From the Ground Up: Consider Becoming a Master Gardener

Linn County Master Gardeners

We get questions all the time about the Iowa State University Extension Master Gardener Program. We call ourselves 'Master Gardeners,' but what does that mean?

Linn County Master Gardener Lisa Slattery shares details of the program, what it means to her and how you can become one.

Q :What is a Master Gardener?

A : Someone who loves gardening and is interested in learning more about gardening, plants and horticulture.

We are members of your community that continue to learn more and share that horticulture knowledge. There are currently 160 active Master Gardeners serving Linn County residents in nearly 30 horticulture based projects including several community programs. We teach, we answer questions, we give research-based advice on all things horticulture.

We sponsor a popular Winter Gardening Fair, offer garden walks, present classes to the public and run a learning hands on greenhouse along with several display gardens. We also continue to learn about our passion - yard, garden, trees, shrubs, pests, vegetables, perennials.

I became a Master Gardener in 2007 and the list of things I have learned in the last five years is long. I have had a lot of gardening success in the last five years in my own gardens and have learned from fellow Master Gardeners. For me, becoming a Master Gardener has taught me so much more about my love of gardening. I also volunteer with terrific people and have met many friends. But the most rewarding experience is being able to share what I have learned with others.

Gardeners like to share.

I encourage people who love gardening to join us all the time - and now is the time.

The class is taught by Iowa State University Horticulture professors, extension staff, extension specialists and Master Gardeners. The program offers 40 hours of instruction, covering topics such as lawn care, flower and vegetable gardening, ornamental trees and shrubs, fruit crops, houseplants, and more. Training also covers insects, disease, and weed control, soil and plant nutrition as well as pesticide safety.

In return, participants are asked to volunteer 40 hours of service back to their local county extension programs. Some of the Linn County Master Gardener projects include: educating youth and the community, answering questions on the Hortline, organizing horticulture-related events, and planting demonstration educational garden plots. After the initial 40 hours, a Master Gardener is only required to volunteer 12 hours a year plus six educational hours a year to stay certified.

Deadline for applications is Monday for classes beginning in September. Training is at the Linn County Extension Office September through November.
Cost is $195 (Financial assistance is available).

Interested gardeners can contact the Iowa State University Linn County Extension Office at 383 Collins Rd., Suite 201 Cedar Rapids, (319) 377-9839) or visit or email

Applicants to the Linn County program must be residents of Linn County. 

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