You Can Be a Master Gardener

Answering questions at public events is just one volunteer task that master gardeners do.

The University of Minnesota Extension service is looking for a few good gardeners. You don’t have to know everything about gardening, but you should have a love for growing plants and nurturing gardens and a desire to share that with others in your community.

Joining the U’s master gardener program is a great way to boost your horticultural knowledge, to meet fellow gardeners in your area and to help other gardeners. The master gardener program has been around since the 1970s and currently includes more than 2,300 active volunteers all around the state. The program is county based, so you work in your home county.

To become a master gardener, you start by filling out an application and being interviewed by the local extension folks. (Don’t worry, it’s not stressful!) Once you are selected for the program, you take the U’s 48-hour core course. You can take the course in-person at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in January or as self-paced study online. I took the course about 10 years ago and it’s fantastic. You learn from the U’s experts in all areas of horticulture—from design to turf to pollinators to diseases and pests. The master gardeners are research-based, meaning that the information they provide is rooted in scientific knowledge.

After taking the course, you volunteer for 50 hours during the first year, often with a mentor to guide you. The volunteer work can be everything from tending a community garden to answering questions at a farmers’ market or other public event to writing a column for your local paper or website, to helping out at a master gardener tour or event. We love that some master gardener groups are working with the MSHS Garden-in-a-Box program to introduce gardening to children. The volunteer work is as varied as the volunteers and the master gardeners will find work that suits your personality and interests. One of the best things about being a master gardener is getting to know your fellow master gardeners and meeting and helping people in your community. While I am no longer a master gardener due to a move, being a master gardener was one of the most rewarding experiences of my gardening life. I hope you will consider becoming one in 2020.

To find out more about master gardeners and what they do, check out this video.


  1. Shelley Pederson on April 3, 2020 at 1:18 am

    Can a person call themselves a master Gardener without the training? I have a friend who does that. Yes, she is very experienced, but she has not been through the training. I took the class and never did the volunteer part and I got in trouble when I put it on my nursery business cards years ago. Shelley Pederson. I should do the volunteer part. I’m retired now.

    • Mary Lahr Schier on April 3, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      My understanding is that you need to complete the training and the ongoing volunteer commitment to call yourself a University of Minnesota Extension master gardener. It’s a wonderful program that helps spread garden information and beautifies our communities.

  2. Dee on July 29, 2020 at 12:06 am

    Is the U offering the Master Gardener program this year?

  3. Kate Gardos Reid on August 9, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    I am interested in applying for the training. When and how can I do so?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on August 9, 2020 at 8:50 pm

      You should check with your local county extension office. They operate the master gardener programs.

  4. Jennifer forsland on July 29, 2021 at 12:39 am

    I want to become a master gardener

    • Mary Lahr Schier on July 29, 2021 at 4:14 pm

      Check with your county extension office for information — they’re always looking for new volunteers.

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