The Master Gardener Program

Gardening is a very popular hobby in both the United States and Canada. The Master Gardner program offers intense home horticulture training to people who love gardening and are willing to use their expertise to teach others how to create gardens and grow flowers or vegetables. Most states provide regionally-specific advice to help new gardeners with their decorative gardens or help gardeners who are intent on growing fresh vegetables for the family dinner table. The Master Gardener program is a volunteer program administered by each state’s land grant college. There is a wide variation in the opportunities and rules for enrollment in the Master Gardener program. Each state runs different programs and is supposed to be supervised by the local Extension Agent, if there is one. Often there isn’t an agent to supervise and there is a large difference in content, price and agent involvement. Each agent runs the Master Gardening program differently, some are very involved, others aren't. Some Master Gardening units levy dues, others don't. The dues may offset some costs incurred by some units. Others will sell plants to gather income. The first Master Gardener program was founded by Washington State University Cooperative Extension in the Seattle area to meet a high demand for urban horticulture and gardening advice. The first trial clinic was held at the Tacoma Mall in 1972. When that was successful, the Master Gardeners Program was officially established, a curriculum created, and training began in King County and Pierce County in 1973. The concept then spread to other U.S. states and Canadian provinces. Master Gardener programs (also known as Extension Master Gardener Programs) are volunteer programs to advise and educate the public on gardening and horticulture. In the US, groups are affiliated with a land-grant university and one of its cooperative extension service offices. Canadian Master Gardener groups have different organizational structures, including incorporation as a charitable non-profit (Ontario) and universities (Saskatchewan.) Typically, Master Gardeners receive extensive training and then provide information to the public via phone or email helplines, speaking at public events, writing articles for publications and the internet, and partnering with other community programs, gardens, and educational facilities. Master Gardeners are active in all 50 states in the United States and four Canadian provinces. Five years ago, the Master Gardener Survey claimed 95,000 active Extension Master Gardeners, who provided at least 5,000,000 volunteer service hours per year to their communities. Once volunteers are accepted into a Master Gardener program, they are trained by cooperative extension, university, and local industry specialists in subjects such as taxonomy, plant pathology, soil health, entomology, cultural growing requirements, sustainable gardening, nuisance wildlife management, and integrated pest management. The Master Gardener program, typically offered through universities in the United States and Canada, provides intense home horticulture training to individuals who then volunteer in their communities, giving lectures, creating gardens, conducting research, and many other projects. The National Extension Master Gardener website is located at There is also a National Extension Master Gardener Blog at While the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the extension Consumer Horticulture National Committee provide a limited amount of national leadership, the program is mainly county-based with statewide coordination. Tapping into the knowledge of Master Gardeners can be very helpful for your gardening needs and their volunteer service is to be commended. Perhaps you're considering becoming a Master Gardener yourself. If so, do check out the programs in your area.


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