Colorado Master Gardeners: Junior Master Gardener program returns this summer | SteamboatToday.com

Colorado Master Gardeners: Junior Master Gardener program returns this summer

Jo Smith/For Steamboat Today

In collaboration with Routt County Master Gardeners, the Yampa River Botanic Park last summer hosted four Junior Master Gardening workshops for third through fifth graders.

Junior Master Gardening is a program from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service modeled after the successful Master Gardener program and offers horticultural and environmental science education through fun and creative activities.

The program is committed to helping young people become good gardeners and good citizens so they can make a positive contribution to their community, school and family. Participation in all Junior Master Gardener sessions (eight total) with a community service component qualifies a student to become a certified Junior Master Gardener.

In 2015, Yampa River Botanic Park junior gardeners enjoyed learning about the plants and animals of YRBP. Four workshops were held during the summer on Saturday mornings at the Trillium House. Students could attend any or all of the sessions, and each had a theme: how to identify plants, how do plants grow and reproduce, what do plants need to thrive and what is in a garden ecosystem.

Short informational lectures were followed by fun, hands-on activities. Students made plant collections using personal, handmade plant presses. They learned to identify common families of flowering plants with an easy dichotomous key. They dissected a variety of flowers and seeds to investigate the reproductive cycle of flowering plants.

Students also built terrariums and herb gardens to take home and constructed red worm recyclers (used for a decomposition process called vermiculture). They explored the gardens, transplanted several plants for resale and learned about the animal life in the park.

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One session also included identifying common weeds found in Routt County. Six Routt County Master Gardeners, along with Gayle Lehman, YRBP manager, provided instruction and insights into gardening in the valley. Everyone enjoyed the workshops, and several students attended all four sessions.

This summer, four new sessions for Junior Master Gardening will be offered, and once again, students are invited to register for any or all of the workshops. The Yampa River Botanic Park is constructing a new raised bed garden for the program in the Children's Garden section at the north end of the park, where students will be able to design, plant, tend and harvest their own plot. The themes for this summer are:

• Let's plant a garden,

• Keeping your garden healthy and productive,

• Insects in the garden, and

• Harvesting the garden.

Sessions will be held June 11 and 25 and July 9 and 23.

Similar to last summer's program, each workshop will include fun, hands-on activities, and Master Gardeners will share their love of gardening with the students. Master Gardeners with expertise in food preservation will assist with the harvesting workshop.

The Junior Master Gardener program is a great way to get kids interested in gardening. The program is designed for third- through fifth-grade students and is open to Routt County residents.

Registration for the workshops is available at the CSU Routt County Extension Office, 136 Sixth St. in Steamboat Springs.

Each session requires a $10 materials fee, and a snack and water will be provided. Sessions are limited to 10 participants and are beginning to fill.

Jo Smith is a member of the 2013 class of Routt County Master Gardeners. She is a retired biology teacher and enjoys the kid and gardening connections in the Junior Master Gardening program.