1. Published

    Homeowners have likely heard of core aeration as a way to relieve soil compaction in the lawn. While that is certainly true, coring has several more benefits for the grass plant, microbial activity in the ground, and thatch management.

  2. Published

    The weather can, does, and will influence foliage disease each year, starting in the early weeks of spring. While early spring was a long time ago, many diseases are now quite visible in the home landscape.

  3. Published

    What do lilacs, phlox, vine crops, peonies, and lawns all have in common this time of year? First clue – it is weather related. Second clue – if you touch it, it will rub off. Final clue – it looks like it came out of the kitchen pantry and you would sprinkle on your pastries, pancakes, and waffles.

  4. Published

    By this time of year, woody plants have taken care of business, meaning the foliage already has produced the energy needed to form buds for both foliage and flowers for next year. If there is a fruit or pod containing seeds, that is nearly, if not already completed, as well. In the next few weeks, plants will get the signal that fall is on the way and begin to set up for the eventual color change and leaf drop.

  5. Published

    This time of year, many of the messages coming into our local Master Gardener Help Desks are commonly asked questions that track with our seasonal weather. Here are a few:

    Q: My lawn has looked pretty good until two weeks ago, what’s up with all the brown spots and patches now?

  6. Published

    Strong winds and heavy rains have caused damage to our larger, older shade trees. Wind and rain together provide the “right ingredients” to bring down limbs, especially those that have had structural issues like decay or poor crotch angles, creating included bark which weakens the crotch physically. Bad crotch angles will allow the wind to tear out one of the limbs, usually the smaller or weaker one. The rain just adds many pounds of weight, making the job of the wind easier. Broken branches throughout the canopy is better than having lost a large limb, permanently disfiguring the tree.

  7. Published

    During the last two weeks, the news has been covering a unique situation involving unsolicited seeds arriving from China directly to your mailbox. It’s made it to social media as well.

  8. Published

    Lawns have come through this summer surprisingly well, especially with all the heat we have had. My unofficial count says we have had at least 15 days of 90 degree heat this summer, and some for several days in row. However, we also had good rains.

    For yards that need to be re-seeded, the best window for our area is from the middle of August through the first week in September. (This may need to be adjusted for other parts of Illinois).

  9. Published

    Gardeners have been seeing lots of lumps, bumps, and blobs on different kinds of leaves throughout the home landscape, or in parks and the forest preserves. It is not uncommon, as this occurs annually. What is uncommon is the generous number we are seeing this year.

  10. Published

    When it finally rains after a dry spell, it is such a relief and gives gardeners a few days off before the watering patrol kicks in again. Our plants get the dust and dirt washed off, foliage perks up, and if the flowers were on the dry side, foliage colors return to normal.

  11. Published

    The prolonged hot, dry weather pattern has created some vegetable gardening challenges. Garden plants (and all other kinds of plants) respond to the weather conditions by adjusting vegetative (foliage) and reproductive (fruiting) growth.

  12. Published

    The hot, dry weather we have been getting – and will continue to get – changes how we are going to water the home landscape. Best management practices, or BMP, includes more than just watering (but water is so key to plant survival) and more than just your vegetable plants.

    Tips for containers and planters

  13. Published

    Show of hands, please. How many did something to mark National Pollinator Week?

  14. Published

    Master Gardener Help Desk emails have really been different this past two weeks. Our early spring challenges have left and along came the first of our summer concerns in the landscape and vegetable beds. The list turned into more than a column’s worth, so going to hit the big ones this week:

  15. Published

    By mid-June, the spring gardens have either slowed or have finished providing us with all those great colorful flowers, from daffodils to peonies to iris. The same goes for many of our flowering shrubs and trees. Our lawns, with all the rain, are for the most part actively growing and green, but there are some lawns that are beginning to show signs of slowing down for summer.

  16. Published

    If you have not already spotted them, be on the lookout for those bug-eyed insects with their persistent song in the canopies of your landscape. Yep, that’s right, cicadas are among us. In fact, some are even four years ahead of schedule. Learn more about that online in our Home, Yard, and Garden newsletter.

  17. Published

    Homeowners expect so much from shade trees, but those same trees get little care once they get established in the home landscape. Besides getting watered during stressful times, proper mulching can go a long way in the health of the tree.

  18. Published

    Given our milder winter, gardeners may be surprised with the need to do some pruning on shrubs that are typically considered hardy in our area. It is not uncommon to find a bit of winter dieback where last years’ growth was actively growing late in the summer or where we got a bit carried away and fertilized too late in the season. The tips and ends of those branches were not able to harden off in time to survive the winter.

  19. Published

    The Illinois Extension Master Gardener Help Desk email inboxes have been busy since gardening season has arrived. The early season questions have tapered off with a new batch questions, including sowing summer vegetable seeds or getting those tomato and pepper transplants.

  20. Published

    What does our current situation and planting vegetable seeds have in common? Every vegetable seed sown this spring has its own preferred distance from one another.