Is it worth it?

gardenfan(z 9/10 CA)November 23, 2005

Hello Master Gardeners,

I have a passion for gardening and just found out that UCLA extension is offering a master gardener certification. It is a big commitment (13 Saturdays I think) and a 45 minute drive to UCLA, plus parking fees and gas. Maybe I just fell off the turnip truck but I really did not know about this certification.

I work full time but my weekends are free. Is that enough time to devote to the hours requirement? I would really enjoy sharing my knowledge with others. Do most of you find this rewarding? Any drawbacks?

Thank you for answering my questions.


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napapen(ca 15)

Wow, The training is well worth it but do you have time to do the volunteer hours needed to be certified. We always have people who go through the classes and then don't make the hours.

For it is was extremely worthwhile and I have been a MG since 1997. It really doesn't end with just getting the hours as there are renewed education classes. Some of our people do drive from upvalley which is 30 min one way and they would not have it any other way.


    Bookmark   November 23, 2005 at 11:27AM
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blueheron(z6 PA)

It's difficult for a person who works full time to be able to fulfill his volunteer commitment. I'm a Penn State MG and most of our programs take place during the week. Maybe it's different in your county.

You could ask the MG coordinator for the details before making the commitment. As the previous poster said, some people take the training and then can't make the hours. I could never understand how they didn't know that the program was a VOLUNTEER program and that the MG's were expected to contribute a certain amount of time to the programs.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2005 at 8:20PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

If all your volunteer hours required the 45 minute trip it would be difficult for you. However there may be opportunities closer to home, check it out. Some Master Gardeners are able to do their hours by voluntering to edit the newsletter which can be done at home with your computer in the evenings. There are many things to do without the long drive. Al

    Bookmark   November 24, 2005 at 9:48AM
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bragu_DSM 5

I just completed my hours in the classroom, and that was a huge chunk of time, and you gotta go (to class).

As far as the 40 hours of volunteer service as a Master Gardener intern, it doesn't have to be all at once. You could volunteer a few weekends to give a class, or better yet, if your group has an annual workshop for the public, you can get in on the planning and organizational stuff. There's a world of opportunities. Be selfish, make time for yourself to do this. It's cool.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2005 at 12:14PM
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I'm starting classes in 2 weeks. Always dreamed of taking time off work to garden full-time, and this is one part of what I've always wanted to do. Volunteering and giving back is a big part of it. So is meeting people who share my interest/affliction. Color me very excited. Wish me luck cuz this old brain hasn't gone to class in 20 years.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2006 at 9:11AM
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gardenfan(z 9/10 CA)

Hi Brenda,

FYI, I went back to school after 20 years to finish up my bachelor's degree (while working full time & juggling a family...whew!) My brain was rusty and the subject matter was difficult, accelerated & not all that exciting (finance) but I did fine. You will do even better because you are learning about something you love. I wish you the best of luck. I know you can do it.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2006 at 11:39PM
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Hi Janice...DICENTRA here (my log in name is not correct!)
I just finished the Penn State MG course and it was well worth the hassle of getting to classes on a busy city expressway. My class demonstration went really well and I already have two workshop presentations for outside groups scheduled. There is a lot of preparation time involved with most activities, however, there are ways to work around your full-time schedule.
There is a list that your county MG Coordinator can give you which lists activities that qualify to make your hours. Several you can do at home. Perhaps you can write articles for, not only the MG Newsletter, but for another publication. The hours are still the hours, though, that you have to put in. Often you can include preparation and travel time. You would need to be diligent and keep yourself in check to get the hours. As you can see, the first year is the toughest. I'm targeting to make most of my hours centered around my community.
I've always wanted to take the MG course, and after missing out a few times with registering, it was the best thing that I've ever done for personal enrichment (besides getting a college degree). You may always wonder what could have been if you pass on the opportunity that is set in your heart. The doors are already opening with ways to enrich the lives of other people, meet interesting people, acquire additional training in horticulture, and more for me. It's up to you, and it will be challenging, but, oh so well worth it :)
Penn State MG Trainee

    Bookmark   January 8, 2006 at 11:25AM
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gardenfan(z 9/10 CA)


Thank you so much for your encouragement. I am so glad to hear a "you can do it!" For this year I have decided to sit out the master gardener training. But next year (hopefully) my life will be more settled and, even though I will be working, will be in a much better place to learn, enjoy and give to others most of all.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 10:52PM
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nanahanna(a8 AR)

Hi all. I am about to start MG classes on 1/26. They will be every Thursday evening from 5:00 until 9:00 p.m. I am so excited! I am already an associate member of the local MG garden club and they have been so encouraging to me...cheering me on to take the classes. I am disabled with arthritis but I can do some physical things like prune a little and water and deadhead etc. I am hoping some day to be well enough to do more than that...but they have assured me there are many other things I can do by volunteering that are not physical at all. This is something I have wanted to do all my life but I always had to work 12 hours a now I am not working any more due to the disability. I am so looking forward to the classes and volunteering in any way I am capable of doing!


    Bookmark   January 14, 2006 at 6:04PM
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gardenfan(z 9/10 CA)

Hi Nanahanna,

That is really fantastic! Not being able to work, due to your increasing disability, must have been such a challenge to face. Hooray for you for looking for a door that was open in another arena. I think most people don't need someone to do the garden tasks. Most people need and want your knowledge so they can be successful on their own. We live in a fast age. Gardening helps to restore quality of life and internal joy - something that is often lost today. Nanahanna...just think. You are going to assist in bringing that to others. What a gift.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2006 at 9:48AM
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YES! YES! It is worth it! I just moved 900 miles to TX and even within all the chaos of making such a major move, I REALLY do miss the NE FL MG program I was in for 9 yrs.! I looked into the MG program here even before we moved, and they don't have classes until late summer/fall. I WILL be applying! I WILL be a TX MG! The zone is the same and the classes will probably teach me pretty much what I learned in the FL classes. . . .what I REALLY learned was after clases and being in the program and learning from the other MG's (the State University which sponsers the program will give you a lot of general info -- what you really learn is out there in the real world, especially from the other MG's in your county.) I moved to be closer to 4 adult kids and 4 awesome little grandkids and they're all keeping me way too busy --- but I REALLY do miss being an MG. GO FOR IT! It really is worth whatever time/drivng/required hours sacrifice you have to make. Well, my NE FL experience was. . . I'll let you know the end of the year if the TX experience is comparable. :-)

    Bookmark   January 16, 2006 at 2:06AM
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gardenfan, this thread seems to be dropping off, but I want to tell you that my enthusiasm for the MG program was renewed today. I went to my new Co. Ext. Office and was welcomed with open arms. I can't take the classes here for a year, but being an MG from 900 miles and 4 states away got me an invite to the monthly meeting Mon. I can't be an MG here yet, but we MG's really do have a camaraderie that spans from NE FL to SE TX! And that's another reason to go through whatever hassles you have to go through for the training and hours. For me, midst the chaos of moving 900 miles, at my new Ext. Office today, it really was like coming home. . .

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 1:23AM
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its a good way to learn more about plants and meet other people who like to garden like you do. it does require a lot of time and energy be put into it though. i personally feel that the term "Master Gardener" is misleading because the classes and voluenteer work do not make you a "master" but simply a more educated novice. (basically if you werent an expert going in you wont be an expert coming out) but it can be a lot of fun and a great way to meet people.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 9:47PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

What kind of curriculum is covered, generally, in MG programs? How much is focused on edibles vs. ornamentals? How much is classroom and how much applied? I am in Los Angeles, BTW.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 8:58AM
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The programs vary across the country. The basic training is usually three hour classes which cover a wide variety of horticultural information, giving a broad overview of many topics. Our classes cover vegetables, pesticides, lawns, perennials, diseases, insects, soil, landscape design, trees, shrubs, weeds, and other subjects. In our area, most of this is classroom work, the main exception being a class on pruning which is hands on. We also tour the local agricultural university site.

Master Gardeners learn how to research the questions we receive. This is one of the biggest benefits of the program. We know where to look for answers, and how to evaluate the answers to determine if they are research based or anecdotal.

My best advice to you is to contact your local extension office and ask about their classes. How much time is spent on edible versus ornamental plants may be determined by your locality. If you are in a farming community, then it's likely that more time will be spent on vegetable growing. But you will still get a broad education on many topics.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 5:10AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I took the master gardener's class this year. It was a real challenge to me, but I'm glad I took it. I've been homebound for years. There are always classes I can take for CEU's. It was such a joy. I have wanted to take it for years, but I had to work 5-6 days a year. I have learned so much!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2011 at 10:06PM
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It really does vary across the country. I went through the King County (Seattle) program; it's one all day session per week for almost 3 months. There is also weekly homework - material to read, work to do. That is online now. The classroom sections are lecture/hands on. Practice with plant diagnosis, clinic practice sessions, etc. In general, I think the requirements are more difficult and time consuming when you are a trainee; that can make it more difficult to do if you are also working outside the home. After you are a veteran, you'll still be doing volunteer work and CE, but the requirements tend to be easier.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 6:15PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

I'm just about to begin the MG training course here in Massachusetts. The MMGA is a bit different in that it is run by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and not the local extension service or land grant college. Training is pretty intensive. It consists of one day per week (Thursdays) from 9-3 each day for 13 weeks. I am really looking forward to this as I've not had any formal training in Horticulture at all. Roger Swain (of the Victory Garden) is teaching the session on Vegetable Gardening. Other experts are brought in to teach their specialties as well. I don't think I'll have trouble doing the volunteer hours. One of the requirements is to spend at least 10 hours volunteering at the MHS's Elm Bank gardens, which features an enormous perennial border designed by Adrian Bloom. I can't believe they would let me garden there. Even if I'm only raking up sticks, this is one of the most beautiful gardens in the Northeast. You can't help but learn a great deal in such a setting.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 1:18PM
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poppa(z5 MA)

Well, when someone asks "Is it worth it?" i expected to see some discussion of the costs but it isn't mantioned. I would lilke to do the course but the $200 fee is excessive to me. I have taken courses at UMass (Stockbridge school of Agriculture) and ran a landscaping company for 5 years. I now operate my own greenhouse.

Instead, I helped support the start up of a community garden that grows produce for our local foodbank. I grow the seedlings for that group and anyone in the community garden who gives me the seed.

i guess my opinion would be that it depends on what you want to get out of it. I certainly feel i get as much benefit from my involvement and i don't think paying $200 would make me a better gardener. I have been gardening since i could walk.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 10:46PM
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poppa(z5 MA)

this year the fee is $500. *sigh*

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 11:10PM
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poppa(z5 MA)

It's $575 including the materials fee.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 11:14PM
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It ranges from $350 to less than $150 in Missouri.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 10:42AM
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It's different here in Ottawa where I'm a MG in training. The educational requirement is 4 distance education courses over 2 years, at a cost of $1,200 (which will be refunded when I'm done & meet my volunteer hours). There are numerous assignments to do, a lot of reading, and tests. I'm really enjoying it, and am learning things I didn't pay attention to during my 30 years of gardening. Since cosmetic use of pesticides are illegal here, that's one thing we don't need to learn :-)

    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 8:07AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

This discussion is interesting to me cause I just found out that I'll be retiring early due to an incentive to get rid of us old folks!(I'll be 57 when I retire in June!)
My first thing I thought to put in my "what to do when I retire besides working" list was to become a MG!
I have been vege gardening intensively for about 12 years (since I quit smoking)and gardening in general all of my life.
Garden stuff sticks in my head for some reason, so hopefully, I'll really take to these classes! Nancy

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 9:46PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Retirement is wonderful as you get to do what really interests you. I went right back to work, without pay, as a full time volunteer for a horticultural research foundation. Being immersed into a group of experts testing new plants and new growing regimens, soon made me forget the years of stress involved in operating my own business. Taking the MG course worked right in. Al

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 10:15AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Hey Calistoga Al! I'm in Santa Rosa! Tell me about the So Co MG program. How much$ How long (What days/hours)How many volunteer hours? (This should be easy cause the spec ed dept I work for is VERY exited about the small garden I've started and sad that I'm retiring!That's where my volunteer time will be spent, creating school vege gardens)
Any help is appreciated! Nancy

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 9:32PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Hello Nancy in Santa Rosa. I tried to email you direct but could not. Call 565-2608 or visit their office on airport boulevard. I retired after 10 years with them so do not know present cost. With a school garden I am surprised they did not find you! Al

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 9:08AM
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