March 31, 2012
Twelve Master Gardeners recently completed the University of Illinois Extension Master Composter training program. Trainees from the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Extension Unit learned the science and art of composting. Classes were held on March 8th and 29th at the University of Illinois Extension office in Peoria.
Duane Friend, University of Illinois Extension Educator, covered the composting process, composting materials, containers, and managing the compost process. Master Gardener and Master Composter Mary Beth Mahoney taught the art of vermicomposting, which uses red worms to break down household waste in a small receptacle. Mary Beth also discussed bokashi - a Japanese method to compost meat, fish, dairy, casseroles and prepared foods.
The training ended with a tour of a local composting facility. Paul Rosenbohm of BetterEarth explained his commercial composting operation in Peoria. According to their website, BetterEarth Compost is made from recycled material and benefits the environment as it benefits its users.
Trainees promoted to intern status include Norm Meyn, Patricia Melaik, Ron Miller, Lee Maki, Patricia Middleton, Julie Vandermeer, Jack Lambert, Jody McCamey, Phil Houser, Carol Lontai, Corinna Walker, and Mary Whittaker.
Master Composter interns are asked to volunteer 20 initial hours within two years, sharing with their local community what they learned in the classes. Volunteering can take the form of answering questions from homeowners at the local extension office, or helping with a community composting project. Some Master Composters speak at local programs or do media work. Many volunteer time with school programs or community gardens.
Congratulations to these outstanding University of Illinois Extension volunteers on completing the first – and most difficult – phase of the Master Composter Program! For more information or to talk to a Master Composter, call University of Illinois Extension at 309-543-3308.
March 27, 2012
I am still surprised by the number of plants in full bloom in March. I saw flowering dogwood in full bloom yesterday in Springfield, IL. In my yard, the Carlesei viburnum look awesome and smells even better.
The pictures above show the same five locations in my garden. Closeup views include:
-creeping phlox by the pool
-Japanese maple, Carlesei viburnum, and vinca vine by herb garden
-Prairiefire crabapple in front yard
-Bleeding heart in the perennial garden.
Enjoy our early spring! See all week by week photos at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt/photogallery2822/th_main2.html
March 19, 2012
March 14, 2012
I see subtle changes in my garden this week. Check out the photo gallery to see them for yourself. Here is my top 5 list of what is happening this week around my yard.
1-vinca minor blooming under pergola
2-honeysuckle in full bloom by pool
3-star magnolia blooming in front yard
4-contorted hazelnut in full bloom (catkins expanding)
5-daffodils in full bloom near firepit
See the entire "Week by Week in a Garden" gallery here: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt/photogallery2822/
March 10, 2012
Big trees seem to fascinate and almost mesmerize us. They bring wonderment as we surmise how old it is and what it has "seen" through its life. Here are some of my favorites.
No words can describe what I felt when I saw my first giant sequoia tree in California's Sequoia National Park. They are all grand, but the grandest of all is the General Sherman tree. It is the largest (by volume) tree in the world and is estimated to be 2,300 – 2,700 years old. WOW!
Often big trees are not stately, but rather appear ragged and battered. After all, trees over 1,000 years old had to have seen some challenging time. A good example is the Illinois state champion Bald Cypress tree. This 1,000 year old tree stands 73 feet tall and has a trunk circumference of 34 feet 3 inches. At first glance the tree isn't anything extraordinary, but as I paddled my kayak up to touch it, an overwhelming sense of history came over me.
The bald cypress is found in the lower cache river in southern Illinois. Several other state champion trees are found nearby. A cherrybark oak is found on the heron pond linkage trail. Heron pond is magical all by itself, but seeing this giant tree was the real highlight of my hike. Similarly a water tupelo tree is viewable from the section 8 woods boardwalk near the Henry Barkhausen Wetlands Nature Center.
Sometimes the tree makes a place memorable. For me, that was a banyan tree at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida. According to their website, it is the largest banyan tree in the continental United States, measuring in at 84 feet tall and 376 inches in circumference. The Estates is the proud home of two Florida Champion Trees and six former champions.
For more examples of big and historic trees, go to my new Pinterest Page. I created a board dedicated to the big and historic trees. It is found at pinterest.com/ILRiverHort. Go there and pin your own big tree experience to my board.
March 5, 2012
Join me in my garden as I post weekly pictures and updates from six locations around my yard.
1-Herb Garden - my herb garden was built several years ago and is adjecent to my back patio. Although originally it was designed to grow only herbs, I've adapted it over the years to include other plants of interest. I anxiously await the flowering of the poppies I transplanted here last fall.
2-Garden pond and pergola - to the east of my patio we built a garden pond and pergola walkway. This is a shady locations where we typically add a few impatiens each summer. I"m hoping a few crocus will make an appearance soon.
3-Pool and Gazebo - a tropical look will soon appear. Ten banana plants wait patiently in the basement until they can move outside.
4-Perennial bed - How much will I need to prune the butterfly bushes this year since they overwintered?
5-Firepit areas - A new outdoor living space. Watch as it progresses.
6- Front Entrance - From this viewpoint you should see spring flowering trees soon.
Gardens are interesting in every season. As these gardens progress this year, watch for changing colors, textures, shapes, forms. I'll take pictures at different times of the day and under different lighting conditions. Notice how that changes the overall feel of each garden room.
Go to http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt/photogallery2822/ to begin the tour...enjoy!
March 2, 2012
Do you compost? Composting is the ancient art of mixing by-products from your yard with water, air, and time. What better way to dispose of leaves in the fall, grass clippings throughout the summer, and kitchen vegetable scraps than to turn them into compost?
Composting is fun and simple. Simply take by-products from your yard, and layer them thinly and uniformly; the same way lasagna is made with thin layers of macaroni, cheese and sauce. Never overdo any one single layer and never skip a layer in the construction process.
Locate the compost pile in an inconspicuous but accessible area. The average homeowner compost pile size is 3 feet by 3 feet. A compost pile can be as simple as piling up materials in a corner of your yard or you can build a bin.
Starting on bare soil, organic matter will be the first layer. A ratio of 1-part grass clippings to 2-parts fallen leaves is a good way to start. You can mix in vegetable scraps from the kitchen or debris from your garden clean up as long as you start with the basic ratio. The second layer should be animal manures microorganisms to get the pile working. Water and keep layering (just like lasagna) and watering until you run out of material or reach the top of your bin. Now you wait. After 2 to 4 weeks your pile should be hot in the center. This indicates your pile is working (the lasagna is cooking). Failure to heat would indicate a construction flaw: too much water, too little water, too little nitrogen, or too little a pile.
Want to learn more? University of Illinois Extension is offering a Home Composting course where participants will learn the art and science of home composting. This hands-on intensive 12 hour training program includes basics of indoor worm composting, outdoor composting, science of composting and educational methods and practices.
This series of classes will be held on March 8 and 29 from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the Peoria County Extension Office, 4810 N Sheridan Rd, Peoria, IL. Training classes will be presented by University of Illinois Extension Educators and University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners. Cost for the course is $30.00 for both days and $20.00 if attending only a single day.
Register on line at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt or call the Extension Office at (309) 543-3308 for more information and/or to register for the composting course. As my colleague Martha Smith once said, "Compost is really 'Black Gold'! Start your own 'gold rush' today".
Source: Rhonda Ferree, University of Illinois Extension educator, horticulture, (309)543-3308, firstname.lastname@example.org
Adapted from article by: Martha A. Smith, University of Illinois Extension educator, horticulture