DANVILLE — Winter can be a depressing time for those with a green thumb.
That's partly why the Master Gardeners are about to host a series of three classes that will be free and open to the public.
"Nobody wants to sit inside during the summer and talk about gardening," said Jenney Hanrahan, Horticulture Program Coordinator at the University of Illinois Extension. "They want to be outside and doing it."
For those interested in growing their own food, the gardening group will first offer "Growing Fruit - Apples to Paw Paws" at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb.18.
Hosted at the Danville Public Library, this class will feature a panel of Master Gardeners who will present information and answer questions on the different varieties of fruit that can be grown in Vermilion County, which is predominantly in growing zone 5b.
The panel will discuss popular choices like apples, pears, plums and peaches, as well as smaller fruits like blueberries, raspberries and grapes.
Exotic crops like gooseberries, currants, ground cherries and paw paws will also be discussed.
One of the first signs of the coming spring is when seed-starting kits hit store shelves, so the Master Gardeners plan to host a class at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 17 on this very subject.
This class will be conducted at International Greenhouse Supply, 70 Eastgate Rd.
"They put it up on the website (Wednesday), and a half-hour later, somebody signed up," Hanrahan said of the popularity of the class. "If you're going to start seeds, you're going to want to start them in February and March, depending on the variety. We'll have a chart telling you when is a good time to start those seeds, and (the speakers) will talk about things like heating mats and keeping the soil warm."
Master Gardeners Jerry Trosper, Audrey Rowe and Sharon Beninato will discuss their experiences with starting plants from seed and also point out the importance of lighting, potting mix, moisture and disease prevention.
A third class, set for 6 p.m. and also at the library, will be the popular "What's New in Garden Centers?"
Every year, new color combinations and new varieties of plants hit store shelves, and the Master Gardeners are ready to discuss what to look forward to.
"Everybody's itching to get out to the garden centers and start buying annuals and perennials," she said. "People will literally come in and will be scribbling on paper the whole time the person's talking about what varieties to look for."
For instance, a new variety might be more resistant to powdery mildew, and if that's been a problem, a gardener might want to pick some of those up.
And for those looking to become Master Gardeners themselves, there are still spots open to take that class as well, Hanrahan said.
Classes begin in a few weeks, meeting on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information on any of these classes, call Hanrahan at (217) 442-8615 or visit go.illinois.edu/ApplyVermilion. Registration for any of these classes is important to know how many handouts to create.