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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.

Big City Varmints

There is nothing quite as exciting for me as receiving inquiries from young people who are beginning their gardening lives. The one that's hardest to answer is what to do about varmints in the garden. I never had problems with wild animals in the years that I have grown rural vegetable gardens. I encountered the occasional snake in my country garden, but it was just trying to make a liv...

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Seeds of Spring

As I stood in the middle of the deck, watching animals run hither and yon, I wondered, not for the first time, why we start our own seeds every year. After all, perfectly good nurseries that provide plants for the home gardeners exist. I blame Mother Nature for the whole debacle. If you live in western Illinois, you will no doubt remember the unseasonal weather we had over Presidents' D...

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Master Gardener's Q & A

During a recent visit with my daughter, I asked to borrow her computer to write my gardening column. As she set it up, she said, "What do gardeners do in the winter? What can you write about?" She unwittingly gave me a great idea for this month's column. Gardeners answer questions. Our own and others'. Answering questions/education is part of our mission as University of Illinois Master Gardene...

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Preserving Summer's Sweetness

Posted by Amanda Christenson -

The end of the actual growing season this year, although much later than usual, still left tasks undone. But the tasks are such that they can mostly be done when we get around to them. Case in point: we have dried beans to shell. Technically a task, I enjoy shelling them while sitting on the deck watching the geese come into the lake or seeing the two neighborhood herons vying for...

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Gleaning the Garden

Chip and I reluctantly admitted that the beautiful fall weather we had been enjoying must inevitably come to an end, and with this thought in mind, we ventured outside last weekend to finish the last of the gardening cleanup. Accompanied by two dogs and an aging tiller, we headed out to finish this year's harvest and put the vegetable gardens to bed. Birds waited patiently near empty feeders, s...

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If You Build It, They Might Come

If you build it, they will come. If this is true of baseball fields, I figured it was applicable to gardens for pollinators as well. In an effort to eliminate grass mowing coupled with a wish to provide habitat and food for bees, butterflies, and birds, I decided to plow part of a side yard that was difficult to mow and boring to view. I had to do some fast talking to my gardening partner, but...

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Dismantling a Majestic Oak

The tree had to come down. Chip remembers when his father planted the tree in the backyard of our house, Chip's childhood home, forty years ago. The oak had stood as a sentinel watching over generations of dogs who have shared the backyard with it. Its shade had sheltered small children running through a sprinkler on a sweltering summer day. Its sturdy trunk had served as a backrest for weary g...

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