2021 Master Gardener Volunteer


How do I become a Certified Master Gardener Volunteer?

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Dane County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV)! Becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer 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. Below, there is information on:

  • Signing up for a required (online in 2021) orientation session if you intend to take Onboarding for MGV certification; these are only available in December and early January, see more below
  • The Wisconsin Master Gardener Onboarding certification process for becoming a certified Master Gardener Volunteer
  • Horticulture classes, which are not required for certification but may assist you in your work as a Master Gardener Volunteer (these are online in 2021 or blended online/in person as pandemic safety rules permit later in the year)
  • Master Gardener Volunteer Hours Requirements and Approved Volunteer Activities and Locations

Required Orientation Session

There is a one-hour orientation session required to acquaint you with the requirements and benefits of the MGV program. Orientation is needed prior to signing up for Onboarding. The Dane County Horticulture Outreach Specialist will give a presentation on the program, and work with you to decide if the program is a good fit. The session will also cover volunteer requirements, approved volunteer activities/locations, program benefits, and the local MGV association MAMGA (the Madison Area Master Gardeners Association) that provides continuing education, fun and fellowship opportunities. For 2021, orientation will be online; several dates are available in DecemberSign up for a session here.


Onboarding for MGV Certification 

The certification process is a 12-15 hour ‘onboarding’ session offered by the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program (not Dane County Extension) that focuses on becoming a volunteer with UW-Madison Department of Extension. It is offered January-March annually, and features online training with some live instruction. After you have been approved through the Dane County Extension Orientation session, please contact the Wisconsin Master Gardener Outreach Program Manager Mike Maddox and/or Outreach Specialist – Master Gardener Program Amy Freidig at mike.maddox@wisc.edu and akfreidig@wisc.edu for more information about onboarding and certifying as a MGV.



Required Volunteer Hours

At the successful conclusion of onboarding, you will be ready to volunteer. Note that you cannot volunteer as a MGV until onboarding is completed. In Dane County, the first year, for your 24 minimum required volunteer hours you will need to:

  • 12 hours in the Teaching Garden as part of a team in one of the 12 garden areas (you get to choose your area) https://dane.extension.wisc.edu/horticulture/teaching-garden/
  • 4 hours at a local food pantry garden, community garden, church garden, West Madison Ag Station Garden or a school garden,
  • 3 hours at a local Farmers Market (we have MGV booths at 6 markets) shadowing certified MGVs as they answer gardening questions
  • 5 elective hours at any of a number of approved locations that you can view in the Online Reporting System. If you are differently abled and certain activities might not work for you, let me know and we will work that out


In following years, you have more flexibility to volunteer where you would like, within the approved sites. Many MGVs like to volunteer at Olbrich, the Arboretum, the Zoo, Allen Centennial Gardens, city or county parks, Monona Terrace Rooftop Garden, the MAMGA prairie at Lake Farm Park, and the Teaching Garden as some examples. Other give presentations, answer questions on our Horticulture Helpline (via phone or email), volunteer at the Farmers Markets, do research, volunteer with MAMGA (more on that below) or other activities.

In 2021 all sites must follow all COVID related rules as set forward by UW Madison Extension. Click here for COVID approval form. All Sites even approved ones require this form to be completed. Click here for the list of approved volunteer sites.

Horticulture Classes (Not required for MGV certification)

The Dane County Extension Green Thumb Gardening Class Series is a series of 29 classes offered to the public as well as those intending to become MGVs that runs all year long. Sign up for as many or as few of the classes as you desire; it has no impact on your MGV certification. You may also take the classes over more than one season. Fall, winter, early spring, late spring/summer and late summer classes are broken into seasonal topic packages. If you purchase a class package midway through the year after some classes have run, you still get access to the recorded lecture and handouts; the same is true if you miss any class in the package. You can sign up for individual classes, one or more seasonal class packages (for a discounted price)

Online class lists, packages, pricing structures and class descriptions are:

  • Winter Vegetable Growing Series Mondays 6:00-8:00 pm Individual classes $12 each, Package $70
    • January 11: Vegetable Garden Planning and Organic Techniques
    • January 25: Seed starting
    • February 1: Vegetable diseases
    • February 8: Vegetable insects
    • February 15: Cover crops
    • February 22: Weed ID and management
    • March 1 Seed saving and vegetable harvesting and storage
  • Early Spring Series Mondays 6:00-8:00 pm Individual classes $12 each, Package $60
    • March 9: Fruit Tree Pruning
    • March 16: Shade and Ornamental Tree Pruning and Tree Planting
    • March 23: Shrub Pruning
    • April 6: Soils, Soil Testing and Fertilizers
    • April 20: Wisconsin Spring Wildflowers
    • April 27: Plant Propagation Without Seeds
  • Late Spring Series Mondays 6:00-8:00 pm Individual classes $12 each, Package $60
    • May 3: Insects in the Garden
    • May 10: Fruit Tree Care
    • Diseases in the Garden: May 24: Part 1- Fundamentals of Plant Diseases 
    • Diseases in the Garden: May 26: Part 2 – Growing Healthy Plants: Basics In Plant Disease Management
    • June 7: Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries
    • June 14: Healthy Houseplants
  • Mid-Summer Series Monday 6:00-8:00 pm Individual classes $12 each, Package $60
    • June 21: Attracting and Managing Wildlife in the Garden
    • June 28: Weed ID and Management
    • July 12: Shade Perennials (Optional Outdoor Lab—additional fee July 15 6:30-7:30 pm)
    • July 19: Perennials for Sun (Outdoor Lab—additional fee July 22 6:30-7:30 pm)
    • August 9: Growing and Designing With Annuals
    • August 16 : Lawn Care

  • Late Summer Series Wednesday 3:00-5:00pm Individual classes $12 each, Package $40


    • August 4: Invasive Plants: ID and Management
    • August 11 : Native Plants and Pollinators
    • August 18 : Rain Gardens: Planning, Construction and Plants
    • August 25: Small Native (and Nativar) Trees and Shrub

Class Descriptions:

Winter Series

  • Vegetable Garden Planning and Techniques: Organic and Small Farmer Outreach Specialist Claire Strader (Speaker Claire Strader) will get you ready for vegetable gardening with strategies and tips for advanced gardeners as well as well as newer gardeners. She will talk about timing of crops, spacing, building productive soils, using cover crops, and more. You will leave with at least four electronic copies of handouts full of great information.
  • Seed Starting: If you are a new gardener, or just looking for some tips on starting seeds, this lecture will cover it. You will get an electronic copy of a handout on optimal soil temperatures for the germination of many crops. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Vegetable Diseases: Brian Hudelson, Director of the Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic (https://pddc.wisc.edu/) will speak about common diseases of vegetables and their management. You will get tips and strategies for preventing disease as well and digital copies of a number of fact sheets on various common vegetable diseases. (Speaker Brian Hudelson)
  • Vegetable Insects: Dr. Russ Groves of UW-Madison Wisconsin Vegetable Crop Entomology (https://vegento.russell.wisc.edu/) will review the life cycles common insect pests of a variety of crops and give you techniques to combat them in the garden. You will receive a number of electronic fact sheets on insects covered during the talk. (Speaker Russ Groves)
  • Cover Crops: Cover crops bring extra nutrients to the soil and help control weeds. Some also attract pollinators, which can help increase your crop yield.  Organic and Small Farmer Outreach Specialist Claire Strader (Speaker Claire Strader) will talk about different types of cover crops to use in different situations, as well as when to plant and remove them. (Speaker Claire Strader)
  • Weed Management in Vegetable Gardens: Learn how to identify various common weeds in the vegetable garden and use their life cycles and other techniques to manage them. Cultural techniques will be stressed, but organic and traditional chemical control products will be briefly discussed as well. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Seed Saving/Harvesting and Storage: Learn how to successfully harvest and store seeds from a variety of crops. Success is more likely with some crops, and less likely with others. Learn which crops are easiest and most reliable for getting the results you want. We will also cover proper storage of seeds and seed viability testing. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)

Early Spring Series 2021 online Tuesdays 6:30-8:30

  • Fruit Tree Pruning March 9  Learn proper pruning and training techniques for apple, pear, cherry, and plum trees. March, while the trees are still dormant, is a great month for pruning. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Shade and Ornamental Tree Pruning and Tree Planting March 16 Trees are an investment in the environment. Learn how to properly prune for good structure, which creates a safe and strong tree that remains an asset for many years. We will review the 3-cut method and making decisions on what to cut and how much to cut. We will also cover proper planting of trees. Many trees are not planted properly, and it often affects their health and longevity. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Shrub Pruning March 23  It is important to prune shrubs periodically, not just to control height and width, but for better flowering, fruiting and overall health. Different shrubs need different pruning techniques and they should be pruned at different times of the year. We will cover proper pruning techniques for different types of deciduous shrubs. You will receive an electronic copy of a chart that covers timing and techniques for pruning many deciduous shrubs. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Soils, Soil Testing and Fertilizers April 6 Good soils are vital to growing healthy plants. This class will present information on the physical and chemical structure of soils and introduce techniques for improving the soil you have. We will also cover information about soil testing and test results. There will be a short activity on understanding and selecting fertilizer products, both organic and traditional, as well. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Wisconsin Spring Wildflowers April 20 This class will focus on spring ephemerals and non-ephemeral perennials in woodland settings, but also cover some spring-blooming prairie forbs as well. Information about how these plants propagate, and how they are used by pollinators will also be covered. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Plant Propagation Without Seeds April 27: Learn how to propagate plants in the garden and home. We will review techniques to propagate plants via seed, cuttings, divisions, offsets, and bulbs. You will receive a chart for techniques to propagate many common houseplants and some perennial garden plants. We will briefly touch on tissue culture and woody plant propagation as well. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)

Late Spring Series 2021 online or blended online/in-person Mondays 6:00-8:00 pm

  • Insects in the Garden May 3 Insects are an extremely diverse and critically important group of animals.  In this class, PJ Liesch, Director of the UW-Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab will discuss the basic anatomy, physiology, and ecology of these creatures and take a brief look at the main groups of insects. This will help you in identifying insects in your garden, knowing beneficial predator insects from plant-eaters, and understanding management techniques. (Speaker PJ Liesch)
  • Fruit Tree Care May 10 This class will cover fruit tree care, from selection, to planting to pruning. We will cover Integrated Pest Management strategies to help with insect and disease management and review several of the most common culprits. The focus is on apple trees, but pears and plums will also be briefly addressed. You will receive electronic copies of several publications from the UW-Madison Dept. of Extension Learning Store on growing techniques for a variety of fruit trees. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Diseases in the Garden May 24 AND May 26 Part 1- Fundamentals of Plant Diseases (24th) and Part 2 – Growing Healthy Plants: Basics In Plant Disease Management (26th) Brian Hudelson of the Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic will present information about disease-causing organisms (fungi, bacteria, viruses, phytoplasmas and nematodes) and the symptoms they cause, as well as information on environment factors that favor disease development.  Also, learn about disease-like plant disorders caused by non-biological factors such as nutrient imbalances, pesticide exposures, environmental pollutants and adverse environmental conditions.  In Part Two, learn about common methods for disease control, their pros and cons, and how you can adapt these techniques for use in your own home garden. (Speaker Brian Hudelson)
  • Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries June 7 Learn about planting, fertilizing, pruning and overwintering these three types of fruit crops. Variety recommendations, insect/disease management and some troubleshooting will be included as well. You will receive electronic copies of Learning Store publications as well as learning about other handy online resources. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Healthy Houseplants June 14: Have you ever wondered why your houseplant is not doing well? This class is for you! We will cover general houseplant-growing techniques such as matching light levels with plant needs, proper watering, repotting and fertilizing before moving into ID and management of insect and disease issues. The class will finish up with a review of a number of popular species of houseplants. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)


Mid-Summer Series 2021 Online or Blended Online/in-person Classes Mondays 6:00-8:00 pm

  • Attracting and Managing Wildlife in the Garden June 21 Learn how to attract desirable wildlife in your yard while discouraging and managing species that like to feed on your plants. Dr. David Drake of the UW-Madison Wildlife Ecology Department will present an engaging look at wildlife in garden situations and also cover some local research projects and resources on urban wildlife. (Speaker David Drake)
  • Weed ID and Management June 28 We will talk about using various techniques to manage weeds in the garden and landscape and spend some time reviewing a rogues gallery of common weeds, both grassy and broadleaf types. You will get an electronic copy of a handout that walks you through a taxonomic key for identifying grasses as well as other resources. We encourage you to send in photos of weeds from your yard ahead of time (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Shade Perennials July 12 (Optional Outdoor Lab July 15 6:30-7:30 at the Dane County Extension Office Teaching Garden pending COVID developments. Registration required, space is limited) (Speaker Lisa Johnson) Learn about how to select perennials for your garden as well as general care, propagation and maintenance. Find out about herbaceous perennial plants (native and non-native) that will thrive in light, medium and deep shade. We will also discuss plants that tolerate dry shade and wet shade.
  • Perennials for Sun July 19 (Outdoor Lab July 22 at the Dane County Extension Office Teaching Garden pending COVID developments. Registration required, space is limited) Learn about how to select perennials for your garden as well as general care, propagation and maintenance. We will discuss a wide variety of native and non-native species that will do well in full, hot sun in dry areas all the way to half-sun locations. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Growing and Designing With Annuals August 9 (Optional Outdoor Lab at the at the Dane County Extension Office Teaching Garden pending COVID developments. Registration required, space is limited) (Speaker Lisa Johnson, TBA speaker) Learn about growing healthy annuals for pots, windowboxes and bedding situations. We will cover species selection, siting, growing in containers vs bedding situations, watering, and fertilizing. We will also talk about designing with annuals in-ground and in containers.
  • Lawn Care August 16 Dr. Doug Soldat of the UW-Madison Department of Soil Science will discuss various facets of lawn care, including learning about grass species, seed selection and sowing, watering, fertilizing, aerating and mowing.


Late Summer Series 2021 Online or Blended Online/in-person Classes Wednesdays 3-5 pm

  • Invasive Plants: ID and Management August 4 This class will mostly consist of invasive plant ID and management. Invasive plant species share the characteristics of being non-native, able to out-compete native species in natural environments such as woodlands and prairies and having no natural enemies. This makes them different from weeds that invade disturbed areas like gardens and roadsides. Some of the most common herbaceous and woody invasive species, their identifying characteristics and management methods will be covered. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Native Plants and Pollinators August 11 This session will focus on groups of insect pollinators and how you can attract and support them by growing various native and nativar plants. You will get an electronic version of the PowerPoint presentation that gives details on the cultural needs of a number of native plants to aid in selection if you are planting. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Rain Gardens: Planning, Construction and Plants August 18 Learn about how to properly site and construct rain gardens. You will see examples of planting plans and be introduced to resources for purchasing plants, in addition, we will review a list of plants that do well in rain gardens. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)
  • Small Native (and Nativar) Trees and Shrubs August 25 Learn about native shrubs and trees that support a diverse ecosystem and look great in your yard. We will also cover nativars, which are cultivated selections of native plants chosen for smaller size, better structure, larger or more abundant flowers, more reliable fall color, etc. (Speaker Lisa Johnson)

Note: Some classes/labs are offered in person with limited space in accordance with COVID Guidelines.

Register for Orientation

Required Orientation session: If interested in taking the MGV recommended classes package and you intend to become a MGV, a one-hour orientation session is required. For 2021, this will be online. Sign up for a session here.

Madison Area Master Gardener Association (MAMGA)

MGV Associations Memberships:


Continuing Education

Approved Resources for Master Gardener Continuing Education (CE)

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