Growing into a Master Gardener

It was always a goal of mine to be a master gardener, but it was one that I set aside for retirement when I would have more time to devote to it. So that time is now! The purpose of this blog is to document my journey in completing the master gardener volunteer program offered by the U of M Extension Services. Since everyone’s background and goals are different, I realize this is only one person’s journey. My goal is to illuminate some of the intricacies of the program and share what I have gained from being an intern for those who might be considering becoming a master gardener volunteer.Vicki Olson

+ About me
Vicki Olson

I have loved gardening my entire life and that love has been nurtured by friends and family along the way. My grandmother lived on the outskirts of a small town in South Dakota and practiced the farm to table concept with a large vegetable garden and chickens running around the backyard. My mother had three huge flower gardens bordered by strawberry plants and there was a large swath of woods behind us, perfect for investigating frogs, salamanders, garter snakes, lightening bugs and all other types of insects. Rows of home canned fruits and vegetables lined the shelves in our basement.

I have lived in multiple houses in South Minneapolis and Minnetonka with each of them presenting different opportunities and challenges. I have fond memories of hanging out at garden centers on a Sunday afternoon, new to learning about perennials, and tracking their blooms – and participating in a community garden with relatives. Raising a family and working full time in healthcare made for a little less time for education but each spring brought the excitement of a new year of possibilities and experimentation. Now I have completed the hardscaping on my current urban yard and am looking forward to getting back to improving the lawn and gardens.

Issue #2: Requirements for Interns

We learned that the requirements of the Master Gardener Volunteer program were to:

  • Successfully complete the 15 modules in the CORE curriculum by passing an open book quiz at the end of each module ideally by April or May of your intern year.
  • Complete 15 hours of continuing education (every year)
  • Complete 50 hours of volunteer work (during the intern year; 25 hours in future years once you are a master gardener volunteer)
  • Complete responses of your research to 15 questions asked by Hennepin County residents during your intern year.

I received my CORE spiral bound notebook (optional since it is online too) in the mail before the orientation session that was scheduled at the beginning of January. So… my first reaction…my vision of being a master gardener was of working in flower gardens! I haven’t grown vegies since my twenties working with my relatives on a huge plot that Control Data offered their employees (now a parking lot)…and indoor plants, I got rid of mine with our first two cats….and lawn….oh my, I lived in Minnetonka for twenty years in the woods and had no lawn (much to my son’s dismay who wanted us to cut down all the trees so he could have a soccer field!)…and weeds…aren’t they anything you don’t want….do I need to know more??? I think I am over my head…good thing I love to learn!

Here are the 15 modules:

  • Botany and General Horticulture
  • Soils, Composting, and Fertilizers
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Plant Pathology
  • Entomology
  • Growing Vegetables
  • Growing Fruits
  • Herbaceous Ornamental Plants
  • Woody Ornamentals
  • Lawns
  • Weeds
  • Indoor Plants and Propagation
  • Living with Wildlife
  • Plant Diagnostics
  • Engaging Your Community

There was a live online zoom session every week on Thursdays from the middle of January to the end of April to answer questions and comments. It was facilitated by the course coordinator and featured other expert extension staff. Each week covered one of the modules so it was a way to keep on track with course completion. They were all recorded so you could go back and listen to one if you were not able to join that evening.

Even though the CORE course curriculum is the same for every county in the state, the facilitation of orientation is managed by the county you were accepted into….so in my case Hennepin County. So Hennepin County leadership determines the other requirements for interns to complete, usually in their first year but there is some flexibility to complete it in the following year.  I will tackle the continuing education requirement for 15 hours in my next blog and the 50 volunteer hours and 15 research questions in future blogs.

Previous Issues:
Growing into a Master Gardener #1 Application Process