Over the Fence Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/rss.xml Training Dogs and Fruit Trees http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13125/ Tue, 16 Jan 2018 09:11:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13125/ What do fruit tree experts mean when they say "you need to train" your fruit trees?" Many of us have trained our dogs, but how do you train a tree?

Homeowners and orchardists need to train their trees for structure to encourage fruit production and to have a productive, high-yielding home orchard. Just like with dogs, proper training makes a difference. It gives you a tree that can hold the fruit load without needing any additional support. The scaffold branches need to be positioned to allow good sunlight throughout the canopy, which promotes fruit production from the interior to the outside of the canopy. This also will allow air circulation in the canopy, reducing leaf and fruit diseases, so you benefit in two ways.

Using dwarf apple trees as an example, you will likely use what is termed the central leader system to train your trees. The central leader system allows your fruit tree to look much more like most other trees in your landscape, yet produce apples without the tree looking like those you see in older commercial orchards. Training starts the first year you plant your fruit trees. This ensures your dwarf tree actually remains dwarf in your home orchard.You will be able to start to select your scaffold branches, placing the first set of scaffold branches no more than 20 to 24 inches from the ground. By starting that low, you will be able to place additional scaffolds and still have a mature tree that is no taller than 6 to 8 feet tall, making it very easy to manage.

There are other advantages of a well-trained dwarf fruit tree. At annual spring pruning, it will be much clearer to see which branches need your attention. There will be branches that need to be adjusted using traditional branch spreaders or alternative methods, such as using twine and a stake, to pull the branch into the desired horizontal plane as you develop your scaffolds. You easily can identify water sprouts, as they will be growing straight up from the horizontal scaffold branches.

As your dwarf fruit tree matures in size, home orchardists will realize additional benefits. The weekly inspection and monitoring of fruit pests will be easier and done very quickly. Even though young fruit trees may not be producing apples, there are insects and foliar diseases that need to be managed. Foliage feeding insects reduce the canopy, reducing the amount of food that could go into growth and future bud development and fruits. Leaf diseases have a similar impact. If allowed to continue over the season or multiple seasons, these diseases could easily delay fruit production and, in the bigger picture, lesson the overall vigor.

You want a tree that develops quickly, so that your training can encourage flowers and fruit set. Limited fruits can begin to show up as early as the third year for apples and get more productive every year after. Enjoy the challenge and amaze your friends with fruit that came right out of your yard with your dog obediently by your side.

Stay tuned for more tips in this home orchard series.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties.

Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with This Week in the Garden videos at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.

Planning for the Home Orchard http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13116/ Wed, 10 Jan 2018 09:09:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13116/ It has been a couple of years since I used the month of January to address starting a home orchard. The fruit and vegetable catalogs have begun to replace the holiday flyers in the mailbox and January is not too early to begin planning for a home orchard or expanding the one already there.

There are several different kinds of fruit trees to consider – apple, cherry, peach, pear, plum. As we live in northern portion of Illinois, apple is likely the main fruit tree grown in backyards because it is very winter hardy.

When you shop the fruit tree catalogs or visit with your favorite retail garden center to find out what cultivars or varieties they will be carrying this spring, homeowners should consider semi-dwarf apples. In most cases, you have limited space in your backyard, and semi-dwarf apple trees are naturally smaller than their full-sized siblings. They also are much easier to train, prune and maintain than a full-sized fruit tree and do not require support as do dwarf trees.

Fruit trees are dwarf because they are naturally so or because fruit tree growers graft or bud them to a dwarfing rootstock, limiting the size of your fruit tree. If they are naturally dwarf, then they will be a "spur-type" tree. There are many examples of spurs available to us – Empire, Red and Yellow Delicious, Macintosh, Rome, Winesap, and Early blaze, are a few. The smallest fruit trees will be a combination of a spur-type grafted or budded on a dwarfing root stock. These will need some kind of support as their root systems are limited and can easily be blown over. It should be noted that the catalogs will list a mature size, considerably smaller than the full-sized version, but that ultimate size of your dwarf tree is really up to you. If you start to train too late, or do not prune correctly that apple tree will be much larger than you wanted or expected, yet still much smaller than a full-sized tree.

Another very important key to selecting your fruit trees will be pollination. Fruit tree catalogs will suggest which apple varieties will be the best pollinators for the varieties you wish to grow. It is critical that you have TWO DIFFERENT varieties blooming at the same time in order to get good pollination and a strong fruit set. Apples are for the most part considered to be "self-unfruitful," meaning that pollen from other flowers on the same tree or from another tree of the same variety will not pollinate itself. A possible exception to this rule is if you have an ornamental flowering crabapple in bloom at the same time. Then, pollen from the flowering crabapple will pollinate your fruiting apple trees. So, if you live in an established subdivision and you or a neighbor has a flowering crab apple in the front or side yard or an apple tree of a different variety that blooms at the same time, you do not have to plant that second apple tree for pollination purposes, which will free up space in your backyard.

Stay tuned for more on home orchards in next week's issue.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties.

Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with This Week in the Garden videos at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.

2018 Gardening Resolutions http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13086/ Mon, 25 Dec 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13086/ We have all made them, kept some, unsuccessful with others. New Year's resolutions for your gardens are a little easier to keep. For starters, they are months away and can be more thought out and with time to prepare, more easily accomplished. Here a few to consider:

Add more mulch where it can prevent weed growth, retain more moisture in your shrub beds and tree rings.

Mow the lawn higher with a sharp mower blade more frequently in the spring, summer and fall so the lawn will compete better against weeds and conserve soil moisture.

Start a compost pile or bin for spring clean up and add to it regularly, including fresh vegetable kitchen scraps. When you water your gardens, water the pile or bin too

Service the lawn mower 2-3 times a year to maintain a sharp mower blade and keep the underside of the deck clean for best performance

Keep a photo journal of your gardens this year. Take more when the gardens are changing quickly, especially during spring blooms and less during our hot dry summers and more again with fall cooler's.

Try at least one new vegetable for the dinner table this summer, or at least a different variety of your favorite traditional vegetable garden plants

Enjoy some early spring blooms indoors by clipping some flowering shrubs in the yard in march to force indoors and enjoying them again when they boom naturally

Resolve to take in a visit to your closest arboretum to see the winter beauty or visit a conservatory and enjoy the tropical nature of their foliage plants and humidity

Take that gardening class you have been putting off

Vow to prune your landscape plants more naturally, experiencing more bloom show and natural habit

Replace those old, dull hand pruners and saws to make pruning a happy time

Add more gardens by reducing the amount of lawn that will need mowing

Make the vegetable garden a multi- generational effort. Grandparents and parents do actually know about gardening and children are more likely to eat their veggies if they helped plant and tend the garden Weave some family history into the garden, how else are we going to learn what it was like "in the day"

Make one of those resolutions to start gardening early and go late into the fall. Gardeners in N. Illinois miss a lot of our already short growing season anyway. Using season extenders at both ends makes a lot of sense.

Vow to spend some time every day out in your gardens to enjoy the blooms, smells and observe nature at its best. Gardening does not always have to mean work.

Houseplant FAQs http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13084/ Thu, 21 Dec 2017 14:48:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13084/ Although most Master Gardener help desks are on hiatus right now for the winter, questions still come into the office. It is interesting to see the seasonality of the questions this time of year, and this month, there is a thread among most of them – houseplants.

Q: I love my succulents in the summer, but they are already getting leggy. Can I stop that?

A: Winter is really a hard time to keep succulents looking good. What sun they get is of a lower intensity and for fewer hours each day, even in the brightest window you have. Right now, they are reaching out to get more sunlight. The shortest winter days are upon right now; Winter Solstice is this week, in fact. Adding strong supplemental lighting will help, and keep the light source as close as you can to the foliage. Incandescent bulbs generate a lot of heat so those cannot be too close. The newer LED technology and florescent grow bulbs work well. Turning the plants frequently will lessen the obvious stretched look as well.

Q: I thought I had done all the right things to my houseplants before I brought them back inside, but now I have these small flies in and around my houseplants.

A: Since they are associated with your houseplants, they are most likely fungus gnats. Fungus gnats cause no harm to pets, your plants or to us. They feed on fungi in the soil of your houseplants and need that higher humidity around your plants to survive. Since many houseplants do not actively grow in the winter, keep the soil on the drier side. Sometimes on older established houseplants, they will have roots circling the bottom of the pot and block off the drainage holes. Tap the plant out of the pot and do some root pruning. Growing in a clay pot is more forgiving than a plastic pot and can help dry the soil out sooner. As you need to repot, using the same soil media helps manage your watering schedule. Lastly, many plastic containers look great, but may not have any drainage holes at all.

Q: The family is going on vacation. What is the best way to handle my houseplants while we are away?

A: Do not water them "really well" be for you leave, as this can cause some real problems. If you are only gone 7 to 10 days, no special care is needed. If your vacation is extended, consider asking your neighbor or family friend to come over and water lightly. This may be the same person that comes to feed the family dog or cat.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties.

Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with This Week in the Garden videos at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and

the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup.

Pantry Pests After Holiday Baking http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13052/ Mon, 11 Dec 2017 10:46:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13052/ This is that warning shot over the bow of the ship or in this case the holiday bow. Homemakers are in full swing, baking our favorite cookies and other holiday treats we enjoy so much. With all that baking, comes the potential for pantry pests to show up.

Leftover baking goods are usually the culprit, especially any flour or flour-based cooking and baking product. This is a bit more troublesome for homes where baking starts before the holidays and quits soon afterwards as our normal routine returns.

The more common pantry pests are the Indian Meal Moth and the two versions of Flour Grain Beetle. We receive more calls about the Indian Meal Moth than the grain beetle. The meal moth will be attracted to windows and lights, so it is a lot more obvious if you have a problem. While the pests have slightly different life cycles, generally eggs hatch in any kind a product that contains flour. The larvae stage feeds until it is time to transform into an adult.

The key to preventing these pantry pests is not to have any leftover flour that is going to be accidently worked to the back of the shelf in the cupboard or pantry. It is better to use the flour up in cooking and baking than attempt to store it. If the flour is to be kept, store it in a very tight-sealing plastic container, keep it in the refrigerator, or even better, the freezer. If later you do find some of that stored flour to be contaminated in your pantry, then it is a matter of disposing of just that one container. Storing flour in the refrigerator dramatically slows the potential of finding contamination and if left in a freezer, to zero or below, there will no chance of anything going wrong.

Flour products are not the only way pantry pests can make it into your home. Did you buy a dried flower arrangement or make one that contained flower seed heads from your own flower beds? Other potential sources include any of our dry pet foods that contain flour as an ingredient. Buy just enough to last a month to prevent the time needed for any pantry pests to show up. One of our favorite winter past times is to feed and watch the birds. If you do buy bird seed in large amounts, be sure to store it in an unheated area like the garage and in a tight-sealing container, as you would the flour in the pantry. The same goes for the food for our furry four-legged pets like gerbils, mice, rabbits, and the birds too.

So go ahead, bake those dozens of cookies for the cookie exchange, just remember, store the leftover flour properly.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup.

Warmer Weather and Ants http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13041/ Wed, 06 Dec 2017 15:22:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13041/ There are some 8,000 ant species around, and on occasion, ants can become an annoyance in the home. Most often they are a bother in the spring of the year when soils outdoors begin to warm again. Right now, in this particular December, our soils next to the home are still warm. We may be bothered by those ants, when colonies in the soil within the footprint of our home venture inside. Ants could be brown, black, red or shades of these colors and vary in size from extremely tiny to quite obvious.

One has a common name of pavement ant. This is an ant that enjoys warmth and can be found nesting next to or under paved surfaces outdoors. This is a common ant found with homes built on a slab with the heating and cooling system below the slab. The ground remains warm near the duct work and can allow the ants to remain active. As any ant colony would, foraging for food is pretty typical. In cold weather, when the soil is frozen, foraging is going to take place in the home.

Extension gets those calls where all of a sudden ants are found by the hundreds (it only seems to be the thousands) swarming over the kitchen counters or trailing across open space headed for the dry pet food station.

Ants are routinely sending out scout ants in the hunt for a food source. This time of year with all the goodies being baked and brought home from office parties and left on the counter, we create a great buffet. Once that scout ant finds something good to eat, the message gets back to the colony and the march begins.

To prevent ants from discovering your treats, keep them in tight-sealing containers. If you find the dry pet food being eaten, remove the source by feeding the pets and not leaving leftovers. Once the ants cannot find food or continue to feed, they will look elsewhere for another source of food.

You really cannot use any sprays around the kitchen counters and pet food stations, so sanitation is your best approach. If you knew the ants were coming in from the outside, a foundation spray outdoors could be used. Ant baits can be used and usually provide control without having to use additional sprays. Since the ants follow a predetermined trail from the nest to the food source, washing that area with soap and water will greatly reduce the infestation as they get confused about the route to take.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup.

Winterizing Your Home Orchard http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13000/ Mon, 20 Nov 2017 13:25:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13000/ Now is the time to spend some time with your fruit trees before the season shuts us out. A few actions now can help prevent problems later.

Rodent damage to the trunk at the soil line happens when grass grows tall next to the trunk. Remove the grass and weeds using hand clippers, not the string trimmer, as that can cause more problems. Rodents love to hide in the grass, and they will happily eat the bark off the trunk and the surface of the roots. This feeding can girdle the tree, causing it to die.

Rabbits love to eat thin barked fruit trees (and other thin barked ornamentals), as well as any young tender branches and twigs within reach while standing on their hind legs. Once trees develop the heavier, thicker bark, rabbits seem to leave those tree trunks alone. However, they will continue to eat those tender branches. Mechanical barriers are the most effective method of preventing rabbit damage. Use a cylinder of chicken wire, hardware cloth or fencing specific to keeping rabbits out which has graduated openings. The openings are narrow at the bottom and get bigger the higher up on the fence. Young rabbits will not be able to get inside in the spring either. You must secure the cylinder of wire so the rabbits cannot push it over and feed, and it must be higher than any expected snow or snowdrift common in your yard. Since fruit trees are often branched low to the ground, a wide wire cylinder is often the most practical. A larger diameter and taller wire column is needed if you also have deer feeding on a regular basis.

There are other materials, such as spiral plastic wraps or commercial tree wraps, that are applied once cold weather is here to stay. The best wraps will be lighter in color to reflect heat away from the trunks. Wrapping the trunk also will have additional benefits, preventing winter sunscald and frost cracks. When the trees are wrapped, we are not trying to keep the trunk warm, but rather to shade the trunk from direct sunlight that can raise the trunk temperature above 32 degrees and cause that freeze crack. These cracks are most common on the southern or western exposures of the tree trunk. This damage will not show up until the following growing season. Remove the wraps after any chance of frosts and freezing temperatures in the spring. This allows the trunks to grow in girth and develop hardier bark.

One area often overlooked is water drainage away from the trunk at the soil line. Fruit tree trunks standing in water and then being frozen causes damage to the trunk, leading to crown and root rots. Be sure to allow for drainage away from the base of the tree for the winter.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup.