URI Master Gardener Program

Cooperative Extension

Become a URI Master Gardener!

Eric OlsonThe URI Master Gardener Program is focused on strengthening local food systems and sharing information amongst community members to help people grow their own food. In 2022 we collectively donated 151,972 lbs of fresh produce while supporting people to grow a portion of their own food. The Core Training provides learners with a solid framework of research-based gardening knowledge while the volunteer internship is an opportunity to sharpen your gardening skills alongside experienced Master Gardeners. Join us in helping Rhode Islanders to grow!  

Step 1: Complete the core training course

The URI Master Gardener Core Training explores the science behind environmentally-sound gardening.  Each class is taught by a different URI faculty or Extension staff subject matter expert.  The course is designed to be flexible for adult learners with busy lives. Pre-recorded lectures are watched at your own convenience. Live webinars allow students to participate in engaging activities, interact with their classmates and instructors while discovering the practical application of course material.  Live webinars are held one evening per week from 6-7:30 pm.  The course runs from late January to the end of April, dates TBD.

Step 2: Complete the volunteer internship 

Upon successful completion of the Core Training, trainees become “URI Master Gardener Interns” and are required to complete 50 hours of volunteer service to earn the title of certified “URI Extension Master Gardener”. This place-based, on-the-job training allows participants to extend their learning by working in teams on approved projects throughout Rhode Island. Interns have at least 2 years to complete their internship. 

Graduates of the URI Master Gardener Core Training serve as grassroots educators, bringing their newfound knowledge to the community through service projects. URI Master Gardener volunteers have a positive impact locally, while continuing to learn through unique classes and field experiences. In-person and virtual volunteer opportunities are available. 

Step 3: Continue learning with us! 

Certified URI Extension Master Gardeners continue their process of lifelong learning through specially curated continuing education offerings. This includes online classes and in-person field experiences on sustainable gardening and inclusive community engagement. Dig into a topic of interest and build skills to bring back to your garden and community.  

2024 Core Training Applications will be available August 1st, 2023 and are due November 1st, 2023

Become a URI Master Gardener!
Become a URI Master Gardener!
URI Extension Master Gardener Volunteers:
  • Help Rhode Islanders improve gardening success by sharing research-based advice and ancestral knowledge within the community.

  • Strengthen the local food system by growing food for donation, building capacity at gleaning organizations, and connecting youth and adults to food-growing information.

  • Enrich the learning experience of local youth by supporting school gardens as outdoor classrooms.

  • Support pollinators and encourage land stewardship through demonstration garden projects around Rhode Island.

2024 Course Details

The Core Training is a fourteen-week course taught by URI faculty and Extension staff and includes the topics below. The 2024 course format is TBD. A complete syllabus is provided upon acceptance. Topics include:

  • Plant identification and Botany
  • Insects and Integrated Pest Management
  • Diagnosing plant problems
  • Soil science and plant nutrition
  • Composting
  • Regenerative landscape design
  • Native and invasive plant species
  • Site assessment
  • Sustainable lawns
  • Perennials, trees and shrubs
  • Vegetable gardening
  • Inclusive science communication
  • Community engagement and creating a sense of belonging
  • The gardener’s role in the food system

Each student receives access to an online class website, complete with course readings, interactive assignments and in-class activities to provide practical application of course content. Live, interactive webinars give students ample opportunity to ask questions of instructors, engaging with a range of URI faculty and staff subject matter experts.  Students will have the chance to interact remotely in small groups, learning together and connecting to garden service projects that benefit the community. Online coursework will be completed by students on their own schedule throughout the week, offering the flexibility so often needed by adult learners.

Learners from all walks of life with an interest in giving back to the community are encouraged to apply!  Financial awards (scholarships) are available.  You may indicate interest in the financial award while filling out the application.

Become a URI Master Gardener!
Become a URI Master Gardener!
  • I will be more inclusive of people from varying backgrounds. This is something I already attempt to do, however the training provided gave some tangible ways for me to try to do a better job. Including that I will make mistakes, and to apologize, learn, and move on. I now know better, more reliable ways to ensure I am growing native plants and removing invasives. I also will use containers that are more easily sanitized for harvesting my vegetables. I have already used my new knowledge to help a family member who planted a new tree. They were very excited for the tree they purchased, and I educated them on ensuring the root flare was not covered, and that they didn’t over mulch and cover the flare. I have also used my knowledge for reseeding our lawn.

    Graduate of the URIMGP Class of 2023
  • It helped me to appreciate and recognize the need for more diversity in the gardening field as well as acknowledging that gardening could function as a bridge across cultures and everyone’s gardens would be all the more richer and vibrant for that. This program, I believe, is working on building that bridge one intern at a time

    Graduate of the URIMGP Class of 2023
  • I am so grateful for the program. I wanted to engage in food justice, volunteer and spend more time in the garden but did not know where to start. The volunteer opportunities are so easy to get involved in and I feel so much more confident about growing vegetables and herbs. The knowledge about soil health, plant growth was truly tremendous. Thank you!

    Graduate of the URIMGP Class of 2023
  • With a very busy work schedule, and children and sports schedule, the recorded classes has allowed me to maintain work life balance, and do this program for myself, without having to be somewhere in person.

    Graduate of the URIMGP Class of 2023
  • So excited for all of the volunteering opportunities and the chance to help address equity and diversity by way of the garden- something I had not considered before!!

    Graduates of the URIMGP Class of 2021
  • In general, I learned so much from the core training. I feel empowered with this foundational knowledge and now I have the tools or resources I need to continue learning science-based gardening practices. I feel much more confident talking with others and thinking through gardening problems. I look forward to taking part in the community projects, both continuing my education and extending it to others in my community. I have already taught my husband and family many things about vegetable gardening, native plants, and insects!

    Graduates of the URIMGP Class of 2021
  • I really liked how well-rounded the program was and how it hit elements of gardening from all angles (from composting, native plants and equity, etc.)

    Graduates of the URIMGP Class of 2021
  • The URIMGP has fundamentally changed my approach to gardening… I feel prepared to apply new methods and begin to advise others more confidently.

    Graduates of the URIMGP Class of 2021
  • All in all, this experience was enriching, empowering, and exciting, and I thank you all! Looking forward to volunteering!

    Graduate of the URIMGP Class of 2020
  • I feel during the pandemic crisis the master gardener program was an excellent outlet to brighten my own spirits. I feel like I have learned so much in so many areas and am quite impressed by what this program offered.

    Graduate of the URIMGP Class of 2020
  • From start to finish, the entire program just makes sense. Each week we were given a lecture by top notch professionals who shared their own scientific expertise. I would say the sum of this experience is priceless! 

    Graduate of the URIMGP Class of 2019
  • I learned so much more than I anticipated through the training. While I wanted to learn how to be a better, more successful gardener, I now feel that I have an understanding of the many elements that contribute to a successful garden. And I know how to find the resources to uncover the answers.

    Graduate of the URIMGP Class of 2019
  • The course helped me become more environmentally conscious, understand and care more about the health of our environment. I learned new gardening skills, concepts and techniques I can apply to improve the environmental conditions. I am actively participating in volunteer projects in our communities. Now I know where to find the research based knowledge and where to refer others for it.

    Graduate of the URIMGP Class of 2019
  • I found the course to be truly excellent. Its availability and accessibility to such a diverse group of students from many different walks of life with wide variation in exposure to gardening practice and science is very impressive.

    Graduate of the URIMGP Class of 2018
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