Down the Garden Path Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/rss.xml What is Going on in the Yard? https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13443/ Thu, 21 Jun 2018 15:23:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13443/ The overly wet soils also are promoting mushrooms, many from rotting roots and decaying landscape mulch. All those Ash tree roots from dead trees, courtesy of the Emerald Ash Borer, have been in the ground long enough now that decay is well underway.

The above average rains are causing some insect problems both inside and out. Inside, homeowners are reporting more ants in the home in general and some specific types looking for food. Dishes of open dry cat food can be found covered with those very tiny tan ants, especially if that dish is always in the same spot. Outside you may find a potted plant not doing so well, only to find out ants have come out of the overly wet soil and brought their eggs with and have taken up home inside the pots, high and dry.

Another very tiny insect is the Thrip. They can be found by the thousands, unexpectedly on yard furniture and even the car. Not really much to do with them, as those populations will soon crash. The weather is to blame again, allowing large populations on our landscape plants and later to be found on all sorts of objects nearby.

Other outdoor pests are mosquitos, and it is tick season. Care should be taken especially for ticks. Your outdoor pets should be routinely groomed to remove ticks not already feeding and to properly remove ticks taking a blood meal. Best to call your vet for more information. If outside a lot, dress correctly. Wide-brimmed hats or at least a ball cap can help keep them out of your hair and scalp. Tuck your pants into your socks and use a rubber band to help seal them out. Do your homework and research how long some of the repellants are effective, some only last a couple of hours, others much longer and none last all day without reapplying. A family "tick check" is not a bad idea either. Mosquitos need water for several days to complete their life cycle. Right now after every rain, go out and empty everything that holds water that could support mosquitos.

Homeowners are also reporting lots of water sprouts and suckers in their landscape plants and sprouting suckers from roots in the lawn many feet away. Water is again to blame. Plants continue to take up moisture and will naturally push that water and nutrition into latent buds, which break and show up as water sprouts and suckers. Crabapples may be the worst, yet all plants do this.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with This Week in the Garden videos at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup. The Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk is open for 2018. Current hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 630-553-5823.

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Landscape mulch with expectations https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13421/ Wed, 13 Jun 2018 10:04:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13421/ When applied around young trees, we know that it reduces the competition from grass and makes it easier for the tree to establish in the new location. The tree gets more water and has no competition for soil nutrients. A big plus is there is no need to trim grass away from the trunk saving the tree from the destructive string trimmer!

When mulch is applied at the recommended depth of two to three inches, once settled, the tree or plant also benefits from water conservation. Having mulched beds can make the difference of a plant being stressed or not. Stressed plants are more likely to attract insects and are more disease prone.

Another benefit is weed management. Those weed seeds are around, yet kept in the dark, so they remain dormant. For the few annual weed seedlings that do make it to the surface, they can be pulled easily. Getting the bed clean is always helpful. Get rid of existing weeds and leave the soil surface loose to more readily absorb water. There are those perennial weeds that will re-sprout, so be on the look out and get them out as soon as you see them by cutting them below the mulch layer or spot treating with a non-selective systemic weed control product. Be careful not to damage surrounding ornamental plants.

Our grasses typically grow towards our landscape beds, from two to four inches a year. Before you mulch, consider edging that bed. This is always a good time to consider any bed line changes as well. Consider the turning radius of the riding mower or the fact that perennials and shrubs are growing out farther than the existing bed line. The bed will look much better and more "relaxed." Another bonus of bed expansion is less grass to mow and the ease of mowing with the new bed line.

Nothing comes without problems and landscape mulch is no different. Organic mulch will immediately begin to decompose once applied and with that come some familiar and unfamiliar bits of nature. We easily recognize mushrooms, and understand they come from weather conditions where periods of rain and cool temperatures promote them. You can see mushrooms protruding up and out of the mulch.

Extension Master Gardeners often get calls of other "things" found on the surface of landscape mulches. Slime molds can appear in several colors and show up in hours or overnight. They have some common names being very descriptive of what they look like! Mushrooms and slime molds appear with the right conditions in the mulch and can be avoided or stopped when they do show up by loosening the mulch with a tined digger or landscape rack to dry out the mulch. Doing nothing is always an option, as those mushrooms and slime molds will only be there a few days.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with This Week in the Garden videos at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup. The Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk is open for 2018. Current hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 630-553-5823.

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Mosquitos in the Landscape https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13410/ Thu, 07 Jun 2018 09:52:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13410/ Mosquitoes favor warmer temperatures and the right kind of water – permanent, floodwater or stagnant, depending on the species. Permanent bodies of water include ponds and lakes. Floodwaters are retention ponds that are dry most of the time and natural low-lying areas. Stagnant water examples are those clogged gutters, garden structures that can hold water and bird baths.

When the water is cooler, development is slower and larvae will succumb to natural diseases, reducing the numbers that make it to adulthood. We have had the warmer temperatures recently but not the standing water or stagnant water so far. Permanent water mosquitos are not the ones that show up in large numbers.

Homeowners tackle mosquito management on a number of fronts. Not just for mosquito management, but cleaning and clearing the gutters for the next rain event will prevent water damage to the home too. You may wonder "How could a gutter be plugged up already?" yet spring bud scales and flower parts from our big trees can fill it quickly. If there are any parts of your yard art that hold water or parts that collect water, think mosquitos. If those areas dry out within a week, you are ok. Birdbaths should be flushed about one a week to prevent mosquito larvae from turning into biting adults and to provide clean water for the birds.

Gardeners also can incorporate some of the mosquito repelling plants into the flowerbeds. These help in the overall effort to reduce biting mosquitos, but alone, will not do the job. Plants like catnip, basil, scented geraniums and lemongrass will be advertised to repel mosquitoes and other insects.

Often the floodwater mosquito is the one giving us the large number of mosquitos about two weeks after a rain event. They are noisy, buzz around our face, can fly very well and can come from a good distance. So even with empty gutters and clean birdbaths, they can be very bothersome while we are outside.

Other options for mosquito management will be the use of clothing treated to repel mosquitoes, or applying a number of sprays or lotions that repel insects. These can be natural oils or synthetically based. They can be effective for as little as an hour or can last for several hours. None are likely to last the day with just one application.

Lastly, mosquitos are attracted to body heat, carbon dioxide and dark clothing. So, think twice when choosing your gardening outfit, as you don't want to paint a mosquito bullseye on yourself.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with This Week in the Garden videos at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup. The Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk is open for 2018. Current hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 630-553-5823.

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Water and Weeds https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13398/ Wed, 30 May 2018 14:25:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13398/ All the soil moisture that has the home landscape looking so good right now also encourages any perennial weeds, whether grasses or broadleaves, to grow vigorously too. In the lawn, Master Gardeners are answering questions on tall fescue and quackgrass for both identification and potential management. Since they are perennial grasses just like our preferred lawn grasses, options are limited to post-emergence products that will take out these grassy weeds right along with our lawn grasses. Gardeners have some good success managing tall fescue by digging out this bunch-type grass and reseeding or sodding the spot. This is not a good option for quackgrass, as it has a spreading underground root system.

Common broadleaved weeds in the lawn include dandelion, plantain, ground ivy (known as creeping Charlie) and more recently thistles. The first line of defense is getting and keeping the lawn competitive against these weeds. Treatment of the weeds and getting the lawn strong can be done at the same time. As the weeds fail, vigorously growing turf will fill in.

Of all the thistles, the worst one to manage is Canadian thistle. It spreads by underground rhizomes just like quackgrass. If you see several thistles "in a row," they are very likely coming up from the same below ground runner. Thistles show up in the lawn from areas that are not managed. If thistles are left to grow, they will produce seed and can spread that way too.

In the perennial beds, all of the above weeds can be present. Dandelions can be growing up in the crown, as that is where the weed seed was caught. It is common to see grasses growing up and out of the canopy of your perennials and dandelion from at the base at the same time. Once you decide it is time to clean that up, digging up the perennial at the right time and clearing the roots of the grassy weeds and taproot of dandelion before resetting is a good practice. This is also a good time to check for soil insects, such as the iris borer, if you cleaning up and dividing plants.

In the vegetable garden, every time you work the soil, you encourage a new crop of weed seed to germinate. If you do need to cultivate, do so very shallowly. You can exhaust the supply of weed seed after several times of shallow cultivation and then the canopy of vegetable plants will continue to shade the soil, further reducing weed seed germination. If you do need to water the vegetable garden, water the base of the plants or along the row. Watering the whole garden will encourage weed seed to germinate as well.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with This Week in the Garden videos at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup. The Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk is open for 2018. Current hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 630-553-5823.

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Edging and mulching landscape beds https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13387/ Wed, 23 May 2018 09:22:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13387/ Putting a strong clean line on the landscape beds really makes a difference in how they look. It brings out the strong curves that make the bed flow through the yard, and that edge is the important transition from bed to lawn. Grass will grow towards and into the beds about 3 to 4 inches a year, so annual edging is quite beneficial.

With new plantings and a recently created bed, perhaps the best edging is a simple one made with an edging tool or flat spade. Too often beds are created, lined with an edging material that in a few short seasons can be found well underneath the evergreen and shrub branches at the ground because we did not realize just how much those plants are going to grow. Another good reason to hold off with any permanent edging is bed creation occurs over a few growing seasons and the bed edge should be able to change with it as well. Perennial flower beds come to mind as a great example. Increasing the number of plants with different bloom times and colors usually means a deeper bed out into the yard; easy to do if edging material does not have to be moved as well.

Bed lines that are too close to plants can make the bed look tight and confining. Opening up an established bed as the plants have grown and matured provides a relaxed view of the annuals, perennials and shrubs.

In addition, there are a variety of mulches that can be used in landscape beds to clean up the look. Naturally colored mulches will retain their color longer than dyed mulches. Mulches also can vary in size consistency. Mulches that are screened more than once show up more uniform once spread. You might consider using a higher quality mulch in those beds that are seen regularly and up close, compared to the back screening bed a good distance from the home.

Mulching flower beds can be a bit tricky, as many of our perennials grow each year from the crown of the plant and are not able push up through mulch. Be careful about mulching into the crown of those plants. Mulch is typically put down at about an inch deep, once settled, in flowerbeds, compared to landscape shrub and evergreen beds, where 2 to 3 inches is pretty common. When mulching to the lawn edge, if possible leave some open dirt. This makes touch up edging easy and keeps the grass from moving into the mulch too.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with This Week in the Garden videos at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup. The Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk is open for 2018. Current hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 630-553-5823.

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Three grassy weeds in the lawn https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13372/ Tue, 15 May 2018 14:14:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13372/ Q: I have patches of stringy straw- or tan-colored grass in my lawn that is not greening up like the rest. What is it?

A: This grassy weed is a warm season perennial called nimblewill. Nimblewill will not green up until both the soil and air temperatures get warmer and then it blends into the rest of the lawn. Leaf blades are slightly wider than our bluegrasses, which make up most of our lawns in northern Illinois. Nimblewill can grow in full sun to partial shade. It will go dormant earlier than our cool season lawn grasses too, so you will see that straw-colored patch come back this fall.

Q: What is the grass that always outgrows my bluegrass lawn with wider grass blades, and two or three days after I mow it is easily an inch or taller than surrounding grass?

A: This one is tall fescue, one of our cool season perennial grassy weeds that will turn green at the same time as our lawn grasses. Tall fescue grows with a bunch type root system that allows our lawn grasses to grow into the crown so there is no clear base to see. It will have a slightly different green to the wide and deeply veined leaf blades. Tall fescue has good drought tolerance and can tolerate some shade as well. In this form, we consider tall fescue a grassy weed. Since it has such good drought tolerance, grass breeders actually have been introducing new varieties called "turf type tall fescues," which are now available as seed and sod. In that case, it is not considered a weed, but instead a desirable grass for lawns in droughty locations. It matches our bluegrasses in color, leaf blade width and growing height. If lawn watering restrictions remain or get more restrictive, turf type tall fescue will likely gain importance.

Q: I have a grassy weed that spreads by underground stems and is not controlled with crabgrass preventer, what is it?

A: This is a grassy perennial weed called quackgrass, which spreads easily by those underground rhizomes. It can spread from seed, but since we mow the lawn, seed heads rarely get a chance to form, flower and set seed. Often times it escapes from a perennial bed where it may never be completely controlled. It is impossible to control by just pulling, as the rhizome remains several inches below the soil surface and sprouts back up from there. This one has the widest blade of the three discussed here and it is the one with a color that least matches our other lawn grasses. Since this is a perennial grassy weed, a crabgrass preventer that acts against seed is not effective on quackgrass unless from seed.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with This Week in the Garden videos at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup. The Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk is open for 2018. Current hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 630-553-5823.

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Spring is Coming https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13337/ Wed, 25 Apr 2018 14:50:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13337/ More and more spring bulbs are showing up with flower stalks well above the soil line waiting for a bit better weather to bloom. There is even an up-side to our temperatures. If it remains cooler, those spring blooms will last longer in the home landscape once they open.

Red and silver maples have been shedding the bud scales. There is clearly a red coloration appearing from the emerging tiny flowers. The change of silver maples is not as bright, more of a light green, yet clearly those flower buds have been swelling.

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood can be seed in neighborhoods about to give us a yellow bloom show and later that great shiny red berry. It has been spotty, but Forsythia have begun to bloom in the more protected areas. We did not have winter temperatures that would have damaged or killed the buds. There are many different varieties of Forsythia, so if you have one in the landscape and there is no bloom show yet, just hang on.

Despite the weather, signs of life are there in the perennial beds too. You can begin to see the crowns of your favorite plants, but also not-so-favorite plants, like perennial broadleaved weeds and grasses. Rosettes of dandelions are there, as is quackgrass.

While we wait for other spring flowering shrubs to show signs of life, it is a great time to look at them and do any pruning to remove any already-dead stems. Right now, the best example in many landscapes would be red twig dogwood. There is very likely some dead branches to remove. Good tissue has that nice red color, while the bad branches are a light to dark tan, eventually turning black. By removing the dead wood at the crown, you will be encouraging new shoots from there as well.

Soil temperatures have remained cold, so lawns may have not come alive yet. We have seen that brighter green on protected portions where temperatures are warmer. Data from Illinois Climate Network for the area for April 19 revealed just how cold the maximum soil temperatures are:

· On bare soil, 2 inches below the surface – 36.70 F

· At 4 inches below the surface on bare ground – 34.20 F

· Bare ground should be warmer than ground temperatures farther down, yet temperatures at 8 inches below the surface are warmer right now.

While we continue to wait for true spring weather, enjoy walking the yard and looking for those incremental signs that spring is coming, even if it is at glacial speeds this year.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with This Week in the Garden videos at facebook.com/extensiondkk/videos and the Green Side Up podcast at go.illinois.edu/greensideup. The Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk is open for 2018. Current hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 630-553-5823.

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