University of Vermont

Extension Master Gardeners Help Cultivate Gardening Knowledge

UVM Extension Master Gardener Sandy Paar works in the pollinator garden
University of Vermont Extension Master Gardener Sandy Paar helped maintain the pollinator garden at North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier this past summer. (photo courtesy of the UVM Extension Master Gardener Program)

At the Barre Town schools, the Crops for Kids program is teaching students and parents how to grow their own vegetables, while growing food for the school. In Rutland, the Benson Heights Community Garden was created to help residents produce their own healthy food.

Taylor Park has become a major beautification project in the middle of St. Albans. Its rain garden helps protect Lake Champlain from rain runoff's hazardous particulates and teaches homeowners and businesses what they can do to help protect Vermont's waterways.

What do all these gardens have in common? University of Vermont Extension Master Gardeners (EMG). These volunteers earn their certification by completing a comprehensive 13-week home horticulture course and a 40-hour internship. The course is offered annually, with the next one starting Feb. 7. Details may be found at

The EMGs use their training to teach others how to grow nutritious food and keep pests at bay using Integrated Pest Management practices and other natural means. They also share ways to maintain a safe, healthy environment from making a small town square more inviting by adding a flower garden to creating gardens to bring back pollinators.

The North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier has done just that with its pollinator garden, developed with the help of Master Gardeners, that's used to teach children, as well as adults, about the importance of pollinators in nature's ecosystems. The gardens at South Burlington's Wheeler Park provide food for the participating gardeners and the local food shelf while teaching visitors and gardeners the best practices for a variety of gardening projects from food to flowers.

Many of the EMG projects have help from other non-profits, such as Waterbury's Rotary Club that helps maintain the town square that is used for the weekly farmer's market and concerts throughout the summer.

Master Gardeners also work with schools. In Rochester Spanish and Food and Consumer Science teacher Marcella Carroll has her students, as well as other teachers, plant their own gardens in a space they carved out of a hillside next to the school. When students in her class are hungry, they harvest fresh vegetables and cook it with their teacher.

Teaching is also an important component of The Garden at 485 Elm Street in Montpelier. It was created for the same purpose--to teach residents how to grow their own healthy food as well as extra produce for local residents in need.

For more information, contact the Master Gardener office at (802) 656-9562.

-- Story written by Kitty Werner, a Waitsfield resident, has been an Extension Master Gardener since 2008 and currently serves as program support for the three northern Master Gardener chapters.


About the UVM Extension 2017 Master Gardener Course:

Gardeners have until Jan. 23 to register for the 2017 University of Vermont (UVM) Extension Master Gardener course. The 13-week online course begins Feb. 7.

The course features weekly lectures by horticultural experts on backyard vegetable gardening, composting, soil fertility, fruits and berries, botany basics, tree and shrub care and pest management, among other topics. Students may watch the live interactive webinars on Tuesday nights from 6:15 to 9 p.m. or the archived recordings at their convenience.

Participants may either just enroll in the course to expand their own knowledge of home horticulture or choose to become a certified Extension Master Gardener by completing a 40-hour internship at the end of the course. This requirement may be met by staffing displays at fairs or farmers' markets, giving gardening talks to local groups or taking part in ongoing UVM Extension Master Gardener service projects.

Course details and registration information, including a downloadable form for registrations by check, can be found at The fee is $440, and includes an online training manual.

Questions? Contact the UVM Extension Master Gardener Program Office at (802) 656-9562. Anyone needing a disability-related accommodation to participate should contact Lisa Chouinard at this number by Jan. 6.