1. Published

    It’s that time of year - time to start thinking about pruning your deciduous trees. Most deciduous trees are best pruned while they are in full dormancy. This happens to be February or March for this part of the country.

  2. Published

    Being two weeks into the new year, I hope those of you with new goals of healthier eating are still going strong. If things didn’t work out the way you had planned, no worries; vermicomposting can help you get rid of all those fruits and vegetables that have gone bad and provide a nutrient rich material that can be added to our plants. Vermicomposting is the process of using various species of worms to decompose organic waste such as food scraps. It is also a great option for winter composting when our outside pile has become dormant.

  3. Published

    As I type out this article, I can’t stop thinking about my drive to work today. After days of clouds, ice, snow, and more clouds, the sun shone brightly as it crept over the eastern horizon. As sunbeams edged further across the landscape the trees became illuminated with a rainbow of light. It was spectacular!

  4. Published

    Out with the old and in with the new. A new year means the garden catalogs are starting to arrive and that it’s time to start planning this year’s garden. Whether you’re just getting started or you’re a veteran gardener, consider growing something new this year in your garden.

  5. Published

    You know Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer, and Vixon, and of course Rudolph from being a part of Santa’s trusty reindeer herd, but did you know that Santa isn’t the only one that is raising reindeer? It is thought that reindeer were first domesticated around 5000 to 7000 years ago to attract wild deer so hunters could harvest them. Most wild reindeer are found in Norway, Finland, Siberia, and Greenland. Domesticated reindeer provide meat, milk, tallow (fatty substance), and hides for blankets, clothing, and footwear.

  6. Published

    The butcher. That’s what I have felt like these last few weeks. Butchering trees for their greenery to make holiday decorations. I would argue, being a fir or pine tree butcher has its perks. I smell like Christmas when I’m done. I’m able to take my kids (and a tag-along cat) for walks as we find the ideal tree for hacking to pieces. So, what inspired such a tradition to cut up evergreens for decorations during the holidays?

  7. Published

    From evergreens and Poinsettias to holiday cacti and holly, we use a variety of different plants to adorn our homes and offices during the holidays. One plant we commonly hear about is mistletoe. Mistletoe has an interesting past, from an ancient symbol of fertility to somewhere to sneak a quick kiss. It also has a darker side as a freeloading parasite on trees.

    Mythology and folklore

    It is believed that the golden bough that allowed the Greek hero Aeneas to travel to the underworld was mistletoe.

  8. Published

    Some of my fondest memories of Christmas growing up was venturing out to get a Christmas tree together as a family. Most of the time we just found a misshapen red cedar tree from our timber; however, when choosing a Christmas tree, ideally you want something that has good shape, color, and branch distribution. It is also important that the tree has good needle retention to last the entire Christmas season. Typically pine trees have the best needle retention followed by firs, and spruces have the shortest retention.

  9. Published

    Leftovers. Is this why we only eat turkey once a year? Because after all the leftovers we are sick of giant poultry? Nah! I think turkey is simply more of a seasonal thing. We grow up seeing a turkey as the Thanksgiving centerpiece. To eat a whole turkey any other time just feels wrong. It’s like listening to Christmas music after Christmas. There’s not much demand for Deck the Halls outside of the holiday season. However, I will concede, everyone has that deranged person in the office or home that listens to Christmas music in July.

  10. Published

    Have you ever gone a little overboard buying plants and run out of room or energy to plant them all in the fall and figured it could wait until spring, only to find out most, or all have died? Or maybe you’ve had a container planter with perennials and excitedly waited for them to resume growth in the spring, but it never happened.

  11. Published

    As the harvest hustle and fall field work start to slow, it is time to reflect on the growing season to see what worked well and start making decisions for the next season. On farm yield data from the current season is a great way to evaluate hybrid and variety performance. For choosing new or different hybrids and varieties, the University of Illinois Variety Testing provides some useful information to aid in making those decisions.

  12. Published

    I bet you’re sick of reading about elections and politics. Fortunately, the Good Growing column is a welcome escape. Today I would like to dive into diseases. Oh, that’s right. We’re kind of in the middle of a global pandemic and I bet “disease” is not on the top of your list either.

    Within our global pandemic of COVID-19, I hear scientists and doctors talk about recommendations for preventing the spread of disease. After listening to all the human health experts talk, one thing I realized, folks in the plant world have been dealing with “pandemic” type events for a long time. 

  13. Published

    It’s Halloween time again! Last year we had the inaugural list of Spooky and Scary Plants. While trick-or-treating and Halloween parties may look a little different this year, here are some more ‘spooky and scary’ plants to help you get in the Halloween spirit.

  14. Published

    As leaves fall from the trees each year, some may find beauty in the reds, yellows, and orange as they blanket the ground, while others may see hours of work ahead of them as they rake or mow the leaves to remove them. Regardless, leaves provide many benefits in the yard and garden other than just beauty. So what all can we do with all those leaves.

  15. Published

    Small farms and local foods educator and fellow contributor to the Good Growing column, Katie Parker, was kind enough to let me borrow her hollow-core aerator, to give my compacted lawn some much needed relief.

    As Katie wrote in a previous column this year, core aerating your lawn is a great practice to help relieve soil compaction and introduce air and water deeper into the soil. It can even help to reduce thatch issues.

  16. Published

    The arrival of fall/autumn brings not only cooler temperatures but also a change in scenery. Our trees transition from green to golds, yellows, oranges, purples, reds, and browns, blanketing our landscapes in a kaleidoscope of colors. We expect our deciduous trees like maples, oaks, sweetgum, and dogwoods to change color and drop their leaves.

  17. Published

    Fall is here; not only does the calendar tell us that it is officially here, but our days are getting shorter, the temperatures are cooler, combines are rolling in the fields, mums decorate front porches, and the trees are starting to turn. As our summer activities in the garden wind down, there are some things to do to prepare for cooler temperatures.

    Perennials and Grasses

  18. Published

    Pumpkin spice. Did you read that with disdain? Because I wrote it to be dripping with contempt. Go ahead and reread it with your best disdainful inner voice.

    I may lose a lot of you on this. I may even anger my colleagues. But I do not like pumpkin flavoring. Why would so many people be upset about this? Well, Illinois just so happens to be the top grower and producer of pumpkins, pumpkin fillings, and all the other pumpkiny products that fill the shelves this time of year. Most of this production happens in Tazewell County near Morton, Illinois.

  19. Published

    When it comes to bulbs, this time of year (fall), much of our attention is focused on getting ready to plant spring-blooming bulbs, and rightfully so. From crocus and daffodils to tulips and alliums, these plants provide a burst of color early in the year before many of our landscape plants begin blooming. While spring blooming bulbs get most of the attention, there are some bulbs that will bloom in the fall that can also provide a splash of color.

  20. Published

    We recently bought a home at the end of May with a lawn in need of assistance. When we moved in, we quickly tackled the mole problem by trapping five moles, and one vole! Next, we moved onto the damage done by the moles; we leveled out the mole hills and seeded those areas; however, in the end, we were defeated by the summer heat and our outrageous water bill. For the last 3 months, we have had a partially dead lawn with some smaller bare spots. We have been anxiously awaiting fall in hopes of making our lawn look not so much like a train wreck.