Master Gardener volunteers receive over 70 hours of college-level, WSU-certified training. Classes are taught by WSU research specialists. Some instructors are from WSU Puyallup. Students need to attend each session of the basic training course. Each trainee will complete a class research project and a series of take-home open-book quizzes. The goal is to learn how and where to do home gardening research.
After completing the curriculum section of training, the new trainees are required to dedicate 50 hours of service to the community by assisting the public in solving their home gardening problems and answering questions. Upon completion of the hours, they become Certified WSU Master Gardeners.
About The Training
The Master Gardener Program is a volunteer program for people with a passion for plants, a drive to learn, and a commitment to serve. Candidates for the program may have very little experience or knowledge about horticulture or they may have a lot, but all have a desire to learn. By signing up to join the program, you are committing to serving the community as a gardening/horticulture educator.
2018 Master Gardener Training
Dates: September 5 through November 14
Time: 8:45 am to 3 pm, Wednesdays
Fee: $175 plus an on-line training fee of $75 (total $250) — payable to WSU. Study materials are included.
Training includes full day classroom sessions that include live presentations, field trips, and learning labs in addition to 3–5 hours per week of on-line instruction (see list of computer experience and equipment requirements below). Participants are asked to plan to miss no more than one class.
The process to becoming a Master Gardener starts with an intensive 11-week training. During that time and combined with a year of on-the-job training, trainees develop the skills and knowledge to become effective community educators on plants, plant communities and the pests and problems which plague them.
Students commit to weekly homework which includes reading 25 chapters, completing chapter quizzes, viewing on-line videos, and completing a final exam, as well as other short take-home assignments. In order to certify as a Master Gardener, trainees must pass the quizzes and exam with a 80% or higher grade.
Upon successful completion of training, volunteers begin a one year internship in which they are required to serve a total of at least 50 volunteer hours, on projects such as the Extension office answer clinic, tabling at the Home & Garden Idea Fair, Clark County Fair and other events, serving as a part of the newsletter team, or helping at a school, senior, or community garden – to name a few of the many opportunities.
In subsequent years, veteran Master Gardeners serve a total of at least 35 volunteer hours each year, including 10 hours of continuing education, in order to retain certified status.
When to Apply
Applications for the 2018 training are now available! Space in class is limited to 50, so you are encouraged to apply right away. Applications can be sent via email, mail or dropped off in person. A short, small group orientation will be scheduled upon receipt of your application.
If you would like to be added to our notification list for 2019 applications, please email Erika.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-397-6060 x 5738.
If you have any questions about the application process, contact:
Trainees should have at least some previous computer experience and feel comfortable navigating the Internet and using email. They also need access to a computer for extended periods.
After completion of training program volunteers are known as “Interns”. During the first calendar year, Interns serve a total of at least 50 volunteer hours, including at least 20 hours in the Extension office Answer Clinic helping to answer gardening questions from the public. The other 30 hours are in an outreach setting or other approved activity, as listed below. In the following years, “Veterans” serve a total of at least 35 volunteer hours, including at least 10 hours of continuing education, and another 20 hours in an outreach setting or other approved activity, which include:
Tabling at the Home and Garden Idea Fair
Serving as newsletter contributor
Working with 4-H youth program in gardening
Developing and running our Clark County Fair exhibit
Or other rewarding projects
Years of Service
It is not unusual for volunteers to serve for more than five years after completing the initial training and the two years of required payback. There are even WSU Master Gardener volunteers who have remained with the program for as many as twenty years! Although this lengthy commitment is not a requirement for the program many volunteers enjoy the camaraderie, social opportunities, and educational enrichment that are the rewards of being an experienced and sought-after volunteer.
History of the Master Gardener Program
2016 marked the 40th anniversary of the first Master Gardener class in Clark County! We estimate that over 1600 volunteers have completed Master Gardener training since the program’s inception.
The first Master Gardener Program was initiated in the State of Washington in 1973. Area Extension Agents in the Puget Sound region found themselves overwhelmed with questions on horticulture, gardening and plant problems, especially in the urban counties. The objective of the first program was to train a group of skilled volunteers in plant identification and selection, fruit and vegetable gardening, soils, insect and disease control, and lawns. In return for this training class participants were expected to assist local Extension personnel in providing home gardening information to residents of the their communities. With experience and mentoring Master Gardener volunteers became very proficient at answering nearly all of the home gardening calls, thus freeing up Extension staff for program development.
More recently Master Gardening training has evolved into a program stressing sustainable gardening practices involving integrated pest management, natural gardening, water efficient landscaping, and plant selection for the urban environment. Volunteers now spend time in the Extension office as well as working in the community in elementary school gardening programs, neighborhood associations, and in association with local ornamental plant associations.
The early success in Washington led to the formation of Master Gardener Programs all across the United States associated with many of the land-grant universities.
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WSU Clark County Master Gardener Program
1919 NE 78th Street • Vancouver, WA 98665
(360) 397-6060 Ext. 5738