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Green Speak

Horticulture topics from gardens to lawns and then some.
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How to Do a Soil Test

It seems during every class I teach, or group I talk with, there are two things I say every time: 1) Read your pesticide labels, and 2) test your soil. It is what I call my "Extension Mantra." The reason I routinely tell folks to read labels and test soil is not that I get a kick-back from pesticide companies and soil labs, it is because these two simple tasks could save Illinois homeowners mon...

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Extend Your Growing Season with Low Tunnels

One of my favorite times of year to garden is in the fall. Growing vegetables during autumn in Illinois as the weather cools and daylight dwindles, can be a bit of a challenge, but the reward is quite sweet. The fall and winter garden is not a place for tomatoes, peppers, or many of our favorite summer veggies. Instead, what we grow are cool season crops. Adaptation to low temperatures...

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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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Growing hops higher than we have before. Hopefully this will lead to improved plant health and easier management.
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Nutrient Deficiency in Cascade Hops

Year three of growing cascade hops and I finally invested time to install poles for the bines to properly train. Lacking money, to buy actual poles, the overgrown wooded area behind the McDonough County Extension office yielded several dead snags. Ideally, when harvesting poles for hops, select trees that are naturally rot resistant such as Eastern red cedar, black locust, or larch. Because my...

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