About 131 hopeful gardeners took 16 weeks of online training last fall and this winter to learn how to become better gardeners and put that knowledge to use in their communities this coming growing season.
The weekly course started in September and ended the second week of January.
Master Gardener training – that had been offered face-to-face in 20 counties – went online to help accommodate those who work, have families or simply can’t make it to an in-person training.
The fall number compares to about 150 who had taken face-to-face training the previous two years.
“The great thing about online classes is that all of the participants and the speakers can join from their home or office, and it doesn’t require driving through a blizzard to get to class,” said Hilgert. “And the classes are live, so participants are able to interact with instructors to ask questions and have discussion.”
Recordings are available for those who could not attend the live class.
Hilgert also noticed many in the live class were tuning into the recording to take notes or review lessons.
Master Gardeners receive training in horticulture from UW Extension educators. Classes included botany, soils, growing fruits and veggies, season extension, lawn care, trees and shrubs, annuals and perennials, plant diseases, weed management, entomology, landscape design, house plants, back yard greenhouses and the Master Gardener volunteer program.
Out of the 23 Wyoming counties, 21 were represented in the online class. Hilgert said there were also a few snowbird participants, those who live in Wyoming in the summer and elsewhere in the winter, and a Wyoming resident serving in the Air Force participated from a military base in Italy.
Almost all who took the course said they were going to implement practice changes, like selecting plants suitable for Wyoming, improving soil quality, using natural resources wisely, managing pests in sustainable ways and managing their landscapes and gardens in sustainable ways, said Hilgert.
Completing the training is the first step to becoming a Master Gardener. To become a certified Master Gardener, individuals also volunteer 40 hours of time and offer garden-related educational events in their communities. Last year, over 200 Master Gardener volunteers reported over 9,700 hours of volunteer service across Wyoming.
“The online class will help those numbers grow,” said Hilgert.
Master Gardeners work with their communities to put together educational workshops, support farmers markets, community gardens and demonstration gardens, and promote youth activities through school gardening programs and partnerships with 4-H.
“The knowledge they gain through the program is knowledge they can share to their communities,” said Hilgert.
There are active Master Gardener programs in most Wyoming counties, and UW Extension plans to continue offering training online and face-to-face.