The Extension Master Gardener program was created in the 1970s in the state of Washington. The purpose was to help Extension’s Ag agents deal with the growing number of requests from backyard gardeners for help with their vegetable gardens, tree fruits and flowers. Since that time, the Master Gardener program has extended to most states, and the program in Kentucky is run through the University of Kentucky’s Extension service.

Master Gardeners receive training in all aspects of horticulture, from botany to entomology to plant diseases to landscape design and vegetable gardens. The program is a series of 14 or 15 classes taught by Extension personnel and Master Gardeners. After completion of the classes, participants agree to perform 30 hours of horticulture-related community service within a year. After the first year, Master Gardeners complete 15 hours of service per year.

In Shelby County, Master Gardeners care for the Tim McClure Botanical Gardens at Clear Creek Park and plant the downtown planters on Main and Washington streets. In addition, Master Gardeners are involved in various projects throughout the year. In the past year, for example, Master Gardeners have: developed a natural planting area at Simpsonville Elementary School, maintained a butterfly garden at Clear Creek Elementary School, built a rain garden at Operation Care, surveyed downtown streets for potential dogwood plantings, helped with planning for an outdoor nature area for the Dorman Preschool, helped several churches with plantings, etc. In 2015, Shelby County’s Master Gardeners volunteered almost 2,000 hours to community projects.

Master Gardener classes usually take place once per year depending upon interest. If you are interested in joining, call 633-4593 or email

Shelby County Master Gardeners toured Hidden Hill Nursery in Utica, Indiana. Other trips have included the UK Arboretum, Bernheim Forest and Yew Dell Gardens.