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Good Growing

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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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Bee Friendly To Pollinators

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Usually when people think of pollinators, the first thing that comes to mind is the honey bee ( Apis mellifera) . As important as honey bees are to pollination, there are a lot of other pollinators that are just as important. Native bees, Moths, butterflies, flies, bats, beetles, and wasps are all pollinators. There are over 4,000 native bees in North America alone. According to the Xerc...

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Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) exudes a bright orange-red sap
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Keep an Eye Out for These Winter-Blooming Plants

You have to hand it to those Olympic athletes; they sure do make it look easy. Watching the 2018 Olympics with my family has inspired us to take to the slopes, that is, our small sledding hill. We took advantage of a snowy weekend and got in some much overdue sled riding. In the joyful moments of barreling headfirst down a steep hill with a six and four-year-old on my back, one doesn't think of...

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Leafy Greens in the Garden

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

I have come to the realization that my favorite plants are foliage plants – from pothos to huechera to lettuce and spinach. Spring is on the horizon which means it's going to be spring vegetable planting time before we know it and that includes some of those favorites. Leafy green vegetables are some of the easiest vegetables to grow. They start readily from seed, can provide extend har...

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Does Sand Improve Clay Soil Drainage?

My childhood home sat atop a bluff overlooking the Mill Creek Valley near Quincy. The view over bucolic farm fields and pastures likely was the kicker for why my parents purchased the property. It is a view that still holds me in a trance whenever I'm visiting my folks. However, the bluff upon which our house resided, was comprised of thick, red, gumbo clay! My parents would send me out...

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Updates and New Varieties

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

So let's just say my re-obsession with succulents (that I mentioned back in December) has kind of exploded into lots of new plants in my house. I also discovered that the window I had my first new batch of succulents in wasn't providing enough natural light and they were beginning to stretch. Even though I wrote about being mindful about lighting and stretching – look what ended up happening. W...

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Fresh Produce Food Safety and Food Safety Training for Specialty Crop Growers

Fresh Produce Food Safety Another food illness outbreak linked to fresh vegetables has made the headlines. The pathogen E. coli 0157:H7 caused 24 illnesses and two deaths in the United States and Canada. Canadian health officials have declared the outbreak over, and have placed the blame on romaine lettuce. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not been able to l...

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Spring Soil Preparation

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

In the last month, I've received calls and emails asking about what should be done to prepare the garden soil in the spring once the grounds is no longer frozen and ready to be worked for the new gardening season. Questions such as – what fertilizer should I apply, can I apply manure to my garden, if I do apply manure should it raw or composted, what about peat moss or should I use regular comp...

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Winter Bird Feeding with Suet

To say our weather has turned cold is an understatement. Last week, while sledding with my children my pants froze! We did not last long on the sledding hill that day. When I open the door to let out our dog Murphy, he looks up at me with what I can only describe as a "You've got to be kidding me" facial expression. Despite the dogs and his owner's hasty retreats out of the cold, there...

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2018 Garden Intentions

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions. Instead I think about things I would like to accomplish next year and if I do, great, if I don't I'm not feeling bad for "breaking" my New Year's resolutions. So here is my 2018 Garden Intentions List: Grow my soft succulent collection. Have I told you how addicting they are?! The variety, the colors, the ability to propagate mo...

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Disposing of Cut Christmas Trees

Not long after the presents are unwrapped, relatives are back home, and the outside Christmas lights end their merry twinkling, one more task is taking down the Christmas tree. For those, like me, who use a fake tree, the process is simple. We take down the ornaments, fold the tree like an umbrella, and store it away downstairs until next year. Growing up my parents always got a fresh c...

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Stepping into the world of Succulents

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

So recently I've become a bit re-obsessed with succulents, especially soft succulents you can grow indoors. It started back when I did a presentation on Hardcore Houseplants and came across a kalanchoe called Panda Plant in my research. Then I was up visiting my mom for Thanksgiving and she has a very large Jade plant that needed a trim. Being a sucker for plant propagation – I took the cutting...

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What if Winter Never Arrives in the Midwest?

I've heard it on the news, in conversation, and social media, "This warm late fall weather sure is great! I hope the entire winter is like this!" Is this weather great? Of course! Last weekend I took my kids out to Dickens on the Square, a pleasant downtown event in Macomb. In years past, we are bundled up, freezing as we walk from activity to activity. This year, 2017, Dickens on the S...

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Waltzing Through Seed Catalogs

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Eeep!! It's December! Where did 2017 go? This time of year is always a bit melancholy but for gardeners, the sun is right over the horizon. Seed catalogs will soon be gracing mailboxes all over. I love seed catalogs – all the beautiful pictures and information to entice you, usually resulting in your eyes being bigger than your garden space. It's so easy to be drawn in by new varieties...

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Giving Thanks

What is on your list of thanks this Thanksgiving? After all, that is the question of the week. I am grateful for many things. Too much to list here. If I could distill down to a few core items for which I give thanks, the following is what I have to offer. I am grateful for healthy soil. Yes, I said soil. The same stuff most people call 'dirt.' The same thing we work so...

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Grow Herbs and Lettuce Indoors this Winter

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

Just because days are shorter and colder and the outdoor gardening days are over, doesn't mean that it all must come to an end. Indoors we can have our green houseplants, but what if I told you – you can have herbs and lettuce and eat them too! You can grow a number of herbs and lettuce indoors even in the middle of winter, short days and all. Whether you are growing indoors or outdoors...

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A look at some Illinois native trees

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

The other day I was teaching a group about native Illinois trees and of course I was all excited because I was teaching about trees which is my number one passion. I know in the past I've talked about native plants and have of course mentioned my number one favorite tree that just happens to be an Illinois native – Taxodium distichum Baldcypress. So I figured this time around I would f...

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