Taylor offers insights as Master Gardener

Mike Taylor, a Master Gardener with the University of Minnesota Extension program, gives a presentation about small space vegetable gardening during a CER class in Fairmont.

Michael Taylor of Truman is a Master Gardener through the University of Minnesota’s Extension program. He will soon lead several gardening classes for Fairmont Community Education and Recreation.

Taylor said that to become a Master Gardener, one must first like gardening.

“You take a core course online through the University of Minnesota, or you can go in person if you want to,” he explained. “You need to put in 50 volunteer hours the first year and then 25 hours every year after that to maintain the certification.”

Taylor mostly does vegetable gardening and landscaping, and works with natural grasses. But the program covers more topics, such as horticulture skills, soils, clean water, nearby nature, local foods and best practices.

The Master Gardener program exists in all 50 states. There are about 4,000 Master Gardeners in Minnesota, but just three in Martin County.

“Southern Minnesota does not have nearly as many as some of the metro counties do,” Taylor said. “Watonwan County doesn’t have any, and I think Faribault County has about five or seven.”

Taylor is retired now although he still drives a school bus. He has been gardening all his life but has been a Master Gardener for just four years. He explained some of the benefits of becoming a Master Gardener: “The knowledge you receive about plants and taking care of nature, and how to get things to grow right, and we learn how to try to eliminate pesticides and take care of water waste.”

Taylor tries to get out into the public to lend his expertise.

“Right now, I’m working on the Garden in a Box program with Truman schools,” he noted. “I’m just waiting for supplies and garden beds and seeds so that we can get started on that.”

Taylor explained that Garden in a Box is sponsored by the Minnesota State Horticultural Society while the Children Garden in Residence program is sponsored by the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Taylor serves on the state advisory board for the Master Gardener program. As a Master Gardener, he can offer continuing education and webinars. He also answers the public’s gardening questions and speaks at local events. Taylor also has conducted seed trials for the University of Minnesota. He tests new varieties of vegetables by planting and nurturing them to see how they do.

“I always have a booth set up at the Martin County Fair and I’ll be teaching some mini classes out there,” he said. “I bring all the information I have and whatever hot topics there are. Last year, I reared monarch butterflies.”

Taylor recently taught a small space vegetable gardening class for Fairmont CER. Other classes he has planned include a growing a healthy community for pollinators class on June 10 and an informational class on what it takes to become a Master Gardener on Sept. 25. For more information, contact CER at (507) 235-3141.

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