Master Gardener Studies

I have had an interest as a gardener and enjoying the delicious nature of figs ever since my childhood after years of visiting my grandparents in south Alabama. There, they had the most memorable sweet Brown Turkey fig trees. Since then, I’ve always had an interest in propagating them in the New Jersey where the climate can be harsh on them. After giving them away to friends, I created this information blog so that any questions they might have would be answered here. After 18 years, my mother decided that I’ve finally become an expert with the knowledge that I’ve developed even though I don’t see my self as a master yet. She had an idea that I should apply for the local Rutgers Cooperative Extension Master Gardener certification course.

My figgiriggi blog had been placed on the back burner in the last 5 months because of my gardener studies. Just 2 months ago, I began my studies at the local county Master Gardener program. While reading the handbook, I learned that I will never be able to place this title on my resume and I won’t be able to use it to profit off of it, however I hope to use it to help provide answers to questions that my visitors may have with regard to growing their plants in general and for their trees. The class ends in June of 2019 and after I reach 60 hours of related volunteer work or a maximum of 1 1/2 years, then I can receive my certification. Until then, I’ll be sure to help answer any questions that you may have.

Topics I have learned so far are basic botany (how plants and trees process their water and nutrients), and introduction to entomology and pests most common to this region, soils and understanding soil tests with an understanding on what nutrients my plants may need, trees and tree health.

Here is a little treat of knowledge from my tree lecture. If you come across a tree in your yard that has fungus growing on it or on it’s roots, knocking it off will not fix the underlying problem. Fungus or mushrooms growing on the tree generally indicates that the core of the tree is dead or dying. If the fungus or mushrooms are growing on the ground, it means the tree roots are dead.


Most tree roots are shallow which means they don’t extend far from the base of the tree. You can give your tree a slow death by adding a 6 inch layer of dirt or mulch over the roots and with it pushed up against the trunk. The base of the trunk needs to be exposed to wind and sunlight, so if you use mulch, be sure it is pushed back 6 inches away from the base of the tree. Some people flat out say that placing the layer of mulch or dirt over the roots suffocates the roots and say it’s OK to add mulch on the ground only when the tree is freshly planted. The mulch therefore adds extra nutrients to the soil. As far as a fig tree is concerned, the roots grow outwards up to 15-20 feet from the base of the tree, so adding mulch will most likely not cause damage. At least, I haven’t had a problem with this.

Feel free to ask questions about this or if you want to say something about the Master Gardener program.


2 thoughts on “Master Gardener Studies

  1. I am a Master Gardener in Ohio. I’ve been in the program 3 years now. It’s a lot of work, but like you, I have been gardening a very long time and it was on my bucket list! The year with the coursework and initial volunteer hours was the hardest!

  2. That’s great Holly!
    I’m glad to meet another Master Gardener. I recently signed up for helpline training. While there, I learned that the number of calls have dropped over the years mostly due to people conducting their own web searches. Although I learned that people who have certain lawn conditions prefer to have an expert Master Gardener at our extension service look at a sample in person to help determine ailments they might have. Our organization’s greenhouse and display gardens are closed for the Winter. In the meantime, we will have some homework assignments coming up soon. When the greenhouse and gardens open in the spring, I’ll share in the labor of that hard work that you’ve mentioned.

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