Become a Master Gardener
- Do you love to garden?
- Do you want to learn more about plants and gardening?
- Would you like to participate in a practical and intensive training program?
- Do you enjoy working with people?
- Do you have any special skills that you might contribute?
- Do you have enough time to attend the training and complete the volunteer work?
If you answered yes to these questions, the Master Gardener Program could be for you.
Currently, we do not have a class scheduled for 2013. Please check back to this website for more information in the future.
The University of California Cooperative Extension recruits members of the local community for the Master Gardener Program. Master Gardeners are people like you who are trained by Cooperative Extension experts in different aspects of horticulture and plant science. In exchange for instruction, persons who become Master Gardeners spend some time as volunteers working through their local Cooperative Extension office to extend information to their community. Volunteers are supervised and guided by local Cooperative Extension horticulture advisors.
About the Master Gardener Program:
Master Gardener volunteers are recruited and trained by land- grant universities throughout the United States and Canada. Local programs are coordinated by horticulture advisors at county University of California Cooperative Extension offices with a primary goal to answer the myriad of questions from home gardeners. Master Gardeners extend to their communities the benefits of horticulture research developed at the University level. Master Gardeners have become an important connection for the University of California to the public sector.
The University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program is a voluntary educational program. The purpose is to teach people more about home horticulture and to effectively extend the research-based information produced by the University to the public. The Master Gardener role is primarily that of “educator”.
Master Gardeners were organized to help answer questions from home gardeners that, as the populations grew, could not be handled by the County Extension Advisor alone. As the volume of horticulture calls coming in from the communities increased, the obvious need for this type of program emerged. The program was first introduced in California in 1979. The San Luis Obispo chapter was organized in 1996.
Who becomes a Master Gardener:
Master Gardeners share a number of qualities – they are enthusiastic, willing to learn and help others, and able to communicate with diverse groups of people. Experience and a background in gardening are also important. Every effort will be made to accommodate everyone who applies; however, there may not be enough slots for all applicants as training classes are limited in size.
Courses are taught by Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other horticulture specialists. The program offers a basic, practical course in plant science and horticulture. Classes include: introduction to horticulture, soil and plant nutrition, pests and diseases and their control, plant management, and diagnosis of plant problems. Training takes place over several months, every Thursday afternoon from mid-February through mid- June. It is important to be able to attend all classes. There is only one absence allowed. Each class member completes a brief presentation (either oral or written) on a topic of their choice and completes an open-book online exam. The training course cost is approximately $140, which includes books, materials, mileage reimbursement for some of the guest instructors.
In exchange for training, you will be asked to volunteer 50 hours of your time to your county Cooperative Extension program and your community in the first year following graduation from the training course. You will also be required to complete 12 hours of continuing education courses or lectures during that year. Each year following, you need to complete 25 hours of volunteer time and 12 hours of continuing education to maintain your status as a Master Gardener. You will be supported and coached by a local advisor. Ongoing educational programs, such as seminars, training sessions, field trips, and garden tours, are offered on a regular basis to help Master Gardeners fulfill their required educational credits.
What Master Gardeners do:
Under the supervision of the UCCE Horticulture Advisor, the UC Master Gardeners of SLO County serve the community through their telephone “helpline”, writing weekly newspaper columns, demonstration garden projects, mentoring teachers and adult volunteers at school gardens, volunteering at seminars and educational programs, informational booths at Farmers Markets and various other community events, public speaking or demonstrations and creating educational material either for our website, handouts or PowerPoint’s. Master Gardeners receive volunteer credit for time spent participating in approved activities. Through their involvement in these programs, Master Gardeners are providing service to the community and continuing horticulture enrichment for members.
Some Program Facts:
Master Gardeners are agents of the University of California Cooperative Extension and as such are covered by University liability insurance. Candidates selected for Master Gardener training are required to successfully complete a background screening process with the Department of Justice that includes fingerprinting at their own cost (approximately $20). Master Gardeners must follow the recommendations of the University of California Cooperative Extension. The title Master Gardener can only be used by those who are serving as agents of the University of California. However, the title and certification may be used on applications for employment. Our program is organized online and has a volunteer website and notification emails. It’s essential to have some basic computer skills, to check emails and use the internet to sign up for events.