URBANA – Home gardeners now have a starting point for perennials, thanks to University of Illinois Extension's new "Gardening with Perennials" (http://urbanext.illinois.edu/perennials/) Web site.
"Perennials can be the backbone of a garden," said Greg Stack, UI Extension horticulture educator who helped develop the site. "Once you have the perennials, you can add small shrubs and annuals to complete the garden.
CHAMPAIGN – Young tomato plants peek out of the ground at the TIMES Center garden, destined to become sauce or salad at the shelter's soup kitchen.
Longtime volunteer Frank Ford Jr. tends the garden, which he planted in 2000 when the center moved from McKinley Presbyterian Church to downtown Champaign.
DANVILLE – The Vermilion County Conservation District was $400,000 closer on Wednesday to building a 32,000-square-foot environmental education center at Kennekuk County Park, after the state announced $21.2 million in grants for 59 park and land acquisition projects across the state.
CHAMPAIGN – Millions of dollars in federal grants for everything from a cistern to a solar energy system are being sought to make operations of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District more environmentally sustainable.
"We've been trying to do more of this mainly from the standpoint of promoting bus riding as a sustainable, green thing to do. If we don't do it ourselves, if we don't practice these things, than it's somewhat hypocritical," said MTD Director Bill Volk.
DANVILLE – Look for some changes at this year's Downtown Danville Farmers' Market.
After several years of selling her locally famous cookies to benefit the Fischer Theater restoration project, Jean Beck has taken on the volunteer position of coordinator for the market. Beck comes with some changes in philosophy.
TILTON – Chances are that if you take a drive east on 14th Street in Tilton, you might be seeing green.
Todd Schultz follows his grandfather, Sully, and father, Larry, at the helm of Schultz Nursery, a landscaping, design, greenhouse and nursery business that opened in 1950. The lime-green shirts are a clue to the direction this third-generation owner is taking the business.
URBANA – Some community colleges will be offering online agriculture courses taught by University of Illinois professors starting this fall.
Introductory courses will be available in animal sciences, crop production, horticulture and soils. All Illinois community colleges are eligible to participate.
ARTHUR – Hauling drinking water in 5-gallon jugs down the road a few miles doesn't sound like fun, and the principal at the Arthur Christian School admits the task has been a huge headache and time commitment for three or four years.
The chore had fallen to the school board president and a generous grandpa of one of the students who attends the parochial school near Arthur. The men had to drive into Arthur once a week to fill the jugs, and then empty them into a 70-gallon tank at the school.
URBANA – A major sewer project will boost the costs for the local sanitary district for the coming year.
The 2010 Improvements Project, which is expected to cost about $40.5 million, is intended to upgrade major equipment at the district's Northeast Treatment Plant.
DANVILLE – On Tuesday, access to the then-rising Middle Fork River that flows through Kickapoo State Park was restricted for safety reasons by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. By Wednesday afternoon, the restriction had been lifted as the water level fell to just above 3 feet.
It's at least the third time in as many weeks that access to the Middle Fork, popular for canoers, kayakers and others, has been restricted.
But it's more than just the river's height that's considered when deciding whether to cut off access.