Wednesday, December 8th, 2010...6:21 am

The Master Gardener Program

Master Gardener pull up by Garden Organic

TheGardenLady has often suggested that when you, the readers, need your soil tested or if you have horticultural, gardening or insect problems you should call of go to your local Master Gardener Organization or to your Extension Office. I am sure that many readers know about this excellent program, but in case there are some readers who wonder what TheGardenLady is writing about, TheGardenLady thought that it might be interesting to have a column devoted to the Master Gardener Program.

First let me tell you something about why the program started. In the 1970s there had been such a rapid urban growth in the US, with so many new homeowners interested in home gardens and plants that County Extension Agents who helped farmers were overwhelmed with questions. The County Extension Agents couldn’t really help all these new amateur gardeners and professional nurseries and farmers, too. So someone in Seattle, Washington came up with the idea of training volunteers in horticulture. In exchange for the training those trained must commit to a certain number of volunteer hours to help the County Extension office solve home owners’ horticulture, plant and gardening problems thus freeing the extension agents to work with those professionals in the plant business, farmers or nurseries as well as having the time to do more research.

Volunteers work closely with the agricultural extension who continue guiding volunteers by putting out fact sheets on every aspect of horticulture as well as the most up to date research on plants, gardening, insects and pests that the people in the community might encounter.

When helping the client volunteers often work in groups and/or with the head horticulturist in the area so they are able to give the best advice possible. And the volunteers are required to commit to taking more horticulture classes and attending symposia and/or conferences. These volunteers often work hand in hand with some of the world’s leading horticulturists who also will send their clients with problems to the MG office.

And this Master Gardener service has been FREE to anyone who asks.

Who are the people who take the horticultural training? They are from all walks of life: doctors, lawyers, gardeners, homemakers, nurses, dancers- anyone who is interested in horticulture and is willing to give the volunteer time after the training.

A volunteer has to commit to giving back time to the community. And to remain a Master Gardenner after the first year of volunteering, he or she is required to keep up to date and keep learning by attending more horticulteral classes and then has to continue volunteering. But this is not a difficulty for the volunteers who are very enthusiastic about learning and offering help and advice.

The Master Gardener program is now in every state in the United States and is in almost every county in each state. The Master Gardening Program is also in Canada. If you want to find the Master Gardener office nearest you, check out this site.

The program has been so successful that it is now going abroad. There is a chapter in London, England.  Here you can share tips with many of the keen gardeners from the UK.

Master Gardeners enjoy getting together with Master Gardeners in other states and other countries to share what they are doing and to learn more. To this end there are state conferences, area conferences and international conferences where MGs get together to attend lectures and to visit gardens and learn what is new out there in the horticultural world.

Besides answering questions and giving gardening advice another service offered by the Master Gardeners is having soil tested and then explaining the results to the home owner.

Besides the above services each chapter decides what other activities they wish to offer their community. Among the things offered are:

  • Plant sales- often at very inexpensive prices with plants grown in MGs personal gardens.
  • Creation and care of Community Gardens such as;

Street islands beautified

Governors’ mansions’ gardens

Church, synagogue, library, etc. gardens created and cared for

Gardens created for Homes for Habitat houses

Symposiums on gardening

School programs and school gardens

Senior citizen programs

Insect festivals

Outreach lectures


To see what is available in just one Master Gardener chapter, check out

The Master Gardeners are there to help everyone who calls for help. So if you want to find gardeners who love gardening and know about all sorts of problems that you might find in your gardens visit the Master Gardener office.

Besides visiting the Master Gardener office for advice, if you would like to become a Master Gardeners and help by doing this type of volunteer work, contact your Master Gardener office to see how you can join.

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