The first Master Gardener Program was initiated in Washington State (King County) in 1972. In response to overwhelming requests for horticulture information, the extension agent 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 for extension. The Iowa Master Gardener program was first piloted in Scott County in 1979. Today, there are Master Gardeners in all 99 counties in Iowa. To date, over eight thousand Iowans have been trained in the Master Gardener program. Each year Iowa Master Gardeners provide between seventy and eighty thousand hours of volunteer service back to their communities.
The requirements to become a Master Gardener include a registration fee to cover the cost of educational materials and a commitment to do 40 hours of extension service. Individuals receive instruction in a wide range of horticulture and related areas: houseplants, flowers, turfgrass, vegetables, woody landscape plants, plant propagation, botany, fruits, soils, wildlife management, pesticide safety/ integrated pest management, plant pathology and entomology. The training is offered in several county extension offices throughout the state in the fall and winter months. The training sessions last for three hours and are usually held twice a week. The instructors are state and local extension specialists as well as knowledgeable, local gardeners. After completion of the training program, individuals become Master Gardener Interns. They are promoted to the title of Master Gardener upon completion of their 40-hour service commitment in their community. Master Gardeners can remain active members in following years by attending 6 or more hours of in-service education and contributing 6 hours of community service.
Master Gardeners provide many services to the Iowa State University Extension Service and their communities. They use their knowledge, talents, and skills on various projects and activities, such as: answering horticultural questions and phone calls at their local county extension office, sponsoring lawn and garden shows, developing educational displays, and giving horticultural presentations. Master Gardeners also assist with youth gardening programs, help manage farmers' markets and community gardens, plant demonstration and city beautification gardens, assist at public gardens, conduct horticulture therapy programs at nursing homes, write newspaper columns, participate in radio call-in programs, and assist with the coordination and management of the local Master Gardener program.
Gardener Volunteer Service Hours
per Iowa County:
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