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Celebrating 50 Years: Kentucky Extension Master Gardener Program training manual is available

Celebrating 50 Years: Kentucky Extension Master Gardener Program training manual is available

Celebrating 50 Years: Kentucky Extension Master Gardener Program training manual is available

Providing comprehensive horticultural information and education to home gardeners.

Master Gardener Front Cover
Kentucky Extension Master Gardener Program training manual front cover.

The newly revised Kentucky Extension Master Gardener (KEMG) Program training manual, a publication of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service at the UK Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, is now fully available online for the first time. 

“Extension specialists, UK faculty and researchers from across the college have contributed their expertise to the 325-page training manual,” said Rick Durham, KEMG program coordinator and extension professor of horticulture at Martin-Gatton CAFE. “Building on the collection of other extension programs throughout the country, we created a comprehensive resource tailored to the gardening needs, interests and environmental conditions of Kentucky." 

The Extension Master Gardener Program, which began 50 years ago as a grassroots movement at Washington State University in 1973, was created to meet an increase in requests from home gardeners for horticultural information. Today, this program is offered in all 50 states, including Kentucky. 

The program leverages Kentucky’s extension network by training and managing volunteers to assist in their counties' horticulture education.

“The KEMG Program training manual touches on all aspects of consumer horticulture and is the foundational tool for non-commercial gardening and landscaping topics,” said Durham. “Previously, the training manual was assembled from numerous stand-alone publications, and it was only offered in a print version to the counties in Kentucky. Now, we offer it online for free and all in one single document — that significantly increases the availability of this information.” 

Coupled with enriching figures, pictures and illustrations, chapters in the KEMG Program training manual include topics covering annual and perennial flowers, basic botany, insects, landscape design, organic and vegetable gardening, plant identification, propagation and disease, lawn, pest and weed management, yard and water quality and more. 

Master Gardeners are adults of all ages who have an interest in gardening. With no pre-existing knowledge or prerequisites required, Master Gardeners generally share a passion for gardening, a desire to teach others to garden and a commitment to complete Kentucky Cooperative Extension training at their local Extension office (check with local offices as some counties do not currently offer this training). 

Master Gardeners continuously grow their passion for gardening by taking garden tours, participating in ongoing classes and attending the annual KEMG conference. They are committed volunteers, sharing their love for growing plants, helping people and nurturing the community. 

Individuals who complete the KEMG program training agree to annually contribute a minimum number of volunteer hours in their communities to carry the official title of Kentucky Extension Master Gardener.

Durham believes Master Gardeners provide a valuable and dependable service to Kentucky counties and communities. Furthermore, the program brings people together.

“Master Gardeners are the volunteer arm of extension,” he said. “We are training volunteers who can provide reliable, research-based, unbiased information to people who are interested in home gardening, landscaping and more. In addition, the program provides a social framework to get together to garden.”

Last year, there were more than 1,100 active Master Gardeners who contributed nearly 35,000 volunteer hours.  

Read recent success stories at To learn more about becoming a Kentucky Master Gardener visit

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The Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is an Equal Opportunity Organization with respect to education and employment and authorization to provide research, education information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, physical or mental disability or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

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