Master Gardeners of San Mateo & San Francisco Counties
University of California
Master Gardeners of San Mateo & San Francisco Counties

Become a UC Master Gardener

Thank you for your interest in the Master Gardener program.  Certified Master Gardeners are agents of University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) dedicated to extending to the public UC research-based information about home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices through educational programs and garden-related demonstrations in their communities.

Why become a UC Master Gardener?
Do you love to garden?  Are you interested in plant anatomy, physiology and care?  Do you enjoy sharing your knowledge with others?  Do you believe in volunteering within your community?  Do you have enough time to complete the required volunteer service?  If you answered yes to these questions, the Master Gardener Program could be for you.  We are seeking people who will make a long-term commitment to the program.

Who becomes a Master Gardener?
Any San Mateo – San Francisco resident with an interest in horticulture and a desire to volunteer for community service may apply to the Master Gardener Training Program.  SM-SF Master Gardeners are people of all ages and come from all walks of life.  They share an enthusiasm for gardening, some knowledge of plants, a willingness to learn and help others, and the ability to communicate with diverse groups of people.

What does the training include?
Master Gardeners complete an intensive 14-week training program that offers a practical course in plant science and horticulture.  Taught by experts ranging from UCCE faculty and staff, local horticultural educators, and Certified Master Gardeners the course comprises over 90 hours of classroom and field training from basic botany to plant pathology.  Attendance at all classes and satisfactory completion of written exams and other home study assignments are required to graduate and become a certified Master Gardener.  All training assignments and exams are open book.

Core subjects that are covered in the Training Program include:

Botany and Plant Taxonomy  

Plant Pathology

Soil Science


Integrated Pest Mnagement



Lawn and Lawn Alternatives

Abiotic Disorders

Ornamental Plants, Trees and Shrubs         

Weeds and Invasive Plants

Vegetable Culture
Sustainable Landscape Practices                Pruning

Reliable internet access and an email address are necessary to gain access to class schedules and complete the homework assignments.  A home printer is desirable.

In addition to the classroom sessions, Helpline training is required and is included in your first year volunteer hours.  Training dates are announced prior to the end of the classroom training sessions.

How do I apply to the SM-SF Master Gardener Program?
The 2014 application period has now closed.  Look for our 2015 application sometime in July 2014.  As agents of the University of California, all volunteers must be fingerprinted and must pass a statewide Department of Justice criminal background check prior to being accepted into the program.  For those of you living in California for less than two years, an FBI background check is required.

What is the training program fee?
It can vary, this year’s class fee was $300. Fees cover the cost of training classes plus materials.  A limited number of need-based scholarships are available.  Please request more information during the telephone orientation.

Where are the training classes held? 
The 2014 training class will be held at Filoli, 86 Canada Road, Woodside.  

When are the classes held and how much time should I expect to spend on the training program?
The training period is 16 consecutive weeks that includes orientation and a graduation celebration.  The weekly classes are Tuesday from 9:30am to 4pm beginning in early January and ending in late April.  Trainees are paired with mentors to help guide them through the training class and to introduce them to the SF-SM Master Gardener Program.  The time commitment for the training is estimated to be 10-15 hours per week, including class time.

What is the commitment to the Master Gardener Program?
In the first year Master Gardeners are required to complete 50 volunteer service hours; this includes 7 shifts working on the UC Master Gardener Helpline located in Half Moon Bay on Mondays or Thursdays during the hours of 9:00am – 12:30pm and/or 12:30pm – 4:00pm.  In subsequent years, to remain a Certified UC Master Gardener, 25 hours of SM-SF Master Gardener sponsored volunteer service and 12 hours of continuing education are required.

If you have additional questions, please contact us at  A designated volunteer will respond as soon as possible.

What the class of 2013 enjoyed about the training program:

“I particularly enjoyed speakers who presented information as if to a layman rather than a scientist, and engaged students in research during class time to the given information in play.”

“I have particularly enjoyed the “Hands On” opportunities. You have done a good job of working with all of the learning “Doors” as I call them, Auditory, Visual and Tactile.”

“I have so enjoyed all of the speakers—and appreciate that you bring in MG grads to teach us as well—gives us hope. And –they are good!”



Page Last Updated: November 18, 2013
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