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The Garden Scoop

Extension Horticulture Educator, Ryan Pankau, shares information about gardening in Illinois including everything from vegetable gardening to native plants.

Latest Posts

A picture of two blooms of wild columbine

Using wild columbine at home

During the flowering lull of late spring in my home gardens, I often admire the unique, dangling blooms of our native wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).  This plant occurs in nearly every county of Illinois and its native range spans the Eastern US, from Florida and Texas to Canada. ...
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Ants on a Peony

How ants help peonies

In the plant world, insects can be considered either friend or foe based on their status as beneficial partners or pests.  We often think of pollinators as the primary friends plants have in the insect world, but there are certainly other beneficial insects that don’t necessarily pollinate flowers...
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Lawns and pollinators - The case for dandelions

Urban areas typically have a large proportion of turfgrass. From lawns and residential areas to golf courses, parks and rights-of-way, turf covers around 2% of the landmass in the US, or about 63,000 square miles.   Research has indicated that highly managed turfgrass offers little support to...
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Kale and kohlrabi seedlings in a garden center.

Frost dates and spring vegetable planting

The past few weeks, we’ve had spectacular weather for gardening, which has really ramped up efforts across central Illinois in preparation for the growing season to come.  This early spring warmth combined with garden centers packed full of new plants creates the irresistible impulse to plant...
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Monarch caterpillar feeds on orange butterflyweed

Monarchs and milkweeds - nativars help pollinators

Among gardeners, there is an ever-growing interest in creating plant arrangements that support pollinators.  This has been driven by recent research identifying declining insect populations around the globe as gardeners respond with garden design to provide valuable habitat.  In addition,...
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redbud flower

Spring flowering trees and shrubs

Signs of spring are beginning to pop up if you look close enough.  In the last week or so, I’ve noticed harbinger of spring (Erigenia bulbosa) and spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) in natural areas. The beginnings of Virginia bluebells can also be found as their distinctly...
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Prairie Establishment at ClarkLindsey

On a sunny and cold day in early February, some Urbana residents helped to spread handfuls of native prairie seed on the ground.  Using tools as simple as a paper cup or their bare hands, the seeds were broadcast into the air, falling silently to the ground.  As these seeds are exposed to rain, sun...
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Vegetable Garden Planning

It’s that time of year again – time to start planning for the vegetable gardening season.  The explosion of enticing seed catalogs hitting my mailbox these days has started to get me in gear by dusting off all the tools, looking at our empty garden beds and dreaming of the growing season to come...
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Pruning cuts can tell a tale

If you are just dying to get into the garden these days, there is one essential practice that is best done during winter dormancy. Pruning is perhaps the most important landscape maintenance task performed in any space that hosts woody plants. There is a large list of benefits to plant health,...
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U.S. Native Tree Checklist

Across the United States, our urban and natural forest ecosystems support a wide range of both flora and fauna. Trees are certainly the center of these plant communities and remain the most symbolic and recognized plant life on the landscape. Have you ever wondered exactly how many native species...
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