Tag Archives: Southeast Environmental Task Force

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.

Spring renewal, a net-positive energy campus and a landfill that won’t die

April 14, 2013

Here she is–star of radio,TV and print: Melinda Myers

For a lot of gardeners in the Midwest, 2012 is a year we’d like to forget. The heat and drought took their toll on our annuals, perennials, vegetables and lawns. It’s kind of a blessing that the 2013 growing season is off to such a slow start. It’s giving us a chance to slowly ease into the processes that came all too quickly last year.

So it’s a pleasure to welcome gardening expert Melinda Myers back to the show to talk about garden renewal in 2013. Since she hails from just north of here, in Milwaukee, Myers knows the problems that northern Midwest gardeners have experienced and how to fix them. In fact, she’s traveling all around this part of the country to spread the gospel of Garden Revitalization.

She also happens to be a TV and radio host, author & columnist, with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. That includes more than 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening, The Birds & Blooms’ Ultimate Gardening Guide , and Jackson and Perkins’ Beautiful Roses Made Easy: Midwestern Edition.

Melinda hosted “The Plant Doctor” radio program for over 20 years as well as seven seasons of Great Lakes Gardener on PBS. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments which air on 115 TV and radio stations throughout the U.S. If you want to get some great tips for early April, just click here.

Melinda and I also want to tell you about the Milorganite Community Garden Giveaway. On Earth Day (April 22 nd , 2013) Milorganite will reward five community gardens that are having the greatest impact in their communities. Those gardens will receive a one year supply of Milorganite organic nitrogen fertilizer, which amounts to 56 bags, each weighing 36 pounds.

All entries must be submitted by April 15 th, so get thee to it! You can find details for the contest here.

Can AGC become the first Illinois “net-positive” energy campus?

It was almost exactly three years ago that I talked to Dan Schnitzer, the Director of Sustainability and Operations for a Chicago charter school called the Academy for Global Citizenship, located on the City’s southwest side near 47th Street and Cicero.

This time around, I’m pleased to have Sarah Elizabeth Ippel with me in the studio. She is is the founder and executive director of AGC and recently was named to Huffington Post’s 50 people “who are changing the world” and GOOD’s “100 people pushing the world forward.” Not bad for somebody who started out at 23 by riding her bicycle to the Board of Education with request: to reimagine what is possible in public education today.

She has followed through on that idea, creating a school that opened in 2008 and now has 300 kindergarten through fifth grade students, 90% of whom are minorities and 83% from low-income families. It is now on track to add one grade level per year to create the first southwest side pre-K to 12th grade International Baccalaureate Education institution in the Chicago Public School district.

Among its accomplishments:

• AGC has been internationally recognized for our progressive environmental, global and academic programs.
• AGC has raised literacy rates by 62% in three years.
• 93% of AGC’s Third Grade & Fourth Grade students are meeting or exceeding math standards.
• 100% of AGC’s K-5th Grade students are learning a second or third language.
• AGC has presented to the United States Department of Education on fostering systemic change.
• AGC was recognized by the Obama administration as a Green Ribbon School, part of the first award in U.S. history.
• AGC was invited to the White House by Mrs. Obama to be recognized the Midwest’s first and the nation’s second recipient of the USDA’s highest honor in its Healthier US School Challenge Gold with Distinction Award, presented in conjunction with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative.
• In our 4 years of operation, AGC has welcomed over 5,000 visitors from as far as Japan, Sweden and Nigeria.
• AGC has published a Sustainable Schools Handbook: The Key to Greening Your School that has been utilized by schools locally and across the globe.

Now, the school is looking to break ground on an Illinois first: a net-positive energy campus, which will be in Chicago.

And on May 16th, a group of renowned chefs are coming together for an event at Terzo Piano that will benefit AGC and their net-positive campus. Here’s the list: Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Bar Toma and Terzo Piano), Jimmy Bannos and Jimmy Bannos, Jr. (The Purple Pig), Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Xoco) Iron Chef Jose Garces (Mercat/Garces Group), Paul Kahan (Avec, Big Star, Blackbird, The Publican and Publican Quality Meats), Bill Kim (bellyQ, Urbanbelly, Belly Shack), Jeff Mauro (Food Network’s “Sandwich King”), Giuseppe Tentori (Boka and GT Fish & Oyster), Marcela Valladolid (Author and Host, Food Network’s “Mexican Made Easy”), and Takashi Yagihashi (Takashi and Slurping Turtle).

Cook County landfills rising from the bathtub like Glenn Close?

Never underestimate the power of money to affect public policy in a bad way.

Last year, I stood across from the River Bend Prairie Landfill at 138th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue and watched as Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a General Assembly-approved measure that banned the operation of landfills in Cook County.

End of story, right? Not so fast.

According the organization No Chicago Landfills, Land and Lakes Co., which operated the River Bend Prairie site, “now say they want to “mine” their landfill for scrap metal and recyclables so that they can continue to make a profit. This process involves digging up decades-old, rotting waste and extends the life of the landfill.”

So the Cook County Board of Commissioners is planning a vote that could put this matter to bed for good. After all, the State of Illinois has already passed a law banning landfills in Cook County and the City of Chicago has a ban that will last at least until 2025. No brainer, right?

Ah, but something is amiss, though it’s hard to tell exactly what that might be. For some reason, some of the commissioners, including those pesky “good government” types, do not seem to have the backs of the good citizens of Cook County.

This is making environmental and community leaders nervous and rightly so. Commissioner John Fritchey has stepped into the fray and has introduced an ordinance to ban new and expanded landfills in unincorporated Cook County. Community residents on the south side and south suburbs have battled with operators to stop plans to reopen a landfill on unincorporated land between Dolton and the southern border of Chicago.

Without such a ban, they say, waste companies will once again be able to pursue landfills anywhere in Cook County, including areas that have been designated for environmental restoration – such as the Lake Calumet region. According to Fritchey, “This legislation will protect communities that have long suffered from dump sites and landfills and will also protect millions of taxpayers’ dollars in preservation and restoration work across Cook County.”

On Monday, Aprill 15 at 10:30 a.m., Commissioner Fritchey, People for Community Recovery, Golden Gate Community Recover and the Southeast Environmental Task Force will hold a news conference on the 5th floor of the Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark Street in Chicago. They will urge the Cook County Board to pass Fritchey’s ban on landfills.

Tom Shepherd from the Southeast Environmental Task Force joins me this morning to talk about why this issue just won’t go away.

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