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Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.
tree buds canva

Plants and Insects Coming Alive in Northern Illinois


Plants are beginning to get the right signals from Mother Nature that spring has begun. Foliage and flower buds have begun to swell and expand, and will do so more quickly with the more spring-like weather. Buds have been protected all winter with insulating bud scales that will soften with the first good warm spring rain allowing quick emergence of foliage and bloom.

Perennials may have already begun in warmer situations like the south or west exposures around the home. Take some time to see how they are emerging. Are they all coming from the crown of the plant like a fern, or from individual growing points like a hosta? This will give us a clue as to how to divide them later. Early perennial vegetables will be rhubarb and asparagus (rhubarb from the crown and asparagus from the crown several inches below ground).

Tulips and daffodils have been growing for some time, yet "smart enough" to keep the flower stalk and buds below ground until it is safe to emerge and flower. Other perennials have a similar pattern of growth; maybe foliage could be damaged by a late frost, but the flower buds remain safe. Shade tree buds follow the same routine. Silver maples are one of the first to have buds swell and open. This year, they seem to be 10 to 14 days behind due to our cold weather pattern.

What is the lawn up to right now? Greening has begun on southern exposures, more so if on a sloping exposure where more heat gets collected during the day. Lawns really respond to those warm spring rains, bringing some nitrogen with them. A good warm rain will green up a lawn in 24 to 48 hours.

Just like plants get the spring signal, our outdoor insects do too. Spiders can be found as early as temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Others emerge so their life cycle matches their favorite host plants so they have something to eat. Some emerge from the soil, as soil temperatures remain consistently warm over a several day period. Depending on the insect, they will overwinter in the best state for future survival. That could be an overwintering adult hiding in leaf litter, under the rough bark of plants or in the walls of our home. Other insects leave behind eggs to survive the winter to hatch in the spring because as an adult they cannot; perhaps it is a cocoon above ground or a larval stage below ground or buried inside the bark of a tree or shrub. Whatever the survival method, it has evolved over thousands of years guaranteeing successful future generations.

So start walking your yard (even though it has yet to fully green up) and see the marvel of nature as spring unfolds on a daily basis.



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