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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003 02:20 pm

Time to sign up for gardening program

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As our summer flowers fade away and leaves fall from the trees, our focus turns to planning for next year's garden. As you jot down notes on what did and didn't work in this year's garden you may also be compiling a list of questions, such as "why did my mums bloom in July instead of October?" and "why did the weeds take over my lawn?" If you have a desire to learn more about gardening and then share your knowledge with others then the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteer program may be for you.

You don't have to be a gardening expert to become a Master Gardener. All you need is an interest in gardening, a willingness to learn about horticulture, a desire to share your knowledge with others, and time to volunteer. The Master Gardener volunteer program enables participants to serve their communities through horticulture education and promotes personal growth.

The Master Gardener program began in 1972 in Washington state and has since spread to all 50 states and four Canadian provinces. The program was introduced in Illinois in 1975. Today, there are 100 active Master Gardener volunteers in the Sangamon-Menard Unit and 3,500 volunteers statewide.

Participants in the Master Gardener program learn the basics of what it takes to be a successful gardener. Master Gardener trainees receive in-depth, unbiased, research-based training from University of Illinois Extension educators and specialists. The basic training consists of 60 hours of classroom-style training in the areas of botany, vegetables, fruits, insects, diseases, soils, fertilizers, tree and shrub care, and flowers.

After successful completion of training, Master Gardener interns have many opportunities to complete the required 60 hours of internship to become a certified Master Gardener.

The Master Gardener program is designed to increase the availability of University-based horticultural information to local communities and individuals. Master Gardeners are a vital link to answering questions from homeowners who call or come into the local extension office.

Master Gardeners in Sangamon and Menard counties are also involved in several community projects such as Plant a Row for the Hungry, juvenile detention center vegetable gardens, local nursing home horticulture programs, and the Junior Master Gardener program. In addition, Master Gardeners plan, plant and maintain the demonstration gardens in front of the extension building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

University of Illinois Extension Sangamon-Menard Unit is currently accepting applications for the winter Master Gardener training program. If you would like an application and more information about the Sangamon-Menard unit program, phone (217) 782-4617. For a more detailed description of the program or contact information for other extension unit offices, visit the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Web site at www.extension.uiuc.edu/mg/.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.

And the winners are . . .

Ten Sangamon-Menard unit Master Gardeners were recognized for outstanding contributions to the program in September at the Statewide Master Gardener Conference held in Naperville.

The highest Master Gardener award in the state, the Sustained Excellence Award, went to 20 Master Gardeners statewide and three are from the Sangamon-Menard unit. They are: Joy Beuschlein and Caroline Gherardini both of Springfield, and Tari Parr of Chatham.

Statewide, 50 Master Gardeners received the State Outstanding Master Gardener award. Locally, Doris Andrews, Charles Bell, Jerry Blackburn, Ann Hendrick, Gary Lazar, Jane Squires, Cheryl Williams all of Springfield, received this award.

The State Sustained Excellence Award is presented to Master Gardeners who exhibit outstanding leadership and service, are previous recipients of the State Outstanding Master Gardener Award and have volunteered more than 480 hours of service to the program.

The State Outstanding Master Gardener award is presented to Master Gardeners who demonstrate leadership and have volunteered more than 180 hours of service to the program.

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