Master Gardener Volunteer Program

Spring means a lot of different things to me and not just the end of winter. However, this year I think most people in Michigan are happy to see the  warmer weather and no more snow!  Oh sure I love to hear the birds sing, watch the bulbs start to bloom and the trees in bud but  a special interest of mine is the  Master Gardener Volunteer Program (MGVP).   Spring through summer is the most active time for this program because this is Michigan’s  growing season.

I thought  a post of this part of my life would be nice to share after I recently received the updated 2014 edition of the Master Gardener Volunteer Manual (MGVM).  I also wanted to introduce fellow bloggers to this great program who might be interested in joining or at least might want to hear about it.  You do have to live in the United States or in certain areas of Canada but it is good for everyone to see what my country does to encourage and teach good horticultural practices.

The first manual was composed of a handful of bulletins, about an 1-inch thick,  which I received during classes in 1991.  In 2006 the manual became an official looking 2-inch document  (Core Manual) and I was thrilled to get this when I was recertified in 2007.   Lastly,  this 2014 edition is almost 3-inches thick and I am anxious to see what is new and what has changed.

This is an impressive reference that I  will look forward to reading as I sip a glass of wine or maybe Prudy’s sangria over at while enjoying Spring and the nicer weather.  This is how I will begin my weekend at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #11 over at The Novice Gardener with a “good book” and a glass of Merlot.

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Yes, I am an active Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV)  in the MGVP.   I am also an Advanced Organic Master Gardener because of additional classes and volunteer hours I have completed.  I was first certified in 1991 and then again in 2007, why twice?  To be considered an active MGV you have to maintain your status by volunteering so many hours each year (at least 15) as well as getting a certain number of educational hours (at least 5). I did not meet my requirements one year and had to take the classes all over again, probably because I was so busy with my own garden.  Actually this was okay as there were a lot of  changes that had taken place and I never mind attending any gardening or cooking class as you always learn something!

The ORGANIC  part is separate and is a combined effort through Project Grow and my local community college.  After I finished all of the requirements; attended all of the classes, passed a final exam and completed 20 hours of volunteer work I received my organic certification.  This manual is only 1-1/2-inches thick!

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You get your own badge that you wear whenever you are volunteering and also you can purchase some nice clothes to wear such as a hoodie, vest or T-shirt to further promote the MGVP. People see the word “Master” and think I know everything and I will have the solutions to their questions.  No, not always of course – I often have to research things and  answers are not that simple.  But I do have fun looking!

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The original MGVP was created at Washington State University in 1972.  It now  includes nearly every state and  several Canadian provinces.  It typically is offered through universities and for Michigan the first MGVP was offered in 1978 through Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) and was held in Wayne County.  I am a member of the Washtenaw County group.

The program has grown and changed with the times.  There is not only instruction in growing veggies but the curriculum includes information on environmentally friendly gardening practices that protect water quality, reduce chemical use and save gardeners money.  Michigan’s program is intended to provide Michigan residents with research-based, environmentally sound horticulture information and technical assistance.

What is an MGV?  It is someone who has an enthusiasm for gardening and a willingness and commitment to volunteer.  Volunteers are committed to improving the quality of life in Michigan through horticulture-based volunteerism and beautifying communities throughout the state.  The MGV continues to help make the Great Lakes State one of the most diversely beautiful states in the country.

The MGVP is a great way to meet new people and continue relations with old MGVs.  You have access to numerous on-line resources  such as diagnostic services and various IPM alert newsletters.  If I have a question I know where to look.  From September through April there is a monthly meeting where a special guest speaker brings new information on a variety of topics.  We have a couple of banquets that are optional for MGVs to attend.   2010 was the year I received my “Advanced” status.  Everyone brings a dish to pass, we have a meeting and awards are presented.

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There are numerous conferences held each year and classes/seminars to learn new things. We are kept up to date on all of the latest gardening information.  I had hoped to make one of the winter conferences this year but the weather held me back.  I do plan to attend the Master Gardener College this summer – I do need my educational requirements!

MGV requirements for Michigan residents:

1)  $300 registration fee (includes the 2014 manual above) and completing an online application (you are not guaranteed to be accepted)

2)  Complete the 13-week training program which provides in-depth education in many aspects of horticulture, including flowers, veggies, fruit, soil, pests and so on.  For my county it was one day a week from 9:00 A.M to 2:00 P.M.  This includes weekly quizzes and a long take-home final!

3)  Complete 40 hours of horticulture-based service volunteering approved by MGVP within the year.

After the first year:

4)  Maintain your MGV status by completing at least 15 hours of community service and 5 hours of education.  I was first certified in 1991 then lost my certification (I am not sure when) and then was re-certified in 2007.  I had to take the classes twice and do all of the extra volunteer work again – so it definitely pays to maintain your MGV status.

5)  An Advanced Master Gardener Volunteer (AMGV) needs to complete an additional 50 volunteer hours and an additional 25 education credits within 5 years of original certification date and I did this.

There are many opportunities to volunteer; the following are some of the things I have done and will be doing this year.

1) Kitchen Favorites Sale at Matthaei Botanical Gardens as a Plant Sales Assistant.  This is a lot of fun as I am not only helping members of the community learn about herbs and heirloom veggies grown by the Cultivating Community, the U-M student gardening group, but I also “shop” and get my new herbs and veggies for my small garden.  Yes, I signed up for this again!

2)  4-H Junior Master Gardener Program for youths 9-11 years old which is 6 weeks long; includes a garden to plant and maintain through numerous summer work sessions; a Salad Party after the classes are over, with lettuces and veggies from the garden and a Harvest Party in the Fall, which includes everything that needs to be harvested and PIZZA!  The kids’ garden in full swing after lettuces and radishes have been harvested for the Salad Party.  The garden is  located next to the classroom and between two of the greenhouses at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. One year we had a cake for dessert.  Doesn’t this sound like fun?

MG cake

3) Downtown Ann Arbor Blooms Day – planting flowers – last year I worked with a Girl Scout group planting a large bed of flowers in front of one of our local banks.

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4)  Gardening Hot line – yes if you call the hotline with a gardening question you might get me!

5)  Dial-A-Garden – you might hear a pre-recorded message from me on current gardening information.

6)  Maintaining gardens at the local Senior Center (lots of weeding)

7)  Mother’s Day Plant Sale with a special Members Only Tea Party (yes, I am a member of Matthaei so instead of volunteering I will be attending this year)

8)  Answering friends, neighbors and family questions about horticulture issues

9) Working in a Matthaei greenhouse for various reasons such as preparing plants for an upcoming sale

10) Preparing tree seedlings for area school children

11) Ann Arbor Hands on Museum – maintenance of greenhouse

So, finally why did I want to become a MGV?  When we moved from a condo in the city to 75 acres out in the country  Gene and I created this huge garden which we enjoyed for almost 20 years.  Early on I heard about the MGVP and being an educator and gardener I knew I  needed to sign up.   You see I not only wanted a veggie garden but we had fruit trees, wildlife, a pond full of fish, woods, marshes, prairies – you name it as we had just about everything on this small piece of paradise to enjoy and take care of 🙂

The pictures below show the garden being watered with lake water (look closely as you can see the spray); another shows early spring before planting; my 3 bin compost pile; and the generator used to operate the watering system all designed and built  by Gene.  Also, a couple  of pictures of the garden and some flowers and my pink golf cart we painted so I could get back and forth to the garden which was through the woods.  Gene built my sunshed which was close to the house where I overwintered plants and moved my seedlings to prior to planting time.

I have also included some pictures of the kids with their “fish” and some wildlife shots to give you an idea of what a beautiful place this was.  The reason the pictures are different shapes is because I took them from my “Creative Memories Albums” and scanned them.

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My transportation to and from the garden was a golf cart we painted pink…

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Just loved my sunshed Gene built for me…

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Views of our 25 acre pond and house.  We actually had a path where we could walk all around our pond…

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Fishing was a popular activity with  lots of sunfish and  bass…

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The new fawns were fun to watch every summer…

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Then there were the bucks!

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“Bruiser” was a special buck as he hurt his right rear leg somehow and then when  his antlers came in the left side of his rack was deformed.  It was a tough winter for him but I kept him well fed with corn, apples and carrots. His leg healed and he never seemed to limp or have trouble running especially when the coyotes moved in!

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My “Snowgirl” all decked out in her gardening gear and beautiful male turkeys strutting their stuff!

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Lots of geese every year – note my yellow lab swimming in our pond with the geese families…

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Osprey and a Great Blue Heron were just a few of our water friends…

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38 thoughts on “Master Gardener Volunteer Program

  1. Pingback: Fiesta Friday #11 | The Novice Gardener

  2. What a fantastic program! Your pictures and thorough description of the program really show your dedication and love to gardening and volunteering, Judi. I very much enjoyed learning about it.


  3. I second Ngan’s comments! I have heard of this program, as I know Master’s, such as yourself, have offered classes through our local school district’s continuing education programs. It sounds and looks (my that’s a huge manual) that your training as been thorough. And such a wonderful mix of activities you’ve been able to volunteer your services 🙂 Lovely photos of your little slice of paradise too! I imagine you had a wonderful, memory-filled day choosing the photos to share with all of us!


    • Thanks Nancy – it is a great program and I am happy to share all of the details with everyone. Actually it was very easy to pick photos as I have organized the pictures; gardening album, fishing – the wildlife I had to go through a few albums to find the best ones. I wish I would have taken more 🙂


  4. What a superb program that you are so committed to, Hilda, hats off to you! I always dream of such things, but you have actually done so much work in it all these years. Amazing!


  5. What an extraordinary post, Judi! Your info and photos are so inspiring! I have heard of the Masters Gardening Program – they have it where I live, and I was really interested in taking the courses. However, working full-time has put a damper on persuing this interest! Oh well, one day I hope to do this program. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! 🙂


  6.!! What an extraordinary post. Filled with so much information…the Masters Gardening Program is so interesting, I’ve never heard of it before… it’s something that I’d be so interested in, maybe after I retire when I would have the time for classes, and then the volunteering. And of course, if it’s near me. It’s so cool.
    Thank you for sharing your life..your home…your garden..your lovely shed. It’s so must love it so much.
    Imagine my surprise and delight to be reading along to see my name and Sangria mentioned… thank you so much for that.
    Wonderful post. Beautiful and heartwarming photos.. xx


    • Yes you do need a full day once a week – some groups may hold the classes on Sat? Thanks for all of the kind words. I use to live there but I have been living in the “city” for almost ten years now. You are welcome – I am looking forward to making it.


  7. Wow! What a post! As an amateur gardener myself, I’m in awe of your experience and wish you lived closer to be a mentor. Your pictures of your property look like paradise to me, too. What a great experience to give your kids. That sun shed is amazing!!!


    • Well, thank you very much. It was a very unique piece of property that so many of our family/friends and so on were able to enjoy. I have many good memories and because of it I joined the Master Garden Volunteer Program because I wanted to learn everything I could. 🙂


    • Thanks Angie, now everyone knows how many different ways I enjoy “gardening”. I have my computer back but still some printing issues so someone is coming tomorrow morning from the “Geek Squad”. Thanks for posting the picture 🙂


  8. Pingback: Fiesta Friday #12 | The Novice Gardener

  9. Congratulations on your Fiesta Friday feature Judi! I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one who found this post informative and inspiring 🙂


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