1. Published

    Now is the best time to prune many of your trees and shrubs, including fruit trees. Pruning of fruit trees is done to improve fruit quality, develop a strong plant, facilitate harvest, and control the size/shape of the plant. According to Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, unpruned trees and plants are difficult to maintain, produce small fruit and are much more likely to suffer disease problems.

  2. Published

    Once again, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners and their partners have rounded up a top-notch Gardeners' BIG Day. The 18th annual event will be Saturday, April 29, 2017, 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.

  3. Published

    Big trees seem to fascinate and almost mesmerize us. They bring wonderment as we surmise how old it is and what it has "seen" through its life. Here are some of my favorites.

    No words can describe what I felt when I saw my first giant sequoia tree in California's Sequoia National Park. They are all grand, but the grandest of all is the General Sherman tree. It is the largest (by volume) tree in the world and is estimated to be 2,300 – 2,700 years old. WOW!

  4. Published

    Community gardens can turn stark vacant lots into productive keystones in a community. The reasons for starting community gardens are varied, and the rewards are numerous. However various pitfalls can turn noble intentions into negative neighborhood drama. Proper planning, excellent communication, simple rules, and basic garden knowledge all help reduce these problems.

    Here are ten steps to successful community gardening.

  5. Published

    Warm temperatures this winter have caused some lawns to green up early. This could impact the timing of various spring lawncare activities, such as seeding, fertilizing, mowing, and weed control. Here are a five turf tips to consider this season.

  6. Published
    Here are some upcoming Garden Day events in West Central Illinois in 2017.
  7. Published

    I have a couple orchids at home but have not had great success with them. Sandy Mason, Illinois Master Gardener Coordinator, writes the following about orchids. She also teaches a webinar about moth orchids. I'm hoping that Sandy will show me how to make my orchids grow better.

  8. Published

    February often gives me the winter blahs. When that happens, gardening tasks help perk me up. Consider these various February gardening activities to reduce the winter blues.


  9. Published

    Gardeners have been growing hop as an ornamental vine for many years. Recently, I have seen more hop grown in backyards for home brewing. This is especially popular among younger male gardeners aged 18-34.

  10. Published

    A friend of mine recently vacationed in Florida and purchased a bromeliad at a flea market. I can see why she picked it out since bromeliads are especially eye-catching.

    Bromeliads are in the pineapple family. There are many different types of bromeliads, each with a different exotic look. They are curvy or straight, large or miniature, dense or light, but all are bold and colorful. Most have brilliant, long-lasting flowers.

  11. Published

    Get ready, here it comes - the 18th Annual Gardeners' BIG Day! University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners in Fulton and Mason County sponsor this event, which is set for Saturday, April 29th, at Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown.

  12. Published

    Having houseplants in our homes make them come alive. In fact, studies indicate that houseplants help keep people happier and healthier. Plants fill an important psychological function, while also cleansing indoor air, and making us more productive.

    Houseplants add life and beauty to a home. I will provide simple tips to select and care for houseplants in this webinar/video. After viewing this program, even those with "brown garden thumbs" will know how to have healthy houseplants throughout their home.

  13. Published

    In 2016, 169 Master Gardener volunteers contributed 13,920 hours in the Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell Counties. Their volunteer service is valued at $328,000.

    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 24-28 in the Peoria Civic Center. They will answer general gardening questions and distribute informational brochures and bookmarks.

  14. Published

    I recently found some old seed in my office and wondered if they were still viable. If you save leftover seed to use the following year, here are some ways to find out if they are still good.

    Seed viability is a measure of the number of seeds that are still alive to produce plants. Some seeds stay viable for many years, while others might only last a short time. For example, parsley and onion seed only last a year or two, while watermelon and cabbage should last four years or more. Most seed packets are dated so you know how old they are.

  15. Published

    Do you plan to grow your own food this summer? Would you like to extend that growing season a bit more in the spring and fall? If so, there are several options you might consider, including cold frames, hot beds, hoop houses, cloches, and floating row covers.

  16. Published

    The winter series of University of Illinois Extension's Four Seasons Gardening program focuses on seeds, houseplants, and orchids.

    The first session of the series is titled Seed Starting and is offered twice – on January 31 at 1:30 p.m. and again on February 2 at 6:30 p.m. Horticulture Educator Kim Ellson discusses how growing plants from seed is both rewarding and cost effective.

    How to Have Healthy Houseplants is scheduled for February 14 and 16. Horticulture Educator Rhonda Ferree will show you how houseplants add life and beauty to a home.

  17. Published

    Are you "itching" to start your vegetable garden? One way to jump-start the growing season is to start seedlings indoors. There are many advantages to starting your seeds indoors in addition to allowing anxious gardeners to "get their fingers dirty." In theory, plants started indoors will be bigger and produce faster than seed planted directly into the garden. Many of us wait until the cell packs of tomatoes and peppers are available at the retailer. Starting your own seed allows you to raise the varieties you want and not rely on what the retailers have available.

  18. Published

    A team of nine University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educators was awarded an Interdisciplinary State Team Excellence Award at University of Illinois Extension's annual conference in November 2016.

    The Interdisciplinary State Team Excellence Award is awarded for excellence in collaborative work to address a priority issue.

  19. Published

    I have been enjoying the fresh basil, dill, cilantro, and parsley I'm growing indoors this winter. I use the herbs to make fresh pesto, teas, salsas, and more.

    Gardening is not limited to outside in the summer. Herbs are probably the easiest to grown indoors, but there are many more. Last winter I grew salad tomatoes and carrots. As I learn more, I was amazed by how many food crops you can actually grow indoors.

  20. Published

    My new horticulture YouTube channel extends my gardening education into another realm of social media. Videos are the latest social media trend, with predictions that 74% of all internet traffic in 2017 will be video.

    My plan is to produce short, informational videos covering a wide variety of gardening topics and more. I post the videos on my ILRiverHort Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and other blog sites. They will also be included in future educational programs and webinars.