Master Gardener Program

Do you enjoy plants and gardening?  Do you enjoy reading and learning?  Are you passionate about improving the environmental health of your home, landscape and community?  Do you enjoy sharing information with others?  Then the Master Gardener Program may be for you!

What is the Master Gardener Program?

The program is sponsored by the University of Florida/Manatee County Extension Service.  The Master Gardener Program provides gardeners with intensive education in horticultural principles. Participants who complete the program are certified as a "FLORIDA MASTER GARDENER" by the Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Working with the Extension Agent, Master Gardeners provide volunteer leadership and service to Manatee County. This service consists of such things as answering gardening questions, conducting plant clinics, beautifying the community, and other activities which promote horticulture.

Please Note: Phone calls and visits to the plant clinic are the ideal ways to solve your gardening problems, but we want many venues available to resolve your gardening challenge.

Specific Services Available

  1. Educational publications.
  2. Least toxic methods of control - Cultural, mechanical, biological, oils, soaps and Bt (See bulletin--32KB pdf).
  3. Diagnosing plant problems - please bring in a sample that has both the dead and living sections.
    (NOTE: For grass samples: be sure to bring in a square foot area including the soil about 1-2 inches deep.)
  4. Insect identification
  5. Reptile identification
  6. Soil and water testing for pH and salt only
  7. A Monthly Gardening Calendar
    This online calendar provides gardeners across the state with a monthly guide of what to plant and do in their gardens, all based on UF/IFAS research and expertise. It was developed in response to common gardening-related questions that county Extension agents receive.

Diagnostic Services Available for a Fee

The Master Gardener Program offers a Diagnostic Plant Clinic for Homeowners. Visit the plant diagnostic clinic and bring with you: plant and insect specimens for identification, or diseased plants for problem determination. You may visit us in person or call us Monday through Friday from 9 am – 4pm. If we cannot resolve your issue, for a minimal fee, we have the option to send your specimen to the University of Florida for an expert analysis.

  1. Soil testing - pH and soluble salts
  2. Water testing - pH and soluble salts.
    (NOTE: Bring in a pint of water in an airtight container.  Run your system 20-30 minutes before taking water sample.)
  3. Insect identification and control measures.
  4. Weed identification and control measures.

How to Take a Soil Sample

Divide areas for sampling. For a tree or shrub, sample 3 or 4 spots around the plant and mix together. For a large yard divide into front, back and side areas. Combine samples and remove a pint of soil from this mixture.  Identify samples by a letter or number. Make a sketch or record so you will know which sample came from where. Bring the samples to the Extension Office.

Related Links


Lisa Hickey

Lisa Hickey
Master Gardener Coordinator
(941) 722-4524 ext. 1817

Upcoming Events
The Master Gardening Bench
  • Click here for a list of current and past issues of our monthly e-newsletter.
  • Click here for a list of our most popular newsletter topics.
Gardening Manatee Style
  • Click here for an alphabetical list of publications that can help you plant the perfect Florida garden.
  • Click here to see some photos from our educational gardens.
Master Gardener's Corner