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
• Plant ID
• 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

During 2018/19, the University of Guelph revised their online Horticulture courses. The new courses are available starting with the September 2019 session.

The 3 Guelph courses that are now required for MG Certification are:
Plant Identification
Soils and Plant Growth
Integrated Pest Management

Previously, the requirements were:
Introduction to Plant Identification
Growing Plants
Cultural Practice for Plants

Transition from the Old Program to the New Program
You must complete:
Introduction to Plant Identification OR Plant Identification
Growing Plants OR Soils and Plant Growth
Cultural Practice for Plants OR Integrated Pest Management

For a short time, students may end up with a “mix” of courses, but they will still only be required to take three in all, as has always been the case with the Guelph program. If any Master Gardener in Training is not sure what replacement course they should be taking, they may contact us.

For complete information about the University of Guelph Horticulture Certificate go here.

 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.

See the document: Requirements for Certification Exam (Basic Knowledge)

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 an Ontario group from out-of-province are required to pass the MGOI Certification exam, unless the courses taken to meet the requirements of their original jurisdiction are the same as the MGOI educational requirements (3 required courses from University of Guelph or 4 Master Gardener courses from Dalhousie University).

They will have MG status as soon as they pass the exam, provided they had already achieved that status.

 Changes have been made to volunteer requirements and these will be posted soon. Please check with your local group coordinator for more information.

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
  • learning experience
  • 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
Each member agrees to contribute a minimum of 30 hours of volunteer service each year. Activities vary with each group, but here are some common examples:

  • answer garden questions at public events, e.g. libraries, schools, farmer’s markets
  • educate the public about sustainable gardening practices via social media, print, virtual or in person activities
  • prepare for workshops, presentations, demonstrations
  • research and write articles, blogs, posts
  • fulfill the yearly educational component, e.g. attend a Master Gardener organized Technical Update, gardening workshop, online learning
  • attend local group meetings
  • contribute to the success of the group by volunteering to take on or share a role or responsibility

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


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.


• 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 withvolunteer 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 login area. See your coordinator for access.

Continuing Education Activity TableNo. of CEUs
Attend a one-day, formal Technical Update6
Attend a 2-day Summer Workshop co-planned by MGOI 12
Attend the optional summer workshop in Nova Scotia12
Attend a lecture of at least 2 hours in Horticulture at a local college or university or other place of botanical/horticultural significance 2
Complete a non-required Horticulture course from the University of Guelph or other post-secondary institution24
Attend an event of at least 1 hour on a technical, horticultural theme, such as the educational component many groups have at each meeting. 1
Prepare a 1-hour presentation for your group or other event. The CEU is awarded for the preparation only2
Research a current horticultural topic and submit a paper to your group or the MGOI Newsletter1
Read a book on a horticultural subject and submit a report both written and orally to your group1
Research and write an article or column for a local or provincial publication (newspaper, magazine, newsletter, TV, website)1
Participate as a registered volunteer in PlantWatch by observing a minimum of 2 plants for a year1