Down the Garden Path Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Keeping your raspberries from becoming a bramble patch Wed, 07 Feb 2018 11:17:00 +0000 Raspberries have perennial roots and crown with bi-annual canes. Each year, new canes appear and grow vegetative manner. Those same canes give us the berries the second year and then die. This cycle is repeated each year and left unpruned gives us that unmanageable bramble patch in just a few years. Annual pruning involves the removal of those 2-year-old dead canes each spring if they have not been removed the previous summer.

We prune to encourage a good juicy crop, along with better air and light through the canes. Another good reason to prune properly is to prevent the buildup of disease problems.

There are two types of raspberries. The one we know well are the summer bearing types. The other is a fall bearing type. While these two varieties bear fruits for us in different seasons, they are maintained in a similar manner. Both kinds will be pruned in the early spring before any growth resumes while the different kinds of canes are easily seen and identified. Depending on our early spring weather, pruning could begin as early as February 15 and could continue through the end of March. The goal for mature planting would be to have viable fruiting canes 6 to 8 inches apart with a row about two feet wide. You would have fewer fruiting canes the first 2 to 3 years.

For the typical summer-bearing red raspberry:

  • During the summer, after harvest, cut the canes at ground level
  • During the dormant season, remove all weak canes (under pencil size, winter damaged or diseased canes)
  • If the fruiting canes were not removed last season, now is the time (February 15 through end of March)

For fall-bearing (and yellow raspberries):

  • The fall crop shows up on the upper part of the cane
  • Pruning after they fruit means just removing the dead portion (year one)
  • They will fruit again the next season farther down the cane and then the remainder of the cane dies (end of second year)
  • Prune the entire cane away after the summer crop as you would the red raspberry
  • If the fruiting canes were not removed last season, now is the time
  • If you do not want to do any spring pruning, you can cut the entire fall raspberry plant down to the crown after the fall crop and you will get only the fall crop each year

For more information on raspberries, visit

The Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk resumes for 2018 in March – Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 630-553-5823.

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 and the Green Side Up podcast at

Common indoor insect question in January Thu, 01 Feb 2018 11:44:00 +0000 Fungus gnats and drain flies can be lumped together based on their favored conditions, cool temperatures and humidity. Fungus gnats often come in with our houseplants for the winter, as they are stowing away in the pots. Drain flies find their way inside at some point before cold weather shows up and need "open water" to breed.

Indoor humidity drops once the furnace comes online, and fungus gnats stay close to their food source and the higher humidity of the houseplants so they may not be a large problem. Initially you may find them anywhere there is cooler temperatures and higher humidity, such as the basement bathroom. Drain flies can become more numerous as they breed. Needing that open water means checking any floor drains and any unused sinks, toilets and other spots where you may have water that goes undisturbed. If you observe the water, you may even see movement of their larvae. The remedy is to pour several gallons of clean water into any floor drains, enough to flush the trap and routinely run water in sinks and flush toilets. An additional step for floor drains since they do collect debris is to scrub the drain at the water line to loosen the dirt and any organic matter.

Boxelder bugs and stinkbugs will show up every time we have mild weather. Neither one can bite or sting, as their mouthparts are for sucking plant juices. They find their winter home in the walls of our homes and should remain dormant until spring when they move back outside. On warmer winter days, the home wall will warm enough to allow them to move about, and in doing so, find their way inside our homes. They will wander around, be attracted to windows and light, but without a food source, they are running on reserves and will eventually die. The Boxelder in particular will leave behind little dark deposits. A vacuum or a bit of paper towel is all that is need to get rid of the dead ones and any live ones as well. Stinkbugs do smell if crushed, so collect them carefully.

Since all four of these nuisance insects frequent the same places we do in the home, sprays are not practical. While we cannot do much right now as they are already in our homes, there are a couple of practical things to do before late next summer. Stinkbugs and Boxelders literally crawl into the walls, so an outdoor foundation spray may be considered. Check for caulking around any opening into the home. Water outlets, A/C lines and corresponding electrical breaker boxes should be checked. Check or replace any door threshold strips. Make a trip into the basement or crawl space during the daylight hours, let your eyes adjust with the lights off and you will see every pinhole or larger that allows insects in. Larger openings can benefit from insulation and smaller holes from caulk. Put this checklist on your calendar for warmer months and take action, and you likely will have less unwanted guests next winter.

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 and the Green Side Up podcast at

Orchard Tree Series: Location Location Location Thu, 25 Jan 2018 03:49:00 +0000 Orchard Tree Series: Location Location Location

Where you plant your dwarf fruit trees can make a big difference in how they grow and perform. A major consideration is the soil. Fruit trees are no different from other trees and shrubs in your landscape; the soil needs to drain well. Placing the home orchard where water will drain away very soon after a rain event will help ensure the roots will have the needed soil oxygen to supply both the moisture and nutrients needed to the canopy. This supports the continued growth of the foliage and filling of the fruits. If the soil oxygen is displaced for extended periods of time, the roots are unable to move the moisture and nutrients up into the tree. Soils that remain too wet also will promote root loss through decay, putting further stress on the fruit tree. If your soils are on the heavy side – meaning lots of clay – then plant the fruit trees a bit higher in the planting hole. Even a couple of inches can make a difference.

In addition to the soil needing to drain, an area that we do not often hear about is air drainage. Home orchardists can avoid those late spring frosts to a great degree by placing the trees on a slope or at the high point in the landscape so the cold air settles elsewhere. The concern here is preventing the more frost-susceptible flower buds from damage. In late winter and very early spring, the trees survive, but the flower buds do not. With the cold weather we have had this winter, stone fruits, like peaches, have likely already suffered the loss of their flower buds. We cannot do much about a hard frost or light freeze, but by planting our trees in the best possible locations in the yard, we can reduce the risk.

Home orchardists can do a couple of things to reduce the risk of a late frost too. You can delay the spring growth of your dwarf fruit trees by mulching the soil late in the fall or early winter, well after we have had cold weather set in and after the ground is very cold or even frozen. This activity will keep the ground frozen and the root system cold, and it delays the fruit tree from breaking dormancy, even by a few days. This helps us get past the chances of that late frost.

Another way to protect those flower buds from cold air is to place a temporary windbreak to break up or slow the cold wind. Be creative and make the windbreak out of common materials you already have or use the least expensive material you can buy. The windbreak only has to last for a few weeks and does not have to be set up in the fall. You may have to place the supports in the fall before the ground freezes, but the actual material used for the windbreak itself can go up later. If you have the space, you can plant a permanent windbreak just like the commercial orchards.

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 and the Green Side Up podcast at

Training Dogs and Fruit Trees Thu, 18 Jan 2018 10:58:00 +0000 Homeowners and orchardists need to train their trees for structure to encourage fruit production and to have a productive, high-yielding home orchard. Just like with dogs, proper training makes a difference. It gives you a tree that can hold the fruit load without needing any additional support. The scaffold branches need to be positioned to allow good sunlight throughout the canopy, which promotes fruit production from the interior to the outside of the canopy. This also will allow air circulation in the canopy, reducing leaf and fruit diseases, so you benefit in two ways.

Using dwarf apple trees as an example, you will likely use what is termed the central leader system to train your trees. The central leader system allows your fruit tree to look much more like most other trees in your landscape, yet produce apples without the tree looking like those you see in older commercial orchards. Training starts the first year you plant your fruit trees. This ensures your dwarf tree actually remains dwarf in your home orchard.You will be able to start to select your scaffold branches, placing the first set of scaffold branches no more than 20 to 24 inches from the ground. By starting that low, you will be able to place additional scaffolds and still have a mature tree that is no taller than 6 to 8 feet tall, making it very easy to manage.

There are other advantages of a well-trained dwarf fruit tree. At annual spring pruning, it will be much clearer to see which branches need your attention. There will be branches that need to be adjusted using traditional branch spreaders or alternative methods, such as using twine and a stake, to pull the branch into the desired horizontal plane as you develop your scaffolds. You easily can identify water sprouts, as they will be growing straight up from the horizontal scaffold branches.

As your dwarf fruit tree matures in size, home orchardists will realize additional benefits. The weekly inspection and monitoring of fruit pests will be easier and done very quickly. Even though young fruit trees may not be producing apples, there are insects and foliar diseases that need to be managed. Foliage feeding insects reduce the canopy, reducing the amount of food that could go into growth and future bud development and fruits. Leaf diseases have a similar impact. If allowed to continue over the season or multiple seasons, these diseases could easily delay fruit production and, in the bigger picture, lesson the overall vigor.

You want a tree that develops quickly, so that your training can encourage flowers and fruit set. Limited fruits can begin to show up as early as the third year for apples and get more productive every year after. Enjoy the challenge and amaze your friends with fruit that came right out of your yard with your dog obediently by your side.

Stay tuned for more tips in this home orchard series.

Planning for the Home Orchard Thu, 11 Jan 2018 10:12:00 +0000
There are several different kinds of fruit trees to consider – apple, cherry, peach, pear, plum. As we live in northern portion of Illinois, apple is likely the main fruit tree grown in backyards because it is very winter hardy.

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 semi-dwarf apples. In most cases, you have limited space in your backyard, and semi-dwarf apple trees are naturally smaller than their full-sized siblings. They also are much easier to train, prune and maintain than a full-sized fruit tree and do not require support as do dwarf trees.

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 they will be a “spur-type” tree. There are many examples of spurs available to us – Empire, Red and Yellow Delicious, Macintosh, Rome, Winesap, and 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. These will need some kind of support as their root systems are limited and can easily be blown over. 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 apple tree will be much 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. Then, 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 that second apple tree for pollination purposes, which will free up space in your backyard.

Stay tuned for more on home orchards in next week’s issue.]]>
Holiday tree after the holidays Thu, 04 Jan 2018 14:57:00 +0000 If you are feeding the birds, setting your tree up nearby gives the birds a place to sit while they take turns going to the feeder. This gives us more to watch and saves the birds from using energy to fly back to the trees and shrubs farther away during the cold winter. That tree also provides shelter from stormy weather. If you already have some evergreens in the landscape, you have already witnessed this survival technique.

You can buy or make your own suet balls to hang in the tree as another source of food and energy for the birds. You will begin to attract the larger birds that really enjoy suet and provide more entertainment. Other sources of food and a great family activity will be to pop some popcorn, buy a bag of cranberries and string them together to hang on the tree. Clear out the crisper drawer in the refrigerator and put out apple or orange slices from the apples and oranges that are too far gone for us to eat.

If your winter activities do not include the birds, you can use the tree in the landscape. We count on snow to provide an insulating blanket on our tender and any fall planted perennials. So far this winter that has not happened. By using the evergreen branches cut from the trunk to cover those plants, they will benefit in a number of ways. You are providing the winter protection from the drying winds and any branches covering the perennials will collect additional blowing leaves for further insulation. The soil will stay frozen and the young plants will not be heaved out of the soil by the freezing and thawing cycles that occur. Another benefit is that come early next spring, your perennials are hidden away from the rabbits and other wildlife that enjoy the young tender leaves. Go ahead and set the tree trunk aside until gardening season and plan on using it to support peas or beans or grow morning glories in the garden. By the end of the 2018 garden season, the trunk can be burnt in the outdoor fire pit. If your community does not recycle holiday trees, consider contacting wildlife organizations to see if they can benefit from using your tree. They can provide habitat for fish and birds.

2018 Gardening Resolutions Thu, 28 Dec 2017 14:37:00 +0000 Here are a few Garden Resolutions to consider:

  • Add more mulch where it can prevent weed growth and retain more moisture in your shrub beds and tree rings.
  • Mow the lawn higher, with a sharp mower blade, and more frequently in the spring, summer and fall so the lawn will compete better against weeds and conserve soil moisture.
  • Start a compost pile or bin for spring clean-up and add to it regularly, including fresh vegetable kitchen scraps. When you water your gardens, water the pile or bin too.
  • Service the lawn mower 2 to 3 times a year to maintain a sharp mower blade and keep the underside of the deck clean for best performance
  • Keep a photo journal of your gardens in 2018. Take more when the gardens are changing quickly, especially during spring blooms and less during our hot dry summers and more again with fall colors.
  • Try at least one new vegetable for the dinner table this summer, or at least a different variety of your favorite traditional vegetable garden plants.
  • Enjoy some early spring blooms indoors by clipping some flowering shrubs in the yard in March and force a bloom indoors. Then enjoy them again when they boom naturally outside.
  • Resolve to take in a visit to your closest arboretum to see the winter beauty or visit a conservatory and enjoy the tropical nature of their foliage plants.
  • Take that gardening class you have been putting off.
  • Vow to prune your landscape plants more naturally, experiencing more bloom show and natural habit.
  • Replace those old, dull hand pruners and saws to make pruning a happier task.
  • Add more gardens and reduce the amount of lawn that will need mowing.
  • Make the vegetable garden a multi-generational effort. Grandparents and parents share knowledge and children are more likely to eat their veggies if they helped plant and tend the garden. Keeps everyone more active too. Don't forget to weave some family history into the garden. How else are we going to be able to say "remember when" or "back in our day"?
  • Start gardening earlier and go late into the fall. Gardeners in northern Illinois miss a lot of our already short growing season anyway. Using season extenders at both ends makes a lot of sense.
  • Vow to spend some time every day out in your gardens to enjoy the blooms and smells and to observe nature at its best. Gardening does not always have to mean work!

Happy Holidays and wishing all a productive new year!