Master Gardener logo, 800x400 in yellow & green

Master Gardener volunteers help extend gardening knowledge into the community.

Master Gardener Volunteers

What is the Master Gardener Program?

The Master Gardener Program is a national program of trained volunteers who work in partnership with their county Cooperative Extension office to extend information throughout the community. The first Master Gardener program was started in Washington State in 1972. Forty-six states now have Master Gardener programs. For information on Master Gardeners within NYS visit the New York State Master Gardener Program website. CCE’s Master Gardener Volunteer program is an integral part of educational programs for home, school and community gardeners at all levels of expertise.

Master Gardener Volunteer Training 2020-2021 (Applications are no longer being accepted)

Spring 2021 we will begin accepting applications for the next Master Gardener training class which starts in Spring 2022.

Master Gardener Volunteers complete a 2 year approximately 45-hour basic horticulture training course to build a common foundation in soil science, composting, botany, insect biology, plant diseases, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), wildlife management as well as best practices in cultivating vegetables, herbs, houseplants, trees and shrubs.

Training often expands beyond horticulture content to included skill development in communication, community leadership, peer education and working with specific audiences such as children and youth or older adults.

Attendance at all Master Gardener Volunteer Training Class sessions is a requirement for completion of the Master Gardener Volunteer Course. Two emergency/medical absences are allowed, but the MG Coordinator must be informed in advance of absence. There is a fee for the training classes, currently it is $225 for an Onondaga County resident.

If you would like to reach beyond your garden gate to help individuals, families and communities in your area achieve gardening success that leads to a healthier life and environmental stewardship, please complete the application (link below) or  contact CCE Onondaga 315-424-9485 ex.236. Applications for the training session beginning in the Spring of 2020 are not longer being accepted. 

Master Gardener Application

Return applications to Kathleen Burns Copeletti:

Qualification for Trainees

Master Gardener trainees should have a basic knowledge of gardening; free time to participate in volunteer activities; enthusiasm for acquiring and sharing horticultural knowledge and skills; an ability to communicate; and a willingness to participate in educational activities and enough time to do so. Volunteer selection is made after completing both a written application and a reference check. Priority for selection is given to Onondaga County residents. Guidelines: Master Gardener Guidelines

Who becomes a Master Gardener?

Master Gardeners 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.

How do I become a Master Gardener?

Master Gardener trainees receive instruction in plant nutrition, soils, vegetables, trees, shrubs and lawns, diseases and insects that affect plants, pruning, and much more. After this instruction, trainees complete an examination to become a Master Gardener Apprentice. After completion of 200 hours of service as an apprentice, volunteers become Certified Master Gardeners. Advanced instruction is offered, and special seminars and workshops are held so that Master Gardeners are kept current on gardening information and methods.


Master Gardeners are trained volunteers of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County assisting to expand the agency’s educational outreach by providing home gardeners with research-based information.

Volunteer Commitment

Each Master Gardener must provide Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County with an additional 50 hours of service per year upon completion of training program. To fulfill the volunteer commitment, Master Gardeners may  answer gardening questions through our “HotLine”, teach gardening classes, mentor youth in gardening skills and projects, organize and run the annual Plant Sale, write articles for publication, present or host demonstrations for groups, help develop gardens for community groups, and table at various community events. New program initiatives are always welcomed.

Current Master Gardener Program in Onondaga County

Right now, we have approximately 60 active Master Gardeners who volunteer in numerous ways in  the local community. It is a very popular program and growing every year.

What are some of the Master Gardener projects in Onondaga County?

  • Teaching gardening classes to youth at summer programs and throughout the year
  • Giving presentations to garden clubs and other organizations on a wide range of garden topics.
  • Answering gardening questions phoned or e-mailed into the Cooperative Extension office
  • Arranging public workshops
  • Tabling at Farmer Markets, fairs, and festivals
  • Organizing the annual Plant Sale
  • Maintain a demonstration vegetable garden
  • Staffing the horticulture HOTLINE
  • Consulting at community gardens
  • Creating a State Fair booth and staffing each day at the Fair


After being accepted into the program, each MG will receive 2-years of training from Cornell University professors and professionals working in the horticultural field. Training classes will be divided between 2022 and 2024, approximately 6 classes will be offered each year. All Master Gardener training class sessions are a requirement for completion of the Master Gardener Course.


Kathleen Burns Copeletti
Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator

Last updated November 3, 2020