Foundations of Gardening



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Foundations of Gardening (FOG) is the training course for those interested in the MSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer program AND for anyone and everyone who wants to learn the scientific principles of gardening! 

FOG is a comprehensive 10-week online MSU Extension course that explores many aspects of gardening. Lessons include self-paced learning opportunities and live lectures from experts in the field. Note: This course is entirely electronic - we do not provide printed materials for the course; however, participants can download many of its resources.  We also have an option to order a print version of the readings at an additional cost. Please read the syllabus to learn more about this course. 

Interested in applying to our MSU Extension Master Gardener Program® and not sure if you are in the right place?  You are!  MSU Extension has a new structure for providing garden education to the public in combination with those who wish to later apply to our MSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer program.  Foundations of Gardening is a non-volunteer gardening certificate course.  Alone, it is not the MSU Extension Master Gardener (MSU EMG) training class.  However, it is one pre-requisite and the horticultural training piece needed to apply to be an MSU EMG volunteer.  Anyone can take this course, including those wanting to apply to become an MSU Extension Master Gardener.  Please note that taking this course does not guarantee an individual that they will become an MSU EMG.  Several additional steps are needed to apply and get accepted as an MSUE volunteer.  If you have any questions about how FOG relates to the MSU EMG Program, be sure to contact us prior to registering for FOG.

Foundations of Gardening Course Syllabus 

Current Course Offerings

Winter 2024 (Feb 1 - April 11, 2024, live sessions Thursday nights 6-8:30 p.m.) - Registration now closed.

  • There will be absolutely no refunds for this course after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, January 24, 2024. 
  • If you have ANY questions about this course, you may email us at

Course Officially Opens/Practice Session: Thursday, Feb 1, 2024.

Winter Course Details:

  • There is a very important practice session on Thursday, Feb 1, 6:00-7:30pm, where we will be live to show you around the course and answer questions.
  • Weekly self-paced lessons Feb 8 - April 11, 2024.
  • Required live sessions every Thursday, 6-8:30 p.m. 
  • Cost: $350/person; all electronic format (no printed manual included but an option to order printed resources is available to participants for an extra fee).
  • After you register, unit learning materials are not available until 8am on Feb 1, 2024, but you will be able to review welcome materials in the course starting Jan 18, 2024. We will email you more information about the course as we get closer to the start date.


When will the next courses take place?

Enter your contact info here and we will keep you updated about future FOG courses. The next one will take place Fall 2024.
NOTE: The above link is for future communications about upcoming courses.  It is not a registration link.


Fall 2024 - Registration opens Summer, 2024

Scholarship period: May 29- June 26, 2024 (or sooner if full)

Registration Opens July 10- August 27, 2024 (Closing sooner if full; no refunds after this date) 

  • Weekly self-paced lessons Sept 10 - Nov 19, 2024.
  • Course kicks off with a practice session 6-7:30 p.m. on Sept 3, 2024.
  • Live sessions Tuesdays, 6-8:30 p.m. 

 Scholarship Information

Scholarships of $150 can be applied (if awarded) towards the cost of MSU Extension's Foundations of Gardening (FOG) when registration opens. There are three short essay questions in this application where you can share your interest in the course and this scholarship.

    • Those who receive a scholarship are notified with instructions on how to register before FOG registration opens.  Due to the volume of applications received, we do not contact those who do not receive a scholarship.  If you are not contacted by MSUE on or before July 10, 2024, you have not received a scholarship.  Questions related to this process or your application can be directed to  
    • Unclaimed scholarships cannot be used for future FOG courses - reapplication is necessary.

Course Information:

Please click on the above Syllabus link for more details on MSU Extension's Foundations of Gardening.

Other inquiries related to Foundations of Gardening:

This course replaces MSU Extension's former MSU Extension Master Gardener Training; however, not everyone who registers for this course needs to apply to become an MSU Extension Master Gardener.  You may take this course for personal reasons and leave with our certificate if you pass the course.  If interested in joining the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program after enrolling in this course, click here for more details on steps to apply to become and MSU EMG.  Taking this course does not guarantee you will become an MSU EMG but is the first step needed to apply to become one.  A FOG certificate can be used to apply to the MSU EMG Volunteer Program for up to three years after receiving the certificate.

Inquiries about the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program:

Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. Please indicate any accessibility requests by emailing 


Foundations of Gardening Course Content


10 Self-Paced Units

(One per week)

Each unit is composed of several lessons, each with readings, videos, activities, and websites explorations. All lessons need to be completed prior to attending the virtual class for that week.  Each unit takes 5-7 hours to complete.

10 Live Virtual Class Sessions

(One per week)

Each week participants attend a 2.5-hour webinar taught by 1-2 experts in the field.  Instructors use this time to reinforce and expand on unit content using lectures, polls, and demonstrations, followed by a question-and-answer session.


Assessments and Certification

Weekly assessment reinforce knowledge you have gained.  Those who achieve a score of 80% or higher on all unit quizzes and the final exam earn a Certificate of Completion.


Social Opportunities

This course includes a virtual social discussion board that provides opportunities for connect with others taking the course.


Downloadable Resources

The contents of this course are entirely electronic.  All readings and additional resources can be downloaded on your own computer for personal use after the course closes.  We do not provide any pre-printed material or manuals; however, the amount of resources that you can download are compiled in easy to download zip files.