Many people list being outdoors and tending to their plants and vegetables among their favorite pastimes. In fact, according to the National Gardening Association, gardening is a $35 billion industry.
Columbia County resident Sharyn Altman is president of the Georgia Master Gardener's Association, a nonprofit organization that provides volunteers who work with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences' Cooperative Extension Service. There are about 30 master gardener chapters in the state.
Last year, 562 new master gardeners completed training and more than 2,000 veteran master gardeners returned to the program.
According to Altman, nearly 200,000 volunteer hours were put in by the master gardeners in various gardening-related projects, from judging shows to conducting demonstrations to making presentations to home garden visits. In fact, the master gardeners have their own special day, as proclaimed by the governor of Georgia.
Prior to becoming president of the GMGA in January, Altman made it her mission to form an Augusta-area master gardener chapter, which is now recognized by the state association.
Master gardeners in Columbia and Richmond counties have long contributed to their communities, but a chapter was never formed. The Augusta Master Gardeners group was officially chartered under the leadership of Richmond County extension agent Sid Mullis in December.
One of the group's upcoming projects is its annual Hydrangeas Galore plant sale, to be held at Pendleton King Park in Augusta on May 31. Beginning at 10 a.m., the public sale will offer hydrangeas from three major wholesalers.
In 2004, local master gardeners, in cooperation with the Augusta-Richmond County Trees and Landscape Department, established the hydrangea park at Pendleton. Volunteers raised the funds, established the beds and planted more than 400 hydrangeas, representing 60 varieties of the plant.
The master gardeners are also planning a child-friendly event in June.
Master gardeners not only volunteer their time, they share their knowledge and are willing to help fellow gardeners -- novice or expert -- who need advice.
"Who doesn't like gardening and plants?" asked Altman. "It's just real fun."
For more information about the GMGA, go to georgiamastergardeners.com.
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