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Down the Garden Path

Lawns are speeding up, gardens are slowing down, and insects are still here

Lawns are speeding up, gardens are slowing down, and Insects are still here

October 12, 2015

We are having prime time weather right now for the family lawn. Our lawns known for being nearly completely cool season grasses continue to grow vigorously. Nearly because one of our pesky warm season perennial grasses is nimblewill. You will see it as patchy spots in the lawn already going dormant. Nimblewill may be going dormant, yet the bluegrass is generating lots of growth above and below ground. Right now the lawn is moving lots of nutrients to be stored for the winter and at the same time growing more roots as well. This makes a big difference in how well the lawn handles winter winds and sun and extreme soil temperatures. While the lawn is taking care of business, we can be sure to continue to mow as often as the lawn requires. The cut grass blades, along with those fallen leaves will make a great beginning for a compost pile.

Other parts of the landscape are slowing down as fall moves in. The vegetable garden may be giving us the last of its bounty. Once the last of the harvest has been completed, cleaning up the above ground plant parts is next. Any healthy plant parts can also head to the compost pile or be turned in to decompose right in the garden. As you turn under the plant parts, leave the soil as rough as possible to absorb as much water as it can. This also helps condition the soil structure too. Activity in the perennial flower beds is pretty much the same except healthy plant parts are normally sent to the compost pile since turning them in is difficult with perennial plants still in the garden bed. In the vegetable garden and perennial beds, any diseased plant parts should go to the curb for pickup where it will be commercially composted. In perennial beds more so than the vegetable garden a winter annual weed called chickweed can be very bothersome. Chickweed will establish late summer and grow well into the late fall and early winter. By the following season it can completely cover the beds. It is an annual, so removing the weed now will mean a much cleaner bed next spring and a more manageable weed control effort next year.

There are some 17,000 plus or minus insect species in Illinois and while you may think each and every species is finding their way indoors, only a few actually do and that is by accident. Insects that have to hibernate as young adults naturally seek out places of safety to survive our winter. As cooler weather continues, they will often gather in great numbers on the south or west side of tree trunks and our homes. Convergent ladybeetles are good example, yet they prefer to hibernate in leaf litter and organic debris at the base of trees and shrubs outdoors. Box Elder bugs on the other hand search for good cracks and crevices in nature and will often find themselves under the siding and eventually indoors. Once inside, the vacuum cleaner is the suggested management strategy. There are many other outdoor insects than can find their way indoors, but cannot survive inside the home and are found dead on window sills, the floor and along basement walls. Without a food source or proper environment these insects simply perish.