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The Joy of Gardening

Whether prairie plant or pansy, native or ornamental, gain insight into all aspects of gardening & wildlife.
Question of the Month

Browning on Colorado Blue Spruce 'Fat Albert'

I have a Colorado Blue Spruce 'Fat Albert'. I noticed last year that it wasn't looking good. I was out today looking at it, only to find that the needles in the whole heart of the tree seem to be turning black and falling off. Is there anything I can do to save it? Your description leads me to believe that it is Rhizosphaera needle cast, which is a fungal disea...

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Grafted Tomatoes

Should I be buying grafted tomatoes? What are their advantages to warrant the higher price? Will the wild growth from the base of the plant ultimately take over? Answer There is no straightforward answer to that question! Grafted tomatoes, or any other vegetables, do certainly have advantages over their non-grafted counterparts. Grafted tomatoes have soil-borne...

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Brown Patches on Draceana

My corn plant has developed brown blotches all over, both old and new growth. The green parts of the leaves look healthy. I do not think I am doing anything differently than I have been doing for a number of years. Is it a disease, or am I doing something wrong? Answer Corn plants, or Draceana fragrans, are wonderful houseplants, as they are relatively...

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Leaves Smothering My Lawn

For some reason the leaves on several of my trees did not fall this year. After the fall cleanup, the two snows in mid-December knocked them all down, and now they are buried under the snow. I've heard that accumulated and packed down leaves will smother and kill off the grass. Also, it makes the grass more susceptible to diseases. Is there anything that can be done? Or is there anything that I...

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Growing Azaleas and Rhododendrons

For years I have tried to grow Azaleas and Rhododendrons with limited success. Often in the winter the leaves will turn brown, roll up and next spring after they bloom, they seem to have fewer leaves. So it becomes a slow, steady decline unto death. I've been told that I probably need to add fertilizer and lime in the fall. But I was also told by others not to fertiliz...

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Planting Spring Bulbs

Each year when I plant spring bulbs it seems something follows behind me and digs them up, and come spring I have only a few stragglers left. Are there certain bulbs that the critters will leave alone or is there something I can do to keep them away? And what is the best way to plant them to assure that they will all bloom? Answer What you are describing is inde...

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Fall Garden Chores

I've always heard "Fall is a good time to plant!" And I've heard that around Labor Day is the best time to do work on the lawn and gardens. What should I be doing now for the lawn, and what kind of jobs should I be doing in the gardens? How do I determine which is the most important in case I run out of time (or steam!)? Answer Autumn is the ideal time for carry...

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Controlling Bindweed

  There is a little vine that has begun to crawl all over my shrubs, and other perennials. It has been around a couple of years, but now seems to be trying to take over the place. It has little white morning glory-like flowers that are pretty. But I can't seem to get rid of it. I've tried pulling it out, and spraying it with Weed-B-Gon, which won't kill it off. Now I see it popping up i...

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A Guide to Composting

I have never had a compost pile before. But it seems a shame to keep throwing away all of this material. How do I start? Is there anything special that I need to do? Are there any materials that I should not be adding? Are there step by step instructions available? Answer You are exactly right; it is a waste not to put your kitchen and garden waste to good use....

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Starting a Native Garden

Question I would like to plant some native plants this year, but have absolutely no experience therein. Can you give me some good advice to get started? Answer Always start small! Do not think you have to create an entire prairie in your first season, or ever. Even individual native plants are beneficial. Starting small will help ensure...

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My Seedlings are Stretching

In a fit of enthusiasm I started a bunch of seeds some weeks ago. It is only the beginning of April and they are already too tall, thin and wispy, or leaning over to the side. Is there anything I can do to salvage them? Can they be pinched? Or should I just call it a day and start all over? Answer What you are describing is a common spring dilemma; we eagerly aw...

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Early Season Weed Grasses

During the warm days we just had, I was out looking at the gardens. I'm not sure just how and when it happened, but weedy grasses have invaded the beds. There are grasses among the iris rhizomes, grasses climbing all over the hosta bed, globs of grasses with peony stems sticking out of it, and grasses showing up out of the ground covers. And all of it is still green! How do I get rid of this me...

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Is it too Late to Prune?

I have some bushes that have gotten far too large. I've heard that cold weather is a good time to prune them back. But I'm not sure if that applies to all. I have hydrangeas, roses, forsythia, butterfly bushes, Korean spice bush, spireas, and some lilacs. When should I cut them back? Answer When deciding when to prune your shrubs there are a few factors to take...

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Time to Bring in Those Houseplants

I have a number of houseplants and tropical plants that I have given a summer vacation out of doors on the patio. It will be cooling off soon and they will need to be brought indoors. Should I do be doing anything to get them ready to be brought back in? Do I need to be worried about 'hitchhikers'? Houseplants generally thrive when they are kept outside over the summer as they enjoy the...

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Hummingbird Favorites

Hummingbirds are so entirely unique and captivating, that it seems like a treat anytime we are graced by their presence with a visit to our plants. Even more so when we planted those plants specifically with this in mind! Undoubtedly hummingbird feeders have their value, and yet somehow there is something very special about a hummingbird actually drinking nature's true nectar, sourced directly...

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Cooley Spruce Gall Adelgids

Question Attached are photos of a spruce that is along my driveway in Glenview. It has a peculiar spiral pattern of tip dieback. I've looked at the tree and see no insects or insect damage. Any thoughts? Could it be salt or possibly chemical damage or overspray? I doubt at this late date that it would be cultural. And I am wondering if there is any hope of it co...

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When should I cut my spring bulbs?

Question My tulips and daffodils have all finished blooming. How long do I have to wait before I can cut them down? I would like to get rid of them now as they are looking rather ragged. Also, when is the best time to fertilize the spring flowering bulbs? Answer The longer you can wait to cut down your spring bulbs the better. Keep in mind tha...

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Can gas leaks cause turf damage?

I have a large, approximately 8ft. round area in the front lawn where I cannot get grass to grow. Over the recent years I have tried to seed it three different times, and have replaced the dead grass with sod twice. Each time it died. An elderly gentlemen in the neighborhood suggested that it might be a gas leak. Is that possible? Is this a symptom of such a leak? Should I be concerned about th...

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I have snow mold on my lawn.

When the snow melted, it looked like I had spider webs or fine rabbit fur in spots all over the lawn, and in strips along the sidewalks and driveway. I'm not sure, but the grass within those areas now looks browner than the rest. What was that substance? Is that grass going to die? What should I do about the lawn? Answer The symptoms you are describing are what...

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Why are my evergreens browning?

I have begun to notice some damage to the evergreens. Also, the ones out front by the street are showing some browning out. What should I have done (and when) to help protect my evergreens during the winter? Is there anything that I can do now to help prevent further damage? Answer Evergreens in contrast to their name can often show signs of browning by the end...

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Should I be pruning in winter?

I have time now, during the winter. Can any of the pruning of trees and shrubs be done in the winter? Are there any that should not be pruned now? And what is your opinion of "topping" a tree? Answer Winter is an ideal time to prune almost all deciduous trees and shrubs for a variety of reasons: dormancy means trees and shrubs will not bleed; reduced tree stress equals...

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Fall Bed

Fall cleanup... friend or foe?

I have perennial beds in front of my house, in front of the front window. They are driving me crazy this year because they catch all of the leaves that the west wind blows into my front yard. I just get them cleaned out and the leaves just blow right back in. I must have raked 6 or 7 times, but within two days they have filled up again. What can I do to keep the leaves out? Should I just mo...

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Leave those bugs outside!

I have moved my houseplants back indoors for the winter. Should I have done anything before I brought them indoors to help prevent critters and diseases? Is there anything that I can do now? Each year, it seems that there is at least one pot that has something - ants, sowbugs, earwigs, or other problems that get brought in. Answer Houseplants generally...

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Keep your turf grub free!

All of a sudden, my lawn is getting all of these small holes, about the size of a lemon, dug all over. I had been told that we did not have Japanese beetles, so I don't think that the grubs are the problem. Off to one side, there is an area where the sod was just totally peeled back. What is causing all of the damage, and how do I stop it from happening? Answer...

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