Inside Richmond’s Master Gardener program

Don Moore talks about the program he’s been involved with for almost a decade

Three people stand around a table at an outdoor expo

Richmond Master Gardeners Marilyn Campbell and Charles Hester at a VCE event, providing educational material and answering questions.

Photo via Don Moore

Don Moore has been gardening for decades, but he’s been a Master Gardener for the last nine years. In that time, he’s done hundreds of hours of education and community service at places like Shalom Farms and Biggs Community Garden.

A branch of the Virginia Cooperative Extension out of Virginia Tech, most counties and cities around the state have Master Gardener programs in place through their public library systems.

To be certified, each Master Gardener had to complete a 50 hour course and amass another 50 hours of volunteer work. To keep up a certification, gardeners have to undertake 20 hours of volunteer work and eight hours of continuing education every year.

At 22 full-fledged members, Moore says Richmond’s Master Gardener program is smaller than that of Henrico or Chesterfield, but it’s members are no less busy.

Richmond’s Master Gardeners get a lot done around the River City. They do volunteer work out at Shalom Farms in Powhatan, as well as work at Biggs Community Garden on the Southside. They also teach courses through RPL, run a seed library in an old card catalog at the Main Branch, and answer questions through the RPL website.

A card catalog full of seed packets

The Master Gardeners also keep a seed library stocked in an old card catalog at RPL’s Main Branch.

Photo via Don Moore

Pro tip: Looking to learn more about gardening in Richmond? The entire back catalog of answered questions is available as a browser-friendly, searchable database.

Moore says that a huge number of the questions he receives revolve around native planting, mindful pest management, and options for more sustainable lawn and garden designs. The community’s focus on native horticulture and pollinator-friendly species has been a shift in the last several years.

Have a question for Don and the other Master Gardeners? Submit one through the RPL website. If you’re really passionate, consider getting certified yourself.