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Program Contact: Caitlin Blethen, Master Gardener Program Coordinator
(360) 370-7663 •

Are you a gardener in San Juan County? Do you enjoy learning and sharing your knowledge with others? Have you just moved to the islands and want to get involved in the community and learn about gardening in our unique ecosystem? The WSU Extension San Juan County Master Gardener Volunteer program may be just what you are looking for!

What is the Master Gardener Program?

The WSU Master Gardener Program is a nationally-recognized program that trains volunteers to serve their communities through horticultural education and outreach. Master Gardener volunteers work in partnership with the WSU Extension to teach research-based gardening and environmental stewardship practices to county residents, while at the same time learning, working, and having fun with other like-minded volunteers. Once volunteers receive training, they provide educational information to the public in home and subsistence horticulture including vegetable and fruit gardening, lawn and landscape maintenance, composting, native plants, plant problem diagnosis, pest control, and many other concerns.

Read more about the vision, mission, values, and critical areas addressed by the WSU Master Gardener Program here.

Who should apply?

Do you have a passion for gardening and making a difference in your community? The WSU Master Gardener program trains people just like you to combine your love of gardening, sustainable living, and backyard horticulture into community service you can really get excited about! Training to become a WSU Master Gardener is time consuming, but very rewarding.

The Master Gardener Volunteer Program is open to all. Successful applicants have an enthusiasm for volunteer work, enjoy talking to people about gardening, and are life-long learners. You do not need extensive horticultural knowledge to be accepted into the class, just a passion for learning about gardening and sharing this knowledge with others.

Attention: All Trainees and WSU Extension Volunteers are required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or have a WSU-approved exemption with accommodation prior to starting training.

What do Master Gardeners do?

Here are the volunteer opportunities for Master Gardeners:

  • Diagnose plant problems in our diagnostic clinic
  • Answer questions at Farmers Market clinics and Q&A tables
  • Grow, tend and harvest at our demonstration gardens (food is donated to the food bank)
  • Provide education at the San Juan County Fair
  • Participate in the annual Native Plant Sale
  • Help coordinate the Annual Gardening Workshop
  • Sow and grow for the annual Spring Plant Sale
  • Docent for the annual Garden Tours
  • Provide educational activities for children
  • Become a member of the Master Gardener Foundation of San Juan County
  • Write educational articles for the newspapers and our newsletter
  • And so much more… how would you love to share your knowledge with others?
What does the Master Gardener Volunteer Program involve?

Program topics include:

    • Botany
    • Insects
    • Soils
    • Pesticide safety
    • Garden management
    • Landscape ornamentals
    • Weed control
    • Pruning
    • Plant pathology
    • Sustainable practices
    • Vegetable and fruit crops
    • …and more!

Training focuses on familiarization with and learning how to use research-based resources to find and answer horticulture questions for the general public in a collaborative environment.


Tuition for training is $300 (2022). Study materials are included. To become Master Gardeners, trainees must submit to a national background check through Sterling Volunteers at a cost to the applicant of $14.00. Background checks must be renewed every two years. There are no other ongoing costs to be a volunteer.

Limited scholarships are available based on need. Contact Caitlin Blethen ( for more information.


Classes are held remotely via Zoom with supplemental outdoor educational opportunities TBA.

Time commitment

The process to becoming a Master Gardener starts with intensive 9-week Zoom training, combined with hands-on training. Participants are asked to apply only if they can attend all class days. The training is academically rigorous and requires approximately 10-15 hours per week of class time and homework. The online course includes chapter readings, quizzes, and a final exam. Participation is mandatory.


To become a Certified Master Gardener, applicants must complete:

    • 60-hour training, which includes all quizzes via the online course, labs, and possible Saturday field trips.
    • A score of 80% or better on the final open-book exam.
    • 40 hours of volunteer time as a Master Gardener intern (April–December).

Upon acceptance, Master Gardener Volunteer training begins with a 9-week course that combines lectures, group discussion, weekly assignments, and online study. Trainees are expected to attend all class sessions.

Participants are expected to come prepared for class by reading the weekly assignments, watching online presentations, and completing quizzes. All quizzes and exams are open book and can be re-taken. No memorization is required. The in-class time features guest speakers, hands-on activities, field trips, and learning about Master Gardener Program activities.

Access to the coursework is by computer so internet access and an email address are required. The primary mode of communication outside of the classroom is via email.

Volunteer internship

After successfully completing the training, Master Gardener Interns volunteer for 40 hours of community service in the following year to earn the title of Master Gardener. Volunteer activities include working alongside veteran Master Gardeners at plant clinics; our Demonstration Gardens on San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez; school gardens; our annual Native Plant Sale; the Gardening Workshop Series; and other projects. Mentors are assigned to groups of interns to answer questions and help complete the internship requirements.

Master Gardeners are re-certified each year by volunteering a minimum of 25 hours in San Juan County Master Gardener activities and taking 10 hours of continuing education classes.

Being a Master Gardener volunteer is a great way to gain horticultural knowledge, meet other gardeners, share gardening experiences, connect with the community, and belong to a well-respected educational organization. We hope you will join us! Check back here to find the next opportunity to apply.

Questions? Contact Caitlin Blethen at