Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR)is a national program that encourages gardeners to plant and donate produce to those needing food assistance in their communities. In Springfield, the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteers have led a local effort to share fresh produce. For the past 19 years, volunteers have worked with the Central Illinois Food Bank and local food pantries.

Pollinators are crucial to the pollination of more than 150 food crops in the United States. Many of these being fruits, nuts and berries which wildlife depend on and humans enjoy eating.

Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds, flies, wasps and bats. As gardeners, we can provide pollinator-friendly gardens that provide valuable habitat to insects and wildlife. Consider including native plants in gardens. Native plants once established need less water, don't need fertilized, require less maintenance and are better adapted to local growing conditions.

On the first day of the Illinois State Fair, University of Illinois Extension master gardener volunteers observed a monarch butterfly. This butterfly could have been the same one that emerged on August 6, but no way to know for sure. Monarchs are easily recognized by their orange and black wings.

A few quick facts about monarch butterflies.

At a recent University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener training class, held at the Extension office in Springfield, a group of Master Gardener trainees observed firsthand the proper technique for pruning grape vines. The lunch time demonstration was presented by Master Gardener volunteer Bill Budd in the Fruit and Vegetable Demonstration Garden outside the extension office located at 700 South Airport Drive, Springfield. As you can see by the pictures, grape pruning often entails removing 80 to 90% of the vines.

Happy National Honey Bee Day, August 19, 2017. In 2009, the first National Honey Bee Day was celebrated, this day continues annually on the third Saturday in August. This national day was started by grassroots minded beekeepers to build community awareness of the bee industry, through education and promotion.

Most beekeepers are considered hobbyist. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, there are currently 3,930 beekeepers in Illinois with 28,586 colonies.

A few facts about honey bees:

Treasure Found in Nature's Hideaway

Nature's Hideaway is one of five "Idea" gardens within the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens in Springfield.. Nature's Hideaway encourages family gardening using readily available, inexpensive materials and seeds that are fun and easy. This garden features a bean teepee surrounded by zinnias, a small vegetable bed, and flanked by sunflowers in each corner.

Five years ago, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener and Master Naturalist volunteers started a demonstration garden to feature sun-loving native plants. The Native Wildflower Garden (NWG) demonstrates the use of native plants in home landscapes and how these plants are beneficial to pollinators, particularly struggling Monarch butterflies. Fittingly, the NWG is located at Lincoln Memorial Garden's Ostermeier Prairie Center.

In 2012, the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteers began a restoration of the gardens of the Dana-Thomas House and at the cottage on the west side of the railroad tracks. One of the many projects undertaken was a planting of various native plants in a garden behind the cottage. This project was later expanded to include appropriate plants for a pollinator garden.

In recent years, home gardeners and small farmers have become more interested in growing hops.Several years ago, University of Illinois Extension Logan-Menard-Sangamon Master Gardener volunteers decided to experiment with growing hops in preparation for it being Herb of the Year in 2018.They planted two varieties (Humululs lupulus 'Aureus' and Humulus lupulus 'Newport') in the Herb Demonstration Garden. Each year, these vigorous vines catch the attention of visitors and prompt many questions.

University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteers are thrilled to report the emergence of the Monarch Butterfly from the chrysalis. Volunteers have been observing the chrysalis inside the bean teepee within the Idea Garden on the Illinois State Fairgrounds!

The chrysalis has been observed and photographed daily from July 29 to August 5, and we can hardly believe our good fortune to be there immediately after the Monarch emerged from the chrysalis and while it's wings were still drying!

Don't let recent cool temperatures make you think that the gardening season is over. Fall is a great time to get a few last chores done and get a head start on next spring. Here are a few items to add to your fall garden "to do" list.

On Saturday, March 25, fifteen garden enthusiast attended a "Vegetable Gardening Symposium" to learn and share experiences about some of the vegetable and fruit choices available for early planting in the home garden. Participants also learned more about composting and how easy it is to recycle vegetable scraps and yard waste to build rich compost for use in your garden.

University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteers can choose from a variety of volunteer opportunities.Some plan and care for demonstration gardens. Others present programs on a variety of horticultural topics or answer gardening questions from the public. For the past 15 years, Master Gardeners have visited St. Joseph's Home on Thursdays from Spring through Fall, talked with residents and their family visitors, and spend time with residents doing a garden-related activity.