Janis, MG
Image by Kathy Roth

MG Volunteer at Plant Sale

MGV's Plant Sale
Image by Kathy Roth

MGV's Team Veggie

MGV's Vet Garden
Image by Jen Lerner

Veterans Garden project

MGV's SEDGe Garden
Image by Kathy Roth

MGV's SEDGe Garden

Master Gardener Volunteers

What is the Master Gardener Volunteer Program?

The Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a national program of trained volunteers who work in partnership with their county Cooperative Extension office to expand educational outreach throughout the community by providing research-based information to home gardeners and youth.

The first Master Gardener Volunteer program was started in Washington state in 1972. Forty-six states now have Master Gardener Volunteer programs. For information on Master Gardener Volunteer programs outside Putnam County, visit the New York State Master Gardener Program website. 

What are Master Gardener Volunteers doing in Putnam County?

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Putnam County Master Gardener Volunteers are involved in many activities. Here are some of them:

  • Teaching public workshops on beginner vegetable gardening, Invasive plants, Native pollinators, the Impact of deer on our landscapes, and much more
  • Testing soil samples from homeowners and green-industry professionals brought into the Cornell Cooperative Extension office
  • Organizing the annual 4-H Fair and Plant Sale
  • Writing articles for our quarterly newsletter
  • Designing & maintaining the educational garden spaces at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office and Tilly Foster Community Garden
  • Staffing the horticultural hotline and diagnostic lab from 9 am to 12 pm, weekdays

Who Becomes a Master Gardener Volunteer?

Master Gardener Volunteers enjoy people and plants. They usually have no professional gardening or landscaping experience, only a genuine interest in sharing their knowledge, and sufficient free time to volunteer in Master Gardener activities.

Qualification for Trainees

Master Gardener Volunteer trainees should have a basic knowledge of, or interest in, gardening; enthusiasm for acquiring and sharing horticultural knowledge and skills; good communications skills; and a willingness and free time to participate in volunteer educational activities.

Volunteers complete a brief written application, and have a short interview with members of our horticulture staff. Priority for selection is given to Putnam County residents.

Master Gardener Volunteer Training

Master Gardener Volunteer training is held every two or three years. Trainees receive instruction from experts at Cornell Cooperative Extension and elsewhere on a broad spectrum of subjects applicable to home gardening, such as plant nutrition, soils, vegetable and fruit culture, trees, shrubs and lawns, diseases and insects that affect plants, pruning, and much more. After this instruction, trainees complete an examination and are certified as Master Gardener Volunteers. Advanced instruction is offered, and special seminars and refresher workshops are held so that Master Gardeners can stay current on gardening topics and keep their knowledge up-to-date. In Putnam County, the tuition fee is $375.00 for the training, which covers classes, an extensive resource manual and texts required for the training, as well as additional source materials.

You can learn more about the topics that are covered in the training by visiting the NY State Master Gardener Volunteer Program pages on the Cornell University website.

Volunteer Commitment

Each Master Gardener Volunteer trainee commits to "give back" 30 hours of service per year following certification. Some Master Gardener Volunteers have volunteered for many years and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow gardeners, monthly meetings, holiday gatherings, and group field trips to visit beautiful and unique gardens in our region that also are part of the program.

To fulfill their volunteer time commitment, Master Gardener Volunteers have in the past worked in the office to test soil samples, answer gardening questions through our horticulture hotline, teach gardening classes, organize and run the May Plant Sale, write articles for publication, speak or demonstrate to groups, and work in the demonstration gardens. New program initiatives also are welcomed!

Current Master Gardener Volunteer Program in Putnam County

Putnam County has had a Master Gardener Volunteers program for a thirty-five years, (Our longest tenured Master Gardener Volunteer has been in the program since its inception in New York State: 40 years!). Right now, we have approximately 100 active Master Gardener Volunteers who serve in Putnam County. This very popular program taps into the talents and interests of our volunteers to deliver science-based education into the community we serve and live in.

For more information . . .

Master Gardener Volunteer training is held from September through December, on alternate years.

If you are interested in becoming a Putnam County Master Gardener Volunteer, please fill out the Putnam County  Master Gardener Volunteer application  and mail to CCE Putnam County, 1 Geneva Rd., Brewster, NY  10509. Or call and ask for the Volunteer Coordinator.

Trainings are a mix of in-person, group practicums on weekends, and self-paced weekly online learning modules through the Moodle platform.

Last updated May 8, 2024