Fayette Master Gardeners serve the community as valuable volunteers

Tue, 02/06/2007 - 2:13pm
By: The Citizen

Fayette County citizens will be pleased to learn that the Fayette County Master Gardeners provide valuable volunteer services in several areas. The first important service is planting, maintaining and harvesting “Plant-A-Row for the Hungry,” a vegetable garden on county property that provides fresh produce for charity organizations such as Senior Citizens Center, Promise Place, Fayette Youth Protection Home, and Fayette Samaritans.

The second service is volunteers answering horticulture questions on the phone or for walk-ins at the Fayette County Extension Service Office at 140 W. Stonewall Avenue, Fayetteville, 770-460-5730 ext. 5412. In some cases, a knowledgeable volunteer, in a specific area, will make a visit to a home garden. An organization may request a volunteer speaker for their meeting. Members increase their knowledge at monthly meetings where speakers are provided on many topics.

The third service is sponsoring the “Junior Master Gardeners Program,” for third, fourth and fifth graders, which meets at the Extension Service Office on Stonewall Avenue to teach future generations about gardening. A section of the garden is set aside for this group.
The fourth service is maintaining a “Native Plant Garden” at the entrance of the Frederick Brown Amphitheater in Peachtree City.
A fifth service is assisting at plant sales. Also, Master Gardeners assisting at a free seminar sponsored by a local nursery and answering questions.

A sixth service is sponsoring a spring Master Gardener Garden Tour. In 2006 eight gardens were featured in Peachtree City. In 2007 gardens will be featured in Fayetteville. The Master Gardeners host at each garden.
A final service is offering to volunteer to work at schools, churches, assisted living homes, or hospitals.

In March 2006 there were 133 Master Gardeners listed on the Fayette County roster. The Fayette County Extension Agent (to be announced in late January and begin work in February), and Gail Marsengill, Horticulture Program Assistant, guide and assist these volunteers who are certified as “Georgia Master Gardeners.” To attain this certification each individual must be accepted in the South Metro Master Gardener Program that is taught once a year from January to end of March with a final exam. Ads are in the newspaper during the summer and fall seeking applicants. The course is sponsored by the University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Cooperative Extension Service. They have written the textbook and provide the speakers. Because applicants from many southern crescent counties attend the course, only ten applicants are accepted from Fayette County. Each Fayette graduating class plans and carries out a project which is part of their internship. The 2006 project was planning and planting a 26 x 9 section of the East Fayette Elementary School grounds in Fayetteville. Lifelong friendships are formed in these groups.

Master Gardeners come from all walks of life and have many interests, but gardening and sharing that knowledge and passion for gardening is the common thread that ties the individuals together. Art Ayres of Fayetteville, an active Advisory Board Member, was certified in 2001 and initiated the “Plant-A-Row for the Hungry Garden” because of his interest and knowledge in vegetable gardening. When he presented his idea to the Fayette County Extension Agent, the agent was able to get the county to loan a piece of land for the garden located behind the Extension Office. Art presented his vision to volunteers and together they started with a small plot of land full of rocks and clay. Today, five years later, the garden is 200 x 100 feet large with loads of rich top soil, an irrigation system, a compost pile, and a tiller.

In April 2003 Barry Braender received his certification and was asked by Ayres to organize the work for the summer in the garden. Since 2001 Art had worked several days a week organizing the volunteers and welcomed Barry’s help. Vauna Bellury replaced Barry summer of 2005. Then Tommy Waller joined the team of leaders. Don Adkins, a 2006 graduate, has joined the team of leaders. The garden has become too great a challenge for one leader. At present, work is done two days a week with Ayres, Bellury, Waller and Adkins each taking a month to guide the volunteers that show up. The volunteers hoe, weed, till, plant, fertilize, stake, harvest, weigh, and deliver the produce.
Art Ayres, for his perseverance and dedication, is to be commended for planning a difficult project in 2001 that required constant attention, planning, and delivery of the fresh produce to those in need. He deserves a conservation award for a project that will continue for years.

In the summer of 2006, Brent Chambers of Chambers’ Irrigation, Inc. generously donated an irrigation system valued at $1,500. He is located at 180 Walker Avenue, Fayetteville, 678-817-1107. The irrigation system contributed greatly to the garden producing 2,889.00 lbs. of vegetables in 2006. The Extension Service Office is grateful for Mr. Chambers donation. The Master Gardeners no longer have to water by hand. Several local nurseries donate potting soil and seed for free. The volunteers constantly amend the soil with torn bags of compost donated by Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart.

Each December there is a Master Gardeners Awards Luncheon. On December 4th, Gail Marsengill presented awards to Ayres, Bellury, Waller and Adkins for their leadership in the Plant-A-Row Garden. Also she presented awards to Peggy Roy and Tutt Larsen, leaders of the Native Plant Garden at the Amphitheater. The ten 2006 graduates received an award for their successful Intern Project.

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