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Protect your Landscape from Rabbits this Winter

Colder weather, frozen soil, fallen and windblown leaves, and later any accumulated snow, all will force rabbits to take shelter and begin to look for food anywhere they can. Once the ground is frozen, rabbits will have fewer places to take shelter or hide. Foraging for food will mean staying a lot closer to the protection of their winter home. While the weather remains favorable, rabbits feed...

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Late Season Vegetable Storage Tips

Many Master Gardener Help Desk calls at the end of this growing season have been about garden cleanup, as would be expected. Yet other calls have been about handling expected or bonus yields of late season produce, especially root crops and the hard rind squashes. Q: We still have carrots in the garden, and do not want them to go to waste. How can we store them for a while lon...

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Drought to Drowning

Our latest weather pattern is making outdoor fall clean up more difficult than usual. It always can seem overwhelming, but even more so this year thanks to several long rain events. For example, just keeping up (again) with the flush of the lawn has been hard, but add in finding a time when the ground is firm enough and grass dry enough, is the real challenge. While at a recent meeting...

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Down the Garden Path

Good gardening questions

As our gardening season is winding down, questions to the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteers have been mixed, and they have been really good questions to share with others: Q: My white pine is losing many needles on the inside, is that normal? A: White pines, like all needled evergreens, naturally let go of one set of needles a...

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Birdseed and firewood

Birdseed and firewood are two common topics that come up this time of year. Both take some planning to be successful. Feeding the birds means starting earlier than later. Birds need to know early on that there will be something to eat on a regular basis if you want them to hang around in your yard. Rather than buying seed that has a little bit of everything for every bird out there, consider s...

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Houseguests Even Before the Holidays

Just about a month ago, I wrote about getting those houseplants back inside after vacationing in the backyard or on the patio. Now, there are other parts of nature that are trying to follow suit, but are really uninvited houseguests. This includes any kind of insect critter that has begun to look for a place to overwinter and wants to stay warm as long as possible. One that you can count on ev...

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Where has all the water gone?

This column has frequently addressed the need to water new plantings, transplanted trees, shrubs and evergreens added to the landscape. Little has been written regarding water management on what we would all call our "well-established" landscape plants in the yard. Most of us give little thought that those big oaks, maples, pines and spruce could use our help. The last time the hot, dr...

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Fall soil testing

When was the last time you had your garden or landscape bed soil tested? If you have never had a soil test done, this first time serves as a baseline for any future testing comparisons and lets you know as soon as the results come back if there are actions to be taken. This fall, before the snow flies, is a good time to get that done. A basic soil test will give you some great information and...

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Houseplants going back inside

As our good summer weather begins to wind down, it is time to get our vacationing houseplants ready to return inside for the winter. A few decisions can be made to save us some time. For many, we take them outside to let Mother Nature nurture them back to a better state of health, knowing that once back inside, they will be in a less than perfect growing location. You may have set them out on the...

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Unexpected dry weather

Early September typically brings cooler temperatures and enough rain to green up our lawns and keep them green until cold weather shuts them off for the 2017 growing season. So far, we have had the right temperatures, yet the rains have remained very scattered and the amounts very limited. Long term, this concerns farmers and horticulturists since we need to have the soils recharged...

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Keep that Garden Growing

Once the fall school term approaches, many home gardeners give up on the vegetable garden as other activities and projects seem to need more attention. Vegetable gardens can provide fresh produce well into October and maybe even early November depending, on what is grown. As the growing season moves forward, the weather begins to change in day length and in temperatures during the day and nigh...

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Keep that Garden Growing

Once the fall school term approaches, many home gardeners give up on the vegetable garden as other activities and projects seem to need more attention. Vegetable gardens can provide fresh produce well into October and maybe even early November depending, on what is grown. As the growing season moves forward, the weather begins to change in day length and in temperatures during the day and nigh...

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Grub Larvae closeup

Japanese and Masked Chafer Beetle damage in the lawn

This summer, the return of beetles has been evident after an all-time low from the drought in 2012. Beetle numbers have climbed each year since then and this summer have a very strong presence again. Female beetles are attracted to moist soils and locations where there will be plenty of food for their hatching eggs. We have had quite a bit of rain this summer, so finding moist soils is not a p...

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Fall lawn care for weeds and repair

We certainly have had some unique weather this summer, but we still have more than two months of growing weather. While the lawns – and our water bills – have benefited from the rains, so have the weeds. Annual grassy and broadleaved weeds have shown up in both thin and thick lawns this summer. The good news is that being an annual they will die yet this fall. By mowing them, we have eliminate...

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Repairing water logged lawns

For those homes having suffered greatly from all the storm water, getting the lawn back can take some time. Grasses have a very limited period to come back once under water, just a few days, and yards in many areas were covered a lot longer. If the water came and went but left the lawn covered with silt and mud, rinse off the grass blades so the grass plant can begin to produce energy again. A...

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Cranky about Crabgrass

Do you have crabgrass where you always do? Do you have crabgrass where you have never seen it before? You are not alone this year. You can chalk this up to our weather patterns this season, as you likely have foliage fungal disease and mushrooms in the lawn too. Crabgrass is a warm season annual grassy weed that waits for the soil to warm up before the seeds germinate and seedlings emerge. It...

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Tree foliage diseases and galls

Now that nearly every shade tree and ornamental are in full leaf, gardeners have been spotting some "spots" out there. Those spots can range in color from light green on a very green leaf (oak leaf blister) to black dots coming together to give a much larger blotch of black (tar leaf spot on maples). In general, leaf spot diseases are rarely fatal to a tree so that is good news. What is often...

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Mulch Madness

Calls to the Master Gardener Help Desks about using bark mulches in the home landscape and gardens has prompted a Q&A column this week. Organic mulches are used on new plants to help them establish and lessen transplant shock. Mulches conserve soil moisture; keep weeds and grass from encroaching and moderates soil temperatures, making it easier on the limited root system. On older established...

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Poison Ivy

Poison ivy has been around forever and may have behaved itself by staying out of our yards and groundcover beds…until now. Every time there is a situation that affects our landscapes, likely a corresponding condition is favoring nature. For example, if you don't mow the lawn for a season, you get an interesting mix of weeds germinating and growing to outcompete the lawn grasses. The same can be sa...

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Already July

Vegetable crops are mostly doing what they should be doing right now, given our sporadic plantings working around the weather. U of I Extension Master Gardeners have mainly been getting tree, shrub, evergreen and flower questions, and are not hearing about problems in the vegetable garden. Leafy greens, including Swiss chard, have been doing very well. Harvesting and eating those greens should...

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Bugs, diseases and weeds in the landscape

I've got a weird looking weed that looks like grass but has a different light yellow seed head. How do I get rid of it? One grass-like weed that has shown up in the lawn, flower and garden beds lately is yellow nutsedge. Grass-like because it is actually a sedge. It is yellow-green in color and, if left to mature, produces "nutlets" in the soil to grow from in the futur...

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Gardening Potpourri

Landscape care strategies have certainly changed since it has gotten dry and hot, and now we have gotten scattered rain events giving water to some and not others. We are seeing the end of the spring bulbs with foliage yellowing and drying down, which is accelerated by the hot dry conditions. The early spring bulbs "went away" some time back, now it is the daffodils. Other perennials, like col...

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Dealing with waterlogged soils and plants

Horticulture Educator Rhonda Ferree recently wrote an article on our over-the-top spring rains and the waterlogged soils that resulted. Her comments apply statewide and I wanted to share some that article this week. "It's no secret that much of Illinois has received excessive spring rains, which has resulted in waterlogged soils and flooding. It is important to understand what is happening to...

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Viburnum Leaf Beetle Returns

This column has talked about how different plants, insects and diseases have developed based on our unseasonal temperatures and rainfall. Last year, I reported on the Viburnum Leaf Beetle larvae feeding towards the end of June. Our accumulation of growing-degree days being so far ahead, the larvae have already been feeding for more than 10 days. Throughout Cook and DuPage counties, homeowners h...

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Swarming Insects

What do bees, ants and termites have in common? At some point in the year, they all swarm. Our honeybee may be the most obvious example as the queen gathers up thousands of support bees from the existing hive and heads off to find another location to set up shop. Those swarms can be seen hanging in trees or somewhere on the home under the eave. Sometimes they cling to parked cars and trucks be...

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