Master gardener volunteers help their neighbors understand and use research-based information and practices that can improve their quality of life while minimizing negative impacts on the environment and natural resources. These volunteers strive to make scientific knowledge understandable to all. They inspire and encourage lifelong learning through continued scientific exploration and discovery.

If you have a passion for gardening and a desire to share that passion with others, the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program might be for you.

Who are master gardener volunteers?

Master gardeners come from all walks of life.

They share gardening best practices that promote healthy landscapes, healthy foods and healthy lives.

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They complete a core course taught by University of Minnesota faculty and Extension educators.

Upon completing the core course, they contribute their time teaching research-based horticulture practices in their communities.

Important dates and deadlines

Jan. 1-Dec. 31: Extension master gardener program year

Oct. 1: Deadline to apply

Mid-November: Deadline to submit background check data and view the Safety of Minors online training

Dec. 1: Deadline to register for the Extension master gardener core course

Steps to becoming an Extension master gardener

1. Apply for a master gardener internship

  • Complete and submit the online application by Oct. 1.
  • Meet with the volunteer program coordinator.
  • We'll show you how to submit a background check online. All master gardener volunteers must repeat a background check every three years.
  • Once you receive notice that your background check has cleared, you can register for the core course, which costs $295, with an optional $25 printed manual. The fee includes the background check and course, and registration is due by Dec. 1.

2. Complete the Extension master gardener core course

  • Each year, 48-plus hours of basic horticulture education are offered.
  • The course is entirely online for 2022. It begins in January and is self-paced through mid-May.
  • It is taught by University of Minnesota Extension educators and faculty, with bonus weekly online webinars with experts. Sessions are recorded to watch later.
  • All students must complete online quizzes for certification. An active email address and reliable internet access are required.

3. Share your knowledge

  • During your first year, volunteer 50 hours on projects and events that deliver horticulture education and information to the public.
  • Learn alongside experienced Extension master gardener volunteers.
  • Report your volunteer hours online by Dec. 31.
  • Individuals who drop out of the internship before fulfilling the educational and volunteering requirements will be required to pay an additional $300.

4. Celebrate!

When your internship is completed, you'll start the next calendar year as an active University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener in your community.

5. Stay involved

To maintain your active Extension master gardener volunteer status, you will complete at least 25 hours of volunteering and required continuing education hours per year. Continuing education hours vary from 5 to 12 hours depending on your county.

For more information on becoming a master gardener volunteer, and to fill out an application, please visit: https://extension.umn.edu/master-gardener/become-master-gardener

Until next time, happy gardening!

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A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust. — Gertrude Jekyll

Robin Trott is a horticulture educator with University of Minnesota Extension. Contact her at 320-762-3890, or at trot0053@umn.edu.