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Gardening
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Edging and mulching landscape beds

Here we are, nearing the end of May. Maybe the beds in the backyard look OK, or maybe not? We love our lawns, yet grass can move into our landscape beds in a stealth-like manner while we are waiting for better weather for weeding and edging. Putting a strong clean line on the landscape beds really makes a difference in how they look. It brings out the strong curves that make the bed flow throu...

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Three grassy weeds in the lawn

Master Gardeners and Extension offices are getting many calls on lawns right now, especially when it comes to weeds. Dandelions and other broadleaved weeds are easily identified in the lawn. Some that are harder are the grassy weeds; those that look similar to our desirable grasses, just a bit different. Here are some common questions and answers from our Master Gardener Help Desks: Q:...

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Spring is Coming

There are signs, despite the weather pattern, that spring will indeed arrive this year. More and more spring bulbs are showing up with flower stalks well above the soil line waiting for a bit better weather to bloom. There is even an up-side to our temperatures. If it remains cooler, those spring blooms will last longer in the home landscape once they open. Red and silver maples have b...

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Dealing with Fruit Trees in this Weather

Our timetable to get dormant oils on and pruning done has been thrown out the proverbial window this year so far. The weather pattern has not given us even a couple days where it is safe to get on the dormant oil sprays. We will need, depending on the product used, at least one 24-hour period where temperatures remain above freezing. More commonly, we want 2 to 3 days of moderate temperatures to a...

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Weather, what can you say?

Our weather has very likely already messed up any plans for getting those early plants in and seeds sown. No one has a clear crystal ball right for when consistent spring weather will happen. If you have sown seeds for later planting as transplants, keep them from getting any taller until they can go outside. Give them strong light and cooler nighttime temperatures than they have had, to keep them...

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Early Spring Garden Questions

Time to address several good questions that Master Gardeners have gotten already this early spring. We are right on schedule for some; others will have to wait, being weather dependent. Q: I need to trim my oaks and maples. Do I do it now or wait? A: We have about two weeks (by mid-April) to do our dormant pruning while there is no sap flow. If you have elm in the home...

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Garden Bed Cleanup has Begun

You know it is finally spring, not by the calendar, but by the first landscape maintenance trucks hitting the road without snowplow attachments. Mother Nature is struggling a bit; we are having warmer days, but the nights are still crisp. Those warmer temperatures are needed by many blooming plants to trigger the soon-to-be flowers. Winter bud scales will be softening with rains to later allow the...

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Needle evergreens not at their best

University of Illinois Extension offices are already getting calls about needle evergreens that are not looking healthy, and spring has yet to arrive! If you drive your neighborhood right now, you can spot those evergreens that died late last fall. Arborvitaes are standing dead in many locations in the Fox Valley, as are Austrian pine and spruce. Spruce are not well adapted to our area, and al...

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Bird feeders in the yard

Bird feeders will bring in a variety of migrating birds during the early spring on their journey to summer digs. This is before there is much for them to eat elsewhere, in nature or in home landscapes. Our winter resident birds that have hung out with us all winter still need that seed too. Be sure to continue your feeding efforts well into spring until they can find food on their own. Plan to use...

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Things to do for the home orchard

A couple of weeks ago, my column covered getting ready for the vegetable gardening season. This time it is about the home orchard. While dormant pruning has been and will continue to be done, getting ready for the management of fruit tree diseases and insects can be done inside, dry and warm. In the early spring, the first spray should be applied while the ground and air temperatures are still...

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Down the Garden Path

Now that the snow is gone

Now that the snow is all gone our yards are now shades of brown. All too obvious is the debris from the neighborhood that has blown in, collecting in the ground cover and shrub beds and at the base of your fence. Time to do that quick walk about and pick up so you do not have to look at it every day until spring arrives. Natural litter from your landscape is expected though, and leaves and twigs w...

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Sorting out your saved seeds

It is early to be starting any flower or vegetables seeds. However, it is not too early to round up those saved seeds and determine just how good they are. As a rule, smaller seeds do not last as long as larger seeds, as there is more stored energy in the big ones. This "rule" is especially true if the seeds were not stored in the best conditions. The best place would be in a tight-sealing con...

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Keeping your raspberries from becoming a bramble patch

Raspberries are a wonderful addition a backyard, providing us with berries for fresh use while they are in season and for preserving to enjoy later. Raspberries are a perennial, giving us many years of production, though there should be some annual pruning done. This will prevent that row we started with from becoming an uncontrollable patch that only gives us few berries compared to its size....

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Common indoor insect question in January

What do fungus gnats, drain flies, Boxelder bugs and stinkbugs have in common this time of year? The common thread is they are all nuisance household insects that can be found in any home during winter. Fungus gnats and drain flies can be lumped together based on their favored conditions, cool temperatures and humidity. Fungus gnats often come in with our houseplants for the winter, as they ar...

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Orchard Tree Series: Location Location Location

Orchard Tree Series: Location Location Location Where you plant your dwarf fruit trees can make a big difference in how they grow and perform. A major consideration is the soil. Fruit trees are no different from other trees and shrubs in your landscape; the soil needs to drain well. Placing the home orchard where water will drain away very soon after a...

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Training Dogs and Fruit Trees

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 fr...

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Planning for the Home Orchard

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...

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Holiday tree after the holidays

Just about now, you can see holiday trees sitting in the front or side yard, waiting for the assigned pick up date to be collected and mulched. This is one way to be sure your holiday tree gets recycled to the benefit of the environment. The follow through to getting your tree composted in a community program is to be sure you take advantage of the composted material later by bringing some back ho...

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2018 Gardening Resolutions

We have all made them – kept some, unsuccessful with others. New Year's resolutions can be tricky, but for your gardens, they may be 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 are a few Garden Resolutions to consider: Add more mulch where it can prevent weed growth and retain mo...

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Houseplant FAQs

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?...

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Pantry pests after holiday baking

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 troublesom...

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Warmer Weather and Ants

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 b...

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Work that Turkey off

The end of November can still mean there are projects outside that need to be done. Tree leaves have been slow to fall, so maybe use the mower and bagger attachment to go over the lawn one more time to clean up the last of the leaves. Ground up leaves can be used to cover the vegetable garden soil for the winter, or be added to the compost pile or bin as part of the "browns" to go with the "gr...

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Down the Garden Path

Winterizing Your Home Orchard

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 e...

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Protect your Landscape from Rabbits this Winter

Colder weather, frozen soil, fallen and windblown leaves, and later any accumulated snow, all will force rabbits to take shelter and begin to look for food anywhere they can. Once the ground is frozen, rabbits will have fewer places to take shelter or hide. Foraging for food will mean staying a lot closer to the protection of their winter home. While the weather remains favorable, rabbits feed...

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