For the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program, the past four decades can be measured by the millions of volunteer hours given to help bring horticultural help to communities across the state.
This year marks the 48th anniversary of the Illinois Master Gardener program. With more than 3,000 members today, Illinois Master Gardeners have given more than 2.3 million volunteer hours — a value of more than $46 million — to the state.
Today, Master Gardener volunteers, who come from farms, small towns, suburbs and cities, offer numerous educational opportunities related to gardening in nearly every county in the state.
The mission of the Illinois Master Gardener program is “Helping Others Learn to Grow.” After 60 hours of training in topics such as vegetable and flower gardening, insect problems and plant diseases, the volunteers participate in programs throughout their communities.
Some of those opportunities may include speaking at garden clubs, civic groups or schools; answering calls or emails at help desks; establishing demonstration gardens that serve as educational tools; and educating citizens on how to establish community gardens.
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. Once connections are forged, it’s time to get sowing and growing in many meaningful community projects.
The University of Illinois Extension is now accepting applications to participate in the Online Master Gardener Training Program. This new online program allows volunteers, who may never have been able to in the past due to schedule or time conflicts, to complete the training.
This online, self-guided course for Illinois residents can be completed any time of day or night. Set aside about four hours per week for videos, reading the manual and completing quizzes, and the training will be completed in 14 weeks.
The 2019 summer Master Gardener Online Training includes 13 modules — an introduction and 12 subject-areas. Module topics include botany; soils and fertilizers; plant diseases; entomology; integrated pest management; annuals and perennials; trees, shrubs and woody vines; lawns; small and tree fruits; vegetables; composting/organic gardening; and living with wildlife.
Each module consists of several videos and an online quiz; therefore, a strong internet connection is highly recommended. Please note this training is not being offered in local Extension offices, but must be completed through use of a personal computer or other computer access. The registration cost for the program is $300, which includes the Master Gardener manual.
Registration for the summer 2019 class is open now and will continue through Monday, May 20. The class will start Monday, June 3.
For more information, or to obtain an application form, contact the Bureau, LaSalle, Marshall, Putnam Extension Unit at the following: Meg E. Overocker, extension program coordinator, University of Illinois Extension - LaSalle County Office, 1689 North 31st Road, Suite 2, Ottawa, IL 61350; 815-433-0707.
Following completion of the training, Master Gardener interns will work with Extension staff and local Master Gardeners in the Bureau, LaSalle, Marshall and Putnam Unit area to complete required volunteer time through approved community service projects.