Gardening News: Gardening activities to lengthen summer season, prepare for winter

• U of I Extension offers ‘Putting the Garden to Bed’ Oct. 17

By University of Illinois Extension Ogle County

Summer may be drawing to a close, but that doesn’t mean time in the garden is done.

Fall is the ideal time for planting as well as getting prepared for next year’s garden,” said University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator Candice Miller.

Following are a few activities that can be done to lengthen the summer gardening season and to prepare for winter:

• Plant spring flowering bulbs: Daffodils, tulips, crocus and hyacinths should be planted as early as possible in autumn to allow time for root development. However, wait until after the ground cools to about 60 degrees, usually after the first frost. Improve drainage by adding organic matter to the soil prior to planting the bed, and remember to plant each bulb to the recommended depth.

• Clean up the garden: Remove any remaining plant material from the garden. Consider starting a compost pile with all the leaves and garden debris. Fall is also an excellent time to till compost, manure or other organic materials into your garden to improve the soil. Clean up any leftover weeds as well, as they can harbor diseases and insects.

• Leave some winter interest: Consider leaving some perennials and grasses standing to add winter appeal to your garden. This will have the added benefit of attracting more wildlife to the garden throughout the cold season. Wait to mulch perennial flowerbeds until after the plants have gone dormant, usually in very late fall/early winter. Two to 3 inches of loose mulch can help protect plants through the winter and prevent erosion.

• Divide and plant perennials: New perennials can still be planted in the fall and established perennials can be divided. Now that the garden is well established, it’s the perfect time to fill the empty spaces with new plants. Plant perennials no later than September, when the soil is still warm enough to encourage root development. For added protection, a little extra mulch can be added. If this is done, the extra mulch should be removed in the spring.

To help residents with some of these tasks, Extension is offering a one-hour program, “Putting the Garden to Bed,” at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the Ogle County Extension, 421 W. Pines Road, Oregon, Ill.

Miller will discuss fall gardening activities such as planting for a winter harvest, proper sanitation and pest control methods to prepare for next season. Extension Local Food Systems & Small Farms Educator Ellen Phillips will discuss various cover crops that can be planted and techniques for season extension.

The program is open to the public. Cost is $5. Pre-registration is preferred.

Call the Ogle County Extension Office at (815) 732-2191 by Oct. 15 to register or register online at

Questions and comments are also welcome on the University of Illinois Extension Horticulture-Northwest Illinois Facebook page at

From the Sept. 26-Oct. 2, 2012, issue

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