Master Gardener: What is a master gardener? |

Master Gardener: What is a master gardener?

Estella Heitman
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

How can I become a master gardener?

The first myth to be dispelled about becoming a master gardener is that one must be an expert in gardening to pursue master gardener certification. No, one need not be an expert, but one must have a strong interest in gardening in its many variations, an interest in learning more about gardening and a willingness to give back one’s knowledge and experience to the community by volunteering.

Local master gardeners have enrolled in the program to learn the basics of plant growth and successful gardening. Some participants are employed in the gardening industry and seek certification to enhance their professional knowledge and status. Some, like this master gardener, have gardened for decades in many other areas of the country but recognize how very different it is to garden in alkaline soil, with limited water resources and at high elevations.

Many pursue the master gardener experience and continue in the program for many years for the joy of being around and establishing friendships with others in the community who share a love of dirt and flowers, vegetables and landscape design.

The master gardener program is a collaboration between Colorado State University and the local Routt County Extension Office. It involves a 10-week core training program, typically in a combination of remote online courses and in-person courses offered locally.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

This year, because of COVID-19, all coursework will be held remotely. The current program includes self-paced courses and live webinar-based courses as well as weekly Q & A opportunities with subject matter experts from CSU. The first-year students become apprentices, and as part of their training also commit to 50 hours of community volunteer service during the first year. The cost of the core 2021 training program is $200.

The opportunities for volunteering in Routt County are numerous and varied. Dozens of opportunities are provided through the Extension Office and can be tailored to one’s personal schedule, interests and abilities and physical stamina. After the initial year of apprenticeship, active master gardeners commit annually to 24 hours of volunteer service and 12 hours of continuing education.

The next Routt County training session begins in January, with classes continuing through April. Enrollment is currently in progress.

To learn more about the program, visit and click on Become a Master Gardener or contact the local office at or 970-879-0825.

Estella Heitman is a master gardener who has made her retirement home in Routt County for the past 12 years after many years of part-time residence. Migrating from the Midwest, she had many lessons to learn as she enjoys the challenges and joys of gardening in the mountains at 8,000 feet elevation at her home near Stagecoach Reservoir.

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