For those who want to venture out and exercise their green thumbs have a way to do so in the upcoming new year.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension - Burke County Center will be hosting Extension Master Gardener Program that has been around since the early 1970s and will teach the scientific aspects of gardening.

The 13-week class, which starts Jan. 16 and ends April 17, touches on all aspects of gardening that beginners would need to know to start off, but it also caters to those with more knowledge.

“Everything from plant propagation to vegetable gardening and pruning,” said Donna Teasley, the horticultural agent for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension for Burke County. “Whatever is out there, they will learn about it.”

The class meets at the N.C. Cooperative Extension Office in Morganton on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon during the 13-week period, she said.

The class includes various amounts of hands - on work, lectures, field trips and book work taught by multiple experts in the field of gardening, Teasley said

“We go out to Rock Creek Farms, a local orchard, which is Johnny Yancey who is a local peach grower and he teaches us to prune peach trees,” she said. “We go out to his orchard where the trees are and that way you have (trees) you can work on.”

There are only a certain amount of spots open and Teasley does not usually accept more than 30 people in each class. The class cost $125, which includes the cost of the text book and the class.

“This will be our 16th year … I have trained a lot of Master Gardeners,” she said.

They plan the class to end in April, so those who finish the class can put to action what they learned in the class at the start of the spring season.

Topics that will be covered in the class include insects and diseases of plants, plant propagation, planting seeds, building raised beds, landscape plans and woody ornamentals, vegetable gardening and how to care for annual and perennial flowers,

“There is so much (to learn) and they will learn the basics of soil and fertilizer,” she said.

“This is the cool thing about the program (in that) even though it is a learning program it is also a volunteer program for the extension,” Teasley said. “Once they complete the program , they agree to give the extension 40 hours of volunteer time (a year).”

They volunteer to complete projects for the community such as participate at local agricultural fairs, create and plant gardens, work with Habitat for Humanity, the Joara Foundation and other community programs, she said.

“This is just to improve the quality of the lives of the people of Burke County,” Teasley said. “It is so much more than just a gardening program … it is about enriching the lives of the Burke County people and also of the Master Gardeners.”

Those who are already volunteers in the program have come from near and far, she said.

“I have them from almost every state,” she said. “From Alaska, Rhode Island, Washington State, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and from everywhere.”

The most common reason those who are not from North Carolina join the group is because they lack the knowledge of how to grow in this type of terrain and soil, she said.

“The No. 2 reason is because they are lacking the friend base and you know how people do not stay strangers long when they are interested in the same thing,” Teasley said. “They all have that love of gardening.”

“We do a lot of good, but we also have a lot of fun,” she said.

For more information about the Extension Master Gardener class or to sign up, call the office at 828-764-9480. Find the group on Facebook by searching Burke County "Extension Master Gardener" Volunteers.

Staff Writer Jonelle Bobak can be reached at jbobak@morganton.com or 828-432-8907.

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