The Deputy 2014
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Master Gardener volunteers help extend gardening knowledge into the community.

grass garden 2014 fall
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Flagpole 2014 summer
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Cob Planter 2014
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The deputy 2 2014
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Boulder Memorial
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flagpole closeup 2014
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Momorial Stones 2014
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Master Gardeners

What is the Master Gardener Program?

The Master Gardener Program is a national program of trained volunteers who work in partnership with their county Cooperative Extension office to expand educational outreach throughout the community by providing home gardeners with research-based information.

The first Master Gardener program was started in Washington state in 1972. Forty-six states now have Master Gardener programs. For additional information, visit the New York State Master Gardener Program website.

Who Becomes a Master Gardener?

Master Gardeners enjoy people and plants. They usually have no professional gardening or landscaping experience, only a genuine interest in sharing their knowledge, and sufficient free time to volunteer in Master Gardener activities.

Qualification for Trainees

Master Gardener trainees should have a basic knowledge of, or interest in, gardening; enthusiasm for acquiring and sharing horticultural knowledge and skills; good communications skills; and a willingness and free time to participate in volunteer educational activities.

Volunteers complete a brief written application, and have a short interview with members of our horticulture staff. Priority for selection is given to Tompkins County residents.

Master Gardener Training

Master Gardener training in Cortland county is held every 3-4 years. Trainees receive 60 hours of  instruction from experts at Cornell Cooperative Extension and elsewhere on a broad spectrum of subjects applicable to home gardening, such as plant nutrition, soils, vegetable and fruit culture, trees, shrubs and lawns, diseases and insects that affect plants, pruning, and much more. After  each training session, trainees complete an open book examination and at the completion, are certified as Master Gardeners. Advanced instruction is offered, and special seminars and refresher workshops are held so that Master Gardeners can stay current on gardening topics and keep their knowledge up-to-date.

You can learn more about the topics that are covered in the training by visiting the NY State Master Gardener Volunteer Program pages on the Cornell University website.

Please call for information on when the next Master Gardener volunteer training will be offered, and to receive an application form.

Volunteer Commitment

Each Master Gardener trainee commits to "give back" an additional 30 or 45 hours of service over a one year time period following certification for a total of 90 hours altogether (training + volunteer time). After that, you can be as involved with the program as you would like to be. Some Master Gardeners have volunteered for many years and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow gardeners, monthly meetings, holiday gatherings, and group field trips to visit beautiful and unique gardens in our region that also are part of the program.

To fulfill their volunteer time commitment, Master Gardeners have in the past worked in the office to test soil samples, maintained files of gardening information, answered gardening questions through our Horticulture office, taught gardening classes, worked the 4-H and MGV Plant Sales, written articles for publication, spoken or demonstrated to groups, and worked in demonstration/education  gardens. New program initiatives also are welcomed!

Current Master Gardener Program in Cortland County

Cortland County has had this program for a number of years, and it is a very successful program. Active Master Gardener volunteers do a number of different things in the county. It is a very popular program and we normally have more than enough applicants to fill the training program every three years.

What are Master Gardeners doing in Cortland County?

The Cortland County Master Gardeners are involved in many activities. Here are some of them:

  • Testing soil samples brought into the Cooperative Extension office
  • Maintaining Cooperative Extension gardening information files
  • Answering gardening questions phoned or e-mailed into the Cooperative Extension office
  • Teaching horticulture workshops to youth and adults 
  • Organizing and working the 4-H and MGV Plant Sale
  • Writing articles for publications
  • Designing and maintaining educational and demonstration gardens

For more information . . .

If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, please send your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address to the contact at the address below.


Lisa Woodruff
Horticulture Program
607-391-2660 x409

Last updated January 12, 2024