Master Gardeners

If you enjoy learning about gardening and like to share your gardening knowledge, the 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 role of the Master Gardeners is to share unbiased, reliable, research-based information with home landscapers and gardeners. Another important function is to encourage young people to enjoy the pleasures of flower and vegetable growing.

Master Gardener volunteers work on behalf of and under the supervision of University of Illinois Extension. Volunteers are required to report to their local Master Gardener coordinator about all planned activities prior to conducting the program. While most volunteer work is conducted in the local Extension unit, some projects involve interagency interaction with parks and recreation departments, nursing homes, school gardening projects or other city agencies. One project that is currently underway is the Cultivating Care Donation Garden in Marion!

Become a Master Gardener

The Illinois Master Gardener program is coordinated by University of Illinois Extension, with consultation from local program partners.

When is the next training?

For winter/spring 2023, the hybrid course includes 11 weeks of hybrid online materials and live sessions from February 7 to April 18. The live sessions will take place at the Williamson County Extension office located at 1301 Enterprise Way, Suite 60, Marion, IL 62959 (next to Rural King) from 9 a.m. to noon. Registration is open until February 1.

The training will introduced participants to in-depth horticulture content through 10 modules, including soils and fertilizers, plant diseases, entomology, pest management, organic gardening, and more. The training includes videos, a manual, reading materials, and quizzes. A strong internet connection is highly recommended.

Why become a Master Gardener?

The mission of the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program is "Helping Others Learn to Grow." Master Gardeners involve people in improving the 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 horticultural therapy, and by contributing to a safe, abundant food supply through home fruit and vegetable production.

What qualifications must I meet?

Anyone can become a Master Gardener - it does not require a degree or years of experience. You do, however, need to:  

  • have some knowledge or experience in gardening or landscape management (you need not be an expert)
  • be willing to learn about horticulture and share this knowledge with others
  • be willing to volunteer time conducting horticulture education programming coordinated through your local Extension unit

What is the program fee?

The hybrid option with live, local instruction is $200. The Illinois Master Gardener online option is $300.

This fee for the course covers:

  • 12-week training, including over 60 hours of classroom instruction and field learning.
  • Assistance in finding a volunteer position that fits your personal interests, abilities, and time restraints for as long as you remain a Certified Master Gardener.
  • Continuing-education events and opportunities.

After an application is received and accepted, you will be notified of your payment options.

Steps for Joining

1. Download and complete an application packet and submit it to your local Illinois Extension office.

2. Attend an informal interview.

3. Pay program fee, covering online instruction and Master Gardener manual.

4. Complete the training.

5. Complete the 40-hour volunteer internship.

6. Continue to volunteer 20 hours each year and attend 10 hours of continuing education programs.

Volunteering

To be an active Master Gardener, you must remain current in annual educational updates - a minimum of 10 hours, and volunteer service hours - a minimum of 20 hours, required by the local program. We ask that volunteers abide by the Master Gardener policies. Thank you for all you do for your communities!

Volunteers must complete their annual volunteer agreement form and code of conduct and submit them to their local Extension office.

Volunteer Time Tracking System

We are transitioning to a new tracking system. Stay tuned for more details as well as instructions on how to record volunteer hours in GivePulse.