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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Late summer and early fall provide us opportunities to learn more about the insect world. With our outdoor bloom show coming to a close, there are a great many insects that had been feeding on flower parts that are now looking around for something else to eat or thinking about vacationing where it is warm – inside our homes.

By this time of year, woody plants have taken care of business, meaning the foliage already has produced the energy needed to form buds for both foliage and flowers for next year. If there is a fruit or pod containing seeds, that is nearly, if not already completed, as well. In the next few weeks, plants will get the signal that fall is on the way and begin to set up for the eventual color change and leaf drop.

This time of year, many of the messages coming into our local Master Gardener Help Desks are commonly asked questions that track with our seasonal weather. Here are a few:

Q: My lawn has looked pretty good until two weeks ago, what’s up with all the brown spots and patches now?

Gardeners have been seeing lots of lumps, bumps, and blobs on different kinds of leaves throughout the home landscape, or in parks and the forest preserves. It is not uncommon, as this occurs annually. What is uncommon is the generous number we are seeing this year.

Master Gardener Help Desk emails have really been different this past two weeks. Our early spring challenges have left and along came the first of our summer concerns in the landscape and vegetable beds. The list turned into more than a column’s worth, so going to hit the big ones this week:

Now available - 2021 Jumping Worms Update: fact sheet | map | news release

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apples in tree

Just what do experts mean when they say to train your fruit trees? It means home orchardists should train the branches for proper tree structure; this encourages fruit production and allows the fruiting branches to support the fruit load without additional support.

plant on window ledge, snow outside window

In the middle of January, not a lot is going on outside in the home landscape except the feeding stations, kept full of seed and suet for birds, cobs of corn for the squirrels and maybe a salt lick for other kinds of wildlife. Perennial beds covered in leaves or snow enjoy the protection from drying winter winds and the sun (if we see sunny days).

Fast-forward past the holidays to springtime. You notice moths flying around the kitchen and pantry. Maybe you see them hovering around the light over the kitchen table or at a window. That is solid proof that you have Indian meal moth lurking in some leftover flour products, likely from all the baking you did many weeks earlier.

Back to present day, you do have the opportunity to avoid having to deal with this problem, and all the inspecting, finding, cleaning and disposing that goes with it.

This season gardeners have been seeing many lumps, bumps and blobs on all kinds of plants throughout the landscape, in parks and forest preserves. It is not uncommon since this occurs annually, what is uncommon is the generous number of these growths we are seeing.