Q. How do I become a master gardener? Can I take the master gardener training class just to learn more about gardening?
A. These are some of the questions our garden helpline has been answering over the past few weeks.
For the first time, the master gardener training program will be offered fully online during the fall semester, making it possible for anyone in the world to take the class with access to a computer. I’m excited about this because I have been able to schedule some wonderful presenters for the class who would not normally travel to Shasta County.
The class will be a mix of activities in the online learning management system Canvas, and some live Zoom presentations that will be recorded for those who can’t attend the live session. The training class will be fully online with no face-to-face meetings, but I do plan to send activity kits to students so they can do some hands-on activities with me during online demonstrations.
Most University of California master gardener programs require an application and an interview, but we are a bit different in Shasta County. We have a cooperative agreement with Shasta College to offer the training and oversee the program, so the class is open to anyone who would like to take it. If a student passes the training class with at least a “B” grade, and they take and pass a live scan (fingerprinting), they are invited to become a master gardener.
The course includes 54 hours of lectures and demonstrations focused on vegetable gardening, home horticulture and pest management. Additionally, it focuses on training volunteers to use research-based horticulture information to assist local gardeners in growing healthy crops while reducing pesticide use and protecting the environment.
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Once a student has passed the training class, they complete 50 hours of garden-related community service over the next year to become an active master gardener. Master gardeners can volunteer for many different projects such as helping with our virtual garden symposium happening this fall, or propagating plants for our ReGrow Shasta project that is giving away plants to fire survivors to replant landscapes. To stay certified after becoming a master gardener, volunteers must complete 25 hours of horticulture-related community service and 12 hours of continuing education every year.
As a University of California Master Gardener, volunteers gain access to many U.C. resources and trainings and become part of a large network of volunteers. U.C. master gardeners offer volunteer services and outreach to the general public in more than 50 California counties. Last year, Shasta County had 42 active U.C. master gardener volunteers who donated 1,900 volunteer hours locally. Statewide, master gardeners donated more than 300,000 volunteer hours in 2019.
The training class begins Aug. 17. It meets online for 15 weeks.
To learn more about the cost and how to register online, visit the Shasta College website at www.shastacollege.edu. Go to MyShasta and look for “AGEH 60 Master Gardener Training.”
The Shasta Master Gardeners Program can be reached by phone at 242-2219 or email [email protected]. The gardener office is staffed by volunteers trained by the University of California to answer gardeners’ questions using information based on scientific research.