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University’s landscapers share talents with community to earn Master Gardener status

BOONE—Eleven members of Appalachian State University’s landscaping crew will soon be certified North Carolina Extension Master Gardeners through classes offered by the Watauga County N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Boone.

View larger imagePaige Patterson, left, works with Jason Harkey and Greg Miller to identify pests found on samples taken from rhododendron plants around campus. Patterson is Watauga County N.C. Cooperative Extension Service’s consumer horticultural agent. Harkey and Miller are members of Appalachian State University’s landscaping crew who are earning North Carolina Extension Master Gardener certification. Patterson teaches the Master Gardener classes. Eleven members of Appalachian’s landscaping crew are earning the certification. (Photo by Marie Freeman)View larger imageJason Harkey, left, and Greg Miller trim 100-year-old hydrangea bushes around Bass Lake in Blowing Rock as part of the community service component of North Carolina Extension Master Gardener certification. The men are among 11 members of Appalachian State University’s landscaping crew who are earning the certification. (Photo by Marie Freeman)View larger imageMembers of the landscaping crew at Appalachian State University are pursuing North Carolina Extension Master Gardener certification. They are Jordan Gragg, front left, Jason Harkey, Greg Miller, David Wayne Pack and John Ballard. Pictured second row left are Eric Dendy, Matthew Carson, Shane Lee Reece, Michael Holman and Grant Powers. (Photo by Eddie Hyle, landscape services superintendent)View larger imageHorticultural specialist Daniel Burleson with Appalachian State University’s Landscape Services tends to annuals growing in a university greenhouse that were transplanted to one of the many flowerbeds on campus. Burleson, along with 10 of his fellow landscape crew members, is pursuing North Carolina Extension Master Gardener certification. (Photo by Marie Freeman)

The candidates for Master Gardener certification are Daniel Burleson, John Ballard, Jason Harkey, Shane Lee Reece, Gregory Miller, Jordan Gragg, Mathew Carson, David Wayne Pack, Grant Powers, Michael Holman and Eric Dendy.

To complete their certification, the men are volunteering on landscaping projects at the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the L.E. Harrill Senior Center in Boone, and in their communities.

“These gentlemen have completed 40 hours of class time to become certified Master Gardeners and are now completing 40 hours of agricultural-related volunteer work in the community,” said Mike O’Connor, Appalachian’s physical plant director.

“Members of our grounds crew have helped prune more than 300, century-old hydrangeas at the Moses Cone Estate and constructed raised planters for a garden at the L.E. Harrill Senior Center,” O’Connor said. “They are also working on individual projects, such as writing articles and fact sheets to be used at the Watauga Agriculture Extension Office. Some are helping elderly neighbors with their gardens, and in the future, some will help teach gardening classes to the public.”

The men are using the state’s community service leave and personal time to complete their volunteer work.

“Master Gardeners extend the cooperative extension service’s reach into the community, giving residents additional resources to turn to when they need gardening advice,” said Jim Bryan, the university’s landscape services superintendent. “This is Appalachian State’s way of ‘paying it forward’ to the community where many of us were born and raised.”

Paige Patterson, consumer horticulture agent with the Watauga County N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, teaches the Master Gardener classes. “The program has a very intensive curriculum that covers botany, soils, soil testing, insects, diseases and integrated pest management, plant propagation, landscape design, container gardening, annuals and perennials,” she said.

As part of their classwork, landscape crew members learned about Integrated Pest Management, a more sustainable insect control practice that focuses first on monitoring for insect issues before implementing chemicals as a last resort. The men also learned about soil testing, how to correct soil acidity and apply only necessary fertilizers. Pruning techniques that provide better structures for trees and shrubs that also are more visually appealing and less susceptible to damage were also taught.

“We’re very aware that we serve the state, and are constantly looking for ways to provide value not only to our students, but the broader community as a whole,” O’Connor said. “This is one creative way we can give back. We have raised the level of professionalism among our staff and they, in turn, are creating a more sustainable and productive environment for all of us, community-wide.”

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