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Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2003 02:20 pm

Chase away the winter gardening blues

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While you won't be able to do many outdoor gardening activities, winter's a great time to learn. University of Illinois Extension is offering several programs for gardeners to learn more about their favorite hobby.

• The U. of I. Extension Sangamon-Menard Unit and the Springfield Civic Garden Club will sponsor "Garden Basics" seminars. This series is designed to provide basic gardening information to homeowners. Seminars will cover the basics of landscape, soils, plants, and pests.

Seminars begin on Wednesday, Jan. 21 and run for five consecutive Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. A registration fee of $25 covers the cost of all five sessions and class notebook. Seminars will be held at the Extension Building No. 30 on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Since class size will be limited, pre-registration by Jan. 16 is encouraged. If you have questions call the Extension Office at 217-782-4617. Send registration fee to: Sangamon-Menard Extension Unit, P.O. Box 8467, Springfield, IL 62791.

• Reawaken your dormant herb gardening enthusiasm by attending "Herb Day 2004" on Saturday, Jan. 17, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center, 1001 Killarney St., Urbana, just off I-74 at exit 183 or Lincoln Avenue.

This year's lineup includes Chester Aaron, from Occidental, Calif., who is a noted garlic grower, connoisseur, and author of several entertaining books. He will kick off the celebration of garlic as Herb of the Year for 2004 with his presentation "Garlic is Life."

Stephen Lee, a chef, author, entertainer, and educator from Louisville, Ky., will present a cooking demonstration titled "Old Flavors, New Tastes; Using Herbs on the New American Dinner Plate."

John Enterline and Ron Short, herbal design partners from Coatesville, Pa., will team up in the morning to demonstrate "Topiary and Friends in the Garden," followed in the afternoon by the "Pleasure of Tea."

Greg Stack, University of Illinois Extension Educator, will speak about hardy roses for the herb garden.

"Herb Day 2004" is sponsored by U. of I. Extension and is open to professionals as well as members of the general public. Cost of registration, including lunch, is $44 per person. This includes seating in the lectures, an information packet, an herbal theme lunch buffet, and access to the retail area.

Lunch reservations must be received no later than Jan. 9. Those interested should mail checks, payable to the University of Illinois, to Herb Day 2004, Attention: Carol Preston, S-406 Turner Hall, 1102 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, IL 61801. For more information, call 217-333-7738 and mention "Herb Day 2004."

Winter garden series

Mark your calendars for the University of Illinois Extension winter gardening series. This is the first of four seasonal offerings for gardening enthusiasts. Each program will be offered twice. The winter series includes: "Starting Seeds Indoors" (offered at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, and 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5.); "Landscaping with Native Trees and Shrubs" (offered at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17, and 7 p.m. Thursday Feb. 19.); and "Pruning Trees and Shrubs in the Landscape" (offered at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, and 7 p.m. Thursday, March 4).

The seed starting program is offered just in time to get you thinking about starting bedding plants indoors for the coming garden season. Find out what you need to do to get started and how to keep your seedlings growing up to planting time. Seed selection, timing, materials and equipment will all be discussed. Horticulture educator Martha Smith will walk you through the steps. This program has something for the beginner and the moderately experienced gardener.

Cost is $3 per class. Programs, which will be held at U. of I. Extension Building No. 30 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, will use the university extension's Telenet system. This program will feature color PowerPoint slides accompanied by the live voice of the instructor as people from all over the state participate at once. If interested, call 217-782-4617 to reserve a seat.

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