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Good Growing 2019

Christmas trees leaning against wooden pallets in a snow covered field

Christmas Trees After the Holidays

All good things must come to an end. Once the Christmas holiday, or in some cases New Year's, is over, the Christmas tree will need to come down. Instead of hauling off this year’s Christmas tree to the dump right away (or having the city pick it up), consider repurposing it in your landscape. One...
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Food Waste

Examining the American Food Waste Problem This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season for…potlucks? That’s at least what it has felt like these past few weeks. Here’s the thing about potlucks – there’s always way too much food and you must try everything! To top it off, I throw out all the rules when it comes to making food for others to enjoy. I use lots of butter,...
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Gift Ideas for Gardeners this Holiday Season

I completely understand why Santa makes his list and then checks it twice. For me, figuring out what others want for Christmas is incredibly difficult. Often my wife will ask, “What should we get for so-and-so?” My response, a shake of my head and a shrug of my shoulders. It seems all my good gift...
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picture of sweet potatoes in a bucket and yams in metal bowls

What's the Difference Between Sweet Potatoes and Yams?

Pass the sweet potatoes. Or is it pass the yams? We often use these names interchangeably, but in reality, they are two very different plants. So, what is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? True yams are monocots (like grasses and lilies) in the family Dioscoreaceae that are native to...
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Parsnips – An Underrated Vegetable

I love parsnips. But have you ever bought parsnips at a grocery store? Let me share my experience. At the checkout lane, the cashier always has a befuddled look when parsnips are up for scanning. A look that I know all too well. “Oh, those are parsnips,” I tell the cashier. Satisfied the...
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picture of cranberry plants and ripe cranberry fruit


Cranberries are a common sight this time of year. Americans consume nearly 400 million pounds of cranberries per year, and we consume about 20 percent of that during Thanksgiving week! Whether you eat them fresh, dried, as sauce or jellied or drink them, they are staples at many holiday meals. They...
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Winter Dormancy

Winter Dormancy in the Landscape

By mid-November, the last of the leaves float down to the ground and the landscape appears stark. All is quiet and nothing is growing as our gardens have been put to bed. Or are they? As I walk outside in the frigid cold, it is obvious my body has yet to adapt to colder temperatures, yet the turf...
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Spooky and Scary plants with doll's eyes plant berries

Spooky and Scary Plants

Halloween is a time of trick-or-treating, witches, ghouls, and ghosts. When it comes to plants, we typically think of pumpkins. Carnivorous plants may also come to mind, what could be scarier than a plant turning the tables and eating insects? There are plenty of other ‘spooky and scary’ plants out...
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The Truth about Woolly Bear Caterpillars

The Truth about Woolly Bear Caterpillars

Woolly bear caterpillars are hurriedly crossing the roads this time of year. I have always been fond of the woolly bear caterpillar. As a child, the name woolly bear reminded me of the Muppet Fozzie bear. I imagined the woolly bear caterpillar has the same loveable optimism as Fozzie despite being...
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Contaminated Landscape Materials: Rubber Mulch

Despite our best intentions to create healthy gardens and landscapes, sometimes we wind up introducing a material that has the potential to affect environmental or human health. Do you know if you have any in your yard? Let’s look at a material commonly found in the landscape and its potential...
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Why do tree leaves change color in autumn?

In the language of folklore, Jack Frost has often been credited with spurring the onset of fall color by pinching leaves with his icy fingers. Obviously today we know that's not the case, but for a long time, scientists thought coloring of fall leaves was caused by the accumulation of waste...
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Boxelder bugs congregating on the outside of a home

Fall House Guests

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter uninvited house guests often start showing up in our homes. A variety of insects and other creepy crawlies will seek out shelter in our homes to pass the winter. Some of our most frequent guests are box elder bugs, multicolored Asian lady beetles...
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purple garlic heads hanging to dry

How to grow garlic

Want to get a head start on planting your vegetable garden for next year? Then garlic is the plant for you! Garlic (Allium sativum) has been grown for thousands of years as food and for medicinal purposes. It has a long growing season, which may seem daunting. Fortunately, it is relatively...
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sunshine through ash tree leaves

Enjoying the final hurrahs of a staple landscape tree

We bought a home! After six years of living in a townhouse on the edge of Macomb, we have started to burst at the seams. In that time, we have accumulated quite a few occupants in our current dwelling. Now with three kids, one dog, a cat, and a couple of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, it was time...
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fall webworm webbing on tree branch with caterpillars inside

Fall Webworms

There are many ways we mark the end of summer. Some refer to the beginning of school or the closing of the pool, while others view Labor Day as the ‘unofficial end of summer’. Another way, if you’re more entomologically inclined, is the appearance of fall webworm. Fall webworm (Hyphantria...
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The Unseen Menace...Chiggers!

How can something so small cause so much agony? This thought, along with several other expletives ran through my mind as I clicked from webpage to webpage searching for a cure to my constant itching. What was the source of my anguish? Chiggers! My entire body (mostly the more private parts) was...
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Black and yellow syrphid flies feeding on rose

Syrphid Flies: Annoying but Helpful Impostors

  Is it a bee? Is it a wasp? No, it’s a syrphid fly, and they are rather abundant this year. We’ve had several questions come into our offices about them. While at a cookout with my family this weekend, we got to experience dozens of them flying around and occasionally landing on us. Syrphid...
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