By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Kari Houle makes one thing clear about the Master Gardener program.
"What we're hoping is volunteers have a love for plants," Houle said. "They don't have to be a plant expert."
Some expert training will be available for area residents through Master Gardener sessions slated to begin Jan. 23 in Quincy. Application deadline is Wednesday, Dec. 12.
Weekly sessions at the Adams County Extension office, 330 S. 36th, will cover topics including soils, woody ornamentals, plant pathology, turf grass, vegetables, fruit and entomology.
"It's a lot of information," Houle said. "In horticulture, you're never able to know everything. We teach people where to go for information, where to get answers."
Larry Koeller, a 2011 Master Gardener training graduate, said there's plenty of knowledgeable resources in Adams County and even more through the University of Illinois.
"I wanted to expand my garden quite a bit more. To do that I knew I needed to get more information, so I signed up," Koeller said. "The classes were great. I learned many, many things. I found out I was doing everything wrong."
He turned his garden around, and now he volunteers with community efforts including the downtown Quincy median gardens.
"It's fun to do, especially when you're volunteering and somebody comes up and says it looks really nice," he said. "It's very rewarding."
Even more rewards come in fellowship and friendship with more gardeners.
"If you like to work outside, work in the dirt, let's put it that way, it's a great project to have," Koeller said.
After training, Master Gardeners are required to complete 10 hours of approved educational updates each calendar year and volunteer a minimum of 30 hours to their local Extension office in gardening-related projects and educational efforts in the community.
The program's mission is "helping others learn to grow."
Master Gardeners involve people in improving the quality of life by helping them find sound management practices for home and urban natural resources, by creating aesthetically pleasing environments, by promoting well-being through people-plant interactions and horticultural therapy and by contributing to a safe, abundant food supply through home fruit and vegetable production.
Adams County has about 40 active Master Gardeners, and there's about 80 in the Extension unit covering Adams, Brown, Hancock, Pike and Schuyler counties.
"The bigger the group, the more people involved, the more opportunities," Houle said.
Projects in the planning stage include launching a speaker's bureau of Master Gardeners willing to make presentations for community groups and a gardening hotline to answer questions from area residents.
"We have demonstration gardens, community gardens, school gardens," Houle said. "We have all these opportunities, and we don't have enough volunteers to fulfill the projects."
Applications are being accepted for the 2013 Master Gardener training and certification program.
Classes begin Jan. 23 and continue through April 10. Classes meet 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each Wednesday at the Adams County Extension office, 330 S. 36th.
Training in Quincy is only available every two years for the program, which has more than 3,500 volunteers across the state.
The $175 per person fee covers classroom instruction from University of Illinois educators and specialists, hand-out materials and a large spiral-bound Master Gardener textbook/manual.
Application deadline is Wednesday, Dec. 12.
Applications and more information about the Master Gardener program are available by contacting Kari Houle at 223-8380 or firstname.lastname@example.org and at web.extension.illinois.edu/abhps/hort.html.