Best Online Master Gardener Programs

Oregon State University has the best overall online master gardener programs.

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Women chatting while working in greenhouse

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Our Top Picks

Online master gardener programs allow budding horticulturalists to learn more about plants and gardening. They can also provide certification which can be useful to those who wish to benefit their community in broader ways. Becoming a master gardener, or just taking a course on gardening online, can help you learn and grow as a gardener.

Consider what you wish to achieve from the program: You may simply want to improve your skills and tend your own garden, but if you are interested in certification, there are additional factors to bear in mind.

Certification as a master gardener usually involves contacting the local university co-operative extension in your particular area. It is state or country-specific and usually involves a course, which can be online or in person. Also, logging a certain number of volunteer hours is also required in order to achieve certification.

Best Overall: Oregon State University Master Gardener Program

Oregon State University’s Technical Writing Course - Online

Oregon State University’s Technical Writing Course - Online

Key Specs

  • Price: About $490 (plus roughly a $60 registration fee) for a Certificate of Home Horticulture
  • Experience Level: No prerequisites, suitable for all levels
  • Format: Online (plus, additional volunteer hours required for full master gardener certification)

Why We Chose It

We love the breadth and depth of the course, which touches on all the basics of sustainable gardening. It will help you understand how to create and maintain an eco-friendly garden and take care of your plants and wildlife. 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No prerequisites
  • Full certification possible or remote learning

Cons

  • Full certification only for Oregon residents. 
  • Full Certificate of Home Horticulture is rather expensive (Beginners may prefer to choose the on-demand short courses instead.)

Overview

Oregon State University is well known for its gardening courses; it's the go-to for people who wish to become a certified master gardener in the state, but it also has a wealth of online offerings which are available for those not based in the area. 

You will need to live in the state if you want to undertake the volunteer hours (40 to 70 hours) necessary to become a certified master gardener. But if you don't live in Oregon, or don't want to complete the volunteer hours, you can still undertake the program for the Certificate of Home Horticulture. And can do so no matter where you live, and with any level of experience. 

The 12-week course covers a range of interesting sustainable gardening topics, with online materials which include recorded lectures, forum assignments and discussions, weekly quizzes, and more. Once you successfully complete the online course, you will receive the Certificate of Home Horticulture. A seven-week summer intensive version of this online course is also available. 

Best Budget: Garden Tutor

Garden Tutor

Garden Tutor

Key Specs

  • Price: Free
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Format: Online

Why We Chose It

This course is free and is excellent for beginners.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Completely free of charge
  • Suitable for complete novices

Cons

  • No route to certification
  • Simpler and less comprehensive than paid courses

Overview

Free garden courses online like this one won't allow you to obtain any certifications. But they will allow you to learn a lot about gardening. With Garden Tutor's courses, you can obtain the basic skills you need to grow in your own garden. And they can provide a good foundation to help you progress in your gardening pursuits. 

This course follows a simple beginner's curriculum over a series of eight modules, and in addition to being free of charge, it only requires just a few hours of your time. While in the future you may wish to progress further and obtain a master gardener certification in your area, in the short term, Garden Tutor is a stellar option.

Most Reputable: Cornell Master Gardener Program

Cornell Master Gardener Program

Cornell Master Gardener Program

Key Specs

  • Price: About $675 for a six-week organic gardening course
  • Experience Level: Suitable for beginners through to more experienced gardeners
  • Format: Online learning and discussion with classmates online (Full master gardener certification for those in-state involves some in-person learning as well as online webinars.)

Why We Chose It

This is one of our top picks because of the institution's excellent reputation and for its emphasis on a holistic, organic approach.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • - Emphasis on organic, eco-friendly gardening
  • - Flexible online learning
  • - Small class sizes (Only 30 students per course)

Cons

  • - Costly option
  • - Full master gardener certification only available to local residents

Overview

If you live in the New York area, you can achieve full master gardener certification through Cornell's Master Gardener program. Master gardeners in the area will learn through in-person learning as well as advanced online webinars. However, if you live elsewhere, consider their distance learning organic gardening course.

The six-week organic gardening course is limited to just 30 students. It is suitable for those of all levels, from beginners to more advanced gardeners who want to learn more about managing pests and diseases organically and in a sustainable and ecologically friendly way. 

Best for Advanced Gardeners: Advanced Permaculture Design

Oregon State University’s Technical Writing Course - Online

Oregon State University’s Technical Writing Course - Online

Key Specs

  • - Price: About $495 (Plus $60 registration free)
  • - Experience Level: Advanced
  • - Format: Online, with support from experienced primary readers

Why We Chose It

If you want to move beyond the basics and are looking for something more in-depth, then these courses offer more advanced instruction in permaculture.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • - Opportunity to advance skills in permaculture
  • - Could aid in personal or professional development

Cons

  • - Not suitable for beginners

Overview

If you are already passionate about planet care, people care, and fair share, advancing your skills and knowledge in permaculture could be ideal. This course from Oregon State University could help you do just that.

Taking a course and obtaining a permaculture design certificate could be an alternative to a master gardener program: You can learn all about sophisticated solutions for climate resilience. And for those who already have a background in organic gardening and sustainable growing, a more advanced permaculture course like this one could be ideal for furthering your knowledge and personal or professional development. 

Best for Hobbyists: Skillshare Gardening Courses

Skillshare

Skillshare

Key Specs

  • - Price: Low prices which vary according to which course you choose
  • - Experience Level: Beginner through intermediate hobbyists
  • - Format: Online learning

Why We Chose It

We chose Skillshare courses because it offers varied opportunities to learn more about gardening. If gardening is a hobby, and you are not looking for certification, taking one or more of these courses could be a great alternative to a full master gardener program. 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • - Affordable
  • - Flexible online options for hobbyists

Cons

  • - No route to certification.
  • - Fewer good options for more experienced gardeners

Overview

There are plenty of free or low-cost gardening courses online for beginners, which can allow you to learn and basics and dip your toe into the gardening world. Skillshare is one of them, offering a range of gardening courses if you're a newbie.

You can select the class that is right for you: Take an intro to gardening lesson or focus on a specific area that is particularly interesting to you if you have a little more experience. Choose from courses like Gardening 101: A Guide For Growing & Caring For Plants, Happy Houseplants: Caring For Your Plants, How to Grow Sprouts & Microgreens, and more.

A Skillshare premium membership costs about $168 per year ($14 per month), or you can opt for a monthly subscription which costs $32 every four weeks. The benefit here is that you'll get unlimited access to Skillshare's offerings.

Final Verdict

Overall, Oregon State University offers some of the best options there are, whether you do want to obtain certification, or are just looking to learn more about gardening. However, if you are interested in full master gardener certification, you should be sure to contact the appropriate co-operative extension in your area. If you're looking to try out a bunch of different gardening courses without an interest in certification, Skillshare is a solid pick.

Whichever course you choose, it's also important to remember that undertaking master gardener programs is not the only way to learn and grow as a gardener. Permaculture certifications and even simple online gardening courses can also be great ways to progress. 

Compare the Best Online Master Gardener Programs

Company Price Experience Level Duration Platform Certification
Best Overall
Oregon State University Master Gardener Program
$490, plus a $60 registration fee Any 12 weeks (Plus volunteer hours for full certification) Online (Plus volunteer hours for full certification) Y  (With completed course and volunteer hours.)
Best Budget
Garden Tutor
Free Beginners Self-determined Online N
Most Reputable
Cornell Master Gardener Program
$675 Any 6 weeks for online organic gardening course Online for Cornell Online course. Some in-person for full certification Y (With full program and volunteer hours.) N (for online course).
Best for Advanced Gardeners
Advanced Permaculture Design
$495, plus a $60 registration fee Advanced 5 weeks Online Advanced Permaculture Certification
Best for Hobbyists
Skillshare Gardening Courses
Varies Beginners Varies Online N

How to Choose the Best Online Master Gardener Programs

Above, we have outlined some options to consider. But there are many master gardener programs out there. Whenever you are evaluating options and trying to find the best online master gardener program, you should consider cost and value, what the program specializes in, level and experience, the duration of the course, format, and what types of certifications are available.

Online Master Gardener Programs vs. In-Person Instruction

Format is perhaps one of the most important things to consider when choosing an online master gardener program.

Whether an exclusively online program or in-person instruction is right for you will depend on what exactly you hope to gain from the course. It will also depend on what type of learner you are. Some people can successfully learn remotely. But others find it much easier to learn while going through the motions and being face-to-face with instructors.

If you prefer face-to-face instruction then you should certainly contact your local university extension to find out about courses, volunteer hours, and becoming a master gardener in your area. If you opt for online though, you can apply what you're learning directly into your own garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Beginners Enroll in Online Master Gardener Programs?

For most master gardener programs, there are no prerequisites, and even beginners can enroll. However, it may be better to have at least a basic foundation in gardening before committing to a full course, as well as the volunteer hours required to gain full master gardener certification. It might benefit you to enroll in a Skillshare course or two to help you get acquainted if you need to learn some basics.

Can You Receive Certificates by Completing Online Master Gardener Programs?

Earning a certificate is possible, but it depends on the program. However, to obtain a full master gardener certification, you will have to complete the lessons and also do a certain number of volunteer hours. 

Do Accredited Universities Offer Online Master Gardener Programs?

Master Gardener programs are offered through the co-operative extensions of many accredited universities and be found throughout the U.S.

Methodology

When considering online master gardener programs, we looked at many of the most well-known programs available from reputable institutions across the U.S. but chose to focus on programs that offer online learning to gardeners wherever they live. In your local area, you will no doubt find an excellent option for full certification or plenty of courses you can take just to learn more about gardening; however, we avoided options available only to those in a restricted area and listed the courses with the best content that caters to all interests and levels.