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Give Your Soil a Check-up This Fall

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

As you begin your fall garden cleanup think about adding a soil test to your list of things to do. Soil testing is a quick and easy task that has many benefits. By conducting a soil test, it will allow you to see what the pH of your soil is, as well as what the nutrient levels in your soils are like. Conducting a soil test is good for both your wallet and the environment. By knowing wha...

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Indoor Plant Week Reminds it is Time to Start Bringing Houseplants Indoors

Coming up this third week of September is National Indoor Plant week. My attitude toward houseplants is quite harsh. I refuse to grow an indoor plant that is finicky about the pH of the water or must only be given a tablespoon of water every three days. To live in my house, you have to be tough! Late spring of every year, I return my houseplants to the outdoors, where they often thrive...

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Eastern Yellowjacket. Photo by Johnny N. Dell, Bugwood.org

Yellowjackets

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

As the calendar creeps closer and closer to fall, often times we begin to encounter yellowjackets more and more. These wasps are commonly confused with honey bees because of their similar size (both are about ½ long) and coloration. Despite this, they are rather easy to tell apart (if you're willing to look close enough). Yellowjackets have bright yellow and black bands on their abdomens and ar...

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Mowing for Monarchs

There is something about mowing that brings a measure of satisfaction to many of us. What is it that we love about mowing? The smell of cut grass? Taming an unruly landscape? To me, it is measurable progress. It seems so often that modern jobs give few tangible results. So much of our work these days is in the digital ether. After a full day's work, I leave the office switching off my computer,...

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Fungus Files: What to do about toadstools in your lawn

In that past two weeks, West Central Illinois has seen a much-needed return of rain after a summer of low precipitation. With the rain has come a handful of calls into the Extension office about mushrooms/toadstools popping up in lawns. Most callers are curious as to why toadstools are showing up now, while a few are on the warpath to eliminate these fungal intruders. The lawn warriors...

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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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