It Has Been a Rough Year
This has been a rough year in the garden. May was wet and so cold
(with a few late frosts just to be cruel). Then the summer gave
us a lot of heat and not very much rain. The weather may make gardeners
feel like giving up, but we really shouldn’t. Instead we should
look at what we can do now to help our gardens make it to 2003.
Keep Watering: In many parts on northern Illinois,
rainfall was in short supply for most of the summer. If you have
not been watering your plants regularly, begin doing so now and
continue through autumn until the ground freezes. If trees, shrubs
and perennials go into winter dry, they are under stress. This stress
could make them susceptible to other problems next spring. Watering
through autumn will help relieve stress and anything that reduces
stress will help keep plants healthy and vigorous.
Fertilize in autumn: Autumn fertilization can
help trees and shrubs that have not been growing well. When fertilizer
is applied in autumn, it can still be absorbed and used by the root
system as long as the temperature is above 40 degrees. This helps
to strengthen the tree or shrub and give it a good start for next
There are two important points to keep in mind: 1.
Wait until the trees are going dormant (leaves are turning color
and falling off) or you risk causing a late flush of growth that
could prevent the tree or shrub from preparing for winter. 2. If
the plant is in need of water, give it water, not fertilizer. Fertilizer
is no substitute for water and fertilizing a dry root system can
Garden sanitation: There are always a number
of disease problems in our gardens. Cleaning up the garden will
help reduce them for next year. For disease to start, three things
must be present—a susceptible host, the disease organism,
and weather conditions favorable to the growth of the disease. Removing
diseased debris helps to reduce the amount of disease organism in
Pruning out diseased, dead or insect-infested branches will also
go a long way to reduce problems. Plant parts that are unthrifty
often attract other problems. Autumn is a good time to prune out
some of these problems, because it is easy to see the problem branches
once the leaves have fallen.
Start working now to make 2003 a better gardening year. Plants
that stay in the landscape year after year are affected long-term
by the surrounding environment. A little effort now will pay off
in the future.