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Become a WSU Thurston County Master Gardener Volunteer

Program Contact: WSU Master Gardener Question/Answer Clinic
(360) 867-2163 •

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Are you interested in becoming a WSU Thurston County Extension Master Gardener volunteer?

The application period for the 2024 WSU Thurston County Master Gardener Volunteer Training is closed.  The application period for the 2025 volunteer training will be open after November 1, 2024.

Before applying to become a WSU Master Gardener volunteer, it is important to thoroughly read the information on this page to understand what it means to be a WSU Master Gardener volunteer.  If you choose to apply, we will confirm your understanding of the following information at the meet and greet.

Click on the “+” next to each question to view its answer.


What is the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program?

Since 1973, the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program has been engaging university-trained volunteers to empower and sustain diverse communities with relevant, unbiased, research-based horticulture and environmental stewardship education. WSU Thurston County Master Gardener volunteers are the foundation of the program and are the go-to resource for communities seeking research-based, innovated solutions for their ever-changing horticulture and environmental stewardship needs.

Every county in Washington State has a WSU Extension Master Gardener Program, including Thurston County.

The WSU Thurston County Master Gardener Program is sponsored by Washington State University Extension and Thurston County. WSU Master Gardener volunteers assist WSU Thurston County Extension in providing information to home and community gardeners about sound and sustainable gardening practices.

How do I become a WSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer?

Becoming a certified WSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer is more than just taking a course, it requires completing several steps over a 2-year period. In order to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively serve our community as a certified WSU Master Gardener volunteer, you must first be accepted into and complete the WSU Master Gardener Training. (more on training below)

After successful completion of all the training requirements (based on class attendance, quiz scores and final exam score), each trainee graduates from training and becomes a WSU Master Gardener Intern. Interns then complete 60 hours of volunteer service and an intern project in order to achieve the status of certified WSU Master Gardener.

Certified WSU Master Gardener volunteers are then able to represent the WSU Master Gardener program when they do service and give gardening information and advice to the public. In order to maintain their certification, each volunteer is required to give a minimum of 25 hours of volunteer service per year, complete 10 hours of continuing education per year, pass a background check every other year, comply with WSU Master Gardener Program Guidelines and WSU Integrated Pest Management Policy, and adhere to the Volunteer Code of Conduct.

Besides the training and volunteer requirements, the only other requirement is that you have the desire to share professional, unbiased, research-based gardening and horticulture information with our local community.

What is the WSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Training program?

The WSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Training Program in a critical piece to becoming a certified WSU Master Gardener volunteer, and you cannot achieve certified WSU Master Gardener status without it.  The purpose of the WSU Master Gardener Volunteer Training program is to prepare you to do gardening-related volunteer service in our local communities.

Training typically involves approximately 75 hours of comprehensive classroom and workshop instruction, typically starting in January and ending in June. Trainees will spend some of these weeks doing assignments at home, and the other  time will be in class to hear from a presenter, take a field trip, or to do a hands-on activity or lesson.

Training focuses on familiarization with and learning how to use resources to research, educate, mentor and answer horticulture questions for the general public, usually serving with other WSU Master Gardener volunteers in an enjoyable, collaborative environment.  Each WSU Master Gardener trainee is assigned a mentor to assist him or her in the education process.

Training topics include:

Basic botany

Integrated Pest Management

Soil science

Plant identification

Pest and disease diagnosis

and more!


2024 Training Details and Application Process

The application period is closed for the 2024 WSU Thurston County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Training.

Click here to learn more. 

**Applicants must be 18 years old or older.**

Why do we train on Fridays?

Prior to 2020, we offered the WSU Master Gardener volunteer training on either a weekend or weeknight every 4 years.  We have not been able to offer a weekend or weeknight WSU Master Gardener training since then for a couple of reasons.  One reason is because many of our training instructors have had significant changes to their schedule availability in recent years. The WSU Master Gardener volunteer training curriculum is extensive and involves approximately 79 hours of interactive instruction over 20 weeks from over 25 different instructors including program staff. We chose Fridays because we have had success with presenters being able to flex their work schedule on Fridays instead of any other day of the week.

In addition, we have noticed that in the years when we held classes on nights and weekends, we couldn’t provide as many outreach opportunities to the public not taking the training. Since WSU is a land grant university, we are required to offer our services and resources to the entire county. This means that most of our educational outreach activities are held at night or on weekends so that people who work during the week can attend.  Our department consists of one full-time and one part-time staff member and at this point our program doesn’t have the capacity to host an extensive WSU Master Gardener volunteer training on a night or weekend while also doing outreach at the same time. We hope this situation changes in the future but for now we must find a balance between both priorities. Right now, we can train 30 new volunteers on Fridays and still participate/host the over 100 activities/events/workshops we are planning for 2024. Although we can’t accommodate everyone’s schedule to become a volunteer, we are able to accommodate many Thurston County residents participating in gardening/composting/waste reduction activities.


Becoming a volunteer sounds like a lot of work. What are the benefits of being a WSU Master Gardener volunteer?

Becoming a volunteer is a lot of work and takes commitment, and volunteering with the WSU Master Gardener program is not for everyone, but it does have many benefits. WSU Master Gardener volunteers:

  • Have access to continuing education opportunities to expand their knowledge and better serve the public in the fields of horticulture, conservation, and sustainability;
  • Make a positive difference in Thurston County on critical issues such as food security and water quality;
  • Develop friendships with other passionate gardeners;
  • Have fun!

You will become part of the 200+ Thurston County WSU Master Gardener volunteers who have very diverse backgrounds of gardening expertise and interests. As a result of this diversity you will have fun learning from one another while making lifelong friendships.

What if I don’t want to be a WSU Master Gardener Volunteer, how can I access the WSU horticulture resources?

Check out our resources page for a list of reliable horticulture resources.

Where can I find more information about the WSU Master Gardener Program and who in Thurston County can I contact if I have more questions about becoming a WSU Master Gardener volunteer?

To be notified about the next WSU Thurston County Master Gardener volunteer training, please subscribe to our quarterly newsletter.  For all other questions about WSU Thurston County Master Gardener Training, please contact our Program Coordinator, Cori Carlton, at or (360) 867-2162

WSU Thurston County Extension Master Gardener Program website

WSU Extension Master Gardener Program website

Subscribe to our quarterly e-newsletter for updates on future training opportunities!

Thurston County WSU Master Gardener Training

Scroll through the slideshow of past WSU Master Gardener Training classes.


WSU Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local WSU Extension office. Persons will disabilities who require alternative means for communication or program information or reasonable accommodation need to contact Cori Carlton at 3054 Carpenter Rd. SE, Olympia WA 98503, 360-867-2162, at least two weeks prior to the beginning of training.