YARD AND GARDEN: Interested in becoming a Master Gardener? | Home & Garden

Interested in becoming a Master Gardener? This week, Kathy Hummel has the information to help you realize that you might already be qualified and not realize it.

When I retired from teaching 23 years ago, I had a list of activities I wanted to do: writing sparkling children’s books that would have all the publishers clamoring to represent me, taking piano lessons, finishing the cross stitch I’d started 18 years ago, organizing and labeling drawers full of photographs, volunteering at Lincoln Log Cabin and 5 Mile House and taking the Master Gardener training. Hey four out of seven ain’t too bad…

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Partaking in the Master Gardener training and volunteering with University of Illinois Extension’s Master Gardener program has proved to be one of my most fulfilling leisure time activities. The group has a great, friendly can-do attitude, ready to pitch in for our projects. I’ve learned so much about gardening just by chatting with other Master Gardeners. To see if you meet the criteria, try taking this quiz.

1. Are you at least 18 years old? Never fear we won’t ask your actual age.

2. Do you enjoy puttering around with plants? Would you like to study research-based information to learn more about them?

3. Would you be interested in receiving 60 hours of training, incorporating the latest field research from University of Illinois professors on a myriad of gardening topics, including soil types and enrichment, landscaping and lawn care, pruning practices, vegetable and fruit growing, insect and disease management, flower and ornamental cultivation, composting and much more?

4. Would you enjoy interacting with other gardeners, swapping plants and ideas?

5. Are you available one day a week for 12 weeks during February, March and April for the training?

6. Do you have a strong internet connection? The classes will be a hybrid of on-line and in-person meetings.

7. Very important: After the training, are you able to give back 30 hours of volunteer time each year? This can take many forms: working in the Idea Garden, answering gardening questions phoned in to the Extension Office, giving talks to community groups, writing articles for the newspaper, judging 4-H entries for the fair, attending gardening conferences, attending monthly Master Gardener meetings, viewing online educational gardening seminars, working in the greenhouse and Mater Gardener gardens, etc.

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If you answered affirmatively to all seven questions, you really ought to sign up. You fill out a brief application and go through a short, friendly interview process. Applications will be taken through Jan. 24.

To apply visit extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/become-master-gardener or stop by your local Extension office.

Cost for the training is $200 but includes a huge manual, which is yours to keep. That might seem like lots of moola, but you wouldn’t believe how chocked-full of up-to date research-based information it contains. Think of it as getting all that training plus a superb lifetime reference manual. I still refer to mine when I have questions. Financial assistance is available.

One thing Master Gardeners are not. We do not consider ourselves experts in all areas, nor are you expected to be. People often ask me questions out of the blue, and often I confess I don’t know the answer, but I can look it up (we have a superb reference library in the office).

If what I’ve described above appeals to you, why not give the Master Gardener program serious consideration this year? You’ll be glad you did!

If you have questions about your garden or landscape, contact a master gardener at the University of Illinois Extension office in Mattoon at 217-345-7034 or through our online hotline at https://forms.illinois.edu/sec/1523725. Be sure to visit U of I Extension’s horticulture website http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/ and like the Master Gardeners’ Facebook page www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners.