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 Fall Carrots for a Holiday Harvest Tue, 14 Aug 2018 10:56:00 +0000 Eliot Coleman, author of The Winter Harvest Handbook, says "sweet winter candy carrots are his most acclaimed winter crop." He states "the tastiness resulting from growing in the fall weather elevates the humble carrot to another plane." Many gardeners who have experimented with spring grown vs. fall grown carrots can agree with Coleman that they taste sweeter when grown in the cooler weather.

The sweetness is a physiological defense against the cold. The carrot produces more sugars to prevent against ice crystal formation in the cells. These ice crystals can puncture and crush the cells.

Fall grown carrots can be started by seed now. You may be tempted to plant the carrots where you just harvested your potatoes but it would be best to plant them where you just harvested your onions or in amongst your tomatoes. Potatoes and carrots being both root crops may share the same pests. Carrots do not like high nitrogen levels and the tomatoes if fertilized for the last time in the season have most likely used it all up.

It is best to loosen up the soil about 8 inches. Excess organic matter in the soil may cause forked or twisted carrot roots. I like to dig a trench about 1/8 to ¼ of an inch deep and carefully spread the small seeds down the row. I then cover the seeds with soil and water them gently. Germination may take up to two weeks. Some gardeners may place burlap on top of their seeds to ensure consistent moisture or irrigate shallowly every few days. The seeds are so small that inevitably I must always thin them after they have germinated and reached about an inch tall. The goal is no more than 2 carrot plants per inch. This mandatory thinning of carrots does provide an opportunity to harvest the greens for pesto or fresh in a salad as they have a prominent carrot flavor. Without thinning you may not achieve the optimal size on your carrots.

Most carrots take 50 to 80 days. Our average first frost date in Central Illinois is October 14th. It is best not to harvest until after first frost event and when the roots are at least ½ inch in diameter. Summer plantings covered in straw mulch can be left in the ground until a killing frost. Dr. Chuck Voigt, retired University of Illinois Vegetable and crops specialist, says "Carrots that are mulched can be harvested throughout the winter until the ground freezes. "

If you still have the gardening bug this season, prepare now for candy carrots ready to harvest around you holiday meals and don't forget to mention they were freshly harvested.

Join us for a Pesto Party at the Yost House in Pontiac Tue, 07 Aug 2018 10:39:00 +0000  

PONTIAC, Ill. – Livingston County Master Gardeners will be demonstrating how to make yummy, spicy, garden fresh pesto at the Catherine V. Yost House Museum from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 18. In addition, Master Gardener, Cathy Montgomery will give an informal presentation on how to grow and use a harvest from your edible landscape.

"These days we no longer designate the backyard for the vegetables and the front yard for the ornamentals," states University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup, "Now many of our vegetables have become extremely decorative and some of our ornamentals have become edible. Placing a tomato or cabbage plant in the front yard might be breaking the social norms of the past but may be the future of landscaping."

Cathy will highlight some of the cultivars of Swiss chard, okra and other vegetables that are just as beautiful as they are tasty. She may also reveal that some of those flowers you grow every year, like daylilies, can add a garden fresh taste to your summer meals. "

Please join Cathy and the Livingston Master Gardeners for an exploratory program on what you should be eating from your landscape. You do not want to miss this exclusive program at the Yost House Museum (298 W. Water Street, Pontiac, IL 61764). There is no cost or registration to attend this event, just join us there!

For more information on this program or other 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

Watering All season long Mon, 30 Jul 2018 16:49:00 +0000 I often tell people that I have a Ph.D. in watering plants. As a young professional, I spent my days deciding if I should water and then checking to see if I made the right decision. Sometimes, I spent my days racing to water before plants wilted.

I would like to say it is an art, but any gardener who learns the following water guidelines can get a Ph.D. in watering.

Even though we have gotten some much-needed rain for the flowers and the trees, consistent watering throughout the season is very important. "Drought stress" occurs with limited water and very high temperatures. Plants are unable to make food and cool themselves. Drought stress symptoms are reproductive failure, slow and reduced growth, change in leaf color, browning of leaves, leaf drop and susceptibility to insects and diseases.

Seeds must be watered every day for germination. Without imbibing water, the seed coat will not break and the radicle will not emerge.

When planting annuals, cut back half of the plant to reduce stress. Many gardeners are surprised when I pinch plants and remove flowers before planting. My goal is for the plant energy to form root systems. In the beginning, I only give them a shot of water, as their root systems are still small. Once they start growing, I increase my water volume to drench the entire bed.

Vegetable gardens need attention daily. They grow fast and we are dependent on the flower and fruits. I sometimes check the soil after I have watered to see if the water percolated to the roots. I refrain from getting water on the leaves (to prevent spread of disease) and water in the morning (less evaporation).

It is best to water heavier less often than to water shallowly every day. If you have watered a plant for less than 30 seconds, you are probably guilty of this. Deep-watering encourages root growth. Plants need a thorough soaking if you want lush and vibrant growth.

Young trees and perennials usually need additional water in the first three years.

Water gardens one inch a week, and increase to two inches per week when temperatures are above 90 degrees. What is one inch of water? One inch of water per square foot is about a half gallon of water.

On average, a 50-foot hose releases 25 to 30 gallons per minute at full stream. A 100-foot hose releases 12 to 15 gallons per minute.

To water a 200-square-foot garden one inch with a 100-foot hose, you will need 100 gallons. Water that area for 6-8 minutes.

Pollinator Palooza: A Party for the Pollinators coming August 9 Thu, 26 Jul 2018 12:09:00 +0000 BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Did you know that nearly 75% of the world's crops require pollination? Join University of Illinois Extension and the Illinois State University Horticulture Center as they celebrate the world of pollinators. The Pollinator Palooza: A Party for the Pollinators will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 9 at the Illinois State University Horticulture Center, located along Rabb Road in Normal, across from The Corn Crib Stadium.

This family-friendly event will have something for everyone, with over 15 community organizations offering a variety of activities and information booths on all things pollinators: bees, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, and plants. Make a hummingbird feeder, learn the bee waggle dance (how bees fly from flower to flower), play pollinator games, purchase pollinator plants and honey, and so much more. Also, enjoy some light refreshments that would not be possible without pollinators, including fruits, vegetables, and chocolate!

There is no cost or registration to attend. For more information about this event, please contact the McLean County Extension Office at (309) 663-8306. Come to learn how you can help save the pollinators that are not only critical to our food supply and human survival but make the world a more beautiful and interesting place.

For more events like this one, please visit us at our online calendar at If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in the event, please contact Brittnay Haag, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator in Livingston, McLean, and Woodford at (309) 663-8306 or

Frank about fertilizers Wed, 25 Jul 2018 16:46:00 +0000 Why do I need fertilizer? When? What kind? How do Master Gardeners fertilize plants? The answer to this question is easy to answer: It all depends on the plant.

Now that you have been left even further mystified about fertilizers, learning some basic principles about plant nutrition can help you make a decision like a pro.

Plants require nutrients in varying quantities for proper growth, flowering, fruiting, disease resistance, winter hardiness and root development that are derived from the soil. Some nutrients are required in large amounts: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium and are represented by the three bold numbers on a fertilizer package. Fertilizer may also contain micronutrients like sulfur, calciumand iron needed in smaller amounts.

Nutrients are available to the plant according to the pH (acidity or alkalinity) of the soil. This is the logic behind getting a soil test: to determine pH and nutrient availability. In other words, you can apply a fertilizer to a plant but if the soil pH is incorrect it will not be available and a waste of time and resources.

Howevermost plants grown in Illinois can benefit from the addition ofa fertilizerswith the nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorusand Potassium because they are required in large amounts. A general rule of thumb for Master Gardeners is to fertilize newly planted annuals, perennialsandvegetables with a liquid fertilizer treatment about two weeks after planting to give it a boost.

Annuals will then need to be fertilized with a liquid feed every 2-3 weeks or with a controlled release fertilizer that is dry and encapsulated where nutrients are released slowly over a period. Regular fertilizing of annuals keeps up with the production of flowers. If your annuals have dried down or become too leggy, give them a hair cut and a liquid feed and they will come back more beautiful than ever.

Each vegetable you grow may have different nutrition needs and then should be fertilized accordingly. Because tomatoes are heavy feeders, University of Illinois suggests a fertilizer treatment at or around time of transplant, again when tomatoes are small with 1 tbsp. of 10-10-10 or ammonia nitrate fertilizer and again two more time at three and six weeks after the second treatment. However, beets and carrots may not require additional fertilizer treatments.

Trees in Illinois seldom need fertilizers unless nutrient deficiencies are evident (wrong color or poor growth).

Lawns are generally fertilized in spring and fall and when first seeded. It is important to know that lawns must not be fertilized with phosphorus unless newly planted, a soil test determines a need or you are a professional.

Most landscape perennials and shrubs do not need but one fertilizer treatment a year with a liquid feed or a controlled release fertilizer just before new growth appears in the spring. Always follow directions on the back of the fertilizer package.

Inorganic fertilizers benefit the plant because they are readily available and quick but do little for the texture of the soil.

Organic fertilizers release slower improves the soil structure but can be more expensive. Some organic fertilizers that can be considered are composted manure, fishmeal and emulsion, kelp meal and earthworm castings. Organic fertilizers generally have single digit bold numbers like 7-4-2 rather than the 20-20-20 of a synthetic in organic fertilizer fertilizer.

Hoverflies not sweat bees Fri, 20 Jul 2018 16:42:00 +0000 Walking in the Illinois State University Horticulture Center garden this week, I see the hover flies (aka syrphid flies or flower flies) are covering any nectar-producing flower in droves. These flies, commonly mistaken for bees are one of our most prolific pollinators in the Illinois garden. In addition to their pollinator services, their larvae are ferocious meat eaters. Hover flies are excellent fliers, flying backwards and forwards and hovering over their beloved flowers and occasionally like to sip your sweat.

Hover flies are yellow and black bee-mimics that feed on pollen, nectar and honey dew (frass of phloem feeders.) They mimic bees and or wasps for protection against predators such as birds. They are easily distinguished from bees because they are shiny and bees are fuzzy. They are easily distinguished from wasps in that they have two wings and wasps have four. Sandy Mason, State Master Gardener Coordinator, puts it all in perspective by saying, "count the wings. Two wings fun four wings run. "The female hover fly lays her eggs in amongst the aphids and in two to three days the larvae hatch.

Their larvae which is technically a maggot is muted green, legless, worm like and can be found on the undersides of the leaves eating aphids, thrips, scale, caterpillars and mealy bugs. These larvae are great garden warriors and can be put in the same category of ladybugs and lacewing larvae in terms of the effectiveness in demolishing an aphid population. The larvae grasp the prey with their jaws, hold them up in the air, suck out their body contents and toss the exoskeleton aside. The larvae feed for about seven to ten days before they pupate. According to Cornell University, the larvae can eat up to 400 aphids before they complete their life cycle. For about ten days they pupae. Their pupae is small and brown and they may attach to leaves, stems or fall to the ground

With many generations per growing season, they are here to stay. If you see and aphid or mealy bug infestation in your garden be sure to turn over the leaves to look for these beneficial maggots before you spray.

University of Minnesota, just release a trial garden report on flowers that attracted pollinators and found the following annuals were excellent additions to lure these beneficial insects to your garden. Zinnias was number in attracting pollinators, followed by 'Tangerine Dream' and 'Bambino' marigolds. The list also included salvia 'Coral Nymph,' rudbeckia 'Irish Eyes,' sunflower 'Lemon Queen' and snapdragons as their top performers.

Join Master Gardeners. Teach gardening in your community. Tue, 17 Jul 2018 17:00:00 +0000 Join Master Gardeners. Teach gardening in your community.

The Master Gardener program is a volunteer organization with the University of Illinois Extension that gives back to the community through gardening and horticulture education.

The newest project came about one year ago at the Flanagan Public Library with an idea for a pollinator garden and a new avenue to educate the community. The library had recently renovated the old bank, and the landscaping where the drive-thru window used to be was becoming an over-grown, weedy eyesore. Library board trustees approached two local Master Gardeners about installing a garden in the area.

With the help from the local high school horticulture class, a 4-H club, library board trustees and community volunteers, Master Gardeners were able to install a beautiful native plant garden that has been attracting a plethora of new pollinators to the town.

Illinois native plants in the pollinator garden include milkweeds, blue wild indigo, prairie blazing star, red twig dogwood, and more. Funds to purchase plants were received from two grants, including the Wild One's Forever Wild grant program and the Illinois Master Gardener mini-grant program. The garden is a Certified Monarch Waystation and Pollinator Pocket.

The garden has been an inspiration and tool for the delivery of several new educational programs at the library, including insect hotels and pollinator scavenger hunts. An educational display was also set up in the lobby to further educate visitors about the importance of native plants and pollinators. At the end of summer, seeds were harvested from the native plants by the high school horticulture class, who plan to in turn grow the plants in their greenhouse for their spring plant sale and encourage others to plant native plants in their garden.

The idea for a 338 square foot garden has had such a positive impact on the village of Flanagan's population of 1,100. More native plants are being planted, there is an increased awareness of the importance of pollinators, and there has been a great display of community pride and ownership of the garden.

This project is only one example of the many ways that Master Gardeners "Help Others Learn to Grow" throughout Livingston County. The Master Gardeners currently have seven community and Junior Master Gardener projects in the county.

University of Illinois Extension will be hosting Master Gardener volunteer training in Pontiac this fall. Join us for 11 sessions to learn about all things horticulture- trees, vegetables, insects, flowers, and more! Training will be every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting August 23 through November 8. The cost of the training, including the Master Gardener training manual and all classes, is $225. Financial assistance may be available to qualified individuals.

Once training is complete, Master Gardener Interns make an impact on their community by completing a required 60-hour internship through approved volunteer services, which includes participating in gardening projects, attending local meetings, answering gardening questions in the Extension office, or giving demonstrations or talks to local groups, and library and school programs.

For more information about joining this training and the Master Gardener program, please contact your local Extension Horticulture educators and program coordinators at (309) 663-8306, or visit us online at by July 27. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Brittnay Haag at (309) 663-8306 or email her at

You do not have to be a gardening expert to join the program, you just have to be willing to learn and teach others. Come grow with us this fall!