1. Published

    Have you ever found a packet of seeds lying around and wondered if you could grow them? Every year when I get ready to start seeds, I inevitably find a half-full packet or a packet I forgot to plant altogether. Unfortunately, as seeds get older, their germination rate decreases. Fortunately, there is an easy way to test your seeds to see if planting them will be worthwhile.

    How long do seeds last?

    Many seeds are capable of lasting for several years if stored properly.

  2. Published

    With the turn of the new year, it seems to be a tradition to declare it the year of ‘fill in the blank.’ So far I’ve learned 2023 is the year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese Zodiac, Pantone named Viva Magenta color of the year, Rudbeckia ‘American Gold Rush’ is the perennial plant of the year according to the Perennial Plant Association, and Merriam-Webster reflectively assigned words for 2022 such as “gaslighting,” “oligarch,” and “codify.” 

  3. Published

    Some memories stick out. Around the second or third grade, my teacher wheeled the television cart into the classroom which to an eight-year-old was cause for celebration. Was it going to be a movie or some type of educational show? We didn’t care. TV in school was a novelty and exciting, even if we still learned something.

  4. Published

    As we approach the new year, we often find ourselves reflecting on the events of the last year. The new year also provides us an opportunity to start anew, often in the form of New Year’s resolutions.

  5. Published

    I once heard a succinct description of natural process as “everything points towards winter”. As a Midwesterner not so fond of cold, my immediate response to this synopsis was denial but with time, I’ve come to adore this mentality.  Annual plants know they have one growing season to complete their life cycle, racing to reproduce before the frost arrives. The leaves of perennial plants produce the carbohydrates that are stored in root systems to be utilized the following spring.

  6. Published

    “Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on giving.” No truer words have ever described a Jelly of the Month Club.

  7. Published

    Poinsettias, Amaryllis, holly, and evergreens are common sights during the holidays.

  8. Published

    Plants have played a major role in human development for as long as people have inhabited the earth. Human interaction with plants has been and continues to be a complex relationship. Many species have provided critical resources for sustaining life, while others threaten human harm if encountered or used without caution. The scientific field of ethnobotany studies how plants have influenced cultures around the world.

  9. Published

    For many Americans, the day after Thanksgiving is spent nursing indigestion from the copious amounts of food we have just eaten or dealing with the madness of Black Friday. As the demolition derby of shopping carts commences, you may be seeing all types of Black Friday deals on outdoor power tools of both gas and electric versions. 

    There are certainly pros and cons to both sides, but when it’s all said and done, which is better? Let’s look first at the operation of the tools and then dive into the environmental impacts.

  10. Published

    With the arrival of winter-like weather, many of us will be firing up the fireplace. When bringing wood inside for the fire, we can sometimes bring some unexpected hitchhikers. Many insects and other critters will use firewood (or wood in general) as a food source or a place to overwinter. Fortunately, for the most part, they pose little to no threat to us or our homes.

  11. Published

    While traveling through the Midwest on leaf peeping adventures, modern day explorers may find a rather nondescript tree with unique, distinct fruit. A medium-sized tree adorned with large, round, chartreuse colored fruit can be easily identified as Maclura pomifera, or Osage orange. Although ordinary in appearance for most of the year, and not often planted today, this species has an extraordinary tale to tell.

  12. Published
    Grow your own tea

    Did you know, you can grow the most popular drink in the world right here in Illinois? If you’re wondering how to harvest Pepsi or Coke from a tree, I’m sorry, you have the wrong drink. Second to water, tea reigns supreme as the world's favorite drink, and it has been for centuries.

  13. Published

    Most people are familiar with praying mantids. These large predatory insects are a common site in the fall, and we often encounter their egg cases (ootheca) this time of year too. But did you know that three different species of praying mantids, the native Carolina mantid and the introduced Chinese and European mantids, can be found in Illinois?

    While praying mantids are a welcome sight to some, others are concerned about the presence of the non-native species.

  14. Published

    As the growing season draws to an end, temperatures cool, woody plants prepare for dormancy, and we enjoy the last blooms of the season. For many of us, autumn also means sniffles and sneezes caused by seasonal allergies.

  15. Published
    Gnawing Rodents and Landscape Shrubs

    This past spring, I found myself at a friend’s house enjoying some barbeque on the back deck. He remarked on the issue they had with ground squirrels, burrowing all over their yard and landscape beds. Later in the year, a phone call came into the office of a landscaper confounded at what was happening to the trees and shrubs of a client’s yard. With an address that sounded familiar, I headed over to see if we could unravel this mystery.

  16. Published

    As we transition from summer to fall and the temperatures start cooling off, many of us will be spending more time outdoors. While enjoying our time outdoors, we often encounter various insets we may not have seen or noticed earlier in the growing season. One such insect is the unusual, and to some scary, looking wheel bug.

  17. Published

    Growing up and working in my parent’s garden, I often remember the early spring when the tree buds are opening, the grass is greening up, and birds are singing. Suddenly, the roar of our massive Honda tiller broke through the serene spring day as it chewed and turned the earth and spewed exhaust into my parents' faces. At my young age, I didn’t have the mass to maneuver the behemoth machine. My mother assured me that turning the soil was better for the plants and kept the weeds down.

  18. Published

    As we approach fall, the days are getting shorter, and the temperatures are starting to cool off. As this happens, we can start seeing changes in the landscape. Many of our landscape plants are beginning to look a little ragged this time of year. While others, like goldenrod and asters, are in their full glory, and before we know it, trees and shrubs will start displaying their fall colors. While our plants are preparing themselves for winter, so are insects.

  19. Published
    Invite nature into your backyard

    A parent fed up with their child’s persistent use of technology (internet, video games, tablet, you name it!) has decided to pull the plug on their sedentary habits. They strip the devices from their child’s hands and throw them outside and say “Go play!” The child looks around. Before them lays their entire suburban property comprised of lawn. Looking left and right they see their neighbor’s yard, more lawn.

  20. Published

    As we draw nearer to fall, it's time to start thinking about bringing houseplants back indoors for the winter. Many houseplants are native to tropical and subtropical climates and, while they may do great outdoors during the summer, cannot tolerate our cold temperatures. When the thermometer starts to get below 55 °F consistently, it's time to start bringing houseplants back indoors.