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

"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden...But though an old man, I am but a young gardener."

Thomas Jefferson had innumerable interests and responsibilities well beyond the garden, yet he remained tied to his plot of land throughout his life as the above quote reveals.

If you feel a tug when you walk past a garden, would love to learn more about gardening and then share your newly acquired knowledge with anyone who will listen, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program may be for you.

You don't have to be a gardening expert to become a Master Gardener volunteer. 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 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 educators and specialists conduct 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.

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, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion Counties may also be involved in annual garden walks, give talks to civic groups or work with kids or senior citizens in local community gardens such as the Champaign County Nursing Home, Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center, and US Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital greenhouse in Danville.

If you are looking for ideas for your garden, Master Gardeners provide you with excellent opportunities at the Atwood House Garden and Bunker Hill Herb Garden at Kennekuk Park in Danville, The Onarga Library Idea Garden and The Idea Garden at the U of I Arboretum in Urbana. All are shining examples of what volunteers can accomplish. Master Gardeners plan, plant, and maintain the gardens and present hands-on workshops. The demonstration gardens are places for experimenting with plant varieties and gardening techniques.

The Master Gardener program 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 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. We all know no one ever really "masters" gardening. We are constantly learning and that's what makes it fun. Each year Master Gardeners throughout Illinois get together at an annual conference to share ideas.

Training for Master Gardeners in Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties starts the end of January 2014 in three locations; Champaign, Danville and Onarga, but applications are due December 6, 2013. Check out our web site for more information and to apply online Questions? Our great horticulture team is here to help: in Champaign (217.333.7672) Ava Heap; in Danville (217-442-8615) Jenney Hanrahan and Leah Brennan; our new horticulture educator Diane Plewa; or me at

Check with your local UI Extension for their opportunities.

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

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