On Wednesday I took at free gardening class that was offered by our Park District. The class was taught by four Master Gardeners who are part of the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners program. According to their website:

“The mission of the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program 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.”

The men and women who taught our class have set up gardens for various assisted living communities and for the benefit of our local food pantry. They are onsite at our local garden plots, are open to questions and offer sound advice for novice gardeners like myself. Master Gardeners, who can be found in all 50 states, offer classes like this to the community at large. People helping people without asking for anything in return? Love it!

I have had good and bad gardening years, and I was happy to hear Master Gardeners shared the same experience. They have also had tremendous gardening years, allowing them to share their harvest and still have too much. To be a successful gardener, they told us we need to have five things: the right soil, the right plant, the right weather, the right timing and the right care. My gardening philosophy has always been buy a plant I think looks healthy, add some nutrients to the soil (without checking what it is lacking), plant on Memorial Day weekend, water it daily and hope for good weather. Apparently, a lot of my gardening success has been based on luck.

All in all, I thought the free class was definitely worth my time. If I take what I learned and all the stars line up correctly for me, I hope to have enough vegetables to give to the food pantry myself. Doing something I enjoy AND giving back to the community at the same time? Priceless.

Update on my garden: I brought my seedlings out on the deck to enjoy the 70+ degrees weather. I gave them plenty of water so they could bask in the sun. I have killed the spinach, onions and lettuce in the process. Everything else is doing fine. Looks like I have some more planting to do this weekend!