Here’s “the dirt” about one of the best kept secrets in Sarasota. The Sarasota County Master Gardener Volunteer Program.

Now in its 17th year, the annual Sarasota County Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV) Plant Sale is October 14th from 8:30 AM to 3 PM at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Sarasota County grounds located at 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota. The Plant Sale / Edfest draws hundreds of plant lovers from counties across Southwest Florida (yes, get there early), so bring your wagons and carts and fill them with a diverse variety of carefully selected plants adapted to our growing region and lovingly cultivated by MGVs. A true labor of love! All the proceeds go to support the MGV program at Extension.

The MGV program provides participants with comprehensive training in horticulture, pest management, and Florida-friendlyTM landscaping. Ultimately, the MGVs showcase the fruits of their labor at the annual plant sale.

If you are a resident of Sarasota County and are interested in becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer, please visit the UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County website. The deadline for applying for the 2024 class is September 22, 2023.

Ashley Ellis, Residential Horticulture Agent/MGV Coordinator tells me that in addition to the annual plant sale, the MGVs provide research-based horticultural information to Sarasota County homeowners, schools, communities and businesses.

Ellis says, “SW Florida attracts people from across the world and for those that make it their second home, they are met with the challenges of adapting to our tropical environment. Where they may have had a green thumb in their native home, they are met with unique climate, soil, pest pressures and disease that affect their ability to grow plants. The education MGVs receive in their 14 weeks of training connects them with research-based horticulture information specific to our region promoting sustainable landscaping practices. MGVs are trained to give advice and guidance to people and expedite their learning curve.  Whether you are new to Florida or a long-term resident and have questions about your landscaping, contact the MGV Plant Clinic at 941-861-9807 or to be connected with a local MGV ready to provide you with research-based horticulture solutions for a sustainable community. To locate a plant clinic near you visit the Plant Clinic website.

Support the cause (s). See you at the plant sale Oct. 14, 6700 Clark Rd.


Finally, the hands that planted the seeds also help humanity in these ways:

They offer educational series, school gardens program (connects schools with garden education), Jail Gardens Program (Sarasota County jail): they raise beds at jail and teach inmates how to grow their own food. Some leave prison and go into the culinary industry.

~ Andrea Martone

Chief Editor, Sarasota Events Calendar. President,