Consumer Horticulture: Public gardening education to improve lives and communities while protecting Michigan’s natural resources


December 22, 2016

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Consumer Horticulture team members collaborate on the following statewide initiatives to maximize impact and deliver environmentally-friendly, science-based gardening practices. These initiatives provide gardeners increased accessibility to MSU Extension resources.

Master Gardener Program

The MSU Extension Master Gardener Program is a horticulture education and volunteer leader training program that connects gardeners across the state to MSU faculty members and resources. It is aligned with the national standards for all Extension Master Gardener Programs offered through land-grant universities across the country.
  • Extension Master Gardener volunteers undergo a rigorous 14-week training program that provides in-depth education in many aspects of horticulture:
    • Plant science, soil science, trees and shrubs, flowers, vegetables, fruit, soil, integrated pest management, diagnostics, indoor plants, lawns, household and nuisance pests, and protecting water resources through environmentally-friendly gardening practices.
  • Participants who complete the training showcase what they learned by educating others through community volunteer projects.
    • Focus areas include environmental stewardship, improving food security, and improving community and youth development through gardening.
  • Annual recertification of volunteers ensures high caliber volunteers equipped to provide solutions for today’s gardening public.

Toll-Free Lawn and Garden Hotline – 1-888-678-3464 

Extension consumer horticulture educators and highly trained Extension Master Gardener volunteers educate callers on best management practices for plants and pests of the home, garden and landscape.
  • The state toll-free hotline operates five days a week through collaboration of six MSU Extension offices to provide assistance to all Michigan residents.

Smart Gardening

MSU Extension’s Smart Gardening initiative helps gardeners at any knowledge level to adopt environmentally-friendly practices. Using focused themes of smart plants, smart lawns and smart soils, Smart Gardening leads gardeners along a continuum of learning through educational opportunities from short interactions to intensive training.

  • Education is delivered through multiple communication methods including web, video, print, radio and in-person classes.
  • Volunteers are equipped and taught how to engage local communities, which exponentially multiplies impact.
  • Smart Gardening messages continually adapt to statewide and community needs.
    • In 2015, smart gardening for vegetables and gardening to protect and enhance pollinators messages were added.

Gardening in Michigan –

The Gardening in Michigan website provides easy access to home gardening information. Tip sheets, videos and other resources are available on vegetable and herb gardening, backyard fruit production, trees and shrubs, integrated pest management, indoor plants, pests, pollinators and a variety of other topics. Additional resources include:
  • Complete set of downloadable Smart Gardening tip sheets.
  • Michigan Fresh tip sheets for using and preserving fresh fruits and vegetables.

Ask an Expert

Michigan residents can ask gardening questions 24/7 and quickly receive expert answers through the online, mobile-friendly eXtension Ask an Expert (AaE) system.
  • Gardeners can search our database, upload pictures and ask University experts a wide variety of questions.
  • Users can be confident that research-based solutions are accurate and unbiased.

Soil Test Self-Mailer and Nutrient Interpretation –

MSU Extension provides soil testing and nutrient interpretation to enable gardeners to be more environmentally responsible.
  • Tapping into our unique, home gardener, soil test self-mailer and soil test interpretation website allows easy access to affordable soil testing with customized fertilizer recommendations.
  • Equipped with this information, an educated gardener can have a healthy, productive garden without over-applying nutrients that may pollute streams, lakes and groundwater. 


Tags: agprogram, agriculture, home gardening

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