Looking for a Summer hobby? Try becoming a Master Gardener

Looking for a Summer hobby? Try becoming a Master Gardener
Mobile County Master Gardeners lead a workshop at the Mobile Botanical Gardens. Photo via Mobile County Master Gardeners on Facebook.

Did you know you have a yearly opportunity to become a Master Gardener in Alabama? That’s exactly right! The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, a co-opt program by Alabama A&M and Auburn University, leads the Alabama Master Gardeners, a program that provides advice and training for gardeners of all experience levels.

Interested right off the bat? Check out the application.

Now, there totally are Master Gardener’s programs in other states as well! In fact, the Alabama one was started by Extension agent Gary Murray and an Extension Master Gardener from Cornell, Cornell Mary Lou McNabb. However, each individual state has to “opt-in” to the Extension program, and work with state universities that have land-grants to make it possible.

So…what is a “Master Gardener”?

Mcmg On Lunch N Learn In 2013 1 Master Gardeners, Mobile County Master Gardeners
Behind-the-scenes of Mobile County Master Gardeners on FOX10 in 2013. Photo via MCMG on Facebook.

In simplest terms, Master Gardeners are highly trained volunteers, who have gone through this specific Extension-led program. They have tons of training and experience in gardening in their particular area. Master Gardeners take this to the next level by honing those skills and using them to give back to their community.

For a great example of the kinds of knowledge that Master Gardeners have, check out this interview with Bill Finch, the Director at Paint Rock Forest Research Center and former Mobile Botanical Gardens Director.

How does it work?

Mcmb At Mbg 2 Master Gardeners, Mobile County Master Gardeners
Volunteers explore Mobile Botanical Gardens with Master Gardeners during a workshop. Photo via MCMG on Facebook.

So first things first, you’d need to fill out an application, consent to a background check, and pay a registration fee. Volunteers are chosen based on their availability & drive.

If accepted, you’ll have around 50 hours of training–which can range from reading materials, videos, and getting in the dirt yourself.

After your 50 hours of training are up–the main requirement for you to continue your “Master Gardener” status is to spend another 50 hours volunteering with Master Gardeners.

Here’s a short list of just some of the work Master Gardeners in Alabama do:

  • Working the phone lines at the Master Gardener hotline (which is a thing! Have a garden question you need some urgent help with? Call a local Master Gardener.)
  • Assisting with community gardening projects like at Mobile Botanical Gardens and the Mobile Urban Growers garden in downtown Mobile.
  • Education and outreach on how to be a more sustainable community by growing fresh produce ourselves and the overall benefits of gardening!

How can I get started?

4Th Graders Working On Our Own Destiny Garden With Mcmg Master Gardeners, Mobile County Master Gardeners
Mobile Master Gardeners working with local schools to build community gardens. Photo via MCMG on Facebook.

Check out the Mobile County Master Gardeners (MCMG) website! They have any and everything else you may want to know about the program and information on how to sign up. The once-yearly training session offered by MCMG is in August, but applications are due by June 5th. Check out this article by Mobile County Master Gardeners for some more info as well!

Now we get that 100 hours seems pretty daunting–but it’s really only around 2 hours a week! And you get to help your community while you’re at it.


Are you a Master Gardener? Do you know a Master Gardener? Tag us @thebamabuzz and let us know!

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Liv George
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