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Green Speak

Horticulture topics from gardens to lawns and then some.
Wildlife
Can you spot the newly released monarch butterfly?
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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...

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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...

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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...

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Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) in my garden.
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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...

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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...

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Fitting Natural Landscapes into a Modern World

If your HOA covenants, city codes, or neighbors disparage wildlife habitat, make the natural landscape easily recognized as a 'garden' and more intentional. Some tips for success: Borders – This can be a mowed edge, fence, or an edge of low plants. (I like prairie dropseed as a transition from lawn to a natural garden) A bordering device frames the planted area a...

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Habitat in the Home Landscape

If I may steal a line from Doug Tallamy- For decades the prevailing notion of developers is that humans are here, therefore nature needs to be elsewhere. In our minds we always think of nature as elsewhere, but certainly not in our very own yards. With the expansion of housing and commercial properties into the rural hinterland and urban greenspace, nature is running out of alternative habitat....

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Too Many Earthworms

It sounds improbable. How can one have too many earthworms? Such is the case for a property owner in Henderson County. A recent phone call led me on my first investigation to discourage earthworms, or in this case night crawlers (or 'dew worms' from a fisherman's vernacular). The yard in question was rife with small mounds comprised of tiny lumps of castings (worm poop). This made the terrain...

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Flooded high tunnel.
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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...

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Beebalm with prolonged standing water issues.
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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...

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DSC 0704
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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...

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Layer Your Landscape to Benefit Birds

My son loves birds. And it all started with a walk on a cold, snowy day during the winter of 2013-2014. As we walked, a sound caught his attention. It was something he never heard before. It was the rat-a-tat pecking of a woodpecker. He looked around excitedly trying to pinpoint where the sound originated. "What is that daddy?" he asked. I replied with, "It's a woodpecker, using...

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