As dormant plants slowly extend bright green limbs from under a blanket of soil, garden enthusiasts thumb plant catalogs in eager anticipation of another growing season. Are you making plans for your bountiful garden? It may be cold outside, but spring fever has hit many gardeners – including this one! Begin the much-anticipated season with the 21st annual Home, Lawn, and Garden Day, brought to you by the Illinois Extension McLean County Master Gardeners.
Uplift any room with the look and life of a lush houseplant.
While common in the corner of a bright room or displayed in the front picture window, houseplants grow well, even thrive, in low-light rooms; the key to success is choosing the right plant for the right place. Boost indoor air quality and create an indoor greenspace with houseplants for low light.
If picking the perfect holiday gift stresses you out, this year visit your local garden center for a natural gift that keeps on giving. Gardening and growing plants is an experiential gift that is both rewarding and fun.
The smells of Thanksgiving dinner highlight a holiday centered around family, friends, and giving thanks. Heartwarming and tempting, the aromas of freshly baked dishes would not be the same without the addition of herbs like thyme, sage, rosemary, and parsley.
This holiday season, consider herbs you could grow in your own garden or plant a container of herbs indoors for an uplifting scene of green and quick access to fresh flavor.
Stepping outside on a cool fall day, I can recall the childhood joy of fall leaves and singing, “leaves are falling, leaves are falling...” as we watched the autumn scene unfold before us. The colorful fall leaves once hanging from the trees are now a patchwork of various shades and shapes scattered across the lawn and landscape. As their muted palate dulls to brown, these dried, decomposing leaves become a great free source of nutrients for your yard or garden.
Fall is the season of change. With shades of red, yellow, orange, bronze, brown, and purple scattered through the landscape, Central Illinois becomes a beautifully painted scene.
Deciduous trees, those that lose their leaves every fall, create a stunning fall display as they prepare for winter temperatures.
Keep your thumb green this winter by caring for beloved garden plants indoors. The chill of winter may seem far off, but the threat of frost is nearly here. On average, the first frost in Central Illinois is mid-October, but it can occur sooner. Act now - move your favorite garden plants indoors before a damaging frost.
Your garden's floral showcase may be ending but the flowers need not disappear. Extend the life of floral garden favorites by preserving them for indoor decor. The art of preserving flowers and plant materials has been practiced for hundreds of years; colonial Americans harvested and dried flowers to decorate their homes for the long winter season. In similar fashion to early American homes, dried flowers and foliage can be used to create wreaths, potpourri, vase arrangements, or other gifts.
Spice up your life with a little spice in the garden. Historically used for culinary and fragrance purposes, herbs are both beautiful and versatile. In addition to the freshly harvested ingredients for our summer recipes, herb foliage and blooms offer the garden a variety of beautiful textures, shapes, scents, and colors. They are the perfect addition to a sensory garden, an area designed to stimulate one or more of the five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch.
Red, white, and blue will make a statement on flagpoles, porches, street corners—even truck beds—this holiday weekend. Join the celebration, plant a festive garden of patriotic color around your flagpole or a red, white and blue front door container to celebrate Independence Day. The addition of blue flowers to your red and white garden is tricky to accomplish, only around 10% of the flowering plants on earth produce blue flowers, but the addition is certain to make a patriotic statement.
Summer is in full swing and your gardens are planted, but there is still one bare spot in the shade. In a vegetable garden, shade is a predicament. Have no fear – food will grow here! Plant some leafy greens and lettuces in these spots and feast on many summer salads.
Gardening in the shade can be challenging. Few plants grow their best in low light conditions, and the plants that do often lack gorgeous blooms. If a lawn of large-leaved hostas is letting you down, experiment with uniquely textured foliage and distinct blossoms offered by shade-loving plants. You’ll be eager for a retreat from the heat to enjoy the additions in your summer shade garden.
With limitless colors and textures, no porch or patio should sit bare this season.
Plant a container.
The home with a front porch container display always feels a bit more welcoming; the back patio with a well-designed pot always feels a bit more relaxing.
Many of today’s youth lack a connection with nature or an interest in gardening or growing their own food. One of the best ways to encourage an excitement for gardening is by creating a themed garden. A child’s hands-on, experiential learning style can be encouraged in a themed garden, especially if it’s a garden they help create. Inspiration for the garden’s theme can come from many things: a favorite food, color, or animal; a story – even a historical event!
With the anticipation of spring and returning pops of color, you may find your forsythia and lilac shrubs are a bit lackluster from improper management.
Do you grow peppers and tomatoes every year? Are you ready to try something different (or maybe in addition to!) the same-old, same-old? Then you should try growing onions this gardening season. With just 30 square feet of planting area, you could grow the bulk of the onions you cook with this year.
As the winter chill thaws, gardeners erupt with excitement for the big botanical blitz that is spring. We scan the aftermath of winter, spotting the evidence of last year’s gardening efforts in our brown landscapes: dried plant stems, partially mulched leaves, and hints of green, our emerging spring bulbs.
With over 400,000 species of plants in the world, one might wonder which ones are the best to grow in your garden or landscape. Many plant associations select a “Plant of the Year” using rigorous criteria to highlight plants they feel are deserving of the title. Consider these plants when planning your garden or looking for something new to grow this year.
Cultivating a love and knowledge of gardening in youth can be a rewarding experience for all. A garden offers a place to learn, play, and grow through hands-on experience in the freedom of their own backyard. Kids LOVE to dig in the soil and get their hands & feet (or even head to toes!) dirty. Many of the gardeners today share memories of gardening at a young age with a parent or grandparent.
It’s almost gardening time! My family’s garden starts on April 1 with the planting of potatoes and onions. If you’ve never grown potatoes in your garden, try something different this year. Here are some helpful steps to achieve a successful crop of potatoes this year.
I don’t know about others, but I myself am fighting a case of the winter blues. My happy place is in the garden, looking at my growing plants—not snow!
As you daydream about your spring and summer garden, consider planting some unorthodox plants that are fueling a growing agricultural trend in the Midwest—agroforestry. There are a few different definitions of agroforestry floating around, I am partial to the following, the mixing of annual and perennial crops in a well thought out way. Here’s an illustrated example:
Time is ticking to find that perfect Valentine’s Day gift for your loved ones. Instead of the go-to fresh floral arrangement, give a gift that someone can enjoy for many months. Flowering houseplants are great alternatives to traditional bouquets of cut flowers. With a little care and maintenance, these plants can thrive in your house or office and rebloom multiple times. A bonus to gifting these indoor plants, they can be moved outdoors to your garden or patio container once warmer temperatures arrive.
With a new year comes new gardening trends we can all get excited about. Each year, predictions are made about types of plants, colors, containers and how we utilize them. Experts use last year’s gardening purchases to make these predictions.
Here we are, knee-deep in the holidays, and our gardens have finally been tucked in for the long winter nap. It’s a time of year many growers look forward to, a time to finally put up their aching feet, assess how the growing season went, reflect on successes, failures and what to do better next year. Some of the decisions many folks reflect on, including myself, are: did I grow the right garden plants this year? The right variety? The right amount? The good news is that we have a nice chunk of time to look through seed catalogues and think all this through.
Hostas are among some of the most cherished perennials of all time, creating a lush pallet of bright greens, muted greens, chartreuse greens, variegated greens and creams, and blue-greens. This fall, some are displaying a vibrant yellow lighting up the landscape.
They come in miniature versions to lofting leaves as tall as a small child. Hostas are commonly described as ''fabulous foliage plants" by the industry, but some of their blooms can be exceedingly showy, exceptionally fragrant and especially attractive to hummingbirds and bees.
It will soon be time to put our gardens to bed for the year. Fall is a perfect time to get the kids out in the garden, with the cool temperatures and changing of the season. Have them help you with some garden chores combined with fun activities, engagement with nature, and even learning too!
Are you ready to toss in the towel on your overgrown, drab-looking container gardens for the year?
Unfortunately, our gorgeous summer containers are now fading due to the stress of the summer heat, possible insects or diseases, and the changing temperatures and sunlight in fall. Don’t give up! Now is the perfect time to give them a fall makeover and create a beautiful display of autumnal colors amongst the pumpkins on your front porch for a couple of months.
The larvae of a moth may be wreaking havoc on your lawns right now and could be exacerbated by the lack of rain leaving behind lots of dead grass in its wake. Recent sightings of large fall armyworm infestations of turf have been reported in Bloomington Normal this week.
Rainy weather is leaving gardeners confused. Traditionally, Illinoisans would be gearing up for a very hot and very dry late summer and I would be encouraging consistent watering as the key to good harvest. However, with the deluge of irrigation from the sky, there are some other landscaping tasks that need to be done to address the overwatering.
Growing up, a summer meal at grandma and grandpa’s house wasn’t complete without a giant, juicy tomato and fried squash blossoms. Squash blossoms are one example of edible flowers that are already growing in our gardens and just waiting for us to enjoy. Edible flowers can be added as the main ingredient in a new recipe, offer a little spice to a dish, or even used as a garnish to add some color and texture to a plate.
Thank a pollinator for that warm cup of coffee in your hands, or for that chocolate sundae you indulged in the other day. National Pollinator Week is June 21-27; celebrate pollinators and support their health this year. Did you know that that pollinators like bees and butterflies, provide 1 out of 3 bites of food we eat? Over 80% of flowering plants are pollinated by these small, but busy animals.
A recent study tracking butterfly abundance in Ohio over the last 20 years has discovered a 33% decline. We can only assume that in Illinois we have similar patterns in decline in our butterfly populations. Scientists believe the decline may be attributed to climate change, habitat degradation, and agricultural practices.
It’s that time of year again… time to plant your tomatoes and peppers and get your summer garden going! Most gardeners have grown these before, but with a few tips and tricks, you can decrease disease prevalence, increase plant health and get a better harvest. One tip: prune them both!
It is recommended to prune your tomato and pepper plants at planting and during establishment, and depending on variety, throughout the harvest season as well. Of course, pruning practices differ between the two crops and within crop variety, so each are addressed here in turn.
Sun-loving, season-long blooming, low maintenance, dependable and pollinator-friendly. Sound like a perfect perennial to add to your garden?
Do you struggle with weed control in the spring before planting your summer garden? Does your garden lose topsoil after a heavy rain due to slope? Would you like to improve soil structure and add organic matter to your garden?
Backyard cover cropping is for you!
You may not be able to travel for the kids’ spring break this year, but make it a memorable one and spend time in your own backyard, or at a local nature space. The weather is finally starting to warm up, and your garden and yard will be coming back to life soon. Get outside and get your hands dirty with a few garden activities for everyone to enjoy.
Originally published by Kelly Allsup on February 19, 2021.
Who would have known seeds would be the latest craze in 2021? Many seed companies are finding it hard to keep up with the demand and are out of stock or delayed in delivery. If you haven’t ordered your seeds, don’t fret, some are still available and your garden centers will not let you down on offering the average fare.
Believe it or not, it's never too early to start making plans for this year's garden. Knowing when to plant for your area and getting your plants started right will help you maximize the growing season.
When to grow?
Planting dates are determined two things: the first and last frost dates where you grow, and how much time it takes for a crop to mature. Always check the plant tag or seed packet for the recommended date.
The 2021 Garden Trends Report by Garden Media Group says, “Victory garden was spurred by the increase in home cooking in 2020. GMG says 31 percent of people would like to grow fruits in their backyard and berries are at the top of the list.”
Six Garden Gifts
Gardening is a mindful practice that can only be sourced outside in the fresh air, with your hands in the dirt, creating a pallet of flowers and fruits. This past year, many new gardeners tested their skills while experienced gardeners stretched theirs. This year, gift the must-have gardening tools of the trade.
This is the time of the year to make tough decisions about what will take up residence in the house and what will succumb to the frost. Though frost will inevitably kill off most of the tender plants that I have cared for all summer, some of these plants can be saved for next year.
When thinking of fall bloomers for your garden, everyone's usual go-to is the mum, but don’t rule out the gorgeous asters sitting next to the mums. There are 180 species of aster, many of which are native to Illinois. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) are two easy-to-find favorites.
Proactive strategies can lessen the extent of wildlife damage to your gardens through fall and winter.
Once the ground is frozen, rabbits will have fewer places to take shelter or hide, and will forage for food a lot closer to the protection of their winter home. They will go for anything green but once that is gone, they will go for thin-skinned bark and small branches. Feeding damage can be prevented using chicken wire fencing, burying a few inches to thwart digging.
1. Adding eggshells when planting tomatoes adds calcium and prevents blossom end rot. Fiction.
Eggshells add very little immediate calcium to the plant.
1. Control grubs in the lawn to eliminate moles and voles? Fiction.
A mole’s diet consist mostly of earthworms. This does not mean they won’t eat a grub, but grubs are not their preferred diet. Although mole tunnels can be a nuisance in a lawn setting, most landscape plants are not bothered. Moles generally elude traps, so it may be best to accept them as part of the ecosystem of your yard.
Voles are herbivores. They do tend to eat bark during the winter months, so a protective trunk wrap may help in these cases.
If you have a vigorous perennial that has been in the garden bed for more than a few years, or it is starting to choke out some other plants and no longer looking healthy, then it may be time to divide.
Plants that need to be divided cannot support healthy foliage and flowers. Some perennials like to be divided yearly (chrysanthemum); some can go three to five years without division; some can go much longer. Some do not require division at all, like butterfly weed with the taproot, or baby’s breath.
Are you ready to take your butterfly gardening to the next level and allow some of your beautiful plants to be eaten by caterpillars?
Choose the right plants, give them some care, and voila — caterpillars. The most grown caterpillar food in our gardens are milkweeds for monarchs and parsley for black swallowtails. By adding a few more native shrubs, perennials and annuals, as well as allowing certain weeds to remain, the caterpillar café could be open in no time.
The grass will germinate and grow quickly to create a lush, green head. Snip or style the “hair” to keep it looking tidy.
- 8 oz white paper cup
- Potting soil
- Wheat grass seeds
- Colored pencils or crayons
1. Poke 3-4 small holes in the bottom of the cup for drainage.
2. Draw a face on the paper cup with colored pencils or crayons.
3. Fill the cup with soil, save 1 tablespoon to put on top of the seeds.
While designing a perennial flower bed, remember to add personal favorites, and throw out “garden design rules” that don’t fit your vision. Some of the plants I choose are favorites because they are tough, dependable, and beautiful.
blue false indigo (Baptisia australis)
Are you ready to take your butterfly gardening status to the next level and allow some of your beautiful plants to be eaten by caterpillars?
Choosing the right plants, some care and voila caterpillars. I am not only altering the habitat of my backyard for the greater good, I will have some more willing specimens for my Instagram posts.
Originally published by Kelly Allsup on July 3, 2020.
Last week's high temperatures and our limited amount of rain is making gardeners' number one job watering.
URBANA, Ill. – Every garden needs water, but with a container garden’s limited soil volume, proper watering is crucial for plants to stay productive.
Nothing says summer like enjoying the freshly harvested vegetables and herbs from your garden. “One of the easiest, most prolific, and flavorful herbs to grow is basil (Ocimum basilicum),” states Brittnay Haag, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator. While there are many cultivars of basil, the most common are sweet basil and Genovese basil.
Herbs have been touted by gardeners as some of the easiest and most rewarding plants to grow in the garden. Did you know that some herbs grow best in the cooler season of spring?
Cilantro and parsley can be planted by seed or transplants now. Cilantro and Parsley should be planted in rich but well-drained soil, with full sun or partial sun (afternoon sun). It is best not to over fertilize herbs; doing so may dull the taste. Harvest no more than half of the plant and remove leaves to base of plant ensuring to not leave stalks behind.
Each year, the month of May is Monarch Month in Illinois to honor our official State Insect. Despite our efforts to honor our butterfly friend, the annual count of Monarchs recently saw a 53% decline in a one-year period, and the Monarch will be considered for inclusion on the Endangered Species list in December 2020.
These numbers make state collaborations like the Illinois Monarch Project that much more important. What can you do?
In the last article, we talked about starting seeds indoor with limited resources. A lot of seed can be started outdoors during the month of April.
Carrots can be planted by seed starting April 10. Carrot seed is so small that inevitably you must thin your seedlings, which can be quite a tedious task. My advice is to mix the seed with soil or sand to spread the seed more evenly. When you do thin or clip tops with a pair of scissors, use the seedlings in a fresh pesto or soup. Be patient as carrot seeds can be slow to germinate, but water daily.
Starting seed at home is easy, even with limited materials.
Some of you may have already gotten your seed order for the spring, but the procrastinating gardener that I am will force me to explore last year’s seeds stash.
Horticulturists typically keep their seed stash in a refrigerator to ensure viability. We have a refrigerator at the office to keep our seed for our various projects, like the Unity Community Center garden.
Planting perennials can bring you wonderful surprises and inspiration for future garden design.
Free time on your hands? Avoiding social spaces, but need some time outside?
First, remember that just because you're outside, the virus can still spread. If you're working with more than one person:
University of Illinois Extension Livingston County Master Gardeners would like to welcome spring with an educational workshop entitled “A Day in the Garden Patch” on Saturday, April 4 from 8:30 a.m. to Noon.
A Day in the Garden Patch is all about inspiring, educating and encouraging gardeners, whether they have a balcony and a sunny window or an acre to grow. This educational event is for all who love plants and want to discover new gardening tips while having fun.
Walking through any garden can be calming, educational, inspiring, energizing, or a combination of all of these. A new trend in gardening is creating intentional gardens; gardens with a specific purpose, like a sensory garden.
Cicada Killers and the Great black wasp may have already started menacing gardener. However menacing they are in their façade, they are just simply trying to get some nectar from the flowers. About this time of year, inquiries from the public start to flood Master Gardener ran help desks because they start emerging from their winter homes that are nests underground.
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.
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.
Get your gardens buzzing next spring by planting bee-friendly bulbs and spring bloomers this fall.
Bumblebee queens, honey bees, and solitary bees start emerging from their winter homes ready to feast on the landscape as early as March. Feed them from your garden by planting a mix of crocus, snow drops, Siberian squill, grape hyacinth, bluebells with spring flowering hellebores and primroses to ensure many sources of nectar.