Posts Tagged ‘Illinois’

2011 Search for Excellence Workshops Category- 2nd Place Winner

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Rain Barrel Workshops- Macon County Illinois

Workshop attendees learn how to properly construct their own rain barrels.

The Macon County Master Gardeners began planning the Rain Barrel Workshop in the summer of 2007. The first hour-long workshop was offered to Master Gardeners with the aim of perfecting a moderately priced and accessible project for individuals of all skill levels. The Master Gardeners began offering the workshop to the public and over 300 rain barrels have been constructed to date. Public interest has increased and there is currently a waiting list for classes! As word spread the Master Gardeners seized the opportunity to take their idea “on the road” and began teaching other Master Gardeners from nine separate counties not only how to construct the rain barrels, but how to host their own workshops. The Master Gardeners are expanding their program and co-taught a rain barrel presentation via teleconference throughout the state of Illinois in April 2011.



To learn more about the Macon County Master Gardeners visit their website at


2011 Search for Excellence Youth Category Award Winner- 2nd Place

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Juvenile Detention Center Community Garden- Champaign County, Illinois

Master Gardeners showcase their Juvenile Detention Center garden.

Champaign County Master Gardeners who volunteer at Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center, won 2nd place in the International Master Gardener Convention, Search for Excellence Award, October 14, 2011 in Charleston, West Virginia.  Master Gardeners have dedicated the last eight years developing an exceptional horticulture program at Juvenile Detention Center.  The garden provides different forms of engagement for youth, including designing, planting, and maintain gardens; harvesting, preparing, and sharing food; working cooperatively in groups; learning about science and nutrition; and incorporating literacy.

The mission of Champaign County Master Gardeners is to “Help Others Learn to Grow.” Every Thursday afternoon, you will see this motto in practice at the Juvenile Detention Center in Urbana. The community garden at Champaign JDC is the site of a year round educational program focused on at-risk youth ages 12-17.  Working inside during the winter on interactive lessons the Master Gardeners prepare their students for spring and summer when they work outdoors maintaining the gardens on a weekly basis.

Working around the inherent restrictions of a secured facility, the Master gardeners have used their creativity to create relevant and exciting lessons. Some the most popular lessons are the salsa-making lesson where students experiment with produce grown in their garden and an indoor lesson that exposes students to familiar and unfamiliar produce (pumpkins, watermelons, squash etc.) while collaborating with a music professor who brings international instruments made from gourds. Master Gardeners and teen-agers have also created a habitat for Monarch butterflies. The garden is now a certified Monarch Waystation.  The garden was also a feature of the 2011 Master Gardeners Garden Walk.

To learn more about Champaign County Master Gardeners view their website at

Written by Julie Steele, Master Gardener Coordinator Champaign County Illinois

2011 Search for Excellence Innovative Project Winners -1st place

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The Emerald Ash Borer/Ash Tree Inventory project by the Boone County Illinois Master Gardeners was awarded first place in the Innovative Projects Category at the International Master Gardener conference. Barbara Wych, chairperson for this project tells us about this award winning effort:

Boone County Master Gardeners show the results of mapping ash tree locations in one township which was surveyed.

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) First Found in Michigan

In the summer of 2002, a ½” long bright metallic beetle native to areas of Asia, was first discovered in the United States near Detroit, Michigan.  This insect is the Emerald Ash Borer and as its name implies, it only uses ash trees during its life cycle.  Tree damage occurs as the larvae or borer feeds on the inner bark, effectively disrupting the movement of water and nutrients and ultimately killing the tree.  If the Emerald Ash Borer is not contained and eradicated the impact of this borer on ash trees in North America will be similar to that of chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease.

EAB discovered in Illinois in 2006

Four years later, in 2006, the insect was discovered in Illinois.  Since Boone County is near this Illinois site, in 2009, the Boone County Master Gardeners took the opportunity to be proactive in the community.  We formed a partnership with the city and county governments, Illinois Department of Ag., the parks and conservation districts, Extension educators and staff.

Ash tree inventory helps community understand EAB impacts, make informed decisions

As part of the partnership, the Boone County Master Gardeners conducted an ash tree inventory by recording the GPS coordinates, measuring tree diameters and assessing the health of all ash trees on all county, township and city right of ways.  This information was entered into the county’s Geographic Information System (GIS) which plotted color coded locations of all the ash trees; green for healthy, yellow for declining and red for dead.  The Emerald Ash Borer/ Ash Tree Inventory project was conducted with two goals that were successfully met; to

1) provide the county with accurate ash tree impact data for resource planning and budgeting, and

2) to educate the community on Emerald Ash Borer facts to enable them to make informed decisions.

County Ash Tree Inventory saves $10,000

Master Gardener Barb Wych teaches homeowners about the Emerald Ash Borer.

In the process, the Master Gardeners inventoried nearly 3200 ash trees with almost 500 volunteer hours.  The inventory process was a cost savings of over $10,000 to the county but beyond that showed the value of Master Gardeners as a significant part of the community.

For more information about the University of Illinois Boone County Master Gardeners, visit:

Written by Barbara Wych, University of Illinois Extension Boone County Master Gardener
Posted by Monica David, IMGC Vice-President

Study on Urban Soil Lead in Chicago Community Gardens

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Have you ever wondered if the soil is safe in urban garden plots? A study at the University of Illinois titled “Testing and educating on urban soil lead: A Case of Chicago Community Gardens” in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development (January 2011) may give you some insight on this topic.

The study goals were to learn how much lead is present in participating gardens in the study; to determine if lead levels vary in different types of garden areas and to inform participants and urban gardeners about soil quality and how to deal with urban gardening issues such as lead, soil fertility and soil pH.

Ten gardens participated in the study and soil cores were taken from raised and non-raised beds used to grow food and also in areas such a playgrounds and pathways. Then the researchers grew lettuce on the soils and tested the crops for quantity of lead.

Lead levels in most gardens were not a concern. Most of the garden plots contained excessive fertility with raised beds containing more phosphorus and potassium than non raised garden spaces. The lack of soil testing among the 10 gardens in the study is likely a contributing factor to the over fertilization of the gardens. Use of raised beds significantly reduced lead levels and therefore less potential risk of lead ingestions from plant uptake. Higher lead levels in soil from adjacent areas supported the notion that areas with bare soil adjacent to gardens may be an equal or greater source of risk. None of the lettuce shoots in this study exceeded the World Health Organization recommendations.

Additionally, a training program about urban garden safety with live and online options was created and evaluated by questionnaires given to Master Gardeners. Both live-trained and online trained groups’ quiz scores improved significantly after the trainings, demonstrating that education about urban soil management can be effective.

By Monica David, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Coordinator