You got questions? We got answers.

April 10, 2011

The fastest talking woman in horticulture returns!

[Update: You’re going to get a lot more out of this by actually listening to the broadcast, which is now in podcast form. The show was a lot of fun and we answered a fair number of questions. Here’s the link:]

I’m talking, of course, about my friend Jennifer Brennan, horticulture information specialist from The Chalet in Wilmette. She says she’s bringing the breakfast sandwiches this morning. Fine with me. She’s also bringing her prodigious horticultural knowledge, and the two of us plan to talk gardening and answer questions for two hours.

You might recognize Jennifer from her morning appearances on ABC7 Chicago with Tracy Butler, the Morning News weather anchor. In her 16 years at Chalet, she founded and has grown Chalet’s Education Series to 80 sessions per year which reach:

• 3,000 adult learners annually
• 700 children annually
• 500 people at off-site programs

Even more impressive, because the courses are content-rich and science-based,they are used by Master Gardeners for certifiable course work. And they are free. Heck, I’m impressed. Here are some of the upcoming events at The Chalet. Check their website for more information.


$40.00 fee and pre-registration required, please call 847-256-0561 x250, 255 or 225)

Apr. 30: GARDEN FAIRE 2011 (Saturday) KEY-NOTE SPEAKERS :

10 to 11AM Renee Shephard ( Renee’s Garden )- “EASY GARDENS FOR BUSY PEOPLE”
1 to  2PM Nicholas Staddon ( Monrovia) – “NEW PLANTS AND TRENDS”

10 to 11AM Renee Shepherd (Renee’s Garden)- “GOURMET GARDENING”
1 to  2PM Nicholas Staddon (Monrovia)- “LATEST CONTAINER IDEAS”


May 6:   20-30 minute mini-lecture- “VEGETABLE GARDENING SIMPLIFIED”
May 13: 20-30 minute mini-lecture- “HOW TO PLANT TREES & SHRUBS”
May 20: 20-30 minute mini-lecture- “THE BEST ROSE ADVICE”
May 27: 20-30 minute mini-lecture- “CONTAINER GARDENING HOW-TO’S”

Speaking of great garden information…

You’ll remember that Wally Schmidtke, the garden guru at Pesche’s, recently sent me a number of links to websites that had great information about mulching practices. One of the things he alerted me to is something called “cannon fungus.” You might not recognize it from its name but it’s possible that you’ve encountered it in the garden. Here’s how the North Carolina State University website describes Sphaerobolus stellatus:

The fruiting bodies of this fungus are 1-3 mm (0.04-0.12 inches) broad, roundish in shape and off-white to a buff or orange-buff color. At maturity the fruiting body splits in a star-like pattern exposing a dark brown, roundish “cannon” or “egg” (termed a peridiole) that is 1-2 mm (0.04-0.08 inches) broad and contains the spores of the fungus. This structure is forcibly ejected or shot from the fruiting body, hence the name “cannon” fungus. This fungus is also called the “sphere thrower” and the “artillery fungus”. The “egg” which may be ejected up to 14 feet from the fruiting body has an oily or sticky surface that enables it to adhere to most surfaces it encounters. Once stuck to a surface the “egg” dries to a disk shape and adheres tenaciously. Removal of the “egg” often leaves an oily stain or discoloration on the surface. Fruiting body development is correlated with high moisture and temperatures in the 70s and low 80s degrees F (10-20 degrees C). A change in temperature to 90 degrees F will stimulate ejection of the “egg” from the fruting body. The fungus also is phototrophic and the “egg” is shot toward a light source.

Ohio State University says that it’s just one of a number of fungi that you’re likely to find in mulches and composts. But the best way to understand cannon fungus is to watch it on YouTube.

However, there’s also the always-reliably gross “dog vomit fungus,” courtesy of Penn State University. Ain’t gardening fun?

“Deja Blue All Over Again”: A call to action

If you caught last week’s show, you know that 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack and I talked about the reported plan by the Daley Administration to privatize the Blue Cart Recycling Program before he leaves office. The alderman and I happen to be pretty much on the same page about this one, which is to say that we don’t think much of the plan. In fact, at the Chicago Recycling Coalition (I am president of the all-volunteer organization), we are calling it “Deja Blue All Over Again,” in honor of the late-but-not-lamented Blue Bag Program.

It’s possible that the Daley Administration will attempt to push through this ill-advised privatization measure in the next few days. If you live in Chicago, I urge you to go to the CRC website to educate yourself about this issue. CRC has posted a sample letter that you can send to your alderman, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Commissioner Thomas G. Byrne of the Department of Streets & Sanitation, and/or Commissioner Suzanne Malec-McKenna of the Department of Environment..