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Are you suffering from high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, or depression? Try gardening. 

Studies suggest that gardening can help improve these and a host of other health conditions. Gardening is good for you in so many ways. It gets you out in the fresh air and sunshine, elevating your levels of vitamin D, which plays an important role in immune system functioning, the prevention of chronic disease, and the formation of healthy teeth and bones. It gets the blood moving, improving circulation and cardiovascular health, and increases strength, flexibility and coordination. Gardening re-connects us with the Earth and natural cycles, which has a positive impact on psychological well-being, all the while providing a supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for optimum nutrition. The health benefits associated with gardening are so compelling that many universities and colleges now offer certificate programs and even degrees in horticultural therapy, the professionally directed use of gardening activities to improve health and well-being. Not only is gardening a side-effect free way to improve your health, it’s also an extremely rewarding pastime as any gardener will attest.

If you’d like to try gardening, but aren’t sure where to start, the Kauai Master Gardener Program may be right for you. The Kauai Master Gardener Program is a volunteer program administered by the University of Hawaii College of Agriculture and Human Resources Cooperative Extension Service. The program is open to anyone 18 and older with an interest in learning about horticulture and volunteering to promote sustainable home gardening and landscaping practices on Kauai. Each February, the program offers an extensive 16-week training course to new volunteers. Taught by UH faculty and local experts in botany, plant physiology, soil science, organic agriculture, plant pathology, entomology, native plants and more, the training is equivalent to a college-level introductory horticulture course. The program’s curriculum covers the following topics:

Introduction to Gardening in Hawaii; Basic Botany & Plant Physiology; Plant Propagation & Pruning; Soils & Fertilizers; Organic Gardening; Plant Pathology/Diseases; Entomology & Integrated Pest Management; Fruits; Vegetables; Tropical Plants & Lei Flowers; Lawns & Ground Covers; Native Plants of Hawaii.

Classes are held at the Kauai Agricultural Research Center in Wailua. Upon completion of the training program, participants fulfill a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer community outreach service to become certified Master Gardeners. Certified Kauai MGs enjoy many benefits, including the chance to join a community of like-minded people, passionate about gardening and making a difference on Kauai. Other benefits include the opportunity to participate in ongoing membership activities such as the MG Continuing Education Program, monthly meetings, field trips, statewide conferences, workshops, social events and more!

Visit our website at: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/UHMG/Kauai/index.asp to find out more about the program as well as access helpful resources on gardening in Hawaii. Additionally, you can “like us” on Facebook to connect with Kauai Master Gardeners and receive news, information, and event notices related to the program, including ongoing educational opportunities that are open to the public. Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/kauaimgs.

Kim Perry is a University of Hawaii College of Agriculture and Human Resources Extension Agent and the Master Gardener Program Coordinator on Kauai

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