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Advice to the Class of 2022

Direct to you from the graduates from the class of 2021

Several interns who graduated in 2021 have shared their advice on how to meet all of the first-year requirements and make the most of your first year as a Master Gardener intern volunteer.

Here is their advice for tackling your first year. You can click on each suggestion to read their full comments.


Find a Schedule That Works for You

Welcome to the Ramsey County Master Gardener program! My husband and I completed the program this past year and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Core Course initially seemed overwhelming to me, but I kept to a schedule of reading/studying and quite enjoyed the entire course. Learning styles vary greatly, but I do suggest finding a schedule that works for you so that you can plan to complete the course by the end of April. The Thursday evening Zoom sessions were of great value and I would encourage you to attend every one of them.

Monthly RCMG meetings are also invaluable for updates, continued education and a way to meet (virtually) other Master Gardener volunteers. The monthly meetings count as two educational hours, which you record in the U of MN Master Gardener database.

Remember to check your email inbox for Ramsey County Master Gardener monthly news and other RCMG information! There will be many interesting meetings to attend and volunteer opportunities relayed in the emails. I would suggest signing up for a variety of volunteer opportunities and to sign up quickly as there may be limits on the number of available volunteer signup slots. Some of my personal volunteer favorites were helping with the plant sale, weeding and watering the gardens at the Barn and planting a garden at a Habitat for Humanity home.

I hope that you will enjoy this program as much as I do. There are so many opportunities to further your horticultural knowledge and share your knowledge and skills, and the people in the program are fantastic.

FROM: Kristine (Kris) Balsiger-Ranieri

Class of 2021


Remember - you are joining a community of gardeners

These are the top five lessons I learned as a Master Gardener intern.

#5: Make the Core Course a priority for the first several months

#4: Attend monthly meetings and mentor meetings to stay connected

#3: Remember: you are joining a community of gardeners and land lovers

#2: Start volunteering with an activity that is not a huge stretch for you, then gradually

expand your volunteer venues

#1: Take advantage of the many learning opportunities available—it’s incredible!

Hopefully this advice is useful to the class of 2022.

FROM: Colleen Bell

Class of 2021


You Don’t Have to be an Expert

Here are a few suggestions that might help you during your time as an intern:

  • Prioritize completing the Core coursework on a steady pace that works for you this winter and spring. Don’t rush through the wealth of materials. Explore all the resources available with the modules. Get familiar with how to find information rather than memorizing information. Allocate enough time to finish before May so you can be in the garden, volunteer, and enjoy the summer.

  • Sign up for different types of volunteer activities and explore what Ramsey County Master Gardener volunteers (RCMG) do for our community. You don’t have to be an expert to help with classes, Q&A phone and emails, or other events. Some events fill up quickly so pay attention to notifications as volunteer events are added to Signup Genius. Be adaptable if volunteer activities have to be changed or delayed due to changes to U of MN policies, which has happened during the pandemic.

  • Meet as many Master Gardener volunteers and Interns as you can, online or in-person. Ask about what they enjoy about gardening and about being Master Gardeners. Attend monthly RCMG meetings and read the newsletters from the State Leadership team and Ramsey County.

  • Seek out help from your mentor and others if you are having any problems.

  • Log your volunteer and education hours after an event so you don’t forget.

Enjoy yourself and have a great year.

FROM: Donna Hall

Class of 2021


Try a Little of Everything

I joined the program last year while I was working at 3M, as a way to escape winter in MN since COVID limited work and personal travel options. I had so much fun – taking classes, attending the Thursday Zoom meetings, and working on various projects – that I joined the “Great Resignation” and opted to retire from 3M so that I could spend more time in my garden and more time working on Master Gardener projects.

My advice to you is the same advice I got from a Master Gardener last year: Try a little of everything and then decide what you really enjoy.

In hindsight, I found a number of activities that I liked much more than I thought I would.

  • For example, I was not sure that I would like working the Yard and Garden hotline, especially as an intern who was still learning. However, the questions gave me a great chance to research interesting topics and then discuss the answers and often learn a lot from the people who called in.

  • I also enjoyed the Gardens for Good program. I initially signed up because I always have a lot of extra produce and I was doing the U of M Seed Trials as one of my projects, which also led to more produce. What I enjoyed the most about this program was working at the donation location and interacting with the residents. It wasn’t simply distribution of produce but a chance to meet some great people and exchange recipes! (Master Gardener shared recipes when they tried new ingredients and residents shared recipes when we asked how they prepared a specific ingredient.)

I tried ten different types of volunteer projects and I found something interesting in all of them. I am looking forward to discovering more interesting projects in year two.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy the program as much as I did in my first year.

FROM: Beth Fritcher

Class of 2021


Everyone is Friendly and Super Helpful

I am excited to welcome you on this journey of learning about plants, helping others to learn about plants, and participating in activities benefiting Minnesota’s vegetable, native plant and flower gardens.

It will be an intense learning experience, especially initially. Here are a couple of tips and things I enjoyed last year.

  1. As best as you can, stay on top of the online module training schedule. It was worth it for me to complete the videos and the homework assignments in time for the Thursday night Expert Question and Answer Sessions. I found the questions the other interns asked and the answers from the experts to be very helpful to my understanding of the material I had just covered.

  2. Attend as many of the Monthly Meetings as you can. The presentations are informative and interesting. I also enjoyed hearing about what else was happening in the Ramsey County Master Gardener program and seeing the faces of the other members.

  3. Spread out your volunteer hours over the course of the year. Start in early spring, so that you don’t run into a crunch come fall. Volunteer activities I enjoyed included being on the Strategic Plan Diversity Task Force, helping weed and harvest at the Ramsey County Master Gardener Barn, and doing a solo home project where I planned, prepared, planted and maintained two new pollinator gardens on my boulevard and in my back alley. I had many friends and neighbors ask me about the plants in my pollinator gardens so I had lots of opportunities to share some of what I had been learning from the Master Gardener program.

Hopefully, this year you will be able to do more in-person activities than what was available to me last year due to COVID-19. There are so many knowledgeable people in the program who are excited to share what they know. Do not be afraid to reach out and mingle with your fellow interns and the other Master Gardener volunteers. Everyone is friendly and super helpful!

FROM: Sherryl Livingston

Class of 2021


Don’t be intimidated!

Congratulations on being a 2022 intern in the Master Gardener Volunteer Program! Going through the 2021 internship year was very rewarding for me. I had the satisfaction of achieving goals, gaining knowledge, helping the program and people in the community, and having camaraderie with other volunteers. I hope that your internship year will be rewarding for you!

I’m retired and was able to easily complete the Core Course and volunteer hours by the end of June. The Thursday evening meetings for the Core Course and monthly Ramsey County meetings added both to my knowledge and feelings of being connected to people in the program, despite the meetings being online.

To give you an idea of some of the ways to volunteer, I’m listing what I participated in:

  • Tending the Ramsey County Master Gardener demonstration gardens

  • Helping with set up for the Ramsey County Master Gardener plant sale

  • Assisting with online speakers bureau presentations

  • Being a Garden Coach for an elementary school

  • Answering questions for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum yard and garden line (Note: This wasn’t that intimidating because you can listen to the requests for help on voice mail, then conduct any needed research before getting back to the person.)

  • Assisting with an Ask a Master Gardener online session

  • Working on the landscape for a Habitat for Humanity home

  • Interviewing potential 2022 interns

I have several pieces of advice for interns.

  • First, begin the Core Course right away, and complete a section of the course each week, if feasible. That way, you will have just studied a topic that a Thursday meeting covers, and you won’t feel that you are falling behind.

  • Second, try a variety of volunteer activities to gain more experience and to see what you enjoy. It hopefully won’t feel difficult for you to achieve at least the minimum number of volunteer hours. Just keep at it! And remember that time spent in preparation (for example, studying materials for a speakers bureau topic before assisting with the presentation) and travel to a site count as volunteer time.

  • Third, reach out to your mentor(s) with any questions about your internship.

  • Lastly, don’t be intimidated! There always will be people in the program who know more than you do about certain aspects of gardening and people who know less than you know about gardening.

I hope that you truly enjoy your internship year!

FROM: Nancy Glass

Class of 2021


Jump on the Ride and and have a blast!

It may seem a bit overwhelming at first—the classes, discussion groups, meetings, and lots of email—but hang in there! It all becomes so fun and very rewarding. You are in for a wonderful ride!

I come from a family of gardeners and have had my own vegetable and flower gardens since I bought my first home. I thought I knew a fair amount about gardening but, wow, have I learned a lot in the past year! The classes reinforced, changed and expanded my knowledge, occasionally helping me see the world of horticulture (and perhaps the world at large) from a different perspective. Then there are our fellow Master Gardener volunteers who have seemingly unlimited knowledge in all sorts of specialties and widely varied horticultural interests. These new friends gladly share garden know-how and ideas about bringing the joy of nature to others.

There are so many options for activities and volunteer work that it can be hard to figure out what to try first. Yes, you need to get those 50 required internship hours in, but I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I suggest trying a wide variety of activities. You never know what might really click for you! Some of the volunteer activities I tried: Garden Journalists, Speakers Bureau, the Home Garden Productivity study, RCMG Demonstration Gardens maintenance, RCMG Book Club, Habitat for Humanity, Minnesota Arboretum Seed Trials, RCMG Plant Sale, Gardens for Good, Garden Photography, Roseville’s Muriel Sahlin Arboretum maintenance, and more. Each was interesting, fun, a great learning experience, and a great way to get to know my fellow gardeners.

So, jump on the ride that is the Master Gardener volunteer program and have a blast!

FROM: Jean Kohs

Class of 2021


Be Curious, Try New Things and Meet New People!

I enjoyed my internship in the Master Gardeners program. Here are some tips to help you get started on your internship.

Dive into the Core Course. The Core Course is rich with information and resources to build your knowledge on gardening and horticulture topics. I appreciated the various mediums provided to help me learn and digest the content, including readings, videos and worksheets. There are also many supplemental resources provided so that you can dig deeper if you choose.

Get to Know your Mentor and Other Volunteers. You have the opportunity to meet many great people who share your love of gardening and are always happy to share knowledge with you. Your mentor is invaluable. They help you navigate the systems, answer your questions, point you in the right direction, connect you with others, and provide great support during your internship.

Participate in a Wide Variety of Volunteer Activities. There are so many ways to volunteer and serve your community. I was happy that I tried several activities. My favorites were

  1. The Speakers Bureau (a great way to learn and share information with others);

  2. The Barn Demonstration Gardens (a hands- on experience including preparing garden beds, planting, watering and harvesting produce);

  3. Master Gardener’s Information Booth at my local farmer’s market answering community members gardening questions;

  4. Garden of Hearts, my mentor group’s neighborhood garden care project; and

  5. Garden Journalist, researching and writing an article for the Ramsey County Gardeners website.

I also did a solo project where I created a pollinator garden in my community park.

Attend Ramsey County Monthly Meetings. The monthly meetings were filled with great content. I learned about upcoming service opportunities and enjoyed the continuing education presentations.

Good luck as you begin your journey in the Master Gardener Program! It is very rewarding. You’ll learn tons, meet great people, and make a positive contribution to your community!

FROM: Beth Lorenze

Class of 2021


Explore the Websites

What worked for me in getting started was exploring the websites to get a better sense of the variety of activities and how the organization worked, and then trying out a bunch of different things. It took some practice getting to know the state and county systems to determine which web pages mattered most. The Core Course, the volunteer hours log, and Sign-Up Genius turned out to be the websites I visit most often: definitely worth bookmarking.

For the Core Course, try setting a pace for completing sections, maybe with a calendar. I made a list of the modules and stayed mostly on track to finish one a week. It was satisfying to check them off as I went. I admit that I gave up on following all the postings and instead spent more time exploring the available links to go more in depth when a topic was particularly interesting or about which I didn't know as much. Other folks who are more into social media likely relished the stories people shared, so it is nice that there are choices.

As you get oriented, I'd suggest just diving in as the Sign-Up Genius invites come along. The tool makes it easy to join in and folks have developed an impressive number of resources to go along with each event so you are rarely starting from scratch. Most activities allow interns a low-risk entry either as a shadow or partnering with an experienced lead. Take advantage of having a mentor, too. Mine were very much committed to ensuring that I had a positive first year experience.

FROM: Karen Randall

Class of 2021


All of the Requirements are Doable

During 2022 you will need to balance your daily schedule to provide time to complete the Core Course and your volunteer hours. The Core Course will require approximately 50 hours to complete, as will the volunteering. The completion of both is doable and all requirements can be completed prior to the fall of 2022. So how can you do this?

Scheduling for Core Course

Set aside time each week for the Core Course reading, video presentations and Thursday night discussion sessions. Since the Thursday discussions will be virtual, you can have dinner while watching. The discussion sessions are led by subject area experts; I recommend taking notes and asking questions during them. Try and complete the Core Course by the end of April.

Attend Monthly RCMG Meetings

You will need 8 hours of educational hours to complete your internship and the monthly meetings count as 2 hours towards that requirement. The meetings are held on the third Tuesday of the month. The agenda includes updates from RCMG volunteers and local leaders, committee chairs and then a presentation on a horticultural or related issue. These meetings include descriptions of volunteer opportunities and the sign-up. All 2021 meetings were virtual and it is possible that many, if not all meetings will be virtual in 2022.


You should review the volunteer opportunities as soon as possible and sign up for a variety of different experiences. Several hours spent with the Speakers Bureau will not only enhance your knowledge of gardening but will also allow you to interact with Master Gardener volunteers. If you like to “work the soil,” working at the Barn Gardens will benefit from your planting, watering and weeding. Other hands-on opportunities include Habitat for Humanity, growing plants for and working at the RCMG plant sale and staffing a booth at a farmer’s market.

Record your volunteer hours on a calendar (paper or electronic) so that you can manage time and avoid a rush at the end of the year. You should record your hours as soon as you finish the assignment.

Monitor Email, RCMG Newsletter and Sign-up Genius

You will receive frequent messages and newsletters from RCMG and the state office. Some may announce a new volunteer opportunity while others will discuss current trends and concerns such as invasive species, climate change or recent research on horticulture. You should review all correspondence in a timely manner.

Individual and New Volunteer Opportunities

If you have an interest in an individual project or have an idea for a group volunteer effort, discuss it with your mentor or RCMG staff. For example, in 2021 several interns and MGs developed a plan to visit gardeners where they grow – community gardens and an urban farm. The purpose was to provide assistance to the gardeners and answer questions. To an intern, having 2 to 5 other Master Gardener volunteers walk a garden with you was awesome!

FROM: Gene Ranieri

Class of 2021


Pace yourself and enjoy your first year

Welcome! I'm so happy you have joined the Ramsey County Master Gardener Volunteer Program! Ours is an excellent group of Master Gardener Volunteers and your involvement, contributions and talent will make it even better.

My intern year was wonderful and, if I were to give you any advice it would be this: Pace yourself and enjoy your first year. It is truly a special experience and wonderful opportunity. There truly is a lot to learn from the Master Gardener Core Course, the Ramsey County Volunteer Program and the Master Gardener Volunteers themselves. That’s great news and here is why:

  • No matter how much experience you have (or don't have) there is always something to learn. That's part of the magic of gardening, really.

  • You will never be bored because there is always something fun and exciting to do.

  • You get to meet and serve the community alongside fellow volunteers who share the same passions and interests for gardening.

  • You will be amazed by the amount of talent, passion, specialty gardening interests, and horticultural knowledge of the Ramsey County Master Gardener Volunteers you will get to meet.

  • You will have an abundance of support. The whole chapter wants you to succeed. Reach out to others for answers or help. We are all learning more about gardening and serving the community together.

I cannot wait to meet you and I wish you all the best in the Master Gardener Core Course and your transition into the Ramsey County Master Gardener Volunteer Program.

FROM: Stacy Sola

Class of 2021


Ask questions, participate, and have fun!

Greetings and welcome to all of our new Master Gardeners to-be. You are embarking on an exciting adventure. The Core Course is rich with information. It's compost for your gardening brain; amazing knowledge and well-seasoned wisdom from experts to help you grow!

For me personally, becoming a Master Gardener was the silver lining of the pandemic. While there are losses from not meeting in person, the plus is that you can do your training from the comfort of your home and not drive in winter weather.

At times it felt a little overwhelming to contemplate 50 hours of volunteer service during the busiest time of the year, but trust that it will all fall into place. Be sure to be mindful of when the emails for SignUp Genius come out and, if there's something that piques your interest, sign up right away. There is a wide range of opportunities to sample and enrich your training.

Attend as many monthly Ramsey County MG meetings as possible. Not only will you learn from the monthly education piece, you will connect with the energy of the group and learn of new opportunities.

Most of all, ask questions, participate, and simply have fun! Happy Gardening!

FROM: Linnea Tani

Class of 2021


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