0530 ITG aphids milkweed

Do you have some unexplained damage to your garden veggies? Look to University of Illinois Extension for answers.

Listen to this article

With increased time at home these days, there has been an explosion of gardening activity this spring. Many folks have been reaching out to University of Illinois Extension with their gardening questions and I have been thrilled to hear from so many gardeners, from beginner to expert. UI Extension has a variety of ways anyone can submit a gardening question, which I thought would be helpful to cover in this week’s column.

Our most recent project for answering gardening questions and discussion is a new Facebook group called the Illinois Extension Horticulture Group. This project was launched by a team of UI Extension folks from around the state. Our goal is to provide a forum for discussion of gardening topics in Illinois that would be moderated by a group of Extension horticulture educators, like me. As moderators, we provide answers to questions, post new content, and share events and other information that is of interest.

After only a few weeks of existence, our group already has several hundred members and I have been amazed at the great discussion that has unfolded. We’ve seen pictures and posts from around the state and it has been a blast seeing what everyone is up to in their gardens. If you are interested in joining, you can find us at go.illinois.edu/HortGroup.

For the past few years, I have been participating in another Extension program on social media centering on the discussion of gardening questions, called “Live with the Horticulturists.” This is actually a live show that we broadcast over both Facebook and YouTube every few weeks throughout the growing season. My two co-hosts, Candice Hart and Kelly Allsup, are fellow Extension horticulture educators, and between the three of us, we have complimentary areas of expertise allowing us to cover a wide range of topics.

For each show, we pick a theme and provide a live demonstration or pictures and descriptions of the subject matter, but the main focus of is answering audience questions. Our audience truly drives the discussion, and I just love all the great topics that come up. This year, we have started inviting special guests with additional expertise to widen our discussion topics. I am really excited for our upcoming shows this summer as we have a spectacular lineup of guests to fuel the discussion.

If you are interested in tuning in, our next show at noon Wednesday. Please visit the UI Extension Facebook page or our YouTube channel to find more information about the show.

If you are interested in a more local and longstanding outlet for gardening questions, the Champaign County Master Gardeners have a Horticulture Hotline available for anyone to access. This service has been a part of the Master Gardener program for many years, answering hundreds of local gardening questions each year.

Our Master Gardeners are a large group with very wide-ranging expertise and many years of collective experience with all types of gardening. When you combine that with knowledge of our local conditions, they have a wealth of experience to offer anyone in our area with a gardening question or issue.

To reach the Horticulture Hotline, call 217-333-7627 or submit an online request at go.illinois.edu/CCMGHortHotline.

Ryan Pankau is a horticulture educator with the UI Extension, serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties. This column also appears on his ‘Garden Scoop’ blog at go.illinois.edu/GardenScoopBlog.