Travis County Master Gardener Training
The Travis County Master Gardeners are volunteers for the Travis County AgriLife Extension Service, assisting in Extension’s mission to disseminate research-based horticultural and environmental knowledge among the citizens of Central Texas.
Training to become a Travis County Master Gardener volunteer is conducted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service a maximum of once per year, but not necessarily held every year. The limited number of spaces in the program are filled based on assessment of the applications and personal interviews. At this time, all coursework is presented only in English.
The next training session is scheduled to start in August 2024 and will last through November 8, 2024. An information session is available on June 14, 2024. You can add your name to the list and get a notification for both.
The training has two parts, allowing interested individuals to learn more about gardening in Austin without having to commit to subsequent volunteer hours. The coursework takes about 85 hours spread over 13 weeks (6 1/2 hours per week on average.)
Part 1 Horticultural Principles and Practices for Central Texas
The Horticultural Principles and Practices for Central Texas course with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service begins with a series of pre-recorded webinars presented by AgriLife Extension specialists, staff, and Texas Master Gardeners. The cost of the Horticultural Principles and Practices for Central Texas course in 2022 was $250 with the Texas Master Gardener Handbook or $175 without the handbook, payable upon registration. The handbook is not required in order to complete the Horticultural Principles and Practices for Central Texas Course.
Horticultural Principles and Practices for Central Texas course is mostly virtual and consists of three parts: weekly pre-recorded webinars on YouTube, (up to four hours in length); one weekly hour long live unit review using Microsoft Teams; one weekly hour long topic discussion deep dive using Microsoft Teams, and a bi-weekly two hour in-person workshop held at the Travis County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office at 1600 Smith Road, Austin. Webinars are presented by various Extension personnel, the unit reviews, discussions, and workshops are led led by Daphne Richards (Travis County CEA-Hort,) Sheryl Williams (Horticulture Program Assistant,) and various Travis County Master Gardeners. There are about 85 hours that you are expected to complete.
Topics are typically as follows: Basic Plant Science; Earth-Kind Principles; Soils; Homeowner Landscaping Plans; Water & Irrigation; Entomology and Integrated Pest Management; Turfgrass; Plant Pathology; Fruit Crops; and Vegetables. Click on this link to see the course schedule.
The course is held via Microsoft Teams. You can use Teams via web browser, but it functions best by utilizing the Microsoft Teams app. Microsoft Teams does not function well on the Safari browser or on iOS mobile devices. The course materials for this prerequisite training series are a series of links, materials, quizzes, and assignments that are found only within the Microsoft Teams application and utilize Microsoft software. Points are awarded for each activity and can be viewed as grades inside Microsoft Teams. Points are used to rank applicants wishing to apply to the Travis County Master Gardener program.
A Certificate of Completion will be issued at the conclusion of the class if all modules are watched, quizzes taken, assignments turned in, and if a passing grade was achieved on the final exam.
Part 2 Hands-on Master Gardener Training
Only those who receive a Certificate of Completion for Horticultural Principles and Practices for Central Texas are invited to apply for Travis County Master Gardener Training. Master Gardener training is typically a multi-week, in-person/hands-on training, starting in early in the year. The training will cover additional subject matter and will incur an additional registration fee. Master Gardener training includes the requisite volunteer service to become fully certified TCMG volunteers.
Applications Available for Master Gardener Program by Invitation Only
Applications to the Travis County Master Gardener program are by invitation only to participants who have a Certificate of Completion for Horticultural Principles and Practices. Applications are not available elsewhere.
After reviewing the applications, the selection committee chooses applicants for interviews. The number of applicants receiving admission into the program changes each year and depends on potential volunteer opportunities.
The total fee for both Horticulture Principles and Practices for Central Texas and the Master Gardener program in Travis County is typically $400.
Criminal Background Check Required
A criminal background check is required of all Extension volunteers, including Master Gardeners. Therefore, as a matter of policy, criminal background checks occur on all persons accepted into the Master Gardener training program, and every three years thereafter. A separate application must be created on the background check system by the applicant. A link to this system will be provided as part of your application for acceptance into the Master Gardener Program.
The course normally meets virtually twice a week using Microsoft Teams, and twice a month outdoors in person at the Travis County Extension office, 1600 Smith Rd, Austin, 78721. At this time the course meets on week days during office hours. Additional training will be scheduled as needed (or allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions.)
If accepted into the training program, complete the virtual and hands-on classroom training, and receive a Certificate of Completion at the end of the course, you will be required to complete a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service by December 31 of the following year. Your volunteer hours are only with various Extension-approved projects as explained during the program.
Participants earn the title “Texas Master Gardener” after they have completed the training course, passed the final exam, and fulfilled their volunteer commitment. Certified Master Gardeners must continue to complete volunteer and learning requirements each year in order to retain the title “Texas Master Gardener.”
Preferred Skills for Master Gardener Candidates
Successful applicants to the Travis County Master Gardener program have the following list of characteristics, skills, and interests:
- Enjoys helping others
- Enjoys speaking to groups of people
- A willingness to lead projects or events
- Is a lifelong learner
- Has experience teaching others through volunteer work, community organizations, or professional career
- Can successfully work with others in both small and large groups
- Has experience with social media either personally or professionally
- Is willing to contribute blog posts, articles, photographs, or go on camera in virtual formats like webinars or videos
- Loves to garden!
More information about Master Gardeners is available on the Texas Master Gardener Association web page.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will provide equal opportunities in programs and activities, education, and employment to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas cooperating.
Persons with disabilities who plan to attend a meeting and who may need auxiliary aids or services are required to contact Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service-Travis County at 512-854-9600 ten working days prior to the meeting so appropriate arrangements can be made.