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rust fungal spores under a dissecting microscope

Lawn rust: Why are your shoes turning orange?

An orange lawn? You’re walking through your lawn. You notice some discoloration in patches, but it doesn’t seem too alarming. After walking in your front door you begin to slip off your shoes and notice they’ve been turned an orange-red color. You’d swear it looked like your shoes were rusted-over...
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Bison and America's prairie ecosystem photo of bison eating on shortgrass prairie blue sky in above horizon

Bison and America's prairie ecosystem

This week marks the official beginning of autumn as far as our calendar is concerned but the natural world began the transition toward fall weeks ago. I recently had the pleasure of sharing a part of this transition with my son when I was able to join him on a prairie seed collection activity with...
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a sweetgum tree beginning to change to a red fall color

Early fall color could be a sign of tree stress

As summer transitions to fall, many Illinoisians are looking forward to everything pumpkin-spiced, hoodie weather, and the fall color of our trees. However, even at the tail end of summer heat, there are trees already rewarding us with some fall color. But is it a reward or a call for help? Some...
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Brighten up your fall landscape with Tithonia. Tithonia plants blooming next to a house.

Brighten up your fall landscape with Tithonia

As summer transitions to fall, our landscapes also transition. The bright-colored flowers of summer begin to fade, and many plants begin to look ragged. Goldenrod and asters often provide much-needed color to the landscape. Another plant that can add color to our landscapes is Tithonia, also known...
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Living on the edge: White-line Sphinx Moth, moth feeding from purple tubular flowers

Living on the edge: White-lined sphinx moth

As the day lengths shorten, our family has been spending the last fading moments of sunlight on our patio, trying desperately to hang on to summer amid the start of the school year.  During these last moments of daylight, I am reminded of the beauty found at the edges of our landscape. As a...
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young girl picking an apple from an apple tree

Tips to get started growing apples in your backyard

It is late August. Do you know what that means? Apples! Yes, our apple trees are beginning to yield their bountiful fruits. A few days ago, I walked over to a friend's apple tree and pulled down on a low-hanging apple with no signs of blemishes or damage. The fruit slipped off the tree easily,...
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Troublesome lady beetles: Mexican bean and squash beetles. An adult squash beetle on a pumpkin leaf

Troublesome lady beetles: Mexican bean and squash beetles

Lady beetles are widely considered a gardener’s friend. Sure, multi-colored Asian lady beetles can be a nuisance when they make their way into our homes during the fall (not to mention displacing native lady beetles). But they are all predatory, beneficial insects that feed on various pest insects...
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Tulips in the treetops: Liriodendron tulipifera text background image of tuliptree blossoms upright on tree branches with leaves

Tulips in the treetops: Liriodendron tulipifera

On a recent family vacation, I was able to revisit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As I return to places I was privileged to visit as a child, I prepare for the trip, in part, by trying to dig deep into my memory bank and recall as much as I can about the place so I can compare. I am...
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garden gloves holding chemical jar

Household ammonia cleaner as a homemade fertilizer

It is time for another installment of What’s under my sink and can I use it in the garden? Today comes a home remedy that originates back to the 19th Century. In 1871, gardener Anne Hale recommended using spirits of ammonia for stimulating flower growth. Over 150 years later, peek under...
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For the love of wasps: Good bugs that get a bad name. Katydid wasp, Sphex nudus, feeding on rattlesnake master flower.

For the love of wasps: Good bugs that get a bad name

Mention wasps to someone, and you’ll likely get a negative reaction. Wasps are often seen as scary, angry insects that are dangerous and likely to sting. While some wasps can be aggressive at times, and some pack a powerful sting, they are good insects to have around. They are the unsung heroes of...
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