PALMETTO -- Every Friday John Dawson learns something new volunteering at the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Manatee County Educational Demonstration Gardens.
The master gardener, who volunteers between 300 and 400 hours a year, enjoys helping people who visit the gardens, which are located at 1303 17th St. W., Palmetto.
"I always enjoy helping people and that's our primary thing here to educate people about horticulture and how to take care of landscape," Dawson said. "It was a natural fit. I like passing on information I learn."
Beginning on Tuesday, the Manatee County Master Gardeners will host free guided tours of the Educational Gardens at 10 a.m. The tours will be offered every third Tuesday of the month.
"The entire purpose of the educational gardens is to come in and see first hand what can grow in Florida," Dawson said. "It's basically trying to explain to people what we do here. Every plant has its own little story."
During the hour-long tour, visitors will walk through a greenhouse as well as vegetable, butterfly, sensory and children's gardens. The educational gardens started as a greenhouse project in 2010, according to a news release.
"We try to make it fun but also get opportunity to ask questions," Dawson said.
The garden tour is one way for the extension office to do more outreach with the community, said Lisa Hickey, urban horticulture/master gardener coordinator at the extension office.
"It was our shift in thought that we really should share it with the public," she said. "The garden tour is part of that educational outreach to increase knowledge of Florida Friendly landscape and horticulture practices."
With the Florida Friendly plants, Hickey said they can take what they learn and see in the educational gardens and turn around and use it in their own gardens.
"These are things they can replicate into their own landscape," she said. "We just really want to get more educational outreach into the community and people to practice things that will work in gardens. We want to be the ones to teach the things that will work in their gardens."
For tour reservations, call the Master Gardener Plant Diagnostic Clinic at 941-722-4524.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.