Become a Master Gardener

Who are Master Gardener Volunteers?

The Iowa Master Gardener program is part of an international network of Master Gardener programs started in 1973 in Washington State. The Master Gardener title is given to volunteers in exchange for their service in communities sharing gardening best practices. Volunteers receive an initial broad-based horticulture training, ongoing support, resources, and education from their county coordinator and state staff. Master Gardeners share their time and expertise as volunteers in community gardens, city beautification projects, and farmers markets, to name a few examples. 

If you are interested in the Master Gardener Training curriculum for personal development and do not intend to volunteer, you may apply for the course as a non-Master Gardener student and will receive a certificate of completion of the Horticulture Fundamentals coursework. 

We are looking for volunteers who:

  • Are interested in gardening and horticulture
  • Are curious and love to learn
  • Can make a commitment to the program – 40 volunteer hours and 40 education hours in the first year. Then 20 volunteer hours and 10 education hours after the Master Gardener training.

We welcome participants with all levels of gardening experience. The minimum age for participation is 16 years old. Master Gardener volunteers must submit to a background check in accordance with ISU Extension and Outreach policies and procedures. 

What you can expect from Master Gardener Training:

  • 10 weeks of hybrid instruction, including
    • video lectures
    • reading assignments
    • quizzes
    • discussion forums
    • in-person classes hosted at the local Extension and Outreach office
    • Class on Campus - hands-on learning experience in Ames
  • A broad overview of 17 horticulture topics that will help students establish a diverse base of horticulture knowledge
  • Links to additional resources that allow students to dive deeper into topics of specific interest
  • Opportunities to meet new people, network, and share ideas and information with fellow students and active Master Gardeners 
  • Learn more about volunteer opportunities in your community and connect with ISU Extension and Outreach staff at your local office, who will help you get connected with volunteer opportunities matched to your skills and interests

Map of Iowa with color coded counties indicating which session each county is offering.

Important Dates:

  • Fall 2024 Cohort: September 3 - November 8 (Applications open July 12 here)
                                 October 26: Class on Campus in Ames

Steps to Become a Master Gardener Volunteer

  1. Declare your intent to become a Master Gardener to your County Extension and Outreach office
    Questions about your county's training program? Find your county contact here!
  2. Apply online to be a part of the Master Gardener Volunteer Training
  3. Be selected to participate
    • Submit and pass the background check. Background check not required for Horticulture Fundamentals (non-Master Gardener) participants.
    • Pay the class fee ($150 for MG trainees; $300 for Horticulture Fundamentals); the fee includes the training book (MG Resource Guide) and access to the online course. 
      • Some scholarships are available for Master Gardener volunteer trainees with financial need. If you have questions about the cost, please contact your county coordinator. 
      • Scholarships are not available for Horticulture Fundamentals (non-Master Gardener option).
  4. Complete the ISU Extension and Outreach Master Gardener training
    • Complete online course materials over a 10-week period
    • Participate in 4 in-person sessions through your county office
    • Attend Class on Campus in Ames toward the end of training
    • Take pre- and post-assessment to gauge knowledge change
    • Topics include: Vegetables, insects, houseplants, flowers, fruits, turfgrass, landscape design, native plants, plant propagation, wildlife, integrated pest management, and common plant problems
    • Receive the MG Intern certificate (or Horticulture Fundamentals certificate) upon completion of training
  5. Volunteer in your community
    • Complete 40 volunteer hours in your training county by the end of the next calendar year 
    • Not interested in volunteering? Register for the course as a Horticulture Fundamentals trainee ($300 fee) and receive a certificate upon completion of the training
  6. Stay involved
    • After completing the initial internship, Master Gardener volunteers remain active members by completing 10 hours of continuing education and contributing 20 hours of volunteer service annually
    • Report your volunteer and continuing education hours online by December 31st of each year



Financial assistance may be available to cover a portion of the training fee if the full training fee will cause financial hardship. Scholarships are available for volunteers (Master Gardener trainees) only. Scholarships are not available to those choosing the Horticulture Fundamentals option. 

Our mission is to build a strong Iowa by serving all Iowans. Scholarship funding priority will favor Iowans new to the program and who bring a broad range of perspectives that will help connect with Iowans from all backgrounds. All applications are confidential and reviewed by Extension Staff. This information will not be released to any other entity, agency, or organization. You may apply for scholarship assistance on our training application form. 


Master Gardener Refund Policy


Any registrations cancelled prior to the beginning of class will be fully refunded less a $50 administrative fee. Refunds and price adjustments will be allowed within two weeks of the start of training less a $75 administrative fee. Textbook bundle must be returned to county extension office to initiate refund.

After the first two weeks of training, no refunds or price adjustments will be granted.

Deferring Enrollment

Should you need to postpone your participation, you may defer your enrollment for up to one year from the original training period. After one year, anyone wishing to complete training will be required to submit a new application and pay the current listed training price.