The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) invites adults interested in helping others learn about gardening to apply to train to become Master Gardener volunteers. Master Gardeners learn university-based scientific information and then share their knowledge with the gardening community at events throughout the county. Volunteers are people of all ages and walks of life who share the common desire to help others learn about gardening.

All would-be volunteers go through background checks that including fingerprinting, which are required to become a Master Gardener.

Master Gardener membership is open to anyone in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties. Training classes for new volunteer candidates are set to begin Jan. 23 and continue through April 30 at sessions from 3 to 7:30 p.m., Thursdays, in Sonora. The classes include more than 50 hours of intensive training conducted by University of California personnel and horticulture specialists in various fields. Topics include water management, soils, composting, native plants, fruit production, plant diseases, entomology, integrated pest management, understanding pesticides and more.

After successfully completing the training program, certified Master Gardeners agree to fulfill annual volunteer service and continuing education requirements.

A $195 fee is charged to those who go through the classes to cover the cost of materials, which includes several reference texts.

Anyone interested in becoming a Master Gardener can fill out an application posted at ucanr.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=25510. For more information, and to learn where the classes are held, call 533-5695.

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