One of these years, I'm going to sign up for the Master Gardener program at the U. Until then, I think I've found a pretty good alternative. I've been volunteering to help Master Gardeners with their community gardening projects in my neighborhood.
It started a couple of years ago when I agreed to help clear a ditch to make way for a raingarden. Working alongside a couple of Master Gardeners, I learned to identify buckthorn and some other weedy trees. Better yet, I got my hands on a Weed Wrench. It's a great tool -- very effective, and fun to use. It's a bit pricey for something I need for a few hours, once or twice a year, but one the local Master Gardeners has one that she loans to people in the neighborhood.
Since then, I've helped with three or four other ongoing projects. For a little sweat and time, I've learned a lot about container gardening, native prairie plants, trees, insect pests, rain gardens, and edible weeds.
If you are free at noon on Sunday, September 13 and you want to learn about natives, consider helping with the Friends of Horton Park as they work on their native wildflower gardens.