Master Gardeners: making a difference

Wayne Hobbs
Posted 3/8/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In Clay County we are blessed to have so many civic and nonprofit organizations working to enhance the community for our citizens. As part of my position with UF/IFAS Extension …

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Master Gardeners: making a difference


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In Clay County we are blessed to have so many civic and nonprofit organizations working to enhance the community for our citizens. As part of my position with UF/IFAS Extension Clay County, I get the privilege of working with what I think is one of the most dedicated and engaging groups, the Master Gardeners.

The Master Gardener program can trace it roots back to 1972, when a Horticulture agent with the Washington State Cooperative Extension Service trained the first group of Master Gardeners with Florida adopting the program in 1979. Through the first 30 years of the program in our state, Master Gardener volunteers donated a total of 6.2 million volunteer hours, valued at over $98 million dollars. Within Clay County, we have over 80 active volunteers who donated over 7500 hours last year.

With so many hours being donated, you may be wondering what Master Gardeners do. The main function of the Master Gardener program is to help the public in their landscape and garden by providing education, advice, and resources compiled from research-based sources, mainly the University of Florida and other public universities. This job may take many different forms including working with local schools such as Oakleaf High School and Bannerman Learning Center, building and maintaining educational gardens at our office outside of Green Cove Springs, teaching classes, manning plant clinics both at our office and at community events, and working with the Clay County Agricultural Fair.

Through these educational programs, the Master Gardeners work to promote practices such as the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Principles that help our communities use less resources and to protect the environment. These recommendations can then be utilized by the public to grow better, more sustainable gardens.

Outside of our volunteer work, Master Gardeners have access to further educational opportunities, field trips, and get to have fun working alongside other enthusiastic and knowledgeable garden enthusiasts.

Are You Master Gardener Material?

While the name Master Gardener may seem overwhelming, you do not need to be an expert in all things gardening to take part in the program. As part of the training for the group, you will undertake 50 hours of classes and complete 75 hours of volunteer service throughout your first year, learning along the way from experienced members and extension professionals throughout this time. One of the main things to remember is that you do not always need to know the answer, but can help others find it.

If you like learning about plants and gardening, are willing to participate in an intensive training program, like to work educating people, and have time to train and volunteer, the Master Gardener program may be for you.

The 2017 UF/IFAS Clay County Master Gardener training class will begin on August 2, 2017 and will run every Wednesday until Oct. 4 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. with the exception of August 30 for a total of 9 full day training sessions. Our training program is combined with St. Johns County, so the first five classes are held at their location in St. Augustine. There is also a field trip and graduation ceremony at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Information covered will include vegetable gardening, landscaping, care of plants, plant pathology, entomology, pest management, customer service, plant nutrition and environmental best management practices. Registration for the course can be found at

If you have any questions about the Master Gardener program, landscape and garden topics, or need plant or pest materials identified, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Office online at, follow us on Facebook, or call by phone at (904)284-6355.


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