Tag Archives: Jennifer Brennan

Insects, Diseases, EcoTours and Superweeds

July 7, 2013

What’s ailing your plants this summer?

If there’s one thing we can say about this growing season in the upper Midwest, it’s that most of us haven’t been hurting for moisture. But while it’s good for keeping your plants growing, it’s also a breeding ground for certain plant problems.

Believe it or not, one of those problems is aphid infestation. Why? Here’s what the Missoula County (Montana) Extension Office says.

Aphid outbreaks are encouraged by cool, wet spring weather because their populations increase more rapidly than their natural enemies in this climate. Aphid outbreaks may also occur if controls used to treat other pests harm aphid predators (i.e., syrphid fly and lacewing larvae, ladybird beetles). Certain controls are more toxic to predators than others…Excessive fertilization, especially nitrogen, causes plants to maintain succulent growth, and may encourage aphids. Use less soluble nitrogen fertilizers (ammonium or urea-based forms or compost). Avoid pruning that encourages early spring growth. On aphid-susceptible species, prune in late spring after aphids arrive and prune a little at a time. Stop pruning before the end of July so you don’t encourage a fall flush of growth.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted several other websites about apid control.

Of course, as friend of the show Dan Kosta pointed out, they are also more likely to be a problem in the spring, when new growth is present.

The Plant Health Care Report from the Morton Arboretum for June 28 has more to say about excessive rain:

While this helps recharge the water supply in soil, it can lead to additional stress on plants . The drought could have damag ed roots last year making it more difficult for trees to take up enough water. Having a good supply of water in the soil can ease that burden, but trees that have been standing in flood waters may experience additional root damage. That damage can vary g reatly depending on the duration of the flooding, the age of the tree (very old and very young trees often suffer more) and the health of the tree before the flooding. So while the rain s may have aided some trees, they may have added an extra stress for o thers. Time will tell. We may be seeing stress symptoms showing up on woody plants for the next few years.

And, believe it or not, they warn that you might have to haul out the sprinkler this year:

Looking forward into summer, we need to keep watching the weather. If the rains do stop and the heat comes on again, we may need to consider watering plants. It is hard to think about that now while there is so much water around, but things could change drastically as the summer progresses . If the weather suddenly turns hot and dry, we could see our water surplus turn into a deficit. We need to base our watering needs on the current water supply, not the amount of water that fell a month or two ago. Northern Illinois is a big region and rainfall has varied quite a bit across that region.

Another problem caused by excessive moisture is fungal disease. And, according to Jennifer Brennan from Chalet Nursery, she’s seeing a lot of it. Here’s a partial list of plant problems (and some earth-friendly remedies) that Jennifer has diagnosed:

1. Any apple family plants (crabapple, apple, hawthorne, Amelanchier)– both apple scab AND cedar-apple rust on the leaves together! You can tell that we have had both cool weather conditions and warm to hot weather during the inoculation periods. (Controls: Bonide Orchard Spray with Sulfur and Pyrethrins, Espoma or Bonide Copper Soap spray, Immunox by Spectracide or 3 and 1 Insect, Disease and Mite Control by Bayer Advanced)
2. Insolidabasidium leaf blight on Honeysuckle. A fungus that turns the tips grey and crinkled up. (Control: same as #1)
3. Guignardia leaf blotch on Horse-chestnut. (Control: same as #1)
4. Anthracnose on Oak, Maple, Ash and Sycamore causing irregular brown patches on the leaves that stop at the veins. (Control: same as #1)
5. Powdery mildew on peony, roses, grapes, cucumber and squash – a surface fungus that grows over the leaf blocking the sunlight and causing reduced production. (Control: same as #1)
6. Turf fungus – yellow patch , red thread , smut due to warmer temperatures and wet conditions. (Control: Immunox by Spectracide for Lawncare)

Insects and other leaf feeders:

1. Slugs are here with a vengeance! Use Sluggo or Sluggo Plus – new change 1 pound covers 2,000 sq. ft. now! That equals 1 teaspoon per 3 sq ft. Re place every month, but check after the first 2 weeks to “re-load”, because the numbers of slugs are that large now.
2. Cucumber beetles on cucumbers and squash. (Control: Espoma Insect Control or Bonide Tomato and Vegetable Insect Control or Bonide Captain Jack’s Insect Control with Spinosad)
3. Cabbage Looper on any cabbage family plant in the vegetable garden – note the white butterflies flying around. (Same as #2)
4. Aphids on many, many things – snapdragons, hibiscus, Viburnums, roses. (Same as #2 or Bayer Advanced Rose & Flower Insect Spray)
5. Be warned and spray roses now with systemic – Japanese Beetles are on the way, sighted at the Morton Arboretum and also here at Chalet. (Control: Bayer Advanced Rose & Flower Insect Spray)
6. Leaf weevils on Lambs Ears (Control: Bayer Advanced Rose & Flower Insect Spray)

If you’re concerned about how toxic some of these remedies are (and I’m talking about the organic ones, too!) you should peruse this article from Colorado State University, which gives an overview of some of the pesticides that Jennifer mentions that are used in organic gardening. Remember: just because it’s organic doesn’t mean that it’s not toxic. The article mentions this but I’m going to say it again because it’s so important: ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS. And to that, I will add my own advice: IF YOU’RE UNSURE ABOUT THE PRODUCT, DON’T USE IT!

Speaking of plant diseases, the June 28 issue of the Home, Yard and Garden Pest Newsletter, published by Illinois Extension, has an article called What Does Plant Disease Sanitation Really Mean?

Jennifer Brennan and “Dr.” Wally Schmidtke from my sponsor Berthold’s Garden Center both stop by this morning to talk about what they’re seeing on plants and how to treat them effectively and with respect for the earth.

Bee carnage continues

Last week I reported how 25,000 bumblebees had died in the town of Wilsonville, Oregon, after a landscaping company sprayed 55 linden trees in a Target parking lot to control for aphids. Unfortunately, within a matter of days, the estimated number of dead bees had risen to 50,000.

The Oregonian reported that

Aphids produce honeydew, a sticky liquid that can drip off onto cars or pedestrians. A Target representative said by email that the Wilsonville store had received no customer complaints about it.  (emphasis mine)

Then, last Sunday, there was a memorial service in honor of those poisoned pollinators:

Fifty thousand bumblebees  will be honored in a memorial this weekend at the Wilsonville Target where a majority of the insects died … Rozzell Medina, of Portland, said on the Facebook page that the event will “memorialize these fallen lifeforms and talk about the plight of the bees and their importance to life on Earth.”

You’d think that would be bad enough, right? Ah, but you would be underestimating the fascination with pestiicdes that permeates Big Ag. This story comes not from the U.S., but from our neighbor to the north:

Millions of honeybees are dead in a new colony collapse disorder crisis being reported from Ontario, Canada. And that’s on a single farm in Elmwood, Canada.

Depending on the reports you read, 30 million, 37 million, or even 40 million honeybees may already be dead — a reflection of the expanding numbers as the crisis continues.

According to MSN Living , Elmwood beekeeper Dave Schuit has lost at least 600 hives representing 37 million honeybees — and he’s pointing the finger squarely at neonicotinoid pesticides.

If you find anything in the main stream media, please let me know. While this story is making the rounds of bloggers, I have seen nary a peep from the “respectable” news organizations.

Tar sands in action! The SETF Energy Solutions Ecotour

Tom Shepherd from the Southeast Environmental Task Force joins me on the show this morning to talk about next Saturday’s Energy Solutions Ecotour, which could best be described as a trip from the sublime to the ridiculous. I’ll let you figure out which is which by reading SETF’s description of the event:

Join us for a tour of energy producers and innovators, and learn what effects they have on our region. We’ll visit a huge, recently-shuttered coal-fired power plant, the world’s largest urban solar farm, and the massive BP oil refinery that processes tar sands from Canada. We’ll also visit the proposed site of a coal gasification plant and a unique local produce distribution center whose energy is supplied by wind and solar. On this tour, you’ll experience the most obsolete as well as cutting-edge methods of energy production. We will be accompanied by experts in the field of wind & solar, as well as critics of the controversial tar sands coming to refineries in our area. Plan on seeing more coal and smoke than you’ve ever imagined!

Even better, our very own Lisa Albrecht and friend of the show Josh Mogerman from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will be on board to discuss solar energy and tar sands at BP.

And best of all, the $35.00 fee has be discounted to $20–and it includes lunch! So sign up today at www.setaskforce.blogspot.com. The tour starts at the Chicago Cultural Center at Randolph and Michigan Avenue in Chicago at 10:00 a.m. and runs until 2:00 p.m.

Here are some of the highlights of the tour:

1) Testa Produce Co. (nearly off-the-grid produce warehouse & distribution)
2) Exelon / Sunpower Solar Farm in West Pullman (world’s largest urban solar farm)
3) Southeast side’s coal and petroleum coke piles; site of Leucadia Coal Gasification project (currently stalled)
4) State Line Generating Plant ( on the Indiana border along the shores of Lake Michigan -shuttered coal-fired power plant, March 2012)
5) The massive BP Refinery; Whiting, Ind. – with a lunch stop at Bulldog Brewing Co. in beautiful downtown Whiting…..home of the annual Pierogi Parade & Festival!

For More information, contact Peggy Salazar at SETF. Phone 773-646-0436 or write to setf@sbcglobal.net

Hydrilla Hunt: searching for a superweed

I think that Cathy McGlynn, Coordinator for the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership (NIIPP), does wonderful work. But whenever she gives me a call, it means that there’s trouble a-brewin’

This time it something called Hydrilla, (Hydrilla verticillata), a highly invasive aquatic plant. Do you want to know just how invasive? Take a look at the two photos on the left, which were taken a mere 18 days apart. That one fast-growing weed! Click here to see even more images.

Cathy is asking that boaters, anglers, swimmers, and others who enjoy Illinois’ lakes and rivers keep their eyes peeled this summer this plant through the Hydrilla Hunt! Program. Citizen volunteers can be very valuable in this search. Hydrilla has already been found in Wisconsin and Indiana and it’s just a matter of time before it’s spotted in Illinois. This could mean millions of dollars in losses to recreational and private water resources.

Cathy informs me that

The strain of hydrilla that has been found in the northern United States is believed to have originated in Korea. It grows on mucky as well as sandy bottoms of lakes and rivers, and from very shallow water to depths of 20 feet or more. It can be spotted snagged on fishing lines or on boat anchors, or by noting plants seen while boating or growing along the sides of a pier. Hydrilla spreads quickly, since just a small stem fragment of hydrilla can sprout roots and grow into a whole new plant.

She stops by today to sound the alarm. As if we needed one more thing to be concerned about.

The future of impatiens and nuclear reactors

September 9, 2012

I’m baaaaaack…didja miss me?

It seems like a lot longer than two weeks since I was at the controls of my own radio show. My thanks to Beth Botts, the irrepressible Heather Frey, and the ever-steady Denny Schetter for so capably filling in while I was traipsing through the mountains of South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska (yes, Nebraska) and Wyoming.

Today, I have a special guest, who will sit in for the whole show. Sarah Batka is Extension Program Coordinator for Horticulture for Illinois Extension in Cook County. Basically, she’s the go-to person for keeping the Master Gardeners informed about volunteer and educational opportunities. She has also volunteered for Inspiration Kitchens, a food service training program providing skill-specific job training and employment placement in an atmosphere of dignity and respect for people facing barriers to self-sufficiency (the food is also terrific).

If you want to write to Sarah today during the show, here is her Facebook page, and her Twitter handle is @frugalfoodgal.

Impatiens under attack from downy mildew

I received an email last week from Jim Clesen, Vice-President at Ron Clesen’s Ornamental Plants, Inc. (RCOP) in Maple Park, Illinois (hmm, think they’re related somehow?) His message read, in part:

I am sure that you have been aware but a disease outbreak has just occurred on mass scale. The industry needs your help in helping facilitate the education of Downy Mildew on impatiens, to the public.  This week we have been consumed with phone calls, from our landscapers, about the disease in their beds.  From Lake Geneva to Navy Pier the effects are being seen.  The consumer needs to know why impatiens will be disappearing from the landscapes, and garden centers.

Actually, I had been aware of this outbreak, thanks to an article in the Home, Yard and Garden Pest Newsletter from Illinois Extension. In it, Stephanie Porter writes:

This week, the U of I Plant Clinic has confirmed downy mildew of impatiens (Impatiens walleriana ) in Cook County. It is apparent that the recent rains and cooler night temperatures provided the perfect environment for disease infection. Earlier this year, in HYG issue #3 I warned readers to watch out for this unbelievably destructive disease .

This disease has sporadically been reported in the US since 2004 in greenhouses. However, many regional outbreaks of impatiens downy mildew occurred for the first time in landscape beds and container plantings in 2011. In 2012 (as of July 31st), there have been confirmed reports of impatiens downy mildew in most of the states in the eastern half of the United States as well as Texas and Oregon. Sadly, it appears that this disease may be here to stay.

Scout your impatiens and look for leaves curling downward on newer growth. Soon, white to light-gray fuzz may show on leaf undersides. New leaves may appear as stunted or discolored (yellow or pale green). Unfortunately, this disease can infect very quickly and cause complete leaf defoliation or plant collapse to occur.

Other institutions have been warning of arrival of this disease, including the University of Minnesota Extension, and companies like Ball Horticultural Company, which has done stories, which you can find here (Adobe PDF), here and here.

What does that mean for gardeners? For one, it might mean growing shade plants other than Impatiens walleriana. For instance, New Guinea impatiens are resistant to the disease. You might plant begonias, which are also not susceptible. You might have to use fungicides. However, as Stephanie Porter points out in her article, fungicides only prevent the disease–they do not cure it.

I’m pleased to have Jim Clesen and my Dig In Chicago co-host Jennifer Brennan join me on the phone today to talk about this problem and possible solutions for your own yard.

Another reason why nuclear power is not the answer: drought

If you watched President Barack Obama‘s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention (YouTube) on Thursday, you might not have noticed that there was something missing when he talked about energy options for the future:

We’re offering a better path, a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where — where we develop a hundred year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet.

This was the part, I must admit, that had me talking to the television. With all due respect, Mr. President, there is no such thing as “clean coal.” And if you’re talking about fracking being the solution to our energy woes, you better have a plan that includes closely examining the environmental impacts of that strategy well before you employ it.

But the one word that was conspicuously absent from the speech was the one that so many people have difficulty pronouncing: nuclear. As Gregg Levine writes in an article at Firedoglake:

But notice what is not there–not in this section, not in the paragraph about the climate, not anywhere in the entire 38-minute speech.

President Obama no longer promises to “safely harness nuclear power”–that likely would have sounded like a cruel joke in a world now contaminated by the ongoing Fukushima disaster–but beyond that, he does not promise anything about nuclear power at all. There was no platitude, no carefully crafted signal to the industry that has subsidized much of Obama’s political career, no mention of nuclear power

And while the tragedy at Fukushima has caused people to re-examine energy policies based on nuclear fission, there is another force of nature at play right here in the United States that should give one pause as well–the drought. As Bloomberg notes in an article from this summer:

Nuclear-power production in the U.S. is at the lowest seasonal levels in nine years as drought and heat force reactors from Ohio to Vermont to slow output.

The New York Times also weighed in with an article titled Will Drought Cause the Next Blackout?

And then, just a couple of weeks ago, the Chicago Tribune came out with this story: Power plants releasing hotter water. From the story:

As fish die in record numbers across Illinois this summer because of the intense heat and drought, state officials are granting power plants special exemptions to flush massive amounts of hot water into already stressed lakes and rivers.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is allowing power plants to dump hundreds of millions of gallons of water per day at temperatures approaching 100 degrees into the state’s waterways, the Tribune has learned.

Enter David A. Kraft, Director of the Nuclear Energy Information Service, whose mission is pretty simple, if not daunting: “Through the application of nonviolent and democratic principles NEIS is determined to end nuclear power in Illinois, in the Great Lakes Bioregion, and on Planet Earth.” Kraft responded to the article with a letter to the editor. Among his points:

…Over 80% of Illinois’ surface water is utilized by electric powerplants, an astonishing number given that Illinois is also a large agricultural state. Competition between water for drinking and agriculture versus air conditioning will only worsen in an increasingly climate disrupted world.

While the article focused on thermal pollution of waterways caused by powerplants, it did not mention an important difference between nuclear reactors and fossil-fueled plants. While both contribute to thermal pollution, nuclear must also deal with the effects of radioactive discharges into waterways of lower volumes and flow rates, and higher temperatures — a matter more serious than mere fish kills…

The article also did not mention that the very physics of dealing with hotter water decreases the power output of nuclear plants, in some cases as much as 5%. When hotter water becomes the norm, the ability of nuclear power to crank out electrons will decrease – precisely when needed most.

These are not future prognostications; these things actually occurred in Illinois during the 1988 drought. Over 100 days of ComEd reactor operation were curtailed, partially or completely, by the lower volumes and flow rates of rivers. This also occurred in Europe during the deadly heatwave of 2003.

The solution is not beyond reach; nor does it lay [sic] with building larger cooling structures for reactors. Solar will be available as “peaking power” precisely when it is needed most – hot sunny afternoons. And unlike nuclear plants, it will not kill our waterways. This will require planning and added costs – but so would additional cooling retrofits to nuclear plants. The solution is to PLAN a migration away from steam-cycle produced electricity. The time to start is NOW.

Dave Kraft joins me in the studio today to talk about the future of nuclear power in the United States and on the rest of the planet.

Fall gardening tips, dealing with food waste, and a lot more

August 12, 2012

A little bit of this and a little bit of that…

On this Sunday morning, I’m covering a number of different topics–including gardening, composting, Illinois environmental issues and more. So let’s get started.

…Jennifer Brennan has help for late summer gardens…

It’s always a pleasure to have my co-host from Dig In Chicago join me on my radio show. Jennifer and I just finished shooting our final three TV shows of the season, which included stops at the Peterson Garden Project, Jack Pizzo‘s personal prairie in Clare, Illinois and even a talk with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who talked to us about the ever-expanding garden at the Cook County Jail.

As we roll into the final couple months of gardening in the Midwest, Jennifer talks about some things that you need to get your plants to the finish line this year, and ready to start a new race in the spring. Says Jennifer:

Since it has been so hot, the plants have not been metabolizing new roots. We need to tell how to help woody plants catch up on root growth by planning on fertilizing in October and watering until the ground freezes, if we do not get rain. We need to remind people to avoid fertilizing after August 15, which will produce new soft wood that will not harden off before the first frost. (I like the analogy of not giving children chocolate 30 minutes before bedtime. Otherwise, they stay up giggling when the lights go out.)

Of course, your questions are welcomed, whether you call us at 773/763-9278 or send a Tweet to @MikeNow or post a query on my Facebook page.

…The Morton Arboretum figures out how to compost food scraps…

Organic materials–landscape waste, food scraps and other substances–account for about one third of what goes into landfills. In 2010, Illinois passed SB 99, which was supposed to clear the way for composting much of those materials, which would not only remove them from the “waste” stream, but create valuable soil amendments. However, as has been chronicled in numerous articles, it hasn’t exactly created composting nirvana.

Which is why it’s welcome news to hear that, beginning this month, food waste generated through the Morton Arboretum‘s restaurant and catering efforts will be composted at an off-site composting facility, which means it will no longer be taking space in local landfills.  Arboretum food service probably generates an average of 90 to 100 pounds of food waste per day, which equates to about 16-18 tons during the course of a year.  That’s a lot of trash that we’ll keep out of the landfills. Currently, there are fewer than 100 businesses in DuPage County that are composting their food waste, and most of those are Jewel and WalMart stores.

Here’s how Rick Hootman, Director of Visitor Programs at the Morton Arboretum, explains the program.

In our program, which we are starting this week, we can compost virtually all food items, including the vegetable materials that we typically associate with composting, as well as meat and bones, bakery items, tea bags, and paper napkins.  The Arboretum also has compostable paper cups provided in our restaurant and cafe, and we provide serving utensils made from plant-based compostable materials (they have to be “compostable”) in our cafe only.

The Arboretum restaurant and catering service utilizes reusable china and metal silverware, and catering also uses reusable glassware, all of which is returned to the kitchen for cleaning in a dishwasher.  Using reusable items, of course, reduces a lot of waste.  Left-over food, napkins, compostable cups, and other compostables from the used plates are scraped into a 64-gallon “compost container” (which has a compostable collection bag) in our dishwashing area.  Food preparation scraps from the kitchen also are put into the container.  When the container is full, it is moved outside to our waste pick-up area.  We have several containers, and the compost materials will be picked up twice a week.  Our composting facility is operated by Waste Management in Romeoville.

Part of the problem to this point has been that there are no composting sites in DuPage County. However, the Morton Arboretum and Jewel Food Stores use the same waste hauler–Waste Management–and because the Arb is on a route between Jewel stores, it made sense to add it to the route, thus reducing transportation costs.

The Arboretum has also been on a mission to rid itself of as much plastic as possible. I was there last week and was pretty amazed to be be able to buy water in a glass bottle. There was even a bottle refilling station. I’m impressed.

Rick Hootman joins me on the show this morning to talk more about sustainability at the Morton Arboretum.

…the Governor steps to the plate and hits it out of the park…

I was happy to see an email message show up in my inbox on Friday. It was from Josh Mogerman of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and it read, in part:

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn chose to veto a bill today that would have forced natural gas utilities, and ratepayers across the state, to purchase expensive synthetic natural gas derived from coal. Following is a statement from Henry Henderson, director of the Midwest program of the Natural Resources Defense Council and former Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Chicago: “The Governor did the right thing today in standing up to special interests and looking out for communities already choking through some of the worst pollution loads in the country. “The Leucadia bill was not good for anyone in Illinois…aside from Leucadia, which would take in guaranteed profits by foisting overpriced, fake natural gas on almost every utility customer in the state while the real stuff is selling at historic low prices. “This project is the sort of dirty, expensive boondoggle that impacts Illinois’ reputation nationally. Governor Quinn was wise to stop it in its tracks.” More information on the environmental and economic costs of the Leucadia project can be found on NRDC’s Switchboard blog.

Immediately, the Southeast Environmental Task Force put out a jubilant message. And the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club reminded us that we need to thank the governor, which you can do here.

Now we’re waiting to see if he will veto SB3442, the bad plastic bag recycling bill that led to 12 year-old Abby Goldberg to collect 154,000 signatures against it. Call the governor today and tell him to finish the environmental “hat trick,” including his signing of the landfill ban in Cook County. The number in Chicago is 312-814-2121.

…the City Water Dept. continues to damage trees on my block…

For the past two weeks, I’ve posted photos of the damage to trees on my block caused by the Chicago Department of Water Management, which has been installing new water mains along my Logan Square street. I wish I could say that things have gotten better, but they haven’t. In fact, this work crew inflicted its worst damage on the largest, most impressive tree on the block this week. The photo is on my home page.

I’m done messing around. Next week, I will have have Chicago Bureau of Forestry aborist Joe McCarthy on the show to talk about the ongoing problem of how to protect trees during utility work.

…and it’s the final day of the Renewable Energy Fair

Last week I talked about the 11th annual Illinois Renewable Energy & Sustainable Lifestyle Fair at the Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, IL.. It’s sponsored, of course, by the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA). Today is the final day, and it goes from, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Here are the admission prices:

Adults: $5/1
Youth: $3/1day
Children: (under 12 in the company of a parent) Free
IREA Members: Free