From answering questions from the public at local garden centers or teaching classes to residents and community gardeners, the Master Gardener program has lots of volunteer opportunities to offer. (Photo: Shutterstock).

Everything has its time in the garden, and that’s true in the CSU Extension office as well. From answering questions from the public at local garden centers or teaching classes to residents and community gardeners, the Master Gardener program has lots of volunteer opportunities to offer!

Sept. 1 is the day applications for the Colorado Master Gardener (CMG) program and registration for the Colorado Gardening Certificate (CGC) program are live statewide on the Colorado Master Gardener website

The application season ends Oct. 14, but the process is just beginning! Counties accepting applications are able to match applicants with their particular program needs. They may then extend the invitation for an interview to join the program. After the interview process, invitations to join the apprentice class for the following season are extended by mail, email or perhaps singing telegram. The training course begins in January and ends in April each year.

Every county’s Master Gardener volunteer program has their own personal flavor, but all the registration and online coursework is consistent statewide. The same can be said for the Certified Colorado Gardener training. Not every county offers a CMG volunteer program or accepts Apprentices every year, but if your county is listed on the CMG website as accepting applicants – you’re in luck!

What’s the difference between a Certified Colorado Gardener and a Colorado Master Gardener? Volunteering.

CMG Apprentices successfully completing the training course are launched into their first year during which they are required to complete volunteer service hours with the program. After the apprentice year, Master Gardeners are offered a wide array of continuing education topics and varied volunteer opportunities around gardening in Colorado. Again, each county has different needs, but helping their community answer home horticulture questions is central to the Extension Master Gardener Program nationwide. The job of a Master Gardener is to support Extension’s horticulture staff in reaching the public (our staff is excellent but there are only so many places they can be at once).

What is Green School? Extension staff and course instructors are knowledgeable professionals in the field and truly care about helping their students absorb the course content throughout the 15-week session. Coursework covers Botany, Soils, Integrated Pest Management, Weeds, Entomology, Plant Pathology and more. Some counties hold supplemental local labs or classes in the particularly dense topic areas. Weekly quizzes and live review sessions are an important part of the coursework, and participation is highly encouraged.

At the end of the training session all students take a final exam. For CMG volunteers, though, the learning is just beginning. Every volunteer shift brings with it the opportunity to learn more about home horticulture, research the answers to questions previously unconsidered and discover a new horticultural area of interest.

For those who opt for training only (Colorado Gardening Certificate) and do not apply for the volunteer program, successful students passing the final exam will receive a certificate once Green School has been completed. We hope they frame it and display it proudly on their office or garden shed wall. In addition, many employers in the Green Industry support their staff attending and completing the online, self-paced course to strengthen their horticultural know-how.

Whether your interest is in learning for the sake of learning, furthering a career in the Green Industry or a passion for solving plant problems while sharing the love of gardening with your neighbors, now is the time to get started. Visit now through Oct. 14th for applications and details.

By Kristen Anderson, Colorado State University Extension, Boulder County