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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.

Latest Posts

Grow a more productive garden with a little imagination and hardworking plant combinations

With the spring gardening season beginning, imaginations run wild with gardening possibilities. Some gardeners may ponder the complexities of an age-old practice that is regaining popularity in recent years – companion planting. How do certain combinations of plants benefit from being planted alongside each other, yet other combinations seem to struggle? Uncover the secrets of companion planting and unlock the full potential of the garden. Join this journey of discovery and learn the art of...
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'Plants of the Year' offer beauty and dependability

Every gardener has a favorite plant—or plants. These prized possessions may offer unmatched multi-season beauty, survive tough conditions, or be a rare plant that you have searched the garden centers every year to find. Your connection with a special plant is unique. The joy of this plant cannot be replicated, but it could be enhanced by sharing landscape space with a ‘Plant of the Year’. Garden and plant associations use rigorous criteria to recognize favorite garden plants that are also...
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Ward off the winter blues with plant propagation

In a season of chilly air and cold soil, gardeners cannot help but catch “spring fever”. The remedy for most is trays of soil and tiny seeds – a start of the summer garden – but transplanting those seedlings is a long way off. If plant propagation by seed is too much to remember, try growing plants from cuttings. With a few pruned limbs, you can grow entire plants.  At The Refuge Food Forest in Normal, woody perennial fruit crops require annual early spring pruning of both diseased and healthy...
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Extend the vase life of your fresh flowers with a little care

The delicate act of arranging fresh flowers is a joyful art. Each bloom and sprig of foliage receives special consideration when creating an arrangement as beautiful and unique as the recipient. Local florists are already hastily preparing arrangements for the upcoming Valentine’s Day rush. Aside from Mother’s Day, this is the most popular day for gifting fresh flowers. Completed arrangements sold in a vase are attractive and convenient, but sometimes over budget. Invest a little less money...
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Our local food system through the eyes of bread

One recent Saturday morning, I awoke to an amazing aroma coming from my kitchen. It was slightly sweet, yeasty, and tangy, all at once. The smell was like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold night. My wife had just baked bread from the dough I made the day before, and it was time to eat—heaven on earth, as far as I could smell. As I sat eating breakfast, homemade sourdough toast with a local egg, I thought to myself, this bread is the perfect example of supporting our local food system...
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Discover new ways to garden with ease at the 21st Annual Home, Lawn, and Garden Day

As dormant plants slowly extend bright green limbs from under a blanket of soil, garden enthusiasts thumb plant catalogs in eager anticipation of another growing season. Are you making plans for your bountiful garden? It may be cold outside, but spring fever has hit many gardeners – including this one! Begin the much-anticipated season with the 21st annual Home, Lawn, and Garden Day, brought to you by the Illinois Extension McLean County Master Gardeners.   Keynote speaker Melinda Myers is a...
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Fortify the spring vegetable garden with marigolds, sweet alyssum, and nasturtiums

In late spring, a gardener walks out to their vegetable garden ready to collect a harvest, only to discover shot holes through kale and bites taken out of cabbages – even the tomatoes suffered, with many plants nursing broken stems. As the gardener returns to the kitchen, excitement for the morning harvest ends in disappointment.  Many vegetable gardeners and farmers experience the disappointment of pests pillaging a garden. Deer and rabbits consume tops off fruiting vegetables while cabbage...
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Brighten up dim interiors with low-light houseplants

Uplift any room with the look and life of a lush houseplant. While common in the corner of a bright room or displayed in the front picture window, houseplants grow well, even thrive, in low-light rooms; the key to success is choosing the right plant for the right place. Boost indoor air quality and create an indoor greenspace with houseplants for low light.  Our cozy homes are filled with low-light areas. The spaces near an east or north-facing window offer low light conditions, in addition...
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Love tree fruit, love the planet: Enjoy a fruiting plant for many years

Imagine a warm summer’s evening in the not-too-distant future. A glance out the back door reveals something exciting: the fruit trees, shrubs, or canes that the family planted in spring 2023 are ready for their first harvest. This winter, find a good nursery catalogue to make that dream a reality.   While summer annuals are the most popular edible garden plants, perennial fruits are gaining in popularity. According to USDA consumer data from 2019, the average person eats 10 pounds of apples, 5...
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Keep your Poinsettia looking great and boost your post-holiday mood

With an estimated 35 million Poinsettias sold annually, you may spot this colorful plant on many holiday tables every year. Native to Mexico, Poinsettias are large perennial shrubs growing over 12 feet tall. Introduced to the United States in the early 1800s, it has become one of the most popular blooming houseplants to celebrate the holidays.   Although red and green leaves are common for Poinsettias, there are over 100 varieties available. You can find them in a range of bloom colors,...
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