About Master Gardener Program
The DC Master Gardener volunteer training program trains volunteers in sustainable urban gardening practices. Residents who graduate from the program become certified Master Gardeners and go on to volunteer in their communities providing support to a wide range of garden-based projects and activities.
After going through the Basic Training and getting certified, Master Gardener volunteers become representatives of UDC, and work towards building a healthier city in partnership with DC residents.
To train volunteers on effective and sustainable horticultural practices, landscape problem solving, and vegetable and ornamental growing.
The content is driven by the priorities of DC residents. It is DC-centric, urban-based, and most importantly, accessible to residents in all 8 Wards.
The program will be guided by UDC’s Equity Imperative and the sustainability goals of the District of Columbia.
Who can become a Master Gardener?
Any District of Columbia resident, 18 years of age or older, who wants to volunteer in their community. They should like working with people and plants and have a thirst for knowledge.
Why join the program?
The number one reason to join the program is to help people! You’ll also have the opportunity to learn new gardening skills as well as hone your existing skills. You’ll also learn how to solve gardening problems and be able to teach others to do the same. Best of all, you’ll meet new people who enjoy gardening just as much as you do!
What are the steps to become a Master Gardener?
- Application Process | Participants submit an application form to the Master Gardener Coordinator. Applications are sorted by ward so that there is an equal representation from throughout the city, and essays are evaluated using a rubric that is looking for volunteer interest and a commitment to garden education/urban gardening. The applicant is notified by the Master Gardener Coordinator whether or not they have been selected as a MG Trainee.
- Trainee | The next stage of the program is 48 hours of basic training. Master Gardener Trainees are taught about a variety of horticultural subjects by specialists, educators, and other horticulture professionals. Once the course has been completed, participants take a Final Exam. If they pass the exam (75%), participants move on to the next phase of the program and are considered Master Gardener Interns.
- Intern | Once a Master Gardener Trainee has completed the Master Gardener Basic Training and passes the final exam, they become a Master Gardener Intern. Interns must complete at least 40 hours of approved volunteer service over a twelve-month period to achieve the status of Master Gardener.
- Certified Master Gardener | After completing those golden 40 volunteer hours, participants become Certified Master Gardeners. In order to remain active, Certified Master Gardeners must:
Provide at least 20 hours of certified volunteer service each calendar year.
Complete at least 10 hours of continuing education each calendar year.
Fall 2022 Basic Training
This session is currently running and is not open to new applicants.
Spring 2023 Basic Training
This session will run from March –early July 2023. The application will open in January 2023.
DC Master Gardener Basic Training
The DC Master Gardener Basic Training trains volunteers in sustainable urban gardening practices. Participants who graduate from the program become Certified Master Gardeners and go on to volunteer in their communities providing support to a wide range of garden-based projects and activities.
What the Master Gardener program IS:
The mission of the Master Gardener Program is to train volunteers.
What the Master Gardener program IS NOT:
The Master Gardener program is not a workforce/vocational training program, or a horticulture course for home or professional gardens.
Please only apply to the program if you would like to train to become a volunteer in your community.
About the Volunteer Training
The DC Master Gardener Basic Training will give students an overview of sustainable urban gardening theory and practice. The training is divided into two phases: the first is 48 hours of online learning; the second is 40 hours of volunteer experience. The curriculum is focused on sustainable urban gardening concepts and techniques that have practical application to the DC setting.
The first phase of the training will run for 16 weeks. Most classes will be held weekly on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 9 pm, with 4 classes on Saturday mornings from 9:00-12:00. The Wednesday classes will be held online, with recordings made available to participants, and the Saturday classes will be held in person at different garden locations. At the end of the 16 sessions, students will take an exam which they are required to pass with 75% or more in order to go on to the next phase of training.
The next phase of the training is practical and hands-on. The aim is for students to have practical, hands-on experience and develop manual skills. We believe that students will develop a deeper understanding through practice. Students will select a couple of topics they are most interested in and would like to develop a deeper understanding. They will build a plan to volunteer at different projects around the city to gain more knowledge and put their skills into practice. The plan must be submitted to the Master Gardener coordinator and approved before participants begin their volunteer activities.
Once the participants complete their volunteer activities satisfactorily, they become certified Master Gardeners. In order to maintain active status, MG volunteers are required to complete 20 volunteer hours and 10 continuing education hours per calendar year.
Participants will graduate from the DC Master Gardener Basic Training with sufficient skills to volunteer at various garden projects around the district. They will have a good understanding of sustainable urban gardening theory and practice. At the end of the training, students should feel confident in their ability to answer questions from the public about different aspects of gardening. They should also have a deep understanding of a handful of chosen topics and will feel confident in leading activities and delivering short workshops and classes on these subjects.
The curriculum includes:
- Urban Agroecology
- Woody plants and trees
- Plant pathology
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
- Garden planning
- Water management and conservation
- Urban agriculture
- Fruit and vegetable gardening
Volunteer organizations include:
- UDC Food Hubs
- School gardens
- Community gardens
- Urban farms
- Public parks and gardens
- Non-profit organizations
- Youth groups
The application is now closed for the Fall 2022 cohort. It will reopen for the Spring 2023 cohort in January. Reach out to Ali Schneiderman if you would like to be notified when the application opens.
The cost of the DC Master Gardener Basic Training is $300, to be paid by check or money order. This amount covers program materials and payment for the instructors.
Financial aid will be offered to those who require assistance. Please indicate the need by checking the appropriate box on the application form.
Computer Loaner Program
This year we are also initiating a Computer Loaner Program. If anyone would like to take the course but does not have access to a computer or mobile device, they may be eligible to borrow a computer from the Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education at UDC CAUSES for the duration of the course.
The computers loaned by the program do not come with internet access (like a hotspot). Users will need to have access to a wifi network in order to access the course content.
If you do not have access to wifi at home, you may access public wifi networks throughout the District at key community anchor locations including public schools and public charter schools, public libraries, parks and recreation centers, senior centers, community pools, community health clinics and social service sites, public housing campuses, public safety sites, and District government administration buildings. Please check HERE for a map of free wifi in DC.
Project Associate in the Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education