El Paso Library
In 2016, El Paso library and Woodford County Master Gardeners teamed up to create a pollinator garden within the landscape of the library. The garden may help declining insect populations, including critical pollinators of crops and flowering plants. Previous research has estimated that 40 percent of all insect species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades, a decline driven primarily by habitat loss. The garden features plants like New England Aster, coneflower, Joe pye weed, goldenrod, lilac, and baptisia. The site is a designated Pollinator Pocket and a Monarch Waystation.
Garden of Giving
In the fall of 2016, Woodford County Master Gardeners joined the efforts of the Garden of Giving at Great Oaks Community Church located in Germantown Hills. The 100 by 100-foot garden was started by the church in the summer of 2012 with the mission of harvesting and donating fresh garden produce to local food pantries. Despite new challenges every year: potato beetles, weeds, squash bugs, too much rain, too little rain, they have managed to donate over 33,000 pounds of produce over the past eight years, while creating community with a committed core of volunteers.
Master Gardeners have been using their expertise to help plan out the garden every year and educate volunteers on best growing practices and pest management. They have invited kids from Camp of Champions to the garden to learn about plants and help plant the garden. In 2019, they participated in the I-Pollinate project to help monitor which annual plants attracted the most pollinators to the garden, and to track the number of monarch eggs and larva that were present on the native milkweed they planted. They have also taken part annually in the Community Bash which brings the community out into the garden for tours, food, and games for the kids.
Germantown Hills School Garden
The Simpson-Bandeko Memory and Learning Garden at Germantown Hills School District #69 began in 2006 when two Woodford County Master Gardeners were asked to design and plant a large inner courtyard area at the school so it could be used to memorialize staff, educate students and function as an outdoor classroom. Initial funding came from the Germantown Hills Educational Foundation.
The project incorporates eight individual gardens into this area—a Vegetable Garden, Herb Garden, Shade Garden, Prairie Garden, Bird Garden, Blue and White Garden (school colors), a Bulb Garden, and a Butterfly Garden. The space also features a gazebo, a koi pond and waterfall, with a bridge crossing a stream. All plantings were chosen to look their best and bloom in the spring and/or fall when students are present.
Ongoing maintenance is completed by the school custodial staff and Master Gardener volunteers who spending one or more mornings per week on site throughout the growing season.
The garden has created a new tradition of having third grade classes plant vegetables and flowers each spring before leaving for summer vacation. In August, those former third graders, now big fourth graders, return to the garden, amazed at the transformation, and help with harvest and fall clean up. Fourth graders collect marigold and zinnia seeds in the fall, passing them down to the third graders in the spring. Other grades, including kindergarteners, have planted fall bulbs, while older students have released butterflies, written descriptive paragraphs in English class, or conducted science projects. The space is also useful to spread out and read an assignment, talk to a counselor, or have a speech therapy session. Seventh and eighth graders have helped to haul in and spread mulch and compost, wheelbarrow after heavy wheelbarrow.
It is a beautiful space, a “hidden treasure” that is continually evolving and changing. In a space that not even weeds would grow in, you now see trees, shrubs, perennials and vegetables galore, not to mention birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators, toads, and other friendly critters!
Illinois Central College Demonstration Garden
The Master Gardener project at Illinois Central College (ICC) involves a collaboration of volunteers from from Woodford, Tazewell, and Peoria counties.
The demonstration garden encompasses an area of 5000 square feet which has been developed over the last 20 years and divided into sections to create themed areas. Master Gardener volunteers work to maintain, modify, and support the garden areas to demonstrate and educate the public on best practices.
The garden areas include a raised vegetable section, rose garden, children’s garden, ornamental grasses, small fruits, ground covers, annuals, and several perennial spaces. Hardscapes are also used to enhance the spaces and to provide accessibility. Master Gardeners also assist in maintenance of other areas of the gardens at ICC depending on need, including the Japanese garden, hosta gardens, and native prairie. During the growing season, master gardeners have also been involved in organizing and presenting educational offerings to the public at regular intervals while also serving as an educational presence with informational booths set up during the ICC Landscape and Garden Days, held annually in September.
Woodford County Courthouse
In 2009, Green Acres Herb Farm approached Woodford Master Gardeners to partner on a demonstration garden at the Woodford County courthouse and increase the public’s awareness to the beauty and value of herbs.
Each year, Master Gardeners add new herbs to the collection, labels existing plantings, and oversee general care of the garden. In recent years, the Master Gardeners have expanded to beatifying the building entrance with low maintenance plantings. Their spring bulb display is worth noting!
Master Gardeners use their expertise to educate public on how to grow and use herbs with tips and pictures in local media.
Gardeners' Gathering (April)
Inspiring, educating and encouraging gardeners, whether they have a balcony and a sunny window or an acre to grow. This educational event is for all who love plants and want to discover new gardening hacks and tips while having fun.