1. Published

    I love popcorn! Each year I buy kettle corn at one or more locations along the Spoon River Drive.

    It is a good possibility that the popcorn I purchase was grown and packaged locally. Mason County, Illinois grows a lot of popcorn! In 2012, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service's Census of Agriculture ranked Mason County the No. 1 producer of popcorn in the United States with 18,552 acres.

  2. Published

    May Bach and Jennifer Bass were honored for their outstanding contributions to University of Illinois Extension's Master Gardener Program during the 2017 Illinois Master Gardener Conference in Normal.

    May and Jennifer were among 36 Master Gardeners receiving the State Outstanding Master Gardener Award. They are each involved in various projects in the Peoria area.

  3. Published

    Kathy Edwards was one of 36 University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners honored for their outstanding contributions to Illinois' Master Gardener Program. She was named a State Outstanding Master Gardener at the 2017 Illinois State Master Gardener Conference in Normal.

    Kathy has been an active Master Gardener in Fulton County since 2007. Her many projects include educational gardens at the Canton YMCA, Jones Park, Graham Hospital, Canton's Lutheran Church, and Heartland Healthcare Center.

  4. Published

    I've mentioned many times that I love to journal, and I usually write surrounded by plants and nature. I use nature journaling as a creative form of self-expression, but I find that it also promotes relaxation and calmness.

  5. Published

    The Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive is about to begin! I challenge you to ignore the crowds and traffic jams and to focus on our beautiful Spoon River Country. As a former guidebook stated, "The Spoon River Valley is filled with woodlands and fertile farmlands that provide both a natural beauty and rich cultural heritage."

    During these two weekends, take the opportunity to embrace what we too often take for granted. Don't only look at fall color, but look closer at the colorful roadside plants, local wildlife, water features, and panoramic scenes.

  6. Published

    The most common questions we get in our Extension offices are about trees. Unfortunately, most people do not notice their trees until they show major dieback or leaf drop. Often by the time we get the call, the tree has irreversible damage, and I have no magic formula to save it.

  7. Published

    Most plants have a very strict dress code, donning the same colors and style every year. When colors vary, the plant is simply named something else, or it indicates that there is a problem.

    Botanically, plant colors are fascinating to me. We all learn in science class that plants get their green color from chlorophyll in the leaves, and the plant uses the chlorophyll to photosynthesize and make food. So, when a plant has purple leaves, how does it eat?

  8. Published

    No plants do not have legs, but they do move. Although I don't see it happen, each week my African violet leaves lean toward the light requiring me to straighten them with a quarter turn. I also don't see the prayer plants fold their leaves each night and reopen them each morning.

    Usually, plant movement is very subtle. Yet, there are a few plants that will move right before your eyes. Here are three examples.

  9. Published

    Do you use a lot of garlic in your cooking? If so you might try growing your own. Fall is the best time to plant garlic in your garden.

    Garlic is a hardy bulb, and thus is best planted in the fall when other bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, are planted. October is the ideal time in this part of Illinois. With garlic, new plants are grown from the individual sections of the bulb known as "cloves." Each bulb may contain a dozen or more cloves, depending on the variety.

  10. Published

    I am seeing more butterflies this summer than I have in recent years. As I walk my property, I see monarchs, swallowtails, buckeyes, hackberry, painted ladies, cabbage whites, and more. This year I even saw a viceroy while mowing!

  11. Published

    What is the best way to water plants? Community watering restrictions, rural water shortages, and high water costs sometimes require homeowners to make some tough decisions about outdoor water use. Here are ten wise watering tips for gardeners.

  12. Published

    A walk in the park or a scroll through Facebook quickly show how many people have cats and dogs. The American Pet Products Association estimated that approximately 44% of all households in the United States had a dog, and 35% had a cat in 2015-2016. These pet owners love to watch their furry friends frolic and roll in the lawn. They also cringe when the animals dig up, eat, defecate on, and sometimes destroy their yards.

  13. Published

    Hundreds of minute, barbed bristles poked out of the bottom of my foot as Dad gently plucked each one away from my throbbing flesh. Our family was camping in Spring Lake State Park near Havana, Illinois one summer when I was about 10 years old. I clearly remember trying to avoid the hot pavement on my bare feet by diverting to the leaf-strewn roadside. Unfortunately, like a spider in its web, hidden cacti waited in the leaves to prick its next victim. Each step back to the campground embedded the barbs deeper in my sole.

  14. Published

    If you love butterflies, you could also put in a butterfly garden habitat in your own yard. You don't need a lot of space to attract our native butterflies.

    There are two different types of plants you can grow for butterflies: nectar food sources and larval food sources.

  15. Published

    Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!

    Elmer Fudd from The Looney Tunes said it right, "Bugs Bunny?! You're a pesky wabbit!" I have replanted my tomato plants three times this spring. The first two times the plants were gone by the next morning, and I think the "cute" little rabbit I saw hop down my walk is the culprit!

  16. Published

    Originally published in Home, Yard, and Garden Newsletter on 8-15-17

  17. Published

    Recently I had a friend ask me what the blue flowers were along the roadside. Have you noticed the beautiful flowers blooming along our roadsides right now? Illinois roadsides are quite beautiful in late summer.

  18. Published

    I have several purple vegetables and herbs growing in my garden this summer.

  19. Published

    The goldenrod is making a fantastic display this fall in my prairie and other unmown areas. I love watching the waves of gold sway on a sunny fall day.

    Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) thrives in sun to part sun and is a deer-resistant perennial. There are thirty different types of goldenrod that grow in Illinois. They range from the three foot to seven foot tall. Each has a cluster of bright yellow flowers at the top and sides of stems.

  20. Published

    I grow several different types of basil, and try new ones each year. Usually, I end up preferring the basic sweet basil to other kinds, but not this year. A new favorite this year is lime basil.

    Basil (Ocimum basilicum) has many different cultivars. They are generally divided into four groups: sweet green, dwarf green, purple-leaf, and scented leaf.