2022 Master Gardener


How do I become a Certified Master Gardener?

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Dane County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer! Becoming a Master Gardener (MG) 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: https://mastergardener.extension.wisc.edu/

MG training is a three-step process. In order to increase flexibility and access to classes, they are offered in two formats and time ranges to accommodate schedules and preferences for online-only or in-person training. Steps are in a slightly different order depending on whether you choose all-online or in-person/online formats for the classes.

Local in-person/online Dual Audience classes through Dane County Extension Online-only Foundations In Gardening (FIG) classes through UW-Madison
Step 1. Orientation through Dane County Extension online August-2022 Step 1. FIG classes online September-December 2022, self-paced
Step 2. Recommended Green Thumb classes starting in September 2022 (see link to list of classes below) Step 2. Orientation via Dane County Extension online August 2022
Step 3. Onboarding online (certification) January-March 2023, self-paced Step 3. Onboarding online (certification) January-March 2023, self-paced

The Required Orientation Session: presents information about the MG program, volunteer requirements, information about the local MG association you can join after onboarding, and opportunities to volunteer in Dane County (various dates and times available). This will be offered online in 2022-2023. Sign up for an orientation date here. You are not obligated to become a MG by attending this session, but it is required if you do decide to onboard as a MG.

Horticulture Classes: are either online-only as Foundations in Gardening (FIG) offered by UW-Madison OR as in-person/online hybrid Green Thumb classes offered at the Dane County Extension office on Madison’s far east side.

  • Online-only Foundations in Gardening (FIG): The deadline to register was August 13, 2021. FIG will be offered again through the UW-Madison MG State Program Office in fall of 2022. Current classes started in September 2022 to qualify for onboarding in January-March 2023. FIG classes will not be available again until fall of 2022. There are 12 self-paced, pre-recorded classes online through Canvas/UW-Madison. Taking FIG classes qualifies you to take onboarding to become a certified MG. Information about becoming a MG and the onboarding process is included. There is also more about onboarding below. Learn more about FIG here.
  • Recommended (but not required) Green Thumb Gardening classes (in-person/online hybrid format): can also be used to qualify for the onboarding certification offered by the MG state office (see more on onboarding below).  Click here to view the Green Thumb Gardening page in order to register for classes. These classes are open to anyone interested in increasing their horticulture knowledge. In cases of financial need, a limited number of scholarships are available. Contact Chip Thompson Thompson.charles@countyofdane.com for more information. You may sign up to take the classes either online or on-site. If you are interested in the on-site option, please be sure that you are able to regularly attend as the on-site class size will be limited to 20 due to space limitations for Teaching Garden labs and hands-on activities. Note that there will be in-class activities for online participants as well, but they will be different (though equivalent as much as possible) from those done by on-site participants. Classes will be recorded with videos available upon request. On-site labs and activities that take place in the Teaching Garden will not be recorded. Handouts will made available to all participants. *Note that classes may begin as or remain in a virtual-only format depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic. Outdoor Teaching Garden activities may still be held on-site even if classes continue in a virtual-only format. Contact Lisa Johnson at Dane County Extension johnson.lisa@countyofdane.com if you have any questions about the local classes.

MG required online ‘onboarding’ is offered through the UW-Madison Division of Extension’s MG State Program Office annually, January-March. This is the portion of MG training where you gain your MG certification status. During onboarding you will learn about volunteering with UW-Madison Extension at the county level, set up an account in the Online Reporting System (ORS) for reporting hours, sign various forms and agreements, purchase physical copy (if desired) of the MG manual ‘Foundations in Gardening’ or receive an electronic version, take and pass the MG exam with 70%, and after passing the exam, receive a MG badge to wear when volunteering. The cost is $100.  You must go through orientation and classes (either in-person/online dual audience local classes or online-only FIG) to qualify for onboarding. There are limited exceptions for MGs 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, but still need to attend an orientation. Click here for more information

Volunteer Activities with Dane County Extension for Master Gardeners

At the successful conclusion of onboarding, you will be ready to volunteer as a certified MG! Note that you cannot volunteer as a MG 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 MG onboarding.

Some core Dane County Extension volunteer activities include:

  • The Dane County Extension Teaching Garden as part of a team in one of the 12 garden areas (you can choose your garden area). For more information on the Teaching Garden: Click Here. You will also learn more about the Garden and activities during orientation.
  • 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 MG booths at six markets), and at community events such as the Garden Expo (https://wigardenexpo.com/ ). Since these activities are overseen by Extension, a background check and Mandated Reporter Training will be needed in addition to the PHA one-day training.
  • Dane County Extension MG Speakers Bureau: We have over a dozen scripted PowerPoints that MG 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. Since these activities are overseen by Extension, a background check and Mandated Reporter Training will be needed.

MG Continuing Education: To maintain certification, Master Gardener should accrue 10 hours of continuing education annually. Volunteer calendars end each year on December 31st and restart January 1st of the following year. If you are not able to do 10 hours any particular year, you may remain in the program. Many things qualify for continuing education. See the state policy for events that qualify under the ‘Learn’ tab on the state MG website: Click here. Note that Green Thumb Gardening classes are one way to fulfill that requirement, along with educational events from MAMGA, Garden Expo events, Landscaping and Grounds Maintenance Short Course classes, Larry Meiller’s Garden Talk program on Wisconsin Public Radio and much more.

Thank you so much for volunteering as a Dane County Extension Master Gardener! You make a difference!

Madison Area Master Gardener Association (MAMGA)
MAMGA is the local MG association that supports Dane County MGs with fellowship 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, fellowship and social events. Annual dues are $25. After you complete onboarding, you are eligible for membership. For more information about MAMGA, click here.

Register for Orientation

Required Orientation session: If interested in taking the MG recommended classes package and you intend to become a MG, a one-hour orientation session is required. For 2022, this will be online. Sign up here.

Questions?  Please contact Lisa Johnson, Horticulture Educator at johnson.lisa@countyofdane.com or 608-224-3715

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