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The Garden Scoop

The Garden Scoop is a collection of reflections about the Master Gardeners in Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion.
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Why Become a Master Gardener?

Posted by Jenney Hanrahan -

When I am in the company of Master Gardeners I never cease to be humbled by their versatility and the sheer amount of knowledge and talent they possess. They come from all walks of life and are passionate about all aspects of gardening. Their interests cover everything from flowers and vegetables to herbs, gourds and beekeeping. Perhaps, the biggest benefit to being a Master Gardener is having the opportunity to constantly learn more about a subject one can never know everything about. I always come away feeling privileged to be part of such a special organization.

Master Gardener interns attend one class a week for eleven weeks beginning in January. Each class covers a different garden related topic including plant diseases, perennials, insects, vegetables etc. University of Illinois educators teach the classes from a manual developed for people gardening in the state of Illinois. Most interns complete the initial sixty volunteer hour requirement the first year they join. They actually have two years but generally find this requirement to be far easier than they imagined.

Once the new interns become certified Master Gardeners the real fun begins. Master Gardener can be found at numerous community gardens. They work with veterans, children and senior citizens. In our area, they also hold an annual Garden Day each March, Garden Walks each June, an hour radio program on Wednesdays, monthly garden classes, an annual plant sale and a plant share in May.  They have a speaker’s bureau that gives presentations on request to local community organizations. Funds raised by Master Gardeners go back into their community projects; educating the public, and raising an interest in gardening.

The state of Illinois has about 3,500 Master Gardeners. They complete a minimum of thirty hours volunteer work per year along with ten hours of continuing education. Most Master Gardeners greatly exceed the number of hours required because they enjoy the projects and company of fellow gardeners so much. There are 314 active Master Gardeners in Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties. In 2014 they volunteered almost 17,000 hours!

As gardeners we are always excited to find new and unusual plants. We can never resist adding one more perennial to our garden. It is this variety of plants that adds color, texture and beauty to the landscape. A garden with just one or two flowers would be oh so boring. It is the constant change and diversity that we enjoy because a garden is above all else a living entity. Interns represent new plants in the garden and we welcome them with anticipation and delight.


Register for Jan 2015 Master Gardener classes at this website or by calling the Champaign Extension Office 217-333-7672, Vermilion County Extension Office 217-442-8615 or the Ford iroquois Office in Onarga 815-268-4051


Jenney Hanrahan, Univ of IL Extension- Vermilion County Horticulture Program Coordinator


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