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Become a UC Master Gardener volunteer

Thank you for your interest in the UC Master Gardener program.  Since 1980, the UC Master Gardener program has been extending research-based information about home horticulture and pest management to the public. 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 county offices.

Our next training class will be held in early 2024.


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 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 the program.

Who becomes a UC Master Gardener Volunteer?

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 Gardener Volunteers are people of all ages and come from all walks of life. They share an enthusiasm for gardening, 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 Gardener Volunteers 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 Gardener Volunteers, 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 Volunteer. 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.

Core subjects that are 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?

The application window for the 2024 training class has not yet been determined. Interested applicants complete an online application.  If chosen to join the 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. The 2022 training program fee was $375. The 2024 fee has not yet been determined.

Where are the training classes held?  

The format and location for the 2024 class have not yet been determined.

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

In the first year, UC Master Gardener Volunteers are required to complete 50 volunteer service hours, approximately half  of which are shifts working at the Master Gardener Helpline. In subsequent years, to remain a UC-certified Master Gardener Volunteer, 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  

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to keep informed of our next training class.


What previous class participants 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.”