ST. PAUL -- The application period to become a University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener is now open through Oct. 1.

Extension Master Gardeners bring science-based horticulture knowledge and practices to Minnesota, promoting healthy landscapes and building communities through volunteer efforts, a release said.

Master Gardeners are respected as reliable sources of gardening information for Minnesotans. What many don’t know is that becoming a Master Gardener gives volunteers a chance to expand their interests in areas including sustainability, local foods, pollinators and climate change. Master Gardeners also put their skills to work conserving green spaces, native plants and clean water.

The University of Minnesota has trained thousands of Master Gardeners; each year, they contribute more than 140,000 hours of service in Minnesota communities, the release said.

This year, the training will be all online and spread out over 14 weeks, making the program more student-friendly than ever. To become a Master Gardener, individuals commit to complete online training and 50 hours of volunteering in the first year. After the first year, they commit 25 hours to annual volunteer work; many choose to devote more time to the program.

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“Now more than ever, people around the state are turning to gardening as a soothing, family friendly endeavor and a way to serve neighborhoods and communities. Interest in growing food is high, as is commitment to addressing local issues such as water quality and preservation of native plants,” Tim Kenny, statewide director of the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program, said in the release.

Master Gardeners come from all ages and backgrounds. To learn more about the program and apply, visit z.umn.edu/MG_info.