Master Gardener Manual


University of Kentucky

Master Gardener Manual

The Master Gardener Program

The Master Gardener Program was created by Extension to meet an enormous increase in requests from home gardeners for horticultural information. This increase derives primarily from urban and transient nature of modem American life. Fifty years ago, an Extension agent dealt with questions of a few hundred farm families. In many regions, however, land that once constituted a single farm now encompasses several subdivisions, increasing the number of families an Extension office must serve by the hundreds. In addition, many of these new families are recent arrivals, and are unfamiliar with the grasses, shrubs, trees, diseases, etc, which comprise the microenvironment of their new urban or suburban home. They will often call their local Extension office for advice on what to plant and how to care for it.

Consequently, the Master Gardener Program was created in 1973 in the state of Washington. Since then it has spread nation wide. Master Gardeners have become a vital part of Extension’s ability to provide consumers with up-to-date, reliable knowledge so they can enjoy and protect the value of horticultural plantings around their homes. Master Gardening has also become a fun and useful volunteer activity which gives its participants a sense of community spirit, accomplishment, and intellectual stimulation.

Your Responsibility as a Master Gardener

When you enter the Master Gardener Program, you are entering into a contract. In essence, you agree that in return for the training you receive, you will volunteer an equal number of hours back to Extension. Failure to complete this obligation means you are not entitled to wear a Master Gardener badge nor participate in Master Gardener activities. Upon completion of your training, you have one year to complete the agreed-upon volunteer service commitment or “payback” time. This time requirement varies from one Extension unit to another.

After you complete your payback time, you may choose to continue with the Master Gardener Program. Numerous people have worked as Master Gardeners for years and contributed substantial amounts of time to Extension. To be considered an Active Master Gardener, however, you must agree to volunteer a minimum number of hours annually. This requirement varies from unit to unit. so ask your Extension agent about your local program. If you choose not to continue in the program, you may not thereafter represent yourself as a Master Gardener.

I.  Time Sheets. Time sheets are the method you use to keep track of hours of time you volunteer as Master Gardener.  Turn these in on a regular basis. preferably every month. Some agents may appoint a Master Gardener to keep track of this information. Don’t be lax in reporting your time; the reported hours are used in county progress reports and you deserve recognition for your efforts.

Use of the title “Master Gardener.” The title Master Gardener should be used only by individuals trained in a Cooperative Extension Service program. The title is valid only when used by an active Master Gardener who is participating in a program approved by an Extension agent. When an individual ceases to be active in the Master Gardener program, their designation as a Master Gardener ceases.

Master Gardeners should not display credentials or give the appearance of being a Master Gardener at a place of business unless that place has been designated as a Master Gardener Plant Clinic by the local Extension unit. The title “Master Gardener” should not be used in a manner which implies Cooperative Extension Service endorsement of any product or place of business.

The title Master Gardener should be used only when doing unpaid volunteer work for Extension. When experienced Master Gardeners speak before groups on horticultural subjects, they may accept unsolicited reimbursements (such as reimbursements for expenses) or gifts. It is inappropriate, however, to seek speaking engagements for pay while participating in an authorized Extension activity and using the title Master Gardener.

A word of caution. When you work as a Master Gardener, you are acting as a representative of the Cooperative Extension Service. While Master Gardeners are covered by Extensions liability insurance when performing their volunteer duties, the Master Gardener needs to be very concerned that any information given to the general public should be factual and based on current Cooperative Extension recommendations. Do not be afraid to say “I  do not know the answer to that question.”

One particular area of concern is pesticide recommendations. Master Gardeners know that the use of chemicals in the garden is usually a last resort. Under the amended Federal Insecticide,  Fungicide. and Rodenticide Act (Federal Environmental Control Act of 1972), it is illegal to use a pesticide on a crop unless the crop is listed on the label. The given rate of application on the label may not be exceeded. Fines and other penalties vary according to the laws broken. Please refer all pesticide questions to the County Agent unless you have been specifically told by the County Agent that a certain recommendation can be made.