You are here

History of the MS Master Gardener Program

The following is a reprint of Master Gardener International Fact Sheet 95-01, July 1995. Master Gardener International, P. O. Box 526, Fall Church, VA 22040-0526.

The first Master Gardener program began in Washington State, in King and Pierce counties, in 1972. Dr. David Gibby, the Extension agent for horticulture in those counties, was overwhelmed by the volume of requests for information about gardening coming into his office. His efforts to use the media to answer questions more efficiently only seemed to result in an increasing number of telephone calls asking for individualized information. Gibby thought of finding gardeners who would be able and willing to answer the public's questions, and came up with the idea of trading specialized training in horticulture for a commitment to spend a specified number of hours doing volunteer outreach work. He sought and obtained the help of Extension agents, specialists, and administrators at the state university in planning and testing both a training program for volunteers and a format for plant clinics at which they would provide information to the public.

The first Master Gardener group to be trained by Extension specialists was from King and Pierce counties. Gardeners were eager to enroll in the program; more than 300 people applied to take the first class, and 120 were enrolled in the session which began in 1973. It was soon followed by a similar training program in Spokane County. Sites for plant clinics were then arranged, schedules worked out, and master gardeners began working with the public. During their first year of operation, these master gardeners served more than 7,000 clients. Twenty-three years later, Master Gardener programs have spread dramatically. Programs have been in operation in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and four Canadian provinces. In addition to the plant clinics, begun by the first group and now a basic activity of many others, Master Gardeners have undertaken a wide variety of other projects. They staff horticulture hotlines, coordinate environmental and planting projects, run demonstration gardens, do research, manage some existing public gardens, work with school groups and other special populations, publish newsletters, and broadcast radio and television programs as some of their many activities. Just as the projects of different groups vary, so do their training programs and organizations. Most programs are run on a local basis, but some are a cooperative venture on the part of several jurisdictions, and some are unitary statewide programs. The length of the training also varies -- from 30 hours to 120 hours -- and some programs offer advanced training sessions. The cost of different programs varies too, depending on local budgets and expenses. As a result of budget cuts in recent years, some programs have been curtailed or even suspended -- to the great regret of those involved and of the interested public as well.

As master gardening has expanded, so too have the organizations which maintain connections among those in one training area, within states and regions, and across countries. There are now nearly 700 active training programs, of which more than half have links to some ongoing association. However, of the estimated 50,000 master gardeners who have completed a training program, only a small fraction remain active volunteers and in touch with their local organizations. Some, to be sure, have moved to areas where there is no group available for them to join, or are taking a break from volunteer activities while maintaining their own gardens and perhaps influencing their neighbors.

In any event, the public eagerness for information has not slackened. Just as the response to notices about the first master gardener program far exceeded the number of places available, public expressions of interest in master gardening are large and impressive whenever information about the program(s) is made available.

For information about Master Gardening programs near you, contact your county Cooperative Extension Office in the U.S. or the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture.

[MGI is a nonprofit, charitable, educational and scientific organization established to support and promote Master Gardening programs internationally through information exchange, program support, specialized publications, and media outreach. Support is coordinated with local, state, and regional Master Gardening groups, the USDA Cooperative Extension Service in the U.S. and the Ministry of Agriculture in Canada, other national and international organizations, educational groups, and representatives of the horticultural industry.]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

News

A man raking leaves into a wheelbarrow.
Filed Under: Master Gardener, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens, Landscape Architecture, Landscape Management, Trees October 27, 2020

Video by Michaela Parker 

The year is winding down. The weather is finally cooling off and the leaves are slowly, but surely, changing colors. Cooler weather means fewer things to do in your garden. (Are you rejoicing or feeling bummed?) Before we wrap up the year, however, complete a few tasks in your lawn and garden to be ready for the spring! Here are four tasks to do in November:

A hand with a a grey glove on planting a series of bulbs in the soil.
Filed Under: Master Gardener, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens, Landscape Architecture, Soil Testing September 28, 2020

Video by Michaela Parker

We’ve finally made it to fall! The temperatures are dropping, the leaves are changing colors, and I can’t wait to purchase pumpkins and mums for my front porch! 

If you’re trying to stay on top of what tasks you should be doing in your yard and garden, check out these four for the month of October.

Four house plants in white pots.
Filed Under: Master Gardener, Lawn and Garden, Cut Flowers and Houseplants, Flower Gardens, Landscape Architecture, Turfgrass and Lawn Management, Vegetable Gardens, Weed Control for Lawn and Garden August 28, 2020

And just like that, we’re three-fourths through the year! Cooler temperatures will be here before we know it, hopefully sooner rather than later. Even though we all know the heat will stay around a little longer, it’s time to start preparing for fall and winter.

A cluster of bright pink roses.
Filed Under: Master Gardener, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens, Landscape Architecture July 30, 2020

Whew. It’s hot outside! Just a trip to the mailbox makes me break into a sweat. As you’re outside working in your lawn and garden, remember to stay hydrated and come inside if you start feeling overheated Here are four tasks to complete in your yard for the month of August: 

Watering colorful flowers with a blue watering can.
Filed Under: Master Gardener, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens, Landscape Architecture, Vegetable Gardens June 22, 2020

And just like that, we’re over halfway through the year. How is that possible? I have spent more time at my home over the past few months than I have in a long time!

Success Stories

A woman kneels next to a bed of flowers.
Community, Leadership, Master Gardener, Coronavirus, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens
Volume 6 Number 2

Master Gardener volunteers despite pandemic challenges

The sun was beating down, the humidity oppressive, and the flower bed dry. It was April 29, 2020, and the pandemic had closed the Mississippi State University Extension Service office in Washington County, where the snapdragons are.

Master Gardener volunteer and gardening participants.
Community, Leadership, Master Gardener, Lawn and Garden
Volume 5 Number 3

After a conversation with a fellow volunteer at St. Dominic’s Hospital in Jackson, John Malanchak decided to follow his heart.

“I’d always wanted to work with special needs individuals,” explains Malanchak, a retired geologist. “But I didn’t know what I could offer them.”

A white sign with dark green lettering reads, “Monarch Waystation: This site provides milkweeds, nectar sources, and shelter needed to sustain monarch butterflies as they migrate through North America. Certified and registered by Monarch Watch as an official Monarch Waystation. Create, Conserve, & Protect Monarch Habitats.”
Wildlife Youth Education, About Extension, Master Gardener, Insects, Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens, Herb Gardens, Places for Wildlife, The Story of Plants and People, Vegetable Gardens, Urban and Community Forestry, Urban and Backyard Wildlife, Wildlife Economics and Enterprises
Volume 4 Number 2

See what's new in Extension: a new monarch garden, a storytelling series will begin, the Garden Expo highlights Extension education, and Keep America Beautiful recognizes MSU Extension.

Upturned magnolia leaves stretch to the blue sky speckled with white clouds.
Economic Development, Master Gardener, Landscape Resources, Trees, Environment
Volume 4 Number 2

On December 10, 1817, Mississippi officially joined the United States of America as the 20th state. Two hundred years later, the state governor, legislators, and other elected officials encouraged residents to commemorate the bicentennial. Officials with the Mississippi State University Extension Service heard the message loud and clear.

A male retiree in a plaid shirt and khaki slacks sits in front of a piano. On its soundboard is a picture of his late wife in her wedding gown and gloves.
About Extension, Master Gardener
Volume 3 Number 3

In 2016, Myrtle native Michael Hale was looking for a meaningful, lasting way to remember his late wife, Vicki M. Smith.

 

Listen

Monday, March 19, 2018 - 2:00am

Select Your County Office

Follow

Your Extension Experts

Portrait of Dr. Jeff Wilson
Assistant Professor
Horticulture: State Master Gardener Coordinator