Union Democrat staff

The University of California Cooperative Extension will hold an orientation Oct. 11 for people interested in become volunteers with its Master Gardener program.

Master Gardener volunteers learn University-based scientific information, then share that knowledge with the gardening community. Master Gardener volunteers are people of all ages and from all walks of life with a common desire to help others learn about gardening.

Master Gardener membership is open to anyone in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties. A background check including fingerprinting is required to become a Master Gardener.

The orientation will begin at 3 p.m. at the Calaveras County Library, 1299 Gold Hunter Road in San Andreas. Anyone interested in becoming a Master Gardener should attend the orientation to learn about the Master Gardener Program and the volunteer requirements.

The training classes for new volunteer candidates will be held each Thursday from 3 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 through May 2. The classes will include more 50 hours of intensive training by University of California personnel and horticulture specialists in various fields. Topics include water management, soils, composting, native plants, fruit production, plant diseases, entomology, Integrated Pest Management, understanding pesticides and more.

A fee of $195 will be charged to cover the cost of all class materials, which includes several reference text books.

After successfully completing the training program, certified Master Gardener volunteers agree to fulfill annual volunteer service and continuing education requirements. If there is room in the class, professionals will be accepted, meaning no volunteer time required. The professional rate is $350.

For more information, contact the UC Calaveras Cooperative Extension office by phone at (209) 533-5695 or email at dlpowell@ucanr.edu. class="Apple-converted-space">