Over the Garden Fence Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/rss.xml A Fall Potpourri of Yard Work https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13634/ Thu, 11 Oct 2018 11:30:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13634/ There are still lots of things going on in the home landscape as fall settles in. Woody plants are well on the way to dormancy; leaves are turning fall colors and coming down slowly right now. Most of our flowering perennials have lost that luster that we have enjoyed all summer. In fact, by now, perennials have succumbed to the many foliage diseases common this time of year. Powdery mildew can be seen on a variety plants right now.

So what do we do now?

Let us start from the bottom up with lawns. We should continue to mow as needed, mulching the grass and any fallen leaves back into the lawn. Eventually there will be too many leaves and then we should put on the mower bag to collect both leaves and clippings. This is a great combination of the "greens and browns" for the compost pile or bin. Mowing frequency will increase if there was a fall lawn feeding and will continue all this month into early November. While on the late side, broadleaved weeds still could be treated. You may not see them totally die this fall, but if the weather is good for a few weeks after application, they will not regrow next spring.

Next up are the groundcovers. Many will not require much in the way of winterization. Where there is heavy leaf drop, keep a portion of the leaves out of the bed and the remaining leaves will degrade and end up as organic matter in those ground cover beds. Twigs and small branches should come out as well. Ivy, pachysandra, sedums and ginger do just fine on their own.

Right behind groundcovers are the many perennial flowers we enjoy. Herbaceous plants will die to the ground and can be cleaned up, so this effort is never a one-and-done garden chore, as clean up occurs over a period of several weeks. Spring bulbs fall into this category of clean up as well, if they were not dealt with when they naturally collapsed in the summer.

Flowering shrubs stand on their own, unless it is time to consider renovation pruning on some of the fine textured shrubs like spirea and potentilla. While gardeners may enjoy the dormant appearance, late November is a time to begin the renovation process or you will be waiting until early spring, well before growth resumes.

Larger flowering shrubs typically set up flower buds the year before, so doing any pruning now eliminates a portion or all of the bloom show for spring 2019. Structural problems easily can be seen once dormant and removing a problem branch is appropriate. Ornamental flowering trees, like crabapples, are very likely going to contain water sprouts and later they become crossing branches in the canopy and contribute to an overly dense canopy. Removal should be done while dormant. Shade trees should at least be looked at to determine if there are structural problems in the canopy that would require a professional to address. Once the canopy gets bigger than we can manage without risking a fall off the ladder, it is better to let the professionals do it.

Sorting out Spring and Summer Bulbs https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13631/ Thu, 04 Oct 2018 10:40:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13631/ Your favorite spring bulbs are winter hardy and for them to bloom in the spring they need to have the cold soil temperatures to trigger them to sprout and bloom in the spring. There are many kinds of spring bulbs, such as those that bloom as the snow is retreating and other spring bulbs that will bloom much later. Proper planning can provide several weeks of spring bloom. As you plan there are early spring bulbs that do very well in partial shade and those later spring bulbs that do best in full sun for the best effect. Those early spring flowering bulbs typically are much smaller in size along with their bloom too. This goes towards proper planting as well. Bulbs are planted 2 to 3 times their diameter in the soil profile. While you can plant those larger bulbs more shallow, the bulbs should be deeper for a permanent planting. If your spring bulbs need dividing because of being overcrowded that should be done in the late summer, after the foliage has naturally died down. You may even have to mark the area with a garden stake to find them later.

Summer bulbs, which are not winter hardy, will need to be dug up just before a killing frost or immediately after. Mark your calendar accordingly. In a lot of cases, it is easier to dig them up before the frost has killed the foliage, especially those summer bulbs/roots/tubers/etc. that have lots of moisture in the foliage; it can get pretty messy like mushy canna stalks! Once the summer flowering bulbs have been dug, they will need to cure and dry down before you can store them in a safe place for the winter. They need above freezing temperatures yet not too warm or those summer bulbs will want to grow. Summer bulbs do not require a cold treatment; they are just "resting" until you plant them back outdoors or bring them into warmer temperatures to give them a head start for your flower garden. Just like starting vegetable seeds for transplants, do not start too early or your summer bulbs will be ready for outdoors long before the temperatures favor their growth outside.

There are dozens of spring bulbs on the market ready for fall planting right now. By family name consider the alliums, fritillaries, Hyacinthus, tulips and daffodils as examples. There are many more, so use the next few weeks to shop locally or from specialty catalogues to ensure a great bloom period. You will have all winter to plan where those summer bulbs will go.

Bloom times will be broken down and listed as early spring, spring, summer, and mid- to late summer to fall. Keep in mind, in northern Illinois, these seasons run together, while farther south in the state they are more separated. Locations can be broken down into partial shade (has at least 4 hours of sun), shade (having less than 2 hours of sunlight) and sun (having less than 2 hours of shade during the day).

Don't worry, there should still plenty of time to get that spring bloom show in the ground, right up until the ground gets frosty and frozen.

Time to Plant Trees https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13608/ Thu, 27 Sep 2018 08:22:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13608/ Late summer and fall are great times to plant ornamental and shade trees in the home landscape. The weather is comfortable for us and the trees can begin to establish themselves in yard before the cold weather sets in for the winter.

If you are planting a flowering ornamental like a crabapple or serviceberry or another favorite bloomer, you can expect bloom next spring as the flower buds are already on the tree. That may not be the case for 2020. The tree will be directing all resources to establishing a strong root system instead of creating flower buds. Once the root system "catches up", flower bud production will resume. This is exactly what happens when planting fruits trees too. Do not think anything is wrong, it is just what happens. While shade trees also bloom, the flower is insignificant and the lack of bloom that year after go unnoticed.

Proper planting will help ensure your trees make it through its first winter in your home landscape with very little winter damage or none at all. Research done by the green industry suggests that if properly planted, shade trees will easily be there for future generations.

Be sure the shade tree you are considering will have plenty of room to grow since they can end up very large. Ornamentals typically are a smaller stature and easily fit in smaller yards. Another consideration is the kind of shade they provide. A large maple tree provides dense shade. This can be a challenge if you want to have a thick full lawn under the canopy. Locust trees on the other hand provide a much lighter level of shade.

The hole dug should be 2-3 times the width of the container or soil ball at the top of the hole, but does not have to be that wide at the base of the container or soil ball at the bottom of the hole. The extra width at the top ensures the feeder root system can expand easily and establish quickly. Do not over amend the soil you will be using to backfill around the container or soil ball. Strong textural differences make it hard for the roots to leave the container soil or root ball and move out into the soil it will be growing in for decades to come.

The next recommendation is to be sure the container or root ball is not too deep when put into the dug hole. That same research suggests that roots can grow down into the soil to the correct levels, but cannot really move upwards very quickly and that delays proper establishment. With container-grown trees, the root flair area is easily seen and that should be at or slightly above the soil line when planted. That same root flair is there on a balled and burlapped tree, but can be harder to see. If in question plant a balled and burlapped tree a little higher by an inch or two to ensure the tree is not planted too deep.

Water in well at planting time and check for soil moisture in the container or root ball area in about 5 to 7 days (sooner for containers, later for soil balls) to be sure adequate soil moisture is there. After that check weekly and water if needed well into November.

Picking and Caring for Fall Decor https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13599/ Wed, 19 Sep 2018 08:22:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13599/ Mums and pumpkins have become a staple for fall holiday home decorations, along with straw bales, Indian corn and an array of hard rind fall gourds.

Mums and pumpkins already are available at local garden centers, farmers markets and the big box stores. Here are a few tips and tricks to keep your fall decorations looking good for the long run.

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.

Mums in bloom require a lot of water, so keeping them hydrated is important. The flowers are the first to wilt, then the foliage. Wilted flowers and foliage will come back, but those flowers will never be the same and will not last as long as we want. Part of the challenge is display placement. If the mums are in direct sunlight, more attention is required. Even if watered well, the sunlight will begin to fade those older blooms.

If you are going to plant the mums in the yard, then those in full bloom now make more sense. Enjoy the bloom early, when they have finished, cut all the bloom off and plant them. The longer the growing season for them, the better they will establish this fall.

For pumpkins and decorative gourds, having a stem on is important. The stem acts like a cork in the bottle, keeping everything inside. Pumpkins and gourds without the stem tend to shrink and shrivel at the stem end and later begin to rot. Pumpkins should not be handled by the stem, as it can break off. There will be many pumpkins and gourds to pick from, so do not be in a hurry to load them up without looking at them. Avoid bruises, damaged rind, obvious sunken spots and watery looking lesions. Consider how you will be using them, is a flat bottom important or can they lay on their side. Carving them usually means you want a flat bottom. Once home, a light cleaning may be in order. If caked with dirt, a rough rag may be all that is necessary to clean the dirt off and put a bit of shine on the rind. One trick for keeping carved pumpkins looking good for several days (and nights) is coating the exposed cut surfaces with a petroleum jelly to retain moisture.

Those winter squashes and some of those edible gourds later can be moved indoors for decorations or even later stored for eating in January through March if they have not already been served on Thanksgiving.

As for the rest of the decorations – Indian corn, corn stalks and straw bales – they can last how they look at purchase longer and are lower maintenance.

Rainy Weather FAQ https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13579/ Mon, 10 Sep 2018 15:16:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13579/ Now that we have gotten a lot of rain, plants are responding and that has been driving questions to Master Gardener Help Desks in all the counties I get to work in.

Q: My lawn finally has begun to green up after the drought, what should I be doing to get it back in shape?

A: It normally takes about two weeks for a lawn to start to green up after weeks of dormancy. Spots that are not coming around can use a little help. Rake out the browned dead grass, add some top dress material like screened black dirt or a compost to bring the soil level up again, and then re-seed. We are nearing the end of the ideal window for getting seed in for the fall season, so do it soon. Sod can be put down into October. Begin to mow more regularly and consider a fertilization now that the lawn can benefit from it. Core aeration is another project that benefits the lawn. The softened soil will allow the core aeration machine to penetrate into the soil easily. Coring helps break down thatch, allows more water and air into the soil profile and breaks up soil compaction.

Q: While my lawn was dormant, crabgrass was not. I have patches where crabgrass has taken over. What do I do?

A: Crabgrass is a warm season annual and has the ability to sprout all summer if conditions are right. Most of that crabgrass germinated earlier (back in the late spring) and without competition from our lawns this summer, crabgrass took advantage of thinning turf and any open areas in the lawn. The crabgrass will die at our first good killing frost, but then it is too late to re-seed those areas. If the crabgrass took over an open area, removal and re-seeding is an option if done right now. Sodding also is an option. If the spots are less than about 4 inches in diameter in the lawn, next season the existing grass should be able to catch up and fill in those spots. Either way, plan on some crabgrass preventer next spring for sure, as the crabgrass has certainly created a large seedbank for 2019. For more on crabgrass and lawns, visit https://go.illinois.edu/ManageCrabgrass

Q:In the drought, foliage on my trees lost their luster. Will that come back before the leaves fall?

A: Even though we now have rain, those leaves will not turn around. However, the rain certainly will help the overall health of trees, shrubs, groundcovers and evergreens and get them ready for our wintery weather. Foliage over the next few weeks will be preparing for cooler night temperatures and warm days to give us some autumn color. Unfortunately, the color show may not be as brilliant as past falls' because of the summer drought that left portions of the leaves permanently damaged. To learn more about how and why the leaves change, visit https://go.illinois.edu/FallColorInfo

Is Powdery Mildew a Problem? https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13573/ Wed, 05 Sep 2018 15:46:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13573/ Powdery mildew can be seen every year on perennials, lawns or landscape plants at some point in the growing season. As a fungal disease, it is not limited to just ornamental plants. Vegetables like pumpkins, squash, melons and grain crops, and even houseplants, can be added to the list too.

The white-colored spore growth on the surface of plant tissue gives powdery mildew its name. Some say it looks like powdered sugar, others say talc powder, but I am not tasting it to find out. Find a lilac leaf and with your moistened thumb, you can rub the leaf clean. You have not gotten rid of the fungal organism, just the visual evidence. While most fungal disease is worse in wetter weather, powdery mildew can be a problem in even dry weather. You might think that since it can be on Lilac, Ninebark, the lawn, or flowers like Monarda and Phlox, that it is all the same. Actually, powdery mildew is very host specific and does not overlap plant species very often.

Some plants like Phlox, Lilac and cucumbers are routinely attacked by it. If Phlox foliage is damaged before bloom, the blooms are smaller, do not last as long, and are not attractive. Usually powdery mildew shuts down our cucumbers late in the summer and knocks down the pumpkin foliage so the yellow pumpkins begin to show up.

In the home landscape, a few cultural strategies help manage powdery mildew. When possible, make sure foliage dries out before dark, and when there is dew, foliage should dry off as soon as possible each morning. If you are watering late in the day, water the soil and not the plant. Be mindful of your exposures as you plan a garden bed. Remember, while the afternoon sun is more intense, it will be the morning sunlight that dries foliage. A good strategy for Phlox would be to thin the number of stems each spring. This aids in air movement, and puts more energy into the remaining stems giving bigger blooms.

In the lawn, powdery mildew is common in the shadier parts of the yard, especially the northern exposures. You can promote more powdery mildew if the lawn receives high rates of nitrogen fertilizer, as the fast growing tender growth is quickly susceptible.

There are fungicides available for those high value or aesthetically important plants. Vegetable growers want to produce as many cucumbers as possible and have pumpkins get as big as possible. Gardeners want to have Phlox look good all summer long or enjoy their Ninebark without looking at powdery mildew. (Always read and follow label instructions.)

Powdery mildew does not seem to stop a lilac from blooming next spring though, and most of us do not worry about it in our lawns too much. In the spring, the lawn will be green again. As with any fungicide, those treatments need to be on the plant before the fungus shows up to be effective, so add one more thing into your garden journal and be ready for next season.

Click here to learn more about powdery mildew in vegetables, lilacs, and more

Click here to read more about powdery mildew in vegetables


Don't Give Up the Garden Yet https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13562/ Wed, 29 Aug 2018 14:38:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/eb192/entry_13562/ A lot of things happen towards the end of August – school has begun or is about to, the last family outing of summer, haircuts all around, and then there is the family vegetable garden. End of summer activities seem to signal the end of our time in the garden, yet the vegetable garden is not done with us.

Think about clearing out those snap beans that have slowed down and sow fall and later winter radishes. If leafy greens are your thing, sow some leaf lettuce or other greens. Even if the upcoming season closes in sooner than expected, radishes and lettuces stand up to chilly temperatures just fine. If the weather threatens really frosty temperatures, then harvest the lettuces as baby greens and become that trendy gardener. Two other root crops to try now are beets and turnips from seed. Again, depending on the fall season, you may get to harvest the beetroot, but if not, you always can harvest those tops. Beet tops also are trending, as something to cook besides the beetroot itself.

Swiss chard is one of those vegetables planted in the spring, but it soldiers on throughout the season, well into frosty weather, to give us colorful foliage and stems to brighten family dinners. If you provide them any kind of protection, chard will with us well into late fall.

If you planted herbs this year to flavor and spice up your meals, they are still out there waiting to be harvested. Sage, for example, can be harvested and then dried by bundling stems and hanging it upside-down in a cool, dry location. You can leave them like that and pick off leaves as needed for your spaghetti sauce, or clean off the leaves and store them in a canning jar in the pantry where they might be handier during meal prep. Chives also will continue to grow well into the fall and have many uses.

Weather permitting, and if insects and diseases have not taken the cucumbers out, they will continue to produce until that killing frost. The same goes for zucchini, as both are warm-season vegetables. If one got away from you, that larger than normal zucchini can be grated and frozen for later use all winter long.

If your neighborhood has been plagued with zombies and vampires, get that garlic planted yet this fall, usually sometime in October. The cloves will root in and even produce a small top before winter sets in for good.