New Crop Of Master Gardeners

Growing food isn’t as easy as it may seem. I’m growing a variety of potted herbs as well as eggplant, chili peppers, kale, Swiss chard and cherry tomatoes from seeds that are adapted to Kauai’s climate. My plants dine on worm castings, compost tea and organic fertilizer. Despite this care, something is munching the eggplant, green worms devour kale, and chili pepper leaves are spotted with yellow.

If you struggle with the same issues, you might be interested in the Kauai Master Gardener Program, which is administered by the University of Hawaii (UH) College of Agriculture and Human Resources Cooperative Extension Service.

Students receive about 48 hours of classroom training, including basic botany, plant physiology, soil and fertilizer management, plant propagation and pruning, plant pathology and diseases, the study of insects, environmentally sensitive approaches to pest and weed management, organic gardening, vegetables, fruits, ornamentals, native plants of Hawaii, lawns, ground covers, tropical plants and lei flowers.

Kim Perry, extension agent and Kauai Master Gardener coordinator, will teach the introductory class, which covers gardening in Hawaii. Other teachers include Jonathan Deenik, Ph.D., soil specialist and UH professor; Hector R.

Valenzuela, UH professor of vegetable crops; Dr. Joe Defrank, professor of Weed Science UH Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Science; Theodore J. K. Radovich, Ph.D., and UH associate specialist of Sustainable and Organic Farming Systems Laboratory.

After completing the 16-week classroom training, students volunteer in a variety of capacities including staffing the plant question helpline, developing demonstration gardens, growing plants to sell at garden fairs, writing for the Master Gardener newsletter, Facebook page or local paper, conducting Internet or field research, teaching and consulting at school and community gardens or offering lectures and workshops at various venues around Kauai. A minimum of 40 hours of volunteer service and 10 hours of continuing education per year are required to maintain active status in the program.

Besides growing your own food, you’ll meet people who are passionate about gardening through membership activities such as the Master Gardener Continuing Education Program, monthly meetings, field trips, statewide conferences, workshops and social events.

Kauai Master Gardner volunteers assist the university in its mission to deliver relevant, research-based, environmentally sound horticulture information to the public. Through community outreach and education, the university strives to promote sustainable gardening practices and environmental stewardship on Kauai.

The program is equivalent to a college-level introductory horticulture course and only costs $140. Applications now are being accepted for the 2014 Kauai Master Gardener Training Program.

Classes are held Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon, from Feb. 13 to May 29 at Kauai Agricultural Research Station in Wailua. Priority will be given to applications received by Dec. 15. For more information or to register, call Kim Perry at 247-3478 or email kperry2@hawaii.edu.

Marta Lane is a Kauai-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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