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Good Growing

Keeping you growing with good ideas
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The Best Gardening Happens in the Fall: Learn how with University of Illinois Extension

For the past three years that I have been part of the Good Growing column, I have written an article on gardening in the fall. And before that my predecessor, Mike Roegge, would write about the joys of fall gardening. Yes, you are about to read yet another piece on gardening in the fall. This is our subtle way of suggesting fall gardening is the best gardening. Though after all these years, the...

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Five Valuable Tips for Fall Lawn Care

Lawn care does not stop when summer ends. To the contrary, when it comes to routine turf maintenance the late summer to early fall months are a critical time for cool season lawns. Cool season lawns are a group of turf species comprised mainly of Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescue. If you are a homeowner in Illinois with a lawn, more than likely it is a...

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Silphiums: Standing tall over the prairie

This past month I have been traveling on the road more hours than I care to count. The time in the car has allowed for some windshield botany. Better described as identifying plants while going over 65 miles per hour. Many invasive species stand out as my brain has been wired to spot those for purposes of eradication. Teasel ( Dipsacus laciniatus and Dipsacus sylvestris...

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Final Thoughts

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

In a past article I wrote about how the garden and landscape are fluid things and constantly changing. Trees grow taller and yards become more shaded or a tree comes down and sunlight brightens a once shady spot. As gardener's we are always learning and growing and that is one thing about my career that I adore – I am always learning. Whenever someone says they have a question, usually my light...

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Organic vs. Synthetic: Selecting low risk pesticides

This post is a continuation of my previous article on the topic of natural vs. synthetic. Today, we are going to examine how to select pesticides that pose a low risk to humans and the environment. You can find the first article HERE . In today's world, the American consumer often relates the terms "natural" or "organic" to "safe."...

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Beyond Honeybees - Pollinator Diversity

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

When you hear the word pollinator, what's the first thing that jumps into your mind? Honeybees may be the first thing that comes to mind, but there are a large number of other pollinators out there. Honeybees do help and contribute to pollination, but they are a native to Europe. In the United States, we have over 3,500 native bees that help to pollinate all sorts of plants. Did you realize tha...

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The Dark Side of Nature: Natural does not equal safe

Nature wants to kill you. Okay maybe wants is a strong word. Nature is term we give to the physical things and relationships that make up our world and universe. Sometimes we try to humanize nature with the name Mother Nature. We picture the ethereal Gaia sitting atop the trees directing the course of life on the planet. Such notions paint a serene setting, peaceful, and safe, which ma...

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Dealing with Pests in the Garden

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

If you're a gardener (even someone just getting their feet wet), you know what it's like trying to manage insects, diseases, and weeds in the garden. Once the seasons really starts going we always have some insect pest that decides it wants to use our plants as dinner. We try to find more effective and back friendly ways of controlling weeds. Early blight on tomatoes got you down, what can we d...

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Causes of Rolling, Wilted Tomato Leaves

Don't get me wrong, I love a fresh summer tomato, straight off the vine and onto my ham sandwich. Often, there are times during the growing season, where I wonder if that tomato goodness is worth the effort. Let's face it; tomatoes are a lot of work. Despite the amount of work, tomatoes are a labor of love and a mainstay in most gardens. However, I would contend there is an unwritten ru...

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Japanese Beetles on the Prowl

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Over the weekend the Illinois Pest Survey shared a post on Facebook saying that Japanese Beetles were out in Central Illinois. Sure enough, I go and check the growing degree days for the area and they are at the point when Japanese Beetles begin to emerge. If you want to know more about growing degree days, I wrote an article about it back in 2015 and you can find that article here:...

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Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed for McDonough County

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

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Maranta
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Houseplants and Indoor Lighting

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

If you've been following the Good Growing column, you know the rabbit hole that I went down when I jumped on the succulent bandwagon. That hasn't stopped, I've got 48 little Mother of Thousands plantlets in a tray rooting out. Still not sure what I'm going to do with them all, but guilt prevents me from throwing extras in the compost pile at the moment and the mother plant has started an entire...

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The War on Lawn Weeds: Confronting a Lawn Culture Mindset

Weeds. A word with various definitions, mine simply being an "unwelcomed plant". I will admit certain plants are not allowed to grow in my yard. I'm looking at you yellow nutsedge. However, you will find many common weeds are growing throughout my yard. Does this make me a lousy horticulturist? Perhaps. The idea that me, someone who should know something about lawns, cares little about...

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Oh Deer!

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Many a gardener has faced the not so lovely experience of white tailed deer using their backyard as their personal smorgasbord. I'll be honest, I've been lucky in that every place I've lived, I haven't had to deal with deer in my backyard. Should I knock on wood now? At one time, in the late 1800's/early 1900's, the deer population in Illinois was almost eliminated due to over hunting/n...

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What’s the Best Mulch to Use in the Landscape?

Spring is a time when we emerge outside, poking around the garden to see what winter wrought. What many homeowners find is their mulch is need of refreshing. But what mulch is the best? Following are commonly used mulches and my picks for the best to use in the home landscape. Shredded wood mulch - By far the most popular type covering, shredded wood mulch can be easily...

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Callusing Echeveria Leaves
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Growing Your Indoor Plant Collection

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

My obsession with succulents hasn't slowed down any and my love of green growing things overall is causing my indoor houseplant collection to grow bigger as well. I recently added a Monstera deliciosa, Calathea 'Medallion', and Pothos 'Pearls and Jade'. I also have a Watermelon Peperomia on the way with 2 other pothos varieties. Hands down, my favorite plants are those who have interes...

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Digging and Dividing Perennials

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Spring finally decided to arrive and if you're like me, you're itching to get outside and enjoy the nicer weather. It's be a long cold winter that I am more than happy to finally say good bye to. Happiness is seeing perennials starting to raise their green heads or begin to flower (my Pulmonaria are having a party in the garden right now) and spring bulbs merrily blooming away....

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Understanding Climate Change in Illinois

This past week I was honored to be invited to the Western Illinois University Agriculture Banquet, where faculty and students celebrated another year of education, research, and community outreach. Most graduating students will be filling vital roles in the agriculture, green industry, natural resources, and education sectors. As I sat at my table, I couldn't help but think of the challenges ah...

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Topped trees. Are the power lines any safer?
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The Dangers of Tree Topping

"Would you look at that?" I exclaim almost routinely as we drive around town. A horticulturalist does not make for the most enjoyable company in a car. Especially, if like my wife, you could care less about the health of a wayward tree or circling back to check out a random flowerbed. "Was that a field of cabbage? We better swing around to check it out." If I am late to something, it is probabl...

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Invasive Species Awareness Month

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

The other day I received a daily update email that keeps me apprised of things in agriculture, natural resources, horticulture linking to various news articles and press releases. One of the articles was from the USDA APHIS about invasive insects and announcing that April is Invasive Species Awareness Month. APHIS also developed a website they have called Hungry Pests focusing on some of the in...

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Using Eggshells in the Garden and Compost

Easter, the holiday when I question my love for hardboiled eggs. Don't get me wrong; I love to sit around the table with my kids to dye Easter eggs and then hunt for those same eggs on Easter morning. By the end of the festivities, we are typically left with two dozen hardboiled eggs. Eating a plain hardboiled egg can only be done so many times. Often we turn Easter eggs into egg salad for sand...

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Time to Get Into The Garden

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles Events

Days are finally starting to get longer and warmer, both of which gardener's become excited for each year. I stepped outside this morning and was grateful for the sunshine and warmth and began looking over my garden. The daffodils, tulips, bleeding heart, daylilies, and pulmonaria are all raising their heads up out of the ground. Then the realization set in that there is still garden clean up t...

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Tips for Repotting Houseplants

Night yields to day in the late winter and spring, which seems to reenergize me. Already I've found time to get in the yard to do a bit of cleaning. Near the house, daffodils push their way through the leaf mulch beginning their march skyward, racing to beat the shade thrown by the trees. Magnolia buds in the neighbors yard are swollen, ready to burst in an explosion of flowers. The grass has s...

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Bringing Learning Outdoors

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Over the years, I've had the amazing fortune to work with my colleague Dawn Weinberg, who teachers Ag in the Classroom in Hancock County, to coordinator teacher workshops. In these workshops we provide lessons and resources about how teachers can utilize plants to teach a variety of subjects – math, literacy, science, and social studies in their classrooms. Even at home, the garden can...

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A Primer to Supplemental Lighting for Indoor Seed Starting

Perhaps my least favorite part of winter is waking up to darkness in the morning. This morning, as I led my half-asleep six-year-old down the steps into the living room, we were greeted with streams of light coming through the windows. After the short days of winter and several days of cloudy, wet weather, the sun was a welcome sight. I'm not the only one welcoming the longer days and more sunl...

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