Serving Cook County

Application period is closed for the fall 2020 Cook Chicago Online Master Gardener training. Please register for Cook County Master Gardener Training Interest List below.

Who We Are

Do you enjoy gardening and would like to learn more? Do you enjoy sharing your knowledge with others? The Chicago Master Gardener 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.

The Chicago Master Gardener Program is for residents of the City of Chicago and nearby suburbs. Master Gardeners are required to do the volunteering in the unit that they train with. There are separate Master Gardener Programs for greater Cook County. These are in the Cook North and Cook South units. Additionally, Chicago Botanic Garden runs a Master Gardener program.

The Master Gardener adult volunteer program is nationwide. Master Gardeners are a vital link in getting horticulture information to the public through University of Illinois Extension offices.

Thank you for your interest in the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program.

Training

Chicago is offering ONLINE training fall 2020. Cook North Suburban and Cook South Suburban units will plan to offer classroom training in fall of 2020.

Please keep in mind that you are required to volunteer a minimum of 60 hours in the unit that you trained in. The respective coordinators can inform you about approved volunteer opportunities within their units.

If you have additional questions about the Chicago Master Gardener program, please contact Latosha Reggans at Lreggans@illinois.edu.

Course Content

Master Gardeners participate in more than 60 hours of training on botany, vegetables, tree and small fruits, diseases, insects, soils, fertilizers, pruning, trees and flowers and organic gardening. The sessions are taught by University of Illinois specialists and Extension educators and are coordinated by local horticulture extension educators. The emphasis of the information is practical, yet research based. Students must pass a final comprehensive exam (all open book).

Cost

The cost of the online training in 2020 will be $400 for the Master Gardener manual, Pest Management for the Home Landscape text, supplemental handouts, administrative expenses and name badge upon graduation.

Hands-on Training during the Internship

In return for the training, Master Gardeners give back at least 60 hours of volunteer time to the Chicago Master Gardener Program within a year. Volunteering can take the form of answering questions from consumers at the Plant Clinic or working on special projects such as The Great Plant Escape, leading school gardens in high need areas of Chicago, providing technical assistance for community gardens, worm composting demonstrations, insect petting zoo at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, alleviating food insecurity through Grace Seeds Ministry, working with patients at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital, the Lurie Garden, Garfield Park Conservatory and providing information at Farmer's Markets.

Updates

Since 2010, Extension has been undergoing a multi-year reorganization in an effort to adjust to decrease funding, especially on the state level. As a result, the number of educators available for teaching the "live" training has decreased. Alternating program years will allow the Chicago unit to explore alternative training formats so that we can continue to deliver high quality training despite reductions in staff.

Over the past few years, interest in the Master Gardener program has increased dramatically and we have trained more students every year. Although the number of participants in our "live" training remains limited due to room size, we have had more and more online trainees. Although online training does not require teaching staff, it does require administrative time to acclimate trainees to the volunteer portion of the program. Taking a year off will allow Extension staff to focus on retention of the existing 300+ Master Gardener volunteers, provide advanced training opportunities and development their potential as project leaders.

Thank you for understanding and respecting our position. Comments and/or questions can be addressed to Ron Wolford at rwolford@illinois.edu.

Reasonable Accommodations

If you need reasonable accommodations to participate in this program, please contact Latosha Reggans at Lreggans@illinois.edu or 773-233-2900.