November 7, 2023
By Rachel Rhodes

As we patiently await crisp fall days, the Upper Shore Master Gardener Programs are preparing for their annual basic training course, which starts on Wednesday, February 07, 2024.

This program is intended to train volunteer representatives as Master Gardeners for the University of Maryland Extension to extend our services and programs to the public. Classes will begin virtually on Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. and will run through May 8, 2024. In person classes will be held in person every other Friday at Eastern Shore Higher Education Center on the Chesapeake College Campus in Queenstown, MD and are held in conjunction with the University of Maryland Extension in Dorchester, Talbot, and Queen Anne's Counties.

Here are our top ten reasons to take Master Gardener training:

  1. Soil Smells Good! Why does soil smell so good in the spring? Have you ever dug up some garden soil in the spring after a rain? Could you smell a distinctive “earthy” aroma? What is responsible for that fragrance and why is it frequently linked with spring? Soil-dwelling bacteria known as Actinomycetes, which thrive in the soil when conditions are wet and warm, cause the pleasant smell. When the soil dries up, these organisms produce tiny spores that release a chemical compound called geosmin (meaning “earth smell” in Greek), responsible for the springy aroma. We can typically smell geosmin after rainfall, because the humid air sends the tiny spores up into the air – and directly into your nose.
  2. University of Maryland Professors and Extension Specialists teach classes: This well-rounded 40+ hour course includes classes on: ecology, botany, soils, plant diseases, insects - both pests and beneficial, weeds, and much more. This program emphasizes practical classroom instruction, community involvement, and outreach as well as environmental stewardship.
  3. Gardening boosts your self-esteem research done by Kansas State sited that “as gardeners’ skills increased their self-esteem sky rocketed along with their health.”
  4. Gardening strengthens your immune system. Did you know there is beneficial bacteria found in soil? Gardening can improve your immune system, according to research published in Science Daily in 2012.
  5. The Extension Master Gardener network reaches across the nation. Did you know there are 90,000 Master Gardeners nationwide? Master Gardeners volunteer over 108,000 hours in the state of Maryland.
  6. “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” (Nelson Mandela) Master Gardeners have access to state wide and national continuing education opportunities and networks through webinars and conferences. In 2016, Extension Master Gardeners took over 1 million continuing education hours. You'll also learn how to solve gardening problems, and be able to teach others to do the same.
  7. Talking about Plants is fun! Do you love to share your plant knowledge? Becoming a Master Gardener is a great Segway to talk to people about plants and nature.
  8. Volunteering helps people stay physically and mentally active. Volunteer activities get you moving and thinking at the same time. One study found that volunteering among adults age 60 and over provided benefits to physical and mental health.
  9. Volunteering helps, you meet others who share common interests. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people who share common interests with you. Dedicating your time as a volunteer also helps you expand your network and practice social skills with others. Best of all, you'll meet new people who enjoy gardening just as much as you do!
  10. Uncover new knowledge! The Master Gardener program caters to individuals who have been gardening for years, or just a few minutes. No prior knowledge or experience is needed! Only an interest in growing, learning, and sharing that knowledge with others. You'll have the opportunity to learn new gardening skills as well as hone your existing skills.

This well-rounded 40+ hour course includes classes on ecology, botany, soils, plant diseases, insects - both pests and beneficial, weeds, and much more. This program emphasizes community involvement and outreach as well as environmental stewardship. A $185 fee is charged to cover all costs including the Maryland Master Gardener Handbook. All Master Gardener interns are required to undergo a University of Maryland background check (+$15) prior to taking the class. The deadline for registration is December 1, 2023. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any event or activity, please contact your local University of Maryland Extension Office by November 17, 2023.

The University of Maryland Master Gardener vision is a healthier world through environmental stewardship.  In keeping with this vision, University of Maryland Extension Master Gardeners volunteers work on a variety of projects in cooperation with local schools, help maintain various public gardens, volunteer at local Senior Centers and Assisted Living facilities working with therapeutic gardens and hands-on gardening programs, provide community education through free workshops and classes open to local residents, visit home and public gardens as part of our Bay-Wise certification program, and much more. 

For further information, please visit We are looking forward to working with a new, energetic class of horticulture enthusiasts!

For Queen Anne’s County contact: Rachel J. Rhodes, Master Gardener Coordinator at (410) 758-0166 or by email at

For Talbot County: Mikaela Boley, Master Gardener Coordinator (410) 822-1244 or by email at

For Dorchester County: Emily Zobel, Master Gardener Coordinator (410) 228-8800 or by email at