What is a Master Gardener and how do I become one?

Master Gardeners have a passion for gardening and volunteering through community garden education.

Children’s garden at The Peter White Library in Marquette, Michigan, created and maintained by Carol Fitzgerald, a Master Gardener. Photo credit: Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension

Children’s garden at The Peter White Library in Marquette, Michigan, created and maintained by Carol Fitzgerald, a Master Gardener. Photo credit: Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension

The Michigan State University Master Gardener Volunteer Program has been in existence since 1978. Its mission is to further the land-grant university goal of disseminating scientifically-based information via a network of trained volunteers who receive support and guidance from Michigan State University Extension specialists and educators in providing Michigan residents with the most current and environmentally sound horticulture information.

This is a series of articles highlighting what a Master Gardener is and featuring current Upper Peninsula Master Gardeners making a difference in their communities.

Who can become a Master Gardener?

Anyone who is interested in learning more about horticulture and has a willingness to complete the 40-hour volunteer gardening education project can become a certified Master Gardener.

What is required for someone to become a Master Gardener?

They must complete an educational and a volunteer component within their first year to become certified. In order to maintain certification, they complete annual education and volunteer hours and pay an annual recertification fee. The educational component is extensive and requires attendance and completion of a 14-week course. The class is usually held one day or night per week for a four-hour period.

Each week focuses on a different horticultural topic, so after completion, participants have learned about university-based research on the following topics: soil science, plant science, small fruits, tree fruits, diagnostics, integrated pest management, vegetables, annuals and perennials, woody ornamentals, household and nusiance pests, indoor plants, lawns and gardening practices to protect water quality. Participants must complete weekly quizzes and a final exam with at least an 80 percent proficiency.

How does a Master Gardener volunteer?

After completing the educational component, participants identify a community volunteer gardening project where they provide the gardening education. In order to gain certification, they will need to complete at least 40 hours of volunteer service educating others on environmentally friendly, science-based gardening practices learned during their training. Current projects underway in the Upper Peninsula include Master Gardeners facilitating, coordinating and educating others in developing a summer childcare school garden, a perennial garden at a trailhead, downtown beautification efforts and MSU Extension Smart Gardening outreach. Stay tuned for upcoming articles featuring these projects!

If you are interested in signing up for a Master Gardener class, what do you do?

All upcoming classes are listed on the MSU Master Gardener website; check this out to see if a class is coming to your area. Additional class sites are being developed and included within a strategic five-year plan for the program.

For more information on a wide variety of smart gardening topics, visit the Gardening in Michigan website at www.migarden.msu.edu or contact MSU’s toll-free garden hotline at 1-888-678-3464.

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