Program philosophy

At Gardening at USask, we are constantly seeking to provide you the best, most up-to-date, locally applicable information. This means we will change our recommendations as we refine our scientific understanding or new information emerges. Our classes are continually updated to ensure you get the best advice we can offer.

Our program's "best practice" recommendations and course development are based on the following values:

  • We recognize that there are many ways to be successful.
  • We promote active decision making rather than defaulting to unconsidered, habitual practice.
  • We encourage you to develop a holistic emotional and physical relationship with your space.
  • We provide science-driven recommendations.
  • We focus on improving biodiversity above and below ground.
  • We recognize soil health as foundation to garden health.
  • We encourage sustainable, low environmental impact choices.
  • We promote consumer-lite approaches (ie. change what you do rather than purchase a product solution).
  • We encourage you to prevent rather than react.
  • We tolerate imperfection.
  • We avoid unnecessary complications.
  • Our instructors are passionate professionals who have made their chosen topic a large part of their life's work and they enjoy teaching

All of our classes have a strong pesticide-free focus, regardless if the pesticide is organic or inorganic, purchased or homemade, with the notable exception of Safe Use of Pesticides and Alternatives. Why do we make you take this class to certify? Because you need to understand how to use these safely if you're going to be able to give good advice.

Certification requirements

Anyone can take any of our classes at any time, even if it's just one class for personal interest. However, if you want to become certified, you need to enrol in the Certification program as well as the classes. The registration fee includes all administrative and certification fees, access to several pre-recorded training courses that serve as our course textbook, and your examination. To certify you must:
  1. Register in the certification program and complete the nine core courses. See below for more information.
  2. Complete your internship: 40 hours of volunteer time within one year. See below for more information.
  3. Once your courses are completed and you've submitted your volunteer hours, email us at gardening@usask.ca to request access to your exam. Your exam will be an online, multiple choice, open book exam. You will be able to complete it as many times as necessary until you pass it so it serves as a training tool as well as a testing tool.

You will be considered a University of Saskatchewan Master Gardener Trainee until you have fulfilled all of the above requirements.

Anyone can register for any of our workshops, including the core workshops. You don't need to be registered in the Master Gardener program itself in order to participate in these classes, but you do need to be registered in the program in order to certify. This means you can try a class or two, decide if it's for you, and then choose to pursue certification.

Due to Covid-19 we are not currently offering in-person courses. All of the courses required for certification are available on a "Learn at your own pace, register whenever you want" format except for two, noted below.

The core courses required for certification are:

  1. Master Gardener Certification: $175, about 8 hours plus tracking and exams
  2. Garden Fundamentals: $150, about 16 hours
  3. Botanical Latin: $50, about 4 hours
  4. Tree and Shrub ID: $75, about 6 hours
  5. Insects in Your Yard and Garden: $75, about 8 hours
  6. Plant Diagnostics for Home Gardeners: $50, about 3 hours
  7. Common Plant Disorders: online by Summer 2021
  8. Common Plant Diseases: $50, about 3 hours
  9. Safe Use of Pesticides and Alternatives: $50, about 5 hours
  10. Communications: online by Summer 2021

Please note that Garden Fundamentals and Botanical Latin are recommended as your first courses and are prerequisites for other classes. Beyond these recommendations, you can take the courses in any order you wish.

For specific information about the course content and to register, click on the name the course above or click the button below.

Gardening at USask Master Gardeners are expected to perform 40 hours of horticultural volunteer work in one year as part of their certification requirements so they can practice and learn in real-world situations. At its essence, this is time charity in a gardening capacity. Any horticultural activity that you don’t get paid for (and wouldn’t normally do already) is considered volunteer work.

One of the subjects we cover in your Communications course is positive volunteerism and our expectations for this program. Here are some examples to help you decide if what you want to do is considered within the spirit of our expectations:

  • Helping a senior down the street to prune her shrubs is volunteer work with a charitable spirit; helping your sister prune her shrubs is not in the spirit of charity.
  • Volunteering at the Food Bank garden to grow food is volunteer work; growing food in your own yard and donating some of it is not eligible volunteer work.
  • Writing an educational article for a public organization to distribute is volunteer work; writing an educational article for your own blog is not.
  • Membership in horticultural organizations does not qualify as volunteerism; leadership roles do.
  • Self-education in any manner does not qualify as volunteerism; teaching others about gardening does.
  • Volunteering at a place where they should normally pay you to work (ie. a commercial greenhouse) is not within the spirit of this "time charity" volunteerism, but we will make exceptions for students who want to pursue unpaid internships for personally strategic reasons.

Once you have completed you courses and submitted your volunteer hours, you can request access to the exam materials.

The Master Gardener exam is both an exam and a training exercise. It consists of 100 multiple choice questions and is open-book (but not open internet). The exam is set up to allow you to take it as many times as you wish. The questions will randomize each time and the computer will remember your highest grade. This means that you can practice with it as many times as you want until you feel really comfortable with the content. Once your grade is above 70%, you're considered to have completed this exam though you're welcome to keep using the training tool to hone your knowledge.

Scholarships

The Saskatoon Horticultural Society (SHS) provides the Master Gardener Scholarship, which is an annual scholarship for funding toward the University of Saskatchewan Master Gardener Certificate. Visit their website to learn more.

Program policies

The U of S Master Gardener Program is open to everyone age 16 and older. We may make exceptions to this on a case-by-case basis. Contact us at gardening@usask.ca to request an exception.

The only prerequisite is an interest in gardening, basic literacy and basic computer skills. Our online courses are offered on Canvas and our live-stream courses are offered on Webex.

This is an ongoing registration program, which means you can register anytime and complete classes at your own pace.

Note that course credit eligibility expires after ten years. If you are seeking certification, your course material must have been taken within the last ten years or you my need to redo that specific course. In some cases, we may accept evidence of ongoing educational credit to make an exemption to this policy.

We may accept transfer credits from other appropriate courses. This is on a case-by-case basis. Note that course credit eligibility expires after ten years.

Frequently Asked Questions

Master Gardeners volunteer their time to assist people with horticulture in their own communities. They share their knowledge and experience with fellow gardeners, friends, neighbours, youth and seniors. This sharing consists of a varied range of activities that may include:
  • helping seniors or less-able individuals garden
  • answering a garden phone-in line for your community
  • designing, planting or maintaining community gardens in public places such as hospitals, schools, parks, etc.
  • developing horticultural therapy programs
  • writing a garden column for our newsletter or for your local paper
  • teaching gardening classes for your local community colleges, associations or recreation departments
  • The list goes on...  “If you think there is a need you can fill it!”
It began in 1972 in the state of Washington. It has since grown to include about 48 states and all the Canadian provinces. There are currently over 60,000 Master Gardeners across North America. The University of Saskatchewan program began in 1989.
Quite simply, the University of Saskatchewan has earned its reputation as a high caliber agricultural university. We are not a volunteer-based program; the U of S Master Gardener Program hires trained and experienced professionals to teach all courses and workshops. Sara Williams, a well-known author and well-respected horticulturalist, helped launch this program and still teaches several courses with us each year. During our classes, students have access to sites and materials from throughout the University. For example, in our Tree and Shrub ID class, students examine specimens on campus, use materials custom created by our experts specific to our area, and may bring home samples from over 15 different key species. In Garden Fundamentals, we examine soil samples from across the province!
Each person’s timeline is unique. Some people finish the core courses of the program during Hort Week, others attend workshops or take distance education courses as their schedules allow and may take several years to complete the core courses. Throughout the educational training, students are encouraged to work on the home study portion of the course materials by reviewing the course texts. Of course, the timeline for completing the “internship” portion (40h volunteering in a horticultural capacity) is highly personal as well though it all must be in one year. For ideas on where to gain the volunteer hours, check out the Volunteering options above or look at our list of opportunities. Volunteering success is discussed during your Communications (MGCC) workshop.
Courses for our program vary depending on how long they are and what extra materials we provide, but they tend to cost about $50 for a half day course, $75 for a full day course and $150 for a two day course. The cost for each individual course is listed on the course description. In addition to taking the courses (which can happen at any time) once the student decides to certify, they will also need to register in the certification program itself. This is a $175 one time fee. The total costs for taking the program run around $900 plus GST, paid out over time only as you register for each portion. If you are employed in a horticulture capacity, please check with your supervisor if they will reimburse your tuition fees as we often have employees completing classes for professional development. The Butterfield Scholarship is also available from the Saskatoon Horticulture Society.

Garden Fundamentals and Botanical Latin are recommended as your first courses and are prerequisites for your Tree and Shrub ID, Plant Diagnostics course and your Common Plant Disorders course. Beyond these recommendations, you can take the courses in any order you wish.

The 40 hour volunteer inservice may be completed within any year of your choosing.

You can only challange your exam once you have completed your classes and volunteerism.

Master Gardeners in Training can do their volunteer work wherever they see a horticultural need. We accept students from all over, and they are welcome to do their volunteer service in their home communities or at a distance with us. Your Communications class will outline the expectations of the volunteer work.

Think of this as time charity and use your best judgement, applying common sense charity consideration. You should not directly benenfit from this nor should you be paid. Growing anything in your own home/yard/community garden bed for any reason, and assisting family members and close friends is not considered volunteer work.

Sometimes people feel there aren’t any volunteer opportunities in their community but if you see a need in your community, you can fill it through your community service based internship. Some ideas include: writing articles, assisting seniors with yard work, assisting U of S researchers, planting a community garden, sitting on the board of your local hort club, planning or participating in horticulture outreach education activities like Gardenscape, growing plants for fundraising and charity, designing a therapeutic garden, advising or assisting in a schoolyard garden, etc. In addition to finding your own opportunity, you can check out our volunteer opportunities page.

Once you become a certified University of Saskatchewan Master Gardener, your certification is valid for 2 years. You are required to put in a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer service annually (or 40  hours every two years) and attend a minimum of six hours of course instruction every two years to keep your certification current. What type of course instruction counts? All of our programming of course, but we will also accept educational credits from other organizations on a case by case basis.

Contact us

If you have more questions, please contact Vanessa Young at gardening@usask.ca.