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    I grew several different types of salad greens indoors this winter. We ate them in salads, on sandwiches, in tacos, and more. With spring just around the corner, now is the time to plant salad greens outdoors in the garden.

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    URBANA, Ill. – After a long winter, gardeners are always eager to get outside again. "Get a head start on your vegetable garden by planting cool-season crops," says Gemini Bhalsod, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

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    The nineteenth annual Gardeners' BIG Day is almost here!

    This year's event will be Saturday, April 14, 2018, from 8:00-3:00 at Dickson Mounds Museum. Attendees will hear speakers, visit vendors, and see gardening displays. Partnering sponsors include University of Illinois Extension Fulton and Mason County Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, Spoon River Garden Club, and Dickson Mounds Museum.

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    I love having fresh flowers on my kitchen table. They bring such beauty, energy, and life to the room. Every spring I vow to bring fresh flowers indoors all season, but I never seem to follow through very well. Maybe I would do better if I had a cut flower garden dedicated specifically to this purpose. My colleague Candice Hart provides the following tips for creating a cut flower garden.

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    News on the importance of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators continues to grow. Most people think of bees and butterflies when thinking about pollinators, but bats, beetles, moths, flies, hummingbirds, wasps, and more also spread pollen in some plants.

    As you plan your spring garden, Kelly Allsup, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, provides the following tips to help you choose the right plants and herbs for your pollinator garden.

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    I am excited to announce that we are next University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener training class begins this spring!

    Training begins April 17 and is held one day a week until June 19. All sessions are held on Tuesdays, and all classes run 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Training includes both classroom lectures and outdoor activities.

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    Vines add vertical beauty to a garden. Although most vines are desirable, some can viciously choke out other plants with their aggressive behavior.

    Let's look at four examples. The first two examples are annual plants, meaning that they germinate new plants from seed each spring and then die each fall.

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    In 2017, 167 Master Gardener volunteers contributed over 10,000 hours in the Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell Counties. The value of their volunteer service is $263,000 (as calculated by Independent Sector).

    Master Gardeners have several large events scheduled in our four-county Extension Unit.

    Stop by their informational booth at the Peoria Home Show on February 23-25 in the Peoria Civic Center. They will answer general gardening questions, provide information to those interested in being a Master Gardener, and distribute informational brochures and bookmarks.

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    The Winter series of University of Illinois Extension's Four Seasons Gardening program, which focuses on environmental stewardship, home gardening, and backyard food production, gets underway this month. The first session of the series is titled, The Green Pathway to Invasion: Ornamental Invasive Plants. The program is offered twice – on February 27 at 1:30 p.m. and again on March 1 at 6:30 p.m. for home viewing.

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    Registration is open for the 19th Annual Gardeners' BIG Day! University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners in Fulton and Mason County sponsor this event, which is Saturday, April 14, at Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown.

    Back by popular demand, this year's keynote speaker is Fr. Dominic Garramone. Fr. Dominic is a monk of St. Bede Abbey in Peru, IL and the author of nine books related to bread baking. Known as the "Bread Monk" on his PBS cooking show, Fr. Dominic will show how to incorporate herbs and garden produce into delicious bread.

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    Have you ever thought of combining literature and gardening? Literature gardens do just that.

    I remember a past Chicago Flower & Garden Show, where two popular children's books came alive in gardens: "The Tales of Peter Rabbit" and "Where the Wild Things Are."

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    I currently have just over 70 houseplant containers to water. Most have one plant per container, but a few are combinations of plants. They come in all shapes and sizes, colors and textures, and I love them all! Just like pets, I groom, feed, water, and enjoy the company of my plants. Yes, I'm a plant geek!

    Do you have a brown thumb when it comes to growing houseplants? If so, you might not be watering them properly. The most common way people kill houseplants is by over watering them.

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    Last year I started producing short videos on various gardening topics. They are a lot of fun to make. Currently, I have 31 videos available, covering indoor and outdoor horticultural topics.

    In my first educational video "Planting Fall Mums," I demonstrate from my home garden how to plant fall mums. This two-minute video has 213 views - the most views of all my YouTube videos.

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    We are enjoying watching the birds at our feeder this winter. They add action and color to an otherwise static winter scene.

    Bird watching is a popular hobby in America. According to a 2016 US Fish and Wildlife Service survey, more than 45 million people watch birds around their homes and away from home. If you aren't already, you too can be a birder. All you need is the will and some basic equipment.

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    As most of my readers know, one of my favorite activities of the year is watching the New Year's Day Rose Parade. Every year I am amazed by the amount of work that goes into creating the floats using only natural materials.

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    Houseplants add life and beauty to a home. My new YouTube videos provide simple tips on houseplant care.

    After watching these short videos, even those with "brown garden thumbs" will know how to have healthy houseplants throughout their home.

    Over watering house plants is very common. Watering Houseplants teaches you how to know when to water and how much to water your house plants.

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    Each year the Fulton and Mason County Master Gardeners hold a greenery workshop during their last meeting of the year. Attendees bring greenery and other decorations to use in their arrangements. I brought boughs of pine, cedar, and bayberry and pinecones, ribbon, and lights for decorations. This year I was fortunate to have my sister Lynn Miller and Mom Doris Simmons join me. They brought hemlock branches full of cones. It's fun to see all the different types of cones.

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    Sugar and spice make everything nice, especially Christmas cookies. But, do you know where your sugar and spice come from?

    The sugar we use comes from two different plants: sugar beets or sugarcane. Worldwide, 70 percent of our sugar comes from sugarcane. Sugarcane is a tall grass that grows in tropical areas. In a tropical setting like Hawaii and Jamaica, it grows in fields and looks similar to corn.

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    Feeding and watching birds has become one of America's favorite pastimes. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, nearly half the households in the United States provide food for wild birds.

    The most commonly used birdseed are sunflower seeds, with black-oil sunflower seeds being the most popular. It's small size and thin shell make it easier for small birds to eat. Striped sunflower seeds are larger with thicker shells. Sunflower (Helianthus sp.) are easy plants to grow and come in various colors and heights.