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Washington State University

Become a Pierce County Master Gardener

WSU Extension Pierce County Master Gardeners are university trained community educators, dedicated to providing unbiased horticultural knowledge and resources.  As a Master Gardener you will receive an abundance of gardening knowledge to support your own learning and interests. You will also be a part of a large, diverse, and enthusiastic gardening community. While these are incredible benefits to becoming a Master Gardener, the mission of a Master Gardener is to engage the Pierce County community through hands on, accessible and free horticultural education and resources.
Becoming a Master Gardener is academically rigorous and maintaining your certification from year to year also requires dedication and time. Being a community educator and steward is not for everyone. If you are interested in only learning more about gardening and environmental sustainability you can always engage in our numerous free community classes and events.

Applications are closed for

2023 WSU Extension Pierce County Master Gardener

Volunteer Training


2024 Volunteer Training Email List

Please fill this out if you'd like to receive information about our 2024 Volunteer Training, when it is available.
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Becoming a Certified WSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

Washington State residents must apply to and be accepted into a local county WSU Extension Master Gardener program. There are three steps to certification: (1) training; (2) internship; and (3) certification. To remain certified, volunteers must meet the state minimum service (25 hours) and continuing education (10 hours) and background screening requirements. Automatic recertification is not granted. Each volunteer must reapply to the program each year. Application, selection, training, and recertification requirements are described below.

Successful applicants to the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age.

  • Have a strong volunteer ethic and interest in gardening. Gardening experience is desirable but not required.

  • Commit to participate in the WSU Extension Master Gardener Online Basic Training course and to complete the final exam with a minimum score of 80% and all quizzes with an overall average score of at least 80%.

  • Commit to participate in the local WSU Extension Master Gardener Program training.

  • Be available to perform volunteer work as needed by the local WSU Extension Master Gardener Program.

  • Agree to use technology such as email, learning platforms and volunteer database.
  • Agree to donate a state minimum of 40 volunteer hours during the training year.

  • Agree to donate a state minimum of 25 volunteer hours each year after training.

  • Agree to earn a state minimum of 10 hours of continuing education (CE) each year after training.

  • Agree to document volunteer hours each month on our electronic database GivePulse.

  • Agree to sign a Pest Management Recommendation Agreement and Code Of Conduct Agreement

  • Agree to complete a Child Protection Training

2023 Application and Registration Schedule:

  • Sept 26th: Applications Open
  • Oct 31st: Applications Close
  • Nov 10th: Applications Accepted/Denied
  • Nov 20th: Registration Packet Deadline
  • January 13th: First Day of Zoom Training

2023 Training Schedule:

  • 16 Friday morning zoom calls from 8am-12pm, January 13th – April 28th
  • 2 Saturday in Person Outdoor Trainings from 9-1pm – (May 6th Optional) May 13th and May 20th. Location TBD
  • May – November trainees will engage in self-paced intern projects and work to complete 40 volunteer hours in various areas of our program.

Application Process:

  • Any resident of Pierce County who inquires will receive an application packet including Application, Training Schedule, Pesticide Agreements, Open House Schedule. All applications are due by October 31st at midnight. Application submitted after that time will not be considered.
  • Our Training Admin team will evaluate each application, contact personal references, and accept or decline applications by Nov. 10th. Everyone who applied will be sent an email notification of that decision.
  • Those who were accepted into the 2023 Training program will be sent a registration packet. The registration packet will include links to enroll in the learning platform, signing agreements, verifying vaccination or exemption, paying non-refundable course fees, and submitting and passing a background check. All this will be due Nov. 20th to attend the program.
  • Those who complete the registration packet will be given zoom call links, mentor contacts and syllabuses for the program.

What is the cost of the class?

  • $239 total. (The training fee is $150. The online platform fee is $75. The mandatory national background check is $14.)
  • Only cashier or personal checks accepted.
  • WSU Master Gardeners are also required to show proof of COVID-19 Vaccination or apply for an exemption.
  • The Master Gardener manual can be downloaded for free, or you can purchase a physical manual for $125.
  • No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.

Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Extension office. Reasonable accommodations will be made for persons with disabilities and special needs who contact Jim Kropf, WSU Pierce County Interim Director, at jakropf@wsu.edu or 253-445-4526  at least two months prior to the event.

How many hours a week will I spend in training?

Can I take this training while I work during the week?

The training days are 4 hours a week and online study is about 2-4 hours of study time a week totaling around 8 hours a week for 19 weeks, from January to May. The training sessions are every Friday 8am-12pm on zoom. These calls are recorded and available for asynchronous learning. Each lecture is paired with online modules with expected readings and assignments completed before each class. There are 11 lecture sessions in which one or two professionals will teach to their expertise. In addition, there are 4 Master Gardener Program Trainings/Open Labs in which the trainees will learn about our Volunteer Programs and have time to work together on modules, work with their mentor and build community. The Program Trainings will be recorded but the Open Lab sessions will not be, due to its community networking nature. Each trainee is designated a certified Master Gardener as a mentor, to support each intern’s learning, questions and engage them in programming and the vast community. These Mentors are usually designated by proximity because we value building community locally.

 

Format of the training:

 

The training includes 16 virtual and 2 in person outdoor training in addition to an online self-paced curriculum. The online study portion includes topic-based modules and open-book quizzes for each module through our Canvas Learning Platform. There is also an open-book final exam at the end of the training. You’ll need reliable computer access and be willing to learn new computer platforms to complete this training and maintain your certification for the following years.

What will I learn?

The training focuses on sustainable gardening practices through topics such as pest and soil management and water wise gardening techniques. It covers a wide range of gardening topics that include ornamental, vegetable and native plant gardening as well as training on our volunteer programs and community building. Each trainee receives a mentor to support their learning and introduction into the Pierce County Master Gardener program. Here is the intro to the chapters we review. Not every chapter will be addressed by a speaker: Intro and Table of Contents

What happens after the online course and training?

 

Once training is completed in May, the trainees have passed their chapter quizzes with a total average of 80% and passed the final exam at 80% each trainee will then become an intern are will complete 40-hours of volunteer time, which includes working at our demonstration gardens, staffing diagnostic clinics, an intern project, and working in the community. These hours need to be completed by November. You’re required to access our electronic volunteer portal and log your hours.

In total, our Master Gardener Training Program amounts to approximately 150 hours of training and volunteering for the year.

Once Master Gardeners complete their first year, they are required to contribute 25 hours of volunteer service and obtain 10 hours of continuing education annually to retain their certification. Every year our Master Gardeners submit 35 hours total and then re-apply for their certification electronically. As Master Gardeners you are allotted 1 year of leave if you should need it and you’re welcome to rejoin the community without retraining. If you should not retain your certification from year to year you are expected to re-enroll in the training. It is important to us to support our educators with updated scientific information and community outreach soft skills training. Master Gardeners are a go-to community resource, and we are proud of that.

Is there financial assistance available?

 

No one will be turned away due to lack of funds. Financial assistance is available to those becoming Pierce County Master Gardeners.  The WSU Pierce County Master Gardener Program would like to thank the City of Tacoma Sustainability Small Grant program for covering 5-7 scholarships for City of Tacoma residents in 2021.  Please note that scholarships are not limited to Tacoma residents. 

What if I want to just learn and not become a Certified Master Gardener Volunteer?

 

While our program is designed to create a strong base of passionate volunteers who are eager to continue their learning and engage the Pierce County Community through educational outreach, we have some space available for people who are only interested in completing the academic course. The course completion only track fee is $350 and Module fee of $75. No background checks are required. This course is restricted to just the lecture portion of the training, and you will not be considered a Certified Master Gardener Volunteer upon completing the coursework

Are you a WSU Master Gardener from another county in our state?

Certified WSU Master Gardener volunteers who change residence from another county to Pierce County are asked to obtain a letter of reference from the WSU Master Gardener Program coordinator in the previous county. This letter can be sent to the Pierce County Program Coordinator at jaala.smith@wsu.edu.

The letter must include:

  • The volunteer and program coordinator contact information
  • Testimonials of their commitment to the Master Gardener Program within that county
  • The year of they obtained their certification
  • The total volunteer hours of most recent year
  • Their current MG Status, background check and vaccination status

Once the letter is received and accepted by the Pierce County Program Coordinator, the Volunteer will be transferred to the Pierce County Give Pulse data base, receive an PCMG badge and will be paired with a Certified Pierce County Master Gardener to onboard them to the program. This person will mentor the new volunteer for the first year in the county and serve as a resource and support person.

Onboarding will include the following:
• Watch an orientation video to understand local program policies, activities, commitments, etc.
• Watch training videos on Give Pulse, and classes on the differences in climate and conditions between Pierce County and the previous place of residence.
• Receive a welcoming tour of our demonstration gardens and office clinic.

If the transferring volunteer has been inactive in their other program for more than one year, they are expected to apply to our WSU online training and complete all in-class training requirements in the new year.

If the Master Gardener is transferring from another state they are required to enroll in the WSU online training and complete all in-class training requirements to become
a WSU Master Gardener volunteer.