the right plant for the right place (26.4%), 3) saved money through more effective use and/or purchase of pesticides or fertilizers (18.5%), and 4) increased fruit and/or vegetable yields (15.2%). Via the Master Gardener program, Purdue Extension provides gardening education and opportunities to share horticulture knowledge in communities

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