The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Look Local First for Garden Info

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

Garden information is everywhere from magazines, radio, television and garden gurus and goddesses. Gardening enthusiasm is universal but garden conditions can vary remarkably. We deal with different soils, pests and climate. Information is not always appropriate for every area. With garden questions, check local information first.

Many University of Illinois Extension offices have Master Gardener programs. Master Gardeners have successfully completed a diversified training in trees, shrubs, fruits, vegetables, flowers and lawns. Master Gardeners volunteer their time to help you with your gardening questions.

We have an excellent group of Master Gardeners here in Champaign County and in the surrounding counties. Vermillion, Ford/Iroquois, Piatt, Moultrie/Douglas and Sangamon/Menard offices all have Master Gardener programs. Extension offices are usually listed in the phone book under the county name or under University of Illinois.

We receive many sick plant samples and strange unknown bugs in margarine containers in our office. We've had everything brought in from whole trees in trucks to a single leaf. When asking anyone for help with garden problems, make a point to bring in as much of the plant as possible. A progression of the problem from healthy parts to the most damaged is particularly helpful. Pictures can also help us in diagnosing the problem. Unlike people we can't ask the plant where it hurts so we must get the information from visible signs and symptoms and the information you give us. For instance what is the soil, when was it planted, was the person comatose at planting time.

The University of Illinois Plant Clinic is also a great resource for plant problem diagnosis and insect and plant identification. The Plant Clinic is open May 1 through September 15. For most services there is a $12.50 charge. Their phone is (217) 333-0519 and address is 1401 West St. Mary's Road Urbana Il 61802. Hours are 8-12 and 1-4:30 Monday through Fridays. If you are in the neighborhood during "off" hours, there is a green drop box for samples.

To keep up with what problems are happening in the plant and pest world, you can subscribe to University of Illinois Extension's Home, Yard and Garden Pest newsletter. It reports on the emergence and management of weeds, pests and diseases of turf and ornamental plants in Illinois.

Although the newsletter is written mainly for commercial horticulturists, many of the problems and management techniques are useful to home gardeners. It is well written, easy to understand and timely. There is a small cost depending if it is accessed over web or as a printed copy. Subscription information: phone 1-800-345-6087 or email

If you wake up at 3 a.m. with a nagging garden question, check out U of I Extension websiteand Champaign County websitefor local information and events. Prairenet's Garden Gate also has a wealth of local information.

A great way to connect with local gardeners through email is to subscribe to Grow Illini! It is an open discussion list for all things gardening for east central Illinois gardeners.

For radio and television lovers, tune into WILL radio's Focus 580 the second Tuesday of the month at 10:00 a.m. and WILL TV Illinois Gardener on Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. to get your garden questions answered.

Check out local public gardens. U of I Arboretum on south Lincoln Avenue is open to the public. It includes the Hartley Flower Garden, Japanese Garden and the Master Gardener's Idea Garden.

Visit private gardens. Champaign County Master Gardener's Garden Walk is Saturday June 24. Monticello's is June 17 and Tolono's is June 11.

Develop a relationship with a local garden center employee. Ask them about their horticulture training and experience. Then next time you visit, bring in a plate of chocolate chip cookies with a garden question in each cookie.

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