About the Master Gardener Program
The Beginning of the Master Gardener Program
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.
The South Carolina Master Gardener Program
The South Carolina Master Gardener Program is administered by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service. Introduced in Charleston County in 1981, the program is offered in more than half of the state's 46 counties and online.
The SC Master Gardener Program is divided into two parts: instruction and service.
Instruction: Participants receive at least 40 hours of intensive, practical horticultural training during the Master Gardener Training Course (MGTC). Topics covered in the MGTC include soils and plant nutrition, entomology, plant physiology, plant pathology, vegetable gardening, tree and small fruit culture, lawn management, culture of woody ornamentals, and problem solving. Satisfying the instruction component requires regular classroom attendance and passing a final exam.
Service: Participants will donate at least 40 hours of educational service in order to complete the program and receive the title of "South Carolina Master Gardener".
Being a South Carolina Master Gardener
South Carolina Master Gardeners share their knowledge and skills in a number of ways, including:
- Answering home horticulture calls at the Extension office
- Speaking to garden and civic clubs
- Working with youth or senior groups
- Assisting communities with horticultural projects.
Volunteer activities are coordinated through the local county Extension office. Volunteer activities, Master Gardener association meetings, Extension in-service trainings, and field trips offer Master Gardeners a wide range of opportunities to broaden their knowledge-base, develop new skills, exchange program ideas, and forge new friendships.
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.
Becoming a South Carolina Master Gardener
If you would like to:
- Learn more about plants, pests, landscaping and gardening
- Participate in an intensive, practical horticultural training program
- Share your knowledge with others in your community
- Commit to both the training and the volunteer service
The South Carolina Master Gardener Program could be for you! Contact your local Extension office to learn more.