Myth: Fertilizers Are Good for All Plants

When you walk into your local lawn and garden store you’d like to think that they’ve done their homework. The products they’ve put on display will all be perfect for your region, everything will perform as expected and none of it will stir up any environmental mayhem. And what could be more worry-free than fertilizer? … Read more

Myth: Earthworms Are Native to the U.S.

Spring is upon us. With the snow off the ground (for now at least), and little new growth to obscure our view of the soil, it is easy to see the early stirrings of earthworm activity. Earthworm castings, neat piles of worm poop deposited on the surface as the worms busy themselves with their soil-work, … Read more

Myth: The Earth Under Our Feet in Chicago Is All Landfill

Soils in urban areas are poorly understood. Indeed, until most recently, federal and state efforts devoted to the inventory and classification of soil have been focused on agricultural, rangeland, and forest regions. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, more attention must be paid to studying urban soil, particularly with respect to urban agriculture and food … Read more

Myth: Mulching Your Garden Is Good for the Environment

Mulch Ado About Weed Control Anyone who listens to the news is going to be uncomfortable using chemical weed killer to control weeds in a home garden. Although many are touted as safe, herbicides do seem to have a way of getting linked to unexpected health hazards. The obvious, safer solution is to use mulch … Read more

Myth: Once a Wetland Is Gone, It’s Gone for Good

Wetlands provide valuable services for society, including cleaner water and keeping pesky mosquitoes in check. The sad fact, however, is that a significant portion of wetlands in the United States has been lost in the name of economic development. In Illinois alone, over 85 percent of the original wetlands in existence in 1780 have been … Read more

Myth: More Wetlands Equals More Mosquitoes

In the mood to blame wetlands for the blood-sucking, possible disease-spreading skeeters in your yard? It’s an urban legend that wetlands are a primary source of the mosquitoes that spread diseases like West Nile Virus. In fact, a healthy, functioning wetland can actually help reduce mosquito populations. A vibrant wetland ecosystem is home to fish, … Read more

Myth: Wetlands Are Wastelands and Should Be Filled In

Contrary to popular belief, wetlands provide important functions and are often called “nature’s kidneys” or “ecological supermarkets.” These important functions include storing flood water, filtering dirty water, and protecting shorelines. Wetlands also support an extensive food chain. If you like crawfish, you’ll find them in wetlands. Many cultures, including the Cajuns of Louisiana and various … Read more

Myth: The Chicago River Is Too Dirty to Be Useable

True or false: the Chicago River doesn’t look clean, so it must be unusable. False! Looks can be deceiving. Although the Chicago River is murky, it has come a long way from the days of foul pollution and dumping. In fact, the water in the river is clean enough today that fish species and other … Read more

Myth: What Happens (and Pollutes) in Chicago Stays in Chicago

Think that since streams in Northern Illinois flow into Lake Michigan, Chicago’s water pollution remains local? Think again. The Illinois River drains 11,000 square miles of our state, and draws water from three major river basins in the region. The river then flows west into the Mississippi River, not eastward towards Lake Michigan. Only water … Read more

Myth: Clear Water Is Clean Water

Some parts of northern Wisconsin and Michigan are rugged landscapes dominated by boulders, gravel, and sand. These popular vacation areas have rivers and streams that are swift-flowing and appear clear, cool, and inviting. But here in northern Illinois, our land surface is dominated by flat topography and fertile soils. Over the years as agriculture and … Read more