Garden Variety: Master Gardener program accepting trainees

The Douglas County Extension Master Gardener program is seeking applicants for another class of trained volunteers to join the 200-member organization. Gardening experience is unnecessary, but applicants should have an interest in gardening and sharing what they learn with others in the community.

Classes begin Saturday August 25. After that day, classes are each Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon through November 1. One additional Saturday, September 29, is included. Both Saturday trainings are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Applicants should plan to attend all sessions, as each one covers a different topic. Classes are held at the K-State Research and Extension – Douglas County office on the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper St, Lawrence.

Interested parties should submit applications as soon as possible. The preferred receipt date is prior to August 1 and interviews will be held August 8-16. Applications will only be accepted after that time if there is space remaining in the class.

The application and interview process is less intimidating than it sounds. The application is a tool to help Douglas County Extension staff, who sponsor and manage the local master gardener chapter, gauge interest and commitment in the program itself. The purpose and mission of the master gardener program is to educate the public about research-based horticulture practices, and the training is meant to ensure that participants in the program are knowledgeable of those practices. Interested parties should show that they are willing to learn and to volunteer with the program once their training is complete.

After completion of the training this fall, master gardener trainees are required to complete 40 hours of volunteer work over the course of next year to earn the official master gardener title.

To stay active in the organization, master gardeners are required to volunteer at least 20 hours per year in organizational activities and complete at least 10 hours of continuing education per year. Continuing education is offered monthly through the organization and annually at a state conference held in Manhattan.

All trainings are taught by Kansas State University professors, County Extension Agents, and other horticulture experts.

Applications and more information about the program are available at, by calling 785-843-7058 or emailing

Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners are the local chapter of an international organization sponsored and managed by University Extension programs. In Kansas, the program operates out of K-State Research and Extension and its county offices. According to KSU’s website, there are master gardener programs in 58 counties in Kansas, and in 2017 those master gardeners donated over 100,000 hours for a value of more than 2.2 million dollars. (The Douglas County chapter contributed about 10,000 of those hours.)

According to the Douglas County Extension website, master gardener volunteer activities in Douglas County include operating a horticulture hotline at the Extension office from April to October, manning a booth at the Downtown Lawrence Farmers Market on Saturdays during market season, maintaining four public gardens to demonstrate suitable plant material and sound gardening practices, organizing an educational gardening fair and garden tours in alternating years, coordinating Junior Master Gardener and children’s gardening programs at local schools and the library, providing gardening information at community events, providing speakers on horticultural topics and collecting produce from the farmers market to deliver to the food pantry.

Public gardens maintained by master gardeners are located on the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds in Lawrence, at the Monarch Watch on KU’s west campus, at KU’s Medicinal Garden near the Lawrence Airport, and at Tom Swan Park in Baldwin City.

Monarch Waystation #1, the master gardeners’ garden at the Monarch Watch, received the 2013 Search for Excellence award from the International Master Gardener program in the demonstration gardens category.

Master gardener programs also operate in all 50 states and 8 Canadian provinces.

— Jennifer Smith is a former horticulture extension agent for K-State Research and Extension and horticulturist for Lawrence Parks and Recreation.


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