What’s it all about…and What’s in it for you!

A University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener is a volunteer who provides service to the community by assisting people with horticulture issues and teaching proper horticulture practices, using unbiased and research based information.

Before a volunteer can provide that assistance, it is necessary to become educated about what those issues could be and how to find appropriate solutions.  The University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Program provides this training.

Sponsored by University of Illinois, and implemented by Extension, the program is open to Illinois residents 18 years of age or older.

As a Trainee/Intern, you will receive training on a variety of horticulture topics including soils and composting, botany, entomology, pathology, turf, vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants.  Training is offered online through the University’s Champaign campus and will be supplemented locally with evening labs January through April, in Lake County.

In addition to the training and labs, you will have the opportunity to take field trips and attend other workshops and meetings year round. There are also state, national and international conferences you can attend.
The “Illinois Master Gardener Manual” and "Pest Management for the Home Landscape" is included in the approximately $375.00 training fee.  This Manual and Pest Management Book contain information used in the classroom training topics, and are a permanent source of reference material.  The Manual is also available on a thumb drive for an extra fee.

In exchange for the training, as an intern, you will be asked to volunteer 40 hours of service to the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Program.  In order to maintain your status as an Active Extension Master Gardener in future years, you will be expected to volunteer a minimum of 20 hours of service, and complete 10 hours of additional training, annually.

The types of volunteer work includes:

  • Handling phone calls, emails, and walk-ins to the Extension Office, from homeowners with horticultural issues. *Interns are required to work a minimum of 4 shifts in the office. 
  • Manning off site information tables at events, libraries, and other venues
  • Participating in design, construction, and maintenance of displays, exhibits, and demonstrations
  • Giving programs to community groups and organizations – youth and adult
  • Working with and promoting community gardens 
  • Acting as a garden mentor

Okay, you may say, this is all good stuff, but what’s in it for me beyond a lot of study and hours of volunteer work?

Read on….

  • Satisfaction of gaining practical knowledge about growing things
  • Privilege of learning from acknowledged experts in horticulture, entomology, and botany
  • Proficiency to advise and help others with their plant problems
  • Convenience of updates on seasonal problems before they happen…and how to treat them
  • Opportunities to associate with and make friends with others who share your interests
  • Participation in group educational and social activities:  field trips, garden visits, seminars, potlucks, conferences
  • Hands-on experience in planning, preparing, planting, cultivating and harvesting public demonstration vegetable/flower/herb gardens
  • Construction and care of composting sites
  • Knowledge to apply all of this expertise to the betterment of your own yard, trees, shrubs, and gardens

To enroll in the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Program, you must fill out an application at the appropriate Extension Unit. 

In Lake County, the Extension Office is located at 100 South US Highway 45. Grayslake, IL 60030, (847)223-8627.  Email questions to Alex at . The next Course will be in January 2026. More information and applications coming Spring 2025.