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Japanese Beetle Damage

The leaves of this American Basswood are reduced to lattice by innumerable hungry Japanese beetles in this Sept. 10, 2012, file photo.

As the “Auld Lang Syne” melody fades and a new year begins, top 10 lists for the past year emerge. Although knowing the top 10 movies or the top 10 songs of 2018 is entertaining, revealing the top five plant or plant related issues brought to the attention of our local master gardeners in 2018 is of interest to plant enthusiasts like me.

UW-Extension master gardener plant health advisers record the inquiries they receive while they staff the plant health help desk located at the Ives Grove Office Complex in Yorkville. At this help desk, members of the general public can contact the advisers to assist with plant problems, to assist with plant identification, and to learn about control/management for plant pests and diseases. These records are helpful when determining some of the main concerns local residents have with their gardens and landscapes.

In 2018, the top five categories of inquiries received by master gardener plant health advisers were: trees, insects, perennials, fruits and lawns. Twenty-five percent of the inquiries were on trees or tree-related subjects while the second leading topic, insects, accounted for 14 percent. Perennials (11 percent), fruits (10 percent) and lawn/turf (10 percent) rounded out the top five. The remaining 30 percent were questions on vegetables, soils, weeds, pesticides, compost, shrubs and how to become a master gardener volunteer.

In the tree category, tar spot, a fungal disease that causes black spots to form predominantly on maple tree leaves, although other species can be affected, was a top concern as were diseases on conifer trees, such as rhizosphaera needle cast and cytospora canker, both caused by fungal pathogens.

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Inquiries related to insects included how to deal with ants in the garden, how to control Japanese beetles and how to eradicate box elder bugs. Identification of insects and spiders was requested on a regular basis. Many of the perennial related questions were on plant diseases, such as Botrytis on peony, along with how to create certain types of gardens, such as butterfly or pollinator gardens. How to prune and spray fruit trees was a common fruit related inquiry. Establishing a healthy lawn was on the minds of several clients who wondered how to control grubs, when to take a soil test and what to do about dead spots in the lawn.

During the winter season, the master gardener plant health advisers visit the plant health help desk once a week to check email and voicemail, usually on Thursday mornings. When the growing season arrives, plant health advisers will have regular office hours on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon at the Ives Grove Office Complex, 14200 Washington Ave., Yorkville. Contact them at 262-886-8451 or email

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Jeanne Hilinske-Christensen is the UW Extension Interim Horticulture Educator for Kenosha and Racine counties. Submit plant care questions to the Master Gardener Plant Health Advisors. or call 262-886-8451.


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