Shopping for the gardener in the family this holiday season? There are more gardening tools out there than you can imagine. There are tools for the vegetable garden, flower beds, trees, shrubs and evergreens. And, there are tools for every job in the yard.
Many homeowners know about the Emerald Ash Borer and the vast amount of destruction to our ash tree population and likely the millions of dollars being spent to treat, remove dead trees and the replacement trees.
There has been a little bit of fall color beginning on some shade trees, mostly red maple cultivars and some on burning bush. It will be our cool nights and warm daytime temperatures that really kick in the strong colors as pigment content in the leaves start to change from the greens to the reds, oranges and yellows. Sometimes early fall color can signal a problem with plants too. It won't be from being too dry this summer that is for sure.
Both beetles prefer to lay eggs in moist soil and green grass. Weather will play a big role in where the eggs are actually laid.
What may be a bit of concern is with the mild winter, so far anyway, is what are the insect populations looking like for 2016 and how are plants going to respond next spring if the dormancy triggers are not fully met.
Your favorite spring bulbs are winter hardy and for them to bloom in the spring they need to have the cold soil temperatures to trigger them to sprout and bloom in the spring. There are many kinds of spring bulbs, those that bloom as the snow is retreating and other spring bulbs that will bloom much later. Proper planning can provide a several week period of spring bloom.
This column has not addressed vegetables for a while and now is the time to consider the next round of transplants or seeds to go in the garden. It wasn't but about 7-10 days ago the weather was threatening a frosty night which would have us out covering up tender perennials and some of our vegetables.
The next group of vegetables to be planted are those considered "tender", ones that cannot tolerate that frosty weather at all. If you have the enough space, sowing sweetcorn is in order.
If you said the poinsettia, you would be in good company as do most of us. Since 1825 when the poinsettia was introduced from Mexico, it has been the traditional Christmas holiday gift plant.
Fall colors are the result of what is already within the leaves. There are several color pigment groups that produce those vivid reds, golds and oranges and even tans.
Storing unused pesticides can be a troubling situation for home gardeners. Frequently asked questions include: Where can I keep them? Is it safe? Will the pesticides last? What about my children and pets?
While buying in bulk might be good for dry goods and groceries, today the pesticide recommendation is to only purchase in the volume you expect to use in a single growing season, with an exception and there will always be one of those.
I planted my garden sweet corn next to a corn field next door and now my sweet corn isn't so sweet, what is happening? Unlike other vegetables that get cross pollinated and still taste as they should, sweet corn is the exception. When an apple or cucumber gets cross pollinated (and they have to be to get fruit), it is the seeds inside that get changed, not the fruit we are eating. Those characteristics come from the female flower.
Bulbs that flower for us in the spring of the year need to receive a cold treatment, easily provided through our winter weather by Mother Nature. Spring bulbs have been available and likely now are on sale at many retail outlets. Bulbs can be planted individually, especially those showy bulbs like fritillaries and alliums; others may be grouped together for the best effect, such as daffodils and tulips.
The heat this past week is a reminder of the summer of 2012 and the extended drought that year.
The past 2 years a fungal disease called Diplodia Tip Blight has really hit them hard. Diplodia attacks the new growth, killing it before the candle even has a chance to expand. You can see trees impacted by Diplodia as you drive through the neighborhoods.
Our average frost fee date for our area can be as early as about May 5th, but could be as late as May 20th. Move north from here and it is going to be later, head south and it will be sooner.
If you are wondering if the hot weather is impacting the home landscape and gardens, the simple answer is, it sure is. With the high daytime temperatures and above normal night time temperatures, it is becoming increasing hard for plants to keep up with the natural moisture loss from foliage. Every plant in your yard loses moisture through the leaves. Remember the recent news story that tried to tie the "heat dome" that kept us hot to all the fields of corn, calling it corn sweat!
There are several different kinds of fruit trees to consider, apple, cherry, peach, pear, plum. As we live in northern portion of Illinois, apple is likely the main fruit tree grown in back yards because it is very winter hardy.
Spring is a great time plant fruit trees in the home orchard. Planting now allows the fruit trees to establish a root system this summer. If fruit trees are or have been ordered from catalogs they are most likely going to be bare root with some form of moist packing around the roots to keep them from drying out. Those bare root fruit trees should be kept cool and dormant until you are able plant them and the roots should remain moist. Add water to the packing material if needed.
Time again to respond to several questions that have been coming to the Extension Office this fall.
Q. How is the best way to handle newly planted trees and evergreens for the winter?
A: Our weather this fall has really been great for the establishment of trees, shrubs and evergreens recently planted and those planted last spring. As a general rule it will take a year for every inch of trunk diameter for shade trees and upright evergreens to recover from being transplanted.
So how did we get where we are with our planting dates? Historical records show that over the years, May 5th has become that magical date for a good portion of N. Illinois.
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.
There are some landscape plants that have always needed a bit of help to get through the winter with limited damage. Whether brand new to your yard or established for years, broadleaved evergreens like rhododendrons or boxwoods can be heavily damaged by winter sun and drying winds.
Garden soils can make such a difference in how quickly flowers will cover the bed. With all the rain we had earlier, poor drainage is often at the "root" of things with water logged soils and limited soil oxygen present. Good root development counts on a balance of both. Overly wet soils will prevent roots from growing deeply so when our weather moderated, there were no roots down deep to support the flowers with the water they needed.
In the past couple of weeks some of our large shade trees have signs of chlorosis showing up. The leaves are not the medium and deep green they are normally and can have darker veins that fade out into the surrounding leaf tissue.
Creeping Charlie quietly grew well into the fall of 2015 with the same great conditions that allowed our lawns to remain green well into late November last year. Creeping Charlie is very good in increasing its size by sending out long runners into parts of our lawn where it has never ventured before.
This column has covered growing degree days, chilling hours, planting based on our average frost free date and growing season extender methods. One more to add to the list when it comes to insect infestations on our favorite plants is something called Phenology. What a plant looks like and very specifically what stages their flowers are in can tell us it may be time to be on the look- out for and perhaps the need to treat for certain insects.
Bird seed and feeding birds over the winter is an annual discussion with homeowners that enjoy having birds in the yard over the winter. First, the bird seed talk everyone should hear or read. All bird seed mixes are not created equal. Selecting bird seed means buying seed to attract your favorite birds and not just the least expensive bag on the retail shelf. Wild bird mixes most often contain millet, sunflower cracked corn and milo. White millet with a bit of red millet is good, avoid those that contain large amounts of milo, as it is not a favorite of many birds.
One of the most common kinds of damage is called "Frost Crack". Frost cracks may not be readily obvious right away, the damage occurs on the south and southwest sides of tree trunks.
There are so many more days to enjoy yet this year, don't think because school has started that the world (of gardening) should come to an end.
Here we are at the end of May and maybe the beds in the backyard look ok or maybe not. We love our lawns, yet grass can move into our landscape beds in a stealth like manner, while we are waiting for better weather for bed weeding and edging.
Putting a strong clean line on the landscape beds really makes a difference in how they look, bringing out the strong curves that make the bed flow through the yard. That edge is the transition from bed to lawn that defines outdoor spaces.
Perhaps the more critical project is that of our earliest sprays in the home orchard. The foliage diseases for apples show up by wind with the spores floating along by the many thousands if not millions landing on the swelling buds just showing the smallest hint of green emerging leaves.
This time of year you can do several lawn projects. Lawn cleanup is the one of the very first. Overwintering leaf litter, twigs, stems and dead branches from the trees is a good place to start.
Most of our caterpillars are found this time of year, late summer and early fall, being nearly full grown out in the yard. They are big enough to be easily spotted in the garden or shrub bed.
Insects are very interesting to watch as they go about their lives in nature from early spring through Fall. We notice them when something goes wrong or missing on our valuable landscape plants and flowers, especially when those insects are considered detrimental to growing our prized flowers or being able to harvest that perfect vegetable.
Last year gardeners were caught off guard with outbreaks of scale insects on their trees and shrubs. University of Illinois Master Gardeners received many calls of Magnolia foliage turning black and sticky residue on lawn furniture, yard ornaments and if you stood there for even a minute, all over you.