About Us

What is a Master Gardener?

Rutgers Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who assist Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Cooperative Extension in its mission to deliver horticulture programs and information to the general public. Anyone 18 years or older with an interest in gardening and a commitment to volunteer service can become a Rutgers Master Gardener. No previous education or training in horticulture is required.

Certification Requirements

To become a certified Rutgers Master Gardener you must complete a minimum of 60 hours of classroom and field instruction by Rutgers faculty and professional staff. A variety of topics are covered, such as botany, plant identification, soil science, entomology, watershed management, organic gardening, composting, and integrated pest management. In addition to the training, you must also complete a minimum of 60 hours of volunteer service within your first 12-18 months of entering the program. 

Thereafter, you must complete a minimum of 25 hours of annual volunteer service and 10 hours of continuing education to maintain your status as a certified, active Master Gardener each year. 

Applying for the Rutgers Union County Master Gardener Program

Up to 25 people will be accepted into the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County volunteer training program each year.  Classes are held weekday mornings.  There is an option for asynchronous online learning for students who may not be available for weekday classes.

Applications are reviewed for acceptance into the program.  A commitment to volunteer for Rutgers Cooperative Extension approved projects is required.  Union County residents are given priority.  Upon acceptance into the program, a program registration fee is due.

Please visit our county MG course website hosted by Better Impact for more details about the training program and an application form.

Our History

The Master Gardener program was started in 1973 in Washington State where volunteers with a passion for gardening were trained to to assist with consumer horticulture education in the community. The Master Gardeners unique volunteer program has become internationally recognized and is often duplicated as a model for other volunteer programs. Today, Master Gardener programs exist in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, several Canadian provinces, and South Korea.

Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Cooperative Extension established the Rutgers Master Gardener Volunteer Program in Bergen County in 1984 to meet an enormous increase in requests from home gardeners for horticultural information. The increase derived primarily from the urban and transient nature of modern American life. In the 1950s an Extension agent dealt with the questions of farm families. Since then, much of this farmland was subdivided, which increased the number of inquiries from the general public, who wanted to learn about home gardening, such as vegetables, grasses, shrubs, trees, diseases and insects.  Since its founding, NJAES Cooperative Extension has trained thousands of Rutgers Master Gardeners across the state. In return, these Rutgers Master Gardeners have donated hundreds of thousands of hours in service to the residents of New Jersey.

The Union County Master Gardener program was started in 1987 and since then, over 950 Master Gardeners have been trained in Union County. On average in any given year, there are over 200 certified, active Master Gardeners in Union County.

Early Gardner 1989
Our first plot in the Watchung Reservation 1989
Current Garden
The Demonstration Garden as it is today

Executive Board

  • President – Pat Paul
  • First Vice President – Susan Podolak
  • Second Vice President – Victoria Sweeney
  • Third Vice President – John Boyle
  • Treasurer – Carol Hartner
  • Correspondence Secretary – Ann Burgmeyer
  • Recording Secretary – Kate Read
  • Historian – Christopher Venter