Letting out one secret from Gardeners' Gathering

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Chris Enroth is this year's keynote speaker for Woodford County Master Gardeners spring celebration entitled "Gardeners' Gathering: Sharing a Growing Secret" on Saturday, April 22. Chris will be sharing landscape secrets that are necessary for a successful gardener.

Have you recently purchased a new home, are on a budget or would like to give your gardens a new look? Avoid potential pitfalls by phasing in your new landscape over the long-term. Chris will discuss the best practices for phasing in the necessary elements while accounting for the future needs of your landscape.

Here are few landscape tips that Chris would like to share with gardeners:

  1. Check the drainage of your site. Chris says, "First you must check if water is properly emptying out of the downspouts, the gutters are clean, and water is not pooling against the foundation wall. Well-drained (half solid and half pore space) soil is ideal for growing plants with ease. Poorly drained soil will occupy all the pore space after rain, stressing the plant and reducing beneficial microbial activity. Chris encourages a percolation test. Dig a hole, 12" deep with a level bottom. Fill the hole with water and allow it to sit for an hour. Refill the hole with water again and track the drainage. An ideal soil with percolate two inches per hour. Adding organic matter, growing cover crops and less tillage can all improve overall soil structure.
  2. Do not plant your trees too deep. Chris estimates that 75% of the trees in his experience are planting too deep. "Sometimes they come from the industry planted too deep in the pot or burlap. It is important to look for the root flare even if you have to scrape away soil to find it and plant the root flare above the soil line."
  3. Take care of tree roots by putting down a mulch ring as wide as possible, and two to four inches deep. Make sure the mulch is not touching the trunk of the tree.
  4. Chris is also an advocate of sustainable landscaping and when asked one thing a gardener could do immediately he said, "Mow your grass three to four inches high." Adopting this gardening practice will require fewer inputs from herbicides, fertilizers, and grub control and of course less fossil fuels.
  5. Like many horticulturists, he encourages gardeners to use their fall leaves in compost piles or mow to break them down and then rake them onto perennial beds as mulch.

Finally, we talked Chris into revealing two of his favorite plants that he would like to plant in his backyard this year: black tupelo and prairie dropseed.

Black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) is a native, 30-50 foot tall tree that grows in medium to wet soils and known for its brilliant, spectacular and jaw-dropping fall color. Its flowers feed the bees, and fruits feed the birds. Black tupelo is dioecious meaning male, and female flowers are located on separate trees.

Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) is a native, two to three foot tall grass that grows in well-drained soils and known for its mounding habit that turns golden orange in the fall. Flowers (plumes) also have tints of color, smell like coriander and have great winter interest.

If you are interested in hearing more landscape tips from Chris, please join us for our Gardeners' Gathering on Saturday, April 22.

The gardeners will also feature "Edible Flowers," by Kelly Allsup, University of Illinois horticulture educator. You will learn all about growing and eating delectable flowers right out of your garden. We will discuss from the tender daylily buds to spicy nasturtium and floral lavender.

An herb container making party led by Woodford County Master Gardeners will conclude the event. Each attendee will leave with a container planted with easy-to-care-for herbs to grow, harvest and use this summer!

A $20 registration fee includes morning refreshments, three workshops, and supplies for your herb container garden. Check-in and light refreshments will be available at 8:30 a.m., with the workshops, beginning at 9 a.m. The program is at Great Oaks Community Church (515 Rt. IL-116, Germantown Hills 61548). Pre-registration is required online at go.illinois.edu/RegisterLMW under online registrations, Gardeners' Gathering.

For questions, please contact the Woodford County Extension Office at (309) 467-3789.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please call 309-663-8306.