Over the Garden Fence

  1. This time of year, getting the gardening “to do” list finished is challenging anyway, and now with our variable weather pattern, it’s nearly impossible. If there is a way to make gardeners feel better, there is a lot of discussion going on that says leaving the garden debris in place has some benefits for overwintering beneficial insects. Insects that needed that debris to “cocoon” on earlier are still out there since the garden parts never made it to the compost bin or pile.

  2. With fall well under way and winter approaching, these two topics are popular – how best to help our feathered friends through the winter and tips on firewood for indoor use. Both projects seem simple enough yet some level of planning is in order to be sure all goes well, so starting early is the best way to go.

  3. Fall Colors & Leaves: Three weeks ago, there was only a hint of fall color in the home landscape. In the last week or so, fall color has come a long way. All the red maple cultivars have developed good reds and lots of other trees and shrubs are showing strong yellows and golds. Very soon, according weather forecasts, we are expecting a hard freeze and that color show will end.

  4. This time of year, we typically would be enjoying a great fall display of reds, oranges, and golds, yet the show seems to have just begun for most trees here in northern Illinois. As soon as we get nights of below freezing temperatures or big winds, it all will be over. The weather and timing may be different this year, but we have the same challenge: what to do with all those leaves.

  5. We have had our first real taste of cold weather over the last few days. Maybe your tender plants escaped being damaged, but others were not so lucky with the forecasted temperatures in outlying areas of low 30s and even high 20s.

  6. Fall is here, and mums and pumpkins are popping up on porches all around us. They are readily available at local garden centers, farmers markets and the big box stores. But, there are a few tricks to keep these treats lasting through the season.

    For the longest bloom show, purchase mums that are at 50 percent bloom. They will just get better looking as the weeks pass. There is nothing wrong with a mum in full bloom; the flowers will fade before the fall season ends so you may need to freshen that porch display at some point.

  7. Our weather pattern continues to be a bit different this year, and it may not be too early to consider the start of fall garden clean up. If you have planted tropical plants out in the yard or in planters, they may be showing the effects of cooler nights, and perennials in the flower gardens and vegetables that like warmer weather are slowing down.

  8. Homeowners have likely heard of core aeration as a way to relieve soil compaction in the lawn. While that is certainly true, coring has several more benefits for the grass plant, soil profile, microbial activity in the ground, and thatch management.

  9. Where there is cool, wet weather, there are wood rots. Questions coming in to the Master Gardener Help Desks reflect an increase in concern by gardeners. Spring and late summer/early fall are the prime times for decay fungal growth to be visible as mushrooms of all sizes, shapes and colors.

  10. The summer of 2019 has been unique for sure. Yet, one thing we can count on is the need to prepare our vacationing houseplants to return inside for the winter season.

  11. Fall is for more than planting trees (although it is true that fall is a great time for that – see more below). Fall also is the time to do so many activities in the home landscape. These are not just weekend activities, but things that can be done in small bites, even on weekday evenings.
  12. One gardening phrase that has been around for decades, if not generations, is “one year’s seeding – seven years weeding,” and that is a conservative estimate actually. According to the Weed Science Society of America, there are plenty of weed seeds that can remain viable in the soil for decades!

  13. Vegetables can still be productive for a couple more months, depending on what crops you have been growing. Certainly long season crops like tomatoes, peppers, and Swiss chard are there now and will continue to produce until frost for the tender vegetables and longer for Chard, which will tolerate quite a bit of cool or cold weather.

  14. Hard to believe it is quickly approaching the time to seed a new lawn or over seed what is there. Our best window of opportunity to ensure a good stand that will survive winter is August 15 through the first week in September. 

  15. Along with the tomato foliage diseases that can really challenge the gardener, there is one fruit problem that really can be frustrating. Blossom end rot can show up especially on the first fruit set. We have waited a long time to get our very own tomatoes and those first fruit sets are likely to be in trouble.

  16. This season gardeners have been seeing many lumps, bumps and blobs on all kinds of plants throughout the landscape, in parks and forest preserves. It is not uncommon since this occurs annually, what is uncommon is the generous number of these growths we are seeing.  

  17. We all know how different the weather pattern has been this year. Foliar plant diseases develop when weather conditions are right, allowing the pathogens to grow and infect our plants. Our extended cooler spring temperatures and abundance of rainfall allowed those early spring foliar diseases more time to develop.

  18. If you enjoy fruits like blueberries and apples, or if you plant summer squash or fall pumpkins in your garden, you have a reason to protect our pollinators.

    Without pollinators, including butterflies and bees, the flowering plants they visit would not produce food. The pollination process also helps provide fibers, medicines, and other products, and it provides food and habitat for wildlife.

  19. You wake up in the morning, take the cup of coffee to the patio, sit down, and gaze out into the yard and BANG… mushrooms. It is like the book 'I Spy,' you never know where you will find them. While I have been known to say you can never have too much organic matter, that is exactly the environment that promotes decay fungi, which will provide us that mushroom show. They may be those tiny nearly transparent mushrooms or those large mounds erupting in the lawn.

  20. No one wants to hear the word "rain" these days. Clearly all the wet weather has changed the way we planted the vegetable garden and our flowerbeds this year. I have heard people describe spring plantings as "I went ahead and mudded them in." Not the best practice for seeding and transplanting, of course, yet the plants and seeds got in the ground. The result of all that "mudding in" likely left that soil caked and cracked when we did get some drying weather. Don't attempt to break up the clods; it's better to lightly cover the caked soil with some kind of organic matter.