What Is a Master Gardener?

— Written By Susan Condlin and last updated by

Who we are:  Lee County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, educators on urban horticulture and environmental stewardship, join 4,000 plus volunteers across the state who have received over 40 hours of extensive training from NC State University in urban horticulture. We are volunteers who work under the direction of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.

What we do:  We work as an extension of the local Horticulture Agent to help educate the public on lawns, fruits, flowers, vegetables, shrubs, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and wildlife. We deliver unbiased, factual and research based information to the residents of Lee County on the best gardening practices for the Piedmont region of North Carolina.

We teach Lee County residents to:  conserve water by amending the soil, choosing appropriate plant varieties and using optimum watering techniques; prevent pollution by minimizing the use of pesticides and fertilizers; increase health and nutrition by teaching how to produce healthy, locally grown food; create urban wildlife habitats, attracting songbirds, butterflies, hummingbirds, lizards and other interesting creatures; conserve energy by using plants to shade structures; and we help prevent green waste from going to the landfill by minimizing pruning and composting on site.

Where we are:  find us on the Help Line Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., April-October, at the McSwain Extension Education Center where residents can ask questions and get resources, bring samples in for diagnosis, etc. We are available to speak to civic groups, garden clubs, libraries, and others. You can find us at county and state fairs, farmers’ market, plant clinics or hosting gardening workshops and other events. We also provide information through our community and demonstration gardens.

The learning process never ends for Master Gardeners. Continued training is offered numerous times each year on the local and state level to keep Master Gardeners up to date on the latest horticultural information. Our monthly training contains updates of garden problems, a recount of Master Gardener activities and often a guest speaker.

After receiving intensive horticultural training and satisfactorily meeting other program requirements, Master Gardeners are required to volunteer for 40 hours their first year and 20 hours of active service each year afterwards. Many Master Gardeners far exceed the required service hours, some giving over 200 hours per year. Most continue in the program beyond the first year because of their interest and willingness to help others and the personal satisfaction derived from participation in this North Carolina State University based program.

Interested in becoming an Extension Master Gardener in Lee County? Our next class begins on February 11, 2015. The cost is $125 and the deadline for applying is January 20, 2015. Contact Rhonda Gaster with N.C. Cooperative Extension in Lee County at 919-775-5624, or Pat Banville, President of Lee County Master Gardeners at lcemgvpres@gmail.com.