The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Master Gardener Program Offered


February 24, 2021

The Montana State University (MSU) Blaine County and MSU Fort Belknap Extension Offices invite both novice and advanced gardeners to participate in a Master Gardener program beginning March 2.

This is an eight week course that will take place on Tuesday evenings from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on March 2 through April 20. Upon enrollment, participants will receive a Zoom link that will enable them to participate in the virtual class.

The instructor will be Master Gardener and Family Consumer Science Agent with Fort Belknap Extension, Hillary Maxwell. "Naturally, gardening is exciting stuff! If you had told me a year ago that I would be using Zoom to do my job, I would have rolled my eyes. However, it's working very well, and we are reaching new audiences with our research-based programming. And we are having fun."

In Maxwell's description, this workshop series is the product of a cross-collaboration effort, which is a new emphasis by MSU-Extension. "Blaine and Phillips counties are innovative in their approach with Fort Belknap Extension, and I think that bears mentioning. We are sharing resources and reaching more people this way, especially amid the pandemic and other national concerns. Also, we are using technology in a way that maximizes limited resources and brings people together. We hope our model of cross-collaboration will be adopted by other extension agents, and the world in general," Maxwell said.

Maxwell went on to describe the class as one for beginners who want to learn more about the details of gardening as well as one for more experienced gardeners who want to become volunteers in the community to assist others.

Topic for week one of the series will be an introduction to soils, nutrients, and fertilizers. Week two will focus on plant growth and development, while week three will discuss vegetables.

During week four, herbaceous ornamentals and landscape design are on the schedule, and week five will take up the topic of planting and maintaining trees and shrubs. In week six, lawns and irrigation are on the curriculum list, and week seven will cover small fruit, tree fruit, and composting. The final week of the seminar will provide an introduction to integrated pest management.

In addition to a class fee, there is a cost for the course manual. All participants will receive the Montana Master Gardener Handbook and other informative handouts pertaining to the sessions. Participants can take the course to increase their own knowledge. If they want the Master Gardener certification and title, they must complete all of the course modules as well as pass an open-book exam and complete volunteer hours.

Those interested in receiving more information or wishing to sign up are encouraged to contact Maxwell via email: or Juli Snedigar, Blaine County Extension Agent, by calling 357-3200 or emailing

According to Snedigar, with the pandemic and consumers becoming more educated and informed, home gardening and food sustainability have become very important. "People want to be able to produce their own food for a variety of reasons. Being able to grow your own food gives a sense of pride and accomplishment."

Snedigar, who defers to Maxwell in the gardening arena, shared some information from the Montana Master Gardener website: "The Montana Master Gardener Program serves as an education and volunteer service organization. The program's purpose is to provide technical assistance and unbiased, research-based information in consumer horticulture to people in all Montana communities through qualified volunteers. Through the Master Gardener program, we empower individuals with sound horticultural practices that minimize negative impacts on the environment."

Both Maxwell and Snedigar expressed excitement about bringing Level 1 of the Master Gardener Program to the public and believe it will be worthwhile for participants.

"A key take-away for potential students is the message that well all can learn to do our part, become more confident, and enjoy safe and healthy foods from our gardens. Gardening is a learning process, so every year you will learn something new," Maxwell concluded.


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