2023 could be the year of the broccoli

With the turn of the new year, it seems to be a tradition to declare it the year of ‘fill in the blank’. So far I’ve learned 2023 is the year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese Zodiac, Pantone named Viva Magenta color of the year, Rudbeckia ‘American Gold Rush’ is the perennial plant…

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A lesson in recycling for rural Illinois can be found in Macomb

MACOMB, Ill. — Some memories stick out. Around the second or third grade, my teacher wheeled the television cart into the classroom which to an eight-year-old was cause for celebration. Was it going to be a movie or some type of educational show? We didn’t care. TV in school was a novelty and exciting, even…

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Plan to make garden resolutions in 2023

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — The new year provides us an opportunity to start anew, often in the form of New Year’s resolutions. It might be starting a vegetable garden, growing more flowers for pollinators, composting, mowing less, or scouting your garden. Consider making a resolution/goal or two for the garden. Below are some of our gardening…

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When it comes to winter, it’s either hibernation or adaptation for plants, animals and humans

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 life cycle, racing to reproduce…

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Ethnobotany: The power of plants and people

MILAN, Ill. — 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 or used without caution. The…

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What’s better: Gas or electric-powered lawn and garden tools?

MACOMB, Ill. — As we enter the debate on gas-powered versus electric outdoor tools, it truly is based upon the user, their needs and the scale of their landscape. If you’re weighing options for future yard tools, here are some considerations: Electric tools are quieter. After spending most of my life listening to the rumble…

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Why are there bugs in my firewood?

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — With the arrival of winter-like weather, many of us will be firing up the fireplace. When bringing wood inside for the fire, we can sometimes bring some unexpected hitchhikers. Many insects and other critters will use firewood (or wood in general) as a food source or a place to overwinter. Fortunately, for…

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Grow your own tea in Illinois and treat it like typical houseplant

MACOMB, Ill. — Did you know you can grow the most popular drink in the world 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. It has been for centuries. We get…

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Massive fruit, myths, and mastodons: The Osage orange

MILAN, Ill. — While traveling through the Midwest on leaf peeping adventures, modern day explorers may find a rather nondescript tree with unique, distinct fruit. A medium-sized tree adorned with large, round, chartreuse colored fruit can be easily identified as Maclura pomifera, or Osage orange. Although ordinary in appearance for most of the year, and…

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Three species of praying mantids can be found in Illinois

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — Praying mantids are a common site in the fall, and we often encounter their egg cases (ootheca) this time of year too. Did you know three species of praying mantids can be found in Illinois? While praying mantids are a welcome sight to some, others are concerned about the presence of the…

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Autumn allergies: Don’t blame goldenrod

MILAN, Ill. — 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 being misidentified…

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Wheel bugs: Good bugs with a painful bite

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — As we transition from summer to fall and the temperatures start cooling off, many of us will be spending time outdoors getting our landscapes ready for winter. While enjoying our time outdoors, we often encounter various insets we may not see or notice earlier in the growing season. One such insect is…

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Attracting wildlife with native plants

MACOMB, Ill. — 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 looks around. Before them lays their…

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U of I Extension to offer rainscaping demonstration Thursday in Nauvoo

NAUVOO, Ill. — University of Illinois Extension will offer a rainscaping demonstration from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21 at the corner of Hyde and Hotchkiss in historic Nauvoo. A group photo will be taken at approximately 7 p.m.  Twenty-five community members and leaders who have participated in the rainscaping workshop series will be planting a…

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Clearing up the science on Monarch Butterflies

MACOMB, Ill. — Have you read some of the headlines lately concerning monarch butterflies? “Monarch Butterflies are Thriving!” “Monarch Butterflies are Endangered!” Both headlines (or something similar) recently saturated newsfeeds for Americans. Considering these stories came out about two weeks apart, what is a person to think? Are monarch butterflies OK? Are they in peril?…

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Moving houseplants indoors and caring for them over winter

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — As we draw nearer to fall, it’s time to start thinking about bringing houseplants back indoors for the winter. Many houseplants are native to tropical an subtropical climates and, while they may do great outdoors during the summer, cannot tolerate our cold temperatures. When the thermometer starts to consistently get below 55…

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Managing spider mites in garden, at home

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — Spider mites are a common pest on many types of plants. The most commonly encountered species is the two-spotted spider mite. While we often think of them attacking houseplants, particularly during the winter months, they can also be a problem on fruits, vegetables and landscape plants, particularly during hot, dry weather. What…

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

MACOMB, Ill. — 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 want to know…

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

MACOMB, Ill. — Many years ago, when the emerald ash borer 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 Extension…

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How to protect landscape plants during drought

MACOMB, Ill. — 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 be…

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Managing squash vine borer in the garden

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — A variety of insects will feed on squash. One of the more troublesome 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 will feed on both summer and winter…

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Add some fireworks to your garden this Fourth of July

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — 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 add some “fireworks” to…

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Picking right tree for your windbreak will protect home from wind, blowing snow

MACOMB, Ill. — Picking a tree for a windbreak is a big decision. A windbreak protects a home from the constant Illinois wind and blowing snow. With this important job, you want the trees that make up your windbreak to be strong and healthy for as long as possible. To help in making that decision…

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More than 20 species of fireflies can be found in Illinois

JACKSONVILLE — One of the most exciting times of the year is the first appearance of small flashing yellow lights in the evenings. The arrival of fireflies or lightning bugs is a sure sign that summer has arrived. Fireflies are one of the few insects that people don’t actively try to kill. However, in many places, people…

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Proper planning, choosing plant species helpful for creating a successful windbreak

MACOMB, Ill. — Hold on to your hats! It is windy here in Illinois. Wind can be destructive to 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 being…

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University of Illinois Extension to offer Junior master gardeners and master naturalists programs

QUINCY — The University of Illinois Extension in Quincy will hold a six-session Junior Master Gardener and Master Naturalist program on Mondays and Thursdays starting June 6 at John Wood Community College for local youths ages 9-12 to learn about gardening and natural resources through hands-on activities and outdoor investigations. The mission of the Junior Master…

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Designing from the ground up: Ground covers for your landscape

MACOMB, Ill. — Our landscapes are more than flowers and trees. Within a natural landscape, you will find multiple layers starting at the ground level and moving all the way up into the canopy of the trees. Plants will intermingle creating communities based on the conditions present such as shade, heavy clay soil, or a…

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Selecting a turfgrass species for your lawn? Consider these cool-season seeding options

MACOMB, Ill. — The garden center shelves are bursting with bags of lawn seed, but is it the right time to sow that seed? It doesn’t hurt to overseed in the spring but there are a few reasons why to wait until late summer to early fall: The soil is cold, so germination is not…

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The shoulds and should nots of landscaping

MACOMB, lll. — In all walks of life there are do’s and don’ts, but in the 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…

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Troubleshooting seed starting problems

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — For many of us, the desire to start gardening gets stronger and stronger as we near spring. Seed starting is a popular way to kick off the gardening season. Despite the advantages and relative ease, there are a few things that can go wrong when you start your own seeds.  Why do…

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Of blue jays and pin oaks: How jays have shaped our oak forests around the world

MACOMB, Ill. — We often spend more time inside looking outside during the Illinois winter. Perhaps one of the most popular activities for many of us is watching the birds. Gazing across my backyard this past winter, I learned something fascinating about the relationship between blue jays and oak trees.  My journey of observation began…

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Sunflowers can make a great addition to any garden

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — Sunflowers are a great addition to the home garden. Not only do they provide colorful flowers, but they also can be a potential food source for people and wildlife. With various shapes, sizes, and bloom colors, sunflowers are an easy plant to incorporate into your landscape.  Despite typically being grown as ornamental…

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University of Illinois Extension adds natural resources, environment, energy educator to staff

URBANA, Ill. – The University of Illinois Extension recently welcomed Amy Lefringhouse to serve as a natural resources, environment and energy educator in Adams, Brown, Hancock, Pike, and Schuyler counties in Western Illinois. County Director Shelby Crow says this position involves a partnership with John Wood Community College. “We are proud to serve local residents with expertise and education in specialized areas…

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Baldfaced Hornet: Dangerous bug or beneficial insect?

MACOMB, Ill. — Winter may be an odd time to read about an insect only seen during the warmer months. Yet, I can’t help but marvel at the architecture of the baldfaced hornet’s nest, which has been revealed in the canopy of trees after leaf drop.  This winter, I have seen several baldfaced hornet nests…

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Get new ideas for outdoor space at Gardener’s Palette on March 5 at Quincy Senior Center

QUINCY — The 26th annual Gardener’s Palette all-day conference, offered by the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners, offers educational sessions for all levels of gardening interest and experience. It will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. March 5 at the Quincy Senior & Family Resource Center, 639 York. Check-in will begin at…

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Four things to consider when deciding what vegetables to grow

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — Garden and seed catalogs have been arriving for a while now. When flipping through catalogs, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices. Unfortunately, you probably don’t have room (or time) to grow everything you see, no matter how amazing it seems. So how should you go about choosing what vegetables…

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Be sure to take time during winter to manage houseplant pests

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — We don’t often think much about insect pests outside of the occasional pantry pest or accidental invader during the winter months. That doesn’t mean our plants won’t have insect problems. This is particularly true for houseplants, where insect pests often seem to arrive out of nowhere. Common houseplant pests Spider mites are…

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Inspiring hope, building experience, making a difference in 2022

MACOMB, Ill. — “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”  This quote, which has likely made it onto posters in classrooms and by the coffee pot in the breakroom, is from philosopher William James.  A new year is often heralded with a renewed sense of hope. A restart! However, the older…

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Plant’s growth habit provides function and beauty

MACOMB, Ill. — From a horticultural perspective, the term “habit” is not what you think. There are certainly 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 that person is referring to is the…

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Master Gardener program offers hybrid training

URBANA, Ill. — For 46 years, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners have measured success by gardens planted, insects identified, produce harvested, and the millions of hours volunteers have logged by helping others learn to grow. From farms and small-town to suburbs and the inner city, more than 2,600 volunteers statewide put their mission of “helping others…

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Preparing fruit plants for winter

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — Once you’ve picked the last of your fruits this season, you may think your work with your fruit plants is over until spring. However, a few tasks can be done in the fall to set yourself up for a successful growing season next year.  Tree Fruit One of the most important things…

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Fall garden clean up with pollinators and other wildlife in mind

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — As the gardening season winds down, many of us will begin cleaning up our landscapes for the winter. While cutting back dead plants and raking leaves can make for a clean-looking yard, it may not be the best thing for pollinators and other wildlife that inhabit our landscapes. How should we approach…

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Dealing with pumpkins after Halloween: Debunking social media advice

MACOMB, Ill. — When the calendar turns from October to November, our toothy Jack-o’-lanterns start to look like deflated basketballs. This means millions of Americans need to dispose of billions of pumpkins. When many people toss these festive yet mushy winter squash into the trash, it adds an immense amount of organic material into the…

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Plant flower bulbs in fall for colorful spring display

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — 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 of others, can provide…

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Tips for dividing and planting bearded iris

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — Irises are some of the most popular flowers in gardens. They are easy to grow, long-lived and relatively carefree perennials. They also can be found in a variety of colors — pink, purple, yellow, peach, green, white, tan, bronze, almost black and bi-color.  If you grow bearded irises, you may have noticed that…

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