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Gardeners' BIG Day 2024 is a great place to learn for gardeners of all experience levels

butterfly on purple aster flower

Join us for the 21st Gardener’s Big Day 9 am to 4:30 pm on April 13, 2024 at Spoon River College in Canton, IL. Registration begins February 1, 2024.


What do pollinators do for us?

Imagine how much an apple would cost if we had to pay a worker to climb around and pollinate the apple bloom. Pollinators are integral to the health and well-being of a garden and are essential for much of our vegetable production needs. Keynote speaker and Extension horticulture educator, Chris Enroth will discuss the importance of bees, butterflies and other pollinators and some basic methods for attracting them to your garden. As pollinator habitat dwindles, come find out what you can do to support nature’s most vital workers. 

There is a wide variety of topics planned for the remainder of the day. 

Breakout Sessions

Starting Your Own Garden Plants from Seed with John Curtis

Garden plants from the store or nursery are expensive and may carry diseases that you don't want in your garden.  They are also often not the best varieties for our area.  John Curtis from the Giving Gardens shows some simple methods for growing your own plants from seed and discusses how it can help you take your home garden to the next level.   

Nature Journaling for a Deeper Garden Connection with Rhonda Ferree

Join Rhonda Ferree, retired University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, to learn how journaling connects us at a deeper level with nature in our gardens (and beyond). In this session, you’ll discover how to record garden activities using creative outlets of self-expression that promote relaxation and calmness. Rhonda will lead you through some fun and simple exercises that will help you experience your garden in a whole new way.  

Shade Gardening with Horticulturalist and Extension Master Gardener (EMG), Ella Maxwell

So many shade plants. How to choose? Ella will share some of her top performers from her garden.  Covered plants will include trees, shrubs, perennials, groundcovers, and bulbs. There is sure to be a new plant you will want to add to your garden.  

Natives- Starting From Scratch with Extension Master Naturalist (EMN) and Master Gardener Gayle Blodgett

Learn about how to get started with native plants. Preparing the site for plants, selecting plants, planning for plant placement, choosing a vendor, and planting and maintaining the site. Native plants are diverse and beneficial and can add beauty and functionality to any landscape.  

Identifying Native Trees with Extension Special Project Coordinator Karen Weigelt

Meet the newest member of our local horticulture team Karen Weigelt and learn about strategies and tips to identify the native trees in our local counties.  We will explore tree characteristics and features to help you tell these beauties apart. 

Seed Saving: Pick, Store, Sow with EMG and EMN Louise Bassett

 This presentation will cover the basics of collecting seeds, how to store them, and ways to sow the seeds. Focus will be on flower seeds, but will also touch on herbs and vegetables. 

Memories of an Extension Master Gardener with EMG Carol Cihla

Carol will share some of the experiences she has had for the past 15 years as an Extension Master Gardener. Many small frustrations can come up when starting a garden whether it be improving the current ground conditions, choosing where to plant certain seeds or seedlings, dealing with animal control or deciding to till the soil or go with a raised bed set-up. Learn from Carol’s experience about ways to handle ways to deal with common new garden situations.   

Conservation@Home with EMG Ellen Denler and Extension Horticulture Program Coordinator Tara Heath

The Conservation@Home program, offered by the Conservation Foundation and University of Illinois Extension, helps central Illinois homeowners make their yards more eco-friendly. The program guides residents in planting native plants, reducing water usage, and reducing chemical use, creating beautiful yards that benefit the environment. Attend this session to learn how you can become a Conservation@Home property!  

Container Gardening 101: Tips and Tricks for Starting a Container Garden with Interim Associate AIT Dean and Horticulture Professor at ICC, Corinne Brown

Learn what container gardening is, how to select the correct container based on size and material, plan for adequate drainage and select the right plants! Come learn a few tips to keep your container grown plants looking and producing their best all season long.  

Weed Management in the Home Landscape with Extension Horticulture Educator, Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle

Weeds are a common nuisance that every homeowner and gardener must contend with. Join us as we learn about a variety of ways to manage some of the most common garden weeds in Illinois. 

Conservation@Home Panel Discussion with Ellen Denler, Tara Heath, C@H members

Have you heard about the Conservation@Home program but are unsure if your property is the right fit? Attend this session and hear some frequently asked questions and answers from our C@H evaluators and homeowners.  

Kay’s Kokedama with Jodi Soler owner of Kay’s Kokedamas

Kokedama is the Japanese art of growing plants in a moss-covered ball of soil. Jodi has always enjoyed working in the garden and learned how to make Kokedamas when she retired. She named her hobby/small business after her mother. In this session Jodi will demonstrate the art of Kokedama! 

Wearable Floral Art Class with Christine Wright Florist Manager at Hy-Vee

Christine will lead a make and take session where participants will learn the art of creating corsage, boutonniere & nosegay. She will also discuss the history behind the wearing of flowers and the tradition of the nosegays. Learn how to use your garden flowers to do a wearable art bar for an event or party. Please bring floral clippers or floral knife, the rest will be provided! 

Morning coffee and breakfast snacks and boxed lunch included. Visit the website for more details We hope to see you there.