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The University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer program open to anyone with the desire to learn and to share information with others about research-based landscape and gardening practices.

Master Gardeners reach into the communities with a variety of projects in partnership with local organizations, and they also staff the Master Gardener Help Desk by assisting residents with garden and landscape questions.

Volunteers participate in extensive training sessions conducted by University of Illinois Extension specialists and educators in horticulture, insects, diseases, grasses, woody and herbaceous ornamentals, and fruits and vegetables. The Master Gardener program provides 60 hours of horticultural training in return for 60 hours of volunteer time. Much of the first 60 volunteer hours must be completed at the Master Gardener Help Desk, which is open to the public during the growing season (see details below).

Need to contact the Help Desk?

We're still here to help you grow! The DuPage County Master Gardener Help Desk is available via email, phone or in-person as of 5/3/2021.

In-person or phone line hours available 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. M/W/F in Naperville. Learn more about visiting our office.

For email, please send a detailed message with your question, and a volunteer will get back to you, often by the next operating day (Monday/Wednesday/Friday). Please see the tips below to guide your submission. We look forward to helping you!

We're still here to help you grow. Photo of seedlings.

General Email Submission Tips:

  • Please check your images before submitting them.
    • If they look out-of-focus to you, they will not be helpful to us.
  • Send a maximum of 10 images per sample/question.
  • When possible, please include a size reference in your photos (such as a pen, ruler or a coin).
  • For plant identifications, please include a photo of the whole plant AND close-ups of plant parts
    • Parts may include leaves, flowers, roots, fruit, seeds, etc.
  • As with actual samples, please include as much additional information as possible.
    • This could include planting date, age of plant, chemicals used, number of plants affected, where found, patterns, when symptoms were first noticed, etc.
  • Email to uiemg-dupage@illinois.edu

If you are a DuPage County resident and would like to receive information about the next Master Gardener training in 2022, please complete this Master Gardener Training Interest Form. You will be placed on our email list to receive information about the next informational meeting and the application process.

To become a Master Gardener, you must attend the orientation meeting where you will learn about our program and how to apply. The horticulture staff reviews all applications and an interview is required. Applications for 2020 are now closed.

University of Illinois Extension is pleased to present these horticultural programs to your DuPage County group. To request a program please fill out the Request Form.                 

Bargain Gardens - Don't let a limited budget keep you out of the garden. Find out how gardens can be simple, fun, and inexpensive. You’ll learn gardening tips and ideas that will save you time and money.

Bloomin’ Bulbs - Flowering bulbs add color to our gardens from early spring to late fall, blooming in many colors, shapes, sizes and heights. Tips on common and not so common bulbs and their allies including colors, planting, watering issues, and pointers on their use as cut flowers will be discussed.

Bulbs: Basics, Myths, and Truths *NEW* - Bust some of the myths we always thought were true with latest research. This presentation is an interactive style that will allow the presenter to make a statement allowing the audience to vote if they think it is a truth or myth before revealing the answer. This presentation will allow the Master Gardeners to teach the basics of bulb care during the late summer and fall months while gardeners are planting.

Composting: Building Your Garden from the Ground Up - This program touts the benefits of composting.  Improve the health and vitality of your garden by using the organic matter generated in your home and yard.  

Creating a Shady Garden Respite *NEW* - This presentation covers both the art and science of gardening in the shade. Learn how to garden in the shade a give a variety of plant options beyond the usual hosta and fern. You’ll also learn other elements that are needed to round out a relaxing space that connects you with nature.

Designing a Flower Bed with Seasonal Interest *NEW* - Have you ever seen a garden that just took your breath away? You visit again, two months later, and the garden is again in full glory. How do people do this? How do design a garden that offers visual interest through the seasons? This lesson will walk you through the design process step-by-step, You will learn how to plan a garden that will offer you visual interest spring through fall with a few winter accents as well.

Easy Care Native Plants *NEW* - Many home gardeners would like to add native plants to their garden, but are unsure how to start. This program takes a look at the native plants that are low maintenance and grow in a wide range of conditions. Native grasses, wildflowers, trees and shrubs will be covered.

Edible Landscapes *NEW* - By combining fruit and nut trees, vegetables, herbs, edible flowers or berry bushes in aesthetically pleasing ways, edible landscapes can be just as attractive as ornamental ones. Learn how to eat your yard by creating a tasteful home landscape using edible plants.

Fall Garden Clean-Up *NEW* - End of the growing season cleanup can be a daunting task, especially with large yards. This presentation will help organize fall tasks into an easy month-by-month to-do list and provide a printable checklist to help you check-off the tasks.       

The Herb Patch - Whether you’re a new or advanced herb gardener, this program offers information useful in selection, care and uses of a variety of herbs.  (non-PowerPoint)

How to Kill Your Tree: A guide of What NOT to Do - Sometimes a treeʼs biggest pest is the homeowner. This presentation discusses common mistakes homeowners make when planting and maintaining their most valuable landscape investment, their trees.

Late Summer and Fall Colors in the Garden - Late summer and fall gardens often look worn out and tired after the riot of spring and summer color. Our fall gardens don’t have to look tired and past their prime. Many plants are available to give you a fall “WOW” factor. Learn how to rev up your August-September garden with perennials, ornamental grasses and the fall color of trees & shrubs.

The Meaning of Flowers: Floriography *NEW* - Should you send a red or white rose to the one you love? Through the ages, various flowers and floral arrangements have taken on subtle and secret messages that allow us to express our unspoken feelings. Learn how to send the most appropriate floral message to your friends and family.

Native Pollinators *NEW* - When it comes to pollination, honey bees get a majority of the attention. However, many insects play a role in pollination. This presentation will discuss different native pollinators and how to make your landscape attractive to them.

Seed Starting: Giving Your Garden a Head Start - Jump-start the spring growing season.  Learn about the equipment and methods used for starting seeds indoors.  This program offered in winter and early spring only.

Tea Gardens - Learn the history and tradition of tea gardens.  Discover the different types of tea gardens and plants to grow for your very own special space.

Tree Health Assessment - Tree health can be difficult to determine, but routinely checking your tree may help you notice problems as they appear. Join a Master Gardener as they discuss the most common issues that cause tree decline in the landscape and how to identify them.

Vegetable Gardening - Learn the basics of vegetable gardening: preparation of the soil, choosing the right location and selecting plant varieties to help you successfully grow your own vegetables.

Vegetable Gardening in Raised Beds and Containers *NEW* - Don’t have usable space in the ground to grow your vegetables? Learn how to use above ground growing systems for safe and fruitful production of your favorite backyard vegetables. Methods to increase production by maximizing your space, recommended soil and fertilizer practices and construction material options will be reviewed.

Winter Sowing - Learn this easy method of seed starting. Seeds are planted in "mini greenhouses" during the cold winter months, germinate outside, and are ready to transplant once the ground thaws.