Master Gardener Volunteers Involved in Horticultural Therapy Programming

Dataset: Nation-wide online survey on horticultural therapy programming and Master Gardener Volunteer utilization.
Jam Team: Kristin Krokowski, Lisa Johnson, Christy Marsden, Susan Mahr, Amy Freidig, Mike Maddox, Ellen Bechtol, Christian Schmieder

MG_Jam_photo1On April 29, a mini Data Jam was held with a group from the Master Gardener (MG) program. The group, led by Mike Maddox, looked at survey data on the role of master gardeners (MGVs or EMGs) in nation-wide horticultural therapy programming. The goal was to complete an initial pass of the data and to identify areas for further analysis.



General Information

Are you currently practicing horticultural therapy?




How do you best describe your practice of horticultural therapy?



What role do you play in the program?



Other includes: as part of other paid position

Do you utilize EMGs in your HT program?



Do you think it is appropriate to use EMG volunteers in HT programming?



Themes Analyzed

Preparation of Master Gardener Volunteers

Question & Scope of Analysis

Question: How did EMG training prepare individuals for participating in horticultural therapy programs?

Scope: I will look at responses from those who indicated they are a certified EMG, those who did not participate in EMG training or are not currently certified.


Overall, of those who had taken MG training, 47% replied that increased plant knowledge was how MG training prepared them for participating in HT.

A much smaller number (14%) mentioned something related to making connections in communities or becoming more aware of different audiences.

Only a few mentioned the lack of training on working with people in MG training. One indicated the different focus of MG training (plants) vs HT training (working with people).

image of volunteers gardening

Wisconsin Master Gardener Volunteers practice their ability to provide gardening instructions

Appropriateness of Master Gardener Volunteers in HT Programs

Question & Scope of Analysis

Question: Of those who use EMGs in programming, what did they write about in the additional comments section?

Scope: My set/scope includes people who answered YES to the question “do you think it is appropriate to use MGs in hort therapy activities?” Looking at responses to the question for additional comments.


There were a few big themes found in the additional comments section.  The first two were positive: comments related to the great contributions MGs made to HT programs in their areas as well as comments indicating plans or desires to utilize MGs in the future.  Another set of comments indicated concern over MG training in relation to hort therapy.  Concerns included inconsistency in training amongst volunteers and lack of appropriate HT training for MGs.  A final theme was concern related to the reliability of MGs.

Future Direction: Many comments were not specific to these themes and could be revisited later.

image of volunteer gardening with veterans

Wisconsin Master Gardener Volunteers help veterans make decorative containers

Utilization of Master Gardener Volunteers in HT Programs

Question & Scope of Analysis

Question: How are MGVs utilized in Horticultural Therapy programs? Looking for specific duties performed: teaching versus gardening maintenance, etc.

Scope: Looking at responses from those who indicated they use EMGs in programming. 


Why would EMGs be primarily utilized for garden-based activities in one state or county, versus a one-on-one or individualized relationship and effort in others? I was curious if it was related to the training program – if people had access to good training or information, were there programs available for EMGs to participate in? I’m not sure if the programs would exist because the training exists, or if the EMGs would work on a one-by-one basis if they had the proper training regardless of the program developer’s desires and potential. So, I looked at how people felt about the training with each of the tasks: mentoring and one-on-one versus gardening maintenance tasks. According to the graphs and the small set of data, it seemed that individuals who had felt good about their training were more likely to work on an individualized basis.

Image of volunteer gardening with youth

Wisconsin Master Gardener Volunteer helping kids harvest beans

Roles of Master Gardener Volunteers in HT Programs

Question & Scope of Analysis

Question: What roles do Extension Master Gardeners (EMGs) play in horticultural therapy programs?

Scope: We will focus on responses to the question about the roles and duties of EMGs from those who use EMGs in horticultural therapy programming.


We found two main ways that MGs are being utilized – (1) garden maintenance activities, (2) direct interaction with clients. Additionally, there are other roles that came up less often in the data such as assisting with planning, offering leadership, and administrative support. Maintenance activities are garden related such as planting, watering, and harvesting. Direct interaction with clients includes tasks such as teaching, mentoring, or providing technical assistance related to gardening activities.

Beyond learning more about the role of EMGs in horticultural therapy, we were curious about who was using EMGs in programming. The following charts show the breakdown of respondents by position type. There is a higher incidence of part-time staff, consultants, and volunteers in the group that uses EMGs. For those who do not use EMGs, there are some working with In-House Programs and “Others”, though over 50% of data for this question is missing. In the future, we recommend making questions mandatory in order to have a complete, comparable data set.

Image volunteer gardening

Master Gardener Volunteers help veterans in a transitional living unit garden.

Talking Points

  • The total number of responses to the survey was low and brevity of answers did not allow for extensive data analysis.
  • With cross tab analysis, 20 responded as both practicing horticultural therapy and being a certified EMG.