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Sarah Navrotski
Master Gardener Program Coordinator
University of Illinois Extension
1100 E. Warrenville Road
Suite 170
Naperville, IL 60563
Phone: 630-955-1123
FAX: 630-955-1180

Master Gardeners – DuPage County

Master Gardeners – DuPage County

Learn About the Program

University of Illinois Extension - DuPage, Kane and Kendall County Unit, trains and supports adults to volunteer as University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners. The program is designed to expand the capacity of University of Illinois Extension to distribute horticultural information to residents and groups in our community.

Master Gardeners are adult volunteers who have successfully completed the requirements of the Master Gardener program. There are five levels of Master Gardeners.

  • Master Gardener Trainee: A program participant from the time he/she is accepted into the program through completion of the training.
  • Master Gardener Intern: A program participant from the time he/she completes the training with an average score of at least 80% on all quizzes and final exam, through the completion of 60 hours approved volunteer time.
  • Certified (Active) Master Gardener: A Master Gardener Intern who has completed his/her initial 60 hours volunteer service requirement or a returning University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener. Maintaining certified University of Illinois Master Gardener status requires 30 hours of approved volunteer service and 10 hours of update education annually. It is valid for one year.
  • Master Gardener Alumnus: A former University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener who successfully completed the 11 week classroom training and the 60 hour volunteer internship, but who no longer maintains his/her annual active volunteer service and/or education update requirements.
  • Inactive Status/Leave of Absence: A former University of Illinois Extension certified Master Gardener or Intern who is temporarily unable to fulfill Active Master Gardener requirements for health, family, or other personal reasons. Participants may remain on leave of absence for one or two years at a time upon approval of his/her local coordinator. Return to active status after more than two years as an inactive Master Gardener may require additional training.

History of the Master Gardener Program

The Master Gardener program began in 1972 in Seattle, Washington. In Illinois, the Master Gardener program was started in 1975 by Floyd A. Giles, University of Illinois Extension professor of horticulture. The first program was offered in Will County, and in 1976, training was conducted jointly for Will and DuPage counties. Today, the program is offered in nearly all the counties of Illinois. To date, more than 6,000 people have been trained. The Master Gardener program is now in all 50 states and several Canadian provinces.


The Master Gardener curriculum is taught by University of Illinois Extension educators. There are 12 classes, which are held once per week, 8:45 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., during the months of September, October and November. Attendance at all Master Gardener training classes is required.


The topics that are covered include: introduction to University of Illinois Extension, basic botany, soils, composting, woody ornamentals, introduction to entomology, growing tree fruits and small fruits, home lawn care, pesticide safety, plant pathology, vegetable gardening , herbaceous ornamentals, home, yard and garden insects, and diagnosing plant problems. An informational session on volunteer projects, office procedures and reporting is also offered.

There are weekly, take-home quizzes and a comprehensive final exam. Students must complete and pass all quizzes and the final (all open-book) with at least an 80 percent score.


A fee of $350.00* is charged to cover the costs of the University of Illinois Master Gardener manual and all other supplemental handouts.

* A donation of $450 is required for individuals who cannot provide 60 hours of volunteer time.

If you need to drop out of the program during training, you will be asked for a donation based on a percentage of the $450 pro-rated by the number of sessions attended (i.e.: quarter, half) to cover the cost of training and materials.

If you are unable to fulfill the volunteer requirement, you will be asked for a donation based on a percentage of the $450, prorated by the number of volunteer hours completed and hours still owed.


In exchange for this unique educational opportunity, we ask that you donate 60 volunteer hours in support of the Master Gardener projects in DuPage County during the months of January - November.

Additional Educational Opportunities

Throughout the gardening season, additional educational activities are offered to certified, active Master Gardeners.


Each year Master Gardener volunteers are recognized on the state level and local level for their outstanding contributions and achievements. State Awards include the Outstanding Master Gardener Award, the Sustained Excellence Award and the Teamwork Award.