2023 Master Gardener


How do I become a Certified Master Gardener?

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Wisconsin Master Gardener Volunteer! 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: https://mastergardener.extension.wisc.edu/ .

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

Foundations in Gardening:

Step 1: The online UW-Madison Division of Extension’s Foundations in Gardening Canvas platform course is available September-December 2023. The deadline to register will be at a date TBD in August 2023. Classes for 2023 start in September to qualify for onboarding in January-March 2024. 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. Information on partial scholarships is available at the Foundations website. Learn more about Foundations in Gardening here. A PDF version of the Foundations in Gardening Manual is included in the course or you can request a printed version for $35.


Step 2: 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.

Maintaining Master Gardener Certification

Each year, to remain certified, Master Gardeners must perform 24 hours of approved volunteer service and obtain 10 hours of continuing education credits. More info on volunteering opportunities is below.

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 with Lisa Johnson, Horticulture Educator for Dane County Extension 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 Johnson.Lisa@countyofdane.com.

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 (https://wigardenexpo.com/ ).
  • 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 (and non-greenhouse) Plant Propagation Classes: 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.


Continuing Education to Maintain Certification:

Master Gardener Continuing Education: To maintain certification, Master Gardeners must 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 as an ‘active’ status though uncertified, member. Many things qualify for continuing education. See the state policy for events that qualify under the ‘Learn’ tab on the state Master Gardener website: Click here. Note that Dane County Extension 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.


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

small mgv logo