One of the least-known treasure troves of information
in San Diego County is that over two hundred Master Gardeners
provide home gardening and pest control information throughout
the county, FREE to the public.
Master Gardeners are volunteers trained
and supervised by the University of California Cooperative
The mission of the UCCE is to conduct research on
new pests and issues affecting the county, and to
provide research based information to the public.
The county of San Diego provides support for the
local UCCE office which is known as the Farm and
Home Advisor Department.
GENESIS OF AN IDEA
Like many local government offices, UCCE offices
usually have too much work and too few people to
do it. It was from this need that the concept for
training of Master Gardeners was born. One day in
1972, an overworked extension advisor in the state
of Washington hit upon an idea: since many of the
questions he fielded daily were basic in nature,
why not train a group of volunteers to answer the
most commonly asked questions about home horticulture
and pest management?
Once he had successfully implemented his idea, the
extension advisor found he could help more people,
and could also conduct the research required by
his job. For the volunteers, the program offered
the chance to get expert training in horticulture
and pest management, along with the opportunity
to help others. The Master Gardener program was
Extension advisors across the country soon were abuzz
with news of the program's success, and the idea
soon spread across the nation. In 1980, UC Cooperative
Extension initiated its Master Gardener Program
in two counties, Riverside and Sacramento. By 2009,
there were Master Gardener Programs in 41 counties
throughout California. San Diego’s MG Program
was initiated in 1983.
The program tends to attract volunteers who have
a passion for gardening, and it is the extension
advisor's responsibility to make sure these trainees
are given accurate, up-to-date information on home
horticulture issues and taught how to properly research
and respond to questions they get on that subject
from local residents.
APPLICATIONS POUR IN
In San Diego, the Master Gardener training course
is popular - and usually only given once every two
years. Our next tentatively scheduled training would be in January, 2018. Each class has a limit of 45 students and
there are often 2-3 times as many applicants.
Not every qualified applicant is accepted for a training
class but persistence does pay off. Several
of the current members of the local Master Gardeners
group had to apply more than once before they were
For a nominal fee to cover the cost of text books
and other class materials. Master Gardeners
in Training embark on a 50-hour program of 16 classes
over a five-month period. Each training class is
taught by a specialist in that field to ensure that
MG’s receive top-quality, expert instruction. Students
are certified as a UCCE Master Gardener after they
successfully complete the training course and pass
the final exam. After graduation, each new
MG must volunteer at least 50 hours of time in public
education activities during the first year, helping
to educate the public and answering questions on
home gardening and pest management.
Once certified, it's not unusual for Master Gardener
volunteers to stay in the program for several years,
fulfilling the required number of volunteer and
education hours they need for recertification each
year. MGs can meet their volunteer requirements
in numerous ways, including staffing educational
exhibits and the Master Gardener hotline (858-822-6910).
Public inquiries on home horticulture are answered
between 9 a.m. and 3p.m. Monday through Friday.
Inherent in the title "Master Gardener" lies the challenge to continue learning and to help other
gardeners grow. It's a challenge that everyone
who has graduated from the Master Gardener program
is committed to meeting.