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. Learn more about the Help Desk, Training and Speakers Bureau below.
Need to contact the Help Desk?
We're still here to help you grow! The Kane County Master Gardener Help Desk is now available via email, phone or in-person
- 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday at 630-584-6166 or 535 S. Randall Road, St. Charles 60174
Want to email your question? Please send a detailed message with your question, and a volunteer will get back to you. Please see the tips below to guide your submission. We look forward to helping you!
General Help Desk Email Submission Tips:
- Email: email@example.com
- In addition to your question, 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.
- Please check your photos before submitting them. Are they clear and in-focus?
- When possible, please include a size reference in your photos (such as a pen, ruler, or a coin).
- For plant identifications, please include photos of the whole plant AND close-ups of plant parts.
- Parts may include leaves, flowers, roots, fruit, seeds, etc.
- Send a maximum of 10 images per sample/question.
University of Illinois Extension is pleased to present these horticultural programs to educate and entertain your Kane County group. Contact Program Coordinator Sarah Fellerer at (630) 584-6166 to schedule a class or series of classes or fill out the Speaker's Bureau Program Interest form.
General Garden Topics
Attracting Butterflies to the Garden
Brightly colored butterflies are not only an attractive addition to your garden, they are useful pollinators. Learn about Illinois butterflies and how to design your garden to attract them.
Be Happy and Healthy with Houseplants
Indoor plants can clean the air in the home and bring color and warmth to the décor. Discover which plants are the healthiest for you and how to select and care for the right plant for your space.
Body Smart Gardening
Gardening can be of the most rewarding activities with fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers and expanses of lawns dotted with trees. However, gardening can take a toll on the body, whether you are young or old. This program will give your group steps to make gardening more enjoyable. Topics will include the gardener’s health, clothing, tools, and methods.
Discover the many benefits of home composting. A Master Gardener will discuss how to turn landscape waste into high-quality compost that you can use to enrich your soil.
Carrots in the front yard? Enhance the bounty of your landscape by growing and eating ornamental flowers, herbs, vegetables and vines that look and taste terrific.
Growing and Using Herbs
Herbs are a healthy way to introduce new flavors into your diet, new fragrances into your home and add texture to your garden. This class will discuss growing, collecting and preserving techniques for all kinds of herbs and offer suggestions for using herbs in cooking. This is one of our most popular, highly attended programs.
Did you know there are many insects that help control pests? In fact, they outnumber damaging insects, especially in the right habitat. We can greatly increase the number of beneficial insects in our gardens by providing a place for them to live and thrive. Insect hotels promote populations of the “good guys,” including pollinators. Lead by U of I Extension Master Gardeners.
Landscaping for Dogs
You can have a dog and a beautiful yard at the same time. A U of I Master Gardener will present ideas on how to share your outdoor living space with your four-legged friends. The presentation will include tips for choosing plants, strategic plant placement, and dog-tolerant plants to create a place for both two and four-legged members of the family to play and relax.
Insects make up the vast majority of animals that pollinate plants. Find out how you can support our native pollinators in your own backyard.
Planning and Planting a Vegetable Garden
Feed your whole family the fruits and vegetables they enjoy from your own garden. From site preparation (size, location and soil) through harvest, a Master Gardener will give your audience the tips and tricks for successful vegetable gardening.
Planting Trees Properly
Research has revealed that incorrect planting is the leading cause of premature death in trees. Let a Master Gardener explain the latest methods of planting and provide information about tree selection and after-planting care.
Discover the advantages of using prairie plants in the home landscape. Learn how to incorporate prairie plants into an existing garden, the fundamentals of starting a new prairie bed, why prairie plants have survived for 8,500 years, and how to be a part of preserving Illinois’ heritage.
Preparing Your Garden for Spring
Learn the seasonal chores that should be done in spring to get your garden off to a good start. Topics covered include planting seeds indoors and out, planting cool-season flowers, seasonal lawn care as well as watering, fertilizing, dividing and pruning.
Preparing Your Garden for Winter
End of season tasks prepare your garden for winter and make next season’s garden more successful. Topics include fertilization, watering and weed control, care of perennials, planting spring bulbs and more.
Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening
Above ground growing systems provide for safe and fruitful production of backyard vegetables. A Master Gardener will discuss how to maximize your space, select soil, fertilizing tips and construction material options.
Saving your own seeds is easy and free. A University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener will discuss how to save seeds from your own garden. Find out which seeds are worth the effort and which are not along with methods of cleaning and storing your seeds.
Starting your own seedlings for the garden is a great way to save money and grow varieties of flowers, vegetables and other plants not usually found in stores or garden centers. A University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener will present tips on starting your own plants from seed, including soil preparation, container selection, lighting options and troubleshooting.
Selecting Trees and Shrubs
Trees and shrubs are the backbones of a well-landscaped garden. Their shapes, colors, flowers, and fruits change with the seasons providing beauty throughout the year. Learn how to select the proper trees and shrubs for specific sites. This class is very popular with new homeowners.
Discover the joys of shade gardening. This program will discuss the different types of shade and the special care needed when gardening in the shade. Plus, how to select annuals, perennial bulbs, ground covers, and woody plants that will shine in the shade garden.
Summer Flowering Bulbs
Blooms from bulbs don’t have to end with fading tulips. Explore the many bulbs that contribute dazzling flowers and foliage in the summer garden. Learn how to care for these bulb beauties and their perennial companions.
Resilient gardeners deal with unpredictable issues to produce food that can sustain during challenging times. Health, diet, weather and financial situations are taken into account as Master Gardeners discuss sustainable, survival gardening techniques. Learn concepts such as watering, soil fertility, seed selection, seed saving and harvesting and storage.
The Tomato Clinic: Diagnosing Tomato Troubles
Tomatoes are a garden favorite and easy to grow, but they can succumb to a variety of ailments. Prevent disappointing yields by learning how to identify common disease symptoms, nutritional disorders and insect pests. Growers will be armed with a prescription for tomato success.
Start making the richest soil around. Let worms recycle your kitchen waste and newspapers into something you can use. Vermicomposting is a great learning experience for kids and adults. Learn how to keep happy and productive worms that will create rich castings to use as fertilizer in your houseplants and garden.
Wildlife Habitats in Home Landscapes
No matter what size your yard is, you can create an environment that attracts and sustains beautiful and interesting wildlife. The sounds, activities and antics of wildlife are wonderful additions to the home landscape. Learn how to provide the proper food, water, cover and brooding sites to attract and maintain birds, butterflies and other wildlife.
Young Audience Topics
This program is aimed at 1-4 grades. With a PowerPoint presentation, we watch the life cycle of a butterfly and explore flowers that are nectar and host plants. We read a book about butterflies and plant seeds to start a butterfly garden at home.
The tree that stays green all year is the focus of this lesson for grades K-2. We compare and contrast leaves with evergreens, play a matching game of different evergreen samples, read a story about recycling a Christmas tree and make bird feeders out of pinecones.
From Seed to Pumpkin
This program, for grades K-2, and introduces the students to the life cycle of pumpkins. Using a felt board story, kids will sharpen observation and sequencing skills. We end with fun pumpkin facts.
Herman the Worm
Herman the Worm is a one-hour activity led by Master Gardeners and is designed to introduce K-5 students to worm anatomy, physiology, behavior, and basic composting. Students receive hands-on experience with living organisms by investigating a live worm with a magnifying glass, learn about worm anatomy with the help of an anatomical puppet, and discuss the role of worms in the environment.
Parts of the Plant We Eat
Did you know we eat tree bark? This lesson explores the different parts of plants and discovers where our food comes from. Includes reading a humorous story and a categorizing game. For kids K-2.
The Illinois Prairie
This lesson for K-2 is aimed at understanding native plants that once grew in abundance in Illinois. We discuss about the different types of prairies, their locations, and how rain affects the types. Kids will explore some individual plants that make up the prairie and learn how Native Americans used them. Each child receives a prairie plant seed to take home and grow.
Scheduling a Master Gardener Speaker
University of Illinois Extension is pleased to present these horticultural programs to educate your group. To request a program for your Kane County organization, please contact Program Coordinator Sarah Fellerer at 630-584-6166 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Requests should be made four weeks in advance in order to coordinate our volunteers’ schedules.
Due to reductions in government funding for University of Illinois Extension, a fee for our Speaker’s Bureau programs is now necessary.
- Groups of 25 or larger: $100
- Groups of less than 25: $75
- School presentations: $15 per class
Interested in volunteering? You do not need to be an experienced gardener to qualify. If you are looking for a way to give back and to grow your knowledge of horticulture, this may be the opportunity for you.
Master Gardener Training
The 2021 Master Gardener training program for residents of Kane and Kendall counties is currently under development. Due to a variety of factors, we are in the process of exploring new opportunities and reassessing the training format options. We hope to have details available sometime this spring.
Master Gardener training includes core topics, such as botany, soils and fertilizers, vegetables, woody ornamentals, fruits, insects and disease diagnosis, pesticide safety and perennials. The training fee includes a copy of the award-winning University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Manual.
An informational meeting will be held in mid-summer 2021. Click here to receive notification when the informational meeting is scheduled, then watch your email for an invitation in June. Interested volunteers fill out an application, complete an interview process, and background checks are required.
You don’t have to be an experienced gardener to qualify; having an interest in volunteering, a desire to learn new things, and the ability to share that newfound knowledge is all it takes. In Kane and Kendall counties, Master Gardener volunteers staff the Master Gardener Help Desk, answering residents’ garden and landscape questions via phone, email, or during in-person office hours. Master Gardeners also reach into the communities with service projects in partnership with local organizations.
The Master Gardener training includes 60 hours of horticultural training in a wide variety of topics. In return, trainees are required to volunteer 60 hours to the program. Staffing the Master Gardener Help Desk is required for the first 30 hours. The Help Desk is open to the public Monday through Friday during the growing season.
Local Events & Resources
Blog: Over the Garden Fence
Gardener's Corner - Fall 2020
Winter Series Open for Registration
More resources and information coming in Spring 2020!
- Find the Sherman Natural Prairie and Community Garden on Facebook
- Access helpful gardening reference materials from the Sherman Garden Master Gardener team at https://go.illinois.edu/ShermanGarden. These informational cards are sorted by topic in three categories:
- Getting started
- Diseases & pests
- Garden upkeep