Master Gardener basic training class. Photo credit: George Schreck
Originating in Washington State in 1972, the Master Gardener program was proposed as a solution for the increasing demand on Extension offices for home gardening information. Penn State University adopted the program in 1982. Currently, there more than 2700 volunteers within 63 of Pennsylvania’s counties.
A Penn State Master Gardener learns research-based and sustainable horticultural practices, through over forty hours of classes that cover topics such as botany, propagation, soil health, herbaceous and woody plants, pruning, lawn care, entomology, native plants, vegetables, and diagnosing plant diseases. After completing their training, Master Gardeners help Extension serve the home gardening public by answering questions, speaking to groups, writing gardening articles, working with youth, gardening in demonstration gardens, participating in the Penn State pollinator research program, and in many other ways.
In addition to acquiring horticulture knowledge, a Master Gardener volunteer becomes part of a network with others who have similar gardening interests. Many form lasting friendships with fellow Master Gardeners. Long-time Master Gardener Louise Brewer sums up another benefit of being a Master Gardener: “It’s so rewarding to be part of an organization that helps community members make environmentally friendly choices! “
In Pennsylvania, the Master Gardener program is organized by county. Basic training dates vary, with most classes beginning between August and October. To find out more about Master Gardener basic training in your county visit the Master Gardener Basic Training website.