Become a Master Gardener
Applications for the 2022 UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County Training Class are closed. Applications for the 2024 Training Class will be opening up in late summer 2023.
If you are committed to sharing and teaching information to others, the Master Gardeners of Sonoma County offer you the opportunity to learn and to use your knowledge of gardening to serve the community.
The UC Master Gardener Program is a volunteer organization that is dedicated to providing environmentally sustainable, science-based horticultural education to Sonoma County home gardeners. Master Gardeners of Sonoma County have a deep commitment to community service and are willing to volunteer as agents of the University of California Cooperative Extension. We strongly encourage BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) applicants. We aim to have a volunteer force as diverse as the residents of Sonoma County.
If accepted in the UC Master Gardener Training Program in Sonoma County, trainees must:
- Comply with University of California and Sonoma County Health Department guidelines associated with COVID-19.
- Attend ALL training classes one day per week to be determined January through May. There may be one class held on Saturday. Some classes may be held electronically (via Zoom). Training classes are conducted in English.
- Complete six hours of training at the UCCE Information Desk to be able to answer inquiries from the public. This training is individually scheduled during February and March, and is in addition to the training classes mentioned above.
- Be fingerprinted and pass a Department of Justice (DOJ) background investigation. (If your California residency is fewer than two years, an FBI background screening will be conducted instead of the DOJ background investigation.) Fingerprinting must be done no later than December 31, 2021. Details will be presented to you at your interview.
- Volunteer for and report at least 50 hours on approved Master Gardener activities within one year of their class graduation. These hourly requirements are fulfilled by working at the Information Desk and on approved Master Gardener projects.
- Volunteer each year after the first year for at least 25 hours per year on approved Master Gardener volunteer activities, plus complete at least 12 hours of approved continuing education.
There is a non-refundable fee for the classes is $285.00. The class fee may increase in the future.
Most, if not all, communication to members of the Training Class will be via email. Vital documents for the Training Class members will also be available online; therefore, it is critical that candidates for the Master Gardener Program have computer aptitude and accessibility.
FAQs about the UC Master Gardener Program
What is the Master Gardener Program?
The UC Master Gardener program is certified by the University of California Cooperative Extension in the areas of home gardening and horticulture. Since 1981, the UC Master Gardener program has been training volunteers to provide science-based horticultural information to residential gardeners in Sonoma County.
Who becomes a Master Gardener?
Master Gardeners are people of all ages and from all walks of life and represent communities and neighborhoods throughout the county. Although some knowledge of plants and gardening is an asset, successful Master Gardeners are people willing to learn, willing to volunteer, and willing to be involved. Master Gardeners are well trained and enthusiastic individuals capable of imparting their knowledge to diverse groups of people in a wide range of community settings.
What training do Master Gardeners receive?
Master Gardener trainees participate in a training program comprised of instruction in sustainable plant science and horticulture covering such topics as soils, fertilizers, irrigation, weeds, diseases, insects and other pests, fruit and landscape trees, vegetables, xeriscaping, firewise landscaping and more. Each trainee receives The California Master Gardener Handbook, as well as other UCCE publications. Trainings are conducted in English.
Classes are taught by experts in their fields including Cooperative Extension Advisors and specialists from the University of California at Berkeley and Davis, local community college faculty, and other knowledgeable resource people.
What is the Master Gardener’s commitment to the program?
After completing the training and passing a written exam, First-Year Master Gardeners are required to complete a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service their first year. Master Gardener trainees are selected on the basis of their ability to fulfill this commitment and their willingness to participate in ongoing community outreach and training programs. In order to retain the title of Master Gardener in ensuing years, Master Gardeners must complete 12 hours of continuing education per year and perform 25 hours of volunteer service per year. Active Master Gardeners generally volunteer considerably more than the required minimum number of hours.
How do Master Gardeners earn volunteer hours?
- Answer inquiries from the public at our UCCE Information Desk, and staff information tables at community fairs and farmers’ markets
- Provide consultation and education events at community gardens, school gardens
- Develop curriculum and/or teach workshops
- Manage social media platforms for community and educational outreach
- Write articles for internal communications and community publications
- Assist with various committees that run our organization’s programs
What kinds of things are NOT eligible for MG volunteer hours?
- Physical labor (such as digging, weeding, etc.) generally does not count as volunteer hours except in certain rare assignments pre-approved by the MG staff.
- Starting a garden club, or a local chapter of a gardening organization.
- Any work with a for-profit company.
- Advising commercial gardeners (any person or agency that is selling what they grow or selling their gardening services).
- Visits to and work in individual backyards or private properties. We don’t allow MGs to visit individual backyards or person properties as part of their volunteer service.
Can I add a “Master Gardener” reference to my business card?
The title “Master Gardener,” as well as the UCCE Master Gardener Program name badge, may be used only by appointed Master Gardener volunteers and only when they are in the course and scope of their UCCE Master Gardener volunteer activities. The title may not be used for commercial purposes. However, the training, experience, and certification gained by individuals in the UCCE Master Gardener Program may be referenced as personal qualifications, for example, when seeking employment.
What is the Cooperative Extension?
The University of California Cooperative Extension is part of a nationwide program established by an act of Congress in 1914 as part of the Land Grant University in every state. Three levels of government participate in funding Cooperative Extension programs: federal (through the USDA) provides a portion of the budget; state (through the universities) pays for statewide programs; and, county provides housing and operating expenses for local Cooperative Extension offices. The University of California Cooperative Extension works in cooperation with federal and county governments to provide local educational programs throughout California.
The mission of the University of California Cooperative Extension is to develop, extend, and bring about the use of research-based knowledge to improve specific practices and technologies. In addition, Cooperative Extension makes practical information generally available. Cooperative Extension has research support and organizational capacity in agriculture and natural resources, in family and consumer science, in community resource development, and in youth development.
University of California county staff (Advisors) are located in county Cooperative Extension offices in nearly every county in California. County Advisors extend knowledge, conduct field research, and provide leadership in selected Cooperative Extension program areas.