Master Gardener Training

(last updated 1/31/18)

If interested in being put on a Master Gardener Training list, please contact George (info below) or Jennifer Evans at 608-742-9687 or

Columbia County Master Gardener Association Brochure (PDF, 2 pages, 955 KB)

What is the Master Gardener Program?
What programs are offered?
What you can do as a Master Gardener.
Who can participate?

When is the program in Columbia County?

Master Gardener Level 1 Training
Master Gardener Level 2 Training:  Branching Out
(This training is not scheduled at this time.)

What is the Master Gardener Program?

Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who aid University of Wisconsin-Cooperative Extension staff by helping people in the community better understand horticulture and their environment. This national program was introduced to Wisconsin in 1977. Today the Master Gardener Program is in all 50 states and several counties.

In the Master Gardener Program, you receive 36 hours of free horticultural training with Cooperative Extension university specialists and faculty. You pay only for your instructional materials, which you keep.

To become a certified member, you must attend the designated training sessions, volunteer 24 hours of your time to your community, and pass a final exam. To remain certified, each year you will need to take 10 hours of additional training and volunteer 24 hours of your time.

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What Programs are Offered?

There are two types of Master Gardener Programs in Wisconsin – a general program (Level 1) and an advanced program (Level 2).

Columbia County will offer the general program, or Level 1,  training that is a minimum of 36 hours of in-depth classroom training on a variety of horticulture topics including botany, soils, pest management, entomology, plant pathology, weeds, and much more. This is intended to provide a basic understanding of horticultural concepts necessary to complete the volunteer service required for certification, as well as learning where to acquire additional information and resources in order to answer questions.

Beyond the initial training, the Master Gardener Program offers update sessions for members who have completed either the general or the specialized program. Also, statewide and regional conferences cosponsored with Minnesota and Iowa provide additional learning opportunities.

When you’ve completed your training, you can join the Columbia County Master Gardener Association. The association supports yearly training updates and also helps Master Gardeners develop community volunteer projects.

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What you can do as a Master Gardener

In exchange for the training, you are required to donate 24 volunteer hours each year. The following programs offer a sample of the opportunities open to Master Gardener volunteers:

  • Extension demonstration and community gardens
  • county and community fairs
  • botanical gardens
  • horticultural therapy projects
  • farmers’ markets
  • answering telephone inquiries for horticultural information
  • write newspaper gardening columns
  • Adopt-A-Classroom
  • volunteer at your county Extension office
  • local parks or beautification committees
  • youth groups such as 4-H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts

Many Master Gardeners volunteer their time beyond the required minimum number of hours. Last year, Master Gardeners volunteered thousands of hours of horticulture-related community service.

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Who can Participate?

Any adult (18 years or older) can participate in the Master Gardener Program – no previous experience or training is necessary, although many people do have some horticultural experience.

To become certified, you must:

  • Complete a background check
  • Complete the minimum 36 hours of Level 1 training
  • Sign a volunteer agreement
  • Achieve a 70% or better score on the final open-book exam
  • Complete at least 24 hours of volunteer service within one year of training.

At the completion of all the requirements, you may receive an official Master Gardener Volunteer certificate, are eligible to order a name badge, and join the Columbia County Master Gardener Volunteers.  Contact George Koepp for specific details or 608-742-9682.

Recertification is required annually to remain a Master Gardener Volunteer in good standing. To be recertified you must complete 10 hours of continuing education and provide 24 hours of volunteer service

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When is the Program in Columbia County?

Master Gardener Level 1 Training

This training begins Monday, 4/16/18 and runs for 13 sessions from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm, at the Columbia County Administration Building located at 112 E Edgewater St in Portage, in meeting room 113.  Below is a list of the meeting dates.  Please note some of the dates are not every other week due to holidays and vacation time.  These are not set in stone and will be discussed with the participants at the trainings.  The cost for this training was $125.00, which includes the 14 sessions and materials.  Please register by Wednesday, March 21st, with George Koepp at 608-742-9682 or  

Orientation Meeting will be held on Monday, March 26th!

Monday, 4/16/18
Monday, 4/23/18
Monday, 5/7/18
Monday, 5/14/18
Monday, 5/21/18
day, 6/18/18
Monday, 6/25/18
Monday, 7/2/18
Monday, 7/9/18
Monday, 7/16/18
Monday, 7/30/18
Monday, 8/13/18
Monday, 8/20/18

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Master Gardener Level 2 Training:  Branching Out

(These sessions are not currently scheduled.)

It’s time to talk trees!

Trees are not only important parts of our gardens but play many important roles in our communities. Level 2- Branching Out builds on the introductory topics of Level 1 and will expand into concepts related to community forestry issues.

As it all can’t be captured in a single year, we’ll focus on topics that will position Master Gardener Volunteers to protect our valued natural resources by:

  • Increase your ability to identify important woody plant species in the areas you live.
  • Introduce you to tools in calculating the economic and environmental benefits of your urban forest.
  • Teach you the importance of biodiversity in man-made ecosystems.
  • Provide you with information on how to address EAB related questions.



  • Lectures
    • Pre-recorded lectures and other learning materials will be available online by March 15, 2014. A link and password will be sent to enrolled participants.
    • It is strongly encouraged the appropriate lecture is watched prior to the Q&A session. Schedule will be posted.
  • LIVE      Question and Answer Sessions with speakers
    • March 25: Urban Forestry Q&A
    • April 1: Woody Plant Selection Q&A
    • April 8: EAB Q&A
    • April 15: Tree ID Q&A
    • Time:  10:30am to Noon
    • Connection: We will use Google Hangouts on Air for this year’s Q&A sessions.
  • Deadline to complete
    • Enrolled Master Gardeners completing all lectures may report 12 hours of continuing education on their end of year reporting.
    • Those wishing to earn a certificate of completion must complete an online assessment by October 1, 2014. Those passing with a score of 70% or better will be mailed a certificate and will have hours recorded with UW-Extension Continuing Education (number of hours to be determined).

Optional Activities:

  • Virtual leaf collection (optional)
    • Master Gardeners wishing to earn volunteer hours in community education will have the option to participate in a virtual leaf collection. Details will be posted.
  • Tree Identification road trips (optional)
    • Select Saturdays will be posted for Master Gardeners to meet at a yet-to-be-announced location and practice their tree identification skills. Dates and locations will be posted.
  • Come up with your own county activity
    • Local associations are encouraged to work with their county UWEX to coordinate field trips or other activities related to this topic. Be sure to invite all members in the educational event or volunteer activity.


  • This program is primarily targeted for an on-line audience. MGVs may participate with the LIVE Q&A from their personal computer and may watch the pre-recorded program at their convenience.
  • Individuals without a computer or internet are asked to inquire with their local UWEX office for accommodation in accessing the program BEFORE registering.


  • Register by mail (PDF), check or money order
    • $30 per person, before March 15, 2014
    • $40 per person, after March 15, 2014
    • Includes 4 LIVE Question and Answer sessions, pre-recorded lectures and online access to handouts, archive, evaluation, comments, and discussion.
    • Publications available for purchase via blog.
    • Sorry, no registering for individual lectures.


For registration assistance and refunds, please contact:

Cancellations must be in writing to Angela by the start of the program and will be less a processing fee.

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If you have additional questions about the Master Gardener Program, please contact George Koepp, UW-Extension Agriculture Agent for Columbia County, at (608) 742-9682.

Picture of George Koepp

George Koepp

George Koepp, Agriculture Agent
UW-Extension Columbia County
Administrative Building
112 E. Edgewater Street, Room 212
Portage, WI 53901
Phone: 608-742-9682
Fax: 608-742-9862
TTY/TDD: 711 Phone Relay