Those who love nurturing plants and have plenty of time might want to consider becoming a certified master gardener like Kathy Harte of Gatesville. However, the process takes plenty of dedication.
“There’s a great deal of work that goes into planting a garden whether it’s vegetables or fruit trees,” Harte said. “When you become a master gardener, it’s also a great deal of work”
She said it’s at least a nine-month process initially, and continuing classes are also required to maintain the master gardener status.
One of the complicating factors for Coryell County residents, she said, is that there is no master gardener certification process available locally. Those interested must work through programs in other counties.
“I am certified in Bell County,” Harte said. “Coryell County is not big enough to go through all the extra work involved.”
McLennan County also has a certified master gardener program.
“It took about a year for me to earn the certification,” Harte said. “Every year, you are required to go to classes. Texas A&M has a website (txmg.org) built especially for master gardeners or the public in general. There’s an hour-long introduction class (on video, for those interested in possibly becoming a master gardener).”
The master gardener program allows participants to “learn the science behind trees and (other) plants” she said.
Harte lived in Alaska before moving to Texas, and noted there were times of the year in which it was always dark or always light because of its location.
“Your circadian system is disrupted, but for three months, you have the most beautiful weather, and the plants become gigantic,” she said. “It exceeds what we have in the lower 48 states.”
When Harte moved to Texas, she said she wanted a birch tree and was told that there are simply no birch trees growing in the area.
She was determined to grow one anyway and said she has one that has survived the extreme temperatures.
Harte said she was excited to have a chance to grow plants in a more consistent climate.
She has planted several gardens on her property in Gatesville near the golf course, and credited her spouse for his dedication to helping her.
“My husband Greg has had to go through a lot to accommodate his master gardener wife,” Harte said. That has included building a rock wall, making various expansions and purchasing more property, along with time spent on day-to-day tasks.
Harte was limited physically by a surgery that increased her husband’s responsibilities, and was told that she would lose her master gardener status because of her inability to attend master gardener classes. However, she was able to persuade those in charge that recovering from surgery – and the physical limitations that caused – should not be a reason for losing her certification.
All the work she and her husband have devoted has paid off with plenty of beautiful plants, Harte said.
“We have the most gorgeous flowers that you’d never expect – they’re just stunning,” she said.
The Hartes had a greenhouse built on property they owned.
“I didn’t want it to look like the typical greenhouse,” she said. “You walk in and the scent of begonias is incredible – there’s life in there, beautiful gorgeous plants. It’s worth every second spent growing them and giving them what they need to survive.”
While there is a lot required, “I would recommend it for anybody who has the time and interest to go through the master gardener program. There’s no age limit as long as you can get around. It’s an amazing journey and thrilling for me.
“I love the peace and quiet of gardening. It’s wonderful, challenging and it helps you to appreciate what God has given us to take care of.”