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Connection Corner

Planning your backyard garden together can create a lasting love of nature

hands digging in a pot of dirt

One of my favorite gardening memories from my childhood is the small square patch of the garden that my grandma let me plant with marigolds in whatever design I wanted. While the rest of the garden had evenly spaced rows of beans, tomatoes, lettuce and more, my little flower garden was a kaleidoscope of fun colors in no particular design. Being able to come out and see “my corner” made it more fun to be in the garden to do the harder work of weeding and harvesting throughout the summer. My grandma’s love of gardening sparked something in me that still comes through today in my backyard pots of colorful flowers and tomato plants. Spring is right around the corner and now is the perfect time to create some fun memories while planning your own backyard garden.

When thinking of backyard gardening, there are so many different types of gardens it can be overwhelming to know where to start! Here’s a few great resources for some of my favorite types of backyard gardens:

  • Butterfly gardens are a wonderful way to add beauty to your backyard and a great way to support native pollinators.  If your children are interested in butterflies, this Butterfly Adventures video series is a great way to learn about the phases of a butterfly’s life cycle, too.
  • Vegetable gardens help kids learn where the food they eat comes from and is a great lesson in “hard work pays off” as you go through the phases of preparing the soil, planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting. Encourage family members to think about the fruits and vegetables they like to eat and which ones might be able to be grown in your climate.
  • Herb gardens are perfect if you don’t have a lot of space, as you can easily grow them in containers. They bring fragrance to your garden and are usually very easy to grow.
  • Fairy gardens can be so much fun if you are looking for a more whimsical garden that can incorporate art and creativity.

If you are excited to start your backyard garden, but not sure when things should get started, you might want to sign up for the Gardener’s Corner quarterly newsletter for timely information and tips.


Judy Schmidt provides leadership to 4-H metro programming in Peoria County. Schmidt joined Extension in 2001, working as a Youth Development Educator at the East Peoria Center and joined the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell unit in 2011. Her work focuses on 4-H youth development programming in the local metropolitan area, specifically leading positive youth development initiatives for after-school programs, community groups, 4-H clubs and other youth-serving organizations. Her areas of expertise include positive youth development principles, youth leadership, and work with teens as teachers.

Schmidt attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for her bachelor's degree in psychology and also for her master's degrees in Social Work and Marriage and Family Therapy. She is a certified facilitator of the Matrixx System/Real Colors program by the National Curriculum and Training Institute.


Connection Corner:  is a blog that provides timely information, activities, and resources to help you stay connected to loved ones, the world around you, and yourself.