Serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion Counties

Master Gardeners are University of Illinois Extension volunteers who share research based horticulture information with gardeners of all ages.

They serve the residents of Ford-Iroquois Counties by organizing programs and projects that extend knowledge on flowers, vegetables, fruit, trees, lawns and shrubs.

Master Gardeners help promote a better understanding of plant diseases, organic gardening, composting, native plants and the importance of pollinators.

In 2018, Ford-Iroquois Master Gardeners volunteered about 1,500 hours making their community a better place to live!

Here are some of the ways they are active in the area:

  • Design, plant and care for an educational Idea Garden at the Onarga Library 
  • Plant and manage a community garden at the Gibson City Reservoir
  • Give Horticulture presentations to the local community with an active Speakers Bureau
  • Hold plant shares each year
  • Participate in the Monarch Watch Program tagging monarchs each September

The Master Gardener mission is "Helping Others Learn to Grow".

Master Gardener objectives are to:

  • Expand the ability of University of Illinois Extension to distribute horticultural information to local communities
  • Develop and enhance community programs related to horticulture.
  • Develop the leadership potential of Master Gardener volunteers 

The only thing our Master Gardeners enjoy more than gardening is sharing their love of gardening with others. Come see their work and be inspired!

Come visit the Idea Garden at the Gibson City Fishing Pond 460 N 300E Rd in Gibson City or at the Onarga Library at 209 W Seminary Ave in Onarga and view sample gardens like the following:

  • Vegetable Garden
  • Herb Garden
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Native Plants
  • Compost Bin
  • Rain Barrel Irrigation System

If you enjoy gardening, like to learn, and like to share your knowledge, then the Master Gardener Volunteer program may be for you. All you need is:

  • an interest in gardening,
  • an open mind, and
  • a willingness to share your knowledge with others.

How to Become a Master Gardener

In-class training sessions are typically offered one day a week over an 11 week period and are led by University of Illinois Extension educators and other horticultural experts.

An online option is also available quarterly and is an at-your-own-pace module. During training, volunteers learn about many different facets of indoor and outdoor gardening.

  • You must attend 60 hours of classroom instruction
  • There are weekly open-book quizzes to complete at home
  • Volunteers are required to complete 60 volunteer hours within two years of training.

Whether you are interested in classroom training or online training, you can begin the application process anytime throughout the year. 

To begin the Master Gardener volunteer application process:

Check the training schedule for your availability. Classes for Ford-Iroquois Master Gardeners are offered in Champaign and/or Danville offices-choose which suits your schedule best. Upon completion you will be a Master Gardener in Ford-Iroquois Counties.

To complete the application process and to maintain certified active Master Gardener status, volunteers must complete:

Active/Certified Master Gardeners

  • Master Gardener Annual Agreement

To Report Volunteer Hours

Report Master Gardener Volunteer Hours - Online 


Attend Monthly Meetings: Meetings are scheduled for the second Tuesday of the month at the Iroquois County U of I Extension Office- 916 W Seminary Ave, Onarga, IL 60955-0163

  • Subcommittee meetings from 9 or 9:30-10 a.m.
  • Business meeting is from 10 am to 11 a.m.
  • Continuing Education offered from 11-Noon
  • Workdays may follow in the afternoon during the growing season
  • No July or December meetings

Volunteer at Onarga Idea Garden and Gibson City Idea Garden

  • Idea Garden Chairs: Gibson City- Donna | Onarga Library-
  • Garden Sections include: Sign Raised Bed, West Border, Cottage, Vegetable, Herb, Butterfly, Natives, North Border, Composting, Maintenance

Speaker's Bureau  presentations available by Master Gardeners in Ford-Iroquois Counties. Call 815-268-4051 for more information

  • Seed Starting 101 
  • Medieval Plants
  • Annuals and Perennials 
  • Seeds, Seeds, Seeds 
  • Fairy Gardens 
  • Milkweeds and Monarchs 
  • Pollinator Pockets 
  • Container Gardening
  • Right Plant -Right Place 
  • Gardening With Children
  • Making a Dried Herb Wreaths 
  • Make a Live Pumpkin Centerpiece with Succulents 
  • Other Opportunities:
  • Raised Bed Consultation 
  • Monarch Watch -Tagging Monarchs in September 
  • Organize Field Trips
  • Serve as Officer 
  • Maintain Idea Garden Scrapbook,
  • Help organize IGA Cookout fundraiser and Plant Share in May
  • Idea Garden Open House 
  • Help with Garden Walk in June
  • Watseka Harvest Days and Plant Share in October

Education Hours Opportunities:

  • Field Trips, Garden Days, Webinars