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The Humble Gardener

At University of Illinois Extension, our volunteers are at our core. Hear their voice on this volunteer driven blog.

A Series of Strange but Fortunate Events

One of the best things about gardening, for me, is always getting to learn something new, sometimes from surprising sources. This is the story of a new house, a new truck, and a desired plant. My daughter and her family moved into a house in Oak Park in late summer and I got to help them move. When I walked into their backyard, I stood, stunned, unable to move. As I approached their bac...

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Growing Onions in Central Illinois

While visiting some Amish friends years ago, Chip and I were invited to visit their vegetable garden. I had seen it when we parked and was eagerly anticipating the tour. Their garden was huge and flourishing. Of particular interest were the enormous onions. I noted that they were different varieties, evident by the yellow, white, and red bulbs showing through the light mulch. I asked our friend Da...

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Seed Catalogs and Plant Sales: Spring is Coming!

Before cell phones became so commonplace, we anticipated and welcomed the annual arrival of phone books. It was very exciting to see the plastic wrapped phone book just waiting for a quick check to see if we still existed. What has now taken the place of the phone books is the arrival of seed catalogs. And the notice of an upcoming plant sale. These both make winter survivable from this norther...

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Wildlife in the Winter Garden

Mother Nature has sent a new blast of subzero weather to western Illinois. Our corn stove is blasting out heat, the LP tank is newly filled, and my geriatric cat, Tink, firmly entrenched on my lap as I type, radiates heat. Let Mother Nature do her thing. The view from the window is typical of most winter gardens. The orangey-gold foliage at the top of the asparagus whips around in the...

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Volunteers Give Presence

As the meeting room at the Knox County Extension Office filled with folks gathering for the annual holiday potluck in early December, I marveled at how "good" we cleaned up. The attendees, bearing dishes to the communal table, were Master Gardeners who I usually see in less formal circumstances- dirty, disheveled, and doing the tasks needed to keep local gardens growing. Part of the Mas...

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Remembering All The Things

The end of the growing season brings many tasks to a close. The last task of the season: update the gardening journal. Okay, that last statement makes me sound organized. Honesty compels me to confess that my gardening journal is more of a mental record than a written record. Chip has the utmost confidence in my ability to remember stuff; on a daily basis, he casually tosses a request...

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The Humble Gardener Meets Kale

It is no surprise when I write that this fall has been unusual in the garden. Little rain and high temperatures combined for a weird growing season. Cabbage moths dance upon the broccoli; Asian beetles are seven deep on the honey dew melons. Bees and wasps are thick on the compost pile. Right now we have tomato plants that are almost totally brown. They are enlivened by red and yellow t...

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