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The Garden Scoop 2023

Berries on Burning Bush

Burning bush threatens migrating birds

Some years ago, it was shocking to learn that one of my favorite ornamental shrubs, burning bush (Euonymus alatus), is invasive.   It took a while for this news to sink in, and after seeing it invade woodlands across southern Illinois, I finally came to terms with the bad news....
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A spotted lanternfly on a red flower.

Spotted lanternfly spotted in Illinois

Invasive species are putting continual pressure on plants and animals in Illinois, which is only expected to intensify in the coming years.  This means we all need to be vigilant for new threats and aware of their impact when new invasives arrive. Last month, experts confirmed the arrival a...
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A blank checklist on a clipboard next to a pen.

Making a fall gardening checklist

Fall is nearly upon us, and while many gardeners lament the end of the growing season, plenty of work remains to be done before winter sets in. I actually enjoy fall gardening tasks as they are a way to end the year with a bang and get all set to hit the ground running in spring. Here is a short...
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Pink surprise lily flowers

Surprise lilies shock with late bloom

When I try to think of plants that live up to their common name, surprise lily (Lycoris squamigera) tops the list.  In fact, this plant has quite a few common names that are equally fitting, including ghost lily, magic lily, resurrection flower, naked lily, and mystery lily, among...
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Tropical Milkweed with bees and a fly on it.

Tropical milkweed could threaten monarchs

As interest in planting milkweed has grown among gardeners focused on supporting Monarch butterfly populations, many of us have been watching garden centers for milkweed plants.  This interest has sparked demand for easy-to-propagate milkweed species that can offer maximum garden beauty with a...
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A ripe tomato on a tomato plant.

Tomato Problems and Solutions

Tomatoes are one of the most planted garden crops in the US and remain a staple of most vegetable gardens across central Illinois. Illinois Extension receives many questions about these plants and their care each year, with most questions centering on controlling some common ailments.  From...
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Bindweed on top of straw in a garden

Managing Bindweed a difficult task

Occasionally, a weed pops up that commands attention due to its aggressive habit.  Action must be taken quickly to avoid its establishment in the landscape, or years of control efforts will ensue.  Knowing when a tiny invading plant should be taken seriously can be difficult for a...
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Yellow flowers on a eastern prickly pear cactus

Prickly Pears bloom for pollinators

I am always amazed at the diversity of native species our state hosts from top to bottom.  All in all, Illinois spans three USDA cold hardiness zones which illustrates the difference in climate from our northern counties to the southern confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.  In...
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A picture of two blooms of wild columbine

Using wild columbine at home

During the flowering lull of late spring in my home gardens, I often admire the unique, dangling blooms of our native wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).  This plant occurs in nearly every county of Illinois and its native range spans the Eastern US, from Florida and Texas to...
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Ants on a Peony

How ants help peonies

In the plant world, insects can be considered either friend or foe based on their status as beneficial partners or pests.  We often think of pollinators as the primary friends plants have in the insect world, but there are certainly other beneficial insects that don’t necessarily pollinate...
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Kale and kohlrabi seedlings in a garden center.

Frost dates and spring vegetable planting

The past few weeks, we’ve had spectacular weather for gardening, which has really ramped up efforts across central Illinois in preparation for the growing season to come.  This early spring warmth combined with garden centers packed full of new plants creates the irresistible impulse to plant...
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redbud flower

Spring flowering trees and shrubs

Signs of spring are beginning to pop up if you look close enough.  In the last week or so, I’ve noticed harbinger of spring (Erigenia bulbosa) and spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) in natural areas. The beginnings of Virginia bluebells can also be found as their...
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Prairie Establishment at ClarkLindsey

On a sunny and cold day in early February, some Urbana residents helped to spread handfuls of native prairie seed on the ground.  Using tools as simple as a paper cup or their bare hands, the seeds were broadcast into the air, falling silently to the ground.  As these seeds are exposed to...
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Vegetable Garden Planning

It’s that time of year again – time to start planning for the vegetable gardening season.  The explosion of enticing seed catalogs hitting my mailbox these days has started to get me in gear by dusting off all the tools, looking at our empty garden beds and dreaming of the growing season to...
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Pruning cuts can tell a tale

If you are just dying to get into the garden these days, there is one essential practice that is best done during winter dormancy. Pruning is perhaps the most important landscape maintenance task performed in any space that hosts woody plants. There is a large list of benefits to plant health,...
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