Blog Banner

Green Speak

Horticulture topics from gardens to lawns and then some.
Entomology (Insects)
Can you spot the newly released monarch butterfly?
click image to view 3 more

Raising Monarchs: Tips for Monarch Rearing Indoors

There is something about a butterfly that makes most smile. As I travel from speaking location to meeting to my garden in Central Illinois, I smile each time I see a monarch butterfly flit by in the distance. However, I also cringe at the handful of times a monarch butterfly strikes my car window. Mother Nature has designed for so much, but she could not have foreseen the implications of the au...

Read More >

It is a dangerous world for a monarch caterpillar.

Raising Monarchs: Watch for Predators

This year I was so hopeful. My yard has been cultivated, or perhaps a better term is 'uncultivated,' in hopes of creating an oasis of beneficial insects. I neglected to reapply mulch, leaving a bare patch of soil in my planting bed. It soon became a delight to my kids to watch songbirds taking dust baths. I let the violets have their way, and they rewarded us with an outstanding flower show thi...

Read More >

Dealing with Yellowjacket Wasps

Last Sunday night we arrived home in Macomb, tired from a short trip visiting family in Quincy. Moreover, hauling around an infant and two young boys full of boundless energy tend to produce weary parents. Upon opening the door into the house, we were greeted as usual by our dog Murphy. Excited as a puppy to see us though his years now approach eleven. As is our routine I immediately le...

Read More >

Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) in my garden.
click image to view 4 more

Ohio Spiderwort in the Garden

Observation is part of the fun of gardening. Waking up in the morning, I let out my dog Murphy, and walk through my yard studying the intricacies and habits of the plants in my landscape. A morning dew is helpful to spot spider webbing or allow the tiny hairs on a flower petal to shine in the rising sun. Walking through the garden in the early morning is just as good as drinking a cup c...

Read More >

Where are the Monarch Butterflies?

Three. As of writing this blog on August 9, 2016, I have only seen three monarch butterflies. It seems year after year I encounter fewer and fewer monarchs. But don't take my word alone. According to Monarch Watch with the University of Kansas, the evidence is clear: Monarch overwintering populations have steadily decreased since record keeping began in 1994. Du...

Read More >

Imported cabbage moth, the adult form of the imported cabbage worm.

Scouting in the Garden

Today, I caught my first imported cabbage moth in the high tunnel. More importantly, the moth crossed my radar before its larva, the imported cabbage worm, has had a chance to eat all of my turnip leaves. Scouting is an important tool we use in the garden and landscape to stop problems before they have a chance to get out of hand. It's good to get out in the garden every day, checking p...

Read More >

Mild Winters and the Pests of Summer

So far the winter of 2015-2016 has been unseasonably mild. Many gardeners speculate what this means for our next growing season and the pest insects we love to hate. The past two winters beheld a new term for most of us living in North America – polar vortex. Residents in Central Illinois saw first-hand the effects of severe freezing temperatures of -20°F to -30°F. One such result was t...

Read More >

Garden Update – Mid August 2015

What's going on in the garden this week? Here is a snapshot of observations and questions coming into the Extension office. Out in the Garden Here in Illinois the rains stopped early July and have been sparse ever since. Gardens have needed supplemental water. With the abundance and then lack of rain we've lots of soil cracking. With all that rain how could our...

Read More >

The monarch rearing cage under guard by a stegosaurus.
click image to view 3 more

Adventures in Babysitting – Monarch Caterpillars

A co-worker is headed out on vacation this week and asked me to babysit her twenty babies. By babies I mean monarch caterpillars. I have built rearing cages, taken classes, learned all about the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly, but I have never raised them before. I've gone back to the materials taken from the Monarch Teacher Network Class to make sure I don't kill these tiny caterpillars en...

Read More >

Flooded high tunnel.
click image to view 11 more

Garden Update – Mid July 2015

What's going on in the garden this week? Here is a snapshot of observations and questions coming into the Extension office. Out in the Garden The rains have ceased and the lawn and garden beds are drying out. It is almost the end of July and I have yet to water a single plant this season, even containers! Lawns can tolerate a significant amount of standing water...

Read More >

Beebalm with prolonged standing water issues.
click image to view 6 more

Garden Update - Start of July 2015

What's going on in the garden this week? Here is a snapshot of observations and questions coming into the Extension office. Out in the Garden Rot, rot, rot. With all this rain landscapes and gardens have been suffering from saturated root zones. Here's a comparison of beebalm in the same planting area, only one is located where we've seen several days of...

Read More >

Controlling Mosquitoes on Your Property

Let it be known that in my family I hold the record for number of mosquito bites at one time. While on a vacation in the coastal swamps of Georgia (yes I said 'vacation'), I racked up over 100 mosquito bites. So what makes a person more...

Read More >

DSC 0704
click image to view 3 more

The Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Despite its drab name, the mourning cloak butterfly might be one of spring's earliest flowers. My two sons and I spotted one on a walk along the woods mid-March in 2015. It was resting upside-down sipping away at tree sap along with a flurry of ants. As the butterfly fed, the warm late-winter sun warmed its wings. With its wings folded the mourning cloak appears relatively unremarkable. As we...

Read More >

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
click image to view 2 more

Make Creating a Monarch Waystation a Goal for This Season

Things sure do seem to be getting clean outside. Not clean in the ordinary sense of course, but in terms of weeds. Our yards are cleaner, farms are cleaner. For the past century humans have spent a lot of energy, time and money on cleaning up the landscape. It has led to increased farm yields, and large luxurious weed-free lawns. Sounds pretty good, right? Well not so good if you happen to depe...

Read More >

The serpentine feeding galleries created in the plant tissue just beneath the bark. The feeding cuts off movement of water and nutrients, killing the ash tree. (Look closely you can see a little EAB larva in the bottom right)
click image to view 2 more

Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed for Warren County Illinois

The presence of emerald ash borer (EAB) has been confirmed for Warren County Illinois, with the initial finding coming from Kirkwood. EAB is a devastating exotic pest that attacks one of the most popular landscape trees in America, the ash tree. Unlike most native borers which only target dead or dying trees, EAB preys on healthy ash trees. However, the presence of EAB in Warren County...

Read More >

Using Landscape Chemicals Responsibly

This past summer, a homeowner called the local Extension office concerned about cicada killers. I immediately set about my normal talk describing the benefits of cicada killers and how they are not prone to sting humans. The homeowner graciously listened to my pitch and then said they understand, but they do not appreciate how the cicada killer makes their lawn surface so bumpy. I conceded thei...

Read More >

Another sweetgum tree hit by cold temperatures. This tree has nearly leafed out by the first week of June.
click image to view 2 more

Only the Hardiest Shall Survive!

What made it through this winter? I know many of us barely did, but now that spring has seemingly sprung into summer my concern turns to the landscape. Here in west central Illinois we live in USDA cold hardiness zone 5b, with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of -10 to -15 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this winter we saw temperatures dip below the -20 degree mark, granting us a zone...

Read More >

DSC 0912
click image to view 3 more

Enjoying the Last Hurrahs of a Staple Landscape Tree

In mid-October I walked around marveling at the outstanding color of one of our earliest tree to exhibit great fall color, the ash ( Fraxinus spp. ) And I realized, for many homeowners this might be the last time they can enjoy the spectacular fall display of an ash tree. What I am referring to is the loss of our native ash trees to the emerald ash borer (EAB). For some, this pos...

Read More >

Spotted Wing Drosophila Update for West-Central Illinois

If you are a Master Gardener or have been around me at all this growing season, you have probably heard me mention spotted wing drosophila. I have spent much of the summer monitoring population levels of this new invasive pest from Asia. Spotted wing drosophila (SWD) looks similar to the small vinegar flies (fruit flies) that are typically found on fermenting fruit and vegetables. However, SWD...

Read More >

The Unseen Menace...Chiggers

How can something so small cause so much agony? This thought, along with several other expletives ran through my mind as I clicked through webpage to webpage searching for a cure to my constant itching. What was source of my anguish? The day before, I took a walk through the woods at my parent's house. Later that evening, I noticed some welts appearing on my legs, but dismissed the spots as mos...

Read More >

Return of the Japanese Beetle

Podcast They're out there. It's only a matter of time before you begin to see their tell-tale signs. That's right I'm referring to Japanese beetles, which typically emerge around the fourth week of June in Central Illinois. As we have all discovered, control of this exotic new pest is very difficult. Homeowners can go with the approach of controlling the Ja...

Read More >

Gardening Apps Part II

Gardening Apps Part II Disclaimer: University of Illinois Extension does not promote the use or purchase of a particular product. Reference to specific companies does not imply endorsement by University of Illinois Extension, nor is discrimination intended against any that are not listed. As promised, I have the results from my gardening app evaluation. For all those who sent in...

Read More >

Christmas Tree Hitchhikers

If you have ever purchased or harvested a living or cut Christmas tree in the past you may have inadvertently brought in some overwintering pests. Luckily, any concerns about these pests are unwarranted. Yes, it is true that Christmas trees can harbor dormant pests that become active after being exposed to the warm indoor temperatures, but most of these pests will remain on the tree, while only...

Read More >

When it Rains...

The remnants of hurricane Isaac brought much-needed rain to our communities over the weekend. Our area was spared the excessive rains that many counties south of here experienced. I have been hearing a range of rainfall amounts from 1.5 inches to over three-inches in some parts of Henderson, Knox, McDonough & Warren counties. We are not the only ones benefiting from the rain. In my yard per...

Read More >