Down the Garden Path Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/rss.xml Join us at "Over the Garden Fence" https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13501/ Wed, 25 Jul 2018 16:06:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13501/ A Note to Readers:

This summer, we are excited to announce we will be joining our two horticulture blogs – "Down the Garden Path" and "Over the Fence" into one convenient place. "Over the Garden Fence" will still feature timely topics and helpful hints you expect from expert Richard Hentschel, and you can sign up for email alerts so you won't miss a post. Just click over to go.illinois.edu/overthegardenfenceblog2018 and add your email to the list (see the blue box in the upper right corner of that page).


Thank you for following U of I Extension!

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Now We Need to Water https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13492/ Wed, 18 Jul 2018 15:09:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13492/ A Note to Readers: This summer, we are excited to announce we will be joining our two horticulture blogs – "Down the Garden Path" and "Over the Fence" into one convenient place. "Over the Garden Fence" will still feature timely topics and helpful hints you expect from expert Richard Hentschel, and you can sign up for email alerts so you won't miss a post. Just click over to go.illinois.edu/overthegardenfenceblog2018 and add your email to the list (see the blue box in the upper right corner of that page). Thank you for following U of I Extension!

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What a difference just a few days can make in what we need to be doing in the home landscape. Since the rain shut off or slowed, the first part of the landscape with symptoms of water stress is the lawn (even the lawn weeds). If you planned for it, go ahead and let the lawn go dormant even though it is early in the summer for that to happen. If your fertilizer program is to feed all summer, then plan to water to take advantage of your fertilizing efforts.

It will take 680 gallons of water to put down 1 inch of water per 1000 square feet, if you are using your meter reading to know when to move the sprinkler to the next section of your lawn. Using any straight-sided container, such as a tuna can, is a good alternative for measuring water output. Be sure to check with your local authorities for any water restrictions. Most often are those rules guiding you on which days of week you can water using the homes address, even or odd numbers. Often, watering is allowed early in the morning and in the evening. That is 6 hours every other day, way more water than you are going to need to keep your lawn well hydrated.

When it comes to watering your landscape plants, consider any new plantings done in the last two years as a starting point. Those plants are not yet established, and they greatly benefit from water during droughts, even if they are brief. If the watering berm is still in place, continue to use that. If a berm is not an option, leaving the hose at a slow rate of flow around what used to be the berm works too.

The next set of landscape plants to consider would be those large established trees and evergreens. We do not think of a tree wilting, yet next years' potential growth is dependent on how well it does this year. The best "zone" to water is just inside to just outside the canopy drip line. This is where the tree has a lot of roots to absorb the moisture during a natural rain event. Big evergreen trees have a similar set of roots as well. A more effective way to water these big trees is to use the open hose, moving it around under the drip line area at a rate of flow that puts on a lot of water without running off.

A preferred strategy would be to use those permitted hours to water the lawn and garden or flower beds in the morning. Watering early morning will allow foliage to dry off before any disease has a chance to develop. Use the evening hours to water the trees and evergreens where the water is only on the ground.

If you have to choose between watering the lawn and those established big trees and evergreens, chose the big plants over the lawn. Lawns can be repaired, renovated and can naturally recover from a drought. You cannot replace the big guys.

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It's OK to blame the weather some more https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13483/ Thu, 12 Jul 2018 22:41:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13483/ A Note to Readers: This summer, we are excited to announce we will be joining our two horticulture blogs – "Down the Garden Path" and "Over the Fence" into one convenient place. The upcoming "Over the Garden Fence" blog will still feature the timely topics and helpful hints you expect from expert Richard Hentschel, and you can sign up for email alerts so you won't miss a post. Just click over to go.illinois.edu/overthegardenfenceblog2018 and add your email to the list (see the blue box in the upper right corner of that page). Thank you for following U of I Extension!

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The weather this spring caused gardeners and farmers alike to fall behind with tillage and planting in the fields. It also delayed home gardeners in early spring cleanup and bed preparation. The weather eventually came around, if even briefly, to get the crops and vegetables "in."

One outcome of this weather pattern has been all the weeds. Skip a couple of weeks of weeding, and we immediately regret that decision. Annual weed seeds have continued to germinate with the right conditions, and perennial weeds have come back strong, even if taken care of earlier by hoeing or pulling what we could.

Weeds by themselves are bad enough – they compete for resources, gardens look messy, and landscape beds covered in all manner of weeds look unkept. Plus lawn weeds, whether treated or not, do not look good. But, there also are more reasons to hate the weeds.

Calls to the U of I Extension Master Gardener volunteers' Help Desk have spiked as those little bunny rabbits are growing into full sized eating machines. All those weeds provide a great hiding place from predators and while there, they consume some or all of our favorite flowers.

When we are doing our best to grow vegetables, weeds contribute towards two more potential problems. Weeds can "host" diseases without showing any symptoms. They are there ready to spread that disease to our vegetables. That issue is helped by the second potential problem – insects. They will vector the diseases by feeding on the weed, then your vegetable plants.

So for more than aesthetic reasons, it is good to have a weed-free bed. Plus, you also benefit from fewer potential weeds next year since weeds will not be allowed to go to seed and build up the weed seed bank.

What to do now that the weeds are as big as your flowers? If your flowers are perennials, pulling the weeds likely will not disturb the established root systems. Getting the weeds out of the annual flowers takes a bit more finesse. You may have to hoe very shallowly or cut off weeds with clippers close to the flowers instead of pulling so you do not damage the annual flower root system. Same goes for vegetables unless large and established.

The last bit of advice I can share and have so often when discussing weeds is this: even if you have lost the battle, don't lose the war. Do Not Let Weeds Go To Seed!

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Calls to the Volunteer Master Gardener Help Desk https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13449/ Tue, 26 Jun 2018 10:27:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb266/entry_13449/ Q: My spinach and lettuces are sending up flower stalks before I really got to harvest as much as last year. What is the deal?

A: Spinach and lettuce are both cool season, early spring crops. Most gardeners did not get to plant them early and now they are naturally going to seed (bolting) with all the warm weather. You could continue to harvest what foliage is left, yet it will not be nearly as flavorful and could even be a bit bitter.

Q: I am seeing spots on the tomato leaves, and last year, we had dark grey and black bottoms on tomatoes. Should I be doing something so I don't have that again?

A: The easier one first. The dark grey and black area on the bottom of the tomato fruits is blossom end rot and is typical on the first fruit set. The skin of the tomato needs ample calcium from the soil as the fruit is growing quite quickly. Two conditions favor blossom end rot, uneven soil moisture and the lack of a well-developed root system that can obtain enough calcium as quickly as the fruits are developing. We can manage the water available by irrigating between rains to keep the soil evenly moist. The roots need that soil moisture to remove the calcium. When the second flower set shows up the root system has caught up and as if by magic, blossom end rot disappears for the rest of the summer. Now, the spots on the leaves are one of several leaf diseases tomatoes can have. Culturally, giving enough space for each plant to grow without running into its neighbor is a good start. Watering the ground and not the plant is another. Tomato diseases need moist foliage and time for the fungal spores to germinate. That is why you see the spots first on lower and interior leaves. Tying up or staking the plants also is helpful, as it exposes more of the foliage to the sun and drying air. Removing the suckers that develop also can keep the canopy more open. Once those foliage diseases start, it is very difficult to get them under control. Fungicide sprays can help slow the spread for the rest of the growing season.

Q: My bulb onions are really looking good right now, how can I keep them that way?

A: This has been a good year so far for onions. Onions will continue to grow the bulb as long as soil moisture is even and available. If they dry out and even if water returns, the bulb will not increase in size any more for the rest of the season. You will know the bulbs are done growing when the tops naturally topple over. At that point, you could harvest and dry them all or leave them in the garden and pull just those you need until fall comes and you harvest the remainder.

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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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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