A master gardener is a member of the local community that takes an active part in helping others with their gardening-related issues. Master gardeners are specially trained in horticulture and volunteer their time to educate others within their community. Generally, they help people in the community better understand horticulture and their environment.
To become a master gardener, you must be 18 years old and successfully complete the Extension Master Gardener Training Program within your local area. While it’s required to be a resident of the state in which applying, master gardener trainees do not generally need to reside in a specific county. These programs are available within each state but differ widely. For instance, depending on whether books are included, the cost of this type of training can be anywhere from $65 US dollars (USD) to well over $200 USD. In addition, master garden programs vary in the number of training hours, with most falling between 40 and 60 hours.
Most people applying for this program are experienced gardeners. Although prior gardening knowledge is recommended for master gardener programs, it’s not a requirement. However, previous classes or experience in horticulture, agriculture, earth science, botany, or biology can be helpful. Training classes are offered annually and are typically conducted by county extension agents, college horticulture departments, or other horticulture specialists.
Through the master gardener program, a variety of horticultural topics are taught. Instruction for becoming master gardeners include topics relating to lawn care, soil and plant nutrition, flower gardening, weed management, pests and diseases, fertilizer, tree and shrub care, water conservation, organic gardening techniques, and more. In most states, trainees must pass their horticultural exam with a minimum score of 70 percent in order to become certified. Upon completion of training, a master gardener must also volunteer at least 35 hours or more of service within the community.
Generally, master gardeners work through their local Cooperative Extension Center, providing gardening related information to the public. Volunteer hours are flexible with evening or weekend hours available. Some tasks can even be done after hours and include research, writing, telephone calling, helping with meetings and record keeping. Some of the volunteer activities include participation in design and operation of horticultural exhibits, displays, or demonstrations; making presentations on horticultural topics to 4-H groups, youth organizations, or schools; assisting staff of local gardens, research stations, churches, or similar establishments in garden maintenance.