Expert Advice

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Every week from early March through September, various members of the Lee County Master Gardeners sit in a small room at the Extension Office on Cliff Gookin Boulevard and answer the phone.
The callers on the other end of the line all want talk about the same things: tomato blight, aphids, dying turf, galls, root rot, spider mites, non-blooming dogwoods.
The Master Gardeners consult books, pamphlets and the Internet, and draw from their own experiences to answer the questions from callers dialing the HortLine.
“We got 450 calls this past season and about 150 e-mails, too,” said Bill Fisher, one of the Master Gardener volunteers who helps man the HortLine.
Fisher and seven of his cohorts wanted to get a little more up close and personal with those callers this year, so they’ve decided to offer an “Ask the Experts” session during the 2010 Learning Series, which are informational classes designed to improve gardening skills.
Most of the Tuesday evening classes in the Learning Series, held monthly, are one-hour long, and with the exception of a Fall Decorating session, all are free. (That class costs $5 to pay for supplies.)
“We’re beginning to realize we’re in the public’s eye about gardening,” said Reginald Rose, who will answer questions at the May 25 session.
“With things getting tight, people are interested in gardening now more than ever,” said Paul Skinner, another “expert.”
In fact, last February during the 2009 Learning Series, the Master Gardeners had a three-hour session called “So You Want To Grow Your Own Food.”
More than 130 people packed a room designed to hold 60, and others were turned away at the door.
“We’re just glad the fire marshal wasn’t there to see us,” joked Fisher.
Three weeks later, the class was offered again and seating was limited to 50 participants.
“We learned our lesson with that one,” said Susan McGukin, program associate for volunteer management at Extension who oversees the Master Gardeners. “Registration is a must now that this series has gotten so popular.”
Topics this year will include garden decor, photography, warm weather vegetables, container gardening and butterfly gardens.
“All the classes we’ve had have been well attended because gardening is a hobby of many people in Northeast Mississippi,” McGukin said. “They want to increase their knowledge.”
To register for a class or to learn more, call (662) 841-9000. When the HortLine reopens March 1, feel free to call (662) 620-8280 or e-mail hortcenter01@yahoo.com.

2010 Learning Series
• Feb. 9: “Going Green,” 6 p.m. at Lee County Extension. Presenters are Donna Tucker, Sandy Witt, Carl Oglesby and Russ Hutcheson.
• March 9: “Warm Weather Veggies,” 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lee County Extension. Presenters are Bill Fisher, Russ Hutcheson and Carl Oglesby.
• April 13: “Photography in the Garden,” 6 p.m. at Lee County Extension. Presenters are Mary Nell Gardener, Thomas Wells and Reginald Rose.
• May 11: “No Mowing Required,” 6 p.m. at Lee County Extension. Presenters are Betty Lou Miller and Reginald Rose.
• May 25: “Ask the Experts,” 6 p.m. at Lee County Extension. Presenters are Bill Fisher, Jay Crouch, Carl Oglesby, Paul Skinner, Charles Wood, Nancy Lumsden, Sandy Witt and Reginald Rose.
• June 8: “Are You Creative? Lessons on Garden Decor,” 6 p.m. at Lee County Extension; Presenters are Kay Johnson and Susan Tackett.
• July 13: “Butterfly Gardens,” 6 p.m. at Lee County Extension. Presenters are Betty Lou Miller and Donna Tucker.
• Aug. 10: “Fall Gardens,” 6 p.m. at Lee County Extension. Presenters are Bill Fisher, Jay Crouch, Carl Oglesby and Susan Tackett.
• Sept. 14: “Containers for Fall,” 6 p.m. at Lee County Extension. Presenters are Charlotte Lindley, Reginald Rose, Jennifer Caldwell and Delois Page.
• Oct. 12: “Fall Decorating,” 6 p.m. at North Mississippi Research and Extension Service in Verona. Presenters are Charlotte Lindley and Mary Nell Gardener. $5 fee for supplies.

MG training classes set to begin Feb. 23
The Lee County Extension Service will offer the Master Gardener Training Course via interactive video.
This 40-hour training course will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Feb. 23. The cost of the course is $85, which includes the course manual and one year’s membership to the Mississippi Master Gardener Association.
The deadline for registration is Feb. 4.
To request an application or for additional information, call Susan McGukin at (662) 841-9000.