What Is The Master Gardener Program?

The Master Gardener program began in 1972 due to a growing interest in home gardening. The Fremont News Messenger states that although the extension service was previously focused on large-scale crop production, individuals at the Washington State University Extension saw a need in the surrounding communities. To meet that need, the Master Gardener program was created.

Initially, individuals at extension offices tried to meet the demand for home gardening information, but it quickly became overwhelming. To solve this problem, they recruited expert gardeners to be volunteers and trained them to help teach home gardeners how to grow a healthy garden. Thanks to the success of this initial experiment, extension offices around the country started their own programs. Today, according to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, over 84,000 certified Master Gardeners are in the United States. If you have ever wanted to join the ranks of these amazing volunteers, there are a few requirements.

Who is a Master Gardener?

Just as they were in the beginning, Master Gardeners are volunteers specifically trained in horticulture. After training, members of this group help their community by educating others about how to build healthy soil, the importance of water quality, how to grow native plants, and avoid invasive species, states Piedmont Master Gardeners. Additionally, volunteers help with landscape design and turf management.

Although some Master Gardeners also work in a related horticulture field, most have different professions. In any Master Gardener program, you'll find teachers, business professionals, nurses, and so on. Many people use volunteering to get away from their day-to-day responsibilities. So, although extension services initially sought out garden experts to join their early Master Gardener programs, you don't have to be a specialist to join now. In truth, volunteering and enjoying the many educational programs your local extension service provides is an excellent way to grow your knowledge.

How to become a Master Gardener

While each state or organization may have some variations on gaining a Master Gardener certificate, there are a few nationwide requirements. First, contact the extension office in the county in which you live and ask for an application. This is an excellent time to ask about tuition for the program, which is a one-time fee that varies by location. Jobe's Company reports that tuition is usually around $100 to $200. This information may also be available on their website.

If there is high demand for training, there may be an interview process after your application is processed. Once you are accepted and have paid the tuition, you will go through training which is around 60 hours total, states Best Accredited Colleges. With your training program complete, you will spend the rest of the year as a Master Gardener trainee accumulating volunteer and educational hours, which differ depending on the program. When you have met all the requirements — and made many new friends — you graduate and get your certificate as a Master Gardener. To maintain your status, you must complete volunteer and education requirements yearly. There is also a minimal yearly maintenance fee.