LASALLE — For the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program, the last 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 2,309,348 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 garden 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 our many meaningful community projects.
University of Illinois Extension is now accepting applications to participate in the Online Master Gardener Training Program. New for 2018, the online program allows volunteers to complete the training who may have never been able to in the past due to schedule or time conflicts. This online, self-guided course for Illinois residents can be completed any time of day or night. Set aside about 4 hours per week for videos, reading manual and completing quizzes, and the training will be completed in 14 weeks.
The 2018 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 fall class is open through Aug. 31 and the class will start on Sept. 17. For more information, or to obtain an application form, contact Meg Overocker at the Bureau, LaSalle, Marshall, Putnam Extension Unit at 815-433-0707.