ST. CHARLES, Ill. – Each March marks the annual reopening of the Master Gardener Help Desk services in DuPage, Kane, and Kendall counties. These trained University of Illinois Extension volunteers field community questions on trees, shrubs, lawns, flowers, vegetables, and other plant-related topics.

For the 2021 growing season, residents can continue to get valuable personal gardening advice from local Extension Master Gardener volunteers via email requests.

“Popular topics this time of year include weather, lawn care, spring blooms, and starting vegetable seeds indoors,” said Richard Hentschel, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. “Master Gardeners can advise on what needs to be done in gardens and yards, including pruning, dividing, soil sampling, weed or disease control and prevention, and much more.”

To connect with your county’s Master Gardener Help Desk, email your question and any additional information that can help to: uiemg-dupage@illinois.edu, uiemg-kane@illinois.edu or uiemg-kendall@illinois.edu

Your submission should include details to provide background for the Master Gardeners. This may include yard location, planting date, age of plant, any products used, number of plants affected, when symptoms were first noticed, or other pertinent information. They also encourage residents to email a few photos that relate to the question. For tips on taking great photos, visit go.illinois.edu/HelpDeskMGdkk

Trained volunteers answered 571 help requests in 2020

This dedicated Master Gardener volunteer corps of 231 volunteers logged 9,452 hours in 2020. This includes both service projects and continuing education to better serve the communities, and the time is valued at $264,467, according to the Independent Sector value of volunteer time in Illinois.

“Although some annual Master Gardener projects were paused during 2020 due to the pandemic, volunteers still found ways to safely help their communities,” said Hentschel. “For example, they answered 571 e-Help Desk requests from their neighbors and also helped grow and harvest 14,234 pounds of produce donated to area food pantries!”

Tri-county Master Gardener volunteers planted extra garden rows at home or managed donation plots at community gardens to help combat local food insecurity.

“I loved how excited the food pantry volunteers were every time I arrived with my big baskets of produce,” said Master Gardener Anita North Hamill. “We all can use our time and talents to have a positive impact on the people around us. I truly love gardening and being able to share the edible bounty of my efforts with others.”

Master Gardeners also donated 100 bouquets of flowers to “Food for the Soul” and shared research-based presentations virtually or via video on topics related to gardening, horticulture, and the environment.

Local volunteers with more than 100 hours of service in 2020 include:

  • DuPage County – Carol Burck, Ron Fruin, Jan Gricus, Jan Hanson, Linda Kunesh, Leslie Mabbott, Gail Sanders and Paul Stoffels.
  • Kane County – Joan Burden, Patsy Hirsch, Marcia Koenen, Sue Styer, Marty Yochum
  • Kendall County – Connie Hatter

Local volunteers completing advanced training in 2020 include:

  • DuPage County – Urban Trees: Joline Labedis, Cynthia Ward, Tracey Nardi, Tricia Bethke, Cindy Badtke, and Marilyn Smircina
  • Kane County – Ecology: Linda Lood and Laura Zuzuly; Local Foods: Kim Kucik

Local volunteers reaching milestones with the Master Gardener program in 2020:

  • 15 years of service: DuPage County – Tsue Ostermann; and in Kane County – Alice MacCallum, Bonnie Prokop, and Luci Taormina.
  • 10 years of service: DuPage County – Tammy Bottigliero, Anita Casey, Karen Cimbora, Eileen Connolly, Linda Dickerson, Jan Gricus, Becky Jankowski, Leslie Mabbott, Ann Paulikas, Fritz Porter, Donna Ryan and Bonnie Spark; and Kane County – Maryann Metz
  • 5 years of service: DuPage County – Mary Aylward, Nancy D’Aversa, Dawn Halter, Paula Loret de Mola, Sharon Rakowski; and Kane County – Virginia Albertino, Fely Arnold, Julia Barickman, Cindy Bechtold, Joan Burden, Linda Goll, Kara Justice, Karen King, Carol Lussky, Jim McKelvie, Amy Parise, Jennifer Tonn, Ron Usselman, and Debbie Walters-Kaske.

In addition, 25 new Master Gardener volunteers completed 11 weeks of virtual training in 2020. These new interns all represent DuPage County: Jennifer Arnott, Julie Backas, Judi Bult, Nancy Bushnell, Patricia Daniels, Debra Gray, Sharon Keller, Mary Kronenburger, Libby Ludwig, Gayle McCain, Ann McDonald, Mark Montgomery, Dianne O'Donnell, Constance Pachucki, Patty Reed, Michelle Robbins, Dan Roth, Bhargavi Sivakumar, Mary Lynn Sobun, Susan Somers, Adele Southcott, Christen Steinkuller, Barb Tichy, Franny Whitlock, and Karen Zielinksi.

“We have a vigorous Master Gardener program in our three-county unit. Both our seasoned and new volunteers show true dedication to our communities and our neighbors,” Hentschel said. “It’s truly special how these individuals give back to help others learn to grow.”