June 2017-July 2017
In This Issue
Garden Nibbles Lunch-N-Learn SeriesGarden Nibbles
These Lunch-N- Learns will be held in all 5 counties
Time: 12:15 - 12:45 pm
Bring your own lunch
Log on to http://web.extension.illinois.edu/abhps/for dates and to register online.
June - Wrestling Summer Weeds
July - Hardcore Houseplants
August - Spring Bulb Basics
September - Fall Gardening To-Do's
October - Composting Basics
November - Green Up with Groundcovers
December - Favorite Holiday Plants
Do I Need to Prune My TomatoesDo I Need to Prune My Tomatoes
By Maurice Ogutu
Pruning tomatoes can help some types produce more fruit.
"Tomatoes are divided into two different types namely determinate and indeterminate varieties based on their growth habits."
The determinate varieties have short to medium vine lengths. Plants are heavily branched and growth stops when they start flowering. Every branch tends to end up with a flower cluster. The determinate varieties can be staked or caged but not trellised. Determinate varieties are not heavily pruned as most of the fruit is produced on the branches. Some of the determinate varieties are Celebrity, Bush Steak, Mountain Pride, Rutgers, and Super Tasty.
Ogutu said the indeterminate varieties continue to grow and produce leaves and flowers until the first frost. They are heavily pruned when trellised, moderately pruned when staked, and lightly pruned when caged. Some of the indeterminate varieties are 'Better Boy,' 'Big Beef,' 'Big Pink,' 'Brandy Boy,' 'Brandywine,' and 'Floradel.'
Pruning is the removal of small shoots that join the stem," he said. "This reduces competition between the suckers and the fruit. Pruned plants produce larger, and an earlier fruit as most of the plant energy is channeled into the fruit."
Remove the shoots when they are four inches long as removal of larger suckers may lead to injury to the plant. Remove a sucker by grasping it between your thumb and second finger and bending it to the side until it breaks. It is advisable to do this early in the day when the plant is still crisp. Do not cut suckers with a knife as this can lead to spread of diseases. Limit the branches of indeterminate varieties to two to three fruit producing branches by selecting the main stem, the sucker that develops immediately below the first flower cluster, and another sucker below that. Remove all other suckers, and periodically remove new suckers that form on the selected branches.
"It is important to decide on the type of support before setting plants in the garden," Ogutu noted. "Plants that are to be supported using trellises are set closer than plants to be staked or caged. Plants to be caged are set further apart than plants to be staked. Alternatively, you can choose the type of support based on how the plants were set in your garden."
Monarchs Need More Than Just MilkweedMonarchs Need More Than Just Milkweed
By Kelly Allsup
Most Illinois gardeners believe that the cause of declining monarch butterfly populations is due to the lack of milkweed in the summer breeding areas of our state. However, research done by the Illinois Natural History Survey, plant ecologists, Greg Spyreas and David Zaya is proving there may be more to the story than just the lack of milkweed.
Illinois is home to 19 native milkweeds. In the last 20 years milkweed has decreased by 95% in agriculture fields, David Zaya says, "the natural areas are buffering the loss, maintaining about 50% of milkweed enabling the monarchs to build up their normal population numbers throughout the summer." Scientists now believe the decline in the population may also be due to the lack of floral resources on their long, exhaustive journey back to Mexico and are urging gardeners to create a monarch corridor or "floral highway."
To create these floral highways, planting more fall blooming perennials need to be in gardens. Scientists do not want gardeners to stop planting milkweed as a larvae food source for caterpillars. In addition to being a larval food source for monarchs, milkweed is also a highly sought after nectar resource for adults.
If you add new plants to your garden or start to build a new landscape, Greg Spyreas says, "fall blooming perennials like liatris, joe pye weed, black eye Susan, bee balm, aster, coneflower, and helianthus would be excellent additions to your gardens for the late feeding of monarch butterflies."
Liatris pycnostachya (Prairie blazingstar) Blooms mid to late summer on large erect pink to purple spikes. Full sun, not drought tolerant when young.
Eutrochium purpureum (Joe pye weed) Blooms mid-summer to early fall; pink to purplish pink panicle of compound flowers. Light shade to partial sun.
Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan) Blooms early to mid-summer; dark-brown central cone with yellow petal-like rays. Full sun, easy to grow but short-lived biennial.
Monarda spp. (Bee balm) Blooms in summer for up to two months; a three to four-inch ring of tubular flowers ranging from pink to red. Partial sun and moist conditions.
Symphyotrichum shortii (Smooth blue aster) Blooms late summer to fall and lasts one to two months; yellow centers with blue-violet petal-like rays. Partial to full sun, pinch to keep compact.
Echinacea purpurea (Purple coneflower) Blooms mid- to late summer; Central brown cone with purple to pink petal-like rays flowers. Full to partial sun; prefers well-drained soil; drought tolerant once established.
Helianthus mollis (Downy sunflower) Blooms late summer to early fall; large bright yellow composite flower. Full sun; tolerates drought; forms dense colonies.
Additional gardening practices like adding a water source, planting multiples of one kind of plant in groups, avoiding pesticide use, allowing herbs to flower and planting annuals like Mexican sunflower, zinnias and cosmos can be of great benefit to the traveling monarchs.
University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup, says by helping the monarchs, you will also help a host of other pollinators and wildlife by creating habitat they need to survive. "Floral highway" your yard.
Slugs-A Garden Pest!Slugs-A Garden Pest
By Rhonda Ferree
Slugs can be a nuisance and a real garden pest! A rainy spring like this one sometimes results in numerous slugs that cause heavy damage, especially on hosta. Phil Nixon, Extension Entomologist, offers for following information about slugs.
Slugs, which are shell-less snails, are usually a problem on thin-leaved plants growing in shady areas--hosta, violets, and impatiens. Following a spring with prolonged, heavy rainfall, slugs are often also numerous in sunnier areas, feeding on a wide range of plants.
The most common species is the gray garden slug, which is usually about 3/4 inch long but may be up to 1-1/2 inches long. Slugs have two pairs of tentacles extending from the front end of the body. The upper, longer pair are optic tentacles with eyes on the tips. There is also a shorter pair near the ground that is sensory tentacles for feeling and smelling. The largest structure is the foot, which runs the length of the slug. The underside of the foot is called the sole.
Slugs feed with tiny teeth that scrape away a leaf's surface and then the plant material underneath. This feeding mechanism causes damage to appear most commonly as holes in the leaf. On some plants or in large numbers, slugs will eat the leaf margins. You can verify that slugs are responsible by checking for their presence at night or on foggy mornings. Slime trails might also be visible in the morning when they reflect the sunlight before drying up.
Slugs need a moist environment to survive, and they feed on decaying organic matter. The best long-term control involves reducing this supply. Under less rainy conditions, spacing plants farther apart or pruning them back allow better air circulation and creates drier conditions that are difficult for slugs. Eliminating fallen leaves, bark mulch, and other dead organic material will reduce slug numbers by reducing food sources.
Baits are used to attract snails and slugs into traps where they then drown. One popular type of bait is beer. Pour beer into a shallow pan and sink it into the ground with the pan edges sticking up 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Snails and slugs are attracted to the yeasty smell of beer, and they fall into the pan and drown. Commercial poison baits are also available. Read labels carefully and be careful because dogs can be harmed if they eat them.
Perilous PearsPerilous Pears
By Jason Haupt
In recent years, one of the most popular trees planted in yards and by cities has been Callery Pear. These trees are cultivars of the Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana). They cannot self-pollinate, so it was thought this would be a good thing, preventing the rapid spread of these trees. This was meant to prevent them from becoming a problem like some of the other trees and shrubs that have been planted in the recent past. The big draw to this tree is that it produces a beautiful flower in the spring, it is relatively fast growing, and has a very desirable shape. One of the biggest problems is its shape. The branches have a tendency to crack and break off in high winds, snow, and ice. This causes a problem as it damages the tree and can be a health and safety issue.
The real problem that has become apparent in recent years is that though the individual cultivars cannot self-pollinate and produce a viable fruit they do readily cross with the Asian Pear. This produces a hybrid that is able to produce a viable fruit. This has facilitated the rapid spread of these trees into areas where they are not wanted. If you have noticed in the early spring (April and May), there is a large number of white trees along the highways and along the edges of forested areas. That is the Callery Pear trees. In addition to the hybridization, these cultivars are grafted cultivars. The weakness of the tree makes it very vulnerable in the winters that can be very harsh in Illinois. If the tree is damaged and the top is "killed," the root stock is capable of sprouting and producing a plant that will be able to of producing viable fruit. This allows the tree to spread just like the hybrid does.
Callery Pears are easy to identify. They are a medium-sized tree, the largest of the cultivars reaching up to 60 feet in ideal conditions. Though this does not often happen, they tend to weaken and break before they achieve their full potential height. Flowers appear in the early spring. They can be seen from about April to May and are very noticeable as they emerge before the leaves. The flowers are small (up to 1 inch) and white. Though the flowers are nice from a distance, they tend not to smell pleasant, often being described as rotten fish. The leaves are simple, two to three inches long, shiny, and wavy with a toothed margin. The fruit is small (about half an inch in diameter), round, and green to brown in color.
The invasive nature of these trees has led many cities to no longer plant them along right-of-ways and in parks and other city-owned properties. The tree itself poses a threat to native areas, as it spreads aggressively and has the potential to crowd out more desirable species.
Don't Raise Mosquitoes in Your YardDon't Raise Mosquitoes in Your Yard
By Rhonda Ferree
Be sure to look for mosquito breeding sites in your yard. The first step to fighting mosquitoes MUST begin in YOUR backyard.
West Nile Virus is most frequently transmitted through the house mosquito. Since it can only fly about 1-½ miles, this mosquito usually breeds and lives in our own backyards. After getting an adequate blood meal, the adult female mosquito lays her eggs in any stagnant water source. The eggs and larvae must have water to live. Therefore, we must remove as many water sources as possible from our yards and communities.
The water source does not have to be large. In fact the house mosquito prefers small, nasty water pools. It can breed in water sources as small as an 8-ounce glass.
Here are common areas in our yards that often hold enough water to breed mosquitoes: dirty gutters, flat roofs, tin cans, buckets, brake drums, bottles, candy wrappers, and trash. Most people know to eliminate tires, which are the Crown Plaza of breeding sites. Also, remember to keep swimming pools clean and dump water in tarps and other covers. Keep birdbaths clean and fresh.
Remember to dump any water standing in containers or drip trays. Garden ponds should contain fountains or other features to keep the water moving or include top-feeding fish that will eat any mosquito larvae that try to develop. Examples of top-feeding fish include Gambusia, known as mosquito fish, most bait minnows, guppies, or even goldfish. Koi are not recommended since they are vegetarians.
Eliminating breeding sites can reduce mosquito problems in your yard. This is key to any type of mosquito control program. Fortunately, an ongoing program of eliminating these sites in your yard is easy and not time consuming. However, it must be done regularly – at least once per week since it takes mosquito larvae 5-7 days to develop.
Mulch or Not to Mulch?Mulch or Not to Mulch?
By Kari Houle
There are many times people will call with questions about what they can do to help their trees grow better (cultural practices) or what they can use to help keep weeds out of the garden. One of my suggestions always is mulch. Now it should be stated that mulch is just one component of good cultural practices in landscaping and gardening, especially with trees, but mulching is definitely an important one.
What benefits does mulch provide plants?
- Helps to moderate soil temperatures
- Helps to maintain even soil moisture
- Helps to minimize soil erosion and runoff
- Reduces weeds by minimizing weed seed germination
- Keeps lawn mowers and weed whips away from trunks of trees and other woody ornamentals preventing mechanical damage
- Overtime adds organic matter back in to the soil as mulches break down
In that last bullet point – see where I mentioned organic matter? Almost all of these major benefits of mulch are only provided by organic based mulches. I never recommend using mulches such as rock or rubber mulches around plants or in the landscape as they don't assist in moderating soil temperature or soil moisture and don't add organic matter to the soil over time.
So if you shouldn't use rock or rubber mulches what can you use? Shredded hardwood, shredded cypress, arborist chips/wood chips are all good choices. You can find chips from local tree care companies, municipalities, or electrical companies. Wood chips may be a better option as landscape mulch for a variety of reasons including variety of size of the chips and rate of decomposition to name a few.
According to Linda Chalker-Scott from Washington State University "wood chips supply nutrients slowly to the system; at the same time they absorb significant amounts of water that is slowly released to the soil. It is not surprising that wood chips have been cited as superior mulches for enhanced plant productivity." She further states that wood chips have been found beneficial in establishing woody plants in urban and disturbed planting areas.
When applying mulch, apply mulch 2-4" deep for hardwood shredded and cypress and chips can be mulched 4-6" deep but which ever mulch you use, keep a small space between the mulch and base of the plant. For best weed seed germination control – apply mulch before weeds germinate, if you missed that window, mowing the weeds extremely low and then applying mulch can be an effective way of smothering weeds that have germinated. It should be noted that just because you mulch it does not mean that you will never have to weed again – it will be easier if incoming weed seeds germinate in the mulch making pulling them much easier than having to pull them up from bare soil. If mulches are applied too thin, then weed control becomes ineffective. Reapply mulches as needed as they begin to breakdown to maintain recommended mulching depths.
So if you've been wondering whether or not to mulch around trees or shrubs or in landscape beds
– the answer is a resounding yes.
Float Like a ButterflyFloat Like a ButterflyBy Jason Haupt
If you read the first part of Birds Bees and Wild Things, you will remember that to attract birds to your yard; insects are an essential element of a bird's diet for part of the year. Attracting wildlife to your yard is an interconnected effort, and to attract all types of wildlife, you need to look at your yard as a habitat; do you have food, water, shelter, and space?
When you are looking to attract butterflies and other pollinators to your yard, you need to think about providing for all stages in the life of the insects that you want to attract. Insects have multiple life stages, and each stage has a different food requirement. Milkweed is one of the most common plants chosen to attract butterflies, Monarchs specifically, but Milkweed only provides for one of the life stages of the Monarch's life cycle. To attract and keep the butterflies coming to your yard, you need to provide food for the larval stage (caterpillar), the pupa (chrysalis), and the adult (butterfly) stages. Each stage has specific requirements.
Many larvae are very particular to the type of food they will eat, often sticking to a very narrow range of plants or staying within a family of plants. The Monarch is an excellent example of this with the larva only feeding on plants in the Milkweed family.
Some butterflies are specific to the plants they will build their chrysalis on, so knowing the type of butterflies you want to see will help you choose plants.
Adult butterflies, though not highly specific to the exact plant types, have some requirements.
Stick to flowers that are bright and colorful like reds, yellows, oranges and purples.
Flowers with flat tops or have short flower tubes are necessary. The nectar must be accessible to the butterflies.
Keep in mind that you need to provide water for butterflies as well. Standing water is not the best for butterflies, but wet areas or a sponge in a birdbath provide the needed moisture. Sun is also important when wanting to attract butterflies to your yard. Open sunny areas where the butterflies can sun themselves are important. Having a flat rock or another area brightly lit by the sun is an important feature to have when attracting butterflies.
Native plants are better for attracting a wider variety of butterflies than cultivars or non-native horticultural industry designed plants. Native plants serve as a host for a much larger variety of species, and they are much more resistant to drought, and native pests. They tend to be much lower maintenance than other plants. Birds Bees and Wild and Wild Things: Part 2 Float Like a Butterfly…