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Tips for selecting and transporting holiday plants. Bright red and green poinsettia plants

Tips for selecting and transporting holiday plants

The holiday season is here, which means evergreens, poinsettias, amaryllis, and other holiday plants have arrived in stores. Plants are often at the center of our holiday decorations and traditions and are frequently given as gifts. Whether buying them as gifts or for yourself, following a few tips...
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Gardening gratitude yellow sugar maple leaf with heart cut out in middle bare tree branches in background

Gardening Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving During this season of appreciation, it is only right that we take time this week to share a few of our gardening-related gratitudes. Each author of Good Growing took a few minutes to contribute expressions of thanksgiving and those are found below, but first a collective...
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Getting trees and shrubs ready for winter. Trees with red and orange fall foliage with evergreen shrubs behind

Getting trees and shrubs ready for winter

The leaves are dropping off trees, and many of us are putting our gardens to bed for winter. While preparing the garden for winter, spend a little time preparing your trees and shrubs, too. Doing a few simple things this fall can help protect them from damage this winter and get them off to a good...
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Pop the cork tree view up into canopy of cork tree cork and bark has been harvested off trunk

Pop the Cork Tree

As the holiday season approaches, many of us will indulge in an alcoholic beverage or two as a part of the celebration. My preferences vary depending on the season but during the winter, I strongly favor a bottle of red wine. If you are like me and enjoy the vino, let’s explore one of the plants...
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Sad pumpkin looking at smashed pumpkin

What can you do with pumpkins after Halloween?

On November 4 several Illinois Extension offices will be offering pumpkin smashes with local partners in communities across the state. A pumpkin smash gives a community an option to turn their spooky Jack-o’-lanterns into compost. In western Illinois, the nearest pumpkin smash will be in Macomb at...
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A tree grows everywhere: Tree-of-heaven image of woodlands full of young trees end of summer

A tree grows everywhere: Tree-of-heaven

Two separate serendipitous events occurred recently that brought a plant back to the forefront of my attention. First, a few weeks ago a colleague asked me to confirm the species of a tree growing near a public garden. The garden was struggling to grow, and a cursory identification of the tree...
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Magnifying lens looking at houseplants

Can houseplants improve indoor air quality?

Autumn has arrived and somehow I have more houseplants than I started with in the spring. As temperatures fall, I find myself hunting around my home for bright windows and saucers to go under the pots. With a home full of plants, you may think this must be good for our air quality especially when...
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rust fungal spores under a dissecting microscope

Lawn rust: Why are your shoes turning orange?

An orange lawn? You’re walking through your lawn. You notice some discoloration in patches, but it doesn’t seem too alarming. After walking in your front door you begin to slip off your shoes and notice they’ve been turned an orange-red color. You’d swear it looked like your shoes were rusted-over...
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Bison and America's prairie ecosystem photo of bison eating on shortgrass prairie blue sky in above horizon

Bison and America's prairie ecosystem

This week marks the official beginning of autumn as far as our calendar is concerned but the natural world began the transition toward fall weeks ago. I recently had the pleasure of sharing a part of this transition with my son when I was able to join him on a prairie seed collection activity with...
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a sweetgum tree beginning to change to a red fall color

Early fall color could be a sign of tree stress

As summer transitions to fall, many Illinoisians are looking forward to everything pumpkin-spiced, hoodie weather, and the fall color of our trees. However, even at the tail end of summer heat, there are trees already rewarding us with some fall color. But is it a reward or a call for help? Some...
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Brighten up your fall landscape with Tithonia. Tithonia plants blooming next to a house.

Brighten up your fall landscape with Tithonia

As summer transitions to fall, our landscapes also transition. The bright-colored flowers of summer begin to fade, and many plants begin to look ragged. Goldenrod and asters often provide much-needed color to the landscape. Another plant that can add color to our landscapes is Tithonia, also known...
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Living on the edge: White-line Sphinx Moth, moth feeding from purple tubular flowers

Living on the edge: White-lined sphinx moth

As the day lengths shorten, our family has been spending the last fading moments of sunlight on our patio, trying desperately to hang on to summer amid the start of the school year.  During these last moments of daylight, I am reminded of the beauty found at the edges of our landscape. As a...
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Tulips in the treetops: Liriodendron tulipifera text background image of tuliptree blossoms upright on tree branches with leaves

Tulips in the treetops: Liriodendron tulipifera

On a recent family vacation, I was able to revisit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As I return to places I was privileged to visit as a child, I prepare for the trip, in part, by trying to dig deep into my memory bank and recall as much as I can about the place so I can compare. I am...
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Unique blooms: rattlesnake master and buttonbush photo of white round rattlesnake master blooms against green foliate in background

Unique blooms: Rattlesnake master and buttonbush

Nature is an incredible artist and evolution has produced an overabundance of diversity. Plants in every form from spreading to climbing, vase-shaped, columnar, leaves in various shapes, colors, and arrangements. The two species featured in this article are about as opposite as plants get. One...
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To rhubarb or not to rhubarb photo of rhubarb leaf with red stalks

To rhubarb or not to rhubarb?

I hope I am not the only one with a plant they have always been aware of yet never really paid attention to. For me, that is rhubarb. I recall my grandmother having a stand of rhubarb, and I am sure she made rhubarb pie, but that is where my memory stops. I do not recall eating rhubarb pie or any...
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ornamental grasses

Is it too late to cut back ornamental grasses?

Grass Faux Pas Every day I drive up to my house, I am confronted with the neglect of my landscape. Admittedly, I did not cut back my ornamental grasses this spring. At a Memorial Day pool party, the conversation turned to neighbors who don’t cut back their grasses. Everyone agreed, uncut...
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How to grow and care for hollyhocks. Dark purple hollyhock flower

How to grow and care for hollyhocks

Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) have been growing in gardens for centuries and remind many of us of our parents’ or grandparents’ gardens. Despite being ‘old-fashioned,’ hollyhocks have had a bit of a resurgence in recent years. Their tall, stately flowers are an impressive sight in the garden...
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Champion Trees: Winning in size and wonder large spreading tree canopy backlit by sun green foliage

Champion Trees: Winning in size and wonder

Illinois Extension is a resource available for all community members. We work hard to help residents find answers to burning questions, and solutions to challenges, and keep current on industry and university research. We provide education and outreach through a variety of outlets- this article is...
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people planting balled and burlap tree using wire clippers to remove wire cage

Balled and burlap trees: Remove the burlap

Balled and burlap trees: Remove the burlap April is arbor month and April 28, 2023, is Arbor Day. This is a day inspired by the multitude of benefits trees provide, the desire to have more trees in our communities, and a call to action to plant trees on this day. I have spent my entire career...
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Trillium: Good things come in threes group of white trillium blooming on woodland floor

Trillium: Good things come in threes

In my last blog post, I shared my affection for bloodroot and boldly claimed that “among the myriad of spring blooms, few thrill me as much as Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).” That sentiment was sincere, however, I must confess that there are others that are equally as exciting. This...
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The dilemma with weed-and-feed lawn products

As the winter’s chill lingers into spring, the itch to get out in our yards has never seemed more compelling. One of the ritual tasks performed by many homeowners in the spring is applying weed-and-feed products to their lawns. Contained within these products is a pre-emergent herbicide to combat...
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bunch of daffodils

Springtime gardening trivia

It seems like everyone is doing trivia these days. To celebrate the coming spring, I am trying my hand at writing some gardening trivia questions. Good luck! Trivia Questions When admiring spring bulbs, a horticulturist exclaims “Look at that Narcissus”, what are they referring to?...
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When should I clean up my garden? Picture of a garden with brown native bunch grasses and brown fallen tree leaves.

When should I start cleaning up my garden?

As the days get longer and the temperatures start to warm, we often get the itch to start gardening. On the first warm day of the year, I often find myself thinking I need to be doing something in the garden because it’s so nice out. However, we shouldn’t be in too big of a hurry to start cleaning...
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The weight of winter: snow and ice on trees image of ice on dormant tree branches

The weight of winter: Snow and ice on trees

I write this article as I look out at a snow-covered landscape and give thanks for the warmth of my office. It is during these days that I’m reminded of the awesome adaptability of nature. Trees and animals can survive, even thrive, in a climate where temperatures can easily span one-hundred...
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mourning cloak butterfly

The mourning cloak butterfly

A winter butterfly sighting We have had some warm weather this February, which means it is time to keep an eye out for butterflies! You may be thinking I am in the wrong hemisphere, but there is a chance you can spot butterflies on a warm winter day in Illinois, namely the mourning cloak butterfly...
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When should I start my seeds? packet of seeds on a table with small brown seeds coming out of the package next to orange plant labels.

When should I start my seeds?

Seed starting is a great way to scratch the gardening itch we often get during late winter. In addition to getting a head start on the growing season, there are a number of additional benefits to starting your own seeds....
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Urban Forest: Not a contradiction but a critical resource overhead photo of a community with low residential buildings and many trees blue sky with a few white clouds

Urban Forest: Not a contradiction, a critical resource

By definition, a forest is a large area of land covered with trees and understory growth. Traditionally, these parcels of land are often imagined as plant-dense woodlands with a diverse mix of species layered from tall trees down to mosses on the woodland floor. These plants are growing where seeds...
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Bald cypress tree

One tough tree: Bald cypress

Lessons learned: Bald cypress is a tree to know Don’t you wish you knew then what you know now? Speaking from experience, when I first began studying plants, people would ask me lots of gardening or landscaping questions. Did I as a first-year student know the answer? No. Did I pretend to? Yes. It...
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Are my seeds still good? Testing seed germination. White paper towel with small green seedlings emerging from black seeds

Are my seeds still good? Testing seed germination

Have you ever found a packet of seeds lying around and wondered if you could grow them? Every year when I get ready to start seeds, I inevitably find a half-full packet or a packet I forgot to plant altogether. Unfortunately, as seeds get older, their germination rate decreases. Fortunately, there...
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Winter: Hibernation or adaptation winter landscape with deciduous and evergreen trees with frost on branches and snow on ground

Winter: Hibernation or adaptation

I once heard a succinct description of natural process as “everything points towards winter”. As a Midwesterner not so fond of cold, my immediate response to this synopsis was denial but with time, I’ve come to adore this mentality.  Annual plants know they have one growing season to complete their...
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Ethnobotany: the power of plants and people background image woven baskets with native fruits and nuts including walnuts

Ethnobotany: The power of plants and people

Plants have played a major role in human development for as long as people have inhabited the earth. Human interaction with plants has been and continues to be a complex relationship. Many species have provided critical resources for sustaining life, while others threaten human harm if encountered...
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Tea leaves spilling out of a tea cup

Growing tea in Illinois

Grow your own tea Did you know, you can grow the most popular drink in the world right here in Illinois? If you’re wondering how to harvest Pepsi or Coke from a tree, I’m sorry, you have the wrong drink. Second to water, tea reigns supreme as the world's favorite drink, and it has been for...
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Autumn allergies: don’t blame goldenrod bee on yellow goldenrod bloom

Autumn allergies: don’t blame goldenrod

As the growing season draws to an end, temperatures cool, woody plants prepare for dormancy, and we enjoy the last blooms of the season. For many of us, autumn also means sniffles and sneezes caused by seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies are a reaction to airborne pollen entering the body and...
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a thirteen-lined ground squirrel eating a seed

Managing thirteen-lined ground squirrel

Gnawing Rodents and Landscape Shrubs This past spring, I found myself at a friend’s house enjoying some barbeque on the back deck. He remarked on the issue they had with ground squirrels, burrowing all over their yard and landscape beds. Later in the year, a phone call came into the office of a...
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Wheel bugs: good bugs with a painful bite. Adult wheel bug climbing from a yellow flower to a brown flower.

Wheel bugs: Good bugs with a painful bite

As we transition from summer to fall and the temperatures start cooling off, many of us will be spending more time outdoors. While enjoying our time outdoors, we often encounter various insets we may not have seen or noticed earlier in the growing season. One such insect is the unusual, and to some...
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What a no-till garden can do for you

Growing up and working in my parent’s garden, I often remember the early spring when the tree buds are opening, the grass is greening up, and birds are singing. Suddenly, the roar of our massive Honda tiller broke through the serene spring day as it chewed and turned the earth and spewed exhaust...
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blackcapped chickadee with a caterpillar in it's mouth

Attracting wildlife with native plants

Invite nature into your backyard A parent fed up with their child’s persistent use of technology (internet, video games, tablet, you name it!) has decided to pull the plug on their sedentary habits. They strip the devices from their child’s hands and throw them outside and say “Go play!” The child...
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multiple monarch butterflies on a flower

Clearing up the science on Monarch butterflies

A tale of two articles Have you read some of the headlines lately concerning monarch butterflies? “Monarch Butterflies are Thriving!” “Monarch Butterflies are Endangered!” Both these headlines (or something similar) recently saturated newsfeeds for Americans. Considering these stories came out...
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A half-mowed lawn

Lawn care advice for people who don’t care about lawns

The Big Three Mowing Tips Each year I try to write a couple of articles about lawns. Each time I’ve written one of these, I have assumed you, the reader, care about your lawn. Turns out, there are a lot of people who have lawns, that don’t care about having a perfectly manicured turf. You just...
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Flooded road

Stormwater woes, and how rain gardens can help

A local problem with widespread implications What is a watershed? No matter where you live, you are in a watershed. All of Illinois, minus that sliver of land bordering Lake Michigan, is in the Mississippi River Watershed. But we can break down this massive watershed into more local streams and...
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truck hauling firewood

Emerald Ash Borer: Is it okay to move firewood yet?

Many years ago, when emerald ash borer (EAB), had just arrived in northern Illinois, a colleague came across a flatbed trailer loaded with cut ash trees at a gas station. At that time Illinois counties confirmed with EAB had a quarantine that restricted moving ash wood outside of the county. Most...
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Managing squash vine borer in the garden. Colorful adult vine borer moth laying egg on squash stem

Managing squash vine borer in the garden

There are a variety of insects that will feed on squash. One of the more troublesome, and potentially devastating, is the squash vine borer. If you've grown squash and had a runner or two start wilting, there's a good chance you've had an encounter with squash vine borer. Squash vine borers (...
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a wilted tree branch

How to protect landscape plantings during drought

The summer of 2012 saw my first year as an Extension horticulture educator; it also was one of the driest years on record. Illinois saw massive shortages of rainfall that year- complete with water restrictions, loss of crops, and the demise of many ornamental landscapes. It was a summer that will...
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Add some fireworks to your garden this Fourth of July. Pink flowers of nodding onion.

Add some fireworks to your garden this Fourth of July

The Fourth of July holiday often includes parades, barbeques, and fireworks. Fireworks often fill the night sky with their colorful, albeit fleeting displays. The fireworks don’t have to be restricted to the Fourth, though. Whether it be their color, flower shape, or name, a number of plants can...
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A windbreak of evergreens

Tips for a creating a successful windbreak

Hold on to your hats! It is windy here in Illinois. Wind can be destructive to our homes and landscapes, plus it can make being outside miserable. This is why many Illinoisians plant windbreaks around their homes to keep that biting wind from causing a drafty house, prevent drifting snow, and make...
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Bee on the lookout for native bees. Native bee on an orange and red flower.

Bee on the lookout for native bees this summer

Now that we’re well into May, many landscapes are full of blooming plants and the buzz of bees. When you think of bees, what comes to mind? Chances are, images of golden-yellow honey bees come to mind. However, there is a lot more to bees than the honey bee. In fact, there are over 20,000 bee...
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Caring for spring-blooming bulbs after flowering. Red and yellow tulips with green foliage.

Caring for spring-blooming bulbs after flowering

Our days are getting longer and warmer, and many gardens are awash in color from spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils and tulips. Unfortunately, the blooms will eventually fade, leaving many of us wondering what we can do to help make sure that they are ready to go again next year. Leave the...
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arrows pointing every which way in the lawn

The should’s and should not’s of landscaping

In all walks of life there are do’s and don’ts, but in my world of teaching horticulture a very rare word to use is “should.” I don’t like to use the word should. The word “should” tends to turn people off when receiving advice. When people call the Extension office, I make a conscious effort not...
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hand holding lawn seed

Selecting a turfgrass species for your lawn

Spring has arrived. Signaled by the swooping robins, honking geese, and bustling aisles in the garden centers. A popular spring task is selecting grass seed to help plump up the lawn for the growing season. But what cool-season grass seed should you pick for your yard? Timing The garden center...
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Add some color to your winter landscape by growing holly. Red holly berries and green holly leaves.

Add some color to your winter landscape by growing holly

Needled evergreens like pines, firs, and spruces get most of the attention this time of year. However, broadleaf evergreens like holly also make an appearance during holiday festivities. In addition to providing some decoration for the December holidays, they are also great plants in the landscape...
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Japanese gravel garden with mounded plant forms

A plant’s growth habit provides function and beauty

From a horticultural perspective, the term “habit” is not what you think. Though there are certainly some bad habits in gardening like not cleaning soil off tools or buying plants with no feasible location to plant them. When you hear a horticulturist say the term “habit” what we are referring to...
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How to take care of amaryllis and get them to rebloom! Amaryllis flower with red on outer part of petals and white center

How to take care of amaryllis and get them to rebloom

Along with evergreens and poinsettias, another sign that the holidays are approaching is the appearance of amaryllis in stores. Whether you’re buying them as gifts or for yourself, these relatively carefree plants are a great way to add a splash of color indoors. Amaryllis (Hippeastrum...
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developing hazelnuts

Hazelnuts: A native plant is a new crop for Illinois

You’ve likely heard of hazelnuts, perhaps even used them in some delightful dessert or savory dishes and garnishes. If you give my children a choice between peanut butter or a chocolaty hazelnut spread, the peanut butter jar remains unopened. About 40 percent of global hazelnut production goes into...
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flowerhead in the sunset

What makes plants bloom at different times of the year?

As the chill of fall finally settles in, many Illinoisans find themselves outside cleaning up leaves, the garden, and landscape beds. It makes one ponder the seasonality of plants. One Good Growing reader had such a question and posed it to us, “How do plants know when to flower?” How do plants...
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How to plant flower bulbs for a colorful spring display. Different types of spring-blooming bulbs

How to plant flower bulbs for a colorful spring display

The days are getting shorter, and the temperatures are finally getting cooler, meaning fall has arrived. While many of our gardening activities are starting to wind down, it’s time to start thinking about planting our spring-blooming bulbs. Bulbs such as crocus, tulips, daffodils, as well as a host...
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Celebrate the colors of fall with autumn flowers

It has begun. The corn has turned. Transforming much of the Illinois landscape into a sea of tan. The soybeans are following with their yellow hues. Combines churn away, as the heavy scent of plant debris permeates the truck cab. Bright seas of goldenrod sway in the wind, as if a welcome mat laid...
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How to divide and plant bearded iris. person digging a bearded iris clump

How to divide and plant bearded iris

Irises are easy to grow, long-lived, and relatively carefree perennials, making them some of the most popular flowers in gardens. They can also be found in a variety of colors, ranging from pink, purple, yellow, peach, green, white, tan, bronze, to almost black, and bi-color. The American Iris...
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diseased lilac leaves

What's wrong with my lilac? Summer foliar diseases on lilac

This year has been good for many plants, but not all. In late spring Central Illinois went through almost three weeks where it rained at least once per day. Many of our plants responded to this favorably. Standing in a pollinator garden a few days ago, the goldenrod towered over me. Our vegetable...
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Jumping worm

Invasive jumping worm confirmed in west-central Illinois

How full is your invasive species radar? All I can say is my view is overwhelmed. Dealing with the current group of Japanese beetles, emerald ash borer, bush honeysuckle, and so many more. Plus, in Illinois, we are girding for the impending arrival of the very destructive spotted lanternfly. Then a...
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landscape fabric fail

The disadvantages of landscape fabric

Landscape fabric. It’s what goes under the mulch. Right? I’ve had several conversations with home gardeners looking for a permanent solution to keeping the weeds down and each time I warn them about the use of landscape fabric. If you’re thinking, “Hang on! Landscape fabric doesn’t work?” Of...
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bareroot tree planting

Three planting tips to increase your tree’s life

A tree is a long-term investment for a home. Truthfully, we often don’t plant trees for us, but for those that come after us. But many trees planted in a developed area don’t live past their eighth year. Here are some tips to help get your new tree past the eight-year hump and keep it going for...
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Spring brings spring beauties to the landscape - a clump of blooming spring beauty plants in turf

Spring brings spring beauties to the landscape

Have you ever noticed small white flowers dotting the landscape this time of year? Chances are they’re spring beauties (Claytonia virginica). While they may not be the first wildflowers to bloom, spring beauties are one of our earlier blooming wildflowers and a sure sign that spring has...
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Row cover protecting some lettuce

Use row cover to protect plants from more than just frost

It feels like spring has sprung and boy it sprang hard. Several days above 60 and 70 degrees has pushed growth in many early perennial plants. Buds on trees and shrubs are swelling ready to pop at a moment’s notice. Many cool-season vegetables have put on significant growth. But soon we will likely...
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winter loaded screen

How does winter help the garden?

I love winter. I love snow. However, I must add two caveats to my initial statements – I love winter and snow as long as I am warm and I can stay at home. It’s when my feet get cold or my car is fishtailing trying to turn a corner that winter weather goes from fun to miserable. When you turn on...
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chickadee at a feeder

What’s the best thing to feed the birds?

People love to feed birds. Aside from gardening, it is considered one of the most popular hobbies around the globe. And even some would argue, feeding the birds is a part of gardening. In the winter months, many find joy in watching a flurry of feathered friends, feeding at the feeder. The bird...
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sunlight through ice covered trees

Positive Change Can Make a Difference in Your Community

As I type out this article, I can’t stop thinking about my drive to work today. After days of clouds, ice, snow, and more clouds, the sun shone brightly as it crept over the eastern horizon. As sunbeams edged further across the landscape the trees became illuminated with a rainbow of light. It was...
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frozen over fountain

How to winterize outdoor plumbing - irrigation, hoses, spigots

Leftovers. Is this why we only eat turkey once a year? Because after all the leftovers we are sick of giant poultry? Nah! I think turkey is simply more of a seasonal thing. We grow up seeing a turkey as the Thanksgiving centerpiece. To eat a whole turkey any other time just feels wrong. It’s like...
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Tobacco mosaic virus on petunia

Dealing with plant pandemics

I bet you’re sick of reading about elections and politics. Fortunately, the Good Growing column is a welcome escape. Today I would like to dive into diseases. Oh, that’s right. We’re kind of in the middle of a global pandemic and I bet “disease” is not on the top of your list either. Within our...
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apple versus pumpkin image

Fall Flavors: Pumpkin vs. Apple

Pumpkin spice. Did you read that with disdain? Because I wrote it to be dripping with contempt. Go ahead and reread it with your best disdainful inner voice. I may lose a lot of you on this. I may even anger my colleagues. But I do not like pumpkin flavoring. Why would so many people be upset...
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wound sealer painted on a tree wound

Should we paint tree wounds?

I spend a lot of time asking homeowners to show me their tree butts. Buttress to be specific, but industry lingo shortens it to butt and is described as the dramatic widening of the lower trunk. The buttress of a tree is located beginning at the root flare where the base of the trunk flares out...
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Feedback on chalk board

We Need Your Input!

Us at Good Growing appreciate you taking your time to read, listen, and watch the content we create. From Katie, Ken, and Chris – THANK YOU! And as much as it pains us to ask for just a bit more of your time, I must make the request. We need feedback. We need to know if this...
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Summer Reading for Gardeners

Recommended Reading for Gardeners During a Pandemic

Boredom. I hear that’s a thing when living in a pandemic. During pandemics of historical note, Sir Isaac Newton uncovered the marvels of calculus. Before that, it is said Shakespeare wrote some of his best plays while sheltering-in-place. Was it boredom that inspired such achievements? Perhaps....
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close up of a person holding freshly harvested onions

Harvesting garden vegetables

We’ve made it through spring, and we’re into summer. Whether you started your first garden this year or you’re a veteran gardener, we’re coming up on the heart of harvest season. One of the (many) advantages of growing your own vegetables is that you can harvest your produce at its peak quality....
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Tree troubles usually start at the base of the trunk

Tree troubles usually start at the base of the trunk

I get lots of pictures of sick trees. Most of the time the first photo sent to me is a declining canopy. Maybe a picture of an ugly leaf. After all, that’s what we tend to notice first as our eyes occasionally gaze upward to the living behemoths that shade our parks, yards, and homes. There is one...
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Growing Garlic

Garlic: So easy even I can grow it!

I love garlic. I just so happened to marry a woman who did not. But something magical happened during her first pregnancy. She developed a taste for all things pickled and garlicky. Since then we have been throwing garlic into almost everything we make. Garlic is incredibly popular around the...
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a pink spotted lady beetle on a strawberry flower

Ladybug, Ladybug

Ladybugs, ladybirds, or more appropriately lady beetles (they are beetles, not bugs after all) are common insects in the landscape. They are one of the darlings of the insect world. They’re commonly found on stationery and clothing, and they are even featured in...
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Home Horticultural Remedies

Home Horticultural Remedies

Home remedies abound in the horticultural world. Some gardeners swear by their mixtures of a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but Extension does not readily recommend the use of homemade pesticides. Perhaps your anti-Japanese beetle potion warded off the critters last year. But what if...
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How to grow popular herbs

How to Grow Popular Herbs

Have you been there? A new recipe calls for some fresh basil or dried rosemary. After searching the fridge and spice rack, you realize you do not have what you need to give your meal that kick of flavor that herbs often provide. I have certainly stared down the barrel of an empty bottle of dried...
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green, yellow, and red habanero peppers

How to Grow Peppers

Peppers are a popular plant in the home garden. They come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and heat. From the bright colors of sweet bell peppers to the face-melting heat of the Carolina Reaper, there is a pepper for any taste. In addition to their culinary uses, peppers can also make...
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squash bug nymphs feeding on pumpkin vines

Trouble(s) with Cucurbits

Cucumbers, melons, squash, and pumpkins are collectively known as cucurbits. Because these crops are related, they are afflicted with many of the same pests and diseases. Here are some of the most commonly encountered pests and diseases in cucurbits. Insects Cucumber...
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The Many Different Types of Cucurbits

The Many Different Types of Cucurbits

Cucurbits are members of the Cucurbitaceae family and are home to some of the most popular garden crops in the world. This article will dive into the three main categories of cucurbit crops: cucumber, melon, and squash. Each one of these categories could become a book unto itself and we only touch...
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a green tobacco hornworm on a tomato stem

Trouble(s) with Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the most commonly grown plant in the home vegetable garden. Tomatoes are relatively easy to grow, and there is a wide variety of different types. If you’re growing tomatoes, you’ll more than likely encounter a few pests and diseases along the way. So, let’s take a moment and talk about...
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How to Grow Tomatoes

How to Grow Tomatoes

I think my wife likes to torture me. Multiple times a year she buys grocery store tomatoes. You might know where I’m headed with this. These tomatoes are very often bland versions of their flavorful kin. Slicing into the tomato I am usually met with a solid white center. To turn up the flavor I...
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Sweet potato harvest

How to Grow Sweet Potatoes

Very often what grows in a garden are those fruits and vegetables we enjoy eating. Though, sometimes our gardens may exceed our appetites. After growing fifteen kale plants, my family determined, we probably could live off of two. And ten cherry tomato bushes were nine too many. One vegetable, my...
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orange, white, purple, red, and orange circles arranged in a circle. Carrots still have leaves attached.

How to Grow Carrots

Rabbits love them (at least in cartoons), and so do we. Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables in the United States. On average, Americans eat around 8 pounds of fresh carrots a person (with an additional 1.4 pounds of frozen carrots). Not only are carrots a great snack, they’re also...
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Sprinkler head

Starting a Garden: Irrigation

Watering. The inescapable task of any garden. No matter what, at some point, you will need to water your plants. That’s just the fact of the matter here in Illinois. We do get lots of rain, but then there are times we go through some very hot, and dry weather. Can Watering Wait?...
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corn seedlings with fertilizer

Starting a Garden: Fertilization

Much like humans, plants require certain nutrients to live and grow. There are 18 essential nutrients that plants require to grow and survive. Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen are needed in the greatest quantity and are obtained from air and water. The next 6 nutrients are considered macronutrients; 3...
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squash vine borer larva inside of the stem of a zucchini plant

Starting a Garden: Pest Management

As the saying goes, the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. If you’re a gardener, you can also include pests to the list of life’s guarantees. Now that it's started to warm up enough to get out and plant the garden, it also means it’s warm enough for weeds, insects, and diseases to...
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cucumber plants growing up a trellis

Starting a Garden: Supporting Plants

Have you ever tried growing squash, and had the plants completely take over your garden? How about growing tomatoes without a cage? Many of our most popular garden crops such as peas, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and melons grow as vines. They can take up a considerable amount of space in the...
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Cold frame with vegetables growing inside in the fall.

Starting a Garden: Season Extension

Are you waiting on the edge of your seat, ready for that frost-free date to pass so you can safely plant your tomatoes in the garden? If you know any vegetable farmers, they already have tomatoes in the ground. But you can’t fit a high tunnel in your backyard. Maybe the front yard? Nah, the...
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Weed free tomatoes

Starting a Garden: Weed Management

Weeds are everywhere. If we could add one more thing to life’s certainties I would argue “weeds” should be added to the list. Our soil is full of seeds, lying in a dormant state waiting for the right conditions to germinate. Each time we disturb our soils through tilling, planting, raking, even...
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basket with tomatoes, peppers and summer squash

Starting a Garden: Warm Season Vegetables

Once the weather starts to warm up, we can start thinking about planting our warms season plants outdoors. Warm season plants can further be broken down by their frost tolerance to tender and very tender plants. Tender plants are injured or may be killed by a light frost but can withstand cool...
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Image of spring

Remember the Feeling of Spring

A Light Exists in Spring by Emily Dickinson A Light exists in Spring Not present on the Year At any other period- When March is scarcely here   A Color stands abroad On Solitary Fields That Science cannot overtake But Human Nature feels In rural Illinois there is...
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The Reality of Growing Plants for a Living

The Reality of Growing Plants for a Living

Do you think at some point as children our imagination changes from imaginary friends, action figures, tea parties, and dolls to speculative market planning? How dull the adult imagination can be. However, if there is one thing about winter, it puts my imagination into overdrive. I create these...
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Scarlet runner beans growing on a fence

Creating an Edible Landscape

When we think of the typical home landscape, our garden areas are usually separated by the type of plant being grown. We have a separate bed for flowers and ornamental plants, one for vegetables and one for herbs. Often the vegetable and herb gardens are tucked away in the backyard and out of view...
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A puddle

Landscape Drainage for Homeowners

Are you stricken with pools of water in your yard and you don’t own a pool? Instead of water moving away from your house, does it run into the basement?  Are you constantly battling eroded hillsides? If you fight these common water maladies, then very likely there is a stormwater drainage problem...
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branches from cherry tree blooming indoors

Bringing Spring Indoors - Forcing Branches

The weather this year has been a bit of a roller coaster. One day it feels like spring, and the next, we are reminded that we’re still in the middle of winter. Despite some of the warmer temperatures we’ve had this year, we still have a way to go before the warm weather sticks around for the long...
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Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles: Noble bird or thieving scavenger?

As a kid, I remember the bald eagle being rare and revered. At school and on TV we learned the bald eagle was an endangered species. The resounding theme when I was young was that bald eagles were noble hunters, flying skyward and swooping down to grasp fish from an icy lake. In movies bald eagles...
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large Norfolk Island pines in a landscape and potted Norfolk Island pine

Norfolk Island Pines

Norfolk Island pines (Araucaria heterophylla) are plants we commonly find during the holiday season. They are widely marketed as living Christmas trees and are commonly adorned with bells and bows. If you purchased or received one, they could become beautiful houseplants for many years if...
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New Year New Yard

New Year, New Yard: Making plans for your landscape in 2020

It is now the year 2020. It seems like everyone agrees, saying year “twenty-twenty”, feels so strange. As if we have arrived in a future we’ve only seen in movies and the Jetsons. As we were preparing for a New Year’s party, my six-year-old asked “Why is New Year’s such a big deal?” I explained,...
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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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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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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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broccoli plants in a mulched garden

Planting a Fall Vegetable Garden

Planting a vegetable garden doesn’t just have to occur in the spring. Many of the vegetables that we grow in the spring can be also planted in late summer or early fall. By the time summer rolls around many of our cool season plants that were planted in the spring are past their prime. They become...
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japanese beetle

Living with Japanese Beetles

It's about that time of year, time for Japanese beetles... Japanese beetles are one of the most destructive ornamental pests we have in Illinois. They were first discovered in the United States in 1916 in New Jersey and have been making their way across the U.S. since then. The adults are about a...
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It's Peony Time! Pink peony flower

It's Peony Time!

Herbaceous peonies are a common sight in many gardens and some of the most beautiful flowers you will find. They belong to the genus Paeonia which is native to Asia, Europe, and Western North America. They have been cultivated in Asia for more than 2,000 years. These cultivated peonies...
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Blooming Lawns!

Is your lawn blooming? Mine is, and I couldn't be happier! You may be wondering if I am referring to the actual grass plants in my lawn. Nope! Currently, my lawn is a stunning display of colors. Mostly yellows and different hues of blue and purple. Yes, my lawn is full of what many people believe...
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home garden

Pest Management in the Garden

Warm weather has arrived, and our plants are starting to green-up and bloom. That also means weeds, insects, and diseases are starting to become active too. As the saying goes, the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes, and if you're a gardener, you can also include pests in the list...
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tree pruning

Winter Tree Pruning

Before we know it, spring will be here. Before getting too busy planting the garden, make sure to take some time to prune your trees (if they need it). While the old adage may say, "prune when your pruners are sharp", most deciduous trees are best pruned while they are in full dormancy. In this...
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A Primer to Supplemental Lighting for Indoor Seed Starting

Perhaps my least favorite part of winter is waking up to darkness in the morning. This morning, as I led my half-asleep six-year-old down the steps into the living room, we were greeted with streams of light coming through the windows. After the short days of winter and several days of cloudy, wet...
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Propagating Houseplants

One of my great loves of plants is that we can create new plants from existing. There are a number of houseplants that are easy to propagate and if you're like me you can never seem to have enough of your favorite plants! When propagating houseplants, there are usually three different methods and...
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