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Ask a Master Gardener: Plan Now to Become a Master Gardener in 2025!

Mobile County Master Gardener Intern Class, 2023. Photo courtesy Mobile County Master Gardeners.

By: Carol Williams, Mobile County Master Gardener

Every other week, Mobile County Extension Master Gardeners (MCMGs) fill this Lagniappe space with science-based recommendations to improve your home and garden or encourage  you to plant new vegetables, flowers, and trees.  What informs and qualifies Extension Master Gardeners to write these columns and educate the public on the possibilities of home gardening? 

We are volunteers who were certified as Extension Master Gardeners by meeting the requirements of a course offered each year in the fall by the Mobile County office of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), in cooperation with land grant universities, Auburn University and Alabama A & M University.

What credentials do we have when we begin this course? We include homemakers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, farmers, homeowners, architects, engineers, microbiologists, nurses, and professors of all sorts.  Most of us have retired from our careers but still believe we can help make the world a better place through gardening with and for our friends and community.

This fall Mobile County will begin classes on Thursday, August 8, and continue each Thursday, from 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM both on-line and in person through November 7.  (If you can successfully place an on-line shopping order, you likely have enough computer skills to manage the required on-line components. Bring your own laptop.)

All applicants must complete an application, come for an interview, and pass a background check because we work with the public of all ages. The fee is $150 for supplies and the cost of the background check. Currently, our applicant list for this fall’s class is full. In 2025, applications will be accepted from June 1-June 30. But we encourage you to plan ahead and put your name on the 2025 waiting list by calling Diane Anthony soon at (251)574-8445 at ACES.

Before the course begins, each intern is matched with a certified Extension Master Gardener who will be your mentor. If you already know an Extension MG, that friend can be your mentor. Your mentor will encourage you and help answer your questions, especially about fulfilling the 50 volunteer hours required for certification. 

Those volunteer hours include responding to the local and state-wide HelpLine, (1-877-252-4769) answering garden questions from the public. You will learn how to find and use science-based horticultural research to answer questions and encourage gardeners.

What else do Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) do in this area? Lots already this year. We built an all-camellia display for the Festival of Flowers.

In March, we sponsored our Second Annual Spring Festival and sold (or gave away) about 2,500 new vegetable plants grown by the Auburn Horticulture Research Station in Springhill and offered four gardening education sessions for the public who attended.

EMGs give time every Tuesday at the Mobile Botanical Gardens (MBG) helping to manage the grounds and potting plants. We also worked at the MBG sold-out March plant sale.

We have a Demonstration Garden at the Jon Archer Center (Alabama Cooperative Extension offices) planted and maintained by EMGs who donate the fruits of our labors to a rehab center. Spring planting is finished and fall planting is scheduled.

EMGs celebrated Earth Day with Mobile Urban Growers at the Japanese Gardens, sharing our knowledge with Mobilians, young and old.

Weekly, EMGs help establish and teach local school gardening programs, with Mobile County Training School and Strickland Youth Center for now.

EMGs have recently installed gardens at senior centers and a home for mentally challenged adults in Mobile.

Market in the Park has begun and EMGs are there on Saturday mornings to answer gardening questions for shoppers. If you see an EMG with a gold name badge, they have volunteered at least 1,000 hours to our community as Mobile County Extension Master Gardeners. Over 9,000 lifetime hours have been recorded by one of our EMGs.

EMGs volunteer in many ways. In early December, we will cut and arrange fresh Christmas greenery to sell on-line, and at the Jon Archer Center, and at the Mobile Botanical Gardens, to fund a $2,500 horticulture scholarship at Auburn University each year.

Why do Extension Master Gardeners volunteer their time like this?  Because we have fun sharing the joy of gardening with all people in our area, our friends, and neighbors.

Gardening gives joy to so many—we are grateful to be purveyors of not only the knowledge and wisdom, but also the joy that makes our community, and the world, a better place.    

“Don’t complain that a rose bush has thorns; be glad that a thorn bush has roses!” Abraham Lincoln

Master Gardeners add ID labels for the annual SPRING FESTIVAL vegetable plant sale

Mobile County Master Gardeners create an all-camellia exhibit for the 2024 Festival of Flowers in Mobile's Cathedral Square

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