Serving Cook County


Who Are We?

Master Gardeners are a vital link to getting research-based horticultural information to the public through University of Illinois Extension offices. They are volunteers who are passionate about gardening, plants, community, teaching, and the environment. Delivering horticultural education is what they’re all about! Master Gardeners have no products or services to sell, so they can provide unbiased, research-based information from the University of Illinois to the public. They serve youth and adults of all ages and backgrounds through free or low-cost public programming.

Their mission is Helping Others Learn to Grow. Master Gardeners involve people in improving their quality of life by helping them find sound management practices for home and urban natural resources, by creating aesthetically pleasing environments, by promoting well-being through people-plant interactions, and by contributing to a safe, abundant food supply through home fruit and vegetable production.

The North Suburban Cook County Master Gardener Program serves the suburban Cook County area north of Roosevelt Road.

To continue being certified active volunteers, MGs are required to volunteer a minimum of 30 hours each year and complete 10 hours of approved continuing education annually. Volunteers work in their communities teaching the public about horticulture topics. Please see the program request forms below to request programming! Volunteers also run a year-round answer desk where you can ask your gardening questions.

Have a Gardening Question? Email our Volunteers!

Email questions to

The Process

  1. Apply using the link provided, NOTE: Application period for 2020 is closed. The next training is set for 2022.
  2. Attend a 20-30 minute in person interview
  3. If accepted - pay your $350 registration fee
  4. Attend classes from September – December 2020
  5. Complete 60 hours of interactive volunteer service on approved projects in North Suburban Cook County within 2 years

2020 Training Calendar

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 training has been moved to online delivery.

When the training is held in-person, it is typically held on Wednesdays for eleven consecutive weeks from September to November from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The format is in-person classroom training. You must be available for all sessions to participate in the face-to-face training. The classes will be held at various locations in/around North Suburban Cook County.

Master Gardeners are required to do their volunteering in the unit that they train with. There are affiliated, but separate Master Gardener programs in Cook Chicago and Cook South Suburban and Chicago Botanic Garden that serve those areas.

Course Content

Master Gardener training consists of 60 hours of face-to-face instruction on botany, soils, fertilizers, turf, vegetables, season extension, tree and small fruits, plant pathology and diseases, pruning, insects, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and pesticide safety, woody plants, perennials, annuals, and natives. The sessions are taught by University of Illinois Specialists and Extension Horticulture Educators. The emphasis of the course content is on practical knowledge and is research-driven. There are weekly quizzes as well as an open-book final comprehensive exam in which students must achieve 80% or better.


The cost of the North Suburban Cook County Master Gardener training is $350.00. The fee includes the Master Gardener Manual, other books/manuals, supplemental handouts, educational supplies, a MG Trainee name badge, and a permanent certified MG name badge upon completion of your internship.

After Volunteer Training

Upon completion of the training modules/hands-on training, Master Gardener trainees become Master Gardener interns and are required to volunteer at least 60 hours within the North Suburban Cook County unit within two years, including three 3-hour shifts at the Master Gardener Answer Desk at Friendship Park Conservatory or the Arlington Heights Office answering questions from the public in-person, online, and over the phone. Upon completing and recording 60 hours of volunteer time, MG Interns will become a certified Master Gardener. As a volunteer, you are required to undergo all university-required background checks. Volunteers are responsible for recording their volunteer hours along with the demographics of their audience. Volunteering may include staffing MG information booths at community events, Farmer's Markets and Forest Preserve District of Cook County events, presenting programs to community groups, providing technical assistance and training for community or school gardens, providing watershed or worm-composting demonstrations, as well as other horticultural information-sharing activities.