What Are Master Gardeners and How Can They Help You?

In the world of gardening, you could say Master Gardeners are superheroes.

They’re so passionate about gardening that they complete 40 to 70 hours of horticulture training through a university extension program. They’re knowledgeable on such topics as soil science, plant identification, pest and disease management, and sustainable gardening practices.

And they don’t keep what they’ve learned to themselves. Master Gardeners present workshops, plant clinics, and in some cases, one-on-one consultations to share their knowledge and empower others to succeed in gardening.

A love for growing and teaching

We’ve heard Master Gardeners described as the heart and soul of the gardening community. They love gardening so much that they want to share it with others.

Christy Schweikhardt wrote about this in Why I Became a Master Gardener, a blog for the Bluebonnet Master Gardener Association in Texas.

“I was surprised that the Master Gardener program gives me not only the opportunity to share produce from my vegetable garden with family, neighbors, and friends, but it gives me the joy of sharing fact research-based gardening knowledge with others. Our lives have become more tech-heavy, hectic and with hand-sanitizer seeming to replace just plain soap & water sometimes, simply getting one’s hands in the garden soil refreshes the spirit. If I help spark a passion in one child, teen or adult for gardening… I will have shared the finest gift of all from my garden.”

The Master Gardener program

Gardening is an art and a science: Doing it successfully takes knowledge, but also patience and a touch of creativity. The Master Gardener program is meant to help people in these areas. It’s a resource for anyone, with any level of experience, looking to grow their gardening skills.

The program, which originated in the 1970s at Washington State University, was established to address the public's growing need for home gardening advice. It has since expanded throughout the United States and beyond.

Getting help

After completing training (40 to 70 hours, depending on the cooperative extension service providing it), Master Gardeners volunteer in their communities through teaching, creating community gardens, and offering advice on gardening practices.

For individuals, Master Gardeners can offer advice in areas like plant selection, pest management, weed control, soil improvement, and sustainable gardening practices. Generally, they provide these services through helplines, email, or in-person consultations.

At Ask Extension, for example, you can submit questions and peruse the answers to other people’s questions. The responses are provided by Cooperative Extension/university staff and volunteers from participating Land-Grant institutions — a network of universities designated to provide practical and research-based education to the public.

Another helpful resource is the University of Minnesota’s Solve a Problem site, where you can ask a question and get help diagnosing a problem. You can also submit a form to send your question to a Master Gardener or call the Ask a Master Gardener line at 612-301-7590.

In most cases, you can do an online search for “Ask a Master Gardener, Helpline” along with the name of your county and state to find similar resources. 

You can check the website of your local extension service for upcoming events, too. Master Gardeners frequently present workshops on topics like vegetable gardening, composting, water-wise gardening, raised-bed gardening, and more. 

And sometimes, you can find Master Gardener booths at area farmer’s markets, plant sales, and garden shows.

Special projects

Master Gardeners can be helpful resources for organizations, too. You can line them up as guest speakers or ask them to consult on projects like community gardens or environmental restoration initiatives.

In some cases, they might be willing to participate, too, by helping with planting, maintenance, or troubleshooting specific issues as they come up.

They can also help raise awareness about projects through their networks, newsletters, and presentations, which could help you attract more volunteers and participants.

1 comment

  • Ron

    As a recent graduate of the Lane County Master Gardener program in Oregon, I appreciate you letting people know how the Master Gardeners can support people with their gardening needs.

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