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 Build a Terrarium during the Holidays Mon, 10 Dec 2018 11:21:00 +0000 Terrariums a century-old trend of bringing nature inside during the winter, terrarium gardening has had a revival gardeners as of late and would make an excellent gift for the holidays.

The invention of terrariums is attributed to English Botanist, Dr. Nathanial Ward. He used a closed bottle filled with tiny ferns and grasses growing in soil in order to observe a hummingbird moth chrysalis. Once the moth emerged, he continued to watch how the ferns and grasses continued to grow for four years, during which time he never opened the bottle to add water.

Although most gardeners today are building an open system, without a lid, requiring some water but not as much as a normal houseplant. These open system ecosystems provide for ample creativity by building a mini landscape but also require minimal care.

Terrarium Supplies: Open glass container, soilless media (not the stuff in the backyard, but the stuff you buy in a bag), 2-3 small succulent or tropical plants, ornamental knick-knacks or trinkets.

  1. Fill soil at least ¼ the depth of the container or as deep as the root balls of the plants you have chosen.
  2. Add either all succulents, or all tropical—do not mix and match as each have different light, temperature, and moisture needs!
  3. Water with a mister or add small amounts of water at a time with a spoon. In the beginning, the roots are small and the entire media does not need to be saturated.
  4. Add whimsy! Reflect your gift-recipients interests with fun or meaningful trinkets placed among the plants

Care: Place in a well-lit window. Do not fertilize until the second year and then only about ¼ the rate for houseplants. Some plants may require pinching back to keep small. Pinch plants back to a node, where the leaf attaches to the stem, and this will cause the plant to grow wide instead of tall.

Why no rock? In the past, most terrarium gardeners believed rocks under the soil created better drainage. However, this is a horticulture myths passed from gardener to gardener. Experiments have demonstrated that water does not easily move from fine texture layers to course textured layers. This is because cohesion of water is stronger than the gravitational pull. Water is held tightly in the soil and must be completely saturated to allow water to go to the next gradient level, and by then the soil is too moist.

Handmade Succulent Wreaths as Gifts Wed, 05 Dec 2018 16:26:00 +0000 Homemade gifts can be extra special during the holiday season. This season, give the gift of a succulent wreath.

Succulent Wreath Supplies: wreath form, Spanish moss, paddle wire, straight pins, and several succulent cuttings

  1. Moisten a sheet of moss in a bucket. Place moss in a bucket, fill with water covering the moss, and give it time to completely soak up all water before using. The picture shows a mix of green sheet moss and gray Spanish moss.
  2. While the moss is soaking, tie the loose end of the paddle wire to the wreath form.
  3. Wrap the wire tight around one handful of moss at a time to secure. Continue until wreath is completed. Wrap tight enough to secure but not too tight, that it can be seen through the moss.
  4. Use a pencil or the end of your pruning shears to create a hole in the moss to place succulent cuttings in the moss. If I only have a few succulent cuttings, I will place them in a cluster at the top, bottom or on one side. If I have, 40 or more cuttings of three different types, (for instance, the picture shows bold colorful Echeveria, green jade, and fine light green Crassula cuttings) I will place around the entire. Secure the succulent stem to the moss with a pin.
  5. Lay flat for at least two weeks.

Care: Moss will dry out much faster than soil. To water when dry, place a wreath in the sink and allow water to soak the moss completely. This wreath will last for about a year indoors before succulents will need to be transplanted.

Succulent cuttings can be purchased at your local garden center, online, or propagate your own! Succulents are usually slow growing, have leaves adapted to hold water, usually have a waxy, bloomy and hairy surface and come in many sizes and textures. They are easy to grow because most of them are adapted to low humidity and drought. To propagate your own, start the non-flowering succulent plant. Use a clean razor blade or garden pruners to take cuttings with four or more nodes (a node is where the leaf attaches to the stem). Cut just below the node. Remove the leaves from the bottom two nodes. The nodes will be the site of new roots. To prevent rotting, let cuttings air dry for a week before placing the cutting into the moss.

Photos by Candice Hart

Phaleonopsis beautiful but picky Fri, 30 Nov 2018 11:07:00 +0000 Phaleonopsis orchid flowers have awe-inspiring and long-lasting flowers that really make them an ideal gift. Look for a plant where not all the buds are open. This means you would have the maximum amount of time to enjoy the blooms. With a little affection, phaleonopsis (moth) orchid blooms can last 6-8 weeks and become a reblooming houseplant.

Water: These orchids are called epiphytic plants, which means they have aerial roots that absorb water from the environment. Sometimes this causes the roots to be susceptible to under- or overwatering. Most people tend to overwater, and that will kill the roots, and ultimately the plant. It would be better for the plant to get a little too dry than to overwater.

I like to water my phaleonopsis in the sink, completely saturating before I place it back in its spot. I cluster plants together and place on saucers with rocks and water and spritz the leaves with a water bottle to increase the humidity but leave the ceiling fan on for good air circulation. Roots should never sit in water but above.

Fertilizer: While growing these phaleonopsis in the greenhouse, we grew benches of phaleonopsis and fertilized with quarter-strength regularly and the flowers were constant with at least two-three flowering stalks per 4-inch pot. At each watering, it is a good practice is to use a diluted solution of balanced fertilizer.

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Light: After flowering, place in a sunny window and then grow outside under shade along with your other houseplants. Light from east, west, and south windows is best but the intense sun will burn the leaves. Generally, 12 to 36 inches from a south window is best.

Temps, reblooming: When trying to get the plant to reflower, pay attention to light, water and fertilizer. Consistently providing enough of all, along with cool nights, may promote re-blooming. Some sources say the key is having a 10- to a 15-degree difference between day and night temperatures; some say it is a night temperature between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Moth orchids need good light and temperatures around 55 to 65 degree at nights and 70 to 80 during the days for 6-8 weeks before a flowering stalk will appear. This orchid, by the south window in my "jungle," experiences lower night temperatures because of its placement near the window but grows under a fluorescent light during the day.

Horticulture Trends for a Cheery holiday Mon, 26 Nov 2018 11:18:00 +0000 Will stringing lights, making door wreaths and decorating the tree truly make you happier? For me, it brings out the nostalgia of childhood, my creative side and allows me to promote the use of horticulture during this season.

Whether you are buying a live Christmas tree, poinsettias and phaleonopsis as gifts or harvesting from the outside and bringing in, let nature be your guide to stay on trend this holiday season.

Vase of twigs:Everybody has that one vase. It is large and when you were in the store, you had to have it. It either stands empty in the corner or holds a dusty fake hydrangea flower. Well, give it a facelift for the season and make it the focal point by using it to hold branches or evergreen boughs. Use lower limbs from the holiday tree, cut a few lower limbs from your landscape, buy a few boughs from your local greenhouse or cut some red twig dogwood. Treat them as you would a cut flower, placing them in warm water and removing any foliage that may sink below the water.


Wood slices to decorate the table:In the horticulture world, we call them tree cookies, and we have been allowing the young ones decorate them, drill a hole and perch them on the tree. The latest trend is to use the larger, chunkier ones on the table and set candles on them. It may be hard to find these in nature unless you have recently cut down a tree and have a chain saw. However, the industry will have them for sale if you find this trend appealing.

Evergreen letters:Instead of a traditional circular wreath, buy monogrammed evergreen letters for the front door or perch them on the fireplace mantle. Treat them the same as a wreath, spritzing with water to keep foliage healthy and intact. If outside, temperature and humidity will be appropriate.

Citrus and eucalyptus:Use citrus and eucalyptus as your theme this year. Vases of lemons or eucalyptus wreaths can adorn your home for a trendy feel. Last year, we dried orange slices in the dehydrator and used needle and thread to connect them to cinnamon sticks and beads. They really were beautifully translucent in the glow of the lights.

Eat Local this Thanksgiving Holiday Wed, 07 Nov 2018 17:59:00 +0000 If you are a planner, you have most likely jotted down the dishes that you plan to cook and present to your family on Thanksgiving Day. Perhaps you are sticking with traditional favorites or trying something new to shake things up.

My role in the family dinner is to help procure the ingredients. Last year, I challenged myself to buy mostly local ingredients for the big meal and I plan to keep the tradition alive. Not only will I support local farmers and producers, but the ingredients will be the freshest for our very special meal. You, too, can buy local and eat local this Thanksgiving holiday.

• Attend the 12th Downtown Bloomington Annual Thanksgiving Farmers Market at Grossinger Motors Arena from 9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 17. Local farmers will provide a range of products including fruits, vegetables, herbs, dairy, pork, beef, poultry, pastries and eggs. Most people would agree that food tastes better when it is fresher. I do not have to be an expert to say that the eggs my dad gave me from his own chickens tasted better than anything I could buy in the store.

Last Thanksgiving, our table was adorned with Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, cheese, eggs and cupcakes, all from local producers.

• Buy local honey instead of using sugar. Go to a farmers' market, Green Top Grocery, Common Grounds grocery, or visit the Central Illinois Beekeeper Association on Facebook to obtain the sweet stuff locally. Honey has minerals, vitamins and is a natural energy booster. Last Thanksgiving, I found fresh local honey at a large chain store and used it to drizzle on our sweet potatoes and in our hot teas.

• Buy your breads, rolls, pies and cookies from a local bakery. Some will have seasonal specials and hours. Some will have a booth at the Thanksgiving Farmers Market. Last Thanksgiving, I went to my favorite bread store and got a seasonal savory option and their most popular dessert bread.

• Go to a local meat shop or ask your grocer if the meat has been produced locally. Last Thanksgiving, we had a local restaurant cook our turkey for us. It not only freed up the kitchen, but was smoked and delicious.

• Buy several pumpkins and canned pumpkin for the big day. A farmer in Illinois most likely grew those pumpkins that are highlighted in your decorative display and the pumpkins from which you make pie. Despite early growing concerns about disease outbreaks, Illinois has had a great year for pumpkin production.

Powdery Mildew on Pumpkins and other issues Sat, 03 Nov 2018 16:59:00 +0000 Mohammed Babadoost, University of Illinois go to plant pathologist, says, "This year's processing pumpkin crop is the best it has been in the last two decades. " Babadoost attributes the success of the pumpkin crop to new varieties, more successful management of diseases like downy mildew and phytophtera by the growers and drought during the summer that does not favor some of these disease pressures. Babadoost has spent years in his career being a resource to pumpkin growers across the state.

Some readers may not know that Illinois is the top producing pumpkin state in the United States, whether it is jack-o-lanterns or pumpkin for processing.

More than 90% of the pumpkin pie filling sold in the United States comes from two processing plants located near Peoria, Illinois. Babadoost also states, "This year the pumpkins feeding into those plants are yielding a record breaking 27 tons per acre. The average is about 23. This is pretty amazing given that a plant disease nearly wiped out the whole industry in the state a couple of decades ago." These processing pumpkins are not the jack-o-lantern or pie pumpkin type that reminds you of fall but are a different species that produces fine textured and dark orange flesh but look more like buff colored watermelons on the outside.

For those of us at home, who tried are thumb at growing pumpkins, may not have had the same success story. If the gardener did not have a preventative practice to controlling powdery mildew, they may have lost all their leaf covering causing their pumpkins to sunburn in the warm sunny weather of our late summer. Babadoost said, "Most growers use a preventative program for powdery mildew starting in the last week of July before they see the telltale white fungal spores on the leaves." He said that treatments like potassium of fatty acids and sulfur can be very effective on powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew also becomes prolific if the weather is hot and dry. It can affect other vine crops like cucumber, melons, squash, and ornamental gourds. It is spread by wind. The disease attacks the lower surface of the leaves first, meaning scouting for the disease during the appropriate environmental conditions is crucial. The white mycelium eventually covers the entire leaf. The following cultural tips can help you grow a better crop of pumpkins

  1. Do not overcrowd these plants as air circulation is crucial in preventing disease
  2. Rotate, do not plant your squash or pumpkins in the same place in the garden year after year
  3. Scout early and control early
  4. Harvest pumpkins if leaves have fallen off from disease and leaves three to four inches of stem so the pumpkins will keep well.

Other issues on pumpkins this year were lesions from sitting on moist soils, bacterial leaf spot, squash bug feeding damage and phytophtera.

Seven teams funded to provide University of Illinois research for Illinois communities Thu, 01 Nov 2018 11:48:00 +0000

Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educator Kristin Bogdonas, far right, leads a Smarter Lunchrooms program in Illinois. Bogdonas is on a team that received ICE grant funding to identify effective Smarter Lunchroom techniques and address food waste concerns.
Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educator Kristin Bogdonas, far right, leads a Smarter Lunchrooms program in Illinois. Bogdonas is on a team that received ICE grant funding to identify effective Smarter Lunchroom techniques and address food waste concerns.
URBANA, Ill. – Seven projects have been selected to receive funding in the 2018 Interdisciplinary Collaboration Extension (ICE) grant competition.ICE grants fund partnerships between University of Illinois Extension personnel and faculty in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences for projects that will use campus-based research to enhance the quality of life of people in communities across Illinois. Project themes vary widely – from improving school nutrition programs to helping farmers manage nitrogen application – but all focus on research with practical applications for Illinois residents.Each winning team will receive up to $60,000 that can be spent over two years to enact their projects. Of 22 total proposals submitted for review, seven were selected for funding, described below. All departmental affiliations are in the College of ACES unless noted otherwise.An interdisciplinary collaboration to improve child diet quality and reduce wasted food in school nutrition programs
Principal Investigator:Melissa Pflugh Prescott, Assistant Professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition
Co-Principal Investigators:Kristin Bogdonas, Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educator; Brenna Ellison, Associate Professor, Agricultural and Consumer Economics; Ashley Hoffman, SNAP-Ed Extension EducatorOver 29,000 U.S. schools have implemented Smarter Lunchroom strategies, which aim to reduce food waste and encourage students to increase their consumption of vegetables and healthy foods. Recent critiques have questioned whether the program's effects on consumer behavior are meaningful or overstated. This project will implement and evaluate Smarter Lunchrooms interventions at two schools – Stark County Elementary School and Bethel Grade School District 82 – in order to develop a simulation tool that identifies effective Smarter Lunchroom techniques and addresses food waste concerns.Chicago safe soils initiative: developing and disseminating tools to identify and mitigate soil heavy metal risks to urban stakeholders
Principal Investigators:Andrew Margenot, Assistant Professor, Crop Sciences; Zack Grant, Local Food Systems and Small Farms Extension Educator
Co-Principal Investigator:Nico Martin, Assistant Professor, Crop Sciences
Collaborators:Laura Calvert, Executive Director, Advocates for Urban Agriculture; Mark Clark, Clinical Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northwestern UniversityIn the Chicago metropolitan region, Extension and College of ACES researchers have identified hotspots of lead in soils being used for food production and uncertainty from stakeholders on how to identify and manage soil lead contamination. This project will develop open-access tools to identify soil contamination, inform stakeholder decision-making, and develop evidence-based guidelines for managing soil lead risk to food production in the Chicago metropolitan region.Pest and beneficial insects in Illinois cover crops
Principal Investigators:Nicholas Seiter, Research Assistant Professor, Crop Sciences; Duane Friend, Energy and Environmental Stewardship Extension Educator; Nathan Johanning, Local Food Systems and Small Farms Extension Educator; Ken Johnson, Horticulture Extension EducatorPractical recommendations for integrated pest management are still evolving for systems that incorporate cover crops, and are currently based largely on anecdotal information rather than empirical data. This project will identify the pest and beneficial insect complex that inhabits rye cover crops in Illinois and develop appropriate monitoring recommendations for producers.Putting University of Illinois Extension at the forefront of the coming data-intensive farm managementrevolution: A tool to help farmers turn on-farm experiments into profitable decisions
Principal Investigator:N. Dennis Bowman, Commercial Agriculture Extension Educator
Co-Principal Investigators:David Bullock, Professor, Agricultural and Consumer Economics; Nicolas Martin, Assistant Professor, Crop Sciences
Collaborators:Shaowen Wang, Professor, Geography and Geographic Information Science; Phillip Alberti, Commercial Agriculture Extension Educator; Talon Becker, Commercial Agriculture Extension Educator; Russel Higgins, Commercial Agriculture Extension Educator; Jessica Soule, Commercial Agriculture Extension EducatorInefficient application of nitrogen fertilizer on farm fields lowers both farm income and water quality. This project will test and refine a new decision tool software package designed to enable extension personnel and certified crop advisors (CCAs) to discuss nitrogen management with farmers, based on data from their own farms. It will also offer training to Extension professionals to train CCAs to run on-farm trials with their farmer clients, and use the resulting data to improve input management.Rainbow Extension 3.0: Building supportive communities through Extension programming
Co-Principal Investigators:Ramona Faith Oswald, Professor and Interim Head, Human Development and Family Studies; Anne Silvis, Extension Program Leader, Community and Economic Development
Collaborators:Annie Hobson, 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator; Laura L. Payne, Professor and Extension Specialist, Recreation, Sport and Tourism; Lisa Diaz, Extension Program Leader, 4-HAccording to the 2013 Williams Institute report, there are 368,700 individuals in Illinois who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). Research shows that LGBTQ individuals experience amplified risk for poor physical and mental health and that building community supports can buffer these outcomes. This project will engage Extension educators statewide to survey the needs, barriers, and social climate experienced by LGBTQ individuals in their communities, to better address the physical and mental health disparities faced by LGBTQ individuals and work toward building more supportive and affirming communities.Reducing the impacts of phytophthora root rot and stem blight through outreach and the development of molecular-based management tools
Principal Investigator:Nathan Kleczewski, Research Assistant Professor and Extension Pathologist, Crop Sciences
Co-Principal Investigator:Santiago Mideros-Mora; Assistant Professor, Crop Sciences
Collaborators:Phillip Alberti, Commercial Agriculture Extension Educator; Russel Higgins, Commercial Agriculture Extension Educator; Jesse Soule, Commercial Agriculture Extension Educator; Talon Becker, Commercial Agriculture Extension EducatorPhytophthora root rot and stem blight, caused byPhytophthora sojae, is a common disease impacting soybean production in Illinois. Developing a molecular tool to determine the different strains, or pathotypes, ofP. sojaepresent could improve testing services, cultivar selection, and data for soybean breeding. This project will conduct statewide pathotype surveys to increase grower awareness of current pathotype diversity and to further develop and implement a molecular tool to determineP. sojaepathotypes.Targeting natural lawn care communications to homeowners in Illinois
Principal Investigator:Sarah Zack, Pollution Prevention Extension Specialist, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
Co-Principal Investigator:Lulu Rodriguez, Agricultural Communications Program Director
Collaborators:Allison Neubauer, Great Lakes Outreach Associate, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant; Haley Haverback, Extension Watershed Outreach Associate; Jennifer Woodyard, Extension Watershed Outreach AssociateConventional lawn care methods are resource intensive: Approximately 89 million pounds of pesticide-fertilizer products (weed and feed) are applied annually, and outdoor irrigation comprises 30 percent of community water demand in summer. In this project, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and College of ACES Agricultural Communications investigators will address lawn care-related pollution in watersheds by developing, piloting, and assessing a natural lawn care communication campaign in three Illinois communities.Sources: Shelly Nickols-Richardson, 217-244-4498,;
Kim Kidwell, 217-333-0460,kkidwell@illinois.eduMedia contacts: Deborah Seiler, 217-300-5571,;
LeAnn Ormsby, 217-244-4786,lormsby@illinois.eduDate: Oct. 16, 2018