We can always count on spring, but we cannot count on how our plants will come through the winter weather. Emails and phone calls coming into our offices are revealing some trends on how our landscape plants faired.

gypsy moth caterpillars and a female white moth with fuzzy brown egg mass

For more than 20 years, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) has been continually monitoring gypsy moth in an effort to track infestations, put quarantines in place, and provide treatments.

Dividing perennials has been, and always will be, a good gardening practice. However, with invasive jumping worms now confirmed in more parts of Illinois, sharing those perennials with neighbors or donating them to plant sales may not be the best thing to do.

2021 gardeners are reporting plant development as much as two weeks earlier than expected. Even the “early asparagus” seems earlier this year. That is a promising thought, though in the back of our minds, we can all remember those late frosts, or even a light freeze, after setting out our vegetable transplants.

close up of red apples on a tree

Last week, I wrote about what I feel is the most damaging fungal disease for apples and flowering crabapples – apple scab. These treatments may seem like a lot of work, but control measures for apple scab also will help with other diseases and pests.

apple blossoms

Our Master Gardener help desk gets emails mid-summer when apple trees drop many of their leaves, except for the outer 12 inches or so. The same thing can happen to our ornamental flowering crabapples. In both cases, the cause is the same – a fungal disease that infects the foliage and fruits.

green grass

The snow is long gone, but it has left us with lawns that, to date, may look pretty sad. Prepare for the spring green up ahead with these tasks.

University of Illinois Extension offices always know when spring is on the way based on kind of questions emailed to our Master Gardener Help Desk. As the weather warms up, the messages increase, and here are two common questions this time of year:

Q: How early is too early to start vegetables indoors for planting outdoors later?

Recent warming temperatures signals the beginning of the pruning season. Gardeners may need to just help nature shape up a shrub that did not read the rule book on how it should look, or they may begin or continue to structure the tree fruits or grapes in backyard.

snow-covered plant debris

Outdoor insects have endured quite well, despite our hopes that either the cold or snow would have done them in for the 2021 gardening season. The cold is more of a factor than the snow. The snow will act as insulation for those overwintering insects at or below the soil line. (Side note: This also is why our perennials do so much better in the spring if covered with snow all winter compared to open and exposed to the wind and cold temperatures.)

Box Elder bugs on wood siding

Now that our days are warming up, so are those outdoor overwintering insects along with our not-so-favorite winter indoor pests.

Red apple hanging from tree

Note: this is the fifth post in a series on fruit trees. Read part one.

Young fruit trees in the home orchard should begin to fruit once the tree has become established.  Several conditions will need to be met before that happens. Some of them we cannot control and others, we can help along. The four big factors are: typical age for the tree to bear, tree health, weather, and proper pollination.

Note: this is the fourth post in a series on fruit trees. Read part one.

Note: this is part three of a series on fruit trees. Read part one.

Note: this is part two of a series on fruit trees. Read part one.

Whether you have a single fruit tree or a small grove in the backyard, having the correct pollination is key for fruit production. However, for some species that is easier than others.

Note: this is part one of a series on fruit trees

You don’t need space for a full orchard to plant and enjoy fruit trees in the home landscape. However, where you place those fruit trees – whether it’s a whole home orchard or just a few trees – makes a big difference in how they grow and perform. As they say, “location, location, location.” Here’s what to consider:

January finds us thinking we have already had our share of cold, and this year, some snow. Yet the colorful gardening catalogs keep us thinking that spring will return. The vegetable and flower gardens are certainly asleep until spring, but we can take a yard inventory from the dining room window and think about what we liked, what grew well and not so well, and begin to generally plan how we want our yard to look in 2021.

As we approach mid-January, there may be more going on inside than outside for gardeners. Perennial beds covered in snow enjoy the protection from drying winter winds and the winter sun (if we ever see sunny days anytime soon). For some of us, traditional bird feeding started weeks back.

January begins the annual flight of vegetable, flower, and fruit tree catalogs to your mailbox (or your email inbox). Depending on your level of gardening, the catalogs may arrive frequently and in mass.