Direct to you from the class of 2022
New Master Gardener volunteers who completed their internship requirements in 2022 have shared their advice on how to meet all of the first-year requirements and make the most of your first year as an RCMG volunteer.
Here is their advice for tackling your first year. You can click on each suggestion to read their full comments.
Take some time to find your ‘sunny spot’
Hello incoming intern!
You’re in for a great learning experience but like with all things you’ll get out of it what you put into it.
Just like each plant has different needs to flourish, so do each of us. Take some time to find your ‘sunny spot’ and your best companion plants along the way…
I’ve always loved getting my hands into the dirt, so of course I spent lots of time volunteering on projects where we got to plant and maintain- but I also spent some time at a farmers market, at the booth answering questions, attending talks and garden tours, helping with online classes, and in helping plan projects as well.
Being part of your small group within the entire county of master gardeners was a wonderful asset. Being able to connect with other people who love plants- and accomplish something together was so fulfilling.
At first it may feel like it’s all about keeping up with the course work, but once the spring hits it will be so fun to get out there and put that newfound (or deepened) knowledge to work!
Enjoy the ride!
FROM: Michelle Bruh
CLASS of 2022
You are going to have a great time
Hi Incoming Interns,
A few things that may help you frame your approach to your intern year:
SCHEDULE REGULAR TIMES TO WORK ON THE CORE COURSE: there is a lot of content but you can get through it. I found when I decided to spend 1 hour on it every evening, I made the progress I needed. You will find what works for you!
TRY A FEW DIFFERENT KINDS OF VOLUNTEERING: there are many different opportunities and projects. You can learn a lot by trying different things and meeting different people.
ATTEND THE MONTHLY RCMG MEETINGS: You will meet people, learn about a lot of the different projects going on AND get 1 hour of education credit each time.
PLANT SALE: I had a great experience growing plants from seed indoors for the first time for the plant sale (with coaching!) -- make sure to get help if you are new to it and have questions. Volunteering at the plant sale is also a great way to meet people and get started on the season.
COMPOST SITE: Try to volunteer at least once or twice at a Ramsey County Compost Site. This is an important way we give back to our funders.
And last but definitely not least, HAVE FUN! You are joining a great group of people doing many great things. You are going to have a great time. :-)
FROM: Barbara Porwit
CLASS of 2022
Watch the Q&A Sessions
Greetings, 2023 garden interns!
I hope that you will enjoy the experience of becoming a Master Gardener as much as I have this past year. Some advice that I would offer regarding the online horticulture course is to watch the Q&A sessions, live or when they are available via video recording. They are so useful and entertaining. I finished the course at the end of June, which was nice so I could focus on the volunteer activities. I have also downloaded all pdf documents embedded in the course, so I can refer to them in the future when I no longer have access.
As for the volunteer activities, I took the advice from other interns and tried as many activities as possible that fit into my schedule beginning in June. Some of the activities I enjoyed the most were working on the youth projects. I really enjoyed working at Lake Owasso with 5th graders on a lakeshore restoration project, participating in the Children’s Gardening Program at the Peace Sanctuary Garden, and planting tulips in the fall with students at L’Etoile du Nord. Other community garden activities included a ground solarization project, participating in a Habitat for Humanity planting day, and harvesting produce at the UMN Gopher Adventures garden with Hennepin County MGs. Volunteering multiple times at the same place is also useful as you familiarize yourself with procedures and the other people staffing the site. This was certainly true of volunteering at the compost sites. The first time was a bit daunting, but by the second or third time I was much more relaxed and felt comfortable passing out UMN Extension bookmarks and asking if they had any questions.
The most important thing I realized, is that the name “Master Gardener” is really a misnomer (and for cultural reasons should be changed). Even seasoned staff and volunteers do not purport to be “masters.” For example, you might know something about houseplants, someone else knows a great deal about tomatoes, someone else knows how to prune trees and shrubs. What you are interested in knowing more about you can likely find in a continuing education workshop. I participated in a UMN Forestry class on pruning trees and shrubs and took a landscape design class at the Landscape Arboretum that were both useful. Finally, I would encourage you to subscribe to the statewide listserv. I am learning a great deal from seeing what questions and answers are provided in that forum.
Good luck and have fun!
FROM: Kerry Morgan
CLASS of 2022
Be open to opportunities you might not initially be drawn to
Dear Incoming Interns 2023,
Words of advice? A little awkward to be doing, as I just finished my intern year and feel like such a novice — but here goes….
Watch your calendar, especially during the class portion. If you miss a class, it’s not easy in busy life to find the hours to catch up, as well as actually keep up with the current week’s class. I got behind two weeks once, and that’s a lot of screen time hours to make up. That said, if you actually miss just the night of the live class, I found watching the video from that week an easy way to go. You can run the speed slightly faster than real time (I liked x1.5) and decrease your watching time.
Be open to volunteer opportunities you might not initially be drawn to. For example, I thought I would not like the information tables at farmer’s markets. As a new resident to MN, I felt I didn’t know enough about MN plants, issues, etc. to have much to offer. But once I tried it, it turned out to be my favorite. I loved the variety of questions that came in and the time flew by.
Be alert for opportunities to dive deeper into topics that speak to you. The Arb has some great lectures on specific topics (hydrangeas!) and the links in the classes led me to some great TED talks (bees!)
50 hours of volunteer time is a lot of hours, especially if your life leads you to projects that come in 2 hour chunks. Think ahead as to how you are actually going to get to 50.
Wishing everyone a great year, and looking forward to meeting you,
FROM: Margaret Green
CLASS of 2022
Start your course work right away
I was an intern in 2022 and would recommend you take in as much as you can. Start your course work right away so that you can be done by the end of April. I did a module a week keeping up with the Question-and-Answer meetings on Thursday evenings. You can always go back and do deep dives when you have extra time.
Attend the monthly Ramsey County Master Gardener meetings that occur the third Tuesday of every month except December. This allows you to meet your education requirement. Most will be in-person but are also available on Zoom. Going in-person allows you to meet other Interns and Master Gardeners and cover great topics. The book club is another great way to get education hours. It meets every other month on zoom and the book selections are very interesting.
For your volunteer hours, try many different options to find out what you like best. Working at the Barn, (the home for Ramsey County Master Gardeners) is a fun way to work with the seed trials, work on the giving garden and meet others in the program. Growing plants and/or working at the RCMG Plant Sale is a great way to meet others. Planting at a Habitat for Humanity house day and participating in the school programs are great fun. Working at the waste sites helps raise money for the program. There are many opportunities to volunteer. Pay attention to your email on Saturdays and Mondays where volunteer options are sent out and sign up on Sign Up Genius right away.
This is a great program that you will learn a great deal from and enjoy immensely.
FROM: Susie DeShon
CLASS of 2022
There’s more than enough time to get the hang of things
To the 2023 intern -
Welcome to the Ramsey County Master Gardener Program! In the weeks ahead, there’s a lot of information to digest. Don’t worry though because there’s more than enough time to get the hang of things. Even if some of the information doesn’t stick with you right away, most of it is to just let you know that it’s there for a resource if you need to look back at it in the years to come. In this short letter, I’ll tell you a little bit about my experience during my time as an intern and some advice that I wish I would’ve known at the beginning of the year.
Your first exposure to the program will more than likely be the online class and it can seem a little daunting. For that part, I recommend keeping up on the weekly topics and tuning in for the weekly presentations. Those can give you the best insight about the information you’re learning that week and also get you really excited about the year to come.
After the class is done, the summer will fly by and there will be a ton of opportunities to get volunteer hours. My first volunteer experience was the annual plant sale and it was a great way to meet new people in-person. As the summer progressed, I went onto working on some projects with my group that’s stationed in White Bear Lake. Those consisted of installing/maintaining a pollinator garden and helping the local food shelf plan/prep for their vegetable garden they were trying to install.
Those projects were informative and helped further my connections in the community. It made me wish that I would’ve tried more during the year, which brings me to the first piece of advice that I wish I was given; Don’t be afraid to try new activities by yourself. When the summer starts to ramp up there’s going to be so many opportunities for different volunteer activities that it may seem overwhelming to pick something. My advice is to just commit to something that you think will be interesting to you and get out there. There will always be people around that are going to help you with the activity and you don’t need to know everything about the topic you’re working with. Once you start somewhere it’s almost like a snowball effect. You’re going to get way more integrated in the program and make better connections. I know my advice may sound cliche but you will never be truly alone while volunteering.
I hope you enjoy this program as much as I do and I look forward to seeing you out in the field!
FROM: Sadie Loose
CLASS of 2022
No matter what you choose, you will learn something new at every event
Hello new Interns!
This program has been a great adventure for me. I have learned so much and will continue to learn.
One thing that stands out is volunteering for a seed stratifying event with the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District for 5th graders at the American Indian Charter School. Not only was it gratifying to help the children collect the seeds and prep them for the spring planting, I had the bonus of learning about the watershed and its importance to our water systems. It opened up my interest and I have done my own research since the event and learned even more.
There was a pickling demonstration at CLUES on the East Side of St Paul that I volunteered for that stands out as well. I have been pickling for a while so it was quite fun to be a part of helping others learn the process and to hear more about food preservation. The community was very involved and saw that they could pick produce straight from their garden and pickle it into a whole delicious Giardiniera. I did a lot of work over our demonstration gardens (The Barn) which was a nice way to soak up some sunshine and get to work in the gardens at the same time.
There are SO many activities to choose from to obtain your volunteer hours; it’ll be up to you to choose which are the best for you. No matter what you choose you’re sure to meet new people with similar interests in gardening and you will learn something new at every event. Every person I shared experiences with has been warm and welcoming and made things a group activity.
My advice to you interns is to get to know your mentors and who else to turn to if you should need help with anything. I was a rare lucky person who had 2 mentors. (One of their interns had to drop the program and so was assigned to me). Both of them were so positive and cheered me along. There were some things in my personal life that were distracting and they checked in to make sure I was ok and made sure to help me stay on track. I did some of my volunteering and continuing education with them and we even had a get together in one of their gardens. I will say if not for their support, I may have given up and I am every thankful for them. Your mentor is there to support you and help guide you so don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
My other advice that I am going to make sure to take for myself is to go to monthly meetings when you can. I was unable to make it to many and I definitely know I missed out. I look forward to attending more of them this coming year.
Lastly, it’s gardening and learning about plants: have fun with it. Your course work is fun and even if you know about some of the subjects already, you will find what I call ‘little nuggets’ of information that you didn’t have previously.
Enjoy this and be proud of yourself for taking the steps to educate yourself. You got this!
FROM: Jeni Raddatz Tolifson
CLASS of 2022
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Dear Future Intern,
Last year I participated a lot with a community garden my mentor and gardening team decided to take on. I really enjoyed being able to see many of the same people frequently during my volunteer service and see the transformation of the garden from early spring to late fall. I also participated in some of the Barn Garden activities, like setting up the greenhouse and harvesting produce for the local food shelf. I did a few tabling events, which was pretty cool too. I especially enjoyed volunteering during the Selby Jazz Fest over the summer because it was something I’d never heard of before and I got a chance to see the celebration within my own community.
I think interning with the Master Gardeners has been a great opportunity for me to meet other people interested in gardening and to learn from them. I really appreciated having the freedom to try out different types of activities while being able to also focus the majority of my volunteer hours on a specific project I really enjoyed doing and with people I became close to over the year. I know not everyone wants to focus their volunteer time in the same way I chose to so I think I would recommend trying things out and enjoying your time volunteering in a way that brings happiness to you.
Also! Don’t be afraid to ask your mentor or Brianna for help! :) I hope you enjoy your first year as a Master Gardener!
FROM: Tami Noblet
CLASS of 2022
Dear 2023 interns,
Welcome to the Ramsey County Master Gardener Volunteer Program! This letter is to encourage you that if nothing goes the way you planned, you can still have a wonderful intern year on your way to becoming a master gardener.
When I applied to be a master gardener in the fall of 2021, my life looked very different than when I started the core course in January 2022. I had unexpectedly switched jobs from a very stressful position to a much less stressful job that came with quite a bit of travel, and I was in the midst of grieving a family member who suddenly passed away in early 2022.
There were multiple times that I considered dropping out of the master gardener program, especially when I got Covid during the only two weeks I was not traveling during June and July. I had planned to do the majority of my volunteer hours during those weeks, but I pivoted and pushed through and I’m so happy I did and to share some of the wisdom I gained along the way with you.
Sign up for a wide range of experiences. You have quite a few hours to complete and this is a great way to figure out what you want to focus on once you finish your internship.
Find a group of people that you click with. For me, it was my mentor group, but I also made great connections while I was volunteering.
Track your hours as you go but if you don’t track your hours as you go, remember that you can look back in Sign-up Genius to get a record of when and where are you volunteered.
For those of you who work full-time, you may get frustrated by people wanting to meet during typical working hours or not having a professional attitude towards things like responding to emails. Take a breath and let it go and clearly communicate what you need.
Attend, or watch the recordings of, the Thursday night question and answer sessions that are part of the core course. This is by far the best way to learn the information in my opinion.
I wish you all a wonderful experience in 2023 and hope our paths cross sooner rather than later.
FROM: Maggie Maggio
CLASS of 2022