The counties of Central Illinois are full of magnificent natural areas and rich horticultural sites, from large public parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and rivers to small backyard spaces and community and rain gardens.

These areas represent an amazing natural diversity that enriches our area socially, economically, and in countless other ways such as improved health and well-being.

People learn more about these areas all the time as scientists and researchers study them closely and residents nurture and protect them.

University of Illinois Extension has two very popular and high-impact programs that equip area residents to deeply understand, care for, and enjoy this natural wealth.

The Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Extension Unit announces Core Education courses in Horticulture and Natural Resources for adults 18 and over this fall.

The programs are taught by U of I Extension educators who are actively involved in research, education, and conservation. The programs are an outstanding opportunity for area residents to benefit from one of the world’s leading research universities to acquire the knowledge and skills to become stewards, advocates, and teachers who support and grow our natural diversity as life-long learners.

Horticulture Core Education is open to area residents who are interested in acquiring research-based horticulture knowledge for their personal or professional enrichment, as well as those who may be interested in becoming volunteers in our Extension Master Gardener (EMG) program by completing a short skills training course in early spring 2020.

Horticulture Core Education will take place on seven successive Tuesdays from Sept. 17 through Oct. 29.

Classes will be held in their county offices in Peoria and Pekin, and one will be held at Spoon River College in Canton.

Each day begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 3:30 p.m.

There is a half-hour break for a bring-your-own lunch at noon, as well as coffee breaks in the morning and afternoon.

Classes are taught by U of I Extension educators. Topics by week are:

1. Small Fruits and Tree Fruits

2. Botany and Soils

3. Vegetable Gardening

4. Turf Grass and Entomology

5. Woody Ornamentals and Integrated Pest Management

6. Annuals and Perennials

7. Plant Pathology

The cost of this course is $200.

This covers the Illinois Master Gardener Manual (on which instruction is based), handouts, and related material.

Registration deadline is Aug. 27, and space is limited.

To register visit https://go.illinois.edu/HorticulturistEd

Naturalist Core Education is open to area residents who are interested in research-based naturalist education for their personal or professional enrichment, as well as those who may be interested in becoming volunteers in our Extension Master Naturalist (EMN) program by completing a short skills training course in the spring of 2020.

Naturalist Education will take place Thursday Sept. 5 and then Tuesdays, Sept. 10, 17, 24, Wednesday, Oct. 2, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 15, 22 and 29.

Classes are held at venues around their four-county unit.

Each day begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 3:30 p.m.

There is a half-hour break for a bring-your-own lunch at noon, as well as coffee breaks in the morning and afternoon.

Classes are taught by U of I Extension educators and local and regional experts. Topics to be covered:

Understanding the Natural World & Natural Divisions of Illinois Botany & Soils

Forest of Illinois

Wetland & Aquatics

Prairies of Illinois

Geology

Ornithology & Entomology

Mammalogy & Herpetology

Climate & Weather

Archaeology & Anthropology

Environmental Ethics & Philosophy

The cost of this course is $250.

This covers the Illinois Master Naturalist Manual (on which instruction is based), handouts, and related material.

Registration deadline is Aug. 25, and space is limited.

To register visit https://go.illinois.edu/NaturalistEd

Students of both the horticulture and naturalist courses will receive a certificate of completion.

For those wishing to become Extension Master Gardeners or Extension Master Naturalists, there is an additional three-day volunteer training that focuses on volunteer skills and policies and includes visits to area EMG projects and other horticultural sites and EMN volunteer and naturalist sites. Volunteer training will be taught by current Extension Master Gardeners and Naturalists, Extension staff, and other area experts.

The application process for the Extension Master Gardener and Naturalist Programs will begin in October, and is open to Horticulture and Naturalist Education students who wish to become volunteers.

Extension staff will take time during the course to share an overview of the programs and application procedures and requirements.

If you would like to learn more about this fall’s Horticulture Core Education classes, contact Ian Goslin, ianmg@illinois.edu or call 309-347-6614.

For more information about this fall’s Naturalist Core Education classes, contact Christine Belless at cbelless@illinois.edu or call 309-547-3711.

University of Illinois Extension is the flagship outreach effort of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, offering educational programs to residents of all of Illinois’ 102 counties – and far beyond. Visit us on our local website at https://go.illinois.edu/ExtensionFMPT.