Public Info

Master Gardeners of Union County Volunteer Program Now Accepting Applications for 2024

The Union County Board of County Commissioners would like to announce that the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County program is now recruiting for its 35th class. Gardeners of all levels can sharpen and practice their skills while giving back to the community by joining the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County.

“The Master Gardeners program is one of our most successful volunteer programs in all of Union County,” said Commissioner Chairman Sergio Granados. “We are proud to continue our partnership with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and share in their mission of providing our community with the most comprehensive and useful education on horticulture that can be applied to their everyday lives.”

The Master Gardeners are volunteers who are trained and certified by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County. They create and run programs for the public including educational workshops and horticulture programs for people with special needs. The centerpiece of the program is the 1.5-acres Union County Demonstration Garden, located adjacent to the Trailside Nature and Science Center in the Watchung Reservation, at 152 New Providence Road in Mountainside.

The 2024 Master Gardener training program is from January to May, and consists of weekly classes that cover basic botany, entomology and plant pathology, integrated pest management, vegetable gardening, tree fruit, lawn care and flower gardening among other topics.  Participants who complete the coursework and provide 60 hours of pre-approved community service earn the title of Rutgers Certified Master Gardener. 

To complete the coursework, students have the option to either attend live lectures or learn asynchronously.  Live lectures will be on Tuesday mornings from 10: 00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. held at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office in Westfield.  Asynchronous learning students will have access to pre-recorded lectures, all the same study materials, and occasional evening office hours. 

“The Master Gardener program exceeded my expectations. From both the classroom and volunteering at the demonstration garden, I gained a wealth of knowledge on gardening, new ideas for plants and vegetables in my own garden, and how to research and address plant diseases. It was also nice to meet so many fellow Master Gardeners. The course was taught by a Rutgers professor, covering interesting and current topics from soil, insects, plant pathology, pruning, house plants, flower gardens, native and pollinators and vegetable gardening, etc. The Integrated Pest Management project taught me how to find a problem, research for a solution, and practice what I learned.” wrote a 2023 participant.

Another participant added, “What an awesome experience this has been! I enrolled in the Master Gardener course as a virtual student. The content of the course is vast and detailed, the instructors so informative, the lessons well presented. My mom is a bona fide master gardener, and I always felt that I needed to nurture that nagging instinct to grow things. The more I learned with the course, the braver I became, no longer hesitant, but willingly allowing my green thumb to flourish. I created a perennial garden in the front of my house, and grew vegetables in my backyard. I am absolutely proud of my thriving roses, lavender, hydrangeas and azaleas. I tasted the sweetest tomatoes, crunchiest cucumbers, most fragrant peppers and freshest lettuce, all grown by me. This course truly changed my life… and I proudly tell my family and friends that yes, I am now a Master Gardener.”

Another Master Gardener student noted, “I enjoyed the Master Gardeners course very much. I started the course with only a basic understanding of gardening and learned a great deal about the growing seasons, the soil, dealing with pests, and the great variety of gardens that can be planted. Based on the research available from Rutgers, I also discovered a number of strategies to improve my own garden. A key benefit is that I have met a number of wonderful people through the program, and I continue to learn from the more experienced Master Gardeners.”

“This program showcases the wonderful volunteers we have in our community, and how their generosity contributes to keeping our environment beautiful and bountiful,” said Commissioner Bette Jane Kowalski, Liaison to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Board. “I encourage those that have an interest in all things horticulture, gardening, or simply want to try a new way to give back to consider applying.” 

To apply for the 2024 training course, visit the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County registration website at  Once accepted into the program, there is a $200 program registration fee.  Applicants must be willing to participate in volunteer activities.  The program can accommodate 30 students.

To learn more about the Master Gardeners program, please call Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County 908-654-9854 ext. 2 or email

The Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County is a volunteer program offered through Rutgers Cooperative Extension, NJ Agriculture Experiment Stations and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in cooperation with the Union County Board of County Commissioners.  It is supported in Union County by the Commissioner Board, with administrative assistance and office space in Westfield, land for the Demonstration Garden, and funding for special projects. For more information about all Extension projects and activities in Union County, including Master Gardeners, Master Tree Stewards and the 4-H youth development program, visit