Woodford Master Gardener Help Desk offers assistance in solving garden issues

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EUREKA, Ill. – Please join University of Illinois Extension Woodford County Master Gardeners at the Eureka Public Library on September 12 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Whether you want to sit and talk about gardening or ask about a specific issue that you would like them to research, please visit the Woodford County Master Gardeners at their monthly help desk.
In August they identified trees and weeds, talked about fruit trees and answered questions about the infamous tomato hornworm.University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator Kelly Allsup loves using dichotomous keys to key out trees when she is unable to identify them right away. The keys ask questions such as: are the leaves deciduous or coniferous, are the leaves opposite (ash) or alternate (magnolia), are the leaves simple (pear) or compound (walnut) or are they lobed (oak) or entire (red bud)? Online keys are available from Virginia Tech athttp://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/idit.htm, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources athttp://dnr.wi.gov/eek/veg/treekey/index.htmand Ohio State University athttp://woodlandstewards.osu.edu/sites/woodlands/files/d6/files/pubfiles/b899-leaf%20key.pdf. Kelly also uses the key in the front of the Forest Trees of Illinois Book available through the University of Illinois Extension athttps://pubsplus.illinois.edu/C1396.html for $12.
Once she has identified a tree with the keys, she confirms by using her Dirr book or UI Plants. The Dirr book is the quintessential tree manual named "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" by Michael A. Dirr that all horticulturists use to learn more about identification and culture of trees. UI Plants located athttp://woodyplants.nres.uiuc.edu/is a tree reference developed by Horticulture professor, Dr. Gary Kling, at the University of Illinois to aid his students in tree identification. Both are superior in information given but are hard to use if the scientific name of the tree is unknown (for example, Cornus florida is the scientific name for Flowering Dogwood).
Kelly Allsup says, "While cherished as adults, five spotted hawk moth and Carolina sphinx incite murderous rage in their larval stage to any gardener trying to grow tomatoes." The five spotted moth and Carolina sphinx, also known as tomato hornworm and tobacco hornworm, are large green caterpillars about four inches long and nearly as big around as a man's thumb. These caterpillars can demolish a tomato plant in as little as a few days. The first sign of hornworms is bare branches and stubs at the tips of plants that have been stripped by these ferocious eaters. Although they are large, their color is a perfect camouflage. A small horn at the end of their abdomen distinguishes them from other caterpillars and provides a menacing façade for any predators.Four weeks after hatching from the egg, the hornworm begins its pupae stage by dropping to the ground to burrow. During this time of year, they will remain in the pupae stage throughout the winter. Hence why it is necessary to clean up tomato debris and disc soil in order to destroy hornworms in the pupae stage.There is no need to address hornworms with pesticides; they are easily picked off the plants and can be fed to chickens or birds. If the worms are left on the plant, nature will take care of the infestation. Parasitic wasps will lay their eggs directly on the bodies of the hornworms. The eggs will hatch and feed on the hornworm before they emerge from their white cocoons. If you find a tomato hornworm parasitized by wasps, leave it alone; the worm has already stopped feeding and will soon die. Newly hatched wasps will seek other hornworms in the vicinity on which to lay their eggs.
Bring your questions, pictures or plants to the Master Gardener Help Desk hosted by the Eureka Public Library on September 12.