Washington State University Extension

Clark County

Master Gardener Program

What is a Master Gardener?

As flowers enrich our gardens, volunteers enrich our lives.The purpose of the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program is to train volunteers to be effective community educators in gardening and environmental stewardship. Master Gardeners provide information generated from research at WSU and other university systems.

History of WSU Extension Master Gardener Program.pdf

Master Gardener volunteers teach local community members to:

  • manage their gardens and landscapes in a science-based, sustainable manner;
  • address environmental and social priorities such as water conservation and water quality protection;
  • reduce the impact of invasive species; and,
  • increase public awareness of healthy living through gardening.

Whatever the priority need may be, if it can be addressed through gardening, Master Gardener volunteers are there to serve as part of the solution.

The Master Gardener Program is open to anyone with an interest in gardening and a willingness to use their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to make a positive impact on their local community.

Master Gardener Program

Volunteer Community Educators
Cultivating plants, people, and communities since 1973

In Southwest Washington, Master Gardener volunteers assist the Extension office at the Heritage Farm in Vancouver by sharing their knowledge of and enthusiasm for gardening to meet crucial needs within their communities. As para-professionals for Washington State University, Master Gardeners help answer nearly all of the home gardening calls that come into the Extension office, assist the 4-H program in gardening classes to teach children environmental stewardship and proper nutrition, give public lectures, and conduct tours of public gardens and nurseries. Volunteers with writing skills help author a weekly gardening column in the Columbian Newspaper, while those with computer skills help update a gardening web site. Other volunteers participate with the court system in offering horticulture training as a part of the Clark County Restorative Community Services program addressing juvenile rehabilitation.

For those volunteers interested in leadership and fund-raising roles a Master Gardener Foundation exists to support the efforts of the Master Gardener Program.

Learn more about the Master Gardener Program.

History of the Master Gardener Program

2014 marked the 38th anniversary of the first Master Gardener class in Clark County!

We estimate that over 1600 volunteers have completed Master Gardener training since the program’s inception.

The first Master Gardener Program was initiated in the State of Washington in 1973. Area Extension Agents in the Puget Sound region found themselves overwhelmed with questions on horticulture, gardening and plant problems, especially in the urban counties. The objective of the first program was to train a group of skilled volunteers in plant identification and selection, fruit and vegetable gardening, soils, insect and disease control, and lawns. In return for this training class participants were expected to assist local Extension personnel in providing home gardening information to residents of the their communities. With experience and mentoring Master Gardener volunteers became very proficient at answering nearly all of the home gardening calls, thus freeing up Extension staff for program development.

More recently Master Gardening training has evolved into a program stressing sustainable gardening practices involving integrated pest management, natural gardening, water efficient landscaping, and plant selection for the urban environment. Volunteers now spend time in the Extension office as well as working in the community in elementary school gardening programs, neighborhood associations, and in association with local ornamental plant associations.

The early success in Washington led to the formation of Master Gardener Programs all across the United States associated with many of the land-grant universities.

Become A Master Gardener

A happy team of 2005 WSU Master Gardeners delivering their class project at the end of the 12 week Fall Training Program.Master Gardener volunteers receive 77 hours of college-level, WSU-certified training. Classes are taught by WSU research specialists, some of whom are from WSU Puyallup. Students need to attend each session of the basic training course. Each trainee will complete a class research project and a series of take-home open-book quizzes. The goal is to learn how and where to do home gardening research.

After completing the curriculum section of training, the new trainees are required to dedicate 50 hours of service to the community by assisting the public in solving their home gardening problems and answering questions. Upon completion of the hours, they become Certified WSU Master Gardeners.

About The Training

The Master Gardener Program is a volunteer program for people with a passion for plants, a drive to learn, and a commitment to serve. Candidates for the program may have very little experience or knowledge about horticulture or they may have a lot, but all have a desire to learn. By signing up to join the program, you are committing to serving the community as a gardening/horticulture educator.

2014 Master Gardener Training

Dates: September 3 through November 19

Time: 8:45 am to 3 pm, Wednesdays

Fee: $175 plus an on-line training fee of $70 (total $245) — payable to WSU. Study materials are included.

Limited tuition assistance is available. Class size is limited to 60 students. Training includes full day classroom sessions that include live presentations, field trips, and learning labs in addition to 3–5 hours per week of on-line instruction (see list of computer experience and equipment requirements below).

The process to becoming a Master Gardener starts with an intensive 12-week training. During that time and combined with a year of on-the-job training, trainees develop the skills and knowledge to become effective community educators on plants, plant communities and the pests and problems which plague them.

Students commit to weekly homework which includes reading 25 chapters, completing chapter quizzes, viewing on-line videos, and completing a final exam, as well as other short take-home assignments. In order to certify as a Master Gardener, trainees must pass the quizzes and exam with a 70% or higher grade.

Upon successful completion of training, volunteers begin a one year internship in which they are required to serve a total of at least 50 volunteer hours, on projects such as the Extension office answer clinic, tabling at the Home & Garden Idea Fair, Clark County Fair and other events, serving as a part of the newsletter team, or helping at a school, senior, or community garden – to name a few of the many opportunities.

In subsequent years, veteran Master Gardeners serve a total of at least 35 volunteer hours each year, including 10 hours of continuing education, in order to retain certified status.

When to Apply

Applications are available each year, starting on April 1 online (see above) or at the Extension office at the Clark County Heritage Farm (Tuesday through Friday – note our office hours.) The course occurs once per year and usually fills quickly, so the sooner you register, the more likely you are to get a spot in this year’s class.

Registration for the 2014 Master Gardener training is closed. If you have any questions about the application process would like to be placed on our notification list for 2015, contact:

Erika Johnson, Master Gardener Program Coordinator
360-397-6060 ext. 5738

Computer Experience and Equipment Requirements

Trainees should have at least some previous computer experience and feel comfortable navigating the Internet and using email. They also need access to a computer for extended periods.

Master Gardener Online Training can be accessed with a 56 kbps dial-up modem (using a phone line). However, a high-speed connection such as cable broadband or DSL is recommended for faster downloading and navigation.

Hardware System Requirements

Microsoft Windows Apple Macintosh
Operating System XP Vista Mac 10.3 Mac 10.4 Mac 10.5
Processor Speed/Type Intel Pentium/ Celeron family; AMD K6/Athlon/ Duron 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor Power PC G3, G4, G5; some models of iMac & iBook; Powerbook G3 & G4 Power PC G3, G4, or G5 Intel, Power PC G5, Power PC G4
CPU Memory (minimum) 128 MB RAM 1 GB RAM 128 MB RAM 256 MB RAM 512 MB RAM
Monitor Resolution 1024 x 768 1024 x 768 1024 x 768 1024 x 768 1024 x 768
Free Hard Disk Space (minimum) 1.5 GB free disk space 40 GB hard drive with min. 15 GB free space 1.5 GB free disk space 3 GB free disk space 9 GB free disk space


Payback Responsibilities

After completion of training program volunteers are known as “Interns”. During the first calendar year, Interns serve a total of at least 50 volunteer hours, including at least 20 hours in the Extension office Answer Clinic helping to answer gardening questions from the public. The other 30 hours are in an outreach setting or other approved activity, as listed below. In the following years, “Veterans” serve a total of at least 35 volunteer hours, including at least 5 hours in the Extension office Answer Clinic, 10 hours of continuing education, and another 20 hours in an outreach setting or other approved activity, which include:

  • Speakers bureau
  • Tabling at the Home and Garden Idea Fair
  • Serving as newsletter contributor
  • Working with 4-H youth program in gardening
  • Developing and running our Clark County Fair exhibit

Years of Service

It is not unusual for volunteers to serve for more than five years after completing the initial training and the two years of required payback. There are even WSU Master Gardener volunteers who have remained with the program for as many as twenty years! Although this lengthy commitment is not a requirement for the program many volunteers enjoy the camaraderie, social opportunities, and educational enrichment that are the rewards of being an experienced and sought-after volunteer.


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Gardening Topics

Master Gardener Program
Answer Clinics
Workshops & Event Info
Speakers List
MG Foundation of CC
Resources & Gardening Info

Contact Us

1919 NE 78th Street
Vancouver, WA 98665
360-397-6060 Ext. 5738
Erika Johnson, Program Coordinator

Clark County, 1919 NE 78th St, Vancouver, WA 98665, 360-397-6060, Contact Us
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