Gardening in the Air is a virtual 18-session series on January 30 and February 6 co-hosted by University of Illinois Extension and Iowa State University Extension. Experts from both institutions will present on a wide variety of timely gardening topics about winter gardening activities, wildlife, food and nutrition, design, vegetables, fruits and herbs, and houseplants.

Sessions will be hosted on Zoom at with three sessions each at 9 a.m., 10:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Central Daylight Time. Participants may register for a single session or the entire series. Sessions are free to attend, but a donation is appreciated. Access links and handouts will be provided upon registration.

January 30: Winter Gardening Activities, Wildlife, Food and Nutrition

Register Online by January 27

February 6: Design, Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs, and Houseplants

Register Online by February 3

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate, please contact Martha Smith at Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time for the requested accommodation. Some programs will be recorded. If recorded, closed captioning for requested programs will be honored after the event.

9-10 a.m. CDT

Gardening is Good for You
Andrea Faber-Taylor, PhD, University of Illinois

Research has shown that nature experiences are important for daily functioning and overall well-being. Dr. Andrea Faber Taylor will share ideas for using gardening and other nature experiences to support your own health as well as the children in your life.

Native Plants with Winter Wildlife Interest
Ryan Pankau, Horticulture Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Whether it’s attracting more birds or simply providing better winter cover for all species, landscape plants can provide more for wildlife in the winter. This presentation will cover basic wildlife needs and plants to Illinois that best meet those needs.

Funkalicious Fermentation
Kristin Bogdonas, Nutrition & Wellness Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Fermentation is a popular way to make foods and drinks with probiotics. In this session, learn the fundamentals and health benefits of using fermentation for home food preservation. Explore the endless possibilities of fermented foods, steps for success at home, as well as recipes and resources to get started.


10:15-11:15 a.m. CDT

Intro to Fruit Tree Pruning
Grant McCarty, Small Farms Local Foods Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Whether your fruit trees are newly planted, old and neglected or somewhere in between, pruning is a much-needed winter task. This course lay out how to get your fruit trees toward the right structure and what limbs to leave or prune out. This class will cover apple, pear, stone fruit, and other types of fruit trees.

Backing Backyard Birds in Yards and Landscapes
Adam Janke, PhD, Iowa State University, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management Assistant Professor and Iowa Extension and Outreach State Wildlife Extension Specialist

When designed with the basics of wildlife habitat in mind, the places people live can make enriching places for wildlife, too. Dr. Adam Janke will discuss the basics of making any landscape – from city lots to rural farmsteads and everything in between – work to make a difference for birds.

Flying Knives: Vegetable and Fruit Preparation Tips
Carol Longley, University of Illinois Extension

Do you love growing vegetables and fruits, but want short cuts to food preparation?  Learn some basic knife skills in this follow-along presentation. Supplies needed: a cutting board, knife, green pepper, onion, orange, and head of romaine. 


11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. CDT

Purchasing Seeds & Plants
Cindy Haynes, PhD, Associate Professor & Horticulture Specialist, Iowa State University

Plant and seed sales around the world surged in 2020.  Dr. Cindy Haynes will provide pointers on buying the best plants for gardens or the landscape, regardless if they come from a local garden center or online from another state or country.

When Your Nearest Neighbors Aren’t Human (a.k.a. Living with Wildlife)
Peggy Doty, Energy and Environmental Stewardship Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Whether you live in a small community or a larger urban setting, wildlife is a part of your everyday life, but some species may wear out their welcome. These animals have adapted to be your neighbor because humans have the tendency to provide exactly what they need. Others need our help to survive due to the pressures of a forever-changing environment.  Learn how to enhance and coexist with wildlife on your property as well as the legalities for removing animals.

Preserve the Taste of Summer
Holly Van Heel, Jill Weber, Kelsey Salow and Renee Sweers, Iowa State Extension Human Science Specialists, Nutrition and Wellness

Love fresh garden produce, but have more than you can eat? Home food preservation is not difficult, but you do need to use safe methods. Learn the basics of safely canning foods at home.

9-10 a.m. CDT

Ornamental Grasses with Winter Interest
Mary Meyer, PhD, University of Minnesota

Which grasses can hold up through the rigorous Midwest winters? Join Dr. Mary Meyer from the University of Minnesota to take a look at the best grasses to provide winter interest, including favorite native as well as non-native grasses.

Growing Herbs and Microgreens Indoors
Kellie J. Walters, Assistant Professor of Controlled Environment Plant Physiology, University of Tennessee

Growing culinary herbs and microgreens at home is a wonderful way to add flavor and freshness to any dish. Learn about the basics of growing indoors and some crops to try.  

Growing Blooming Houseplants
Aaron Steil, Assistant Director Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University

Winter can be a little gray outside, but there are many houseplants that can brighten things indoors. From African violets to holiday cactus and bromeliads to begonias, blooming houseplants can bring much needed color, fragrance, and life to the indoors during the winter. Learn about the special light, temperature and management considerations needed to get beautiful blooms from a wide variety of common and harder-to-find blooming indoor plants. 

10:15-11:15 a.m. CDT

Introduction to Sustainable Landscapes
Chris Enroth, Horticulture Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Taking a sustainable approach to your yard benefits you, the environment and our future. Sustainable landscapes save money by using fewer pesticides and fertilizers and lowers power, water and waste disposal bills. Sustainable landscapes safeguard our water quality, soils, and wildlife and provide us with countless ecosystem services. Chris Enroth will introduce several techniques to incorporate sustainable practices into the lawn and garden. During the session we will discuss sustainable lawns, how to handle stormwater, building healthy soils and more fundamental methods to reduce your eco-footprint.

Straw Bale Gardening
Kelly Allsup, Horticulture Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Strawbale gardening is thoroughly innovative for home gardening. It solves every obstruction today’s home gardeners face: bad soil, weeds, watering problems, limited gardening space, and even physical difficulty working on ground level.

What is Wrong with My Houseplant?
Cindy Haynes, PhD, Associate Professor & Horticulture Specialist, Iowa State University

Winter is the time we need to grow and nurture plants indoors.  But, for indoor plants, winter is also the time when many problems occur.  In this session you will learn about environmental factors that impact houseplant growth, how to diagnose problems, and what you can do to fix or change them.

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. CDT

How to Create an Out-of-the-Ordinary Theme Garden
Lisa Nunamaker, Iowa State University

Add an extra spark to your landscape by designing a garden about anything and more importantly, about you. Though nice, traditional themes such as butterfly and moon gardens will not be covered. Instead, bring your creative spirit and an open mind as you learn this new process to stretch the idea of what a theme garden can be.

Starting Seeds for the Garden Indoors
Martha Smith, Horticulture Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Get a jump start on the garden season by starting seeds indoors. Seed starting is a fun way to learn about plants and can be a way to save money. Learn about seed selection, the growing process, supplies and more. 

Succulent Wreaths
Bruce Black, Horticulture Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Bright and textured succulent wreaths are living plant wreaths for any occasion. Succulents are desert plants turned houseplants. Learn more about what succulents are, their biology, how to build and care for a wreath.

Kelly Allsup is a Horticulture Educator for University of Illinois Extension serving Livingston, McLean and Woodford Counties. She meets the educational needs of her community, including local chapters of Master Gardener and Master Naturalist volunteers, through expertise in home horticulture and entomology. Her passion for ecologically friendly gardening and all things plants makes her a dynamic speaker on topics that range from beneficial insects, growing vegetables and fruits, to urban trees. A graduate of University of Illinois, she is fervent about connecting the latest horticulture research to the communities she serves so that they may grow more food and conserve the environment.

Kristin Bogdonas works collaboratively to improve the health and wellness of the local unit, the state and beyond. Bogdonas delivers research-based information to diverse audiences via experiential, interactive programming as well as web-based platforms and social media outlets. Her work is dedicated to chronic disease prevention and management; food preservation and safety; healthy lifestyles; diversity and inclusion. She keeps an eye out for new partnerships and grant opportunities to leverage support for existing and potential programs while maintaining good working relationships with historical partners.

Peggy Doty is an Educator for University of Illinois Extension specializing in environmental education as a means to relate wildlife-related issues and water quality to all ages. She holds a B.S. in Zoology with a specialization in wildlife management and a M.S. in Education with a specialization in Outdoor Teacher Education/Curriculum and Instruction. Peggy is interested in human reactions and relationships to wildlife, especially in regard to the large predators and feral swine in Illinois.  Peggy has been teaching environmental education for more than  20 years, is passionate about teaching children in regards to their environment, and helping people understand wildlife as it relates to their lives.

Dr. Andrea Faber Taylor is a Teaching Assistant Professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. For more than 20 years, she has researched the benefits of nature experiences for children’s health. Her research examines child development in the context of nature and green spaces to support healthy functioning and future stewardship of the earth. Her most recent research indicated a link between the frequency with which kindergartners used greenspaces during the school-day and their capacity for self-regulation.  She is advancing our understanding of the importance of nature experiences in human development. She teaches a course on this topic and courses about sustainable home gardening, small fruits, and herbaceous perennials with an emphasis on planting design to support pollinators and other beneficial species.

Adam Janke is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University and the state wildlife extension specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. He holds degrees in Wildlife Conservation from Purdue, Ohio State, and South Dakota State and does education and research on wildlife habitat in all the places people and wildlife live together.

Carol Longley is a new member of University of Illinois Extension in the ABCs of School Nutrition Program. From 2016 to 2020 she was a consultant for school food services and earlier a faculty member at Western Illinois University and Texas Women University retiring in 2016. She taught courses in food preparation, foodservice management, food service sanitation, and general nutrition. Carol was Director of Foodservice for Rock Island Schools from 1993 to 2008. She received her BS in dietetics from Iowa State University, dietetic internship from the University of California Hospital, San Francisco, MSW from the University of Iowa, and PhD in food service and lodging management from Iowa State University. She received her Master Gardener certification in 2017.

Grant McCarty works with commercial and backyard growers and producers by providing resources in fruit and vegetable production. His area of expertise includes soils management, organic/sustainable crop production, alternative crops, and general fruit and vegetable production. He further assists stakeholders within the local food system in helping them to expand their operation, adopt new practices, read soil tests, and/or better manage their current production. Originally from East Tennessee, Grant McCarty received a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Maryville College in 2008 and a Master of Science in Plant Sciences from University of Tennessee in 2012.

Dr. Mary Meyer works with several Minnesota Extension Educators to coordinate statewide multi-media educational programs in environmental and consumer and commercial horticulture, including sustainable home landscapes. Her main office is at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum where one of the largest ornamental grass collections is on display for the public. Dr. Meyer has managed the Grass Collection at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum for 33 years. 

Martha Smith’s love of plants and gardening was instilled in her by her mother who she worked with as a perennial grower while in high school and during college breaks. After graduating from University of Illinois with a BS in Ornamental Horticulture, she worked in the green industry until hired as a horticulture agent for Cornell Cooperative Extension. Moving home to Illinois she has worked for University of Illinois Extension since 1994. Along the way she earned a Master’s degree in Adult Education.

Aaron Steil is the assistant director at Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens where he has worked for more than10 years. He also teaches classes in ISU's horticulture department. Aaron is the host of the TV show “Gardening with Steil” on Iowa PBS and a regular guest on Iowa Public Radio’s weekly “Hort Friday” segment on “Talk of Iowa.” Steil received his B.S. in horticulture and biology from Iowa State University and his M.S. in public horticulture from the University of Delaware. He has previously worked at ISU Horticulture Extension; the Iowa Arboretum; Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia; and the renowned Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. 

Kellie Walters is an Assistant Professor of Controlled Environment Plant Physiology at the University of Tennessee. Her research focuses on how to manipulate the growing environment to improve controlled environment agriculture (CEA) production efficiencies and crop quality.