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How Should I Water My Plants?

Two weeks ago, my topic for this column was that we need to be watering our plants due to the dry fall weather. Two things have happened since that article. First – It rained. We finally received a nice steady fall rain event. However, the precipitation totals varied throughout West-Central Illinois. In Monmouth this past weekend, that area only received 0.3 of an inch. Farther south, Perry, Il...

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Getting a Handle on Pruning

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Eeek!! It's October already. Where did September go? Wait where is 2017 going? Sometimes life seems to move so fast and we get wrapped up in the daily grind and we blink and the gardening season is coming to an end. There is still work to do in the garden – typical fall clean up, but there are definitely somethings you should avoid. It's so easy to take a walk outside to do fall yard cl...

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Dealing with Fall Drought in the Home Landscape

"The cracks in my yard have cracks," I recently heard a colleague remark. In Central Illinois, spring and fall typically bring reliable rainfall. Dependable fall and spring precipitation is why we say these are the best times of year to plant trees in our region. Fall of 2017 is off to a dry start. There has been little significant rainfall in the past month, and we experienced a string...

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Fall Garden Mums in the Garden

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Everywhere I go I see huge displays of fall garden mums for sale. Beautiful colors and a reminder of cooler days to come. Mums are a great addition to containers and the landscape to add color when our summer flowers are faded or finished. With a little extra planning those mums you buy now can be a permanent fixture in your garden. Garden mums are hardy in zones 5-9 and the one interes...

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Home Hydroponics

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

The other week I received a call asking about small scale hydroponics. This is something that I had never really looked into before so of course it inspired me to learn more. One of the things I love about my job is that I am constantly learning about new things so I dived right into researching small scale hydroponics. Hydroponics is derived from two Greek words – "hydro" meaning water...

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Hardcore Houseplants

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

I always joke that I'm the kind of gardener that will try any plant and if it can survive my level of care then it must be pretty durable. It goes to the old adage of do as I say not as I do, but from my houseplant escapades it's given me pretty good insight into which houseplants are more forgiving then others. One houseplant that I cannot for the life of me grow no matter where I've lived and...

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Soils Tests, Site Considerations, and Changing Gardens

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

One of the suggestions we usually tell gardeners is to have a soil test done especially on new garden sites. It's better to see where your pH and soil fertility levels stand prior to applying anything and leads to determining better soil management practices. Before applying fertilizers what are the existing levels of phosphorous and potassium and are they at optimal levels or are they on the e...

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Why Do We Grow Garden Tomatoes?

The tomato. A native to Central America and bred over centuries to become a staple summer crop. Gardener's across the United States compete openly and sometimes covertly to be the first with ripe tomatoes. Ribbons and trophies are handed out in nearly every community for the best-tasting tomato. Competitive tomatoe growers hold dear to 'secret' cultural practices. Some of these tricks never lea...

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Favorite Illinois Natives

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

I was super excited the other day when I looked over while sitting on my back porch and noticed that my Cup Plant ( Silphium perfoliatum ) was in bloom. The common name comes from how the leaves are attached to the square stem in such a fashion that they form a "cup". It's a native plant to Illinois and I have a beautiful stretch of them along the one side of my house and here and there...

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Don’t Seed A Cool Season Lawn in the Summer

A scenario: Sometime between the end of May to the end of July you've noticed your lawn is in bad shape. You go to the garden center and see shelves full of grass seed. If the store is carrying seed that must mean it is okay to sow your new lawn at this time, so you purchase a bag or two. But what type of grass did you get? Cool season or warm season? In my neck of the woods (Central Il...

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Plants and Pets

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

I was working on a PowerPoint the other day for an upcoming program on houseplants. As I sat there thinking about what information I wanted to include and being a dog person (I have an English Bulldog who thankfully leaves my plants alone) got me to thinking about plant toxicity and animals. I have a number of houseplants as well as the plants in my yard and decided to do some research into wha...

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Gardening for Therapy

During recent years, research on the benefits of gardening has been capturing more attention. Professor of landscape architecture William Sullivan, along with his colleagues, have published several papers surrounding how exposure to nature reduces stress and improves the health and well-being of people. Published articles that seem to make the rounds on social media reveal that the bacteria fou...

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Japanese Beetles....Again

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

I think this week I have talked more about Japanese Beetles either on the phone, email, social media, or in person than anything else. Everyone seems to be fighting these coppery colored monstrosities that seem to be more prevalent this year than anyone would hope. The last two winters have been mellow and it's led to their overwintering survivability. I know some may not like this – but we nee...

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Dealing with Squash Vine Borer

After years of hiding, I poke my head out, making sure it is all clear. For the past few years, there has been no sign of the intruders. As I gather my courage, I kneel down to plant…summer squash! My hesitation over the past few years to plant any summer or winter type squash can be summed up in three words- squash vine borer . In 2014, I planted several zucchini plants, a kind...

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June and July Gardening To-Do's

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

We are already through the half-way mark of June and July is right around the corner, granted the temperatures we are currently experiencing is more reminiscent of July then June. I was trying to figure out what to write on this week, so on my drive back from a program, I figured what better time than now to think about what we should be doing in June and July in our yards. Make sure to...

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Embracing the Common Blue Violet

So far this year I have professed my reverie of dandelions, shrugged off creeping Charlie, and now it has come time to confess my favorite 'weed' - the common blue violet ( Viola soraria ). Yes, it is that violet, which so many homeowners battle year after year, often in their lawns. Search the internet, and you will find scores of articles on how to control this aggressive weed...

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Sometimes We Need to Say Good Bye to a Tree

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Last year my next door neighbors approached me about the pear tree that was located in my yard but overhung into their yard. Now this was not an ornamental pear tree, but a fruiting pear tree, one that would shed partially ripened pears in droves and trying to keep up with them was nearly impossible. It would result in the dropped pears becoming "lovely" bee and wasp magnets and both my neighbo...

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What to do When Trees are Damaged in a Wind Storm

Following a series of windy days and storms with high winds in Central Illinois, several homeowners have contacted the Extension office with storm-damaged trees. We have received reports on large sections of trees lost, gashes left in the trunks of trees, and large splits in tree trunks. What do you do when a severe windstorm damages your landscape trees? Obviously, during an outbreak o...

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Be a Plant Detective

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

During the gardening season I always get calls or emails asking what's wrong with a plant and what can be sprayed to help make it better. If you're like me, we love our plants and we want to make sure that they continue to grow healthy and happy in our landscape. It's always sad seeing a plant that is slowly fading away for one reason or another and we sit and try to figure out what is going wr...

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A Bad Year for Ticks? Take Steps to Protect Yourself

Earlier this week during my lunch break, I sat in my home dining room eating with my three-year-old. As our conversation strayed from preschool to Star Wars, a slight tickle on my side encouraged a scratch. Reaching over, I felt through my shirt the slightest bump. Immediately, it was clear this was no ordinary itch to scratch. I had a tick crawling up my side. Going to the bathroom, I...

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Proper Mulching - Save plants, save money

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

This past Friday was Arbor Day and I was working with a local community to help celebrate by planting a tree. Of course one of the important parts of planting a tree is making sure to mulch the tree after planting. I've spoken before on the benefits of mulch but with the gardening season really winding up, I figured it was worth it to revisit proper mulching and the benefits it provides....

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Rose/Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) emerging in my backyard

How Will the Early Arrival of Monarch Butterflies Impact Populations for 2017?

Last week, (April 20, 2017) a client brought in a sample to the Knox County Extension office. The sample was an unknown plant needing identification. Upon initial inspection, the plant was undoubtedly milkweed, likely common milkweed ( Asclepias syriaca ). However, this couldn't be. My milkweed growing in the backyard in Macomb had not yet emerged, and the sample before me stood six inch...

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Trees Do More Then Just Look Good

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Next Friday, April 28 th is Arbor Day. The day to celebrate trees and to plant trees. Of course in my mind I don't need a specific day to plant trees, but Arbor Day is a great way to bring awareness to the importance of trees in the environment and communities. In past articles, I've written about proper tree planting and the where to's and the how to's. This time I'm going to...

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Dandelion: What makes this weed so great?

"Dad, come look at all the bees!" exclaimed my two young boys last weekend. We were in Quincy visiting my mother-in-law. The kids were playing outside, and they had made a tremendous discovery. Dandelions covered in bees. Dandelions ( Taraxacum officianle ) are often regarded as the bane of our lawns and gardens. Dandelion's seed dispersal and resilience to all manner of controls...

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Building a Butterfly Oasis

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

I feel like I blinked and April came flying around the corner. The good thing is that the days are getting longer and gardening season has begun! I have so many things that I want to do in my garden right now but it's been so rainy that I'm still waiting for things to dry out a bit, so it does give me more time for garden plotting and planning. In a past article I had talked about necta...

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