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Outdoor activities for families - take a hike!

Outdoor Summer Activities for Families: Tips to keep you and the kids outside

As the school year ends it is soon to be the lazy days of summer. Homework and textbooks will vanish, while beach towels and sunscreen become the staple accessory. Parents will find themselves shuttling kids to swimming pools and perhaps a vacation of their own! As we transition from cool spring weather to hot summer temperatures and indoor air conditioning, remember there is a lot we can do ou...

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MosquitoandTick

Mosquito and Tick Season is Upon Us

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

I've been seeing mosquitoes and ticks for several weeks already, and as the weather gets warmer they'll get more numerous. Not only are these critters annoying, many are also capable of transmitting a variety of diseases. There are three main types of mosquitoes. The permanent pool mosquitoes, which reproduce in relatively small numbers in permanent bodies of water such as lakes and pon...

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Birds

Landscaping: It's for the Birds!

Attracting birds to your backyard can go beyond setting out birdfeeders. Creating a landscape that welcomes birds by providing critical pieces of habitat will not only benefit birds, but other wildlife as well. And it is a great way to introduce young people to nature and have something the whole family can share. According to Cornell, with nearly 80 percent of wildlife habitat owned pr...

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It sPeonyTime

It's Peony Time!

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

Herbaceous peonies are a common sight in many gardens and some of the most beautiful flowers you will find. They belong to the genus Paeonia which is native to Asia, Europe, and Western North America. They have been cultivated in Asia for more than 2,000 years. These cultivated peonies were brought to Europe and later the United States around 1800. In addition to their beauty, they can...

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Lawn Blooming

Blooming Lawns!

Is your lawn blooming? Mine is, and I couldn't be happier! You may be wondering if I am referring to the actual grass plants in my lawn. Nope! Currently, my lawn is a stunning display of colors. Mostly yellows and different hues of blue and purple. Yes, my lawn is full of what many people believe to be weeds – dandelions, clover, creeping Charlie, and violets. Crocus started the show this sprin...

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PestManagementintheGarden

Pest Management in the Garden

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

Warm weather has arrived and our plants are starting to green-up and bloom. That also means weeds, insects, and diseases are starting to become active too. As the saying goes the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes, and if you're a gardener you can also include pests in the list of life's guarantees. When faced with some of these pest problems this year consider using int...

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GG Mistakes

Top Ten Mistakes Made in the Home Landscape

Spring is certainly in the air. It seems we finally had our first nice day of the year, with highs in the low 70s and sunshine warming the soil as daffodils and crocus burst forth and begin to flower. Spring also brings the weekend warriors. After being trapped indoors for months on end, we Midwesterners are brushing off the mowers, blowers, and loppers. Our anxiousness to get outside o...

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Creating Pollinator Habitat

Creating Pollinator Habitat

Posted by Ken Johnson - Articles

Pollinators have been in the news a lot the last few years and for good reason, they're kind of important. Seventy-five percent of all plant species are pollinated by animals (and 90% of flowering plants). Without pollinators, our world would look a lot different. Many different animals will pollinate plants. While we tend to focus on bees (particularly honey bees), other insects such as butter...

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Monarch Butterfly Status 2019

Monarch Spring Migration 2019 & I-Pollinate Citizen Science Initiative

Spring is a herald of life. Grass flushes green, buds on trees swell with optimism, vegetables ready for planting in the garden emerge from basements crowded in flats. Spring also brings speculation. What will we encounter this growing season? What do the climatologists predict? Are all the Japanese beetles dead? However, the news that I wait for every spring are updates on the status o...

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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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IMG 3417

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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