Serving Cook County

Who We Are

The Cook South Suburban Master Gardener Program focuses primarily on serving the Cook County suburban area south of Roosevelt Road. Master Gardeners are required to complete their volunteer hours in the unit where they train. There are affiliated but separate Master Gardener Programs in the Cook County unit. These are in Cook North Suburban and Cook Chicago units. Additionally, Chicago Botanic Garden runs a Master Gardener program.

The Master Gardener (MG) adult volunteer program is nationwide. Master Gardeners are a vital link in getting horticulture information to the public through Illinois Extension offices. Education is what we're all about. With no products or services to sell, Master Gardeners can provide unbiased, research-driven information from the University of Illinois to the public.

In need of MG volunteer assistance?

In exchange for this challenging educational experience, Master Gardeners are required to volunteer 60 hours, primarily to share their new knowledge and skills with the community. Master Gardeners are a dedicated group, and many choose to return to volunteer sites year after year to share their knowledge with others. Master Gardeners can provide guidance for school and community gardens, fulfill speaker requests, and answer home gardening questions. To request MG assistance, please contact Margaret Burns-Westmeyer.  ***Please note Master Gardeners do not deliver programs or presentations at private homes.

Course Content

Master Gardeners participate in more than 60 hours of training on botany, soils, fertilizers, vegetables, tree and small fruits, turf, landscaping, weeds, diseases, insects, Integrated Pest Management, woody plants, perennials and annuals. The sessions are taught by Illinois Extension educators and are coordinated by your local county office. The emphasis of the information is practical, yet research driven. There are weekly quizzes as well as a final exam. Students must pass a final comprehensive exam by achieving 80% or better (open book).

Training Dates

Face to Face Training Program: To be held every Tuesday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. beginning September 1 - November 17, 2020. The format for this training will be in-person, classroom training with limited hands-on opportunities. You must be available for all eleven sessions to participate in the face-to-face training. The classes will be held at various locations in/around Cook County south suburbs. Locations may include but are not limited to:

Orland Park Cultural Center, Orland Park

Sand Ridge Nature Center, South Holland

Little Red Schoolhouse, Willow Springs

Lake Katherine, Palos Heights


2020 Face-to-Face Program projected cost: $350.00

The face-to-face training fee covers: Master Gardener training manual, Pest Management for the Home Landscape guide, supplemental handouts, hands-on activities, educational supplies for volunteer-led programs, certificates, name badge, MG t-shirt and class refreshments.

Volunteer Component

Master Gardeners give back at least 60 hours of volunteer time to the Cook South Suburban Master Gardener program within two years. After completing 60 hours of volunteer time, interns become a Certified Master Gardener. As a volunteer, you are required to undergo all necessary background checks. Volunteers are responsible for recording their hours along with the demographics of their audience. Volunteering can take the form of answering questions from consumers at the "MG Help Desk" or working on special projects such as Speakers Bureau, hands-on classroom horticulture activities, leading school gardens, providing technical assistance for community gardens, worm composting demonstrations, insect petting zoo, and providing information at Farmer's Markets.

Our Public Audience

We aim to serve youth and adults of all ages and backgrounds through our public programming. Much of our programming is free or low cost and we typically bring hands-on programs to community groups and centers. University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.


There is a high volume of interest in our program; not all who apply will be accepted into the training program. Applicants must pass an interview and clear background checks prior to acceptance in the program. The 2020 MG application period is now closed. If interested, please complete Cook County Master Gardener Training Interest List.

Please record your volunteer hours for all programs. Use the following link to record your hours. Volunteer Time Tracking System 

Register for the free Four Seasons Gardening Webinar Series on the webinar homepage.

Earn continuing education hours by watching University of Illinois Extension YouTube videos

University of Illinois Extension State Master Gardener Program offers additional resources on the Illinois Extension State MG Homepage.