Master Gardeners cultivate more than just plants

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 | 11:08 p.m. CDT; updated 2:21 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Have you ever wondered what a Master Gardener really is? Is it just an expert gardener? How would you like to be one yourself?

Master Gardeners are simply people who have participated in the Master Gardener volunteer program through MU Extension. Masters volunteer their time and talents in their communities, offering up-to-date horticulture information and gardening help. Some are novice gardeners and some are veterans, some of them live in the country and some live in town in condos, but all have one thing in common: a love for gardening.

Members focus on what they do in their communities, not on whether they’ve “mastered” gardening. One person described the mission as “spreading the joy of gardening as much as possible in my community.”

Primary requirements for becoming a Master Gardener are a love for gardening, previous experience, a desire to learn and enthusiasm for sharing gardening knowledge with the public. Master Gardeners are involved in cultivating plants, enriching people and communities and typically volunteer 20 to 30 hours of their time per year.

The Master Gardener program started in 1972 in the state of Washington in response to a high level of interest in home gardening and numerous requests for horticulture information. Since then, the program has spread to all 50 states and a few Canadian provinces. Special horticulture training, in areas such as plant growth, weeds, diseases and insects, make the program a unique experience for participants. Their instructors are state and regional MU Extension specialists. In exchange for this training, Master Gardeners volunteer their time through their county’s MU Extension office to give horticulture-related information to their communities.

The mission of the Missouri Master Gardener program is “Helping Others Learn to Grow.” Master Gardeners involve people in improving the quality of life through horticulture education. The Missouri Master Gardener program began in St. Louis in 1983. The program was offered jointly by MU and the Missouri Botanical Garden and this partnership continues today. Other areas of the state soon followed with programs in Kansas City and Springfield. There has been a steady increase in both numbers and locations where Master Gardener training is offered.

By 1994, 400 Master Gardener volunteers were serving 12 communities in the state. Today there are more than 2,500 active Master Gardeners in 110 counties in Missouri.

Gardeners can answer questions on the garden hot line, give presentations to groups, write articles for newspapers or work with various community gardening projects. Locally, the Heart of Missouri Master Gardeners are elbow-deep in a variety of projects, including staffing the hot line at the Extension office, working with the Community Garden Coalition, working with children at The Intersection, having educational booths at Earth Day and speaking to various groups. They also work with Habitat for Humanity and the Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign. Whatever one’s interest is, there is an avenue for expressing it through these and other volunteer projects.

The monthly meetings are a continuing venue for deepening knowledge about horticulture. Various programs have included visiting the greenhouses used by the City of Columbia, learning more about perennials from Bob McConnell, learning about beneficial and nonbeneficial insects, a visit to Walk About Acres, a daylily farm and many others.

If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener contact the Boone County Extension Office, 1012 N. Highway UU, Columbia, MO 65203 call 445-9792 or check out its Web site at Classes start Sept. 10.

Barbara Michael has been a Master Gardener since 1993, and she serve as the Master Gardener’s liaison to the Community Garden Coalition as well as serving on its board. She enjoys container gardening and houseplants. She can be reached at

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Sherry Berry August 24, 2007 | 3:11 p.m.

Your article on gardening and the dry weather certainly hit home.

We at Abillity Arts and members of the Tiger Pilot Club are sponsoring a mum sale. Do you think that maybe some master gardeners could help us out? The sale dates are Sept 22 and October 6 and will be held in the Ethan Allen parking lot, but we will deliver them on a daily basis prior to those dates, for those who would like to get them in the ground sooner.

If you know of people who would like to get the mums in advance, my email is: or call 446-4429. Also, we need all the publicity we can get, so contact me for more information and if you know of venues we can reach. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Sherry Berry

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.