Master Gardeners in Training (MGiT) must successfully complete an educational component and also complete the required annual volunteer hours before they become certified as Master Gardeners.
There are three paths toward completing the educational component for certification as a Master Gardener in Ontario: online study through Dalhousie University, University of Guelph, or by Certification Examination.
When you have chosen your path, register your decision with your group coordinator. Whichever path you choose, you will have three years to complete your training. Your training time will start when you join your local group.
Dalhousie University Master Gardener Training Program
The path towards certification as a Master Gardener in Ontario is to complete the 4 courses in the Master Gardener Program from the Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University. These courses are taken online and all materials are available online.
For complete information about the Dalhousie Master Gardener Training program go here.
This program is comprised of 4 courses which may be taken in any order:
The Science of Gardening
Maintaining the Garden
The Art of Gardening
There is no requirement at this time for Ontario Master Gardeners to complete a Summer Course in Nova Scotia.
Your transcript from Dalhousie University showing your successful completion of these four courses should be forwarded to your group coordinator who will inform the administrative office of Master Gardeners of Ontario, Inc. (MGOI) in order to establish your qualifications for certification.
University of Guelph Horticultural Certificate
You may take the three online courses specified below from the University of Guelph. You must register on your own.
Not all courses are offered in all semesters, so you should check with the university for availability of courses. The courses are in high demand so you should register early.
For complete information about the University of Guelph Horticulture Certificate go here.
The University of Guelph courses required for certification are:
Cultural Practice for Plants
Introduction to Plant Identification
You may take the courses in any order. Your transcript will be proof of your completion and
should be forwarded to your group coordinator who will inform the administrative office of Master Gardeners of Ontario, Inc (MGOI) in order to establish your qualifications for certification.
Certification Exam If you have recently completed a diploma or degree in horticulture or comparable education, have experience in the industry or extensive horticultural knowledge, you may choose to write the Certification Exam. Candidates who pass this exam will be exempted from taking courses but must still complete the two years of volunteer commitment as an MGiT before getting certification as a Master Gardener.
In addition to those with prior training, any MGiT may choose to prepare for the Certification exam by undertaking a program of self-directed study. The MGiT will have three years to complete this study and write and pass the Certification exam. The group coordinator can provide a list of the knowledge required to any MGiT choosing to follow this path.
Many groups provide MGiTs with a mentor, regardless of which education option they choose, and some groups may hold occasional study sessions. But the onus to prepare is on the candidate – this is independent study. Neither the group nor MGOI is responsible for managing the preparation of Examination candidates.
Details of Exam The Certification exam is an open-book exam that is to be completed in 2.5 hours under the supervision of an invigilator chosen by your local coordinator. The candidate may bring print (on paper) references into the exam room (no electronic devices). The cost of the exam is $100. You are required to pass the exam with a mark of 70% or more.
A candidate who is unsuccessful on his/her first attempt at a Certification exam may write a second time provided there is still time within the three year period allowed. The rewrite exam will be a different version from the first and may not be written any earlier than 6 months after the first exam was written.
A candidate who is unsuccessful on the second attempt at the Certification exam must enrol in one of the two course options if he/she wishes to remain in the Master Gardener program.
Prior Learning New volunteers who have completed either the required Dalhousie (formerly Nova Scotia Agricultural College) or Guelph courses within the last 5 years may be accepted into the MGOI Group and exempted from taking courses or writing the Certification Exam.
They must provide documentation for the courses taken and the date completed.
They will be known as Master Gardeners in Training (MGiT) for two years while they fulfill the required volunteer hours.
Master Gardeners who transfer to a MGOI Group from out-of-province are required to pass the Certification exam, unless the courses taken to meet the educational requirements of their original jurisdiction are the same as those required by MGOI.
They will have MG status as soon as they pass the exam, provided they had already achieved that status.
How to Become a Volunteer- Gardening Experience Is the Start
What is a Master Gardener Volunteer? Master Gardeners (MGs) are trained horticulturists who volunteer their time to provide free advice to home gardeners. Master Gardeners are required to give balanced, non-judgmental advice in compliance with the recommendations set out by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Master Gardeners will not imply the endorsement of any product or place of business in their recommendations.
Volunteers are Master Gardeners in Training (MGiT) for at least the first two years of membership. During this time they usually complete the educational requirements unless they have previous qualifications.
Because Master Gardeners and Master Gardeners in Training commit to continuously updating their knowledge, they are known for providing reliable information.
Benefits of volunteering:
satisfaction in helping others
sense of achievement
useful experience for a resume
What MGs do... Volunteers provide reliable and accurate information to the local public at in-person clinics and by telephone and email. They may set up educational displays and give classes or workshops. Topics might include home fruit and vegetable production, including planting, fertilizing, cultivation and pest management; planting and care of perennials, annuals, trees, shrubs and lawns; management and control of plant pests and diseases.
Volunteers record hours worked and topics and number of questions asked. The Master Gardener Coordinating Committee and/or the local Coordinator may assign other duties. Volunteers are responsible to the Master Gardener Coordinating Committee and/or the coordinator of that area.
The Volunteer Commitment Master Gardener duties are determined by the volunteer and the local coordinating committee. Activities must be information-oriented rather than physical labour and should reflect the needs of the community. Each volunteer must contribute a minimum of 30 hours of service each year.
Advice hours - 20 hours per year This is the time spent in direct contact with the public including activities such as:
lecturing to a group
writing articles for publication in newspapers or fact sheets
responding to specific requests made to the Master Gardener group
giving garden clinics/demonstrations
providing horticultural information to hospitals, nursing homes, YMCA, therapy programs
teaching classes / conducting workshops
distributing of a speaker list to organizations, schools, OMAF etc.
Administrative duties – 10 hours per year
attending local group meetings
serving on provincial Master Gardener committees
attending provincial Master Gardener meetings
time spent preparing for lectures or clinics
How to Qualify To qualify as a Master Gardener volunteer, you need a good basic knowledge of and interest in ornamental horticulture and general home gardening. As well, you must pass an eligibility test.
Master Gardeners in Training (MGiTs) must successfully complete an educational component and also complete the required annual volunteer hours for two years before they become certified as Master Gardeners.
Limited Authority The title "Master Gardener" should be used in all dealings with the public during periods of volunteer work authorized by the coordinating committee. When the volunteer is not on duty as a Master Gardener, then he/she should not use the title Master Gardener to signify authority.
An MG who works in a garden-related business is free to indicate his/her membership in the MG program while on the job. An MG who owns or works for a business must not solicit work for that business while volunteering as an MG. Implied or specific endorsement of any product is improper.
All advice given by Master Gardener Volunteers when working under the authorization of the coordinating committee must be in accordance with present Master Gardeners of Ontario Inc guidelines. Recommendations are to be based on unbiased information.
Technical Updating for Master Gardeners (MGOI Handbook - 2010 revised June 2012 and February 2013 - Section 6 Education - page 5)
Continuing Education Master Gardeners are expected to provide current and up-to-date advice and information to the gardening public. To achieve this, MGs must engage in continuing education activities.
Continuing Education Units Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are the measurement used to assess a continuing education event. CEUs indicate the investment by a Master Gardener in learning activities. CEUs must provide information within the horticultural field that increases the depth and breadth of the MG’s knowledge of some aspect of horticulture, making him or her a better-informed MG
Requirements 1. Each Master Gardener is expected to complete at least 6 Continuing Education Units a year. 2. MGiTs are not required to complete CEUs during any year in which they take courses towards Certification or are doing self-study to prepare for the Certification Exam.
Continuing Education Activity
No. of CEUs
Attend a one-day, formal Technical Update
Attend a 2-day Summer Workshop co-planned by MGOI
Attend the optional summer workshop in Nova Scotia
Attend a lecture of at least 2 hours in Horticulture at a local college or university or other place of botanical/horticultural significance
Complete a non-required Horticulture course from the University of Guelph or other post-secondary institution
Attend an event of at least 1 hour on a technical, horticultural theme, such as the educational component many groups have at each meeting.
Prepare a 1-hour presentation for your group or other event. The CEU is awarded for the preparation only
Research a current horticultural topic and submit a paper to your group or the MGOI Newsletter
Read a book on a horticultural subject and submit a report both written and orally to your group
Research and write an article or column for a local or provincial publication (newspaper, magazine, newsletter, TV, website)
Participate as a registered volunteer in PlantWatch by observing a minimum of 2 plants for a year
Guidelines • The focus of Continuing Education is on lifelong learning; an activity should be counted as a CEU because learning occurred. • All CEUs must have a scientific/technical basis - for example travel tours or garden tours generally do not qualify. • Each MG is responsible for counting CEUs for the year and reporting this along with volunteer hours at the end of the year. • Travel time and meal time are not counted in CEU time. • The same hours cannot be counted as both volunteer time and education time. The time spent at some events may be split between volunteer time and learning time, if appropriate.
Technical Updates A group or a zone may organize a one-day educational program called a Technical Update. Technical Updates (TUs) have historically been the method by which most MGs gained their continuing education. These Updating days are valuable to MGs in many ways. Zones and groups are encouraged to continue the practice of planning and hosting Technical Updates.
This gardening manual, which provides the advanced gardener with a broad range of gardening information, was produced by the Master Gardeners of Ontario Inc. Many thanks are owed to the Maryland Master Gardeners as well the Home and Garden Information Center, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service for allowing us to use and adapt their Handbook.
The first version of this manual was created in 1999 by members of the Education Committee, led at the time by Lenore Ross. Staff at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) initiated this effort and provided administrative and computer support throughout the 1999 version of the project. For reasons that are not clear, the document was not distributed at that time and remained lost until one hard copy recently surfaced.
In 2014, MGOI published the 1st edition of the Reference Manual for Ontario Master Gardeners. This current 3rd edition (2016) has been completely revised and much care has been taken to ensure accuracy and consistency.
We are proud to offer this 3rd edition exclusively to our members.
The MGOI Reference Manual Third Edition is online in the members loginarea. See your coordinator for access.