Hero Image

Become a UC Master Gardener

Thank you for your interest in the UC Master Gardener program.  UC-Certified Master Gardeners are agents of the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) dedicated to extending to the public UC research-based information about home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices through educational programs and garden-related demonstrations in their communities.

The next opportunity and training to become a UC-Certified Master Gardener will be January 2022.  Information about this training class will be posted in late spring - early summer of 2021.

Why become a UC Master Gardener?
Do you love to garden? Are you interested in plant anatomy, physiology and care? Do you enjoy sharing your knowledge with others? Do you believe in volunteering within your community? Do you have enough time to complete the required volunteer service? If you answered yes to these questions, the Master Gardener Program could be for you. We are seeking people who will make a long-term commitment to the program.

Who becomes a UC Master Gardener?
Any San Mateo or San Francisco County resident with an interest and experience in horticulture and a desire to volunteer for community service may apply. UC Master Gardeners are people of all ages and come from all walks of life. They share an enthusiasm for gardening, some knowledge of plants, a willingness to learn and help others, and the ability to communicate with diverse groups of people.

What does the training include?
UC Master Gardeners complete an intensive 16-week training program that offers a practical course in plant science and horticulture. Taught by experts ranging from UC faculty and staff, local horticultural educators, and UC-Certified Master Gardeners, the course comprises over 75 hours of classroom and field training from basic botany to plant pathology. Attendance at all classes and satisfactory completion of written exams and other home study assignments are required to graduate and become a UC-Certified Master Gardener. All training assignments and exams are open book.

Reliable internet access and an email address are necessary to gain access to class schedules and complete the homework assignments. A home printer is desirable.

In addition to the classroom sessions, Helpline training is required and is included in your first-year volunteer hours. Helpline training dates are announced prior to the end of the classroom training sessions.

Core subjects that are covered in the Training Program include:

Botany and Plant Taxonomy  

Plant Pathology

Soil Science


Integrated Pest Management



Water Management

Abiotic Disorders

Ornamental Plants, Trees and Shrubs         

Weeds and Invasive Plants

Vegetable Culture

Sustainable Landscape Practices     


Presentation/Public Speaking Training


How do I apply to the UC Master Gardener Program of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties?
As agents of the University of California, all volunteers must be fingerprinted and must pass a state-wide Department of Justice (DOJ) criminal background check prior to being accepted into the program. For those of you living in California for less than two years, an FBI background check is required. The application period is now closed for our 2019 Training Program. 

What is the training program fee?
The fee for the entire course for the 2019 training is $355 (includes all class materials). A DOJ fingerprinting is required of all accepted applicants (about $25 depending on the service provider).  
A limited number of need-based scholarships are available.

Where are the training classes held? 
The training classes for the 2019 trainees will be held at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, 1300 S. El Camino Real, San Mateo. Some class meetings will be held off-site (within San Mateo and San Francisco counties) for coursework such as composting and pruning.

When are the classes held and how much time should I expect to spend on the training program?
The training period is 16 weeks: including an orientation meeting, 14 weeks of class time, and the graduation celebration. The weekly classes are typically held Wednesdays from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM. Trainees are paired with mentors to help guide them through the training class and to introduce them to the UC Master Gardener Program of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties. The time commitment for training is estimated to be 15-20 hours per week, including class time.

What is the commitment to the UC Master Gardener Program?
In the first year, UC Master Gardeners are required to complete 50 volunteer service hours, 24.5 of which are shifts working at the Master Gardener Helpline.  Office locations are Half Moon Bay (Mondays 9am-4pm), San Francisco (Wednesdays 10:30am-2pm) and/or Redwood City (Thursdays 9am-4pm). In subsequent years, to remain a UC-Certified Master Gardener, 25 hours of UC Master Gardener Program of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties-sponsored volunteer service and 12 hours of continuing education are required.

If you have additional questions, please contact us at:  mgsmsf@ucanr.edu

What previous classes enjoyed about the training program:
“It is hard work, but the results are worth the time invested. As the Master Gardener program gains visibility, the better the chances are of creating healthier, sustainable ecosystems state-wide. Using research-based information helps to dispel myths and alleviate poor gardening practices.”
“Magnificent and passionate speakers and academics are truly inspirational in this course. I would recommend this program to anyone willing to devote time to continuing education who also has a willingness to serve others.”
“Top-notch content and presentations in an extremely well-designed and varied educational format.”
“The class was a fantastic overview of gardening and horticulture.”
“This has been a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to begin volunteering in my community and continue to gain knowledge.”
“This is a great program for anyone who loves gardening, wants to learn more about the science of it all, and wants to share their knowledge with the public.”
“You have to be able to give this class the time and preparation that it deserves in order to fully absorb the information.”
“It was a rare opportunity to be exposed to so much information presented by so many different experts.”