The University of Florida Extension Office in Okaloosa County is taking applications for the 2018 Master Gardener volunteer training course.

The Master Gardener Program in Florida is a joint endeavor of the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and gardening volunteers in participating counties.

This program is designed to recruit and train volunteers to help meet the demands placed on extension personnel by home gardeners.

The mission of the Master Gardener volunteer program is to assist Extension Agents in providing research-based horticultural education to Florida residents.

Primary requirements for participation in the Master Gardener Program are:

•A sincere interest in horticulture.

•Willingness to work with and help other people.

•Time and flexibility to complete all requirements of the program.

Master Gardener training classes will be held 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Tuesday from Jan. 9 to April 17. Most of the classes during this 15-week course will be held at the Gerald R. Edmondson Extension Building, 3098 Airport Road, Crestview.

Instruction includes classroom training by County Extension faculty and UF-IFAS Extension specialists.

Training includes sessions on botany, soils, insects, plant pathology, landscape plant care, vegetable and fruit gardening, lawn management, landscape design and irrigation.

After successfully completing the program, participants will be ready to begin 75 hours of volunteer service agreed to in return for training.

Volunteer activities include answering questions via phone calls, emails and walk-in visits at the Extension office from other gardeners wanting landscape or garden information. Master Gardeners give and/or assist in giving educational presentations for various groups. They help staff plant clinics to assist in diagnosing lawn, landscape and garden problems. They create, install and staff educational exhibits. They provide technical advice to teachers who wish to have garden projects at their schools and assist with the 4-H youth program.

Other duties include acting as judges for contests or fairs. They may write and/or compile information for newsletters and news articles. They conduct soil tests. They install and/or maintain demonstration gardens. They also are responsible for keeping records of their volunteer activities and attending recertification courses to stay current in the field of residential horticulture and environmental issues.

Basically, their volunteer activities are designed to assist the UF-IFAS Extension Office while providing reliable horticulture information to the residents of Okaloosa County.

The course fee is $150. Space is limited.

Call the Extension office at 689-5850 to request an application for the 2018 Master Gardener volunteer training course. Applications must be returned by Dec. 1 to be considered.

Larry Williams is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.