If you have an aging pet, you may periodically find some kind of lump or bump on its skin, or maybe even deeper. If you're like me, your mind probably jumps first to the thought--is it cancer?
According to Dr. Laura Garrett, veterinary oncologist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, dogs and cats get cancer at the same rate that people do. But, she says, finding a lump or bump doesn't automatically mean something malignant or fatal.
A lump that you may find on your pet could be one of several things: an infection, such as an abscess from a dog or cat bite; inflammation, like a small, localized reaction to a vaccine or a bug bite; or a tumor, meaning an abnormal growth of cells, which could be either benign (harmless) or malignant (invasive and potentially harmful to your pet's health). The best way to determine the origin of the lump, and the best thing for your pet's health, would be to have it examined by your veterinarian.
Typically, a veterinarian will measure the lump and then take a fine-needle aspirate. This is a process in which a small needle is used to take a sample of the cells in the lump. The veterinarian will then view the cells under a microscope to get an initial idea of what is causing this mass (another word for "tumor"). In most cases, the sample is then sent off to a lab of experts, like those at the University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, for a final evaluation.
"No doctor can determine if a mass is 'safe' just by looking at the lump itself or by feeling it," Dr. Garrett says. That means that neither you nor your veterinarian can be certain that a mass is harmless without getting a microscopic look at the cells within via a fine needle aspirate or a biopsy.
If you do find a mass on your pet, you should be prepared to answer a few questions for your veterinarian: Have any changes occurred since you first noticed the mass? Does the mass seem to bother your pet? Has it been oozing any fluid or blood? If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, it might be a cause of increased concern, but answering "no" does not eliminate the possibility that the lump is a health risk.
Fortunately for middle-aged to older dogs, the most common lump they get is a lipoma--a benign, fatty growth. Most lipomas never become a problem, and also have nothing to do with the weight of the animal. Dr. Garrett recommends, "Lipomas usually need to be removed only if they are in a spot that bothers the pet or the owner or if the lump begins to change quickly."
If the lump is not a lipoma, your veterinarian will try to determine what type of tumor is. If this can't be done at your clinic, a cell sample or larger biopsy may need to be sent to a specialty diagnostic lab for examination.
If a tumor is malignant, your veterinarian will determine whether it has spread to other parts of the body by taking a fine-needle aspirate of lymph nodes, taking chest X-rays, or sometimes doing an ultrasound of the animal's abdomen. A specialty oncologist such as Dr. Garrett has the knowledge of what tumors commonly spread, where they spread to, and how to treat them. Your veterinarian may refer you to a specialist if testing or treatment can't be done at your regular clinic.
Treatment for malignant tumors depends on what type of cancer it is, but the range of options is very similar to what is available for human cancer patients. If the location of the tumor permits, surgery may be performed to remove it. Other tumors may be treated with various forms of chemotherapy. Luckily, dogs and cats usually tolerate chemotherapy much better than people.
"About 20 percent of pets have mild gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or decreased appetite. A similar percent of pets may have low white blood cell counts that can predispose to infections, but a count so low that it can be life-threatening happens less than 3 percent of the time. Hair loss may be seen in dogs whose hair coats grow continuously (like poodles), but most dog breeds do not experience hair loss. Cats may lose their whiskers and guard hairs, making their coats more of a fluffy texture," Dr. Garrett says.
Many cancers in cats and dogs can be cured if caught early and treated appropriately, according to Dr. Garrett. Getting new lumps and bumps examined by your veterinarian may prevent a disease from becoming more severe. Be sure to check with your local veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about your pet's lumps and bumps.
An archive of Pet Columns from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is available online at http://vetmed.illinois.edu/petcolumns/. Requests for reprints of this article may be directed to Chris Beuoy, email@example.com.
Veterinary Extension/Office of Public Engagement
University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
"In wet weather conditions, they can defoliate plants from the bottom up. When leaves are lost, the tomato fruit is exposed to sunscald, which results in whitish areas on the fruit. To manage these diseases pick ripe fruit promptly, improve air circulation in the garden, mulch to avoid fruit rots, and remove tomatoes and vines at the end of the season."
University of Illinois Extension also suggests using a two- to three-year crop rotation to reduce losses from these diseases.
Ferree said there are fungicides labeled for use on tomatoes to control tomato leaf diseases.
"Read the label carefully to be sure you purchase the right product," she said. "Look for a product that specifically lists that it controls tomato diseases and follow the directions carefully. These fungicides often need repeated applications at certain intervals to work properly. Most importantly, follow any harvest intervals to be sure the produce is safe when you eat it."
Later in the season, blossom-end rot may become a problem for some growers. "Blossom-end rot appears as brown or black areas at the blossom-end of the maturing fruit," Ferree said. "Tomato, pepper, summer squash and other cucurbit crops may show this problem. This is not a disease, but rather results from low calcium levels in the plant. This usually occurs during dry periods when the plant grows slower and takes up fewer nutrients from the soil. The best way to manage this is to maintain even and adequate soil moisture."
For more information on tomato diseases or other horticultural issues contact your local Extension office at www.extension.illinois.edu. Ferree welcomes questions on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ferree.horticulture. -30-
Move over, hosta
"Where once hosta ruled as the foliage showoff, plant breeders have provided us with some fantastic Heuchera , commonly called coral bells. And although the 1926 edition of Miss Jessie M. Good Seed Company or the 1936 edition of Hillenmeyer Nursery listed two types of Heuchera: Heuchera sanguinea and Heuchera brizoides, today's plant catalogs easily list over 42 different cultivars. These spectacular plants can rival or at least complement hostas in the landscape," said Greg Stack.
"What makes them so good is that there are several species of Heuchera that plant breeders use to develop new cultivars," he said. "Three are notable for their ability to hold up well in midwestern gardens and offer some fantastic size, color and shape of foliage."
Heuchera Americana can withstand extremes of heat and cold. This is a durable plant that has great form and some fantastic leaf patterns. Heuchera villosa is the heat-seeking missile of Heuchera. These plants grow in a wide variety of climates and take humidity very well.
"Heuchera sanguine are Heucheras that are heat and drought-tolerant beyond belief," Stack said. "They are natives of Mexico and offer a broad flower and foliage color range. Plant breeders often use genetics from these species to breed outstanding garden cultivars of modern Heuchera.
"Before you buy any Heuchera, look carefully at your growing conditions and make improvements in the soil if needed."
Heuchera prefer full sun to partial shade, depending on variety. They like a well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. When planting Heuchera, don't plant too deep. Plant the crown of the plant slightly higher than the surrounding soil and let the plant settle in. Fertilize with a general-purpose garden fertilizer and water as needed to keep soil moist.
"Although many varieties are available, let's look at a few that will add some wow to your garden," he said.
Heuchera "Berry Smoothie" is a big bold plant with large round leaves that have a color range from purple rose to rose. It prefers partial sun and grows to be an 18-inch by 18-inch mound. This variety is a blend of heat-loving Heuchera villosa and cold-tolerant Heuchera americana.
Heuchera "Fire Chief" is a medium-sized plant growing to about 14 inches tall. The foliage is a glossy red-wine color that turns brown in the winter. It blooms continuously from spring to fall with pink and white flowers on dark red stems. "Fire Chief" grows well in full to partial shade.
Heuchera "Georgia Peach" is bred for heat and humidity. It has huge peach-colored leaves with a silver overlay. The color intensifies to rose purple in the fall. This Heuchera does well in full sun to partial shade.
Heuchera "Electric Lime" has intense chartreuse-colored leaves. Growing to 12 inches high and 28 inches wide, the foliage on this plant will often sport red veins in the cooler temperatures of fall. White flowers are a bonus. With its strong Heuchera villosa and Heuchera americana parentage, this plant has exceptional heat and humidity tolerance. "Electric Lime" grows best in partial shade.
Heuchera "Southern Comfort," which grows to 14 inches tall, makes a statement in the garden with is huge velvety cinnamon-peach colored leaves. The foliage changes to a burnished copper in the fall. This variety grows well in the heat and humidity of the Midwest and prefers partial shade for best growth.
Heuchera "Midnight Rose" is a bold, black Heuchera for a sunny location. In the spring, hot pink splashes of color adorn the leaves. Then pink flecks enlarge and brighten before turning to a light cream color as the season progresses.
"If the plant companies of the 1920s and 1930s could see what has happened to garden Heuchera, they would have to say 'Move over, hosta, there's a new plant in town and it's all about color and wow,'" he said.
Japanese beetle invasion is under way
"If you can keep feeding damage to a minimum when they first arrive, it is likely you will have less damage overall," said Rhonda Ferree, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
"Japanese beetle traps are not recommended because the pheromone tends to bring more Japanese beetles into the area than are captured," she said.
Control can be difficult because the beetles move frequently, Ferree said.
"Generally pesticide sprays, such as Sevin and Malathion, can reduce damage for several days, but several applications are required to maintain control. Some home gardeners find picking them off by hand every couple of days can be just as effective as spraying," Ferree said. "When disturbed, the beetles fold their legs and drop to the ground. Hold a can containing rubbing alcohol or water with detergent below the infested leaves. The beetles will drop into the container and be killed."
Prized roses and ripening fruit can be protected by covering with floating row covers, she added. "And there are a number of birds such as grackles, cardinals and meadowlarks that feed on adult beetles. These serve as natural enemies, which can also keep the use of conventional pesticides to a minimum.
"Above all, maintain the health of the plant," Ferree said. "Plants damaged during the summer are more likely to suffer from other stresses, such as drought, early frosts, diseases and other insect attacks. Plants will often recover and appear fine next year, living on stored food reserves. But repeated defoliation in early summer will weaken many trees, shrubs and vines."
How do you know if what you have is a Japanese beetle?
The body of a Japanese beetle adult is one-half inch to three-quarter inches long with copper-colored wing covers and a shiny, metallic green head. A key characteristic is prominent white tufts of hair along their sides.
The adult beetle feeds on a variety of deciduous trees, shrubs and vines such as linden, Japanese maple, sycamore, birch, elm and grape. The hardest-hit plants include roses, linden, birch, maple, viburnum, hibiscus, grapes, zinnia, canna, raspberries and apples.
Their favorite plants are rose and crabapple. They generally do not feed on dogwood, forsythia, holly and lilac.
Japanese beetle adult feeding damage is very distinctive. They skeletonize leaves by eating all the leaf tissue and leaving the veins. Adults are most active from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on warm, clear summer days. Feeding is normally in the upper portions of trees. Beetles prefer plants in direct sun, so heavily wooded areas are rarely attacked.
Adults are present for about six weeks from mid-June until early August. After mating, females lay eggs in turf that hatch into grubs in August. The grubs then feed on plant and turf grass roots until cold weather drives them deeper into the soil where they stay until emerging as adults again in June of the following year.
For more information on Japanese beetles or other horticultural issues, contact your local Extension office by visiting www.extension.illinois.edu.
Ferree welcomes questions on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ferree.horticulture.
More than one way to own investments
"You can own individual stocks or bonds, buy shares of a mutual fund that holds stocks or bonds (or both), or buy shares of an Exchange Traded Fund," according to Karen Chan, certified financial planner and consumer economics educator with University of Illinois Extension.
She explained, "When you buy or sell an individual stock or bond, you enter an order with a broker. You can use a market order, and your trade will execute at whatever the price is at that moment, or use a limit order, specifying the price at which you will buy or sell."
In mutual funds, Chan said your money is pooled with other investors and invested by the fund. The most familiar type of mutual fund is the open-end fund. When you buy or sell shares, you are buying them from or selling them to the fund itself.
"You can place an order to buy or sell shares of a mutual fund at any time, but the order will be executed at the end of the trading day when the fund has calculated its Net Asset Value (NAV)," she said. "You won't know the exact price until after it executes. If the mutual fund sells an investment in the fund at a profit, it will report that gain to you and to the IRS on a Form 1099, even though you didn't sell anything."
Open-end mutual funds can be actively or passively managed. With active management, the manager chooses which investments to buy, hold or sell. Index funds use passive management; the fund tracks an index of stocks or bonds such as the Standard and Poor's 500 or the MSCI World Index. The fund owns the same investments included in the index; there is no active buying or selling within the fund.
"You may pay a commission, or load, to purchase or sell shares of a mutual fund," Chan said. "There are also no-load funds for which there are no purchase or sales fees. Your broker might charge a small fee if you hold the mutual fund in your brokerage account instead of buying directly from the mutual fund. There are also annual costs for owning a mutual fund, reflected in the annual expense ratio," she said.
Although less common, there are also closed-end mutual funds. These funds trade throughout the day, and you are buying from or selling to other investors.
"The price can be affected by demand for shares of the fund, and you could get significantly more or less than the actual value of the investments inside the fund," Chan said.
Exchange traded funds (ETF) are the newest kind of mutual funds. They trade throughout the day like stocks and closed-end funds, but the price is usually very close to the NAV.
"Using a broker, you buy and sell shares from the fund," Chan said. "Large blocks of shares are created or liquidated as needed to keep the price close to NAV. You will pay a commission to the broker to purchase or sell shares of an ETF, but ETFs usually have lower annual expense ratios than open-end mutual funds."
Chan suggested that when buying or selling large numbers of shares, the lower expense ratio of an ETF could more than make up for the brokerage commission. "If you make frequent small purchases, open-end mutual funds will likely cost less."
Before buying any type of investment, Chan advises that individuals understand the investment and make sure that it fits your needs. When investing in mutual funds, ask questions such as:
- What types of stocks, bonds or other investments does the fund hold? How does that fit with other investments I already own?
- What is the fund's objective? Does it match my investment goals?
- What are the costs of buying and owning the fund? How often will I buy shares? Will an open-end fund or ETF be the most cost-efficient?
- What are the risks?
- How long do I expect to own this fund?
- For actively managed funds: How long has the current manager led the fund?
"Answers for many of these questions can be found in the fund's prospectus, which is an official document you can find on the fund's website or request to be mailed to you," Chan said.
For more information, read the Plan Well, Retire Well blog at www.extension.illinois.edu/go/retirewell.
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"These prolific bloomers will continue blooming for up to five weeks," said Jennifer Fishburn. "As a group, the genus Anemone consists of 100 species of plants, including spring-, summer- and fall-blooming flowers. The fall-flowering anemones species are the show stoppers of the group."
Fall anemones, also called Japanese anemones, bloom from late July to early October. Anemones are not native to Japan, but some cultivars originated in Japan.
"Fall anemones will grow in full sun but prefer a partial shade location, performing the best with morning sun and afternoon shade," she said. "Foliage tends to burn in hot, dry, summer conditions. Soil should be fertile, moist, well-drained and high in organic matter. Plants prefer consistently moist soil so mulching is beneficial. Plants can be killed by wet winter conditions. Anemones are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 7."
Slow to establish, fall anemones will become prolific when grown in a preferred site. Be sure to give the plants room by spacing them 2 to 3 feet apart in the garden. Sometimes the plant will start to spill out of the space. In that case, just dig out the unwanted intruders and share them with friends, Fishburn suggested.
Mounded plants will grow 2 to 5 feet tall. Taller plants may need to be staked. Place plants in the mid-border to background of the garden.
"The dark green foliage is attractive from spring to fall," said Fishburn. "Foliage darkens after a hard frost. It is best to remove the foliage in late fall."
Flowers are white, pink, rose or lilac. There are single, semi-double or double cultivars. The slightly cupped flowers are 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Flowers don't need to be deadheaded to prolong bloom.
Some of the fall-blooming anemone species are Anemone hupehensis, Anemone x hybrida, and Anemone tomentosa. All of these species produce similar flowers but have a few differences.
Hybrid anemones, Anemone x hybrida, are hybrids of several species and are well adapted to our gardens. Plants can reach 5 feet in height.
Anemone hupehensis flowers a week or so earlier and is generally shorter (2 to 3 feet) than A. x hybrida. A. hupehensis also has smaller flowers and tolerates drier, sunnier sites.
Anemone tomentosa is an earlier-flowering anemone and more tolerant of temperature extremes than A. hybrida. It is called the grapeleaf anemone because its dark green leaves resemble grape leaves. The foliage has a white pubescence on the underside of the leaves.
"Consider adding fall anemones to the garden," she recommended. "They add beauty to the perennial garden just as summer bloomers are fading away and just before mums begin to bloom."
How much risk to the corn crop?
A number of factors combine each year to determine the U.S. average corn yield. Among those factors, temperature and precipitation during July are the most important, he said.
"Crop yield models have long confirmed the large yield impact of July weather. The most favorable weather conditions in July in the heart of the Corn Belt consist of temperatures that are modestly below average and precipitation that is about 25 percent above average," he said.
These are the kind of conditions that were experienced in 2009 and contributed to the record high U.S. average yield that year. Historically, such conditions over large areas have been rare, he noted.
"Weather conditions in July, and earlier, in 2011 have been far from ideal in many areas," he said. "Planting was late in portions of the eastern and northern Corn Belt. Southern portions of the United States have experienced hot and generally dry conditions for an extended period. The central and northern growing areas have experienced widely varying weather conditions during planting and the early part of the growing season."
These widely varying conditions have been reflected in the USDA's weekly Crop Progress reports, which report crop condition ratings. As of July 10, the lowest crop ratings were reported in Texas, North Carolina, Kansas and Ohio. The highest crop ratings were in Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Tennessee.
"There is some indication that the intense heat will begin to moderate in many areas by the upcoming weekend. Still, average July temperatures in the Corn Belt may rank among the highest since 1960," he said.
In addition to the high temperatures, corn yield potential may be threatened by the expanding area of dryness over the last few weeks. For the first half of July, precipitation was well below average in large portions of Illinois and Indiana, he said.
"Portions of southeastern Iowa, northwest Ohio, and eastern Michigan have also been relatively dry. Precipitation over the past 30 days was below normal in large portions of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and southern Wisconsin," he added.
Good said that less than favorable July weather in many areas has reduced corn yield potential in those areas. He added that the overall impact on the likely U.S. average corn yield will be influenced by weather conditions in the last week of July and in August, and that some indication of the impact will be revealed in the weekly crop condition ratings.
"Overall ratings for the week ended July 17 may not decline substantially, but declines could be reported for the week ending July 24 as a result of high temperatures and the lack of widespread precipitation," he said.
The importance of the 2011 U.S. corn yield is underscored by the USDA's projection of record consumption of U.S. corn during the 2011-12 marketing year. The most recent projection, released on July 12, forecasts consumption at 13.5 billion bushels, 195 million bushels above expected consumption during the current marketing year, he said.
Stocks at the end of the 2011-12 marketing year are projected at 870 million bushels, or 6.4 percent of projected use. Based on the forecast of 84.9 million acres to be harvested, a yield below 156.5 bushels would force a reduction in the projected level of consumption. A continuation of relatively high livestock and ethanol prices, along with growing Chinese demand, suggests that high corn prices would be required to curtail consumption, he said.
"For now, the corn market is reflecting modest concerns about the size of the 2011 crop," he said. "December 2011 futures recovered by more than $1.00 from the low on July 1 but are currently about 50 cents below the high reached on June 9. Prices will continue to reflect weather conditions, weather forecasts, and crop condition ratings."
As indicated last week, the nature of the 2011 planting and growing season creates a large amount of uncertainty about the size of the 2011 corn crop. Small inventories and strong demand increase the importance of crop size, he said.
"As always, the USDA's August production forecast is highly anticipated because it will establish a benchmark for forming production expectations. That report may have added impact this year due to the possibility of adjustments to the harvested acreage forecast," he said.
It almost goes without saying that corn prices will continue to trade in a wide range, Good said.
"All of the uncertainty makes it difficult to judge the overall price direction, but it appears there is more production risk than is currently reflected by the corn market," he added.
Deadheading—when, how and why
"As with any profession, there are terms known and understood only by the professionals," said Martha Smith. "Auto mechanics and computer technicians seem to speak their own language. But I didn't realize it was true for gardeners until a friend pointed it out to me when I nonchalantly said her flowers should be deadheaded."
"Deadheading is removing old flowers," she said. "It also can involve removing foliage to improve the appearance of the plant."
Smith described why deadheading helps.
"Consider the lovely tall bearded iris," she said. "This perennial can have two to four blooms along its stem in May. As they finish flowering, they go from stunning to mush-on-a-stem. Handpick each flower as it finishes to improve the appearance and, once all have bloomed, cut the stem back to the basal foliage."
The popular daylily (Hemerocallis species) is another plant that looks better deadheaded. Daylilies can have four to eight buds in a cluster at the end of a flower scape (another word that many may not be familiar with, which means flower stalk).
"As the name suggests each flower blooms for a day," she said. "It would be nice if the old flowers simply dropped off but no, we need to deadhead and individually remove the old flowers.
"Once they have all bloomed out, you cut out the flower scape."
Annuals need to be deadheaded, too. Remove old geranium, marigold and gazania flowers and you will again have a full-blooming plant.
There are other plants that bloom in a flurry with many flowers covering the plant. Threadleaf coreopsis is an example. Sunny yellow flowers cover the plant for three to five weeks starting in June. Once they are bloomed out, simply take your shears and lop off the flowers plus about 3 to 5 inches of growth, depending on cultivar.
"This may seem bold, but the plant will respond with a flush of new crisp foliage and usually a second flush of flowering — though not as prolific as the first flush," Smith said.
Other plants such as Speedwell (Veronica sp.), perennial Salvia or Spiderwort (Tradescantia sp.) often look haggard after they bloom as the heat of summer kicks in. "Silver Mound" Artemesia often breaks open and looks sad. Deadhead these plants after they bloom, but also remove most of the foliage. Cutting back to basal growth or 4 to 5 inches may leave an open spot in your garden temporarily, but these plants will respond and reward you with compact clean growth.
"Another advantage to removing old flowers and foliage is preventing seed production," she said. "Not only does this take energy from overall plant growth, but with some plants this can be a source of re-seeding.
"Purple coneflower (Echinacea sp.) is known to re-seed. Deadhead and you eliminate this issue. But, if you want to attract birds to your garden, let the flowers remain and don't complain when you have little coneflowers throughout the garden."
Creating a tropical garden in the Midwest
"Adding tropical and tropical-looking plants can give the yard a different look, create a unique feeling, add focal points to a traditional landscape, and enable us to have a good-looking garden even in the hottest part of summer," explained Sharon Yiesla.
"A number of different types of plants can be used to give the feeling of a tropical paradise. Some are common house plants such as aloe, croton and mandevilla. Additionally, unusual or uncommon tropical plants such as banana, avocado, bird of paradise and summer bulbs such as calla lily, cannas and elephant ear can be used. Annuals and perennials that have an exotic look can also be utilized. These could include angels trumpet, castor bean, perennial hibiscus and plume poppy.
Yiesla recommended giving a flower bed a more tropical look by adding a large-leafed plant like castor bean. The large leaves give the garden a tropical feel, along with the red flowers of a common annual like salvia or sage. The bright color of the flowers accents the tropical look created by the large leaves of the castor bean, she said.
"Something to keep in mind is that plants with excessively large leaves may be more prone to damage from wind and rain storms," Yiesla said. "These plants may need to be placed in more protected areas where wind isn't a common problem."
If the tropical garden includes house plants or uncommon tropical plants, you will need to acclimate them to the backyard environment. The yard often offers light that is much more intense than the light indoors. "Temperatures will be quite different as we move plants out of the house and into the yard," she said.
"We may need to make this move a slow process to let the plant adapt to its new environment," she cautioned.
House plants and other tropicals will need to be stored indoors in containers. Before choosing these plants, be sure there is enough room in the house to store them for the long winter.
"And,remember, these tropical plants are more sensitive to cold, so you'll need to bring them inside before the frost comes. When nighttime temperatures drop into the upper fiftys, these plants should be brought indoors," she said.
Cool gardening tips for a hot summer yard
Lawns need about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week to maintain their green color, so first decide whether or not to let your lawn go dormant during hot, dry summer weather.
"Do not let the lawn go dormant and then start watering it again to green it up," he said. "This practice uses large amounts of the grass's food reserves. Water lawns early in the day and avoid watering between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is the hottest part of the day, and you will lose 50 percent of the water you apply. Watering in the evening will increase the chances of disease problems. If watering with a sprinkler, place coffee cans in the area to measure water application rates."
During the summer when grass growth slows, mow the lawn at the 3-inch height. Lawns mowed at a higher height during the summer will have fewer weed problems and deeper roots.
"Mowing too close just invites weeds," Wolford noted. "Don't mow the grass when it is wet and never remove more than one-third of the grass leaf in any one cutting. If you mow your lawn on a regular basis, you do not need to collect the clippings. Clippings are 75 to 80 percent water and will decompose down into the lawn. Clippings have some nitrogen content, so less fertilizer is necessary."
Late summer is the best time to repair lawns. Seeding bare spots in the lawn during this time period will allow the new growth to have enough time to germinate, grow and harden off before cold temperatures arrive. There is less competition from weeds in the fall because a lot of the annual weeds die out. And the cooler temperatures in the fall are great for growing grass.
Ideally, dig the soil to at least 6 to 8 inches deep, spread grass seed over the area and tamp down. Keep the soil moist until germination. Cover with weed-free straw to conserve moisture. If you are laying down sod, water the new sod several times a day for one to two weeks until it begins to knit or take hold. Be sure that water goes down through the thick sod and moistens the soil underneath for good root development. Do not let sod dry out.
"Reduce favorable breeding sites for mosquitoes that cause West Nile virus," he said. "Keep your gutters free of debris because clogged roof gutters make great breeding sites. Clean and freshen water in pet dishes, wading pools and birdbaths. Cut back tall weeds and grass because they can be hiding places for mosquitoes during the day."
For more information, go to the University of Illinois Extension web site: Preventing West Nile Virus (http://urbanext.illinois.edu/westnile/).
Watch for the emerald ash borer. The adult borer is a 1/3- to 1/2-half inch-long emerald green bullet-shaped beetle.
"Look for the adult beetle on leaves and trunks of ash trees," he said. "Look for 1/8-inch wide D-shaped emergence holes in the bark of ash trees. Female beetles will lay eggs and after the eggs hatch, larvae will bore through the bark into the cambium.
"The larvae will feed, making winding tunnels under the bark, disabling the tree's ability to take up food and water. Initial symptoms will include dieback at the top of the tree. The tree will usually die within two to three years."
For more information, go to the University of Illinois Extension web site, Emerald Ash Borer Central at (http://bit.ly/EAborer).
Watch for yellowjackets in August. Yellowjackets are ½-inch long, yellow and black-banded wasps. Yellowjackets are attracted to open cans of pop, open garbage cans, perfumes and bright clothing. Keep garbage and pop covered with lids. Keep rotting fruit under trees cleaned up and avoid wearing brightly colored clothes. Above all, do not try to swat yellowjackets away with your hands and arms. Be aware that a yellowjacket can sting repeatedly. They will only sting if they are disturbed.
"Check your roses and other ornamentals for Japanese beetles," he said. "Adults are copper colored with shiny metallic green heads. They will skeletonize leaves during the day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The beetles may be active well into August. Control them by picking the beetles off by hand. Japanese beetle traps may attract more beetles than they control."
Trees and Shrubs
Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch around trees and shrubs. Mulch the area under the tree to its drip line. The drip line is the circle that could be drawn on the soil around a tree directly under the tips of its outermost branches. Keep the mulch 4 to 6 inches away from the base of the tree or shrub to prevent rot. Organic mulches will reduce weeds and conserve moisture. As the mulch decomposes, it can be dug into the soil, thereby adding nutrients to the soil and improving soil structure.
Water trees and shrubs during hot, dry periods. It is especially important to water trees planted this growing season. Established trees will also need water if conditions remain dry. Water the entire root zone. The root zone area extends beyond the drip line or outermost branches of the tree.
Avoid overwatering trees, especially those growing in clay soils. Trees have died because of roots sitting in very wet soils.
"Watch for blossom-end rot on tomatoes," said Wolford. "The blossom ends of tomatoes turn brown to black. Peppers and summer squash can also have this problem. This is not a disease. The condition results from a calcium deficiency caused by wide fluctuations in soil moisture. Maintain even levels of soil moisture to control blossom-end rot. Applying mulch around tomato plants will help."
During hot weather, pick your tomatoes every couple days. Temperatures of 90 degrees F and higher can speed up the softening process, slow down color development and reduce quality. Picking your ripening tomatoes will also keep the squirrels from snacking on them.
Powdery mildew is a very common problem, especially during wet summers and at the end of the growing season. Powdery mildew leaves white spots on leaves, shoots, buds and stems. It really doesn't harm the plant, but it doesn't look good.
"To avoid mildew, space plants properly for good air circulation," he said. "Try to avoid wetting the foliage when watering because that can help to spread the disease. Buy varieties of plants that are resistant to mildew."