By S. CORY TANNER
Master Gardener volunteers at this community event are able to answer many questions about plants and soil, and ready to do some research if necessary.
IF YOU GARDEN IN SOUTH CAROLINA, chances are your life has been touched by a Master Gardener whether you know it or not.
Master Gardeners are volunteers trained by Clemson Extension to assist the gardening public in many different ways. First and foremost, I like to say they “extend the Extension Service,” by assisting their local Extension offices. Many Master Gardeners volunteer to answer calls and help with walk-in gardening questions. They also go out into the community and teach people how to start a garden, be better gardeners, take better care of their lawns and properly use pesticides and fertilizers. As a horticulture agent working in one of South Carolina’s most populous counties, I can tell you it would be impossible for me to keep up with all of the requests for gardening information without the help of our volunteers.
Here in South Carolina, Master Gardeners have also been at the forefront of the community gardening trend, helping neighborhoods and cities start and manage collective plots that provide healthy, affordable food and a greater sense of civic pride. These dedicated volunteer gardeners also assist with soup-kitchen gardens designed to grow food for the hungry, advise schools on the best ways to incorporate gardening lessons into the classroom, and they teach young gardeners the basics through youth programs such as 4-H. Master Gardeners also play a vital role in environmental education, while also serving as citizen scientists, recording weather trends, observing insect and bird migrations and monitoring water quality.
The training required to become a Master Gardener is offered through local Extension Service offices, and begins with 40 hours of intensive, practical horticultural training. Courses covered include soils and plant nutrition, basic botany and plant physiology, insect and disease management, lawn care, vegetable and fruit gardening, annuals and perennials, trees and shrubs, and more. After successfully completing the classroom portion—which involves regular attendance, quizzes, and passing a final exam—participants receive the title of Master Gardener Intern. These trainees are then required to volunteer for at least 40 hours of on-the-job service to Clemson Extension or in the community through activities coordinated and approved by their county Extension office.
Clemson Extension Master Gardener Program
Requirements: 40 hours of classroom training and another 40 hours of volunteer service coordinated by a local Extension office.
Topics covered: Soils and plant nutrition, basic botany and plant physiology, insect and disease management, lawn care, vegetable and fruit gardening, annuals and perennials, trees and shrubs, and more.
For more information: Visit the Clemson Extension Master Gardener page.
The Master Gardener program has a long history of success in South Carolina, dating back to 1981 when the first class was offered in Charleston County. Today, the program is offered by most county extension offices, and Master Gardener courses are also available online. The program costs $300 to complete.
If you are interested in learning more about the program or wish to sign up for training, visit the Clemson Extension Master Gardener page. To find a nearby training class, look for the “Find a Local Coordinator” link on the left side of the page. To learn more about the online option, click the “MG Online” link.
S. Cory Tanner is an area horticulture agent and Master Gardener coordinator for Clemson Extension based in Greenville County. Contact him at email@example.com.