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Green Speak

Horticulture topics from gardens to lawns and then some.
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How to Do a Soil Test

It seems during every class I teach, or group I talk with, there are two things I say every time: 1) Read your pesticide labels, and 2) test your soil. It is what I call my "Extension Mantra." The reason I routinely tell folks to read labels and test soil is not that I get a kick-back from pesticide companies and soil labs, it is because these two simple tasks could save Illinois homeowners mon...

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Extend Your Growing Season with Low Tunnels

One of my favorite times of year to garden is in the fall. Growing vegetables during autumn in Illinois as the weather cools and daylight dwindles, can be a bit of a challenge, but the reward is quite sweet. The fall and winter garden is not a place for tomatoes, peppers, or many of our favorite summer veggies. Instead, what we grow are cool season crops. Adaptation to low temperatures...

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Imported cabbage moth, the adult form of the imported cabbage worm.

Scouting in the Garden

Today, I caught my first imported cabbage moth in the high tunnel. More importantly, the moth crossed my radar before its larva, the imported cabbage worm, has had a chance to eat all of my turnip leaves. Scouting is an important tool we use in the garden and landscape to stop problems before they have a chance to get out of hand. It's good to get out in the garden every day, checking p...

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Measuring out the four corners of a future high tunnel.
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Get Ready for the Gardening Season

It's always a good idea to have a plan before you start digging up your yard. Sometimes a location seems like the perfect site for a garden, until you start digging and find the soil is like concrete. Or you start growing and realize the water supply is way out of reach. Now you're hauling buckets of water! So what are the criteria for having a fruitful vegetable garden? Let's e...

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Post-flooding in a community vegetable garden.

Using Flooded Produce Safely

After a series of excessive rain events, some gardeners may find their beloved produce underwater. In this situation a key question surfaces: Are my vegetables safe to eat? Floodwaters that are runoff or overflow from streams, rivers, lakes, roadways, and agricultural fields are likely to be contaminated with human pathogens and/or industrial pollutants. Following are some tips on safely handli...

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Should We Poop on our Plants?

Thoughts on Growing Food on Mars Inspired by the book "The Martian", by Andy Weir. Humans are a curious species. We are born to question and explore all that lies before us. Space is one of those frontiers that have attracted many humans ever since our eyes wandered upward to ponder stars in the night sky. As one would expect, it is only a matter of time before we be...

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Garden Update – Mid August 2015

What's going on in the garden this week? Here is a snapshot of observations and questions coming into the Extension office. Out in the Garden Here in Illinois the rains stopped early July and have been sparse ever since. Gardens have needed supplemental water. With the abundance and then lack of rain we've lots of soil cracking. With all that rain how could our...

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Flooded high tunnel.
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Garden Update – Mid July 2015

What's going on in the garden this week? Here is a snapshot of observations and questions coming into the Extension office. Out in the Garden The rains have ceased and the lawn and garden beds are drying out. It is almost the end of July and I have yet to water a single plant this season, even containers! Lawns can tolerate a significant amount of standing water...

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Beebalm with prolonged standing water issues.
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Garden Update - Start of July 2015

What's going on in the garden this week? Here is a snapshot of observations and questions coming into the Extension office. Out in the Garden Rot, rot, rot. With all this rain landscapes and gardens have been suffering from saturated root zones. Here's a comparison of beebalm in the same planting area, only one is located where we've seen several days of...

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Salsa Gardening

These days it seems like salsa is everywhere. Americans have come to love this condiment as it tends to show up on the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nothing is better than fresh salsa. Better yet, the ingredients used to make salsa are incredibly universal and can be grown in your backyard. If you love fresh salsa, this summer think about setting aside a sunny area (6 hours or...

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Using Landscape Chemicals Responsibly

This past summer, a homeowner called the local Extension office concerned about cicada killers. I immediately set about my normal talk describing the benefits of cicada killers and how they are not prone to sting humans. The homeowner graciously listened to my pitch and then said they understand, but they do not appreciate how the cicada killer makes their lawn surface so bumpy. I conceded thei...

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Gardening Apps Part II

Gardening Apps Part II Disclaimer: University of Illinois Extension does not promote the use or purchase of a particular product. Reference to specific companies does not imply endorsement by University of Illinois Extension, nor is discrimination intended against any that are not listed. As promised, I have the results from my gardening app evaluation. For all those who sent in...

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What Can No-Till Gardening Do For You?

Growing up and working in my parent's garden, I often remember the early spring when the tree buds are opening, grass is greening and birds are singing. Suddenly, the roar of our massive Honda tiller broke through the serene spring day as it chewed and turned the earth and spewed exhaust into my parents face. At my young age, I didn't have the mass to maneuver the behemoth machine. My mother as...

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How Sweet It Is...The Sweetpotato

There is something about fall that seems to bring me back to one of my favorite vegetables, the sweetpotato. Growing up, we only had sweetpotatoes at Thanksgiving so it wasn't until these past few years I discovered its true potential. University of Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator, Mekenzie Lewis, noted that the Center for Public Interest ranks the sweetpotato as one...

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