Another gardening season is coming to a close. You may be muttering to yourself, “Why didn’t my tomatoes work this year?” Or, “What’s wrong with my lawn!?” Or, in thinking ahead to next year, “What can I grow on my apartment balcony?”
For 40 years, the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association has served as the area’s experts in helping local gardeners with a host of horticultural conundrums—from selecting the right plants and understanding how to care for them, to conducting home soil tests and helping address pest issues.
“The Fairfax County landscape has changed dramatically over the last 40 years,” said Adria Bordas, the Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent for Fairfax County. “Having such a strong network of experienced, talented and committed volunteers has had an amazing impact when it comes to enriching the beauty, health and variety of plant life we enjoy around our homes and throughout our communities all year long.”
Every year, Fairfax County Master Gardeners host more than 400 plant clinics and respond to hundreds of phone calls and emails in providing “how to” assistance local growers to help ensure healthy produce, beautiful blossoms and green lawns. The program has an assortment of willing speakers to teach and entertain audiences of all ages about topics from “Attracting Desirable Wildlife” to “Xeriscaping.” Fairfax County Master Gardeners also operate an award-winning diagnostic lab that receives and analyzes soil samples, pests, plant diseases and other unhealthy materials for diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
It takes more than fancy planting to transform a local planter into a “Master Gardener.” Master gardeners come from all kinds of backgrounds—from horticultural professionals to experienced hobbyists. In all cases, individuals must:
- Attend 30 hours of training annually for three years.
- Perform 24 hours of service annually for three years before they can claim the prestigious “Master Gardener” certification.
Just this year, the Fairfax County Master Gardeners welcomed 45 new interns into the three-year training program.
“The work of our Master Gardeners reaches from acres of public lands to the simple box garden in a homeowner’s backyard,” Bordas added. “The fact that the program has been so successful for 40 years is a real tribute to the volunteerism and environmental stewardship that exists in Fairfax County — and the results are literally a sight to behold.”
(Editor’s Note: Fairfax County is home to two Master Gardeners groups – the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association and the Green Springs Master Gardeners program. Both programs operate under direction of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service – part of a national program that provides research-based information and services to improve the quality of life in communities throughout the Commonwealth.)