Master Gardeners of San Mateo & San Francisco Co.
University of California
Master Gardeners of San Mateo & San Francisco Co.

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.

Applications for classes beginning in 2015 are currently closed. Please check back in August 2015 for information on future class offerings.


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 or San Francisco County resident with an interest in horticulture and a desire to volunteer for community service may apply to the Master Gardener Training Program.  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 75 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 Management



Water Management

Abiotic Disorders

Ornamental Plants, Trees and Shrubs         

Weeds and Invasive Plants

Vegetable Culture

Sustainable Landscape Practices     


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?
Applications for classes beginning in 2015 are currently closed. Please check back in August 2015 for information on future class offerings.

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?
For 2015, the fee was $325 with an additional DOJ fingerprinting fee (avg. $25 depending on the service provider).  Fees cover the cost of training classes plus materials.  A limited number of need-based scholarships are available; more information is available upon request.

Where are the training classes held? 
In 2015, half of the 2015 training classes were held at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation - 1300 S. El Camino Real, San Mateo. Alternating Wednesday locations varied (within San Mateo and San Francisco counties) as coursework includes field trips for classes such as composting and pruning.  A full schedule of classes and locations will be available at orientation.

When are the classes held and how much time should I expect to spend on the training program?
The training period is typically 16 consecutive weeks; 14 weeks of class time, an orientation meeting and a graduation celebration. In 2015 the dates were January 7, 2015 to April 22, 2015.  The weekly classes were Wednesdays from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM.  Trainees are paired with mentors to help guide them through the training class and to introduce them to the SM & SF Counties 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 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM and/or 12:30 PM – 4:00 PM.  In subsequent years, to remain a Certified 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 2014 enjoyed about the training program:

“It is hard work but the results are worth the time invested. As the Master Gardener program gains visibility, the better the chances are of creating healthier, sustainable ecosystems statewide. Using research-based information helps to dispel myths and alleviate poor gardening practices.”

“Magnificent and passionate speakers and academics are truly inspirational in this course. I would recommend this program to anyone willing to devote time to continuing education who also has a willingness to serve others.”

“Top-notch content and presentations in an extremely well-designed and varied educational format.”

“The class was a fantastic overview of gardening and horticulture.”

“This has been a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to begin volunteering in my community and continue to gain knowledge.”

“This is a great program for anyone who loves gardening, wants to learn more about the science of it all, and wants to share their knowledge with the public.”

“You have to be able to give this class the time and preparation that it deserves in order to fully absorb the information.”

“It was a rare opportunity to be exposed to so much information presented by so many different experts.”



Page Last Updated: June 26, 2015
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