Becoming a Santa Rosa Master Gardener

What is a Master Gardener?

A Master Gardener …

  • Is an educator conveying research-based gardening information to residents of Santa Rosa County.
  • Has an interest in any type of gardening, such as vegetables or ornamentals.
  • Wants to share gardening knowledge and skills within the community through extension programs.
  • Is trained by UF/IFAS Extension professionals.
  • Is willing to donate time to educational projects.

Is Master Gardening For You?

To help you decide if you should apply for Master Gardener training, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want to learn more about plant care and gardening?
  • Do I look forward to sharing my knowledge with people in my community?
  • Am I eager to participate in a practical and intensive training program?
  • Do I have enough time to attend the training and to complete my volunteer work?

If you answer “yes” to the above questions, the Master Gardener program may be for you!

How Are Master Gardeners Trained?

Mary Salinas, Residential Horticulture Extension Faculty, coordinates the training program and does the majority of the teaching.  The course begins in August each year and runs for 15 weeks. Regional University Extension specialists, Master Gardeners and other horticulture experts teach classes.  During the training sessions, these experts will use lectures and hands-on activities to expose participants to the many different aspects of horticulture.

What are the Training Topics?

Some of the topics covered during the training course include: basic botany, entomology, fruit crops, lawns, plant diseases, soils, fertilizers, vegetables and many more.

How do Master Gardeners Volunteer Their Time?

Once the participants enter the training program, it is time to begin volunteer service.  Volunteer activities vary according to the county’s needs and the volunteer’s expertise and interest.

How Do I Become a Master Gardener?

Master Gardener recruitment and selection takes place in the fall of the year.  The trainings are held on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. until about 2 p.m. The course runs 15 weeks. Applications must be received by June 1 to be considered for the class the following August.

In order to be considered, please submit the following:

UF/IFAS Extension staff and some current Master Gardeners will review each application and interviews of prospective volunteers will be conducted.  All applicants will have a background screening according to University of Florida policy.

A class fee of $175 to cover the cost of materials and supplies can be paid when the applicant is accepted for training.

All Florida Master Gardeners are volunteers, trained and certified by the University of Florida Institute of Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Cooperative Extension Service, to assist Extension Agents in disseminating residential horticultural information to the residents of Florida.

Visit the UF/IFAS Extension Florida Master Gardener website


The Santa Rosa County Master Gardener Program began in 1987. Beth Phelps was the Santa Rosa County Extension Agent.  In 1989, Daniel Mullins became the Horticultural Agent.

From 1987 to 1993 Master Gardener training classes were taught in Escambia County as a joint effort between the two counties. In 1994, Dan Mullins held the first Santa Rosa County MG class in Milton. From 2004 to 2012, Theresa Friday was the Environmental Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator. Since January 2013, Mary Salinas has served as the Residential Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator.

In 1994 the first bylaws were written and adopted and the first officers were elected. In 1995 the “Earthworm” newsletter was developed by Barbara Robinson and has become an established form of communication of information to its members.


The Santa Rosa County Master Gardeners currently work on many diverse projects, which includes staffing walk-in plant diagnostic clinics and answering clinic questions over the telephone. They work with youth through the Growing Gardeners Program and Garden Mosaics.  The Master Gardeners assist in maintaining the Teaching and Demonstration Gardens at the Milton Extension Office and gardens at the University of Florida Milton campus.  Master Gardeners are active in speaking to garden clubs and other groups through our Speaker’s Bureau.  Others prepare displays for the Pensacola and Santa Rosa County Fairs. Santa Rosa Master Gardeners join with other community volunteers to operate the Panhandle Butterfly House in Navarre Park.