1. Published

    By Carla Rich Montez, Extension Master Naturalist serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties

     

    “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

  2. Published

    By Jeff and Nancy Staecker, Extension Master Naturalists serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell counties

  3. Published

    Flowers are a wonderful way to make any wedding day special.  There are many ways to choose beautiful and sustainably grown and arranged flowers. 

    Choose a local source for your blooms.

    Flowers that are locally grown have a much smaller carbon footprint than flowers flown thousands of miles in refrigerated containers.  By choosing locally grown flowers for your wedding décor, you are getting fresh, high-quality blooms and can be a cost-effective option. 

  4. Published
    Only accept plants...
    • From gardeners that have looked for jumping worms 
    • That don't come from an area known to have jumping worms.
    • If there is no evidence (like soil that resembles coffee grounds) to suspect there are jumping worms at the site that produced these plants/materials.
    Use these practices to prevent their spread:
    • Remove soil from all plants before transporting them
      • This limits the spread of weeds and worms by removing most earthworm egg cases or weed seeds.
    • Wash roots
      • Completel
  5. Published

    Originally posted April 15, 2021

    Jumping worms (Amynthas spp) are an invasive earthworm probably brought into the country as fishing bait. They go by many names, such as crazy worms, Alabama jumpers, or snake worms. These worms are known to change the soil structure, deplete available nutrients, damage plant roots, and alter water-holding capacity of the soil. This is especially a concern in our forests, where organic matter is limited. It is important to stop the spread of jumping worms. 

  6. Published
    • Thoroughly clean tools, shoes, and vehicles when moving from one site to another.
    • Only purchase compost, mulch, or other organic matter that has been heated to appropriate temperatures and duration to reduce the spread of pathogens, insects, and weeds. Jumping worm egg casings do not survive temperatures over 104°F
    • Remove adult jumping worms.  Place adults in a plastic bag and leave in the sun at least 10 minutes.
  7. Published

    Spring brings thoughts of beautiful, colorful, fragrant blooms that brighten up our landscapes after a long winter.  

    But we aren't the only ones on the lookout for flowers. Pollinators are looking for them also. Heirloom flowers provide these pollinators with more of the resources they require. 

  8. Published

    Two houseplants that are often confused with each other are philodendron and pothos. Many houseplants are referred to as philodendron, but most are probably actually pothos. Both are vining plants with green leaves, but they have some distinctive characteristics that will help you to tell them apart.

    Philodendrons

    Philodendrons are popular because they tolerate very low light and variable temperatures.

  9. Published

    Bring nature to the table this Thanksgiving by creating decorations from collected natural materials. Fall is a great time to explore outdoors and use what you find almost directly in arrangements after gathering.

    Dry not Damp

    Make sure to collect when material is dry. Damp material breaks down more quickly. Collect more than needed because dried material is fragile. Choose only material that is free of insect and disease damage. 

  10. Published

    As the temperatures get colder and gardening work outside slows down, you might be looking for a plant growing project to do inside. I encourage you to try aquarium aquaponics.

    There is a natural mutually beneficial relationship between plants and aquatic animals such as fish. The fish are making waste that is high in nitrogen and other nutrients. Nitrogen levels can become toxic to the fish if it is not removed from the water. 

  11. Published

    There are many reasons to grow your vegetables, including health benefits, better flavor, and environmental protection. The health benefits are exponential with the combination of nutrients, sunshine, and exercise gained through vegetable gardening.

    Studies show that those who garden are more likely to eat more vegetables. Vegetables are a good source of essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin A, potassium, and fiber for example. As you work outside in the sunshine, you are aiding your body in the production of vitamin D. 

  12. Published

    What was that really excellent pepper variety we grew last year? 

    What type of tomato was resistant to disease? 

    Those are the types of questions we think we will always remember the answer to, but now we are coming into the 2020 garden season; some of those details have slipped our mind. This season you might want to consider a garden journal to keep that type of information where you can use it in the future. 

  13. Published

    Do you enjoy watching bees buzzing around your flowers, butterflies resting in the sun, or a fat toad sitting in a shady spot? Making your garden wildlife-friendly starts with knowing what will attract birds, insects, and animals to your yard. Wildlife needs water, a food source, shelter, and space. Small changes in your garden habitat can make a big difference to the wildlife you wish to attract.

  14. Published

    University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit is pleased to announce Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle, of East Peoria, has joined the team as the new horticulture educator. Her new role will include a wide range of horticulture programs, educational resources, and overseeing the unit Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs.

    “Attending the Master Naturalist training last year was one of my favorite educational experiences,” mentioned Nicole. “It is exciting to be working with that program in my new position.”

  15. Published

    Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

    It is difficult to write this article, as it is my last one. After 30 years of service, I retire October 1 from University of Illinois Extension.

    Over the years, writing this blog has been one of my favorite tasks. Through these many articles, we have explored many horticultural topics together, and I have learned so much along the way.

  16. Published

    As I wrote last week, I retire on October 1 after 30 years with University of Illinois Extension and am focusing my last couple columns on my favorite plants. Although I love many flowers, the poppy is probably my favorite. I am not sure why, but I have a fascination with poppies. I collect antique Hall China in the orange poppy pattern and have my kitchen decorated in poppies.

    There are many different types of poppies. One source lists 39 different species alone. Most people grow either the perennial Oriental poppy or one of the many annual-type poppies.

  17. Published

    I retire on October 1 after 30 years with University of Illinois Extension. I've decided to focus my last couple columns on my favorite plants. I'll start with herbs. As most of my regular readers know, I grow a lot of herbs and use them to make a variety of tea blends.

    Over the years, I've found that teas are much more than just a beverage. Sitting down to a cup of tea is a great way to lift us out of the hurrying present, even if just for a little while.

  18. Published

    While enjoying coffee in the garden, I noticed that my largest ornamental banana is starting to flower. For many years I've been growing banana plants around my pool to give it a tropical feel in the summer. By autumn they have large stems with four- to five-foot-long leaves that sour to heights over ten feet tall.

    Bananas are grown here for their ornamental value. Although some might bloom, we don't have a long enough growing season for fruit to develop and ripen.

    Ornamental bananas come in a variety of leaf colors from green to variegated green and red.

  19. Published

    I love the taste of Concord grapes. As a child, I remember eating grapes directly from the vines. TO me, there is no flavor comparison between concord grapes and store-bought grapes.

    Concord grapes grown in central Illinois are quite different from most store-bought grapes. They are different types. Our native Concord and Niagara grapes are slip-skin types, which means that the skin easily slips away from the fruit pulp. Most store grapes are native to Europe and are called fixed skin varieties because the skin and pulp are all in one.

  20. Published

    Begin your spring flower display by planting bulbs this fall. It seems like a lot of work now, but after the long winter, you will really enjoy those blooms.

    In addition to the standards, such as tulips and daffodils, try some of the other small flowering bulbs. For example, anemones, snowdrops, and winter aconite all bloom very early and have especially beautiful flowers. Snowdrops are among the smallest and daintiest of the spring-flowering bulbs and often flower in early March before all the snow has gone. The latest to bloom are alliums at the end of June.