1. 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.

  2. 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. 

  3. 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. 

  4. 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. 

  5. 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. 

  6. 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.

  7. 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.”

  8. Published

    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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Published

    The fall series of University of Illinois Extension's Four Seasons Gardening program, which focuses on environmental stewardship, home gardening, and backyard food production, gets underway soon. As always, programs are available live or on YouTube following the live presentation.

  15. Published

    I love sitting in my backyard listening to the many garden sounds. Wrens sing. Frogs croak. Grasses rustle. Bees buzz. The longer I listen, the more sounds I hear.

    In addition to natural sources, you can design music into the garden. Are you drowning out neighborhood noise or looking for a soothing respite? Loud sounds gently cover up unpleasant noises, while soft sounds sooth and mesmerize.

  16. Published

    Some plants don't seem to play well with others. In particular, a few plants release chemicals to try to keep other plants from growing too near. This botanical war tactic is known as allelopathy. Excerpts from University of Illinois Extension State Master Gardener Coordinator Sandy Mason's The Homeowners Column blog explains this further.

  17. Published

    Fall is known for planting spring flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. According to Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, fall is also an excellent time to plant woody plants and some perennials.

  18. Published
    While walking around our yard last night my husband Mark commented that our gardens look better than ever. We usually spend August enjoying the garden instead of working in it all the time. Still there are several activities that can be done in August.

    First and foremost, don't let up on mosquito control. Dump the water! Mosquitoes will grow in almost anything that holds water. Take a walk around your yard today! Dump standing water at least weekly.

  19. Published

    I have a love-hate relationship with spiders. I am continually fascinated when watching a spider spin its web. However, cleaning up cobwebs can be very frustrating.

    Spiders are abundant (over 1,000,000 individuals per acre in a grassy field) and can be found almost anywhere from the bedroom closet to the 22,000-foot level on Mt. Everest. They are beneficial, feeding mostly on small insects and other arthropods.

  20. Published

    Everyone growing blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries should be monitoring for spotted wing Drosophila, a relatively new invasive pest that infests thin-skinned fruits as they ripen.

    For the past several years, this invasive insect has severely damaged these crops, making the fruits unusable. If you are seeing gross little white maggots in your garden raspberries right now, this may be the critter.