Master Gardener Program

How do I become a Certified Master Gardener?

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Wisconsin Master Gardener! Becoming a Master Gardener is a great way to give back to your community through supporting Extension, while learning about horticulture and meeting like-minded gardeners at the same time. For more information about the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program, visit: .

Master Gardener training is a two step process consisting of online classes (Foundations in Gardening) accompanied by readings and an online ‘onboarding’ training.

Step 1: Foundations in Gardening

The online UW-Madison Division of Extension’s Foundations in Gardening Canvas platform course is available September-December annually. There are 7 self-paced, pre-recorded modules online through the Canvas platform via UW-Madison. The cost for Foundations in Gardening training is $299. A PDF version of the Foundations in Gardening Manual is included in the course or you can request a printed version for $35. Information on partial scholarships is available at the Foundations website. Learn more about Foundations in Gardening here.

Step 2: Onboarding

Master Gardener online ‘Onboarding’ is offered through the UW-Madison Division of Extension’s Master Gardener State Program Office annually, January-March. This is the portion of Master Gardener training where you gain your Master Gardener certification. The cost is $100. During onboarding you will learn about volunteering with UW-Madison Extension, set up an account in the Online Reporting System (ORS) for reporting hours, sign various forms and agreements, and take and pass the online Master Gardener exam with 70%. After passing the exam, you will receive a Master Gardener badge to wear when volunteering.  You must go through Foundations in Gardening classes first to qualify for onboarding. There are limited exceptions for Master Gardeners currently certified in states in the Midwest who are transferring to Wisconsin or professional horticulturists and botanists. They may be able to onboard without classes. Click here for more information about onboarding.

Volunteer Service Activities in Dane County for Master Gardeners:

At the successful conclusion of onboarding, you will be ready to volunteer as a certified Master Gardener! Note that you cannot volunteer as a Master Gardener until onboarding is completed. A detailed list of volunteer opportunities and locations is in the Online Reporting System (ORS), which you will get access to during Master Gardener onboarding. We also strongly encourage you to attend an open house session in spring with Lisa Johnson, Horticulture Educator for Dane County Extension after you have onboarded, to meet some current Master Gardeners, learn more about various fellowship opportunities and be introduced to a number of volunteer activities in Dane County. If you’re interested please reach out to Lisa Johnson at

Some core volunteer activities with the Dane County Extension office include the following. Since these activities are overseen by Extension, a background check and Mandated Reporter Training will be needed. Contact Lisa Johnson for information on obtaining the needed background check and MRT training.

  • The Dane County Extension Teaching Garden as part of a team in one of the 12 garden areas (you can choose your garden area), help start seeds in the new greenhouse and help during the Plant Sale. For more information on the Teaching Garden, Click Here.
  • Plant Health Advisor (PHA) work: This entails an extra layer of training to learn how to diagnose plant problems. It includes learning how to work with clients to answer their questions by phone, email or occasionally walk-in traffic, diagnosing insect, disease, nutritional, environmental, and human-caused issues. It is one of the best ways to learn! You will be paired with an experienced PHA to learn the ropes until you are comfortable on your own. PHAs work at the County Extension office (in-person for beginners or remotely for experienced PHAs, if desired), at Farmers Markets (we have Master Gardener booths at several markets), and at community events such as the Garden Expo ( ).
  • Dane County Extension Master Gardener Speakers Bureau: We have over a dozen scripted PowerPoints that Master Gardener Speakers present to various community groups every year. If you enjoy teaching and public speaking, this would be a great activity for you! If you want to observe one of the presentations being given before deciding, that can be arranged. If you prefer to work with a co-presenter, that can also be accommodated.
  • Dane County Fair: Work with other Master Gardeners at the Dane County Fair booth in the Alliant Energy Center to provide/oversee fun, educational activities with children.
  • Greenhouse seeding work in spring and (greenhouse or non-greenhouse) Plant Propagation Class support: Newly developing classes with the public to give hands-on experience propagating houseplants. Help is needed to support the class activities and work with the public.

If you’re interested please reach out to Lisa Johnson at

Fellowship and Continuing Education Opportunities with MAMGA:

Madison Area Master Gardener Association (MAMGA): MAMGA is the local Master Gardener association that supports Dane County Master Gardeners with monthly social events and monthly educational events. MAMGA provides other benefits to its members as well. Some of these include discounts at area nurseries and retailers, free admission to MAMGA-sponsored programs, events and educational programs, garden tours, service and community education opportunities. Annual dues are $25. After you complete onboarding, you are eligible for membership. For more information about MAMGA, click here.

Questions?  Please contact the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program Office at    

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