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Become a Master Gardener

Master Gardener Program
Erika Johnson, Program Coordinator
(564) 397-5738

6-picture collage of man with hand truck and large containers; couple planting veggies; sunflower; 2 smiling MGs; MG holding weeds; MGs working in greenhouse.

Become a Master Gardener
About Volunteer Training
When to Apply for Training
Training Requirements
Payback Requirements
Years of Service
History of the Program

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Become A Master Gardener

Trainees receive over 60 hours of college-level, WSU-certified training. Classes are taught by university faculty/staff, local experts and Master Gardeners. Students need to attend each session of the basic training course.

MGs attending Watershed Festival. Green grass and trees with white tents full of people participating in activities.
At the Watershed Festival

After completing training, trainees become interns and are required to complete 50 hours of service to the community by assisting the public in solving their home gardening problems and answering questions. Upon completion of these 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.

2025 Master Gardener Training:

Dates: Wednesdays, August 27, 2025 through November 12, 2025 (12 sessions).

Time: 8:45 am to 3 pm, Wednesdays or 8:45 am to 3pm.

Fee: $175 plus an on-line training fee of $85 (total $260) — payable to WSU. Study materials are included. Trainees must also submit to a national background check through Sterling Volunteers at a cost to the applicant of $15. (Limited tuition assistance is available. To apply, email

Location: Classes will likely be a combination of remote (mornings) and in-person (afternoons) with drive time in between.

Training includes full day classroom sessions that include live presentations, field trips, and learning labs in addition to 5–10 hours per week of on-line instruction (see list of computer experience and equipment requirements below). Participants are asked to apply only if they know they can attend all 12 class days.

The process to becoming a Master Gardener starts with an intensive 12-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.

MG trainees (older adults) sitting around a table with papers and drinks.
Happy MG Trainees. We learn. We have fun!

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 an 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 area outreach events, serving as a part of the newsletter team, or helping with our children’s education team – to name just 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

The application process for the 2024 training has closed. Applications for 2025 will be available here starting on March 1, 2025. If you’d like to be notified automatically, contact us at 564-397-5738 or to be put on a notification list.


Computer Experience and Equipment

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 (laptop, desktop or tablet) for extended periods.

Payback Responsibilities

After completion of training program volunteers are known as “interns”. During the first calendar year, interns serve at least 50 volunteer hours. Projects include answer clinic, community outreach, community presentations, and many other options. In the following years, “Veterans” serve a total of at least 35 volunteer hours, including at least 10 hours of continuing education, and another 25 hours of service.

Years of Service

MGs analyze mason bee cocoons at a table.
Master Gardener volunteers enjoying life-long learning.

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

2023 marked the 40th anniversary of the first Master Gardener class in Clark County! We estimate that over 1900 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
564) 397-5738

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