Program History

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The rapid urban growth in many areas of the United States coupled with increased interest in the environment and home gardening have prompted ever-increasing numbers of homeowner questions to County Extension Service Agents. Many of these questions are seasonal in nature and are relatively easily answered assuming that one has horticultural training.

The Master Gardener program was designed to use the services of trained volunteers who have horticultural knowledge and a willingness to share that knowledge with other county residents through Cooperative Extension. The program was initiated in 1972 in Seattle. It seemed to David Gibby, King County Extension Agent, that keeping up with the growing number of gardening questions coming into his office was a losing battle. Dr. Gibby and Dr. Arlen Davison, then the Extension Plant Pathologist, put their minds to the problem and came up with plans for the initial season of a Master Gardener program. The guiding philosophy, as stated by Davison, was to develop a core of knowledgeable volunteers to assist Cooperative Extension in meeting the demand for reliable gardening information. They soon succeeded in meeting his desired objectives, in fact, they exceeded his expectations. And so it was that the Master Gardener Program began.

Since that time, the Master Gardener program has grown and is now active in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and four Canadian provinces. South Carolina adopted the Master Gardener program in 1981 in Charleston County. The program has been a tremendous success and is now active in over half of South Carolina's counties. The South Carolina Master Gardener Program is sponsored by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service.

The benefits of a Master Gardener program are sizable to the urban and suburban communities of South Carolina.

South Carolina Master Gardeners:

  • Improve overall efficiency in providing one-on-one service to the non-commercial horticultural clientele in the county.
  • Allow Agents to develop a "proactive" Extension program.
  • Promote increased environmental awareness through the prudent use of fertilizers, pesticides, etc.
  • Provide group learning and teaching activities for non-commercial clientele.
  • Form a group of teaching assistants who enjoy being around other horticulturists and which may evolve into a support group for Extension consumer/urban horticulture efforts.