Like clockwork, the Champaign County Master Gardeners (CCMG) moved hundreds of plants from the greenhouse out to the Idea Garden on University of Illinois Campus in early May. This annual tradition has been ongoing for over two decades now as part of a plant trial program the gardeners participate in with Proven Winners®. 

Soil microorganisms are an integral part of all ecosystems worldwide, but they often go unnoticed. These tiny pillars of the soil environment perform a variety of incredibly important ecosystem functions, such as carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling. In addition, they also help to build more resilient soils, remove soil contaminants, and can help to regulate some disease and pest populations.

Hand pollination of last year’s hosta flowers produced the seeds used to grow this tray of hosta seedlings.  However, it will take a few more years for these plants to mature and truly express the traits gained from hybridization. Photo credit: Barb and Rick Schroeder

Plants in the genus Hosta, collectively referred to as hostas, are one of the premier plants for ornamental gardens that lack full sun.  These resilient perennials are a mainstay of Midwestern shade gardens and remain popular in temperate regions worldwide. However, that wasn’t always the case, leading many folks to source hostas from fellow gardeners or grow their own.

Domestication of the tomato was long believed to have happened from plants with cherry-sized fruits, but recent genetic research indicates otherwise.

Tomatoes are the most commonly planted garden crop in the United States, as evidenced by the wide range of tomato plants available every year in garden centers.  Beyond home production of tomatoes, the U.S. has historically led global commercial production, with California being our top producing state. So, it is safe to say that Americans grow a lot of tomatoes each year.

Houseplants provide beauty as well as a plethora of human health benefits during winter although indoor plant care can often be challenging this time of year.

Winter is a stressful time for many plants in the landscape, given the drought conditions brought on by freezing temperatures and the effects of extreme cold.

Although these stressors typically don’t impact our houseplants the same way, indoor plants experience their own form of winter stress, making wintertime one of the most common times of year for the decline or death of houseplants.

beet growing with title "it's hard to beat a good beet"

Mentioning the ripe beets coming out of the ground this time of year doesn't get much excitement out of my kids, but they are certainly a favorite of mine. I have such fond memories of fresh beets from my grandmother's garden. She served them pretty regularly as a side, fresh when possible, and canned the rest of the year, and I actually enjoyed them quite a bit when I was a kid. The hearty root crops are edible top to bottom, relatively easy to cultivate, and quite productive for the garden space they occupy.

June weather in Illinois is some of the best of the year. After our overly wet spring, I am sure most area gardeners are looking forward to sunny skies ahead and anxious to wrap any spring gardening plans that were delayed.  Sunny June skies will be a welcome addition to the 2019 Vermilion County Garden Walk as last year was a bit rainy.   This year’s event features a number of garden spaces that Master Gardeners are well acquainted with, but the general public often doesn’t visit. 

For gardeners, weeds represent one of our biggest challenges each growing season.  These formidable foes are relentless in their quest to invade spaces and rob the plants we love of precious water and nutrients.  Left unchecked they are equipped to out compete and shade out our garden plants and veggies, consuming the space for themselves.  Some basic understanding of weed lifecycles can go a long way in the yearly battle to maintain our gardens and landscapes.

Since its beginnings in 1997, the Idea Garden has been maintained by the Champaign County Master Gardeners and ever-improved throughout the years.   This beautiful, yet educational, community garden has grown to occupy over 15,000 square feet of the University of Illinois Arboretum, near the corner of Lincoln and Florida Avenue in Urbana. 

The Douglas Discovery Garden is an outstanding gem of Vermilion County and the Danville area.  It offers a wide variety of gardening applications for area residents to observe and learn from so they can apply these practices in their own gardens.  The beautiful space also has an interesting history of learning behind it, or some may say underneath it.

Master Gardeners across Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion Counties are planning a great line up of Garden Walks in the coming few weeks.  These events offer a wonderful opportunity to observe the diversity and individuality of garden spaces designed by a wide range of area gardeners.  All the gardens included in these events were selected based on their exemplary display and unique features.  Participants are encouraged to ask questions and take pictures as each Garden Walk was designed to inspire new ideas among beginning and avid gardeners alike.  

About forty-five years ago, two Extension Educators in the state of Washington met to brainstorm ideas and solve a problem they both shared.  David Gibby and Bill Scheer were both Extension Educators in the Seattle metropolitan area and were looking for ways to handle the overwhelming public demand for information about urban horticulture.