The Master Gardener concept originated in Washington State in in 1972 as a strategy for handling an overload of home gardening questions. Experienced gardeners provided with additional training are now handling home horticulture questions across the country. The Master Gardener Program has allowed Cooperative Extension to expand its home horticulture educational programs.
Delaware launched its Master Gardener Program in Spring 1986. Delaware has nearly 300 Master Gardener Volunteer Educators; statewide, the Master Gardeners volunteer more than 20,000 hours per year to Delaware Cooperative Extension’s home horticulture program.
Training is now held in Delaware’s three counties: New Castle, Kent, and Sussex. The Master Gardener training course is an intensive and comprehensive 16-week course designed to prepare Master Gardener candidates for the volunteer phase of the program. Training is provided by Cooperative Extension Specialists and Agents from the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, green industry experts, and experienced Master Gardeners.
The training program includes formal lectures, discussion sessions, tours, workshops, and problem-solving sessions. Master Gardener training includes topics such as: plant identification, soils and plant nutrition, plant growth and propagation, integrated pest management, diagnosing plant problems, home landscaping and maintenance, disease control, turf management, fruit and vegetable production, plant selection, education methodology, program design and evaluation, and presentation technology. Master Gardener training does not end with the formal training course; advanced training opportunities include state, regional, and national workshops, lectures at monthly business meetings, special training sessions, and the shared experiences of a group of skilled, experienced gardeners.
Upon completion of the training program Master Gardeners are expected to donate a minimum of 40 hours of their time to Cooperative Extension. Volunteer time is spent solving problems, educating, and advising the gardening public of Delaware. Each county program is unique; Master Gardeners decide how to donate their time to the program. For more information on the Master Gardener training program, and to learn more about our current Master Gardener volunteer projects, visit your county website.