The dreaded squash bug is inevitable if you are growing squash, melons and pumpkins says Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. It is responsible for major crop failure and causes hysterical gardeners running to buy chemicals in which to kill them. Besides this issue these crops can be really easy for even a novice gardener.

Take a new look at dandelions

URBANA, Ill. - Earth Day falls every year on April 22. Rhonda Ferree, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, recommends using the day to reflect about our world around us.

"You might even try to look at a small piece of our world from a completely different viewpoint," she said. "Take dandelions, for example. To many people the dandelion is a weedy pest that invades our lawns, but other people find many positive attributes in the plant.

If you added herb plants into the matrix of your vegetable gardens this year, you may, like most zucchini and tomato growers, have more harvest than you can handle. Your basil may have started flowering because it wasn't pinched, parsley leaves may be yellowing because it needs some fertilizer and the mint has spread beyond its bounds and is now feeding all the bees in the neighborhood. Even in states of neglect, herbs can be used in creative ways by adding them to your favorite cold beverages.

Originally published by Kelly Allsup on November 15, 2014.

In radio interview with WJBC's Susan Sanders, I was asked "How do you save seed from pumpkins?" "You know the ones that you have gutted for the purpose of making jack-o-lanterns!" Then I thought about all the pumpkins that take their place on the tops of hay bales and placed in pots of flowering annuals and what does become of the valuable seeds inside.

There are three sawfly species that commonly attack azaleas, two in the spring and one in the summer. We are apparently currently seeing Amauronematus azaleae. There is one generation per year with the adults emerging to lay eggs on expanding leaves in the spring. The larvae are feeding at this time in central Illinois and apparently prefer hybrid azaleas, which are deciduous. Nearby evergreen azaleas are not attacked.

Crayfish become a nuisance in turfgrass when they burrow in high moisture soil, creating chimneys at the burrow openings. These chimneys, made of balls of clay soil that bake in the sun, become very hard. Hitting them with a mower dulls the blades and may even kill the mower's engine. The crayfish commonly emerge at night to roam about the turf. Crayfish have gills that require constant moisture. Rainy nights and standing water allow the migration of these insect relatives across land to new locations.

Livingston Master Gardeners welcomes 15 new interns to the program after completing 12 weeks of University of Illinois style training in all subjects' horticulture. Kelly Allsup, University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, says, "these new Master Gardener volunteers will ascend on the county to complete their volunteer hours in a range of approved Master Gardener Projects.

A wall garden can be constructed with a variety of succulents – plants with thick leaves and stems that can store water – such as aloes, crassulas, echeverias, hawthorias, kalanchoes and sedums. If you have an old door, try placing the plants in wooden boxes filled with soil and sand and affixing them to the door. The succulent plants would then fill in the boxes as their roots grow, creating a vertical wall accent of succulents.

Black knot is a common fungal disease that affects at least 25 Prunus species, both edible and ornamental. The disease is caused by the pathogen, Dibotryon morbosum, which infects the new twigs, branches, and fruit spurs during the spring. Trunks also can become diseased. Most infections occur between bud break and 2 weeks after bloom when wet conditions are accompanied by temperatures of 55° to 77°F.

European pine sawfly larvae are present throughout the state feeding on Scotch, mugo, and other two and three needle pines. The larvae grow to about one inch long with dark and lighter green stripes. They have large black heads. Sawfly larvae can be distinguished from caterpillars by having six or more pairs of prolegs.

They drop to the ground to pupate as first year needles are breaking from the candles. As such, their defoliation is not a serious threat to tree health, but the mostly bare stems left behind reduce aesthetic appearance.

URBANA, Ill. – All-America Selections is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties then introduces only the best garden performers as AAS Winners., said a University of Illinois.

"The AAS Winners offer gardeners reliable new varieties that have proven their superior garden performance in trial grounds across North America," said Ron Wolford, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

For 2014, All-America Selections is recognizing both national and regional winners.

Fire blight symptoms were observed on several Callery pears this past week,” says Travis Cleveland, University of Illinois extension specialist.

“The symptoms were more severe than those observed during the 2013 growing season.”

Fire blight is a bacterial disease that affects rosaceous plants. Apples, pears, crabapples, and ornamental pears are the most seriously affected species. Other rosaceous hosts include: cotoneaster, hawthorn, quince, firethorn, and mountain-ash.

Gardening trends have an underlying theme of bettering the community, improving health and developing an appreciation for the environment and can be seen in statistics for the country as well as our backyards in Central Illinois.

One tradition most people love is decorating their homes for the holidays. Whether impeccably dressing the tree, placing homemade wreaths boasting pine cones and bows on the front door, or buying red poinsettias and blooming Christmas cactus to adorn the mantle, horticulture comes alive during the holidays. The last thing to do before the big holiday dinner will be making a festive centerpiece. Here are some centerpiece ideas:

Top 5 Facts: The Eyed Click Beetle: Good Bug

Alaus oculatus

Picture taken by Tony Dorley of Normal

1. Picture Taken In suburban Washington DC in May (Range Eastern United States to Texas)

2. White Spots are “false eyes” and considered adaptions to scare off predators

3. When placed on back or attacked will bend body in half making it click and jump or fly off.

4. The Click beetle is attracted to nectar, leaf sap or porch lights.

Garden Schedule

Average last spring frost May 10th.


Order seeds and garden supplies. Prepare lights and tools for starting seeds. Clean and maintain garden tools.


Frost seed white dutch clover in yard and garden paths where weeds are under control.

Finish pruning fruit trees. Fertilize when buds start to swell.

Yes – this news is a gardener's dream come true – for at least the 2014 growing season! All the winter data is in and the experts now say Japanese beetle numbers in northern Illinois will be much lower this year.

The snow-covered landscape and bitterly cold temperatures are leaving gardeners and homeowners wondering, "Are my plants faring better than me this winter?"

Personally, this gardener has been fighting multiple colds, dry sinuses, dry skin and bone-chilling walks from my car to work. From my perspective, the plants are adapting to this winter season better than I am, because they have adaptations to things like snow cover and chilling temperatures. However, plants can be susceptible to winter wind and sun.

Strawberries are the first fruits of the season, and fresh-picked strawberries from the garden taste better than any berry bought from a store.

Plant strawberry plants this spring for ample production and summer fun for your kids next spring. Strawberries can be greatly rewarding and only require a few simple timed garden tasks.

Before planting bare root bundles, amend the soil with organic matter. Organic matter will provide nutrients and help retain water. There are two types of strawberries; June bearing, day neutral or Ever-bearing.

Barred Owl

It takes a watchful eye like that of Master Naturalist, Deeana Frautchi, to get this stunning photo of a barred owl perching on a pine limb. Barred owls, with their soulful eyes, sit and wait for the small mammals or insects they hunt or swivel their head 180 degrees to spy a Master Naturalist creeping in the woods with a camera. Although a common owl in Illinois, most live in old forests near bodies of water and conduct soundless flight because of their serrated wings.

Evergreens are always a nice addition to the landscape. They provide a pop of green foliage in the winter when everything else in the landscape is without leaves or winter interest, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"But these evergreens are more than just for landscape use," said Candice Miller. "Evergreens can be easily cut and harvested for use indoors or outdoors as seasonal decorations."

Landscape Trends of 2014

How does one predict the landscape design trends of 2014? Well they look at some of the most popular trends of 2013. In the past the landscaping was a row of perennials or shrubs around the foundation of a house, some nice shade trees and lots of lush green lawn. In 2014, gardeners are seeking more from their landscape by trying to create an outdoor living space which has been trending for a while. A place to drink their morning coffee, watch the birds and have family gatherings.

Fresh sun-ripened tomatoes are an essential ingredient in many garden-inspired recipes: pico de gallo, caprese salad and salsa. In these dishes, a store-purchased tomato simply will not do. These tomatoes have been chilled, thawed, stored, handled and potentially sprayed with chemicals. For this reason, most of you have not only opted to grow tomatoes but make them the star of the garden.

Last spring, Joel Karsten wrote a book called "Straw Bale Gardens" that has taken the gardening world by storm and given growers a new media to grow vegetables, herbs and annuals.

University of Illinois Master Naturalist, Deanna Frautschi reminds us with this image that it is cold out there. Like us, squirrels are active all year long but seek shelter when the winter storms come in tree dens or leaf nests amongst the braches. Studies have shown that squirrels living in dens use less energy in maintaining their body temperature. Like the Master naturalist taking this picture this squirrel doesn't listen to studies but would rather seek out the bird feeder.

The most common sawfly that attacks needled evergreens in Illinois is the European pine sawfly, which is present as damaging larvae in the spring. Because this sawfly finishes larval feeding at candle emergence, only second- and third-year needles are consumed. The result is that the emerging needles keep attacked branches alive, even though lower areas of the branch may be stripped of needles.

University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup encourages gardeners to collect seeds from milkweeds to add this much needed plant to the landscape for Illinois monarchs. Kelly warns that you may see butterfly enthusiasts along roadsides collecting seeds from coveted weeds and prairie plants known as the milkweeds this fall.

The recent news of the declining monarch colonies in Mexico has many Illinois gardeners and schoolchildren worrying about the impact here in Illinois. The butterflies, which spend the winter hibernating in the forests of Mexico, occupied only 1.65 acres in December 2013 –a 44 percent drop from 2012, according to a survey done by Mexico's Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.

For those of you who have never walked the prairies of Illinois in the summer when the silphiums (prairie sunflowers) are reaching for the tallest spot, the milkweeds are teeming with butterflies and the coneflowers are buzzing with bees, you are missing a piece of our Illinois history. For the ultimate opportunity toknow the beauty of our Illinois landscape, plan your prairie visit at sunrise or sunset. The Central Illinois prairies are boasting numerous flowering plants and grasses, with some areas 4 to 5 feet tall -- and silphiums may reach 6 feet tall.

Blue Dasher adult male dragonflies are territorial, often perching on pond-edge vegetation where they use their huge green eyes to watch for female mates and to chase off male competitors.

Immature Blue Dashers have reddish-brown eyes and keep carefulwatch for adults and and other predators whomay decide to make ameal of them before they have a chance to develop their adult green eyes.


Photo and description submitted by Deanna Frautschi

Although ornamental flowering pears are beautiful in the spring, they have several severe problems. Below is a portion of an article written by Sandy Mason, Extension Educator in horticulture based in Champaign, IL. Since this article was published in 2005, ornamental pear problems have escalated out of control with even many more municipalities banning their use.

Most Knockout roses in our area have bounced back from the winter kill by resprouting from the base causing the plants to be smaller and more compact this year. However few, some in our area had to be replanted the one’s that didn’t had a little help from Mother Nature with their garden pruning duties. A good renewal pruning can rejuvenate the knockout roses and keep their flowers numerous and shape compact. Renewal pruning is removing all the canes to 1-2’ off the ground in early spring.

If you invite me to your garden for a tour, I probably won't be looking at your flowers, but rather start turning over leaves or inspecting holes, looking for the insects that may reside there. Several clues will prompt me to inspect a plant, like frass (insect poop), holes in the leaves, yellowing, speckling and poor growing tips. The investigation doesn't stop until several leaves and flowers have been inspected.

"Hedge apple" trees (also called Osage orange, Maclura pomifera) are not related to apples or oranges and their fruit is inedible. The large, grapefruit-sized, brain-like green fruit are better-known that the trees and show up in the fall of the year in stores and farmers markets where they are sold for their purported ability to repel insects.

Fungal Diseases of Tomatoes

Pictures Missouri Botanical Garden

Septoria Leaf Blight (Leaf Spot)

Septoria leaf spot is the most co

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As a horticulturist, I am often asked to name my favorite plant. After my mind spins from traveling through my past, I am left momentarily speechless. Is my favorite plant the bountiful bunch of cymbidium orchids from Holland or the vivid blue poppies from the Chelsea flower show in London or the pineapple lilies on display at Longwood gardens in Pennsylvania or those gorgeous pink poppies adored by Illinois gardeners?

Scientists believe brilliant fall colors may be a sign of healthy trees in the expanse of the North American forests. The presence of brilliant reds of the black tupelo, orange and purples of sassafrass and the luminescent yellows of birch may actually contribute to deterring leaf-eating pests and aid in storing energy and the function of dropping leaves.

Emerald ash borer has been found in white fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus, in the Dayton and Springfield areas of western Ohio. Part of a dead adult found in one of the trees has been positively identified by USDA personnel along with larvae from the same tree whose anatomical characters are consistent with emerald ash borer. Live larvae were found in single trees in each of four sites. Many more dead larvae were found in the trees. It was estimated that emerald ash borers had been in the trees for at least four years.

Mesclun is a mixture of assorted small, baby salad leaves also known as a mesclun mix. You can purchase mesclun bagged in cellophane at your grocer. Yet freshly harvested from a few square feet in your patio, garden, or front stoop, mesclun is an easy tender treat, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"What flavors are in the mix? Arugula, mustard greens, and chicories have a strong peppery flavor," said Nancy Pollard. "Endive presents a peppery bitter note. Radicchio has a combination sweet-and-bitter taste.

- Looking for a gift for the gardener on your list? A short list of items most gardeners will appreciate might come in handy this holiday season, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"There are hundreds of gift ideas for the gardener, and this list will focus on items that are kind to our bodies," said Jennifer Fishburn.

For Christmas, my father, asked me to pick out a piece of art from his studio to take home to add to my collection of all things "Karlton Allsup, the potter." I was conflicted between two pieces: one, a pristine turquoise and white plate that was perfectly symmetrical with not a flaw in sight; and another plate, with muted green, blue and gold coloring, brandishing odd adornments and bumpy and cracked edges. He chose the latter for me, saying it was a better representation of his art.

Goat's Milk Chevre

Cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm in Champaign

Apple Cider

Cider from Rockome Gardens Foods in Arcola

Aronia Berry Muffins with Jam or Jelly

Berries, jams, and jellies from Sunny Lane Aronia Farm in Eureka

Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Beef from Herman Brockman in Congerville

Tomatoes from Henry's Farm in Congerville

Herbs from Teresa's Fruit and Herbs in Eureka

Grandma Henrietta's Pumpkin Spice Bars

Divide and conquer: Preparing spring plants

URBANA, Ill. - Spring is here and we are starting to get the gardening itch, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"Warm days tease us and blooming crocus encourages us," said Martha Smith. "But we know Mother Nature is still in charge and she can release her fury at any time. Now is the time to start thinking about what will need to be divided in our gardens.

As a hired hand in the gardening world, I would gather blooms from the recently tended landscape to create a floral arrangement for the inside of the home. The transition from gardener to floral designer seemed effortless since landscaping and floral design share common principles: repetition of colors and textures, using different sizes to create a shape, complementary color pallet and some experimentation. Adding a few horticulture tips to the creative gardener in you can let you bring the outside beauty inside.

May Berenbaum, University of Illinois entomologist and researcher of the decline in honeybees, has said Illinoisans need to be more accepting of weeds, which provide habitat and food sources for honeybees and beyond.

Illinois butterfly identification programs have been popular among prairie walkers and flower gardeners. It is these delightful visitors of flowers or tree sap or —in some cases, dung and mud puddles —that capture our interests and cause us to ask, "What kind of butterfly is that?" and "Where did it come from?

In my ventures to understand and identify butterflies, I have come to one very apparent conclusion: Butterflies have developed amazing adaptions to survive nature.

The droughts of 2011 and 2012 continue to take a toll on tree health.

Rhonda Ferree, Extension Educator in horticulture, says that trees can take three to five years to show symptoms from a severe event such as drought. Unfortunately trees under stress are less able to fight off insect and disease problems. Plant diagnosticians at the University of Illinois Plant Clinic describe the following diseases that take advantage of trees under stress.

Get your gardens buzzing next spring by planting bee-friendly bulbs and spring bloomers this fall.

Bumblebee queens, honey bees, and solitary bees start emerging from their winter homes ready to feast on the landscape as early as March. Feed them from your garden by planting a mix of crocus, snow drops, Siberian squill, grape hyacinth, bluebells with spring flowering hellebores and primroses to ensure many sources of nectar.

Don't get started too Early on Seeds

University of Illinois Extension Educator, Kelly Allsup, warns gardeners with that early onset gardenitis from starting their seed too early but rather encourage using the following guidelines.

Do you have fruit trees? Would you like to harvest more each year? Most homeowners and local farmers should know that a yearly pruning can increase quality fruit production, reduce occurrence of diseases by increasing airflow and improving the longevity of the tree. However, most are unsure where to start or how to complete this process. Let the University of Illinois Extension program help guide through the world of fruit tree pruning and the time to prune fruit trees is late winter.

Tropical houseplants can be a rewarding sight after coming in out of the snow this winter. A jungle of textures and colors can make home dÃ?©cor come alive. After years of working at the Plant Biology Conservatory at the University of Illinois and caring for tropical houseplants in my own home, I've compiled tips to help growers become more successful with these plants.


-- During the winter months, south and west facing windows capture the brightest light.

If Johnny Appleseed were planting apples in 2014, he would be planting dwarf or semi-dwarf trees grafted onto disease-resistant rootstocks instead of apple seeds from a leather satchel. Grafting is like plant surgery for horticulturists, connecting the growing tissues of one plant to another.

Be the Johnny Appleseed of your neighborhood this spring and plant an apple tree for your family and the squirrels for years to come. Buy fruit trees or order whips from the Internet. Whips are dormant bare root trees planted in early spring.

Cicada eggs laid 17 years ago are now emerging in northwestern Illinois. University of Illinois Extension entomologist Phil Nixon said this is the Iowa brood that covers portions of western Illinois, northern edge of Missouri and most of the southern two-thirds of Iowa. The Illinois area covered is Henderson, Warren, Knox, Fulton and Schuyler counties, plus northern DeWitt and northwestern Champaign counties.

Nobody in our lab is aware of any study that has looked at the possible toxicity of swimming pool water to bees. However, bees certainly seem to like drinking from pools. It could just be that a pool is an easy water source to find, but we also know that bees generally like a tiny amount of salt in their water. Perhaps swimming pools have the right amount of salt to please the bees thanks to some human sweat or some pH balancing chemicals.

Pansies brighten up spring garden

URBANA, Ill. - Pansies are making a comeback in the garden world, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"According to the Garden Media Group, pansy and violet sales were up 6.4 percent in 2011," said Rhonda Ferree. "Since then, pansies have been in high demand for both spring and fall sales."

Take container gardening to the next level by utilizing bulbs for stunning summer displays. Summer flowering bulbs can bear some of the most beautiful blooms or striking foliage, adding surprise pops of interest to your porch or outdoor garden. This gardening adventure can be very cost-effective because you probably have leftover pots or half-full bags of soil from spring waiting to become fruitful. Summer flowering bulbs come in packages that can be used for multiple pots or in those spots around your garden that need a little extra attention.

Going organic in your vegetable plot or landscape can be easily achieved. Opting to use compost to amend the soil instead of liquid chemical fertilizers, native plants instead of highly managed plants and refraining from using chemicals like carbaryl and organophosphate are steps gardeners take to become organic.

Oak leaf blister has started to appear on oak trees on the Illinois. This disease is caused by the fungal pathogen, Taphrina caerulescens. Members or the red oak group are more commonly affected by the disease. Symptoms are distinctive, and appear as scattered blister-like, puckered, or raised areas on the leaves. Affected areas appear concave or sunken in on the opposite side of the leaves. Symptomatic tissues are often thickened and have light green color which transitions to reddish-brown as the season progresses. Severely diseased leaves may drop prematurely.

We have been receiving reports of large wasps in recent weeks that some people have "identified" by using the Internet as Asian giant hornet. This is confounded by several news stories, including some in Illinois, on supposed sightings of the Asian giant hornet. From what I can tell, there have been no confirmed sightings of Asian giant hornet in the US. There are no US photographs or collected specimens. Two samples sent to me earlier this year thought to be Asian giant hornets turned out to be European hornets. Other sightings have been determined to be cicada killers.

Fall is a great time to test the soil and alleviate questions about fertility in your vegetable gardens or beneath that beloved shade tree. Fall soil testing allows the gardener to make additions to the soil before winter.

When most gardeners are dealing with the remnants of their summer harvest and preparing the garden bed for winter, most professional vegetable growers are about to have their most productive growing season of the year: fall. The fall offers a second chance at growing cool-weather vegetables commonly planted in early spring. The cooler weather reduces disease pressures and pest outbreaks that gardeners contend with during the summer.

Scoliid wasps, family Scoliidae, feed as parasitoids on the larvae of green June beetles. Where there were high numbers of these beetles, this is followed by large numbers of scoliid wasps. These are one inch long black wasps with the posterior portion of the abdomen being orange with a couple of yellow spots. These wasps cruise over turf areas in figure 8 patterns searching for locations to lay their eggs. They tend to fly a foot or so above the grass, being very noticeable.

Excessive Moisture can cause Tomato cracking in Blooomington Normal
Picture by Missouri Botanical Garden

Local Food Systems Continue to Grow in Central Illinois

A healthy local food system is like a healthy ecosystem, requiring a diverse array of partners working in collaboration to create resiliency and a high level of functionality. The University of Illinois Extension local food systems team – Bill Davison, Brian Lambert, and Amanda Christenson – is excited to announce two exciting new local partnerships that will greatly enhance the local food movement in central Illinois.

Gardening Mistakes that Cost Big

Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup, would like to share gardening tips that can potentially save you lots of money this spring.

May bring us our fifth gardening trend for 2014: Bee-neficials: It's all about the bees this year. News on bee and other pollinator populations is everywhere this spring. Obviously, pollinators are an essential requirement for many of our favorite food crops.

Hydrangea leaftier, Olethreutes ferriferana, has been noticeable in central Illinois and is present in other areas of the state. Damage appears as two to four cupped leaves tied together with silk at the end of a branch. An attacked plant will typically have ten to twenty of these cupped leaf sets. Pulling the leaves apart reveals a slender greenish caterpillar up to one-half inch long with a blackish head.


"Propagation may be a foreign word if you are not a horticulturist or gardener, but it can be easy by following a few simple steps." states University of Illinois Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. Trained horticulturists grow new plants called clones by taking simple leaf cuttings or tip cuttings.

Attending the 2014 Home, Lawn and Garden show can only compare in excitement to the sight of the first yellow of the daffodil. The excitement derived from nearing of warm sunny weather, the presence of lush green growth and blossoms of the coming spring. An excellent way to prepare for the upcoming spring is to attend the 12th Annual Home, Lawn & Garden Day sponsored by University of Illinois Extension McLean County Master Gardeners. The event is scheduled Saturday March 1st at the Central Catholic High School in Bloomington.

Strengthening local food systems has become a great source of hope for farmers, food buyers and educators, with the unifying push to foster collaboration. Recently, at the 2014 Local and Regional Food Summit hosted by Illinois Farm Bureau and Heartland Community College, stakeholders and activists were brought together to explore possibilities to work together toward a more sustainable food system. Some highlights from the summit:

Populations of adult Japanese beetle continue to be light in most of Illinois. Although leaf feeding damage on linden, crabapple, rose, and other trees and shrubs is obvious in some areas, the amount of damage is less than in most years and not as widespread.

Bagworms will have hatched in southern Illinois. They should hatch by mid-June in central Illinois. When newly hatched bagworms emerge from their mother's bag, they climb to the top of shrubs, trees, and any other erect object. They spin out two to three feet of silk which catches in the wind and blows them to new locations. They repeat this process, called ballooning, for about two weeks before settling down to serious feeding.