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​Drip irrigation in the home garden

Published June 10, 2016
vegetables with drip irrigation lines
Vegetables with drip irrigation lines

URBANA, Ill. – With demand for water resources and concern for water conservation increasing across the U.S., drip irrigation is becoming a common method to reduce the water bill and safeguard water resources.

“Drip irrigation is a technique that allows water to slowly drip onto the soil surface or directly to the root zone using a system of piping, valves, tubing, and emitters,” explains University of Illinois Extension educator Chris Enroth.

According to Enroth, there are a number of reasons gardeners should incorporate drip irrigation into their landscapes and gardens.

Depending on the soil type and daily climate conditions, traditional watering methods can result in water running off before it penetrates the soil. Drip irrigation, on the other hand, is highly efficient. The majority – 90 to 95 percent – of the water applied in this way infiltrates the soil.

“Another benefit of drip systems is that they are highly efficient,” Enroth notes. “They usually use 30 to 50 percent less water than sprinkler irrigation.”

Other pros of drip systems include minimizing leaf wetness, which can reduce disease occurrence; the ability to direct moisture only to desirable plants, keeping weeds out of the path of irrigation; and the ability to set timers to deliver the exact amount of water desired.

“In the past, drip irrigation was a bit intimidating for homeowners,” Enroth says. “Early systems had their share of problems, ranging from clogged emitters to uneven distribution of water.”

The development of new materials has improved and simplified today’s drip irrigation systems.

“There are almost endless combinations of drip irrigation systems that can be set up for use in landscaping beds or in the vegetable garden. Many local garden centers and online retailers sell customizable drip irrigation kits that can easily be hooked up to an outdoor water spigot,” Enroth notes.

A drip system can be as simple or complex as the gardener desires. Enroth recommends drip tape for use in row crops and vegetable gardens. Single mounted drip devices called emitters are typically used to irrigate trees, shrubs, containers, and hanging baskets. Emitters are plugged in to polyethylene pipe and run to wherever water is required. Finally, drip tube is typically used in landscape beds.

Drip irrigation systems require a backflow prevention device to prevent contamination of the water source. They also operate on very low water pressure, so every system also requires a pressure reducer.

Enroth cautions, “The typical water pressure found at the spigot is 30 PSI. If a drip irrigation system is run from a water source without a pressure reducer, emitters can be damaged and a drip system’s lifespan will be shortened.”

Contact your local Extension office for resources on setting up your drip irrigation system. You can find your local office at

News Source:

Chris Enroth, 309-837-3939

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

University of Illinois Plant Clinic: Celebrating 40 years of service to Illinois

Published June 9, 2016
plant clinic

URBANA, Ill. – Since 1976, the University of Illinois Plant Clinic has served as a clearinghouse for plant problems. The Plant Clinic was originally developed to help County Cooperative Extension staff and campus-based specialists with requests for diagnoses on a wide variety of plants.

“By acting as a centralized diagnostic laboratory, the Plant Clinic also serves as a source of information about plant problems in Illinois,” says University of Illinois Extension educator Diane Plewa.  

For most of its existence, the Plant Clinic was open from May through October. Since 2010, the Plant Clinic has been open year-round. During the off-season, staff compile reports, write fact sheets, and present at conferences and meetings around the state. The Plant Clinic has taken a lead role in the Illinois First Detector Invasive Species Workshops, which started in 2013. The workshops are held every year in various locations across Illinois and educate green professionals, city and municipal employees, and concerned public about invasive plants, insects, and diseases that threaten Illinois horticulture and agriculture.

For the past several years, the Plant Clinic has processed over 4,000 plant and soil samples annually. The vast majority of the plant samples are analyzed for disease and insect problems, though plant and insect identification is also performed. Soil samples are analyzed for nematode populations, including soybean cyst nematode and vermiform pathogenic nematodes.

“Last year, a new service testing for herbicide resistance in waterhemp was offered,” Plewa notes. “Protocols for molecular testing for glyphosate and PPO-inhibitor resistance were adapted from ones developed in U of I researcher Patrick Tranel’s laboratory. Over the course of the year, 338 fields (representing 1350 plants) were analyzed. Plants were submitted from Illinois and four other Midwestern states.”

The Plant Clinic has worked with the Soybean Board and the Sentinel Plant Network to stay aware of new threats in Illinois. Last year, several new pests were identified, including jumping worms (an invasive earthworm) in northern Illinois, and tar spot of corn in north/central Illinois. This disease was found in Illinois and Indiana in 2015 and was a first find in the country.

The Plant Clinic also works with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Illinois Crop Improvement Association to certify crops for export, and has a partnership with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to monitor the health of natural areas in Illinois.

“The Plant Clinic employs undergraduate and graduate students, providing them with hands-on experience working in a plant diagnostic laboratory and expanding their outreach skills,” Plewa says.

Staff write articles for various online newsletters, including the Home, Yard, and Garden Pest Newsletter ( and The Bulletin ( The Plant Clinic participated in the ACES Family Academies in 2015, where youth ages 6-13 got a chance to use microscopes, inoculate plants, and wash soil to collect nematode eggs. Departmental service includes opening the laboratory for tours and hands-on activities for students, and outreach at events such as Agronomy Day held every August.

For more information about the Plant Clinic, including contact information and instructions on submitting samples, please see our website at: The clinic is celebrating 40 years of service to the state of Illinois all season long on its Facebook page ( and is looking forward to another 40 years of helping people with their plant problems.

News Source:

Diane Plewa, 217-300-3441

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Summer care of roses

Published June 8, 2016

URBANA, Ill. – Roses, sometimes called the "Queen of Flowers," should be in full glory in the month of June. The many colors, scents, and flower sizes are all qualities the rose connoisseur craves. Fortunately, rose care is not difficult. What roses require, however, is consistent care.

"Roses are heavy feeders, so a regular fertilizer program is essential", explains University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Martha Smith. "Disease problems can be controlled with diligent attention and quick action."

Roses can be planted in spring in containers or in the ground. For southern Illinois, this can be late April to early May and, in northern Illinois, any time after mid-May. Because roses require a minimum of six full hours of direct sun daily, containers or rose beds should be located in sunny areas. Roses will not tolerate wet soil, which means good drainage is important.

“Dig the planting hole deep and wide enough to generously accommodate the roots. If the rose is grafted, you need to consider how deep to set the graft union. The question ‘to bury or not to bury’ the graft union has been long debated. Depending on where you live, and which rose expert you connect with, the general consensus is that in warmer climates, the bud union should be at or just above ground level, while in colder climates, the bud union should be positioned at ground level or 1 to 2 inches below ground level with mulch added above,” Smith advises.

For gardens with heavy clay or very sandy soil, compost, peat moss, or leaf mold should be incorporated into the backfill. Smith recommends filling the hole halfway, then adding water to allow any air pockets to settle out. Gardeners can then completely fill the remaining space and repeat the watering step.

If roses are stunted or have weak growth, small flowers, pale or discolored leaves, premature petal fall, and/or poor disease resistance, a regular fertilizer program may help. Rose Societies generally recommend adding compost or manure every year to the bed as well as following a fertilizer schedule.

Smith says, “A complete fertilizer, containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, is recommended May 1, June 1, and July 1. Follow the recommended rates on the label. A liquid feed is also recommended between the monthly fertilizer applications.”

Rose gardeners regularly contend with diseases. Yellow foliage with large black spots is called black spot and is a very common rose disease. Infected leaves may drop prematurely, and severe infection may cause some canes to completely defoliate. Powdery mildew, easily recognized by the white powdery patches that form over the foliage, can also be a problem. Powdery mildew can be a problem in shady areas, or where there is very little air movement.

For both diseases, fungicide should be applied as a preventative before foliage develops fully. Foliar fungicides should be sprayed every 7 to 14 days as leaves emerge, when day temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

“If you have experienced these diseases in the past, it is also important to practice good sanitation practices,” Smith says. “Remove diseased leaves in the fall. The fungal spores can survive mild winters only to re-sporulate and re-infect your rose again next year.”

Many gardeners are challenged by proper pruning practices.

“Starting at the flower, count the number of leaflets on each leaf. Leaves can be comprised of a single leaflet, three leaflets, or five leaflets. Leaves with five leaflets have mature buds at their base that will produce a new shoot. Choose an outward facing 5-leaflet leaf in the middle of the stem – not the base – and cut above it. By choosing a mid-level bud, you insure adequate foliage remains on the plant. Bring cut flowers inside for your enjoyment. Also, prune off faded flowers,” Smith recommends.

Smith believes any gardener can have success with roses if they follow her simple guidelines and maintain consistency of care throughout the season. To learn more about rose gardening, visit University of Illinois Extension’s Our Rose Garden website at

News Source:

Martha Smith, 618-344-4230

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Permaculture movement found lacking in diversity

Published June 8, 2016
permaculture garden
Permaculture garden. Photo courtesy of Rafter Ferguson.
  • Permaculture, a grassroots movement in which participants grow seasonal perennial foods and live sustainably, has not been extensively studied. 
  • In a large international survey, researchers found that the majority of participants were white and, although more than half were women, they were not in leadership roles.
  • For the movement to grow in a healthy and meaningful way, researchers recommend actively bolstering diversity and gender equality.

URBANA, Ill. – Permaculture is a grassroots movement whose participants attempt to live in a sustainable way, taking inspiration from natural ecosystems to “live off the land.” For example, permaculture enthusiasts may grow seasonal organic produce fertilized with manure from livestock raised on their own land, rather than bringing in synthetic fertilizers or annual crop seeds from elsewhere. The idea is to rely as much as possible on perennial crops, to recycle and reuse materials, and reduce waste.

Although permaculture principles are well established, the movement has not been studied in a systematic way. University of Illinois landscape agroecologist Sarah Taylor Lovell and graduate student Rafter Ferguson set out to explore who is participating. They hope to provide insights into permaculture’s potential for growth and its influence on the larger sustainability movement.

After examining survey responses from 731 English-speaking permaculture participants across 45 countries, their results show that vast majority of participants are white. In countries where racial disparities are greater, fewer people of color are participating than in countries with less inequality.

“The absence of people of color in our survey results seems to be problematic across a lot of environmental movements,” Lovell says. “It may be that people of color might not identify with the term ‘permaculture’, even though they might be practicing something very similar,” she adds. “In an earlier study, we found a lot of participation by several urban ethnic groups in permaculture-like home gardening.”

The survey also reveals that just over half of the respondents are women. This apparent parity is tempered by the discovery that women are disproportionately excluded from professional roles in the movement. These are usually paid positions that range from consultant to teacher to designer.

“Our results reflect what we see in general. Even where women are close to matching the number of men working in an organization, we see that they often aren’t in the leadership roles. For women to be lifted up within the permaculture movement, there has to be more thought about purposefully putting women in those roles,” Lovell notes.

The study examined socioeconomic factors, and generally found that participants in the permaculture movement tend to be of intermediate or high socioeconomic status. The influence of particular socioeconomic factors differed. For example, income was relatively low, but the level of education and homeownership were higher than national averages.

“The most interesting thing that came out of the study, for me, was seeing how very complex these relationships are, and how many interactions there are between gender, socioeconomic status, and the different roles within the movement,” Lovell says.

So, what does all this mean for the future of permaculture?

“The factors limiting diversity and equality in permaculture must be addressed thoughtfully and systematically if the movement is to grow and contribute to sustainability in a meaningful way,” Lovell says.

The article, “Grassroots engagement with transition to sustainability: Diversity and modes of participation in the international permaculture movement,” is published in Ecology and Society and can be read at


Salute to Ag Day

All Day Event
To Be Announced

The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) invites you to attend Salute to Agriculture Day at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Saturday, September 10. Prior to watching the Illini take on North Carolina, we invite you to enjoy a tailgate including a short program hosted by Orion Samuelson followed by an auction. More information can be found at


December Graduation Ceremony

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Krannert Center