The Garden Patch: You can be a Master Gardener – Osage County Online | Osage County News

The Garden Patch: You can be a Master Gardener

052514-garden-excericiseWell, hello! For a little change of pace this week, I thought I’d give you a little insight into the Master Gardener Program – if you’re an obsessed gardener, you should consider the Master Gardener Program for yourself – you’d love it! So, here goes …

The National Master Gardener Program was founded in 1972 by a county horticulture agent in Washington state as a training tool for volunteers wanting to assist in the delivery of horticulture education programs on a countywide basis. In exchange for extensive horticultural training, volunteers agreed to help the Cooperative Extension Service provide information to the public. Historically, the main activity of Master Gardeners has been to answer gardening questions at county Extension offices or community garden clinics.

The Master Gardener Program is more than a horticulture class or a garden club. It is a volunteer program that enables participants to serve their communities through horticultural education. The knowledge and leadership skills developed through this program illustrate additional benefits. Today, the Master Gardener Program is popular around the nation and has participants in more than 20 universities.

The Kansas Master Gardener Program began in 1980 in Johnson County as a joint effort between the Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service and the Johnson County Extension Council. The program has grown considerably with 17 counties participating today including Butler, Cherokee, Crawford, Douglas, Ellis, Harvey, Johnson, Leavenworth, Lyon, Miami, Montgomery, Reno, Riley, Saline, Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte. Also participating is Post Rock, a two county extension district (Lincoln and Mitchell counties). The Kansas Master Gardener Program has educated well over a thousand volunteers to date and currently graduates more than 250 new Master Gardeners each year.

Participation in the Kansas Master Gardener program begins with a 40-hour comprehensive basic training course in horticulture offered for each county. The basic training curriculum is comprised of 12 core topics: Diseases, flowers, fruit, indoor plants, insects, landscape design, landscape maintenance, plant growth and development, plant materials, soil/water/fertilizer, turf grass and vegetables. Following this course, each trainee is expected to volunteer a minimum of 40 hours of time to the local Extension program. Master Gardener volunteers assist in large, urban counties where extension programs reach a diverse population and where a single agent may have difficulty meeting requests for information.

Master Gardener volunteer programs include demonstration plots, diagnostic clinics, 4-H/Youth horticultural services, hot-line question & answer sessions, school outreach, speakers bureaus, special events and educational days and special population activities. All Master Gardener volunteer hours must be related to a county Extension program and must be approved by the county Extension agent or board.

An advanced course is provided for candidates who have already received basic training and have an interest in further developing their knowledge and skills on horticulture subjects. The advanced training is a 1 1/2-day, 9-hour course at Kansas State University. Instruction takes place in both the classroom and in other K-State facilities.

The Master Gardener Program enjoys a diverse collection of participants. This organization effectively attracts people with a wide variety of skills who share a common interest in gardening. In addition to their horticulture abilities, Master Gardener volunteers also contribute to the program through their respective experiences as educators, technical specialists and professionals. Furthermore, it has been observed by Kansas program coordinators that these individuals are tremendous supporters of their local Extension Programs and of K-State.

Had enough? Well, that’s it for this week! Till next time!

stevehallerSteve Haller, of Osage City, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, writes The Garden Patch, featuring gardening ideas and tips for gardeners in northeast Kansas. In his words: “I am not a horticulturist. By education I am an economist. By experience, I am a marketing guru from a local to an international scale. Gardening was taught to me by my grandfather and my mom, and I’ve been doing it since World War II was going on.”

Steve can be contacted at, or leave questions or comments below.

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