Top Three Troublesome T's

By Ava Heap

This summer, all of our offices serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion counties have Master Gardeners available to answer homeowner's horticulture questions. Daily, volunteers filter calls on plant problems. Calls vary depending on weather and season. In the Champaign County Extension office, homeowners have had consistent problems with these three troublesome "T's."

1.) Trees

How can you not appreciate trees? They provide basic human needs such as oxygen and protection from the sun. During these final sizzling summer days, their shade is coveted. Homeowners love their trees and call us when there are signs of stress.

This spring, many trees were beaten by the harsh winter. Unlike us, the trees could not run inside to a heating blanket and cup of hot coco and suffered with the negative temperature and wind. The extent of winter damaged varied on hardiness of varieties. The best treatment for winter damaged trees is patience. Damaged trees benefit from a careful pruning job of the worse areas and a little more TLC than usual should rejuvenate them for next year. To read more on winter tree damage, review this report from the University of Illinois Extension's Home, Yard and Garden Pest Newsletter.

Other common tree problems this season include fire blight, emerald ash Borer, and anthracnose.

2.) Tomatoes

Writer Lewis Grizzard once said "it's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato." This beloved garden vegetable frequently suffers from environmental problems, diseases and pests. With our unusually wet, cool summer we have seen early blight, bacterial spot, bacterial speck, and septoria leaf spot.

With all these spots and specks it's hard to distinguish diseases. A favorite reference used in the Horticulture Hotline is Identifying Diseases of Vegetables. It has exquisite pictures that showcase the tomato problems. Read this article from Sandy Mason's Homeowners Column for practical tips on disease identification and prevention. Kelly Allsup, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, also addressed tomato fungal diseases in her blog Flowers, Fruits, and Frass.

3.) Turf

Right along with democracy, equality, and prosperity in the definition of the American dream is having a golf course lawn. Homeowners cringe at the sight of one dandelion squeaking through their Kentucky bluegrass. With all the rain we've accumulated this season, lawns are looking healthy so homeowners have not been asking about lawn diseases such as dollar spot or rust. Instead they want identification so they can either remove or replicate it across the yard.

Weed identification is another request for homeowners followed by, "how can I get rid of it right now?" As a notable novice in the realm of turf identification, I run to pick up my three favorite publications:

  1. 1. Turfgrasses of Illinois
  2. 2. Identifying Weeds in the Midwestern Turf and Landscapes
  3. 3. Pest Management for the Home Landscape

(No, it is not ironic that all of these publications are published by the University of Illinois Extension)

Besides these three troublesome "T's," the Horticulture Hotline has received calls on insect identification, perennial maintenance, and one question on whether milk can be used to water vegetables. As gardeners, there is always something to learn. The Horticulture Hotline provides Master Gardeners a way to learn and educate others. Invite your inquisitive neighbor to visit the Champaign, Danville, or Onarga office today.