Now that you’ve been reading our Ask a Master Gardener column in Lagniappe for almost two years, maybe you’re thinking, “That sounds fun. How can I get involved?” We’re so glad you asked!

The Master Gardener program is much more than just 15 daylong gardening classes. It is a volunteer training program by which the Alabama Cooperative Extension System extends its outreach mission to the citizens of Alabama. This program represents an effective partnership between Auburn and Alabama A&M universities and motivated volunteers interested in educating their communities using research-based information. All of the techniques and information we teach are borne out by research.

The course covers the A-to-Z of gardening and horticulture, including building healthy soil, landscape design, fruits and vegetables, and much more. We even take a couple of field trips during the course to learn about native plants and get to know other Master Gardeners. We often say it’s like getting a horticulture degree in three months!

The volunteer component of being a Master Gardener is just as important, if not more so, than the classes. You will have one full calendar year to complete 50 volunteer hours. Most interns have no trouble completing the hours within a few months of graduation, and a few go-getters finish their 50 hours before our December awards banquet.

Among dozens of volunteer opportunities, Master Gardeners support the preservation work of the Mobile Botanical Gardens throughout the year. Helping with their fundraising sales means learning about and handling some of the most beautiful plants available from all the local nurseries, and meanwhile making a giant shopping list for our own yards. The Gallery of Gardens tours in May include Master Gardener docents at each garden with lists of plants to help those who want to spruce up their home gardens.

(Photos | Alice Marty) Master Gardener Brenda Bolton preparing for the annual Greenery Sale.

There’s also the Master Gardener booth at the Festival of Flowers, surrounded by beautiful flowers in breathtaking designs. And those shopping lists for our own plantings!

In the spring and fall, there is a Master Gardeners’ booth at the Market in Mardi Gras Park in downtown Mobile to share information with those interested in planting their own yards and gardens. Did I mention shopping for our area farmers’ best fresh fruits and vegetables?

We help with 4-H field trips for school children to get outside and learn about the forests and woodlands of Mobile County. In the fall, there’s a Master Gardener booth at “BOO! at Bellingrath” to give candy and craft treats to the children, too.

Master Gardeners also host our own “Lunch & Learn” program every month for the public to hear about topics ranging from fire ants to camellia grafting, presented by local experts, many of them Master Gardeners themselves. Annually, we host a seminar with nationally known guest speakers who bring so many new and creative ideas, and in December we offer our Christmas Greenery sale.

We love to dig together, planting and maintaining the DREAM gardens surrounding the Jon Archer Center, home of the Master Gardeners and the Cooperative Extension. We can also be found digging at several of the community gardens around Mobile.

Did I mention the banquet, the luncheons, Farm to Table, the monthly MG meetings with guest speakers, the good food we share? Mentoring the new Master Gardeners is also a very important part of our volunteer program. Helping our interns make the best of their time in the classes and trying out the multitude of volunteer opportunities keeps the Master Gardener program growing.

Once you’ve completed the class and the initial 50 volunteer hours, you will be a “certified” Master Gardener, which means you may officially join the Mobile County and Alabama Master Gardener associations and purchase your green MG apron. Once certified, you will also be able to continue the volunteer activities that best suit your interests.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn universities) is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce. Educational programs serve all people regardless of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, marital status, family/parental status, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs, reprisal or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program. We welcome everyone!

2017 Mobile County Master Gardener Class
When: Wednesdays from Aug. 9 through Nov. 15, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Where: Jon Archer Center, 1070 Schillinger Road N., Mobile
Cost: $160 for materials and educational fieldtrip (limited number of scholarships available)
Application deadline: June 17
For more information: Call 251-574-8445 or email
Print application available at

You are invited to these upcoming gardening events

What: Mobile Master Gardeners Monthly Meeting
When: Thursday, May 11, 10-11 a.m.
Where: Jon Archer Center, 1070 Schillinger Road N., Mobile
Topic: Creating a Backyard Bird Habitat, Martha Terry

What: Mobile Master Gardeners Lunch & Learn
When: Monday, May 15, noon to 1 p.m.
Where: Jon Archer Center, 1070 Schillinger Road N., Mobile
Topic: Grocery Store Botany, Dr. Judy Stout

What: MBG’s Gallery of Gardens
When: May 19-20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Gardens in Oakleigh, Church Street East
and DeTonti Square
Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 during tours