In 2014, Cooperative Extension offices nation-wide celebrated the system’s 100th birthday on the centennial anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act. The act provided funding for land-grant universities like University of Nevada, bringing Extension into existence. It was unique in that it established a shared partnership among the Federal, State, and County levels of government. As Cooperative Extension celebrates this milestone across the country, another anniversary also deserves attention: The year marked 40 years of Master Gardener Volunteers helping Nevadans.

In 1974, Washoe County Cooperative Extension taught the first Nevada Master Gardener class, establishing a program that helps thousands of Nevada and northern California gardeners each year. Since then, the Nevada Master Gardener Program expanded to provide larger classes in counties throughout the state, but the program’s focus remains true. Extension personnel train local volunteers in up-to-date, science-based information and provide opportunities for those volunteers to share their knowledge. These service opportunities allow Master Gardeners to extend University of Nevada’s impact into our local communities through phone and email helplines, classes and events, community and school gardens, fact sheets and articles, and more.

To become a Master Gardener, you do not need a degree in horticulture or botany. You do not even need to be the best gardener on the block. The most important quality of a Master Gardener is the passion to learn and share knowledge with others. In Washoe County, prospective Master Gardeners must attend orientation held in fall to participate in the spring Master Gardener Program. During the two-month, 50-hour training, students learn the basics of gardening and landscaping in Nevada through training in topics such as botany, entomology, soils, plant problem diagnosis and treatment, and proper plant selection and planting. Classes also teach Master Gardeners how to become certified and how to represent the University. After the program, new Master Gardeners are tested and encouraged to attend advanced trainings. Then, they begin accumulating their required 30 to 50 hours per year of volunteer service in the community. Through service, new Master Gardeners grow into Certified Master Gardeners.

Master Gardeners are everywhere, sharing enthusiasm for plants and encouraging fellow gardeners to keep growing in our challenging environment. In the Washoe County office at 4955 Energy Way in Reno, Master Gardeners hold office hours Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the growing season and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the off-season. They answer plant questions, solve gardening problems and identify insects and plants at no charge. But more, Master Gardeners share their passion to grow– everything from cacti to bonsai, vegetables to perennials, trees to native plants– with everyone they can. So, if you are struggling to grow here or if you stumble upon an unknown insect, come to our office or email us a photo. Our Master Gardener Volunteers and University staff and faculty will find you an answer and provide you with several options for success.

Hanson Mazet, W. and Andrews, A. 2014, 40 Years of Master Gardeners Helping Nevadans, Reno Gazette-Journal

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