There is still time to send in your application for the Master Gardener Program to be held from January through April, 2013. The Master Gardener Program is an educational outreach program that is part of the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System. Although it rotates on an annual basis throughout the state, in 2013 the program will be offered at the University of Connecticut Extension office in Haddam, as well as in Brooklyn, West Hartford, Stamford and Bethel.
Classroom instruction takes place one day a week for 16 weeks, and is followed by an internship that involves thirty hours of supervised work in the Master Gardener Program office, answering gardening inquiries, as well as thirty hours devoted to a community outreach project.
The excellent web site which provides much more information about both the basic and the advanced programs is here.
Applications must be sent to the office where you want to take the class, and postmarked not later than October 26, 2012.
I found the program to be not just educational and fun, but actually life-changing. A fair number of my classmates and other friends who have taken the program have gone on to careers in horticulture. Although quite a lot of retirees take the course, so do many younger people who are looking for a new venture. I have met young people who have invested in small farms, who wanted a better grounding in growing vegetables and fruits, and particularly liked the Integrated Pest Management training they received.
One of the great aspects of becoming a Master Gardener is getting access to many other courses of study. The Master Gardener Symposium, held annually, always offers excellent speakers. Master Gardener graduates are invited to attend the Meskwaka Tree Project, which focuses on urban and community forestry. The Coverts Project is another Extension-provided weekend program that is geared toward managing woodlands. especially for wildlife protection.
For those who move on to working in landscaping, the CT Nursery and Landscape Association offers an intensive evening program that leads to certification as an Accredited Landscape Professional. And, for the tree-huggers, there is Arboriculture 101, offered by the CT Tree Protective Association and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
So winter may be on its way, but there is much that a gardener can do to prepare for next spring, besides just browsing the seed catalogs.