1. 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.  

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.  

  5. 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. 

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Published

    Gardening in the shade can be challenging. Few plants grow their best in low light conditions, and the plants that do often lack gorgeous blooms. If a lawn of large-leaved hostas is letting you down, experiment with uniquely textured foliage and distinct blossoms offered by shade-loving plants. You’ll be eager for a retreat from the heat to enjoy the additions in your summer shade garden. 

  11. Published

    In late May and early June, folks worry it is too late to plant warm-season crops like tomatoes and peppers. Plant now, the timing is perfect for rapid root establishment and healthy plant growth.

  12. Published
    With limitless colors and textures, no porch or patio should sit bare this season. Plant a container.

    The home with a front porch container display always feels a bit more welcoming; the back patio with a well-designed pot always feels a bit more relaxing.

  13. Published
    Your ambition to start your summer vegetable garden is stunting your tomato and pepper plants. This Sunday, let Mom distract you from the gardening itch.
  14. Published

    This past weekend, I was standing in the shade of Hedgeapple Woods at Ewing Park II looking at a patch of native wildflowers where only a year before there were patches of garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle – serious invasive species for our area. In just one year, there was a dramatic increase in the number of wildflowers I was able to spot in these cleared areas. These efforts and more are thanks to the amazing contributions of our University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist and Master Gardener volunteers.

  15. Published

    A full return to farmer's market season is upon us. Producers have faced many hurdles in the past few years; they are relying on your support to stay in business. This article is a refresher to local farmer’s markets in McLean county, in case you have fallen out of the loop in recent years. Here you will find market locations, times of each market, and their date ranges. Folks in other counties are encouraged to get in touch with their town to see what markets are nearby.  

  16. Published

    Many of today’s youth lack a connection with nature or an interest in gardening or growing their own food. One of the best ways to encourage an excitement for gardening is by creating a themed garden. A child’s hands-on, experiential learning style can be encouraged in a themed garden, especially if it’s a garden they help create. Inspiration for the garden’s theme can come from many things: a favorite food, color, or animal; a story – even a historical event!

  17. Published

    With the anticipation of spring and returning pops of color, you may find your forsythia and lilac shrubs are a bit lackluster from improper management.

  18. Published

    Do you grow peppers and tomatoes every year? Are you ready to try something different (or maybe in addition to!) the same-old, same-old? Then you should try growing onions this gardening season. With just 30 square feet of planting area, you could grow the bulk of the onions you cook with this year.  

  19. Published

    As the winter chill thaws, gardeners erupt with excitement for the big botanical blitz that is spring. We scan the aftermath of winter, spotting the evidence of last year’s gardening efforts in our brown landscapes: dried plant stems, partially mulched leaves, and hints of green, our emerging spring bulbs. 

  20. Published

    With over 400,000 species of plants in the world, one might wonder which ones are the best to grow in your garden or landscape. Many plant associations select a “Plant of the Year” using rigorous criteria to highlight plants they feel are deserving of the title. Consider these plants when planning your garden or looking for something new to grow this year.