Flowers, Fruits, and Frass Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Get your tree pruning questions answered without even leaving the house Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:15:00 +0000 Get your tree pruning questions answered without even leaving the house
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Many tree owners are apprehensive about the pruning process, but pruning is an important practice to improve structure, safety, aesthetic value, and ultimately extend the life of a tree. A well-pruned tree can be worth thousands of dollars in the landscape.
A virtual clinic on Facebook will help owners make informed decisions and exactly what limbs to prune. By, participants can upload photos and ask questions specific to their situation, and get answers from local tree experts without even leaving your own backyard.
The page is live online to find today but will be full time beginning February 26 through March 17.
Now is the right time for the task, while deciduous trees are in full dormancy, and the naked stems allow the owner to see the structure of the tree. During the growing season, which can start as early as mid-March in Central Illinois, pruning cuts can be an avenue for disease and insect infestations (a few exceptions to the rule are elms, magnolia, dogwood, walnut, birch, and maple that have a heavy sap flow, which prevents healing of the wound and should be pruned in autumn).
Visit our Master Gardeners serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford County on Facebook throughout the pruning season for special events, tips, and workshops in the area. You can find us by searching @MidIllinoisMasterGardener.
Super cool greens Sat, 17 Feb 2018 10:43:00 +0000 Super Cool Greens!

Local Foods and Small Farms Educator, Bill Davison, says "kale is at least 30-40 percent cooler than broccoli." The reasoning behind this prevailing statement is the ease in which it is grown and how ornamental it can be.

However, horticulture educator, Kelly Allsup says, "swiss chard and beet greens are the real rock stars of the garden. " These greens are an early season delectable treat for my family, just as easy to grow and taste better."

Kale is a cool-weather crop in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi. It is harvested for its leaves and can be planted in early spring or late summer for abundant harvesting. It has large, textured leaves and grows three to four feet tall.

Kale can be grown from seed or transplants. Kale transplants can be planted in the garden three to four weeks before the last frost date in the spring. Seeds started indoors in early spring can be ready for planting in five weeks. It is best to harden the seedlings by gradually placing them outside in full sun. Transplants can be planted, leaving 18 to 24 inches between plants. Kale will benefit from adding compost before planting and a layer of mulch to conserve moisture. Kale should be grown in full sun. The outer leaves are harvested while they are tender and young, leaving the plant looking like a palm tree.

Davison's favorite cultivar is 'Lacinato Rainbow,' and is popular for its vigorous, curly, dark leaf with pink veins and greater cold hardiness. Kale should be planted again in the late summer to early fall for a second crop. In fact, the taste of kale is better after a light frost.

Swiss chard is actually a beet selected for its bright and colorful leaves. The industry sells Swiss chard in packs as an ornamental cool weather annual. "Bright Lights" is the paradigm for multicolored Swiss chard. Swiss chard can be planted as soon as the soil is workable and above 40 degrees F. Swiss chard is harvested similar to kale. If grown for baby leaves, start from seed and harvest entire plant when three inches tall. If a continued harvest is desired, start from a transplant and remove outer leaves as plant continues to grow.

Beet seeds can also be planted as soon as the soil is workable and above 40 degrees F. No more than a third of the beet greens should be harvested from the plant while it is producing the deep red orb. Seeds should be thinned to three or four, allowing you to eat the small seedlings. Succession planting every week or two allows harvest throughout the growing season. Beets can be planted up until the middle of July.

Picture caption: Noah and Ben Davison harvest the lower kale leaves.

FOUR SEASONS GARDENING PROGRAM OFFERS 2018 WINTER SERIES Wed, 14 Feb 2018 10:39:00 +0000 The Winter series of University of Illinois Extension's Four Seasons Gardening program, which focuses on environmental stewardship, home gardening, and backyard food production, gets underway this month. The first session of the series is titled, The Green Pathway to Invasion: Ornamental Invasive Plants. The program is offered twice – on February 27 at 1:30 p.m. and again on March 1 at 6:30 p.m. for home viewing.

Many of our worst invasive plants started as ornamental plants. Join Chris Evans, Forestry Extension and Research Specialist, as he explores why some plants end up becoming invasive, discusses some invaders that are still in the ornamental trade, and gives recommendations on how landowners can influence the surrounding natural landscapes through their planning decisions.

This webinar may be viewed from home by pre-registering Recorded videos of these sessions can be viewed following the program

The second program in the winter series isTree Care in Urban Soilson March 13 at 1:30 p.m. and again on March 15 at 6:30 p.m. Extension Horticulture Educator, Ryan Pankau will discuss tree care and urban soils by exploring the attributes of urban soils in contrast to undisturbed forest soils. Many common impacts to tree health can be related back to the level of disturbance in our urban soils. Ryan will discuss practical ways to diagnose tree symptoms related to soil issues and current tree care techniques that address soils.

The final winter program,Keep on Growing: Tips for Extending the Gardening Season, is offered on March 27 at 1:30 p.m. and again on March 29 at 6:30 p.m. Learn how to keep on growing beyond summer and have fresh vegetables any time of the year. Join Extension Horticulture Educator, Chris Enroth as he details season extension techniques such as using cold frames and low tunnels to grow fresh produce all year long.

For more details, contact your local Extension office by

Kitchen scrap gardening…regrow your fruits and vegetables! by Brittnay Haag Mon, 12 Feb 2018 10:24:00 +0000  

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Who knew your kitchen scraps could turn into a bountiful garden to enjoy again? Skip the compost bucket or garbage can, and re-grow your leftover veggies and fruits this winter for beautiful houseplants and garden additions."Kitchen scrap gardening is a great way to reinforce the concepts of recycling and reusing while experimenting with leftover plant parts to regrow," said Brittnay Haag, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

The following fruits and vegetables are examples of plants that can be grown again and again with a little water and patience:

Avocado- After enjoying a delicious ripe avocado, clean the seed and remove the seed coat (thin brown layer. Find the pointed top of the avocado seed, insert three toothpicks into the top third of the avocado, spacing them equally. Place the seed in a glass of water, and rest the toothpicks on the edge of the glass, with the water touching the bottom of the seed. Change water every couple of days. Watch for roots and sprouts to appear- this may take a month or so. Once roots have filled the glass and shoots are six to eight inches tall, it can be planted in a container of potting soil. During summer months, the new avocado plant can be set outside but should be brought back inside if temperatures are below 45°F. While a tree up to five feet may grow, fruit may take three or more years to develop and will be much smaller than commercially available.

Sweet potato vinescan be started in a similar manner to avocado, just cut the tuber in half and suspend it above the water. After a few weeks, you can transplant it to a container of soil and have the start of a luscious green plant.

Orange, lemon, and limeplants can easily be started by seeds taken from the fruit.Seeds should sprout in the moistened potting soil in two to four weeks. Glossy, fragrant leaves will grow rapidly, but the fruit will not develop for a few years.

Pineapple-Start with a ripe pineapple with healthy, green leaves. Cut ½ inch below the cluster of leaves and remove the rind and remaining fruit, leaving the tough core attached to the leaves. Expose about an inch of the stalk by pulling off a few of the lower leaves. Allow top to dry for several days. Plant top one inch deep in a mixture of peat, sand, and perlite. Place the container in bright, indirect light, and keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Roots should develop in six to eight weeks. Place plant outside during periods of frost-free weather. Fruit will develop in two to three years.

Celery- Instead of discarding the bottom of the celery stalk, save it to grow again. Cut about two inches above the bottom of the stalk. Place the vase in a shallow bowl with one inch of water, and maintain the level at all times. Change water every day to keep freshness. Roots and leaf growth from the center of the celery will appear in a few days. After two to three weeks, the celery base is ready to transfer to a planter of potting soil, covering it completely except for the center leaf tips. Other plants that be grown in a similar manner include lettuce, bok choy, cabbage, and greens of carrots, turnips, radishes, and beets.The process of growing plants from leftovers can be fun and rewarding but will take some patience. While the commercial production of vegetables and fruit consists of much more complicated processes (like grafting), and what we grow at home through this experiment may not match the aesthetics of what we can buy in the store, hopefully, the green thumb experiences experimenting with plants will leave you wanting to try new things in your garden. Recycle, reuse…and regrow!

2018 Home, Lawn & Garden Day welcomes Gold Standard Perennials Fri, 09 Feb 2018 10:22:00 +0000 BLOOMINGTON, Ill. –
McLean County Master Gardeners welcome Susan Martin, as their keynote speaker for their 2018 Home, Lawn, and Garden Day. Susan receives accolades as a freelance writer, with features in Garden Gate Magazine, Michigan Gardening, Wisconsin Gardening, Minnesota Gardener and Iowa Gardener magazines; but is best known for her ability to educate growers and gardeners about perennials.
There is still time to save your spot for her keynote entitled "Gold-Standard Perennials," at this year's event on Saturday, March 3 at Central Catholic High School.Join us to hear why these perennials "stand head and shoulders above the rest and never have a bad day in the garden." She will explain why they might be more resistant to diseases, have a nicer shape, be more floriferous or flower for longer periods. Her latest plant obsession is the Winter Thriller series Helleborus commonly known as Lenten Rose. She raves over this plant because it is one of the first perennials to bloom (possibly breaking through a layer of snow!), it's evergreen, deer resistant, and the flowers keep their color for a long time.
Susan finds her gold standards at trial gardens and gets new ideas for perennial plant combinations at botanical gardens. She encourages gardeners to peruse their local demonstration spots. Central Illinois has few in Bloomington-Normal, Champaign, and Peoria and they are a must-visit for garden selections and design.Susan is also inspired by the New Perennial Movement; a naturalistic approach that considers how the plants relate to each other as a community and using tough and durable plants like mountain mint, 'Solar Cascade' goldenrod and Joe Pye Weed. In this approach, perennials and grasses are planted in drifts and in managed prairies similar to how they would grow in nature.
Susan relates to the gardeners in her writings and teachings because she is a lifelong gardener herself. She offers tips to gardeners when buying plants not buy diseased plants, even if they are cheap or on sale.
Do not waste your money on poorly grown plants. Even plants with the best genetics will struggle once they are over-stressed.
Do research before going into a garden center. Everything looks good during the growing season in a greenhouse, but learn what varieties will grow best in your garden during the dog days of summer.
If the garden centers do not have the plants you want, ask for them by name. Their aim is to please their customers.
Looking for a fully formed root ball that has healthy white roots and is not root bound. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, ask the growers for assistance.
Learn which gold standard perennials are on Susan Martin's must-have list for gardeners by saving your seat at this year's event. Spots are filling up and your final day to register is Thursday, February 22.Help us welcome spring with a variety of gardening presentations from local experts and experienced master gardeners!
Home, Lawn & Garden Day's $50 registration includes:· Keynote Session with Susan Martin, horticultural marketer, writer, speaker, and consultant· Morning Session with Illinois Master Gardener Coordinator, Sandy Mason· Lunch Session with Ella Maxwell, horticulturist at Hoerr Nursery, on what is new at the garden center for 2018·
Three additional workshops of your choice· Lunch· Vendors, exhibitors, and door prizes· Silent auction to benefit local Master Gardener projects
Registration is required online at or by contacting us at the McLean County Extension Office at (309) 663-8306.
For more information on this program or additional Extension programming, please contact us at your local Extension office. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Kelly Allsup at (309) 663-8306 or
Photo of Susan Martin and her garden highlighting goat's beard and citronella
Photo of Helleborus Winter Thriller Series from Walter Gardens
Fruit Tree Pruning Workshops offered in Metamora and Bloomington Fri, 02 Feb 2018 10:33:00 +0000 Are you looking for more fruit on your trees this year? Try pruning.
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. –An essential strategy for producing tree fruits is yearly pruning during the dormant season. Proper pruning can increase fruit quality, reduce the occurrence of diseases, and improve the longevity of the tree, but many tree owners are apprehensive about the process. This winter, University of Illinois Extension is providing two workshops, with hands-on pruning experiences. The sessions will help owners make informed decisions on how to follow up with a yearly routine and exactly what limbs to prune.
The first session partners with Partridge Point Orchard (807 Partridge Point Road, Metamora, IL 61548)on location therefrom 1 to 3 p.m. onFriday,February 9.Nursery Manager and Owner, Shirley Blackburn,will show examples of pruned vs. unpruned trees, give tips for different types of trees, and guide you while you practice on an actual apple tree in her orchard.
The second session will be held at the Refuge Food Forest (779-799 E. Lincoln Street, Normal, IL 61761) from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, February 22. Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator, Bill Davison, and Horticulture Educator Kelly Allsup will cover pruning and training young apple trees. The Refuge Food Forest installations feature a wide variety of apple trees to hone your skills.
Participants are encouraged to bring loppers and pruning shears if possible; limited quantities will be provided for use on site. This is an outdoor program. Dress appropriately to work outdoors and handle appropriate equipment. In the event of inclement weather, an alternate site or date will be provided.Registration is $10 per person for each location and you will find registration online at or by contacting the Extension office before event dates. For additional questions, please contact Extension program coordinator, Reid Young at or (309) 663-8306.

Universityof Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please call 309-663-8306.
The winter view of Trees by Rhonda Feree Wed, 24 Jan 2018 11:00:00 +0000 "Look for the differences between these trees this winter: oak, maple, and redbud," says Ferree. Oaks are the kings of the forest. They soar well above the maples and smaller redbuds. Oaks are magnificent in size and texture.The white and bur oaks are the most majestic.
A white oak will grow well over 100 feet tall in the wild. It has a medium to coarse texture in winter, but the wide-spreading branches exhibit a strong, bold appearance.
Bur oaks are a bit more coarse in texture and to some even more impressive with massive trunks and stout branches.There are many other types of oaks too.A pin oak is much different from the white and bur.
Although still medium to coarse textured in winter, a pin oak has a strongly pyramidal habit. It is a strong central leader and has pendulous lower branches. Ferree says her college classmates called this "the 55-mile-per-hour tree" because they could recognize it even at highway speeds.
Maples also come in many different shapes and sizes, from the dainty Amur maple to the sturdy sugar maple to the weak silver maple. Sugar maples grow 60 to 75 feet tall with a rounded character. They are hard, sturdy trees. Their texture is medium in winter. Notice their beautiful bark, which with age becomes deeply furrowed, with long, irregular thick plates or ridges.
Silver maples are very popular because they grow fast. Unfortunately, this is not always a good trait, since fast-growing trees are usually also weak-wooded, often breaking in wind and ice. The silver maples grow a bit more oval than rounded and are a bit coarser in the winter, often looking disheveled.
Amur maples and redbuds are similar in that they are both small, understory trees. The Amur maple is a small tree or sometimes a multi-stemmed shrub, but is usually round shaped. It has very slender, fine branches and thus a medium-fine texture.Redbud is a small tree with medium winter texture.
Although best known for its spring flowers, it also has interesting bark in winter. Look for orange inner bark peeking through the outer black or brownish bark."Tree watchers" may notice trees that have been topped. Ferree cautions against topping trees, as this may result in weak trees that are not nearly as attractive.For more information on this or other horticultural issues, contact your local Extension office by visiting You can also post questions on Rhonda's Facebook page