Questions and Answers

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Questions coming in over the phone, via email and with residents visiting the Master Gardener Help Desks is really an easy way to see any developing trends in the home landscape. Some weeks' it is all about insects, other weeks' plant diseases. Here are few from the past few days.

Can I cut back my Asparagus now? You should really leave the Asparagus foliage standing until it naturally yellows, browns and dies. That foliage is supplying the roots with energy to allow us to harvest again next year. If appropriate you can lightly tie the foliage together to neaten up the planting if it is becoming unattractive.

My flowering crabapple is full of water spouts this summer, can I cut them out now? Yes, by this time of year the chance of them coming back is lessened. Water sprouts typically show up growing straight up off of a horizontal larger and older branch in the canopy. If left in the canopy they can create structural problems like crossing branches and lessen air movement that can promote foliage disease. The other part of this question is usually asking what is the difference between a water sprout and a sucker. Suckers usually come from the base of the plant or off the trunk. They can also be removed now too!

The mums in my yard look like they are ready to flower, what is going on this year? Well, nature is going on this year. When mums get the right signals from nature, they turn from producing foliage to that of creating flower buds. There is nothing you can do to delay that now. A tip for next year is to go out in mid spring and pinch them back. This will cause them to generate more branches and foliage, delaying the flower bud production. A benefit is your Mums will be thicker and fuller and have more flowers too.

Two or three days after I mow my lawn, it turns a straw color, what can I do to stop this? This is an easy one. Take a look at your mower blade and be sure it is not on backwards, it can happen. If the mower blade is mounted correctly, then check for sharpness. Whether it is on backwards or your blade turns out to be dull, the blade is tearing the grass leaf instead of cutting it, leaving a ragged stringy edge that yellows and gives the lawn that straw colored look you see. The sharp blade will give a more even cut and the lawn will look better. BTW, the mower engine does not work as hard, reducing air pollution.

My compost pile seems to have stalled out, what am I doing wrong? Compost piles need to be watered to provide the moisture for the decay organisms to continue to break down what is inside pile or compost bin. Our dry weather has not been supplying the water. Use your garden hose to moisten the entire bin or pile and keep it moist in the future by remembering to water whenever you are watering the landscape beds, flower beds and vegetable garden. Once the compost pile or bin has dried out, the microflora have either gone dormant or died off, so it will take a couple of weeks to get back to the business of decomposing.

You can see that from the questions our gardening efforts have switched from planting, bugs and disease to summer maintenance kinds of gardening activities.

About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.