It's the first day of spring and many of you are getting ready to start planting at home. The UT-AG Extension's Master Gardener program can make your non-green thumb green, or your green thumb even greener. Hamilton County's program started almost 25 years ago and was designed to meet the gardening needs of communities while developing volunteers.

"I call it the 4-H for the older generation. Meaning, most of our people are in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s," says Tom Stebbins, Hamilton County Extension Agent.

Around 25 people filled the classroom at the Extension office on Tuesday. Stebbins says the classes cover a broad range of topics.

"Soil first, botany second, maybe third is trees. Then we get into landscaping, insects and disease," says Stebbins.." Today we covered composting for one half of the class, then roses."

It's a fun way for people who share a common interest to meet and work toward a common goal. They have to take classes for 15 weeks and volunteer at least forty hours of community service.

"They might get involved with a food bank. They might get involved with a school garden. We have several school gardens," adds Stebbins. "They might show up at the Chattanooga market."

They will also be at the garden expo in April.

Ron McKitrick is retired and has been gardening since a young age. He likes the credibility the program offers, as well as the education.

"I imagine every class I learn two or three new things. So, it increases my knowledge," says McKitrick.

He was a volunteer at the Atlanta Botanical Garden before moving to Ooltewah several years ago. The Master Gardener program is a great way for him to stay involved in his hobby and share his experience with other people.

"It's an opportunity to volunteer in the community, to answer questions and be available for that," adds McKitrick.

There is a Junior Master Gardener program for children and teens. The current series of adult classes ends on April 26, followed by a graduation party. New classes will begin in January of 2019.

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