The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Time to sign up for the Master Gardener program

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

Earth scattering questions haunt people of the gardening kind. Is quack grass related to duck weed? Where do seeds for seedless watermelons come from? Can dogwood trees live once they've been debarked? If you are haunted by "a need to know" and a desire to share your newly found knowledge with anyone who will listen than University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteer program may be for you.

You don't have to be a gardening expert to become a Master Gardener. All you need is an interest in gardening, some time to volunteer in the community, and a desire to share your knowledge with others. The program is more about connections…. connecting people with other gardeners, with their community, and with reliable resources for information.

Master Gardeners are a vital link in getting practical research based horticulture information to the public through the local University Extension offices throughout the U.S.

Master Gardeners participate in over 60 hours of daytime training on vegetables, fruits, lawns, diseases, insects, soils, fertilizers, pruning, trees, and flowers. University of Illinois Extension staff conducts most of the training. Training follows a Master Gardener manual, which graduates keep as a reference. For people who have a hard time attending daytime classes, training is also available online in Champaign County.

Once training is completed, Master Gardener interns have many opportunities to complete the required 60 hours of internship to become a certified Master Gardener. Volunteering includes answering questions from gardeners in the local extension office. Master Gardeners are not expected to know all the answers "off the top of their heads", but where to find the answers.

Master Gardeners in Champaign County may also be involved in our annual garden walk, give talks to civic groups or work with kids or senior citizens in local community gardens such as the Champaign County Nursing Home, Juvenile Detention Center, Crisis Nursery, Central High School and Kenwood Middle School.

The Idea Garden at the U of I Arboretum on south Lincoln Avenue in Urbana is a shining example of what volunteers can accomplish. Master Gardeners plan, plant, and maintain the garden and present hands-on workshops. It serves as a backyard demonstration garden and a place for experimenting with plant varieties and gardening techniques. It's also a great place to stroll with your sweetie.

Volunteer time fits the specific interests and strengths of the Master Gardener with the programming needs of the county residents. It emphasizes practical gardening experience teamed with the research-based information of the University of Illinois Extension to help people put knowledge to work.

Master Gardeners in Champaign County have regular monthly programs with speakers; take road trips to botanic gardens or power shop at garden centers. Good food and good fun are always a part of the mix. Each year Master Gardeners throughout Illinois get together at an annual conference to share ideas.

Training starts January 25, 2011 in Champaign, but applications are due November 30. Check out our web site for more information and to apply online Questions? Contact Julie Steele or me or phone us at 217.333.7672.

Additional training sites include: Bloomington/McLean County PH: 309.663.8306, Charleston/ Coles County PH: 217.345.7034, Danville/Vermilion County PH: 217.442.861, and Decatur/ Macon County PH: 217.877.6042. Check with your local county UI Extension for details.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in its programs and employment.

Novice or newbie the U of I Extension website has a myriad of horticultural information available whenever you want it. The Gardener's Corner is an online newsletter with seasonal topics. The site also includes a link to Gardener's Corner podcasts. Check out the podcast "Using Conifers in the Garden" as well as several on hostas that I did with hosta and conifer aficionado Deb Guardia.

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