1. Published

    For many gardeners, an entire season of continuously blooming plants is a primary goal.  Not only do these fantastic flowers deliver ornate beauty throughout the year, but they are also greatly beneficial to pollinators by providing a continuous food source of pollen and nectar.  Since many plants have a limited flower display, sometimes only spanning a few weeks, it is often difficult to find the right arrangement of plants for an entire growing season of continuous blooms. 

  2. Published

    The term native often means different things to different people.  Most definitions draw a line between geography and time scale which typically is demarcated by the point of human intervention or influence on the landscape. I really like this definition from the Forest Service in 2012, “A native plant is an endemic species that occurs naturally in a plant community, ecosystem, ecoregion, or biome habitat without direct or indirect human involvement.”

  3. Published

    Shade trees are some of the most valuable plants in most urban landscapes.  They provide energy saving shade as well as valuable habitat for wildlife in a sometimes otherwise inhospitable built environments.  However, a mature shade tree takes considerable time to develop the canopy and branch structure that provides such benefit, which is the primary reason their high value when weighed against other landscape plants.  So, it pays to identify tree ailments effectively in the interest of protecting our investment in time and tree value.

  4. Published

    Cover cropping is a practice we often associated with larger scale farming, but they have the same great benefits in our home vegetable gardens.  A cover crop is a crop that is grown for protection and enrichment of the soil rather than for harvest.  Since they are not harvested for use as food, growers plant them for other valuable qualities they provide while in the ground.

  5. Published

    Every gardener has several of those go-to plants, the ones that seem to always grow nicely in their particular gardening system, making them a repeated addition over the years.  I just love it when one of these go-to specimens can not only provide ornamental beauty, but an edible harvest as well. 

  6. Published

    In recent decades, insect populations around the globe have been declining dramatically.  A 2019 study assessed global insect populations and determined that 40% of all insect species are in decline and some may reach extinction in coming decades if populations are not stabilized.  Among the causes for these sharp declines, all were human induced, with habitat conversion to human uses topping the list followed by use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, human spread of pathogens and invasive species, and climate change. 

  7. Published

    Plants in the genus Hosta, collectively referred to as hostas, are one of the premier plants for ornamental gardens that lack full sun.  These resilient perennials are a mainstay of Midwestern shade gardens and remain popular in temperate regions worldwide.  However, that wasn’t always the case, leading many folks to source hostas from fellow gardeners or grow their own.

  8. Published

    Tomatoes are the most commonly planted garden crop in the US, as evidenced by the wide range of tomato plants available every year in garden centers.  Beyond home production of tomatoes, the US has historically lead global commercial production, with the state of California being our top producing state.  So it safe to say that Americans grow a lot of tomatoes each year.

  9. Published

    Whether its fungi, bacteria or even viruses, one of the most important aspects of plant disease management is stopping or limiting the spread of infectious pathogens.  I have always been fascinated by the way these tiny organisms, rarely visible to the naked eye, make their way through nature to infect new plants.  Many of their stories sound like something out of science fiction, often involving multiple species or special adaptations to enter and infect their host. 

  10. Published

    There are so many plants in nature that tend to reveal themselves during some kind of phenological event, such as flowering or fruit set, and then scream for attention.   For example, consider Joe-pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), which one of my favorite native wildflowers, frequenting the partial shade of woodland openings and edges on drier sites. 

  11. Published

    This past week was National Pollinator Week, a time set aside to celebrate the amazing and monumental task that pollinators perform each and every growing season.  Worldwide, animals pollinate about seventy-five percent of all plant species, and about ninety percent of all flowering plants.  And we all know that it takes a pollinated flower to produce so many of the fruits we depend on in our human diets, with animal pollination being responsible for about one of every three bites we take each day. 

  12. Published

    Nothing beats the light and airy look of tall, distinctive grasses in a landscape arrangement.  The fluffy seedheads and slender, attractive stems practically dance in the wind on breezy days, adding texture as well as a structural element to any landscape bed.   

    For many years, there was a trend toward more ornamental and non-native grasses.  Recently, there is a growing interest in incorporating our native prairie grasses, given their inherent adaptability to our climate and their exceptional ecological value. 

  13. Published

    It has been another difficult spring for sycamore trees across central Illinois as near bare canopies of this tree stick out among the fully developed leaves of neighboring trees.  However, this doesn’t necessarily spell doom for your sickly looking sycamore.  It’s all caused by naturally occurring fungi that tends to ebb and flow with our spring weather over the years. 

  14. Published

    A properly planted and well located tree can last longer than a human lifetime, so tree selection is an important decision.

  15. Published

    Spring is a great time for planting new trees in the landscape.  There is ample rainfall to support your newly planted specimen and the warming temperatures and mild weather motivate many of us to get out in the garden and plant things.  However, there are some commonly sold trees that fall onto my “do not plant” list.  Many such plants make my list for their invasive habit, but some are on there for insect or disease issues or just generally poor performance as urban trees. 

  16. Published

    Invasive species can be characterized as any non-native species that is introduced to a new location, has the ability to spread and causes some kind of harm.   Across Illinois and around the globe, invasive species cause significant ecological and economic damage each year.  In the ever globalizing society we live in, these exotic invaders are a result of either accidental or intention mixing of biota around the planet.  Humans have a long history in this mixing process and as we have become better and better at moving around the planet, the rate of invasive species introductions has parall

  17. Published

    We all have our favorite spring wildflowers for one reason or another. Maybe they are part of a native plant community we visit often, such as a close-by natural area or favorite park trail?  Perhaps our preference comes from the plants we are able to cultivate at home, in our own gardens?  For me, it’s certainly hard to pick one favorite, I probably have a list a mile long of my “favorites”.

  18. Published

    Vegetable gardening takes some forethought and planning to ensure your garden space is ready, select the best crops, and get everything planted while working around spring rains.  Our enthusiasm and planning in early spring typically culminates in the planted garden and often wanes as the work and heat of the growing season sets in. 

    I am as guilty as the next gardener for not thinking enough about garden maintenance later in the year during the excitement of spring planting.  However, there are some things we can think about now to setup of the rest of the season for success.

  19. Published

    Although this past week’s weather trended toward more winter-like conditions, we all know that warmer spring weather is just right around the corner and next week looks quite promising.  One of the key factors in knowing when to plant your vegetable garden relates back to weather since some plants are very sensitive to colder temperatures.

  20. Published

    In last week’s blog, I covered the basics of site selection for a new vegetable garden.  Finding the best location in your yard, or understanding that containers may be the winning option is a really important part of setting up your growing space for success.  I would like to continue the discussion this week by taking a closer look at the growing medium, or soil, we choose for gardening.