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University of Minnesota Extension

Become a Master Gardener

The Master Gardener program is one of the most recognized and visible Extension programs in the state. Volunteers represent the University y of Minnesota, and citizens depend on them for reliable, research-based information on best practices for home landscapes. More important than an extensive background in horticulture is an active interest in gardening, learning, and sharing knowledge with others. 

Nationally, there are nearly 100,000 volunteer Master Gardeners. They reach about 5 million people each year—the equivalent of more than $100 million in value to communities. In Minnesota, the Master Gardener program is coordinated by University of Minnesota Extension and has strong ties to the research and outreach of the Department of Horticultural Science. The activities of more than 2,300 Minnesota Master Gardeners benefit schools, community gardens, youth programs, environmental education programs, farmers markets, and much more.

Important dates and deadlines

  • January 1 - December 31: Extension Master Gardener program year.
  • August 1: Application available.
  • October 1: Deadline to apply.
  • Mid-November: Deadline to submit background check data and view the Safety of Minors online training.
  • December 1: Deadline to register for the Extension Master Gardener Core Course.
  • January: Core course begins.

Steps to become an Extension Master Gardener

1. Apply for a Master Gardener internship

  • Complete and submit the online application (https://umn.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9nnO490YLQpkeVg) by October 1.
  • Meet with the volunteer program.
  • We'll show you how to submit a background check (online). All Master Gardener volunteers must renew the background check every three years.
  • Once you receive notice that your background check has cleared, you can register for the core course at 
    • The course fee is $340 (or $389 with a printed companion guide). In Douglas County, after successful completion of the core course, you will be reimbursed half the course fee.
    • Fee includes the background check and course.
    • Registration is due by December 1.

2. Complete the Extension Master Gardener core course

  • The horticulture education course takes 40-60 hours to complete and is offered annually.
  • The course is online for 2024. It begins in January and is self-paced through the end of April.
  • Taught by University of Minnesota Extension educators and faculty.
  • Attend bonus weekly online webinars with experts! Sessions are recorded to watch later.
  • All students must complete online quizzes for certification. An active email address and reliable internet access are required.

3. Share your knowledge

  • During your first year, volunteer 50 hours on projects and events that deliver horticulture education and information to the public.
  • Learn alongside experienced Extension Master Gardener volunteers.
  • Report your volunteer hours online by December 31.
  • Individuals who drop out of the internship before fulfilling the educational and volunteering requirements may be asked to pay the difference between the volunteer and non-volunteer rates for training.

4. Celebrate!

When your internship is completed, you'll start the next calendar year as an active University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener in your community.

5. Stay involved

To maintain your active Extension Master Gardener volunteer status, you will complete at least 25 hours of volunteering and required continuing education hours per year. Continuing education hours vary from 5 to 12 hours depending on your county.

To learn more about becoming a Master Gardener, visit https://extension.umn.edu/master-gardener/become-master-gardener, or call University of Minnesota Extension Douglas County at 320-762-3890.

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