Soil Tilth

Factors that determine tilth include the formation and stability of aggregated soil particles, moisture content, degree of aeration, rate of water infiltration, and drainage. The tilth of a soil can change rapidly, depending on environmental factors such as changes in moisture. The objective of tillage (mechanical manipulation of the soil) is to improve tilth, thereby increasing crop production; in the long-term, however, conventional tillage, especially mechnical tilling, often has the opposite effect, causing the soil to break down and become compacted.


Poison ivy rash occurs when the plant toxin, urushiol (one of the deadliest natural poisons on the planet) comes into contact with human skin. It is a condition characterized by swelling, blisters, pain and an amazing amount of itching.

Besides intense itching and pain, the effects of rubbing up against this poisonous plant may also manifest as red bumps, intense sensations of burning and irritation, as well as fever. The appearance of the symptoms can be between anywhere from a few hours to seven or ten days after the original contact with the plant.

The following are a few natural remedies for poison ivy;

Baking Soda Baths & Pastes

Found in most kitchens, common baking soda is a great natural remedy for the itchiness associated with a poison ivy rash. To help relieve itching, place 1/2 a cup of baking soda in a bath tub filled with warm water. You can also mix 3 teaspoons of baking soda with one teaspoon of water and mix until it forms a paste. Apply this paste to the infected area to relieve itching and irritation that’s associated with a poison ivy rash.

Oatmeal Paste

Cook a small amount of oatmeal and apply it directly to the skin as a paste. Make sure to cook it very thick so that the paste will stick to the skin. Some sources recommend putting the oatmeal on the skin while it is very warm, as the heat from the oatmeal will eventually cool, leaving the skin dry and relieved. Make sure not to apply the oatmeal when it is too hot, as this can easily burn the skin. You may also try mixing in a teaspoon of baking soda, for an extra itch-relieving effect.

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Apply a teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar directly to the infected skin. Apple Cider Vinegar has a toxin-pulling action that helps suck the poison out of the pores. You can also create a warm vinegar compress using a thin cotton towel. Reapply to the skin as needed.

Aloe Vera Gel

An ancient curative remedy for the skin, aloe vera can be used directly on the infected area. You can buy a high-quality organic version at most health-food stores, or even better, buy a plant and use the gel from inner flesh of the leaves..

Organic Goldenseal

Mix a small amount of powdered goldenseal root with a small amount of hot water. Rub this paste on the affected skin to help reduce the chances of infection. For quickest results, try drinking goldenseal tea or taking a goldenseal supplement. This remedy can also help with poison oak.

Epsom Salt

Remember, poison ivy is a condition that causes the skin to become wet and red. Salt is an excellent natural remedy, as it is drying for the skin, and will pull both the excess water and the poison from the body. Make a paste using purified water and Epsom salt. You can also take a warm salt bath using one cup of Epsom salt in a bath tub of water. It is recommend to soak at least twenty minutes.

Banana Peel

It may sound strange, but many old-wives tales swear by the power of a banana peel for poison ivy. Simply rub the inside of a banana peel on the affected area. This is possibly related to the cooling effect the banana peel has on the rash.

Organic Cucumber

This green veggie is very cooling. Making a cucumber paste and applying it to the skin helps bring soothing relief to heated itching. For easy itch relief, slice a piece of a cucumber off and let it dry on the affected area.

Watermelon Rind

Similar to the cooling cucumber, watermelon is also cold on the skin and can help provide itch relief for the poison ivy rash.

Is It Fall Yet

Astronomically – The astronomical start of fall, sometimes dubbed the “official start of fall”, occurs with the autumnal equinox – the exact moment in time where the rays of the sun are directly incident on the equator.  In 2014, this will happen at 10:29 P.M. EDT September 22.

Meteorologically – Meteorologists consider September 1 as the start of fall.  In keeping seasonal weather records, seasons are defined meteorologically as:

  • Fall – September, October, November
  • Winter – December, January, February
  • Spring – March, April, May
  • Summer – June, July, August

Sociologically – From a “softer” scientific standpoint, September 2, 2014 – the day after Labor Day – was the start of fall.  Early September, specifically just after Labor Day, usually includes a significant shift in our population’s habits, activities, and responsibilities (more school, less vacation, new sports, etc.).

Pumpkins Harvest

To harvest correctly, here is what you do:

  • Harvest pumpkins when they have developed a deep uniform color, and have a hard rind. The rind will be firm and resist denting when pressed with a thumbnail
  • Harvest all mature pumpkins before a hard freeze. A light frost will destroy the vines and should not harm the fruit, but a hard freeze, can damage the fruit, so get your pumpkins in before damaging hard frosts arrive
  • When harvesting pumpkins handle them carefully to avoid cuts and bruises which can provide entrances for various rot-producing organisms
  • Cut the fruit off the vine with a pruning shears. Leave a three to four inch handle on the pumpkins. A pumpkin with a “handle” is not only more attractive, but they are less likely to rot when they are harvested with a portion of the stem still attached to the fruit
  • Try to never carry the fruit by their stems. The stems may not be able to support the weight and they may break off
  • After harvesting, cure the pumpkins at a temperature of 80 to 85° F and at a relative humidity of 80 to 85 percent for about 10 days
  • Curing helps to harden their skins and heal any cuts and scratches
  • After curing, store pumpkins in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location. Storage temperatures should be 50 to 55° F
  • Never store pumpkins near apples, pears, or other ripening fruit. Ripening fruit release ethylene gas which shortens the storage life of pumpkins
  • When storing pumpkins, place them in a single layer where they don’t touch one another. Good air circulation helps to prevent moisture from forming on the surfaces of the fruit and helps prevent the growth of decay fungi and bacteria.
  • Avoid placing pumpkins in piles. This generates unwanted heat which may result in the rotting of some fruit
  • Periodically check pumpkins in storage and get rid of any fruit which show signs of decay
  • Properly cured and stored pumpkins should remain in good condition for two to three months or longer depending up on the variety

The Well-Tended Perennial Garden

An indispensable reference book for the addicted perennial gardener is The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust (1998, Timber Press ISBN 0-88192-414-8).  Tracy’s colleagues refer to her as “the deadhead Queen”, and she offers an extremely thorough look at every aspect of perennial garden maintenance.  Chapters on site and soil preparation, pests and diseases, plant selection, pruning methods, staking and everything else a gardener needs to do are both detailed and entertaining to read.  Includes an useful is the A to Z encyclopedia of perennials, with all the maintenance requirements for each plant laid out in a quick and concise format.

Illiana Butterflies

Thanks to Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) and their efforts to fill the need of scientists and nature observers by bringing verified occurrence and life history data into one accessible location. Citizen scientists are invited to participate by submitting their photographs and observations. This list and it’s linked information is the result of their supporters efforts and resources. Learn more about the BAMONA project and its history.

Brush-footed Butterflies (Nymphalidae)

Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)
Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)
Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)
Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton)

Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria)
Tropical Leafwing (Anaea troglodyta)

Longwings (Heliconiinae)
Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)
Diana (Speyeria diana)
Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)
Meadow Fritillary (Boloria bellona)
Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia)
Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene)
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)

Milkweed Butterflies (Danainae) 
 (Danaus plexippus)
Queen (Danaus gilippus)

Snouts (Libytheinae)

American Snout (Libytheana carinenta)

True Brushfoots (Nymphalinae
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
Baltimore (Euphydryas phaeton)
California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)
Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)
Compton Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis vaualbum)
Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)
Gorgone Checkerspot (Chlosyne gorgone)
Gray Comma (Polygonia progne)
Green Comma (Polygonia faunus)
Harris’ Checkerspot (Chlosyne harrisii)
Milbert’s Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti)
Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis)
Texan Crescent (Phyciodes texana)

Harvesters (Miletinae)

Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius)

Parnassians and Swallowtails (Papilionidae)

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)
Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)
Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

Skippers (Hesperiidae)

Brown-banded Skipper (Timochares ruptifasciatus)
Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)
Common Sootywing (Pholisora catullus)
Dreamy Duskywing (Erynnis icelus)
Golden Banded-Skipper (Autochton cellus)
Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus centaureae)
Hayhurst’s Scallopwing (Staphylus hayhurstii)
Hoary Edge (Achalarus lyciades)
Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius)
Juvenal’s Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis)
Mottled Duskywing (Erynnis martialis)
Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades)
Persius Duskywing (Erynnis persius)
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
Sleepy Duskywing (Erynnis brizo)
Southern Cloudywing (Thorybes bathyllus)
Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae)
Zarucco Duskywing (Erynnis zarucco)



This idea is a simple one and fairly familiar: by trimming off the faded flowers, many perennials can be coaxed into producing more buds and flowers, rather than wasting their energy forming seeds.  For certain plants (peonies, for instance), although no amount of deadheading will trick them into repeat bloom, plants look so much better after deadheading that it becomes part of the regular list of summer chores. Experimentation is the best way to learn this; after playing around with it for a while, most gardeners sort of develop an instinct about where exactly the cut should be made.  Here are a few general tips:

Don’t cut off any developing flower buds.  This sounds obvious, but sometimes the buds are not always large and easy to find — they may be hiding among leaves or very tiny.   Follow the stem down below the faded blooms to see if any new flower buds are present.  Cut off the faded flowers along with the stem to just above these new buds.  With plants like Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’, the buds are usually held just below the faded blooms, and a pair of hedge shears comes in handy for this task: just lightly shear the very outside of the mound, taking off the finished blooms and leaving the buds to come on later.  If no buds are present, then a slightly lower shearing will encourage new ones to form in due time.  Deadheading the individual blooms of a small-flowered plant like ‘Moonbeam’ with hand pruners would be tedious, to say the least.

Perennials with heads of flowers, or with daisy-shaped flowers usually look better if at least some of the stem below the bloom is cut off, along with the faded flowers.  This helps to avoid that unpopular “decapitated” look.  Cut these back to a thicker main stem, where new buds are probably already forming.  Perennials that respond well to this include Purple Coneflower (Echinacea), Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum), Rudbeckia, Yarrow (Achillea), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) and Beebalm (Monarda).

Deadhead individual flowers, when new buds are forming on the same stem: this is necessary for Daylilies (Hemerocallis), Peach-leaved Bellflower (Campanula persicifolia), Balloon Flower (Platycodon) and a few others.

Deadhead any plant that self-seeds around, if you wish to prevent this from happening.  These targeted plants include: Columbine (Aquilegia, Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus), Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Perennial Bachelor’s Buttons (Centaurea), Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium).