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What is the Alabama Extension Master Gardener program?

The Master Gardener program represents an effective partnership between the land grant universities of this state, Alabama Extension agents, and motivated volunteers.  

The concept of the Master Gardener volunteer program began at Washington State University. In Alabama, it began in 1981 with Extension agent Gary Murray and Mary Lou McNabb, a Cornell Extension Master Gardener, who moved to Huntsville. 

Who are Alabama Extension Master Gardener volunteers?

They are Extension-trained volunteers who connect Alabamians to gardening information and educational opportunities. Master Gardener volunteers have completed a 50-hour horticulture training course and contribute their time and expertise as volunteers to various community projects. 

Become an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

Do you love plants? Do you love to volunteer your time? Then you are a great candidate for Extension Master Gardener Intern Training! You do not have to be a garden expert—simply come with a desire to learn and grow.

To be a certified Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, interns must:

  1. Earn an Extension Master Gardener Course Certificate (see course information below).
  2. Complete a minimum of 50 Extension volunteer hours within a 12-month period.

Important Dates

Apply and Pay

An online application and course payment must be submitted by the deadline to participate in the course. The course fee is $150.

  • Spring Session Registration: November 1 — 30
  • Fall Session Registration: June 1 — 30  

2024 Class Dates

  • Spring Session: January 18 — April 11
  • Fall Session: August 10 — November 7

Extension Master Gardener Course Information

This course aims to equip volunteers with reliable, research-based gardening information in support of Extension’s mission to educate Alabama residents. The course includes research-based gardening information on topics such as home lawns, trees, shrubs, annual and perennial flowers, and vegetable gardening.

This is a hybrid course requiring online and face-to-face participation. Extension Master Gardener Interns integrate online and face-to-face learning activities to reinforce learning. Face-to-face sessions for the spring 2024 Extension Master Gardener Volunteer training are hosted in the following counties: Baldwin, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Cullman, Houston, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lee, Madison, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, and Walker. Those who live outside of these counties may register and participate in the spring 2024 trainings. However, they are required to travel to a host county.

For more information regarding class times and specific locations, contact the nearest county Extension office hosting a spring 2024 training.

Master Gardener and Garden-U Class Schedule

Jan. 18Training and Introduction
Jan. 22 - 26Soil and Composting
Jan. 29 - Feb. 2Basic Botany
Feb. 5 -9Integrated Pest Managment
Feb. 12 - 16Insects
Feb. 19 - 23Plant Diseases
Feb. 26 - March 1Plant Care and Management
March 4 - 8Woody Ornamentals
March 11 - 15Home Lawns and Weed Management
March 18 - 22Vegetables
March 25 - 29Fruits
April 1 - 5Annuals and Perennials
April 8 - 12Plant Diagnostics

How to Apply for Spring 2024 

Step 1: Apply Online or Contact Your County Extension Office and Declare Your Intent to Become an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

  • Use the Alabama Extension directory to find your county Extension office.
  • Apply online by visiting: https://www.aces.edu/go/mgapply. Note that this link will become active November 1 and deactivate on November 30.
  • Not interested in becoming a volunteer? Follow the link to learn more about our Garden-U Program

Step 2: Payment

  • Check your inbox or spam folder. After submitting your application, you should receive an email from no-reply@aces.edu.
  • Follow the email instructions, enroll in Canvas, and pay the $150 course fee before the deadline.

Step 3: Complete a Background Check

Local Extension Agents help Extension Master Gardener Interns gain hands-on volunteer experience both in and outside the classroom. Therefore, background checks are required to be submitted.

  • December 1, applicants receive email instructions for completing background checks.
  • Background checks are to be completed online through Truescreen, Auburn University’s background check vendor) by December 31.

Step 4: Complete the Master Gardener Training Course

  • Complete the online course materials over a 14-week period.
  • Attend face-to-face sessions through a local county office. Note: Lab dates and times vary based on location. Consult your home grounds regional Extension agent for more details. 
  • Receive the Extension Master Gardener Intern certificate upon completion of training.

Step 5: Volunteer Requirements

  • Complete 50 Extension volunteer hours in your community by the end of the next calendar year.  

Step 6: Get Involved

  • Once certified, Master Gardeners remain active members by contributing 25 hours of volunteer service and completing 10 hours of continuing education hours annually. 

Withdrawal/Refund Policy

Partial refunds of $100** are available to those who drop the course prior to the February 16, 2024 deadline. After February 16, 2024, refunds are no longer available.

Non-volunteers, known as Garden-U participants pay a higher price for the online portion of this training. Master Gardener Interns receive reduced tuition in return for their volunteer service commitment following training.

Master Gardener Interns who are unable to complete the required 50 hours of volunteer service within 12 months have two options.

  • Pay $2/hour of unmet volunteer service up to $100 to cover the cost of instruction and staff time OR
  • Switch from the Master Gardener Course to the Garden-U course*

*There is a $100 transfer fee for those who choose this option.

**The remaining $50 covers our administrative fees.

More Information

Not interested in volunteering? Unable to travel? Interested in research-based gardening? Register for the Extension horticulture training course as a Garden-U participant and receive a certificate upon completion of the training. Note that because there is no volunteer commitment, Garden-U participants do not become Alabama Master Gardeners. Learn more about Garden-U.

To troubleshoot issues with registration, contact your county Extension office. For additional assistance, contact Emily Bornstein.