Part 1: How To Satisfy A Serious Gardener's Itch But You Live In An Apartment

This post is Part 1 of 3 on how to satisfy a serious gardener's itch but your dilemma is that you live in an apartment.  Here are three ideas to scratch that itch.

Butterfly garden in Lake County, FL where I did volunteer work.

Butterfly garden in Lake County, FL where I did volunteer work.


  1. You can become a master gardener.
  2. You can rent a community garden space, if your city offers this.
  3. And yes, you can garden in your apartment but just on a smaller scale. 



First, let me explain what is a serious gardener's itch:

  • you love getting your hands dirty in soil; 
  • you love planting and watching plants grow; 
  • you can't go near a garden center without buying a plant;
  • you watch gardening television and cable channels, read magazines and books on gardening;
  • you love planning and talking gardening with anyone that will listen; 
  • you love visiting and touring gardens;
  • you make it a point to know a beneficial bug from one that will destroy your plants; and finally,
  • you can't imagine life without a garden--any kind, small or large, ornamental or edible.

Part 1 of this three part series is about becoming a master gardener.

Trust me, being a master gardener is one of the most proudest things you can do, not only for yourself but for your community.  I was a master gardener totaling 5-1/2 years over three different states.  The more I learned, the less I knew because there was always something new to learn.  Being a volunteer master gardener is both challenging and rewarding.  

Every county in the U.S. (hope I'm not overstating this) has a Master Gardener program as part of their horticultural extension program.  Activities and requirements may vary but basically they have the same goal:

Advise and educate the community in best practices for gardening and provide the latest information in horticulture.

Here's how it works:

  • You submit an application to your county horticulture extension office.
  • Once accepted, generally you pay a fee to cover the books and materials you will receive.  This can be a bit expensive but the quality of the books and materials are well worth the cost.
  • You attend classes for about 3 weeks.  Topics cover an introduction to the program; a tour of the facilities; and most important, a wide and very thorough training on plants (ornamental and edible), planting guidelines, lawn care best practices; beneficial and harmful insects, and more.  Your education doesn't stop with just that class but continues throughout your service through monthly meetings and seminars.
  • You graduate.  Often you are asked to volunteer in the various areas of the program for a certain amount of hours to learn how each area works.  After which you can just volunteer to work in a specific area or just continue to rotate and work in the different areas.
  • You are a trainee until you complete a certain amount of hours.  Then you become a full fledged volunteer.  You are expected to volunteer a certain amount of hours (generally 20 a month) to retain your status as a volunteer master gardener. 

Areas of service may vary but here are a few that tend to be consistent from one county to another: 

set up for the annual plant sale in Lake County FL - open to the public

set up for the annual plant sale in Lake County FL - open to the public

  • Answer questions from the public.  This is done in a variety of ways but is most often done through dedicated methods from answer a telephone hotline to working on the mobile units.
  • Work in one or more of the theme gardens from edibles to ornamentals to lawn care to even a bog.
  • Assist or even lead in annual or semi-annual events open to the public.  Activities can range from plant sales to garden exhibits to field trips to attending or conducting a seminar.

Field trip to the Butterfly Rain Forest at the University of Florida.  Did you spot the butterfly in this image?

The white butterfly:


Butterfly chrysalis

White and black butterflies emerging from chrysalis

White and black butterflies emerging from chrysalis

In Summary,

There are many bonuses to being a volunteer master gardener.  I've already a few above.  You also get work with groups of wonderful people and you'll meet a wonderful side of the public.  The knowledge and experience you get, you can bring home to create a lovely garden in your apartment--and with less "crop" failure!  All the while, you'll be satisfying that gardener's itch while living in an apartment.

You'll find lots of information on becoming a volunteer information on your county extension office website.  However, if you have any questions on what's it like, please don't hesitate to leave a comment or contact me.  I would love to share with you my wonderful experiences of having been a volunteer master gardener.