Love to garden?

Become a Master Gardener


Master gardeners are anyone who loves to garden, usually neighbors teaching neighbors about gardening practices who are also active at public sites, helping at schools and/or community gardens anywhere from Bay Shore to Greenport.

To become a master gardener, you must successfully complete the Suffolk County Cornell Cooperative Extension training course and volunteer 125 hours within a two-year period. Master gardener training consists of a 16-week course of lectures and workshops, some in person and some online. The goal of training is to give more gardening expertise to those who look forward to volunteering in their community.

Master Gardener Volunteer Training courses include a 16-week hybrid program online and in person, including courses like botany, soil and compost, plant ID, woody ornamentals and disease prevention, propagation, action project proposals, vegetable gardening and disease prevention, food security, entomology, ecosystem services, community gardens, landscape design, wildlife management as well as opportunities for volunteer roles.

The master gardener course attracts all levels of gardeners, from beginners to experienced, but all are passionate about the subject and are intent on acquiring more knowledge. While the course requires significant study and completion of assignments, master gardener Linda L. Carlson said, Dr. Roxanne Zimmer and the teaching assistants provide active support, and the MG trainees also form meaningful friendships that continue long after graduation.

“I am grateful intellectually for my MG experience and personally for the strong MG network,” Carlson added.

“I loved the process of becoming a master gardener, and I love being one even more,” said master gardener Alicia Whitaker. “Not only did I gain a great deal of knowledge; I also connected with people and projects that are making a difference in the community.”

Being a master gardener, she said, is a call to service in a community of people who want to give back and keep learning.

Master gardeners, according to community horticulture specialists, master gardener and master gardener program director Roxanne Zimmer, are leaders, not weeders.

“They serve their neighborhoods by volunteering in community gardens, school gardens and public pollinator gardens,” she explained.

Anyone who enjoys gardening, has a desire to share skills, and who can volunteer is encouraged to apply. Course applicants will be interviewed as part of acceptance consideration. In addition, Cornell requires a successful background check for training admission.

Course fees of $550/425 plus $125 refundable deposit, if 125 volunteer hours are met within the first two years of course completion, are due after an interview and successful background check.

For more information contact the Zimmer at or visit


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