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a few Spring Garden Tasks

A Few Spring Garden Tasks

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

The weather is starting to warm up and the spring peepers are singing . There are going to be a lot of things to do out in the garden here soon. Here are just a few things to consider doing....

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TreePlantingTiming

When is the Best Time of Year to Plant Trees?

"Spring is better!" "No, fall is better!" "No, spring is better!" "Fall is better!" What you are reading is the debate between two gardeners about when to plants trees. Here's the secret, they're both right and a little wrong, at least here in Illinois. After a long, cold, and snow-laden winter, many of us gardener's are eyeing a particular spot. A spot that could use a tree. Fo...

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Seed Starting

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

As spring creeps closer and closer many of us are starting to get the itch to go outside and start digging in the dirt. While it's still too early to do that, it is time to start thinking about starting seeds indoors. If you've never started your own seeds before, there are several advantages to doing so. When starting seeds indoors you tend to get better germination rates when compared...

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Cover crops in the Home GArden

Cover Crops in the Home Garden

Cover crops are turning into a popular topic in Illinois. Not only among farmers but also with gardeners. For the past four years, I have incorporated cover crops into my vegetable garden rotation. Cover crops, also called green manures, are a great soil management tool for vegetable gardens and even home landscapes. Typically, cover crops do not have a harvestable portion but contribut...

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Winter Tree Pruning

Winter Tree Pruning

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

Before we know it, spring will be here. Before getting too busy planting the garden, make sure to take some time to prune your trees (if they need it). While the old adage may say, "prune when your pruners are sharp", most deciduous trees are best pruned while they are in full dormancy. In this part of the country, February or March is a good time to prune. It is important that they are pruned...

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Beyond Impatiens Downy Mildew

Beyond Impatiens Downy Mildew: What’s next for America’s favorite bedding plant?

Impatiens ( Impatiens walleriana ) is one plant I had written off years ago. In my mind, I thought I had seen the last of one of the most popular bedding plants in the nursery trade. Impatiens were fast disappearing from garden centers because of an incredibly infectious disease – impatiens downy mildew. Impatiens is a powerhouse annual and was the go-to bedding plant for those g...

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Insects cold

Insects and the Cold

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

With the recent cold snap/polar vortex many people have also been wondering about how it's going to affect the insect populations. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, or perhaps good news (depending on your thoughts on insects) but, for the most part, most insects will survive just fine. Insects use a variety of strategies to survive through the winter. The first strategy some insects...

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Extreme Cold-01292019

Extreme Cold and Your Plants

Being a fan of winter, this weather has been an absolute blast, but even I must admit- darn it's cold out there. One question I have been hearing a lot is "What about our plants?" Well, if you religiously adhere to the USDA cold hardiness zones then you should have nothing to fear. More than likely your trees, shrubs and perennials will emerge and leaf out to greet the spring. But who are we ki...

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Vermicomposting bin

Composting with Worms

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

Has this cold weather been making you wish you could get outside and play in the dirt? Or perhaps you're looking for ways to improve your garden soil during the winter. Worm composting, or vermicomposting, is a good way to get both of these accomplished. In addition to producing compost, it's also a great way to put those kitchen scraps to use. Getting started with vermicomposting is re...

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How to Get Rid of a Mouse in the House

How to Get Rid of a Mouse in the House

Is your house full of visitors that annoy you, eat your food, and can lead to great exasperation and hollering? In-laws and extended family members aside; what I mean are the mice that have decided to move into your home for the winter months. In the wild, these creatures would look for shelter to survive the winter, and your house is a lot cozier than that dead log in the woods. It rec...

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Watermelon Cal Sweet Bush. Photo by All-American Selections, all-americaselections.org

New Garden Plants for 2019

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

Every year garden catalogs advertise new, exciting varieties of our favorite plants. Sometimes the options can be overwhelming, with each new addition sounding better than the previous. So how do you go about deciding which new variety to select? Fortunately, All-American Selections (AAS), an independent, non-profit organization tests these new plant varieties and names the best performers as A...

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Garden Resolutions-01022019

Garden Resolutions for 2019

A new year brings the opportunity for a fresh start. For a gardener having the year switch in the middle of winter can be difficult. Right now, I am full of ideas and goals as I am once again missing my near-daily commune with soil. If it were in my power to change when we celebrate New Year's, I would suggest March 1. I can make all the plans in the world, but it's cold outside, so tho...

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poinsettia

Poinsettia Care After the Holidays

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

Congratulations, you've made it through Christmas and managed to keep your poinsettia(s) alive! As Chris  mentioned last week , poinsettias are the most popular potted plant in the U.S. If you're anything like me you have a hard time throwing perfectly (and sometimes not so perfect) good plants away. Alas, most people dispose of poinsettias after they finish...

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PaininthePoinsettia

Pain in the Poinsettia: How to keep your Poinsettia alive over the holidays

Have you dodged the bullet this holiday season? You know what I am referring to, right? Poinsettias! Allow me to explain. All of your friends know you are an avid gardener. With all the vegetables you give away each summer, you hold the status of Gardening Guru. You have likely responded to plant emergency calls, and resuscitated an ailing house or garden plant. It seems only lo...

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Christmas tree

Caring for Christmas Trees

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

Selecting a live Christmas tree is a tradition for many families. Whether you get your tree from a retail lot, direct from the farm or cut your own here are some tips for keeping your tree looking great throughout the holiday season: After purchasing your tree, place it in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind and cold (freezing) temperatures until you're ready to...

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Real  1

What's More Sustainable: Real or fake Christmas trees?

Growing up, a family tradition was going out to the Christmas tree farm to find that perfect tree. As a child, it was fun going out to pick our tree, cut it and then watch it hauled to the barn on a sled, shook for all its worth to get the dead needles out, and finally bundled up on our car ready for home. My wife had an altogether different experience growing up. She would help her mot...

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Salt in the Landscape

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

As we've already experienced this year, winter in Illinois commonly means snow and ice. Though plowing and shoveling are the primary means of removing snow and ice where they aren't wanted, deicing salts also help prevent slick, hazardous conditions. While salt is great in its place, it's not so great for many things that may encounter it. Rock salt (sodium chloride) is the most common...

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Designing for Pedestrians can make Shopping (and Communities!) Better

When someone tries to entice me with Black Friday shopping, my response is "That sounds terrible." Shopping, in general, makes me cringe. The idea of rising at 3 AM to wait in line outside of a giant store when it is below freezing outside is enough to turn me into the Grinch. I'm not the only one who shudders at shopping. Yes, Americans are still shop-a-holics as brain science has prov...

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winter weather

Winter Weather Preparedness

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

Winter Weather has arrived in Central Illinois! Therefore, we'll take a break from our regularly scheduled horticulture programming and talk winter weather preparedness. With Illinois averaging five severe winter storms every year, it's a good idea to be prepared. Just like thunderstorms, there can be watches and warnings for winter weather. A winter storm watch means severe winter weat...

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Arugula: A New Trendy Green from the Old World

Arugula has been trending these past few years. You can bet if you turn on a cooking show, they'll probably be using arugula at some point. Many chefs and hip restaurants have made this leafy green with a peppery zing very popular and arugula is now commonly found in grocery stores throughout the US. While arugula may be having a heyday, this is not the first time human civilization has...

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Getting Trees and Shrubs Ready for Winter

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

Now that the leaves have changed and begun to fall, many of us have or are starting to put our gardens to bed for winter. While getting the garden ready for winter, spend a little time preparing your trees and shrubs too. Doing a few things this fall can help protect our trees and shrubs from damage this winter. To help prepare trees and shrubs for the coming winter they should be water...

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There is More to Landscape Design Than Meatballs and Mulch

"The meatball meter is off the charts!" That statement made me chuckle as I sat in a crowd listening to Michael Dirr a few years ago. This leading plantsman known worldwide for his work with trees and shrubs was lamenting on the tragedy of shearing plants into "meatballs". Often when you see these 'meatballs' in the landscape, they sit atop a sea of mulch. If the mulch is dyed red, then...

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Overwintering Tender Bulbs

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

Plants like cannas, caladiums, dahlias, elephant ears, gladiolus, and tuberous begonia can make a great addition to the landscape. These plants are commonly referred to as tender bulbs, or summer-blooming bulbs. Not all of them actually grow from bulbs, but this is what their fleshy storage structures are commonly referred to as (other storage structures include corms, rhizomes, tubers, and roo...

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Invasive Bush Honeysuckle

The problem with learning about invasive plants species is once you know about them, you start to see them everywhere. It can be a little depressing. How joyous it was when I began my life in horticulture. Learning about amazing plant processes and all the wonderful plants used in the ornamental landscape. Indeed, at the outset of my botanical life, all plants were good. In practice, th...

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Protecting the Countryside: The importance of open space

This week's Good Growing column is not going to center on gardening. Instead, we are going to look at the bigger picture of the landscape. Confession time – while I did study horticultural science at SIUC, my final three years of formal education was a Masters of Landscape Architecture at Kansas State University. The majority of landscape architects (LAs) are not trained in horticultura...

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