Extension Educator, Horticulture
July 31, 2007
Master Gardener Catherine Murphy reports on Monarch Butterflies in downtown Chicago:
Just wanted to let you all know that there are a zillion monarch butterfly chrysalis on State Street downtown! They are at State and Lake in the little garden in front of that TV station. If you look on the palm that looks like a purple yucca you can see a lot of little green chysali.Then once you see them you can see a whole lot more. There are some clinging to the grasses too - with a lot of spent chyrsali also and probably some newly emerged monarchs. We just came back from there and saw 3-4 newly emerged monarchs and some caterpillars along with the chrysali. When they first emerge they have to stretch and rest so you can get a great view of our usually restless friends. I cut some leaves yesterday that were close to the walkway for my kids in After School Matters class and to protect them from little interested plucking fingers but the ones on the street side are still there. I found one chyrsalis on a very short stem lying on the ground. I took that home and suspended the stick on the neck of a syrup jar (as the stick was so short and it was the only way to suspend the chysalis) and this morning we had a monarch stuck in the bottom of a jar! Jan cut the top of the jar though and now he is warming his wings on the curry plant in on our back porch - he'll fly tonight. The chrysalis turn dark before they open and they like to emerge in the morning and the evening. I hope everyone can get a chance to see them.
July 29, 2007
July 29, 2007
There's a reason why new coneflower cultivars cost more than older cultivars, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
"To produce enough plants to meet the market's demand for the new cultivars, the plants are propagated in labs via tissue culture," explained Jennifer Schultz Nelson. "Tissue culture takes a piece of the plant and using plant hormones in a dish or flask, produces thousands of tiny new plants.
"These are grown and sold to the public. This requires more resources than dividing existing plants. This at least partially explains why new coneflower cultivars cost more."
Coneflowers are tough little native plants that have adapted to a wide range of environments across North America. Their genus name, Echinacea, comes from the Latin name for hedgehog, echinos, referring to the often prickly lower stem of the plant.
"They all have the same general form--very upright plants two to four feet in height, dark green foliage topped with showy flowers," said Nelson. "They are fast-growers and self-sow their seed profusely."
Four species are common in the United States. Echinacea angustifolia, Narrow-leaf Purple Coneflower, is native to the western United States. Echinacea pallida, Pale Coneflower, is from the central United Sates and has been used by Native Americans medicinally for bites, stings, and burns. Echinacea paradoxa, Yellow Coneflower, is native specifically to the Ozark Mountains. Echinacea purpurea, Purple Coneflower, is native to the central United States and is probably the species most familiar to Illinois residents.
The genus Echinacea is part of the Aster family. Plants in this family have daisy-like flowers, which are technically composed of two types of flowers. The showy petals are called ray flowers, and the center of the flower is made up of much smaller disk flowers. In coneflower, only the center disk flowers are fertile and can set seed.
"Coneflowers are also self-incompatible, meaning they cannot pollinate their own flowers," Nelson explained. "They depend on insects like bees to transfer pollen between plants for successful seed set. Strangely enough, this pollen can be from any other coneflower, not just the same species."
In 1968, Ronald McGregor published an article detailing how different species of the plant could be successfully crossed. At the time, no one paid much attention and the article lay unnoticed until 1995. Then, Jim Ault, director of ornamental plant research at the Chicago Botanic Garden, selected the plant to be featured in a new plant breeding initiative at the Botanic Garden.
"Ault concluded after reading McGregor's article that there was an untapped genetic goldmine waiting within the genus Echinacea," she said. "He spent two years assembling a collection of Echinacea species and cultivars. By 1997, he began crossing his different coneflowers, focusing on interspecific crosses, or crosses between different coneflower species."
But he is not the only one experimenting with the plant. In recent years, a flood of new Echinacea colors have shown up in garden centers. Counting the original purple and white cultivars, there are over 30 cultivars now available.
"Some are quite unique, like 'Doppelganger' also known as 'Doubledecker,' that has a second layer of petals at the center of the flower resembling a crown," Nelson said. "Some, like 'Little Giant' are fragrant. The possibilities seem endless."
A frequent question is where seed for these new cultivars can be purchased.
"The simple answer is, you can't buy it," she explained. "The longer answer is these novel cultivars come from progeny of a specific cross. There may have been one usable plant amid thousands of duds. So, we use tissue culture to generate new plants, which is much quicker than waiting to divide plants but may cost more."
Source: Jennifer Schultz Nelson, Unit Educator, Horticulture, firstname.lastname@example.org
July 29, 2007
Hand-in-hand with the gardening season come attacks by pests, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
"The question often becomes 'to spray or not to spray,'" said Martha Smith. "You should ask yourself that question before grabbing a bottle of pesticide. Should you spray or is there an alternative?
"Most pest problems start out small. Perhaps an infested branch can be removed. Or, you could simply handpick the critters off a plant. This can save time, energy, money, and chemicals."
But unless you monitor your garden, you might not see the pest until it has consumed a major portion of your investment. At this time, chemical control may be the only choice, she added.
"Pests are sure to attack. Monitoring and considering control options are the signs of a responsible gardener," she said. "Remember, a pesticide is any product that is used to control a pest and a pest is anything harming your plant. A fungus, insect, bacteria, and rabbit could all be considered pests."
If the chemical option is selected, Smith recommended some tips to follow.
First, read the label. Understand what the product is intended to do and the timing of application. When during the lifespan of the pest is it best to apply? Correct timing will give the best control with the least amount of chemical.
"Correctly identify the pest," she said. "Caterpillars resemble sawfly larvae but the products to control them are different. Also, is that caterpillar a true pest? If you choose caterpillar control, don't question the absence of butterflies later in the season.
"Caterpillars can be voracious eaters but the majority will turn into colorful butterflies. Consider the 'pest factor' before spraying."
Mix material as directed. Don't think that if one teaspoon is recommended, two teaspoons will be better. Effectiveness will not be increased by doubling the amount of chemical. In fact, higher concentrations can harm plants.
"Follow all personal safety instructions on the label," she noted. "A sleeveless tank top and flip-flop sandals are probably not the recommended protective clothing. Consider long-sleeved shirt, pants, eye protection, socks, closed toe shoes and gloves if not already instructed on the label."
Use measuring utensils--don't guess at amounts. Have a set of measuring utensils specifically designed for chemicals. Write on them "chemicals only." Don't use utensils that are also used in food production.
"Spray on target," she said. "Don't apply a chemical across a 20-foot border when only two to three square feet require attention--it may not be necessary. Read the label to find out if the entire plant needs to be sprayed. Spray to the point of runoff and stop."
Application equipment should be in good working order. Leaks can lead to damage on non-target plants. Use equipment that is recommended on the label.
"Spray when the weather is calm," Smith said. "Pesticide drift occurs when spray is carried off target by the wind. Drift can also be minimized by spraying at a lower pressure and using the largest nozzle opening that will still allow you to complete the task.
"Watch the weather and avoid the heat of the day. Some pesticides will burn plant material if applied when temperatures are too hot. High temperatures can also cause some pesticides to evaporate and decompose quickly. Spray in the morning."
Spraying before rain or overhead irrigation should also be avoided. Spraying under these conditions not only reduces the effectiveness of the chemical by washing it off the plant, it can lead to groundwater contamination.
"Keep these spray guidelines in mind when selecting a pest control for your landscape," said Smith. "Monitor and identify the pest early. Consider your control options.
"Remember, your control selection may not be what your neighbor would choose. Be a responsible gardener and ask yourself 'to spray or not to spray?"
Smith added that it is important to read the label of chemical pest controls to note the necessary steps for bee protection. "Avoid spraying insecticides when bees are active," she said.
Source: Martha A. Smith, Extension Educator, Horticulture, email@example.com
July 29, 2007
Following a few tips can make repairing a damaged lawn more successful, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
"Late August to mid-September is a good time to repair a damaged lawn," said James Schuster. "Grasses for northern climates like cool air temperatures for best growth. However, after a long, hot summer, soil temperatures tend to be high.
"The cool air and warm soil temperatures tend to encourage the growing roots of sod out into the soil and quick seed germination. Seed germination at this time sometimes occurs in half the time that spring germination requires."
Schuster recommended a few guidelines to follow when starting to repair the lawn.
Before laying sod or seeding, remove the dead grass to expose bare soil, he said. Loosen the exposed soil by rototilling large areas or using a hand cultivator on small areas.
"If laying sod, remove enough soil to match the depth of the existing sod," he said. "Make sure the edges of the lawn area that the replacement sod will butt up to are straight up and down."
About two pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer should be applied per 1000 square feet. Pro-rate the amount of fertilizer needed to fit the area to be repaired. The fertilizer should be worked into the soil at the same time the rototilling or hand cultivation is done.
"If sod is to be laid, moisten the soil before laying the sod," Schuster said. "Make sure the sod edges fit tightly to each other as well as the existing lawn. Eliminating large cracks between the sod rolls reduces drying out and weed problems.
"Water thoroughly and firm the sod lightly after laying. How often the sod will need to be watered will depend on air temperatures, the sun, how cloudy or shady it is, and the amount of rain and so on. Keep the sod moist but not wet. It takes about three weeks for sod to root in well."
For grass seed minimize the amount of perennial rye grass to be sown. Do not exceed 25 percent by volume.
"Rye grass is a more fibrous grass so it tends to shred more when mowed," he explained. "This causes a brownish appearance to the lawn several hours after mowing."
A blend of three or more bluegrass varieties is the current recommendation. Keep the soil moist but not wet. It takes almost six weeks of growing after the grass emerges before it can survive a winter.
"Never use a herbicide on a newly sodded or seeded lawn," Schuster said. "If sod or seed is put in during the fall, wait until spring before using a herbicide, as well as most insecticides, fungicides, or other pesticides on the lawn. If sod or seed is put down in the spring, wait until fall to use a pesticide."
Source: James Schuster, Extension Educator, Horticulture, firstname.lastname@example.org
July 29, 2007
Slugs belong to a group of animals known as mollusks and resemble leaches. Although somewhat selective, slugs feed on a wide variety of living plants and feed extensively on certain fungi and decaying plant matter. Slugs slide along by means of a long, flat, muscular organ known as a foot. Mucus, or "slime," aids in the locomotion and later dries to form a shiny white or silvery "slime trail," which is a clue to the presence of slugs in the garden.
Slugs are active at night or on dark, cloudy days. They may be found during the day under leaves and litter, beneath low growing plants or burrowed a short distance beneath the soil surface. It is interesting to note that cultural practices in the garden that retain soil moisture and prevent soil temperature extremes may promote better plant growth, but they also induce larger slug populations. Thus, control may be difficult, but it is possible, if the following measures are taken.
Effective control begins with proper sanitation. Check new plants carefully before planting. Examine the soil, breaking apart the roots and looking for slugs. Remove weeds and unnecessary foliage, boards, stones and other debris so that the soil surface dries out more rapidly.
Slugs seeking cover during the day can be trapped under boards or flowerpots placed throughout the garden and yard. Boards 12 inches wide and 15 to 20 inches long, raised up off the ground by one-inch runners, make excellent traps. Remember to gather them each day when using traps.
Beer bait traps may attract slugs. Place saucers or pans of beer in depressions in the ground at intervals of 10 feet. Yeast may be added to the beer to increase its attractiveness. The pan edges should be at ground level so these pests can climb in and be trapped. Remove and dispose of them each morning. Beer traps may not be as effective as many gardeners are led to believe. Many slugs will remain in the garden. Additionally, slug traps may attract some beneficial insects.
Slugs will not crawl over an irritating substance if it can be avoided. A number of materials including ammonium sulfate, lime, ashes, crushed eggshells or sand have been used effectively as barriers. An inch-wide band of one of these can be used around individual plants, around vegetable gardens or even along fence lines to keep slugs from moving in. The effectiveness of these barriers is decreased when they become wet. An inch-wide band of copper–from copper flashing, to tubing, to rows of pennies–will also deter slugs. The chemical reaction between the copper and the slug's slime keeps the slug from crossing into the area.
Poultry, especially geese and ducks are probably the most effective predators of slugs in the home yard and garden. However, damage to seedlings and young plants by the birds would be unacceptable. Some toads and snakes are slug predators.
The one thing that is not recommended is salt. While salt can kill a slug, it can also poison the soil so plants don't grow. After good sanitation techniques have been initiated, chemical baits can be effective in reducing slug population. Contact your local Extension office for the current recommendations.
Source: David J. Robson, Extension Educator, Horticulture, email@example.com
July 29, 2007
1. New Posters from the IDNR Division of Education
Habitats are Homes and Illinois' Threatened and Endangered Species are the latest additions to the flora and fauna poster series from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' Division of Education. Each 24" x 36" poster is two-sided. The front of the Habitats are Homes poster depicts animals found in the four main habitats in the state. The back side provides information about the value of wildlife habitat, how habitats change, what you can do to enhance/develop/maintain wildlife habitat, resources to access and grant programs available. Thirty species currently listed as endangered in Illinois are depicted on the Illinois' Threatened and Endangered Species poster. Information about these species is provided along with why species are listed as endangered or threatened, what students and the general public can do to help endangered/threatened species and more. These posters were made possible in part by a grant from the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund. To order, visit the online order form at http://www.idnrteachkids.com.
2. Teachers and Students: Help Us Learn About Spiders in Illinois
Join teachers and students from throughout Illinois as they take to the outdoors (and indoors) to collect data about spiders! A cooperative project between the IDNR Division of Education, Northwestern University, the Field Museum and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the IDNR Illinois Biodiversity Spider Study will be conducted through Northwestern University's online Collaboratory Project.
Teachers and their students will learn about spiders in the state and undertake a year-long data collection study about two species commonly found in and around schools. All information is accessed through and posted to the Collaboratory Project. Scientists from the IDNR will monitor data collections and utilize the results in their research. There is no cost to participate, and classes will be able to communicate with students/teachers at other schools to compare results and discuss their experiences.
Teachers who participate in the workshop will be able to share experiences and best practices. Fifteen Continuing Professional Development Units are available as well. To enroll in the IDNR Illinois Biodiversity Spider Study, interested teachers should email the following information to Valerie Keener at firstname.lastname@example.org: your name; school email address; school name; school city; school phone number; and the grade(s) that you teach.
3. Illinois' Insects and Spiders Resources Trunks Now Available for Loan
Students are fascinated by insects and spiders. Help them learn more about these creatures by borrowing one of the new Illinois' Insects and Spiders resources trunks produced by the IDNR Division of Education. Each trunk contains books, field guides, equipment, posters, CD-ROMs, life cycle models, observation containers and much more. There's also an Illinois-specific "Crime-Solving Insects" forensic activity. Targeted to grades K-6, the trunks can be borrowed from 30 locations throughout Illinois. For a list of lending locations, visit http://dnr.state.il.us then click on the "Education" button in the right side bar. On the next page, select the link to "Items for Loan."
July 26, 2007
Registrations for Fall Courses are open and Horticulture and Design courses are available for you!
The University of Illinois has started a new degree completion program in Horticulture in the Chicagoland market.
Starting just a year ago, Greg Pierceall, a Professor of Landscape Architecture, joined the University of Illinois faculty to assist in launching this new degree completion program.
The program is housed in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES). The Chicago area teaching facilities are in Oakbrook, Illinois, with academic partners at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Morton Arboretum.
Interested individuals can sign up for classes now, for personal and professional development or as a degree-seeking individual.
The program is based on building the pathway from a community or junior college, to a four year degree in Horticulture. Graduate course credits are also available, should you have an undergraduate degree already.
The program is designed for interested and place-bound persons wanting a four year degree, without going to Urbana, the main campus to complete this effort.
Fall courses to be offered are Landscape Design, meeting Thursday nights in Oakbrook; Woody Landscape Plants, meeting Tuesday nights at the Morton Arboretum; and Herbaceous Plant materials meeting Monday nights in Oakbrook. Courses start the week of August 20, 2007.
For more information about the program visit http://www.nres.uiuc.edu/Dynamic.aspx?PageId=145 or to register please visit www.outreach.uiuc.edu. Interested students may also contact Piper Hodson, NRES Student Services Coordinator at 217-244-5761 or email@example.com or Heather Miller, Outreach Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-265-6568.
July 15, 2007
Have you heard about the cow pots that are made from composted cow manure. I was watching the Larry King Show yesterday and they had a gentleman on who hosts a Discovery Channel show called "Dirty Jobs". One of the jobs featured on the show was the story about the two brothers who are dairy farmers in Connecticut and came up with the idea of making the biodegradable pots to start seedlings in from their cow poo.
July 11, 2007
Need to have a plant problem diagnosed? The University of Illinois Plant Clinic at Urbana is now open for the 32nd year to diagnose field crop and horticultural plant problems.
The Plant Clinic, open through September 15, specializes in identifying disease problems, nematodes, insects and insect injury, and weeds. Chemical residue testing is not available.
The lab can culture plant parts to test for fungal and bacterial pathogens. Depending upon the organism, this may take anywhere from 24 hours to 10 days. The Plant Clinic offers nematode assays on roots and soil.
Insect and weed identification is a fairly quick process so the turnaround time is normally short. Herbicide injury diagnoses are based on samples, symptoms, and the facts presented. The Plant Clinic is not equipped to assay soil or plants for chemical residues.
The Plant Clinic web site, plantclinic.cropsci.uiuc.edu, provides information on how to submit a sample, sample fees, sample forms (to accompany samples), clinic services, and links to other sites. Responses and how to manage the problem will be returned to clients by US mail and electronically. Most standard testing is $12.50 per sample. Specialty tests require more time and equipment, and thus the charge is higher. Payment must accompany the sample.
The clinic can also diagnose and monitor sudden oak death, soybean rust, legume viruses, Emerald ash borer, giant hogweed, and other plant pathogens and pests that might be exotic invasive concerns in Illinois.
The mailing address is Plant Clinic, 1401 West St. Mary's Road, Urbana, IL 61802. The phone number is 815-333-0519. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 Noon and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m..
For more information contact theUniversity of IllinoisExtension office at (773) 233-0476.
July 11, 2007
Tomatoes are a mainstay crop for gardeners in Illinois. The dry, warm June weather was nearly ideal for plant growth and good, clean foliage development, as well as early fruit set. Fortunately diseases, and to an extent insect problems, have been slow to occur under these conditions in most home gardens in central and southern Illinois. However recent periods of rainfall, heat and high humidity have the potential to increase incidence of disease and insect problems, and gardeners should keep a close eye on tomato plants.
Tomatoes can be very productive, and depending on the variety, expect to harvest 10 or more pounds of fruit per plant. To maintain production through the entire season, it is important to maintain good fertility, even soil moisture, and keep the leaves on the plant using good disease and insect control practices. Leaf retention is especially important, as leaves keep tomato fruit nourished and growing, and they also help shade the fruit from direct sun and protect from sunburning.
Plants should be sidedressed with nitrogen containing fertilizer after the first fruit are set. Apply 2 to 3 tablespoons of a general purpose fertilizer such as 10-10-10 per plant when fruit are golf ball size. Make at least two more additional applications at 3 to 4 week intervals to keep late season varieties productive into the fall. Soluble fertilizers such as Miracle Gro™ are a good alternative to dry fertilizers, and they have the added advantage of foliar uptake. Avoid over-fertilizing, which causes large plants with many leaves, and suppresses flower formation and fruit set. Over-fertilized plants also tend to have a higher percentage of blossom end rot, a common tomato disorder related to poor calcium uptake in the fruit. Excess leaves tend to trap calcium, creating a shortage in the fruit. This causes a collapse of cell walls and rot at the bottom of the tomato. Tendency for blossom end rot is variety related, and also seasonal, with the earliest fruit usually exhibiting this problem. Foliar calcium sprays can help reduce blossom end rot, but should be directed toward young, green fruit where it can be absorbed directly. Calcium sprays directed at foliage have no effect on this disorder.
Maintaining adequate soil moisture during the summer is also important. Tomatoes prefer even moisture, and fluctuations between dry and wet conditions should be avoided. Mulching is a useful cultural tool to keep soils moist between rain showers and watering. Steady soil moisture also helps to decrease the incidence of blossom end rot, allowing more even uptake and translocation of calcium into developing fruit.
Lastly, insects and foliar disease should be managed to retain leaves. Insects such as tomato hornworm, Colorado potato beetle, aphids, whiteflies and mites should be monitored and controlled before they damage leaves. Apply appropriate insecticides when these insects are present.
Warm, dry weather helps to reduce disease on tomato foliage, while rainy and humid weather create ideal conditions for fungal blight infection. Most commonly, early blight and septoria spot are the first diseases to appear on tomatoes. Both of these fungal blights begin on the lower leaves of the plant, where spores have been splashed from the soil onto the plant from rainfall. Secondary infection spreads to other leaves from infected lower leaves
These foliar blights require immediate attention, or they will gradually progress upward on the plant, defoliating it by the end of the season. Early infections should be monitored, and spotted lower leaves removed from the plants and buried or composted. Fungicide sprays are effective at preventing initial infections and slowing the spread when the disease sets in. Several materials are available in home garden centers. Look for those which contain chlorothalonil, mancozeb or other fungicides labeled for tomatoes. Alternating fungicide products helps to reduce resistance build-up by the fungus. Product directions should be followed carefully, and applications made on a regular basis (every 7 to 14 days, weather dependent) through the remainder of the growing season. Fungicides are particularly effective when applied prior to a rain event. Mulches may also slow initial infection by preventing soil splashing, however spores can be blown in from outside locations, such as a neighbors poorly tended garden, resulting in infection anywhere on the plant. Bacterial infection can also be a problem on tomatoes, and diseases such as bacterial spot or speck on the fruit and leaves can be suppressed by regular use of copper containing materials.
If you find that diseases overwhelm your plants even with fungicide applications, try varieties that are known to have some resistance to these blights. Many varieties in the home garden trade are older types, sold mostly because of name recognition and known fruit quality. However many of these varieties have limited disease resistance compared to newer varieties. The 'Mountain' variety series ('Mtn. Fresh', 'Spring') are examples of tomatoes known for their blight tolerance, and are a favorite of commercial tomato growers.
Controlling diseases and insects, as well as maintaining adequate fertility and moisture will help ensure a successful tomato growing season. For more information on tomato and other vegetable crop growing, check out the University of Illinois publication "Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest", available from your local county Extension office or visit the U of I Extension website "Watch your Garden Grow" at: http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/veggies/.
Source: Anthony Bratsch, Extension Educator, Horticulture, email@example.com