What is the Master Gardener Program?
The Master Gardener Program is a national program of trained volunteers who work in partnership with their county Cooperative Extension office to extend information throughout the community. The first Master Gardener program was started in Washington state in 1972. Forty-six states now have Master Gardener programs. For information on Master Gardener programs outside Tompkins County, visit the New York State Master Gardener Program website.
Master Gardeners are trained volunteers of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County assisting to expand the agency's educational outreach by providing home gardeners with research-based information.
Qualification for Trainees
Master Gardener trainees should have a basic knowledge of, or interest in, gardening; free time to participate in volunteer activities; enthusiasm for acquiring and sharing horticultural knowledge and skills; an ability to communicate; and a willingness to participate in educational activities and enough time to do so.
Volunteer selection is made after completing both a written application and an interview. Priority for selection is given to Tompkins County residents.
Master Gardener Training
Master Gardener training is held in alternating years; the last training was held in the fall of 2008. Experts from Cornell Cooperative Extension and elsewhere instruct the trainees on a broad spectrum of subjects applicable to home gardening. Certification as a Master Gardener includes a service commitment of 60 hours within one year, some of which may run concurrently with the training period. In addition, Master Gardeners are offered and expected to participate in refresher training to keep their knowledge up-to-date. Please call for information on when the next Master Gardener volunteer training will be offered, and to receive an application form.
Each Master Gardener must provide Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County with an additional 60 hours of service over a one year time period following certification for a total of 120 hours altogether. Participation beyond that commitment is encouraged.
To fulfill the volunteer commitment, Master Gardeners have in the past worked in the office to test soil samples, maintained files of gardening information, answered gardening questions through our "Grow Line", taught gardening classes, organized and run the annual Garden Fair and Plant Sales, written articles for publication, spoken or demonstrated to groups, and worked in the Education Center's gardens. New program initiatives are also welcomed.
Who becomes a Master Gardener?
Master Gardeners enjoy people and plants. They usually have no professional gardening or landscaping experience, only a genuine interest in sharing their knowledge, and sufficient free time to volunteer in Master Gardener activities.
How do I become a Master Gardener?
Master Gardener trainees receive instruction in plant nutrition, soils, vegetable and fruit culture, trees, shrubs and lawns, diseases and insects that affect plants, pruning, and much more. After this instruction, trainees complete an examination and are certified as Master Gardeners. Advanced instruction is offered, and special seminars and workshops are held so that Master Gardeners are kept current on gardening information and methods.
How does the Master Gardener Program benefit me?
Through the Master Gardener training sessions and workshops, you'll become a more knowledgeable gardener. You will receive publications, seeds and other related material. You will be able to attend regular Master Gardener workshops around the state as well as state and national Master Gardener conferences. You will travel with other Tompkins County Master Gardeners to interesting gardens and nurseries. And finally, you will meet lots of people who share your love of gardening.
How does the Master Gardener Program benefit the community?
As a Master Gardener volunteer, you are expected to share the knowledge you gained in the training sessions with other gardeners in the community. You can do this by participating in a variety of ways. Every time you answer a gardening question from a friend, you extend the knowledge you have gained. The Cooperative Extension Horticulture Program offers many volunteer opportunities, or volunteers can design their own projects to benefit the community. Volunteer hours are flexible depending on interest and time available. Travel expenses are tax-deductible.
Current Master Gardener Program in Tompkins County
Tompkins County has had this program for a number of years, and it is a very successful program. Right now, we have approximately 55 active Master Gardener volunteers who do a number of different things in the county. It is a very popular program and we normally have more than enough applicants to fill the training program every two years.
What are some of the Master Gardener projects in Tompkins County?
The Tompkins County Master Gardeners are involved in many activities. Here are some of them:
- Testing soil samples brought into the Cooperative Extension office
- Maintaining Cooperative Extension gardening information files
- Answering gardening questions phoned or e-mailed into the Cooperative Extension office
- Arranging public workshops on wreathmaking, gardening with perennials and other topics
- Organizing the annual Garden Fair and Plant Sale
- Writing articles for publication
- Designing the landscape for the Cooperative Extension Center
- Staffing the GROWLINE, the horticultural hotline
For more information . . .
If you are interested in becoming a Tompkins County Master Gardener, please send your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address to Pat Curran at the address at upper left, or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.