Central Nebraska residents with a green thumb who desire to increase their knowledge and serve their community are being encouraged to enroll in an upcoming series of Master Gardener Program training sessions being offered by Nebraska Extension in Hall County.

The first session will include six trainings on Tuesday evenings, Feb. 4 through March 10, from 6-9 p.m. The second session will feature daytime hours, 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m., March 9, 11, 13, 16, 18 and 20. All trainings will be at the Hall County Extension Office in Grand Island.

Organizers need sign-ups by the end of this week, so time to enroll is limited. To RSVP or for more information, contact Elizabeth Killinger at the Hall County Extension Office, 308-385-5088 or ekillinger2@unl.edu, by Friday. An informational brochure can be found on the Hall County Extension website, http://hall.unl.edu.

Educational topics will cover a range of horticultural issues. Topics that have been covered in previous training sessions include native plants for water conservation; an in-depth look at fertilizers, turfgrass and related insects; beneficial pollinating insects and vegetable garden pests; tree and shrub pruning; pesticide safety and non-chemical pest control techniques, and small fruits and tree fruit basics. Topics are focused on the home gardener, but those employed in the green industry also are welcome.

The sessions are open to the general public for an admission fee, but are designed for participants in the Master Gardener program, a horticulture-related volunteer training program that is active in many counties throughout Nebraska. Nebraska Extension launched the program in 1976. New Master Gardener registrations are welcome at this time.

Master Gardener volunteers are trained by Nebraska Extension faculty and staff. They contribute time as volunteers working with their local extension offices to provide horticulture-related information to their community. They pay a program fee that defrays the cost of training and other resources provided to them.

Participants are required to complete 40 hours of training and 40 hours of volunteer service during their initial year of involvement in the program. Master Gardener volunteers retain their certification through annual training and volunteer service.

Volunteer hours can be served through various activities, which could include planting and maintaining demonstration gardens, collecting data for research projects, helping with county and state fair activities, speaking to community groups, leading garden tours, collecting plant samples, answering phone questions, teaching youth programs, and more.

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