Over the Garden Fence Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/rss.xml Fruit Tree Pollination and the Polar Vortex https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13790/ Wed, 13 Feb 2019 08:16:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13790/ Catalogs provide a great amount of information like flowering, harvest times, mature size based on rootstocks, if the tree you are considering comes with pollination requirements, and much more.

In general, the stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, Stella cherry and sour cherries) take care of themselves. They are considered "self-fruitful," as they are trees that can be planted all alone and you still get fruit. This also is helpful if backyard space is limited.

The next group is known as "partially self-fruitful," which includes European plums, apricots (yes, a stone fruit) and Rome and Golden Delicious apples. While these fruit trees would prefer to be cross-pollinated for better yields, they too will stand on their own if necessary.

The third group will be known as "self-unfruitful" in the catalogs. This is where most of the apple trees fall. Besides the apple, other listed are pears, sweet cherries, and Japanese type plums. This group seems to be misunderstood when it comes to proper cross-pollination. Cross-pollination refers to the need to have pollen from an entirely different variety of the same species. It is carried by pollinating insects to successfully pollinate each variety. This part is critical if your fruit trees are out in the countryside. If the backyard orchard is in a more populated part of the community, any of our flowering ornamental crabapples will serve as that "other variety," as crabapples are a kind of apple.

There also is a bit of confusion on what kind of an apple we will get. That pollen from the flowering crabapple will influence seed, yet the apple fruit will be true to the variety we planted.

There is a fourth group of apple called "pollen sterile." They can receive pollen from another variety and produce apples themselves, yet the pollen they produce will not serve as viable pollen for other apple trees. If you plant a pollen sterile apple, you will need two more different apple varieties for all three apple trees to produce.

Another key point, fruit tree catalogs will suggest a variety that will be in bloom at the same time to assure proper cross-pollination takes place.

While you are browsing the catalog, be sure to pay attention to how hardy the fruit trees are and specifically how hardy the flower buds are. Apples are going to be the hardiest here in northern Illinois. In descending order then plum, pear and sour cherry are moderately susceptible; next are peaches and nectarines, known as very susceptible; and the most cold injury sensitive are apricots and sweet cherry. For example, our recent Polar Vortex temperatures took out the flower buds of apricot, sweet cherry, peaches, and nectarines for sure. Expect some damage to plums, pear and sour cherry.

Taking Care of Winter Pantry Pests https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13789/ Mon, 04 Feb 2019 08:15:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13789/ Even with the best attempts, occasionally these pantry pests show up anyway. Identification is a good place to start and from there understanding the pest life cycle guides us through the removal process. The most common pantry pests are a moth and a couple kinds of grain beetles. One is easier to spot than the others. The Indian meal moth adult will fly around the pantry or cupboard and circle light fixtures at night, while the beetles do not. The beetles do no stray away from their food source. Both the moth and the beetles have a complete life cycle: adult, egg, larva (worm) and pupa (cocoon). This plays into your removal and management of these pantry pests. Typically, these pantry pests establish themselves when unused grain products linger in the pantry. The flour used for baking cookies and pies makes it way to the rear of the shelf and there it stays, or that big bag of birdseed sits too long before it gets used.

Once found, a very thorough cleaning of the pantry to remove any infected products is the first step. This is going to be any foodstuff containing flour, regardless of being highly processed or not. Examples include oatmeal, cake and pancake mixes, pasta products and any breakfast cereals. Literally anything, that contains flour as an ingredient. All those go in the garbage. The next step is cleaning the pantry shelves, cracks and crevices. Use the vacuum hose to get into every crack and crevice. Those Indian meal moth larvae crawl away and pupate away from what they eat. Do not forget to vacuum the ceiling area in the pantry too. Wait to put fresh shelf paper down until you know the pest are completely gone.

Those foodstuffs that are left need to go in tight-sealing containers in case they were contaminated with eggs that had not hatched when they were inspected. If later you find a product with a problem you are only throwing out that individual product and do not have to inspect the entire pantry again. You also can place unused flour in the refrigerator or freezer until used up.

Be vigilant over the next four to six weeks looking for the flying Indian meal moth, their larvae and the small grain beetles in the remaining products. It is not uncommon to see the moths, but without being able to find a food source to lay their eggs, you will have broken the life cycle. In the future, buy flour-containing products in a quantity that will be used in a month, not long enough for another outbreak to occur. While it is winter, you can store the big bags of pet food and birdseed in the unheated garage and feed the pets and birds from there. Feed the birds this spring until the bag is empty. Placing the pet food in a tight-sealing tub of your choice is a good idea too, especially during the summer months.

Cold Temps, Snow Cover and Dormancy https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13772/ Wed, 30 Jan 2019 22:54:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13772/ In parts of the country that do not experience our kind of cold weather, plants do not have to go dormant. Many houseplants typically live outdoors year round in other parts of the United States or the tropics.

Deciduous plants in our region evolved ways to remain alive during the winter months and wait for better weather to return. In the spring, they break their winter dormancy and begin to grow and flower for the coming year. This dormancy mechanism includes allowing the leaves to move any nutrients out of the leaf and into stems, buds, trunk and roots to be stored for next year. The leaves are lost to cold weather, yet still benefit the plant by being recycled as they break down and add organic matter to the soil. The trunk, branches and buds have developed what we know as bark and bud scales to insulate the vascular tissue and bud initials respectively. Take a look at your houseplants again. Many of them just have a green stem that would easily be frozen if left outdoors. If you have a good green thumb and can keep the same houseplants for years, some will develop woody stems since they may be large growing shrubs or trees in their native locations. A couple of examples would be the Weeping Benjamin Fig and the Rubber Tree. The Poinsettia plant given during the holidays can become woody and is several feet tall and wide where it grows natively.

While most of our perennials can survive without any snow cover, they will do better if protected, especially those that have shallow roots and crowns. The freezing and thawing cycle in the soil can push them right up to the surface. Roots are easily damaged and killed in this environment. This is why the snow is so helpful. Snow moderates the soil temperatures, minimizing the freeze-thaw cycle. The snow also protects the crown of the plant, as this is where all of next year's growth will come from.

Since our deciduous plants have evolved to survive our winter weather, they also need that signal to return to growing from being dormant. Our spring thaws and rains begin to trigger that along with warmer days and warming soils. So look outside, enjoy the white snow cover in your yard, and keep your thoughts on the coming spring!

Winter Work for the Home Orchard https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13761/ Tue, 22 Jan 2019 19:46:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13761/ January is not too early to start to plan for a new home orchard or to consider replacements for aging fruit trees in an existing orchard. There are several different kinds of fruit trees to consider – apple, cherry, peach, pear, and plum.

As we live in the northern portion of Illinois, apple is likely the main fruit tree grown in back yards and commercial orchards. At the local orchards, you will be able to pick just about every fruit you want, but in the home orchard, apples are a good place to start. When you shop the fruit tree catalogs or visit with your favorite retail garden center to find out what cultivars or varieties they will be carrying this spring, homeowners should consider dwarf apples as in most cases yard space is limited. Dwarf apple trees are naturally smaller than their full sized siblings are, much easier to train, prune and maintain that a full sized fruit tree. If you have lots of space, full-sized fruit trees are always an option or the variety you want may not be available in the "small version."

Fruit trees are dwarf because they are naturally so or because fruit tree growers graft or bud them to a dwarfing rootstock, limiting the size of your fruit tree. If they are naturally dwarf, then the apples listed will be a "spur-type" tree. There are many examples of spurs available to us – Empire, Red and Yellow Delicious, Macintosh, Rome, Winesap, Early blaze are a few. The smallest fruit trees will be a combination of a spur type grafted or budded on a dwarfing root stock. It should be noted that the catalogs will list a mature size, considerably smaller than the full sized version, but that ultimate size of your dwarf tree is really up to you. If you start to train too late, or do not prune correctly that dwarf apple tree will be larger than you wanted or expected, yet still much smaller than a full sized tree.

Another very important key to selecting your fruit trees will be pollination. Fruit tree catalogs will suggest which apple varieties will be the best pollinators for the varieties you wish to grow. It is critical that you have TWO DIFFERENT varieties blooming at the same time in order to get good pollination and a strong fruit set. Apples are, for the most part, considered to be "self-unfruitful," meaning that pollen from other flowers on the same tree or from another tree of the same variety will not pollinate itself. A possible exception to this rule is if you have an ornamental flowering crabapple in bloom at the same time, pollen from the flowering crabapple will pollinate your fruiting apple trees. So, if you live in an established subdivision and you or a neighbor has a flowering crab apple in the front or side yard or an apple tree of a different variety that blooms at the same time, you do not have to plant a second apple tree for pollination purposes, which will free up space in your backyard.

What's in your Garden Catalog? https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13760/ Tue, 15 Jan 2019 19:44:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13760/ Garden catalogs began to show up in early January and will continue for the few weeks. Each picture looks better than the next and promises to be bigger, better, than last year. There may be plenty of phrases or words that are unfamiliar or perhaps you have seen them before and never went far enough to find out what they mean. Vegetable descriptions will often include a number of initials at the end. These usually signify that the vegetable has been bred with disease resistance or tolerance to a disease specific to that variety. A tomato for example may have several initials V, F, N, TMV for resistance to Verticillium and Fusarium wilt, Nematode resistance and Tobacco Mosaic Virus.

Another term frequently used to promote a variety is the designation F1. This means that this variety is a first generation cross and contains the best genes from both the male and female parent plants. An F1 hybrid can be a better performer, providing a higher yield, be more disease resistance or tolerance than either of the parents. Vegetables, just like flowers can also have the AAS designation. The All-America Selection designation signifies that this variety has performed to a high set of standards to ensure it will perform in your yard. Testing and Evaluation occur in a number of locations throughout the United States so you can be comfortable knowing that you can purchase the seed or a transplant at the Garden Center and have a quality plant.

Trending right now are the heirloom, antique or open pollenated vegetables. These vegetables can provide fruit with a lot of visual character and when eaten, different texture and flavor. If you already have problems in the garden with diseases and in particular the soil borne diseases, it is best to stick with the hybrids since you cannot treat for these diseases and save your plants. If you are a mainly flower gardener, similar terminology exists for perennials. If Phlox is on your shopping list, see if you can find one that indicates a resistance to powdery mildew. If roses are your thing, then look for resistance to black spot and powdery mildew. If you are shopping for dwarf apple trees, apple scab and cedar apple rust are two diseases you would want resistance to.

Starting this early allows you to plan the garden, figure out the varieties you will need to order from the catalogs and what will be at your favorite garden center. Planning ahead also allows for choosing those varieties that will fit in the space you have, especially the vegetable garden. The catalogs will again help you with additional information. Vine crops will be listed as a "bush type" meaning the plant will not vine out but rather stay compact. Tomato plants can be either indeterminate or determinate types. Determinate varieties limit their size while still producing tomatoes, while indeterminate varieties will just continue to grow in size while producing fruits all summer as well. By understanding the descriptions in any catalog, you get to make the best selection possible for your garden.

Gardening Catalogs Filling your Mailbox? https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13752/ Wed, 09 Jan 2019 18:10:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13752/ The end-of-year sales and holiday greetings have barely ceased and already the gardening catalogs have begun to arrive in your mailbox and inbox.

Some catalogs are still pretty specific, vegetables or flowers, but not both. More and more catalogs today are now offering a bit of everything like the impulse aisle at the checkout. Since new flower and vegetable varieties are offered every year, sometimes it is hard to decide what will be best for your yard. You can order new and improved hybrids, and try some heirloom varieties (which can have some of the more unusual looks and have a great taste to go along with the look). Be sure to get your order in early so those vegetable seeds show up in time to get them started and hardened off in time for the vegetable or flower garden.

If large or small fruits are your thing, catalogs can help there too. Garden centers cannot carry every variety, so get the ones you want through the catalogs or online. These days, there are more and more fruit varieties available as "spur types" or dwarf or semi-dwarf sizes, better to fit the smaller back yards we have today. For the small fruits, there is a lot more than just strawberries out there. Blueberries, currants, raspberries, gooseberries and aronia are great alternatives. Blueberries can be challenging with the need for an acidic pH soil; the others are a lot more forgiving.

On the vegetable front, breeders are giving us color! Want Swiss Chard in a rainbow of colors? It is there. Peppers come in green, of course, and then there is red, yellow, orange, purple and more. Anyone doing the cooking loves to brighten up what would otherwise be just a green salad.

Vegetable plant breeders also are giving us more than color. What is inside of that seed is improved disease resistance, better yields, and more compact growth habit. All these characteristics are needed in the smaller home gardens. If you have the space, consider one or both perennial vegetables, asparagus and rhubarb. They will need their space, asparagus more than the rhubarb.

Finally, those catalogs are going to have the latest and best gardening tools you did not know existed. There also will be offerings of seed starting supplies including soilless seed starting mixes, seedling flats and transplanting containers. Start planning for spring!

Plants, diseases & bugs over winter https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13739/ Thu, 03 Jan 2019 12:54:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13739/ There are some good things that happen if our weather is mild for most of the winter. Flower buds that are more sensitive than vegetative buds to cold weather survive in much higher numbers. A good example is forsythia. In a very cold winter, flower buds are killed down to the snow line, if we have snow (we call that a snow skirt of bloom), otherwise clear down to the ground. In a mild winter, we get that great bloom show from the ground to the tip of every branch. Another sensitive plant is the peach tree. You can count on foliage every year, yet flower buds are killed and why a peach may only bear fruit every few years (a mild winter).

However, a downside is that a larger percentage of overwintering adult insects can survive during a mild winter since they are set up to withstand much colder temperatures without dying. An example of an overwintering adult are scale insects on just about any kind of shrub or tree. Recently magnolia scale has been on the increase. Scale insects affect the long-term health of landscape plants and the home orchard. Insects can overwinter as eggs, larvae, pupae too. Eggs are often found in the cracks and crevices of the bark and buildings, larvae and pupae in the soil just below the surface, or in the case of some moths, bagworms and butterflies, as a cocoon attached to a branch. Overwintering adults will collect in strong numbers in cracks and crevices. Lady bugs often will be found in the leaf litter at the base of shrubs.

Plant diseases are going to overwinter in a stage that are likely to survive no matter what kind of weather we have. What will make a difference is extended cool or cold, wet weather in the spring where leaf litter containing the fungal spores has a longer infection period. This is why those pesticide labels address the length of the spray schedule based on local weather patterns.

No matter what kind of a winter weather we end up with, gardeners know that diseases and insects will develop right along with our landscape plants, so be on the lookout early and often for potential problems.