University of Illinois Extension


Sharon A. Yiesla
Unit Educator, Horticulture
Lake Unit

Past Issues

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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 spring.

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 cause damage.

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 the garden.

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.

Past Issues

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