Growing Perennial Vegetables to save the Garden Dollars

Life as a Woodford County Master Gardener

Bruce Brown of Congerville and Linda Simpson of East Peoria both proudly boast the title of University of Illinois Woodford County Master Gardener. Fourteen years ago, Bruce was looking for something to do after retirement and had a eureka moment after reading an ad in the paper. He had witnessed his wife's love of gardening and thought the training would be a good way to spend some of his retirement.

Keeping with the spirit of inside gardening, growing microgreens can be just as tasty as herbs but can be even easier to grow, with added benefits. Microgreens (micro-vegetables or micro-herbs or tiny greens) refers to the stage of growth between baby greens and sprouts. These tiny greens are normally harvested 10-14 days after planting and have fully spread leaves ready to add color, crunch and nutrients to your winter meals.

So far this year we've had 5 confirmed cases of Verticillium wilt in woody ornamentals at the University of Illinois Plant Clinic. Four were Japanese maple trees, and the fifth was a redbud. Verticillium wilt is fairly common in Illinois. This fungal disease is usually lethal to the host, and it unfortunately boasts a huge host range. The fungus can survive in the soil for several years, making control difficult.


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Department of Agriculture is encouraging farmers and agrichemical facilities to save their empty agrichemical containers. The department announced today it has arranged to recycle them.

Beginning at the end of July and continuing in August, sites throughout the state will collect containers. The containers will be recycled to make shipping pallets, fence posts, drainage tubing, plastic lumber and other useful products.

Horticulture Myths

"As a horticulture educator, it is my duty to dispel horticulture myths," says University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

Myth:Some mulch is good. A lot of mulch must be better. I am referring to the sad, but familiar, mulch volcanos around the base of trees. Leaving mulch up against the tree will cause the bark to decay, cut off the water conductive tissues, and can promote a slow death. This stressed tree is ideal for insect borers and poor root growth.

Miniature Succulent Gardening

University of Illinois Livingston Master Gardeners will host a highly requested program on May 14 at 6:30 p.m.

entitled "Miniature Succulent Gardening" as part of the Master Gardener Summer series. The program fee is $20

and registration is required. Each attendee will receive a miniature succulent garden to explore. Please register at or call at (815) 842-1776.

Clotheslines, raising chickens and goats, heirlooms, growing fruits and vegetables, canning and seed saving the way our grandparents did is back in style. "We are channeling an old-fashioned style of gardening in 2015, with an emphasis back on small-farm ideals," says University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

A Habitat for Monarchs

The Four Seasons Gardening program from University of Illinois Extension starts the year with Super Sempervivums. The program will be hosted by Livingston County Master Gardeners at the University of Illinois  Extension Offices.

Illinois Butterfly identification programs have been popular among the prairie walkers and flower gardeners. It is these delightful visitors of flowers or tree sap or in some cases dung and mud puddles that capture our interests and cause us to ask "What kind of butterfly is that?" and "Where did it come from?" and most of all "How do I lure them to my garden?" In my ventures to understand and identify butterflies, I have come to one very apparent conclusion.

Understanding the Life Cycle of Native Bees

Beekeeping for the Backyard Gardener

Are you bee curious? Learn what it takes to keep bees in your own backyard! The Four Seasons Gardening program from University of Illinois Extension continues with the second session of the series titled, Beekeeping for the Backyard Gardener.

"Vertical Gardening" is the theme for this year's Home, Lawn and Garden Show presented by the McLean County Master Gardeners. Mark Dwyer, director of horticulture for the Rotary Botanical Garden in Janesville, Wis., will speak on the popular garden trend of growing plants up. His presentation will include great examples of vertical gardening at the award-winning botanical garden in Janesville. Dwyer's passion for obtaining, growing, observing and photographing plants will be highlighted throughout the talk.

"A group of University of Illinois Master Naturalists, and employees and volunteers of Parkland Foundation, found a den of coyote pups while clearing out invasive brush in the Letcher Basin," states University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. The employees used a large brush cutter to remove an invasive autumn olive tree and buried below the brush was a half dozen furry animals that appeared to be very young. As soon as the discovery was made, and after a few snapshots, the crew stopped their work and vacated the area.

Confessions of a reformed composter

Composting is a fun way to make your garden growing experience great states University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. I had to share this article entitled "Confessions of a reformed composter" by fellow Horticulture Educator, Sandy Mason.

Do your eyes glaze over as you read home composting recipes? Do you wonder if an advanced degree in chemistry is necessary to make respectable home compost?

October Garden Tour to Missouri and Arkansas Planned

After a busy summer of activities, are you looking for a fun getaway to enjoy beautiful fall foliage and gardens? Come join the McLean County Master Gardeners on their three day "October Garden Odyssey" tour scheduled for October 20-22, 2015. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as we travel south to Missouri and Arkansas.

Learn to Grow Apples Organically

Join us for an enlightening, educational class describing how to grow apples organically in your own backyard. Richard Hentschel, Horticulture Extension Educator, will share his 30 years of knowledge on apple production in Illinois to provide insight on what it takes to grow your own, organic apples.

Would you like to learn about growing vegetables, landscaping, trees, insects or turfgrass from University of Illinois Extension? The Woodford County Master Gardeners want you to join their training program this winter and take you on an amazing garden learning experience to find your inner gardener. The Master Gardener program is a great opportunity to enrich your gardening knowledge, make a difference in the community and meet others who share your love of plants and gardening.

Originally published by Kelly Allsup on August 26, 2015.

Myths of Planting Spring Bulbs according to University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. Most gardeners know now is the time to plant your spring flowering bulbs. However before you plant spring bulb myths are reveled.

-Myth: Spring bulbs require added nutrients, particularly phosphorous, at time of planting to promote good root growth and greater number of flowers. Traditionally, gardeners will add bulb fertilizers and organic bone meal in the planting hole.

Illinois First Detector Invasive Pest Workshop

University of Illinois Extension offers an invaluable program called the "Illinois First Detector Invasive Pest Workshop" in an effort to educate the community on invasive threats to our Illinois landscape. Invasive threats like the Emerald Ash Borer have drastically reduced the number of Ash trees. Another common threat is garlic mustard whose invasive qualities cause it to dominate the forest floor by choking out desired native plants.

Woodford County Master Gardener's Plant Sale

"It is time again for the Woodford County Master Gardener Plant Sale at the Eureka Library-May 16 from 8 a.m. to Noon. Stock up this spring with garden favorites like perennials, grasses, annuals, some vegetables, herbs and oddities from the garden," states University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. Then take time to visit with the Master Gardeners to ask them questions about gardening, plants, trees and insects while letting them solve all your gardening woes.

Home Invaders

Typically on the top of our home invader list in Illinois is Asian lady beetles. Asian lady beetles were released to help farmers with the soybean aphid but instead of overwintering in the cliffs of their native land, they like to invade our homes. If there is a crack or crevice leading its way to the inside of your home, then you may be vulnerable to this and other unwanted inhabitants.

Control of household pests has changed considerably over the last 50 years, both outdoors and indoors. There has been a fine-tuning of methods and products over the years which has reduced exposure to pesticides but may have resulted in an inadvertent increase in some pests.

Chlordane came on the market in the late 1950's and was soon accepted as a long-lasting, wide-spectrum insecticide.

Lavender has long been a much-loved blooming herb in the garden and should be planted more for its aromatic and culinary properties states University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. Lavender has been used for perfumes and essential oils in aromatherapy, cooking and disinfectant, and can even deter some insects.

Fall is Here...Time to Plant Shrubs

Tree Identification

Would you like to know what kind of tree you have in your backyard? Whether it is an oak, maple or something rarer learn to identify trees with this Tree Identification workshop presented by University of Illinois Extension.

Small mysterious pollinators have been visiting late-summer and fall-blooming plants in our gardens in order to sip nectar, said University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Kelly Allsup. With wings as fast as a hummingbird and long tongues like a butterfly, these small moths hover over flowers to gather nectar.

The Buzz about Bees!

Are you interested in keeping bees? Are you interested in gardening to conserve bees? Are you interested in getting greater amounts of produce from your vegetable garden and orchards? If so, then you should attend the

Pathogens & Parasitoids Reduction in Monarch Butterfly Rearing

1.It is difficult to avoid all parasitoids and diseases as long as caterpillars and their food are collected from the wild.

URBANA, Ill. - When the cool weather of fall arrives, the desire to work outdoors is enticing. The heat and humidity of summer are past, and the changing colors of leaves are pleasing and relaxing.

Last winter was a tough one on many of our evergreens. Most gardeners had severe browning on many of their evergreen trees and shrubs, and some were even killed by the cold winter winds of winter.

URBANA, Ill. – It's winter, and the deciduous trees outside are bare. It's a perfect time to examine your trees "au naturel", said Diane Plewa, a University of Illinois Extension diagnostic specialist.

A holiday cactus in full bloom is a great holiday gift. Easy to care for, holiday cacti generally are long lived and will easily bloom year after year. In fact, they are often passed down from generation to generation as family heirlooms.When selecting a new plant, look for sturdy, healthy green foliage and new flower buds. Avoid diseased or insect-damaged plants, said Jennifer Fishburn, a horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension.

Aphids, leaf hoppers, and lace bugs are plentiful this wet spring because of all the lush succulent growth. This flush of growth is ideal for these sap feeders that insert their mouthparts into the food conducting tissues of the plant and suck out sugars and cellulose. Generally, low populations of these garden visitors do not harm the plants as natural predators feast on them.

Gardeners are wondering if they are going to get a crop of red, ripe tomatoes because of rains across the state states University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. If you suspect disease, here are few signs to look for and what you can do about it:

The spring series of University of Illinois Extension's Four Seasons Gardening program, which focuses on environmental stewardship and backyard food production, gets underway in April. The first session of the series is titled, Introduction to Sustainable Landscaping.

The program is offered on Tuesday, April 28 at 1:30 p.m

-U of I Extension McLean County office (1615 Commerce Parkway, Bloomington)

-U of I Extension Livingston County office (1412 S Locust, Pontiac)

-El Paso Public Library (149 W. 1st Street El Paso).

Horticulture and Nature Gifts for the Holidays

"Do you have a plant nerd or 'hortiholic' on your buy-for list this holiday season? Here are some plant gifts that will lead them further down the rabbit hole into the wondrous world of horticulture," says University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

Tree Walk at Illinois Central College

Friday, May 22

1:30 p.m.

Kari Houle, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, will lead a tree walk around the Illinois Central College campus in East Peoria on Friday, May 22 at 1:30 p.m.

URBANA, Ill. - Summer bulbs add beauty to the landscape when earlier spring bulbs have long faded and flowering shrubs have turned to foliage for the season, said a University of Illinois horticulture educator."However, summer bulbs must be dug up at the end of your growing season and properly stored inside for the winter in order to have a floral display the following year," Richard Hentschel explained.


This past month many homes are being purposefully adorned by abnormally-large, scary black spiders and their webs to hinge on the fact that a large percentage of the population suffers from the fear of spiders, known as Arachnophobia.

With the promise of tasty nutrition and a guaranteed quick return on my gardening efforts, I decided to grow microgreens (tiny greens) inside at the Unity Community program using seeds and soil left over from summer programming.

URBANA, Ill. – For the typical home gardener, fallen leaves are one of the most readily available forms of organic matter and serve as a wonderful soil conditioner, said University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Nancy Kreith." After raking leaves this fall, think about recycling them on your property rather than bagging them for curbside pickup," Kreith said.

I know that everyone has heard the phrase, "The only good snake is a dead snake", but have you ever really thought about what purpose a snake serves? Are the only good snakes dead? I think the phrase should be changed to, "The only good snake is a hungry snake."

A recent popular Facebook post shows a gardener starting to prepare her soil, despite being surrounded by mounds of snow. "Once spring is here gardeners start to get excited about planting; almost too excited," states University of Illinois Horticulture Extension educator, Kelly Allsup. Experienced gardeners know that working in wet soil is the worst thing that you can do and you should always take a soil test before a new planting. A soil test can give gardeners valuable information on what is needed to amend the soil.

For most gardeners, growing does not cease during the cold months of winter, but it causes them to move their growing operation indoors. Many choose to grow herbs indoors, keeping the house alive with greenery and ensuring a supply of fresh garden herbs in their home-cooked meals. Here are a few tips for creating an indoor herb project:

Tree Walk at Illinois Wesleyan Campus on June 19

Numerous trees are dying across Illinois. It is easy to find dead and dying maples, oaks, walnuts, ash, and other trees. Many of the dying ash are due to emerald ash borer. Many of the dying pin and red oaks in southern Illinois are due to horned oak gall. But many of the dying ash, oak, and other trees are due to the season-long drought of 2012, the July-September drought of 2013, and the severe winter of 2013-2014.

Plants need water to grow, but too much water can be as bad as too little, and in some cases, maybe even more problematic. Several things occur when there's too much moisture for plants.

The biggest negative is the lack of oxygen around the roots, which need as much air as leaves. While not big photosynthetic powerhouses like leaves, roots do breathe, and it's important to have oxygen present. When a plant receives too much rain or is overwatered, the large soil pores, called macropores, fill with water, preventing roots from exchanging gases.

For Immediate Release: June 18, 2015

August 5 Garden Tour Planned

Have you been busy all spring and summer planning, planting and WEEDING your gardens? Do you enjoy beautiful gardens and need a get-a-way from your daily summer routine? Our "Awesome August Adventure" one-day garden tour can be that perfect escape to sit back and enjoy the ride and sites as we travel north to beautiful gardens and a nursery.

Seed Saving & Propagation- Livingston CountyThursday, September 17 at 6:30 p.m.U of I Extension Livingston County officeUniversity of Illinois Extension Livingston County Master Gardeners will be hosting a workshop entitled "Seed Saving and Propagation" on September 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Livingston County Extension office.

Cooking the Straw bale Garde

Straw bale Gardening has become a big hit with the recent introduction of Joel Karsten, book called Straw bale Gardening and has taken the garden world by storm and giving growers a new media to grow vegetables, herbs and annuals. If you would like take a class on Straw bale gardening then wait no further. University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Edu

"Whether you are replacing a downed tree or planting a new one in the landscape, it is important to understand the proper practices of planting a tree, as well as, the benefits it may have to your home," says University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

Strawberries can be greatly rewarding and only require a few simple, timed garden tasks. Plant strawberry plants this spring for next year's harvest of plump juicy berries.

Add Compost

Before planting bare-root bundles, amend the soil with organic matter. Organic matter consisting of plant and animal materials will provide nutrients and help retain water and encourage root growth. University of Illinois strongly suggests not planting strawberries where tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers have been grown because of disease issues.

America's Favorite Tuber

Unusual insect visitors have been popping up in the garden the past few weeks -- mainly the Dobson fly and the damsel fly. There has been a report of Dobson flies congregating around bee hives by a local bee keeper and the lemon grass growing in my straw bale has become a haven for dozens of damsel flies.

Here in the northwestern corner of Illinois, we got about 15 inches of snow this past weekend. This amount of snow definitely causes some road and travel problems, but what does that much snow mean for trees and shrubs? It means there is a lot of weight on the branches! Especially this particular snow, which was very wet and heavy.

As spring marches on, rose lovers and rose enthusiasts alike begin the annual ritual of uncovering the rose garden to assess winter damage, clean the beds, and start the tedious task of pruning as the plants come out of dormancy."The keys to effective cultural control when growing great roses with very few diseases are early detection of diseases and the use of resistant cultivars," said University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Sonja Lallemand.

Become an Illinois First Detector!

When people ask me about my favorite tree, I usually answer one of the following three because of their multiple seasons of interest states University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

Many Illinois gardeners have been noticing yellowing leaves on their trees this spring states University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. This leaf condition is most likely caused by the frequent rains and consistently wet soils. Iron chlorosis is the yellowing of the leaves with the veins remaining green. It is most common to pin oak, red maple, white oak, river birch, tulip tree, sweet gum, bald cypress, magnolia and white pine. Some food crops like apple, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, grape, pear, plum and strawberry can show symptoms of iron chlorosis.

Mushroom Growing Workshop

Calling all growers, homeowners and garden enthusiasts! You have grown vegetables, fruits and flowers, but have you ever grown your own mushrooms?

Have you ever had a plant in your garden that you really liked and wanted to be able to grow it again next year? If you answered yes, then this is the workshop presented by Master Gardener Jaci Dixon is a must attend for you states University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

Gray, cold winter days may seem endless, but soon the weather will be warm, tulips and daffodils will bloom, and grass will be green: sure signs of spring. "Grab your trowel and get ready for spring with the following tips," said Ron Wolford, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

Fall Gardening Tips

"When most gardeners are dealing with the remnants of their summer harvest and preparing the garden bed for winter, most vegetable growers are about to have their most productive growing season of the year: Fall," states University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. The fall offers a second chance at growing cool-weather vegetables commonly planted in early spring.

Telial growth has started to emerge from overwintering Gymnosporangium rust galls. Early stages of the telial emergence are pictured above. 
This spring, if you live in North America, put up a chickadee nest box in your yard. If you are lucky, a pair of chickadees will move in and raise a family. While they are feeding their young, watch what the chickadees bring to the nest: mostly caterpillars. Both parents take turns feeding the chicks, enabling them to bring a caterpillar to the nest once every three minutes. And they do this from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. for each of the 16 to 18 days it takes the chicks to fledge. That's a total of 350 to 570 caterpillars every day, depending on how many chicks they have.

Zimmerman pine moth is a common trunk and scaffold branch borer in Scotch, Austrian, and red pine in Illinois. It is a shoot tip borer in Eastern white pine. Although it is difficult to control once inside the tree, its life cycle makes it relatively easy to control while on the outside of the tree.

Cool Kale

Our Local Foods and Small Farms Educator, Bill Davison, says "kale is at least 30-40 percent cooler than broccoli. The reasoning behind this prevailing statement is the ease in which it is grown and how ornamental it can be", explains University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

Straw bale Gardening at Bloomington Library

Straw bale Gardening has become a big hit with the recent introduction of Joel Karsten, book called Straw bale Gardening and has taken the garden world by storm and giving growers a new media to grow vegetables, herbs and annuals. If you would like take a class on Straw bale gardening then wait no further. University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup, will be giving a program at the Bloomington Public Library on Tuesday, June 23

Hydrangeas are known hosts to several leaf spots, both fungal and bacterial. Oakleaf Hydrangeas, in particular, are known to develop leaf spots caused by the bacterial pathogenXanthomonas campestris.

Bacterial leaf spot on hydrangea overwinters in diseased plant debris. The pathogen moves to developing plant tissues by splashing water from rain or irrigation. Once in contact with the host, the bacteria enter the plant through stomata, other natural openings, and/or plant wounds.