I'm not sure if this is nationwide or just in the Indiana area (sponsored
by Perdue University) but has anyone ever taken the Master Gardener course?
What was it like? Was it worth it? Opinions welcome.
The Master Gardener program was started in 1972 by an innovative
Extension Office Agent in the Seattle, Washington, who reasoned that
well-trained volunteers could respond to many of the everyday homeowner
questions, freeing him and his colleagues for more technical and
difficult problems. Volunteers such as Extension Homemakers and 4-H
Leaders, had always been a part of the Extension Service but never in
the area of homeowner horticulture. With this in mind, the Extension
Agent selected, trained and certified volunteers as Master Gardeners.
They soon succeeded in meeting his desired objectives -in fact they
exceeded his expectations. And so it was, the Master Gardener Program
began. Since that time, the Master Gardener Program has grown and is
now active in 48 states in the United States and four Canadian
provinces. Not every county in these states has the program.
The program differs from state to state and from county to county. It
usually requires a certification process which the classes you refer to
would be. Then it usually has a service-hours requirement, so many per
year. Typically Master Gardeners answer questions via phone, speak at
public events and participate in community gardening displays. In some
counties it works closely with the county agent. In others it just does
gardening chores for the county. It is what the state administrators
and county agents want it to be. In some areas it is open to everyone
who volunteers and in some areas it is limited to a certain number of
people and becomes a very status conscious group. The training
includes: plant taxonomy, plant pathology, entomology, taxonomy,
cultural growing requirements, wildlife control, and integrated pest
Purdue has one of the best extension programs and should have a good
Master Gardener Program. Check out their website at:
In Indiana, Master Gardeners must first achieve rank of Master Gardener
Intern by completing required training and passing exam with 70%
success. Then MG Interns are required to volunteer a minimum of 35
hours to be certified as a Purdue Master Gardener. Purdue University
Extension county and state staff provide instruction free of charge.
Materials and expenses for the series of classes range from $75 to $150.
I am not a Master Gardener but know many people who are. I chose to get
my horticultural training through Longwood Gardens classes and do
horticultural volunteer work through the American Rhododendron Society.
Our local Master Gardener program has a great group of people but aren't
looking to increase the size of the group. The Master Gardener program
my be a good group for you or you may be interested in seeing
opportunities at local public gardens or in local horticultural clubs.
The nearest chapter of the American Rhododendron Society near you is the
Midwest Chapter and has a homepage at:
Pardon my spam deterrent; send email to email@example.com
Visit my Rhododendron and Azalea web pages at:
Oh, THANK YOU for all that. I did check out the Perdue site previously
but I wanted some personal opinions on the program. I had no idea for
anything I had seen that it was a national program. Thanks again for
taking the time to write that all up. I'll look into the ARS, too.
Twelve years ago I bought my first house, which came with perennial beds
and a vegetable garden. Being that I didn't know the first thing about
gardening, I subscribed to Organic Gardening magazine and took the Master
Gardeners course given locally. The MG course cost $75 and was given at
the Extension office in my county once a week for four months or so. For
that time and money, I received a basic grounding (no pun intended) in
several subjects, including plant structure, identification, growing
techniques, propagation, etc, etc. Upon graduation I was required to
complete 40 hours of volunteer work to "give back" to the Extension.
I think the MG program is somewhat misnamed, as the title of Master leads
one to expect some depth of knowledge and training. But what I got out of
the course was not so much the actual knowledge that was imparted to me as
it was the opportunity to explore a new subject without enrolling in
college again. As it turned out, the experience piqued my interest enough
to inspire me to take a few horticulture classes at a local community
college. Of course the college courses were much more in-depth, but they
were also more expensive and time-consuming. I would never have enrolled
in those college courses if I did not have the MG training first as my
background. Another aspect of the MG course was that I got to meet and
network with a number of other similarly interested gardeners as well as
experts local to my area.
To continue being a MG I believe you must keep up with yearly requirements
for volunteer hours and continuing education, which I have not done. I'm
sure there are many other ways of obtaining the same knowledge and
experience. For me it was an inexpensive way to discover an interest in
gardening that I will keep the rest of my life :-)
Thanks for your experience with it, Dee. It so happens that my county
extension office and all the lessons will be about 15 minutes away and
Purdue (did I spell it right this time?) is about two and a half hours
away so the MG program sounded pretty good at the cost/travel time. I
don't mind the volunteer hours. In fact, there is a local all organic,
herb garden within 10 minutes of here that I was also going to volunteer
at this next year so maybe I can kill two birds with one stone. :)
Several people in my club, Midfex Fruit Explorers with members mainly in the
Chicago area have taken the course. I have never heard anything bad about it.
By the way, as a Purdue graduate, I think your spelling needs a correction.
is no connection between the university and the chicken man.
Gemstone Rivers wrote:
I completed the Master Gardner program in Illinois several years ago, and
sorry to say, I didn't find it worthwhile.
The training was for beginners, for 6 wks. there were no reference books in
the extension office where I served my 40 hrs service (I brought my own from
home), and all the programs were on weekdays when I couldn't attend or not
The title is nice, but I didn't get anything out of the program. Now I
attend the Master Gardener lectures in New Mexico where we moved, but will
not repeat the program to get certified here. These lectures here are a bit
better, at night and local and open to everyone, so occasionally I can take
advantage of them.
I guess it depends on where you are how good the program is. If you have a
horticulture background, you may not learn anything useful. If you enjoy
working with the public, you will probably find it very fulfilling.
Just my 2 cents worth
Thanks for the info, Anna. Supposedly the programs in Indiana are among
some of the best although I've not specifically heard anything about our
county. I'm curious about the paragraph above. What did you do for
those 40 hrs of service? Answer phone problems? And they didn't give
you any reference books? Eyikes.
I guess I'm a beginner since I've never taken an horticultural courses.
I mostly just stumble my way through making plants grow. I guess it
won't hurt to learn the basics of what I'm doing. ;)
Can I ask what sort of books you used as reference books?
Thanks for telling me your experiences with it.
I'm in CA and have taken the Master Gardener program. IMO, it's worth the
time and money. For a while, it was being held at the local community
college..... but it's back at the Cooperative Ext's office.
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On Fri, 15 Dec 2006 12:04:56 +0000 (UTC), Gemstone Rivers
It all hinges on how intelligent or open minded your horticultural
agent for the extension is. I went through three MG programs in three
different states many years ago and they gave virtually NO good
information outside their spray and kill notions. Things may be
You also have to volunteer a lot of hours to get certified. I say
start to go and make the decision when you see what it's all about.
I think you have to volunteer 35 hours here. That can be done at the
county fair, I suspect, where I spend a fair amount of time anyway. :)
Anyway, I'm set to start on Feb. 13 so I can give you a report on how it
works out here in the middle-of-nowhere Indiana if you'd like.
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