Marin Master Gardeners
University of California
Marin Master Gardeners

How to Become a Master Gardener


How to Become a MG

Are you interested in lifelong learning? Do you enjoy sharing your knowledge of good gardening practices with home gardeners? Do you love to garden? And do you like volunteering in your community? MMGs do all this and more! Working with fellow gardening enthusiasts you will gain knowledge about the life of the garden, and put what you know into practice for the benefit of home gardeners, our community, and our environment. Among other things, MMGs encourage sustainable landscape practices, support the creation of local food sources, and train people to promote youth gardening. Last year, MMGs donated thousands of hours to our community.

The MMG Training Program is an intensive 18-week overview course that provides a practical review of horticulture and sustainable landscape practices. Classes meet every Thursday from January through mid-May. Before the first class, each Trainee is introduced to a mentor who will guide you throughout the training class and introduce you to the Master Gardener organization. Classes are taught by: University of California faculty and staff, landscape and nursery professionals, local horticulture educators and certified Master Gardeners.

Topics that are covered in the Training Program include:

Climate, Microclimate and Site Analysis

Growing Vegetables and Fruits

Botany and Plant Taxonomy

Plant Pathology

Soils, Composting and Mulching

Insect - Pests and Beneficial Insects

Plant Propagation

Integrated Pest Management


Water-Wise Irrigation Practices

Ornamentals, Trees, and Shrubs

Garden Planning

Native and Low Water Plants

Weeds and Invasives, Fire-safe Planting

MGs in class 2019
Any Marin resident with an interest in horticulture and a desire to volunteer for community outreach may apply to the Master Gardener Training Program. Marin 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.

The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) is part of a nationwide program established by an Act of Congress in 1914 as part of the Land Grant University in every state. The mission of the UCCE is to develop, extend, and bring about the use of research-based knowledge to improve specific practices and technologies. The Master Gardener program is one way of extending this knowledge to the by providing the home gardener with research-based information from the University of California.

In addition to completing the Training Program and its requirements, first year MMGs are required to complete at least 50 hours of Marin Master Gardener sponsored volunteer service and 12 hours of appropriate continuing education in the first year after graduation. To remain a certified MMG in each year thereafter, a minimum of 25 hours of MMG-sponsored volunteer service and 12 hours of continuing education are required. 


MGs in the soil 2019
MGs in the garden 2019

UC Master Gardeners are the go-to people for University of California research-based horticulture information and for teaching sustainable gardening practices for healthy homes and gardens. They staff an information help desk in the UCCE office, answering questions, diagnosing plant problems, and giving horticultural assistance to home gardeners. They provide information through newspaper articles, plant clinics, talks and demonstrations and they work on a broad range of community horticultural and gardening projects. To learn more about some of the UC Marin Master Gardener volunteer opportunities, go to Garden Projects or watch the We Are Master Gardeners video below.

To become a UC Master Gardener in Marin (MMG) Trainees must participate in and complete the Training Program. Our all-volunteer Training Team works hard to create a stimulating, exciting and varied Training Program. The list below describes what is necessary to become a MMG.

  1. Applicants must be Marin County residents.
  2. All applications are due by Friday, September 7, 2018.
  3. Interviews are held October 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9, 2018.
  4. A non-refundable Training Program fee of $325 is due only upon acceptance into the Training Program but no later than Friday, October 26, 2018. Although a tuition fee of $325 is required, no one accepted into the program will be turned away for lack of funds.
  5. An Orientation for all new class members is held on Thursday, November 8, 2018.
  6. UCCE requires all volunteers accepted into the Training Program to be fingerprinted by the Marin County Sheriff on or before Wednesday, November 21, 2018.
  7. Trainees must attend all eighteen (18) training classes held every Thursday beginning on January 10, 2019 and continuing through graduation on May 9, 2019. There are no exceptions to this policy. Classes begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. and end by 3:30 p.m. Most classes will be held at the Hamilton Community Center in Novato. Some classes are held at other locations.
  8. In addition to attendance at all Training Program classes, Trainees are required to complete rigorous coursework outside of regular class hours. This work includes:
    a. Weekly reading (30 to 50 pages) from various assigned sources including textbooks and the UC Davis Integrated Pest Management website
    b. Weekly homework assignments
    c. A Garden Planning Project (a cumulative project spanning several weeks)
    d. A small group research problem including presentation
    e. Additional weekday training sessions at the Help Desk
    f. An open-book final exam with a grade of 70% or higher
  9. The time commitment for the MMG Training Program is estimated to be 20-25 hours per week, including time spent in class, with some weeks requiring more hours.
  10. Basic word processing, internet research, and other computer skills will be necessary to perform the work of a Trainee and Master Gardener.
  11. The MMG Training Program supplies course textbooks except that Trainees must provide their own copy of the 2012 edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book.
  12. By June 30, 2020, Trainees must complete:
    a. 50 Volunteer Hours on MMG activities and projects. Volunteer Hours must include at least one shift at one of the MMG Farmers Markets and at least 18 hours at the Help Desk in the UCCE Office. (These 18 hours are scheduled on weekdays and are in addition to the Thursday classes. Twelve of these 18 hours are training sessions.)
    b. Twelve Continuing Education Hours (CE). In addition to the training class attendance, after graduation, Trainees must complete 12 hours of CE as defined by MMG.
  13. To remain certified in each year after the first year, MMGs must provide a minimum of 25 hours of volunteer service on MMG activities and projects and 12 hours of CE as defined by MMG.


Fri, September 7 Deadline for online application submission
Wed, October 3
Thurs, October 4
Fri, October 5
Mon, October 8
Tues, October 9
Selected applicant interviews 
By Fri, October 12 Acceptances emailed
Fri, October 26  All course fees due
Thurs, November 8  Orientation at Homeward Bound Key Room, Novato
Wed, November 21  Fingerprinting completed
January 2019 (TBA) Winter Celebration – All Master Gardeners and new class members
Thurs, January 10 Training Program Classes begin (9:00 am - 3:30 pm every Thursday for 18 weeks)
Thurs, May 9, 2019  Graduation
September 2019 (TBA) MMG Annual Meeting and Celebration

Completed online applications must be submitted by Friday, September 7, 2018. The link to the online Application is at the bottom of this page.

Candidates selected for interviews must come in-person (no phone interviews) to the UCCE Office (see address above) for a 15-minute interview on one of the following dates: October 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 2018. Because of the number of applications received, we regret that we will not be able to accommodate or interview all that apply. We welcome re-application in subsequent years.

Accepted applicants meet at an Orientation on Thursday, November 8 and the Training Program is held every Thursday beginning on January 10, 2019 and ending on May 9, 2019.

Complete the online Marin Master Gardener Application
Read a letter to MG applicants from UCCE director David Lewis

In accordance with applicable State and Federal laws and University policy, the University of California does not discriminate in any of its policies, procedures, or practices on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, veteran status, medical condition, ancestry, citizenship or disability. Inquiries regarding this policy may be addressed to the Affirmative Action Director, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, 1111 Franklin Street, 6th Floor, Oakland, CA 94607-5200, (510) 987-0096.

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