AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Does your spring garden have you stumped? Did a freeze burn your bulbs? Is there a deformed leaf on your azaleas? The Alabama Master Gardeners (MGs) are standing by, ready to answer questions on the Master Gardener Helpline.
The toll-free helpline connects callers with a knowledgeable team of MGs who can help answer all of your gardening questions. Armed with research and Alabama Cooperative Extension System publications, these volunteers also contact specialists to find the answers you need.
Kerry Smith, the Alabama Master Gardeners program coordinator, said the program is used to expand the outreach mission of Extension. Volunteers from MG groups around the state work the phones answering questions—running the gamut from vegetable gardens to lawns and trees.
“The helpline has been in existence since 2006, as a statewide effort,” Smith said. “We average about 20,000 calls to the helpline annually. The agents train these volunteers to expect the unexpected.”
Alabama Extension offices regularly receive calls concerning home grounds. Master Gardeners collaborate with county and regional Extension agents to answer inquiries accurately and in a timely manner.
Alabama Master Gardener Program
The MG program was developed to increase the availability of home horticultural information through qualified volunteers and to improve community life through community projects.
“The Master Gardener program is an example of partnership between the land-grant universities, Auburn University and Alabama A&M, and motivated volunteers interested in educating their communities,” Smith said.
MG volunteer programs have been implemented all over the United States and in four Canadian provinces. In order to become a certified MG, interns participate in a minimum of 50 hours of Extension training and 50 hours of initial volunteer service.
“Every volunteer contributes to the success of the program,” she said. “They offer the community reliable gardening information and educational opportunities. Volunteers help in the county Extension office, host Lunch & Learn programs, schedule Ask-a-Master-Gardener booths, manage demonstration gardens that teach and donate produce to charity, support civic festivals and county fairs, and more.”
Smith said roughly 1,700 volunteers reported 121,000 service hours in 2018.
The Alabama MG Program is based on the idea of shared ownership. Extension staff and volunteers share ideas, and responsibilities for the program. To that end, volunteers have the opportunity to work with other Extension programs, state agencies, county agencies and local schools and organizations. Master Gardeners represent Extension as educational resources for their communities, with an overall mission is to improve the quality of life where they volunteer.
Master Gardener Helpline
Home garden questions? Please call the Master Gardener Helpline at 1-877-252-4769. There is a Master Gardener waiting to answer your call.
Featured Image: Julietphotography/shutterstock.com.