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Become a UC Master Gardener Volunteer

The application period has closed for the 2024 training class. To be informed about future training classes, subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

Thank you for your interest in becoming a volunteer with the UC Master Gardener Program of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties. The UC Master Gardener Program is a public service and outreach program under the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, administered locally by participating UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) county offices.

UC Master Gardener Volunteer Training

Master Gardener volunteer training takes place every year or every other year depending on need and resources. Interested applicants must attend an information session in order to receive an application to the program. The information session schedule will be announced in our newsletter.

Why become a UC Master Gardener Volunteer?

Do you love to garden? Are you interested in plant anatomy, physiology and care? Do you enjoy sharing your knowledge and skills 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 Volunteer Program could be for you. We are seeking people who will make a long-term commitment to our program.

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Who becomes a UC Master Gardener Volunteer?

Any San Mateo or San Francisco County resident at least 18 years of age with an interest in horticulture and a desire to share knowledge and skills with the public as a community volunteer may apply. We welcome applicants with a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and strive to have a volunteer force as diverse as the residents of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties. UC Master Gardener Volunteers share an enthusiasm for gardening, a passion for volunteering, a deep interest in plant knowledge, and a willingness to learn and help others.

What do UC Master Gardener Volunteers do?

As agents of the UCCE, our mission is to extend research-based knowledge and information on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices to the residents of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties. We educate the public by giving free classes and workshops, and problem-solving assistance through our helpline and plant clinics; writing regular newsletters, seasonal articles, and publishing social media content; and sharing knowledge and skills through demonstration gardens and a variety of other outreach projects. Within our volunteer organization, Master Gardeners lead and participate in committees and internal projects so that we can support and grow our program. We invite you to experience our volunteerism by attending our talks and events. Explore our website to find out more about what we do.

What does the training include?

UC Master Gardener Volunteers complete an intensive 16-week training program in English 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 Gardener Volunteers, the course comprises over 75 hours of classroom and field training from basic botany to plant pathology. Each trainee receives the California Master Gardener Handbook as well as other UC publications.  

Attendance at all classes and satisfactory completion of written exams, reading and other home study assignments are required to graduate and become a UC-certified Master Gardener Volunteer. All training assignments and exams are open book. A team of Master Gardener Volunteer mentors will connect you to our organization and guide you through training and your first year as a Master Gardener.  

Most communication about the training will be done via email.  Reliable Internet access and an email address are necessary to gain access to class schedules, complete homework assignments, and participate in virtual sessions. A home printer is desirable.

Core subjects covered in the training program include:

  • Abiotic Disorders
  • Botany and Plant Taxonomy
  • Entomology
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Ornamental Plants, Trees and Shrubs
  • Plant Pathology
  • Presentation/Public Speaking Training
  • Pruning
  • Soil Science and Composting
  • Sustainable Landscape Practices
  • Vegetable Culture
  • Water Management
  • Weather/Microclimates
  • Weeds and Invasive Plants

How do I apply to the UC Master Gardener Volunteer Program of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties?

Three steps are involved in the application process:

1. Mandatory information session: You must attend one of the mandatory information sessions. The sessions will provide detailed information on the application process, Master Gardener training, and requirements of the program.

2. Application: Following your attendance at one of the information sessions, a link to the application will be emailed to you. 

3. Interview: We will review applications, interview candidates, and select people for the new class.

Typically, class size is limited to 25 - 35 “Master Gardener Trainees.”  If you are selected to join the training program, final acceptance is contingent upon submitting fingerprints and passing a state-wide Department of Justice (DOJ) criminal background check. If you have lived in California for less than two years, an FBI background check is required. 

What is the training program fee?

The fee is based on books and other costs associated with running the training. For 2024, the fee is $375. A limited number of need-based scholarships are available.

When and where are the training classes held?  

Traditionally, the training has been held on Wednesdays from 9 am - 3 pm. If necessary, some classes may be held virtually.

What is the commitment to the UC Master Gardener Volunteer Program? 

Upon graduation from the training program and fulfillment of all training requirements, a “Master Gardener Trainee” becomes a “First Year Master Gardener Volunteer.”  First Year Master Gardener Volunteers are required to complete 50 volunteer hours in approved Master Gardener projects and activities, approximately half of which are shifts at the Master Gardener Helpline. Upon successful completion of the first year requirements, a “First Year Master Gardener Volunteer” becomes a “Master Gardener Volunteer.”  In subsequent years, to remain a UC-certified Master Gardener Volunteer, 25 volunteer hours and 12 hours of approved continuing education are required.  In general, active Master Gardeners volunteer considerably more than the required minimum number of hours because they are passionate and committed to what they are doing, and excited and motivated by the difference they are making in the program.

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

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