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Sarah Browning: Grow and share as Master Gardener
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Sarah Browning: Grow and share as Master Gardener

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Extension Master Gardeners teach things like building and maintaining a compost pile, here with a class at Pioneers Park Nature Center. 

Winter is a time many people prefer to stay indoors, enjoy a good book, a crackling fire in the fireplace and a hot cup of cocoa, giving little thought to the outdoors or their landscape.

But gardeners know winter is a time to dream and plan for next summer’s gardens. For Nebraska Extension Master Gardener volunteers, winter is also a time to gather new knowledge, reinforce knowledge from years past and prepare to share their knowledge with others.

Who are Master Gardeners?

They are people who love plants and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. At Nebraska Extension, we teach adults and youth about plants, gardening, and the environment in many different settings, including client phone calls, county fairs, schools, online classrooms and demonstration landscapes.

And our EMG volunteers help us do that. The Extension Master Gardener program’s goal is to provide Nebraskans with the knowledge they need to create and maintain bountiful, healthy, sustainable gardens and landscapes, all while protecting the environment and water resources.

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Master Gardeners make great contributions to their community, by teaching adults how to maintain their landscapes, conserve water and protect themselves and the natural environment from exposure to improperly applied or excessive amounts of pesticides and fertilizers.

They instill a love and appreciation in children for the natural world and teach Nebraskans of all ages how to garden or grow vegetables. And all the while  creating beautiful, sustainable greenspaces through the dissemination of their knowledge.

The Extension Master Gardener program is one of the largest volunteer organizations in the country. It began in 1972 and is offered by each state's land grant university, with over 86,000 participants in 2018. That same year, EMGs reached over 8.6 million people through helplines, presentations and plant clinics, providing $140 million of value nationally to communities through their volunteer hours.

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In their first year, EMG interns learn about a wide range of topics including soils, fertilizers, botany, plant selection, plant diseases, insects and weed control. Forty hours of classroom instruction gives them a good foundation in general horticulture, plus basic insect and disease control knowledge. After training, EMG interns give back 40 hours of volunteer service in their community through a variety of activities.

In 2021, training will be delivered online and volunteer activities will be structured to comply with current COVID directed health measures to keep everyone safe and healthy.

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Why get involved?

First, because you love gardening. Each Master Gardener has their own special area of interest; it may be a particular type of gardening or type of plant that they love to grow, whether it is roses, herbs, water plants, wildflowers, fruit trees or vegetables. Through the program, EMG interns meet other volunteers who share their love of gardening and are always happy to share their knowledge.

Do you enjoy working in your garden and talking with friends about your newest plant acquisition? Do your friends ask you for advice on their lawns, vegetables and flowers? Would you like to learn more about the art and science of horticulture? Then you should consider becoming an Extension Master Gardener. You have all the qualifications and we hope you'll join us!

How to get started

Complete and submit an application. Two Master Gardener programs are available for residents of Lancaster County and surrounding areas.

Evening training classes: Online classes begin in January. Complete an online application at Or contact Teri James, email:, (402) 472-8973. Program cost is $190 per person. Application deadline is Jan. 15.

Weekday training classes: Online classes begin Feb. 5 and run through March 26. Complete an online application at or contact Mary Jane Frogge for more information. Email:, (402) 441-7180. Program cost is $190 per person. Application deadline is Jan. 15.

Sarah Browning is an extension educator with Nebraska Extension. To ask a question or reach her, call 402-441-7180 or write to her at or 444 Cherrycreek Road, Lincoln, NE 68528.



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