1. Published

    The smells of Thanksgiving dinner highlight a holiday centered around family, friends, and giving thanks. Heartwarming and tempting, the aromas of freshly baked dishes would not be the same without the addition of herbs like thyme, sage, rosemary, and parsley.

    This holiday season, consider herbs you could grow in your own garden or plant a container of herbs indoors for an uplifting scene of green and quick access to fresh flavor. 

  2. Published
    Children dream of being great things.

    With imagination and energy, children envision their futures in many professions – some humble, some in the light of fame. As adults, our jobs do not always align with our youth ambitions, but if your childhood dream involved being a scientist, Citizen Science may satisfy your thirst for scientific exploration.  

  3. Published

    Stepping outside on a cool fall day, I can recall the childhood joy of fall leaves and singing, “leaves are falling, leaves are falling...” as we watched the autumn scene unfold before us. The colorful fall leaves once hanging from the trees are now a patchwork of various shades and shapes scattered across the lawn and landscape. As their muted palate dulls to brown, these dried, decomposing leaves become a great free source of nutrients for your yard or garden.  

  4. Published

    Imagine owning and running the business of your dreams, and not being in control of one of the most stressful aspects of a business: the cost of production. For many, this situation is not a fantasy, it is a reality.

    According to recent USDA data, farm sector production expenses for farmers both large and small are almost 18 percent higher on average compared with this time last year.

    In an environment of 40-year-high-inflation, farmers are experiencing increased risk in two of the five USDA-recognized categories of risk:

  5. Published
    Fall is the season of change. With shades of red, yellow, orange, bronze, brown, and purple scattered through the landscape, Central Illinois becomes a beautifully painted scene.  

    Deciduous trees, those that lose their leaves every fall, create a stunning fall display as they prepare for winter temperatures.

  6. Published

    The gardens of Livingston, McLean and Woodford Counties grew with great pride this summer because they were deemed Giving Gardens.

    In 2021, amid poor economic conditions and stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Illinois Extension serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties began the Giving Garden program.

  7. Published

    Imagine your last visit to a beloved family home, arriving as a freshly baked pumpkin pie was pulled from the oven. If you take a moment, I bet you can almost smell it. 

    Many people have this olfactory memory of the most well-known winter squash: the pie pumpkin. Others are also familiar with the smell or taste of pie pumpkin’s common cousins: spaghetti, acorn, and butternut squashes.

  8. Published

    Keep your thumb green this winter by caring for beloved garden plants indoors. The chill of winter may seem far off, but the threat of frost is nearly here. On average, the first frost in Central Illinois is mid-October, but it can occur sooner. Act now - move your favorite garden plants indoors before a damaging frost.

  9. Published

    Growing up on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin I spent my weekends, and sometimes weeknights, in bogs, old-growth forests, and hilly landscapes formed by glacial deposits. Few kids have the opportunity to develop an interest and purpose from up close interactions with these rich ecosystems. Because of these regular visits, a love of hiking and exploration resides in my core. When life is stressful, a return to nature is my best medicine.

  10. Published

    Your garden's floral showcase may be ending but the flowers need not disappear. Extend the life of floral garden favorites by preserving them for indoor decor. The art of preserving flowers and plant materials has been practiced for hundreds of years; colonial Americans harvested and dried flowers to decorate their homes for the long winter season. In similar fashion to early American homes, dried flowers and foliage can be used to create wreaths, potpourri, vase arrangements, or other gifts.

  11. Published

    When local orchard branches are laden with delicious jewels of fruit, the apple season has arrived. Before sinking your teeth into this year’s harvest, consider the rich history of this commonplace fruit.

  12. Published

    Nothing says summer like a brightly blooming sunflower (Helianthus annus). Often considered a weed in a farmer's field, many homeowners find joy filling their landscape and gardens with these majestic giants. The colorful, sunny blooms elevate a garden display and double as a snack for you and your garden wildlife.  

  13. Published

    Illinois vegetable growers are entering the toughest six weeks of the year. Despite the seasonal demands, soil health depends on timely planning of a fall cover crop.

    A fall cover crop is planted in August, grows in fall, and terminates after several hard frosts in winter.

    Why plant a fall cover crop? The benefits of a cover crop include increased soil fertility, enhanced weed suppression, and increased soil organic matter. Regardless of farm size, a fall cover crop will positively impact any vegetable operation.

  14. Published

    Roadsides and ditches are drawing the eye of humans and butterflies alike as common milkweed plants (Asclepias syriaca) return to the summer scenery. While this plant proves unpopular for its weedy habit, it is a necessity for the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) as the sole food source of the monarch caterpillar. The good news is, with twenty-two species of milkweed native to Illinois, every gardener can find a favorite alternative to common milkweed.

  15. Published

    When the garden harvest has matured, the work has not stopped. In North Normal, a harvest of potatoes and onions is ending but the storage preparation has just begun. If your home harvest is happening now, don’t let poor handling rot the product of your hard-earned gardening season. Follow these simple steps to prepare your vegetables for short and long-term storage.  

  16. Published

    You enjoy fresh fruit and now you want to grow your own. Starting a garden requires plants and some growing knowledge. The problem is, growing your own food is a long-term commitment that can be intimidating. University of Illinios Extension believes growing your own food should be a joy, not a burden. Join friends and neighbors at The Refuge Food Forest and let us help you grow your first harvest. 

  17. Published

    Spice up your life with a little spice in the garden. Historically used for culinary and fragrance purposes, herbs are both beautiful and versatile. In addition to the freshly harvested ingredients for our summer recipes, herb foliage and blooms offer the garden a variety of beautiful textures, shapes, scents, and colors. They are the perfect addition to a sensory garden, an area designed to stimulate one or more of the five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch.

  18. Published

    Red, white, and blue will make a statement on flagpoles, porches, street corners—even truck beds—this holiday weekend. Join the celebration, plant a festive garden of patriotic color around your flagpole or a red, white and blue front door container to celebrate Independence Day. The addition of blue flowers to your red and white garden is tricky to accomplish, only around 10% of the flowering plants on earth produce blue flowers, but the addition is certain to make a patriotic statement.

  19. Published

    Summer is in full swing and your gardens are planted, but there is still one bare spot in the shade. In a vegetable garden, shade is a predicament.  Have no fear – food will grow here! Plant some leafy greens and lettuces in these spots and feast on many summer salads.

  20. Published

    When home gardens are bursting with an overabundance of fresh produce, growers start looking for ways to share their bounty. Backyard gardeners can help feed their community by donating fruits and vegetables to local food pantries.

    Growers planning on donating to food distribution centers can take steps, even before they plant, to ensure they are providing safe, useable produce.