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Master Gardener Volunteer Program

Beginning the Master Gardener Program requires only an enthusiasm for gardening and a willingness and commitment to volunteer. Applicants attend training classes to learn basic horticulture principles and environmentally sound practices. Once they complete at least 40 hours of community-based service, they earn the title of certified Extension Master Gardener. Through continued education, knowledge sharing and creation of more livable communities, the MGP continues to make the Great Lakes State one of the most diversely beautiful states in the country.


The original Extension Master Gardener Program was created at Washington State University in 1972. It has grown to include more than 600 programs in 46 states, the District of Columbia and several Canadian provinces. MSU Extension offered its first Master Gardener Program in 1978. Today, more than 30,000 residents from more than 72 Michigan counties have earned and enjoy the Master Gardener Volunteer designation. In 2014, Extension Master Gardeners donated over 164,986 hours to improving their communities. This contribution, valued at more than $3.7 M (based on the value of a volunteer hour as determined by Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofit organizations) has benefited Michigan’s economy through increased tourism and property values.


The Master Gardener Program serves two major and equal functions:

  • To provide instruction in basic, research-based horticulture science to motivated and active gardeners through an adult educational program offered through MSU Extension.
  • To provide MSU Extension with trained gardeners who will educate others in the community about environmentally and economically sound practices through horticulture-based volunteer activities.


Educational Requirement

The MGP’s educational component provides an overview of major horticulture subjects in a classroom setting. Master Gardener Volunteer trainees attend a series of classes that address a minimum of 12 topics that are presented in  an 800-page Master Gardener Volunteer manual.

Topics covered in the basic training course are:

  • Introduction & Volunteerism
  • Plant Science
  • Soils for Plant Growth
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Annual and Perennial Flowers
  • Woody Ornamentals
  • Lawn Care
  • Vegetable Culture
  • Small Fruit Culture
  • Tree Fruit Culture
  • Indoor Plants
  • Household and Nuisance Pests
  • Diagnostics
  • Gardening Practices to Protect Water Quality

The Master Gardener trainee’s commitment to volunteering is just as important (if not more so) than the educational component of the course. Trainees have the chance  to educate and inspire others in their communities through horticulture activities. Volunteer tasks may include everything from designing an elementary school garden with children, to creating a horticulture therapy program at a senior center, to helping a neighborhood beautification team with site and plant selection.

Upon completion of the educational component and 40 hours of volunteer service, the trainee will receive his or her MSU Extension Master Gardener certification.

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