Virginia Cooperative Extension's (VCE) Master Gardener–Water Steward program (MGWS) provides advanced training in leadership development and water quality management to Master Gardener (MG) volunteer educators so that they may expand the influence of Extension through leadership in community water quality management. Typically, agents cite limited staff and volunteer resources as the primary factor in restricting program expansion. The MGWS program simultaneously answers the desire of MGs to expand their role in the community landscape and the need of VCE to expand its outreach with increasingly limited resources. MGWS training, guided by a 10-unit resource book, integrates technical and program management expertise to foster volunteer pride and self-sufficiency. This allows MGWS to coordinate much of their own training and recruit and manage large numbers of non-MG volunteers to whom they can provide limited training for specific projects, thus allowing program expansion without additional staff. The Advanced Master Gardener–Water Steward Handbook allows for appropriate training of Master Gardeners so that Extension education is able to reach a larger audience than just that reachable by an agent alone. Eight slide sets on water-quality related topics are available as part of this program. They come complete with legible, easy-to-read scripts. Updated slide sets include Calibrating Your Lawn Spreader (40 slides), Minimum Chemical Vegetable Gardening (62 slides), Backyard Composting (56 slides), Reading and Understanding the Pesticide Label for Lawn and Garden (41 slides), Landscape Tree and Shrub Fertilization (43 slides), Applying Pesticides Safely for the Environment (47 slides), Water Quality and Landscaping Slide Set (48 slides), and Proper Management of Fertilizers on Home Lawns (40 slides).
A multi-faceted extension education program to reduce consumer contributions to nonpoint source pollution by encouraging proper landscape management was initiated in Prince William County, Va., and funded through the USDA-extension service. The program now is being replicated in several counties in Virginia, primarily in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The program recruits participants through educational field days, advertisement and other means. Educational techniques include one-on-one assistance from Master Gardener volunteers and the use of Extension publications developed for this program. Publications developed include The Virginia Gardener Easy Reference to Sustainable Landscape Management and Water Quality Protection—a concise reference of Virginia Cooperative Extension landscaping recommendations that includes a calendar for recording fertilizer and pesticide applications, IPM, and other maintenance activities. The Virginia Gardener Guide to Water-wise Landscaping, was recently added to supplement the program in the area of water conservation. In Prince William County, over 700 people have participated. Most of those who complete the program report being more satisfied with their lawn appearance and spending less money. Participation also resulted in consumers being more likely to seek soil test information before applying fertilizer. Other effects include greater participation in leaf composting and grass clipping recycling and greater awareness of nonpoint source pollution.