Master Gardener Program









About the Master Gardener Program

The Master Gardener program is a volunteer service program whereby adults are given advanced training in horticulture in exchange for volunteer service to the community. The mission of the Master Gardener Program is to provide current, research-based, home horticulture information and education to the residents of Iowa through ISU Extension programs and projects. Through their participation in educational activities, Master Gardeners also increase their own personal knowledge in horticulture.


Volunteer Resources

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Green Thumb Newsletter
Log Your Master Gardener Hours

Hours requirements for current Master Gardeners are 20 hours of volunteering and 10 hours of continuing education annually.

Record your hours here

Please read tips on recording hours in the Volunteer Reporting System here.


2022 Advisory Council

The Polk County Master Gardeners Advisory Council is comprised of six Master Gardener volunteers that serve in a leadership capacity. Click to learn more about their specific roles and responsibilities

Advisory Council Representatives

Garden Representative: Mary Rolfes

Education Representative: Eva Henderson

Community Outreach Representative: Patty Loving

Fundraising Representative: Sandie Hamilton

Volunteer Engagement Representative: Lindsay Leonetti

Operations Representative: Linda Brown

Meeting Dates and Minutes

Meetings are held 6:00 p.m. at the Extension office or through Zoom.

​​November 2022
Sept. 15, 2022
July 21, 2022
May 19, 2022
March 17, 2022
Jan. 27, 2022
Nov. 18, 2021
Sept. 16, 2021


Leadership Structure Transition

People in gardens

Polk County Master Gardener Projects

The Polk County Master Gardeners maintain three learning gardens throughout the county, as well as plan and host a number of educational events and opportunities throughout the year! 

Visit one of our three educational gardens; the Demonstration Garden in Urbandale, the Discovery Garden at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, or the Enabling Garden in Altoona. Or check out our signature events, and other educational programs!

Learn more on our Polk County Master Gardeners site!

Demonstration Garden

The Demonstration Garden is the oldest ISU Extension, Polk County Master Gardener project. It is a cooperative arrangement between the Polk County Extension and the City of Urbandale. The mature fruit tree orchard and many deciduous bushes and shrubs are also a learning lab where Master Gardener trainees receive hands-on experience in proper pruning techniques each spring. View information about Demonstration Garden events, history, and other information by viewing the Demonstration Garden Webpage.

Discovery Garden

The Discovery Garden is a cooperative effort between ISU Extension and Outreach Polk County Master Gardeners and the Iowa State Fair. The Discovery Garden is located on the Iowa State Fairgrounds on the south side of the Agriculture Building. Master Gardeners provide education to the public each year during the Iowa State Fair. Read more about the Discovery Garden here.

Enabling Garden

The Enabling Garden in Altoona started in 2002 as a collaborative effort between Polk County Master Gardeners and the City of Altoona, The Enabling Garden provides an area that illustrates gardening for individuals with physical impairments by demonstrating the construction of barrier-free gardening. Through the use of design concepts such as raised beds and vertical wall gardens, visitors learn how gardens can be adapted to accommodate any gardener regardless of age or ability. Read more about the Enabling Garden. 

Visit the Enabling Garden at 1050 1st Avenue South in Altoona, 50009.

Garden Tour

Join us on July 9th, 2022 for the Polk County Master Gardeners' Garden Tour! View extraordinary gardens created by ordinary people across the county, and participate in educational experiences. Read more about it and purchase your ticket!

Ask a Master Gardener

Got a gardening question on your mind? Ask a Master Gardener! Visit us at the Downtown Farmers' Market or Beaverdale Farmers' Market during the growing season. Find more info and the schedule on this site. 

Bus Trips
Join our upcoming bus trip for great educational experiences and a chance to explore nearby gardens in Central Iowa and the Midwest. Read more info here. 


Become a Master Gardener

ISU Extension and Outreach in Polk County offers the class series each year in late summer through fall. 

Registration Information


Classes are held both in-person and online. The online material will be supplemented with additional experiences with the Polk County cohort to facilitate connections among class-members and provide hands-on learning experiences. 

Within 12 months of completing the coursework, the Master Gardener "intern" will need to report 40 hours of volunteer time on approved projects before receiving their Master Gardener Certificate.

Class Topics

Class topics include: 

  • Soils Botany
  • Plant pathology
  • Entomology
  • Landscape trees and shrubs
  • Home landscape design
  • Fruit culture
  • Turfgrass management
  • Weeds
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Animal ecology
  • Vegetables
  • Houseplants and propagation
  • Herbaceous ornamentals
Polk County Master Gardener Projects and Volunteer Opportunities
  • Demonstration Garden, Urbandale
  • Discovery Garden, Iowa State Fair Grounds
  • Enabling Garden, Altoona
  • Plant Sales, various
  • Garden Tour, various neighborhoods
  • Farmers Market booth
  • Planning Bus Trips, various destinations
  • Art in the Garden Fair

Visit our Master Gardener website to learn more!

Frequently Asked Questions

What sets a Master Gardener apart from a home gardener?
Master Gardeners are enthusiastic, willing to learn, and have the ability to communicate and share their knowledge with diverse groups of people.

Is prior gardening experience or training necessary to become a Master Gardener? 

No. Prior experience or education is not required to become a Master Gardener.  After acquiring the Master Gardener Certificate, volunteers must complete a minimum of 10 hours of educational training and provide 20 hours of volunteer service annually.

What is the cost for the program?

Class Tuition is $195 for Master Gardener Certification. This fee includes materials for the core class, and a Master Gardener resource guide and workbook.

I am not interested in becoming a volunteer, is there a different program for me?

When class size permits, we accept applications to take the coursework and receive a "ProHort" certificate of completion. The ProHort certification fee is $550.

Apply for the Master Gardener Program

Contact us

Stephanie Harrington
Natural Resources Program Coordinator

Gardening Resources

Looking for gardening information? ISU Extension and Outreach has got you covered! Check out resources on our Horticulture and Home Pest News webpage for timely tips, troubleshooting any gardening issues, and so much more! 

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The Master Gardener Program trains garden enthusiasts to learn, grow, and teach others about plants and gardening in the home landscape. Participants receive 40 hours of training via webcasting, face-to-face, and hands-on workshops, while interacting with others of similar interests. After completing their training, Master Gardener Interns volunteer 40 hours of service in county approved projects related to gardening education to become active Master Gardeners. To maintain active status, Master Gardeners must attend at least 10 hours of county approved continuing education and volunteer at least 20 hours of service on county approved projects.