Have you always wanted to learn more about gardening, have more of a science-based knowledge of gardening, meet new people and make a difference in the community? Then the WSU Master Gardener Program might be right for you.
Master Gardeners are community educators trained to work in partnership with Washington State University (WSU) Extension to educate the public and enhance the quality of life in communities by promoting science-based gardening practices. Master Gardeners provide gardening advice to the public at plant clinics, demonstration gardens and other outreach activities.
The Master Gardener program was started by Washington State University Extension in King and Pierce counties in 1973 and has since been adopted in all 50 states and parts of Canada. Annually King County Master Gardeners donate over 44,000 hours of volunteer time at plant clinics, demonstration gardens, plant sales and other program activities.
Becoming a WSU Master Gardener starts with a training course that includes both classroom and online elements. Email and internet access are required. A smart phone is recommended. The textbook for the online course is the WSU Master Gardener Manual, a 25-chapter, 640-page publication that includes photographs and diagrams on such topics as basic botany, soil science, fruit and vegetable gardening, pruning, composting, landscape plants and entomology.
Completion of the online course includes multiple choice, open-book quizzes as well as an open-book final exam. A passing score on the multiple-choice quizzes is 80% or better. Time spent each week in the online portion of the class varies by student, but 3+ hours should be expected. The Zoom and in-person sessions are primarily focused on becoming familiar with the many resources Master Gardeners use when advising the public, including online materials. There will also be selected presentations from WSU and other local gardening experts on science-based gardening, plant problem diagnosis, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Successful applicants to the Master Gardener program have an interest in and enthusiasm for volunteer work, talking to people about gardening, and continuous learning. Master Gardeners spend time answering a wide range of home gardening questions, especially at our plant clinics throughout the county. When asked for pest management recommendations, WSU Extension Master Gardeners are required to provide an integrated pest management approach which includes information about cultural, mechanical, biological, and chemical methods. Pesticide recommendations must be made from home and garden sections of relevant current WSU publications or other WSU-approved materials.
Applications are generally available in September for the following year’s class and are due electronically not later than October 31. Applications will be processed in the order received, and there are usually more applicants than we can accommodate. Acceptance notifications will be sent in November.
For 2022, classes will be held on 11 weekend dates, as follows:
- Saturday, January 15, via Zoom, 9am-noon
- Saturday, January 22, in-person at Bellevue Botanical Garden, Aaron Education Center, 9am-3pm
- Saturdays, January 29 through March 5, via Zoom, 9am-noon
- Sunday, March 13, in-person at Bellevue Botanical Garden, Aaron Education Center, 9am-3pm
- Saturdays, March 19 & 26, in-person at Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens, various location & time options
Attendance at each of the sessions is required, as well as the successful completion of the online training. The primary mode of communication outside of the classroom is via email. Access to a printer is helpful but not required.
For the first year, successful trainees are considered “Interns” and must complete 40 hours of volunteer time by the end of September, including at least 5 plant clinic shifts (each shift is 3-5 hours depending on clinic location), at least 5 demonstration garden shifts (shift length is flexible, generally 2-3 hours). After successful completion of the first-year requirements, “Interns” graduate to “veteran” status. Veteran Master Gardeners must be recertified each year. Recertification requirements include 25 volunteer hours (in King County Master Gardener program activities of their choice) and 10 hours of continuing education (in-person or online training on topics relevant to gardening in the Pacific Northwest).
Cost for the training in 2022 is $400, including $75 to WSU for the online course (which includes online access to the textbook/manual and quizzes). Cost for training in future years may vary. Please do NOT send payments with your application – tuition payment will be due upon your acceptance into the program. If cost is a financial hardship, a limited amount of financial assistance may be available. Background checks are also required for all Master Gardeners via a 3rd party service. Cost for the background check is $14.