Tag Archive | horticulture

Monday Memories 7-25-2016

It’s actually been a pretty weird year for plant pests this year. Many things that were plentiful last year, haven’t been seen, and many things I’ve never seen before are showing up like they’ve been here all the time. This teaches me that you can take nothing for granted in this world. The life span of a human is very short compared to the life span of the earth. Although we may say, “I’ve not seen that since I was knee-high to a grasshopper”, the phenomenon may have been taking place since the dawn of time. Humans tend to think of things in our lifetime, when we really have to broaden our outlook to include many generations.

Ilex vs. Rabbitsimage

Rabbit Deterrents:
•These trees have chicken fencing around them, but it’s right against the bark. It needs to be away (1 foot) from the trunk and at least 6 inches underground, as best as possible.
•There are commercial repellants to use, but need to be reapplied often & don’t generally work according to the experts.
•Spread blood meal, cayenne pepper, manure or dog or human hair around plants.
•Spray plants with a solution of hot pepper sauce and water or vinegar. Reapply the solution after each rain. This solution can be rinsed off of vegetables after harvest and will not affect the taste.
•Use a foul-tasting spray deterrent that contains bitrex. Do not use bitrex sprays on vegetable plants because it will affect the taste of the produce.
•The last solution is a fine rabbit stew. Mmm.

Ilex vs. Snails & Slugs

Euchemotrema hubrichtiPreventing damage should start from last year’s observations, if possible. Most likely, if you had them last year in your garden they will be back.
Clear leaf litter from around susceptible plants. Don’t give them a place to hide.
Make a barrier of eggshells, twigs, or ashes around the plants as they don’t like to crawl over rough or sharp material. Copper wire or pipe is also effective, relying on the premise that the copper delivers an electric shock to them.
Provide a halved orange upside down as bait at night, and remove the takers the next morning.
Use a shallow lid buried in the ground and fill with beer or lemonade. Slugs and snails cannot resist a free drink, and will come and drown in the pool.
For smaller plants, make a cloche by cutting the bottom off a plastic bottle, bury slightly, and remove the lid for ventilation.
Encourage frogs and birds to your garden as they can’t resist a meal of escargot!

Ilex VS Lawn Fungus

disease Triangle

Changing your lawn care habits might reduce your risk of fungi problems. A healthy lawn has a really good chance of pulling through a fungal infection, but that is up to you!

  • Water your grass regularly, but don’t water it too much because waterlogged grass invites fungi. Don’t set your irrigation and not monitor it.
  • Dry grass can also makes your lawn more susceptible.
  • A nitrogen-based fertilizer applied annually (in the fall) supplies your grass with the nutrients it needs to flourish.
  • When you mow, don’t remove more than one-third of the length of the blades of grass at a time. A healthy length for grass (from the thatchline) is 3 inches tall.

I’ve noticed many different types of fungus coming out in droves because of our weather this season. Some are fairly rare and hard to treat. I wish we could get over the ‘Perfect Lawn’ mentality and all just enjoy the clovers and other blooming weeds. =-)

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Monday Memories 6-6-2016

Lots of critters and diseases are coming out to play with our plants. It reminds me of this patty-cake game we played as young-ins…

See, see my playmate,
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree
Holler down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forever evermore.
Oh no my playmate
I can’t come play with you
My dollies have the flu
Boo hoo boo hoo
Can’t holler down rain barrels
Or slide down a cellar door
But we’ll be jolly friends
Forever evermore.

Say, say, my playmate
Don’t come and play with me
Don’t bring your dollies three
Cut down my apple tree
Fall off my rainbow,
Into my cellar door
And we’ll be enemies
Forever evermore.

Say, say my enemy.
Come out and fight with me.
And bring your bulldogs three.
Climb up my sticker tree.
Slide down my razor blade.
Into my dungeon door
And we’ll be jolly enemies
Forever evermore.
Say say old enemy
Come out and fight with me
And bring your bb gun
And we’ll have lots of fun
I’ll scratch your eyes out
And make you bleed to death
And we’ll be jolly enemies
Forever evermore.

Oh little enemy,
I cannot fight with you,
My mommy said not too
Boo hoo hoo hoo
I can’t scratch your eyes out
And make you bleed to death
But we’ll be jolly enemies
Forever evermore.

Ilex vs Rose Sawfly

imageLarvae can be effectively controlled with a neem oil product or an insecticidal soap. Spray only the leaves (both sides), in the morning as neem oil can possibility hurt pollinators (More research needs to go into that). The strategy is to find larvae while they are still small and before damage becomes severe, like our roses! There is no need for control after the larvae have finished eating and left the plants, give or take mid-July.

Ilex VS Gooseberry Sawfly – Nematus ribesii

Many of the same family insects have the same timing.

This is the gooseberry sawfly that had attacked my gooseberry for two years a few years back. The last two years, they haven’t been found. Awesome sauce!!

Just for the record, using dish soap is not acceptable for a cheap substitute for horticultural soap. Now-a-days, the dish soap is not soap anymore, detergent is the main ingredient and modern soap lacks the fatty acids that are helpful in killing (smothering) the insect.

Ilex vs The Asparagus Beetle


These little guys are my bane.  I use IPM (Integrated pest management), meaning that I hunt and squish bugs! I can’t say that I am pesticide free, but most issues can be taken care of without chemicals. IMO no chemical action is need for these beetles. But, if you must, I’ve sprayed neem oil on the eggs after harvesting time, which is sometime late June (soon). There are normally 2 cycles of insects here, but there could be more.

The easiest way to catch these buggers is to have a cup of water ready. As you move towards them, they move to the other side of the stalk (quite funny to watch!) Put the cup under them & wave your hand near them. Their instinct is to drop to the ground, but instead, the cup of water will catch them. The larva and eggs aren’t as easy to remove. It’s the same method I use for typing… Hunt & peck.


Ilex VS Oak WiltImage

Oak wilt is a disease caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum, that is either spread by beetles of the nitidulid family (commonly known as sap bugs), or by root grafts. The disease clogs the vascular system of the tree causing wilting.

This disease kills red oaks including; red, black, pin, and scarlet varieties. White oaks including; white, bur, and swamp white oaks tend to pull through, although it takes many injectable fungicide treatments and a lot of care must be given.

How to Attract Butterflies!

My mom called them "Flutter-by's".Click he link for a list of larval plants for many butterflies!
Amelanchier spp. – Serviceberry

  • Bruce Spanworm
  • Blindy Sphinx (small)
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Amorpha canescens
  • Black-spotted Prominent
  • Dog Face
  • Asimina triloba
  • Zebra Swallowtail

Ilex VS. Dutch Elm Disease dutch elm disease

During the early summer is when effected trees are the easiest to identify. Leaves on the upper branches will curl and turn a gray-green or yellow and finally, crunchy brown. This symptom is called “flagging”, although a flag alone is not complete assurance that the tree has DED. Another symptom is brown streaks in the sapwood beneath the bark of affected branches, which is the blocked xylem. However, only laboratory isolation and identification can positively confirm that the tree has DED. Check with your local extension or State University, usually they will perform this test for a nominal fee. Most arborists find these two symptoms are enough evidence to treat or remove an elm.

Ilex VS Euonymus Scale

escaleEuonymus scale (Unaspis euonymi) is a pest that is around all year, especially on groundcover euonymus. Treatment should be done when the crawlers emerge, which is around the early part of June, although it may be a bit later this year. Male adult scales are white, and females are dark brown and are shaped like an oyster shell. Euonymus scale overwinters as a mated (pregnant) female on the plant stems. Eggs develop beneath the scale and hatch during late spring.


©Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

A Day in the Life of Me… Annual Day!

There are very few days I love to come to work. However, any of the four, seasonal flower days are worth showing up for and annual flower day tops the list. Even though I generally have to unload these trucks, the aroma and sight of these beauties makes it all worth it.
My summer annual container post will be hot off the ISP’s very soon. However, if you can’t wait, here are some past Summer Annual Container posts from 20132014 and 2015.

For now, let’s just relax and enjoy the purdy fluers!


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Begonias, impatiens and coleus… Oh my!

Three women unloaded four trucks. We all skipped our exercise class for the week.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Aphids on Basil

I follow a really cute fellow called Mongo. He is an adorable yellow lab with a veracious appetite which usually gets him in trouble. If you need a great laugh, be sure to catch the Howl-o-ween post about how Mongo got into the Halloween candy. You’re in for a treat…

When Mongo’s Dad isn’t cleaning up after Mongo, he likes to grow basil. Unfortunately, his basil got a case of aphids. =-O

Aphids on basil

Mongo’s Dad’s Basil

Unlike white fly, which tends to like to hang-out on the underside of leaves, aphids like to enjoy the topsides.

Aphids are  tiny-tiny (1/16″ – 1/8″) semi-transparent green, (or other colored) insects that suck the sap from leaves, stems and flowers. Aphids mainly feed on tender new growth, causing the leaves to appear puckered or twisted. They multiply rapidly and can destroy a plant quickly, however the good news is that they are very fragile.

Aphids have been called the mice of the insect world, because they multiply so quickly and provide food for so many creatures. These guys are usually not a problem when they are outdoors. In a well balanced environment, there are enough predators out there to keep their numbers down. Other creatures want aphid poop, better known as honeydew. Ants have been know to ‘farm’ aphids and harvest the honeydew. Pretty darn crazy sounding, until you seen it.

When your basil is indoors, it doesn’t have the Lady Bird Brigade protecting its leaves. It has to rely on you for support. Aphids are pretty easy to take out, just a jet of water can wipe out a good majority. Having the plant soaked every once-in-awhile is no problem. I would also toss up a yellow sticky card to trap any white fly that may come by.

If this doesn’t work, then I would step-up to Horticulture soap* or Neem oil, in that order. I just think sometimes Neem can change the taste of leaf veggies. This is just my opinion.

Thanks again for the post material Mongo’s Dad!

*Just for the record, using dish soap is not acceptable for a cheap substitute for horticultural soap. Now-a-days, the dish soap is not soap anymore, detergent is the main ingredient and modern soap lacks the fatty acids that are helpful in killing the insect. All you will do is dry out your plant!

Ilex Farrell

Cloudless Sulphur ~ Phoebis sennae

Its genus name is derived from Phoebe the sister of Apollo, a god of Greek and Roman mythology.

Upper surface of male is lemon yellow with no markings. Female is yellow or white; outer edges of both wings with irregular black borders; upper forewing with dark spot in cell. Lower surface of hindwing of both sexes with 2 pink-edged silver spots. So, hello, my little lady!!


 Caterpillar Hosts: Cassia species in the pea family (Fabaceae).

Adult Food: Nectar from many different flowers that have long tubes including cordia, trumpet flower, bougainvilla, cardinal flower, hibiscus, lantana, and wild morning glory.


 © Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Red Spotted Purple ~ Limenitis Arthemis

The Red-spotted Purple is a common butterfly in the Eastern part of North America. This species tends to like to mix it up with the White Admiral and sometimes they hybridize. The offspring can have characteristics anywhere between the two subspecies. The Red-spotted Purple attempts to mimic the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) in hopes not to be eaten.


Larvae Hosts: They tend to like white flowered trees and shrubs like; wild cherry (Prunus), birch (Betula), poplar (Populus), cottonwood (Populus), oaks (Quercus), hawthorn (Crataegus), deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum), willows (Salix), basswood (Tilia), and serviceberry (Amelanchier).

Adult Food: Sap flows, rotting fruit, carrion, dung, and occasionally nectar from small white flowers including spiraea, privet, and viburnum. They also enjoy aphid honeydew and can frequently be found drinking from mud puddles.


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Monday Memories 8-3-2015

How to Collect, Store and Grow Things From Seed

seed collection pixIt’s an advantage to vegetable gardeners to harvest seeds from plants that did well in their garden. The plant would have grown accustomed to the particulars of the plot, and provided the same DNA to the seeds. Unfortunately, hybrid varieties do not keep their traits; don’t collect these unless one likes surprises.

It is illegal to gather seed in forest preserves, natural areas, or parks. It is legal to gather seed on rights-of-way, which are mostly along public highways. Do not take all of the seeds of a plant, please share with Mother Nature.

Most seeds are easy to find and harvest like peas, peppers, cucumbers, and melons. Others need the help of a blender like eggplant. Chop the fruit, add water, blend for a short time, and allow the pulp to settle. Pour off the pulp, the viable seeds will be at the bottom.

Deer  Resistant Plants

imageMany Midwestern residents deal with the grazing and trampling of their shrubs by Odocoileus virginianus or the white-tailed deer. There are many choices of shrubs that are deer-resistant, but here’s a list of North American natives that will work in Midwest. Remember, when the weather is sever enough, deer will eat anything.

Click HERE for Trees

Click HERE for Shrubs

Click HERE for Perennials


There’s no O in Ohio’s H2O!!


Cuyahoga River Fire Nov. 3, 1952. Courtesy of Cleveland Press Collection at Cleveland State University Library.

I just heard about Ohio’s water supply problems related to Lake Erie’s algae blooms. Seems they can’t get potable water from the lake and have had to resort to bottled water. Many businesses are closed and I’m sure everyone is smelling a bit ripe nowadays.

There are many theories as to how these algae blooms happen, however I’m pretty set on the theory of phosphorous run-off into the lake and lack of wetland restoration projects are the main culprits.

I found this great video to educate anyone interested in learning more about algae blooms (dead zones) and what can be done about it. I also wrote about them here, if you’re interested!




Meadow Fritillary – Boloria bellona

wpid-2015-07-05-13.29.56.jpg.jpegFemale meadow fritillary butterflies lay her eggs on violet species (viola), the preferred larval food of the species.
Adult favorite nectar sources are composite flowers, including black-eyed Susan’s, dandelions, and ox-eyed daisy. Plants from other families, such as verbena and dogbane, are visited in a pinch.
These beauties like to live in wet places like marshes and wet aspen groves.


Iimagen the Appalachian mountains of the United States, fritillary butterflies in particular are numerous. If you are able to correctly count the spots on a fritillary’s wings, that tells you how much money is coming your way.

An American Indian Legend

If anyone desires a wish to come true they must first
capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it.
Since a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly cannot reveal
the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all.
In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly freedom,
the Great Spirit will always grant the wish.
So, according to legend, by making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom,
the wish will be taken to the heavens to be granted.

This is where the tradition of butterfly releases at weddings and other celebrations.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Chlorosis


Silver maple ~ Note the dark green veins and the bright, limey balance of the leaf.

Chlorosis is starting to rear it’s ugly head on a number of plants in the Midwest. Chlorosis is a yellowing of the leaf due to low levels of chlorophyll (the green pigment in leaves). It starts by leaf tissue appearing paler green; however the veins of the leaf stay green. Leaf tissue progressively turns yellow, and may turn white in advanced cases. Leaf margins may develop a scorched look with symmetrical brown spots between veins. Trees that commonly show chlorosis include:

Pin, Red and White oak ~ Quercus varieties

Red and silver maples ~ Acer rubra or Acer saccharinum

River birch ~ Betula nigra

Tulip-tree ~ Liriodendron tulipifera

Sweet gum ~ Liquidambar styraciflua

Bald cypress ~ Taxodium distichum

White pine ~ Pinus strobes




There are many causes of chlorosis. The most common cause of chlorosis in the Midwest is due to iron and manganese deficiencies resulting from alkaline soils. High soil pH causes iron and manganese that is present in the soil to become unavailable to the plant.

Where soils are alkaline, avoid planting trees that do not tolerate alkaline soils. For existing trees, fertilize soil with a nitrogen and sulfur-based fertilizer from early spring through mid-May, use chelated iron which is not affected by soil pH (this is best used in spring), or have the tree injected with iron or manganese.

Anything that negatively impacts the root system (physical damage, flooded soils and dry soils) can also lead to chlorosis. The abundant rains this year are starting to affect the ability of roots to take up nutrients, so a treatment of iron to the soil may not work in all cases. The best management practices is in dry seasons, be sure to provide enough moisture to plants and when the season is wet, there is not much to do but wait for drier weather.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl