Who are Texas Master Gardeners?
Master Gardeners are members of the local community who take an active interest in their lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers and gardens. They are enthusiastic, willing to learn and to help others, and able to communicate with diverse groups of people.
What really sets Master Gardeners apart from other home gardeners is their special training in horticulture. In exchange for their training, persons who become Master Gardeners contribute time as volunteers working through their Extension office to provide horticultural-related information to their communities.
Is the Master Gardener Program for Me?
To help you decide if you should apply to be a Master Gardener, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I want to learn more about the culture and maintenance of many types of plants?
- Am I eager to participate in a practical and intense training program?
- Do I look forward to sharing my knowledge with people in my community?
- Do I have enough time to attend training and to complete the volunteer service?
If you answered yes to these questions, the Master Gardener program could be for you. Contact your local Extension Office to see if there is a Master Gardener program in your county, not all counties have one. If there is a program, obtain an application from the Master Gardener Coordinator at the office.
If accepted into the Master Gardener program in your county, you will attend a Master Gardener training course. Classes are taught by Texas AgriLife Extension specialists, agents, and local experts. Online classes can now be an option as an alternative to classroom hours.
The program offers a minimum of 50 hours of instruction that covers topics including lawn care, ornamental trees and shrubs, insects, diseases, weed management, soils and plant nutrition, vegetable gardening, home fruit production, garden flowers, and water conservation. The training is offered at various times during the year at various locations across the state. Check with your County Extension office for specific locations, dates, and times.
In exchange for training, participants are asked to volunteer time to their County Extension program. At least 50 hours of volunteer service within one year following the training is required to earn the title of “Texas Master Gardener.”
The type of service contributed by Master Gardeners varies according to community needs and the abilities and interests of the Master Gardeners. Some Master Gardeners answer telephone requests for information related to gardening. Others staff plant clinics or displays in shopping malls or community centers. Master Gardeners may speak to local groups and conduct workshops. They may help establish community garden projects, work with 4-H youth, or assist their agent with news or radio releases related to gardening. The Master Gardener Coordinator in the County Extension office decides how volunteer time can be best utilized.
Master Gardeners are representatives of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas A&M System. In all volunteer work related to the program, Master Gardeners follow the research-based recommendations of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. The title “Texas Master Gardener” can be used by volunteers only when engaged in Extension-sponsored activities.
Participants become certified Master Gardeners after they have completed the training course and fulfilled their volunteer commitment.
For More Information
Application forms and additional information are available from your local Grayson County Extension office.
You can also download the Application Packet below.
More information on the Master Gardener
When the term “Master Gardener” was first coined in the early 1970s to describe a new Extension program in Washington State, few could have predicted it would spread into Texas and blossom into one of the most effective volunteer organizations in the State.
The Texas Master Gardener program had its beginnings in 1978 in an Extension horticulture training at A&M University when Dr. Sam Cotner (Extension vegetable specialist) described the success of the movement in Washington state. At that time, county agents in the Texas Cooperative Extension were experiencing overwhelming demands for horticulture information, much like their colleagues in the Pacific Northwest.
The first Master Gardener class was held in 1979 in Montgomery County and drew about 25 people. The 50-hour course was held in the evenings and taught by Extension agents and specialists from Texas A&M using a manual compiled from Extension publications and news articles. Volunteer service was optional, but class members were encouraged to work on Extension projects.
Two more counties, Galveston and El Paso, started programs in 1981. By the end of the decade, five more counties had Master Gardener programs: Harris (1986), Dallas (1986), Tarrant (1987), Bexar (1989) and Denton (1989).
The Texas Agricultural Extension Service made an official commitment to a Texas Master Gardener program in 1987 with the hiring of a statewide coordinator. At that time, guidelines were developed for the program, including a minimum of 50 hours of formal training and 50 hours of volunteer service to become a certified Texas Master Gardener. The 500-page training handbook also was completed then.
In the 1990s, the Texas Master Gardener movement exploded, fueled by the program’s success and visibility. In 1991, a statewide, non-profit organization was formed and called the Texas Master Gardener Association. As of January 1998, there are 54 county Master Gardener programs with over 4,000 certified Master Gardeners statewide. In 1997, they contributed more than 182,000 hours of volunteer service.
Some projects are common to all Master Gardener programs. Answering homeowner’s questions by phone is at the heart of most Texas programs. Classroom gardening is another popular project. Some programs add different twists such as cylinder gardening (Harris, El Paso, Galveston), vermicomposting (Smith) or butterfly gardens (Denton). Other common projects are speakers bureaus, community gardens and information booths at local events.
Many projects that Master Gardeners are involved in directly reflect their communities. Examples are the Big Tree Contest (Orange), Wetlands Reclamation (Galveston), state historical part landscaping (Paris, Grayson) and State Capitol landscaping (Travis).
A love of gardening and search for knowledge is central to why Master Gardeners join the program. They remain Master Gardeners to enjoy the camaraderie and friendship of others who share their interests, to gain and share horticulture knowledge, and to give back to the community.
On the other hand, the 54 Master Gardener programs are as individual as the gardeners who inhabit them. Size of overall programs varies from 1 Master Gardener (Madison and Leon) to 8 Master Gardeners (Lamar) to 478 Master Gardeners (Bexar). Regardless of the size program, there is always a waiting list of individuals wanting to enter the Master Gardener program.
Though Texas Master Gardeners are united in name, the program’s strength lies in its ability to meet the diverse needs of the individual communities it serves. By combining statewide guidelines with local direction and administration, the program offers the flexibility necessary to keep it a vital and responsive organization that serves all of Texas.