Extension Fall Gardening Packet--2
August 25, 2006
  • /Crop Sciences
August 25, 2006

Source: Maurice Ogutu (708) 352-0109 Contact: Bob Sampson Extension Communications Specialist Phone (217) 244-0225; rsampson@uiuc.edu

Blueberries and Raspberries

Following a few guidelines in the fall can mean success with blueberry and raspberry patches next season, said a University of Illinois horticulture educator.

"Home gardeners should consider following a checklist of activities in the coming weeks to prepare their blueberry and raspberry patches for the winter," said Maurice Ogutu.

For blueberry patches, he recommended the following:

--In general, do not fertilize blueberries in the fall as it is important to encourage hardening off of the canes. You can apply sulfur, lime, and some fertilizers based on soil tests and plant tissue analysis but the fertilizers should be applied before the fall rains begin and before mulch is applied. Do not apply any nitrogen fertilizer at this time.

--Survey the blueberry patch for broad-leafed and grass weeds and control any biennial weed by applying recommended herbicides.

--Diagnose the plants for disease problems by checking the canes that tend to turn red in color earlier than others in the fall. Check further to see if there is damage on the roots from either disease or animals such as voles or insect pests like dogwood borer or grubs. If most of the plants are stunted due to stunt disease, look for leafhoppers. Bushes should first be treated with recommended insecticides and then removed.

--Control canker worms by spraying with recommended insecticides.

For raspberry patches, Ogutu recommended:

--Avoid over-fertilizing and supplemental watering of the patch so that the canes of summer bearing red and black raspberries can start hardening off. Fall-bearing raspberries can benefit from supplemental water in dry weather to maintain quality and size of the fruit.

--Do not prune any cane at this time unless it is seriously damaged or diseased.

--Apply fertilizer and lime based on soil tests and plant tissue analysis. Some sulfur and magnesium-containing fertilizers such as Sul-Po-Mag or Epsom salts can be applied at this time so that they can be leached to the root zones of the plants.

--Survey the patch to check what types of weeds are present and decide on what type of herbicide to use. If biennial weeds are present in the patch, control them with herbicides.

--Control fruit rot in fall-bearing raspberries by applying recommended fungicides and harvesting frequently.

--Scout the patch for powdery mildew and apply recommended fungicides. If phytophthora root rot is found in the patch, treat the affected areas with Ridomil Gold or Alliete in September or early October.

--Check the plants by scouting for crown borers--the adult is a moth that looks like a yellow jacket. Check wilting canes if they are damaged by crown borer and determine if crown borer larvae are present in the crown. If the roots of the wilted canes are dark red in color, they have been attacked by phytophthora crown rot. Remove the infected canes and eliminate wild brambles growing near the patch.


August 25, 2006

Source: Ron Wolford (773) 233-0476 Contact: Bob Sampson Extension Communications Specialist Phone (217) 244-0225; rsampson@uiuc.edu

Fall's Garden Challenges

Although the gardening season is winding down, there is still a lot to do in your yard and garden, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"Early fall is a great time for lawn renovation," said Ron Wolford. "There is less competition with weeds, and grass germinates quickly because of warm soil temperatures and cool fall weather."

For renovating small areas, just roughen the soil with a rake and re-seed, he said. For larger areas, remove the dead grass and till the soil to a depth of six to eight inches.

"This would also be a good time to dig in a two to four-inch layer of organic matter before reseeding," Wolford added.

As fall approaches, bring houseplants indoors before nighttime temperatures drop consistently into the 50s. First, hit the plants with a hard stream of water to remove any insects and cut off any dead leaves. Repot, if necessary.

"Gradually reduce the plants to the reduced indoor lighting," he said. "Keep the houseplants isolated from the rest of your plant collection for two to three weeks in order to ensure you do not introduce any insects or disease."

As the weather cools, watch for Boxelder bugs. Boxelder bugs are one-half inch long, dark brown or black insects with red markings on their wings. They will migrate from Boxelder trees to buildings for protection.

"Hundreds of these insects will cluster on the sides of homes," he said. "They will crawl into cracks and crevices and make their way into your house.

"Boxelder bugs do not feed on food or clothing and they will not reproduce indoors. They may spot curtains and wallpaper with their fecal material. Also, they will leave a red or purple stain if smashed. If found indoors, remove by vacuuming. Caulk all cracks and crevices to reduce their chances of entering the home."

Back in the yard, plant spring bulbs while soil temperatures are warm to ensure good root development, he recommended. Plant bulbs two to three times as deep as they are wide. Plant bulbs in soil with good drainage and fertilize with high phosphorus fertilizer.

"Phosphorus promotes good root development," he said.

Now is the time to replace tulips that were planted two to three years ago, because tulip flowering declines year-to-year. Plant daffodils and tulips in groups of at least 12 or more bulbs. Plant small bulbs in groups of 50 or more.

"Tender bulbs like dahlias, cannas, and gladiolus should be carefully dug up and stored after the foliage is killed by frost," Wolford said. "Rinse away any soil from the roots. If you have lots of bulbs, place the bulbs on a large mesh screen over a garbage can and wash the soil into the can.

"Get rid of any bulbs that show any signs of bruising or rot. Dry dahlias, caladiums, and cannas for three days in a well-ventilated area at temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees F. Gladiolus corms should be allowed to dry for three weeks before storage. Store dahlias and cannas in peat moss or vermiculite. Store gladiolus in labeled paper bags."

There are a couple of ways to over winter geraniums, he noted.

"You can dig up the plants before frost and pot them up," he said. "Cut the plant back one third to one half of its original height and, then, water well. Place them in a sunny area. Water only when dry."

Another method is hanging geraniums upside down in a basement or garage that doesn't freeze. Before frost, dig up the plants and shake off all the soil. Place the plants in individual paper bags that are barely open at the top. Check the bags periodically to see if the roots need to be misted. If the stems start to shrivel, soak the roots for an hour in a bucket of water. The leaves will fall off. In the spring, pot up the firm, green stems and place in a sunny room."

Fall is a great time to have soil tested, he explained.

"Soil testing labs are not as busy in the fall as in the spring," he said. "Call the lab ahead of time for information about cost and what types of tests they do. Be sure to take representative soil samples of the area to be tested."

To do this, use a trowel and take small samples of soil from eight to 12 different spots and place them in a clean container. Mix the soil and remove about a pint of soil to send to the lab. Make sure the sample is dry.

A listing of soil testing labs can be found at: http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/soiltest/ .

"It is also good to take a break from fall gardening chores and take the family out for a fall visit to a local apple orchard or pumpkin farm," he said. "For a listing of orchards and pumpkins farms, check out the U of I Extension websites, 'Apples and More' (http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/apples) and 'Pumpkins and More' (http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/pumpkins)."


August 25, 2006

Source: James Schuster (708) 352-0109 Contact: Bob Sampson Extension Communications Specialist Phone (217) 244-0225; rsampson@uiuc.edu

Preventing Pantry Insects

Although the year-ending holidays are weeks away, now is the time to start preventing unwanted guests in the pantry, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"Many people think that pantry insects are coming into their homes via contaminated human food," said James Schuster. "Even though this happens occasionally, it is the least common way these insects get into the home. A more common way is on or in dried cat and dog food. However, pet food is still not the most common method by which these insects arrive.

"Most often, the different kinds of insects that are considered 'pantry insects' invade our homes through wild bird food."

These insects, he pointed out, may be in the food as eggs, larvae, pupa, or even adults. The larvae and the adults may be feeding in the food. Eggs and pupa can be in the food or in or on the packaging material.

"Once the pantry insects are in the warm environment of your home, the life cycle often coincides so that the adults are emerging from Thanksgiving to New Years," he said. "Each successive generation is larger than its predecessor."

Birds do not mind eating the live insects and, in fact, the insects are probably more nutritious than the birdseed.

"However, if you are a homeowner, you do not want these insects crawling and flying around the house," he said. "To help prevent this from happening, you should freeze the pet food or birdseed 24 hours from its arrival. If the food does not freeze in less than 24 hours, the insects will start developing alcohol and survive the freezing process."

If the freezing process was slow, the feed needs to be put in an airtight container and kept at room temperatures for at least two weeks so that the insects lose their alcohol. Once the insects are alcohol-free, re-freeze the food or birdseed quickly.

"No matter where you store the pet food or birdseed, keep it in an airtight container," he said. "If stored outside, consider using an airtight container in a steel garbage can that you can chain the lid onto. This helps keep raccoons and squirrels from eating through the airtight container and eating the food or birdseed."

If the insects are already flying or crawling, sanitation is the only recommended control. Contaminated human food should be discarded. All non-contaminated human food and any dried pet food should be frozen quickly and stored in airtight containers.

"Keep food stored in airtight containers for the next six months," Schuster said. "Open the containers only long enough to remove the necessary food. All cupboards, cracks, and crevices should be thoroughly washed with a strong soap and water solution."


August 25, 2006

Source: Greg Stack (708) 720-7520 Contact: Bob Sampson Extension Communications Specialist Phone (217) 244-0225; rsampson@uiuc.edu

Mum Alternatives for Late-Season Color

It might be time to give the traditional workhouse of fall flowers a rest this fall, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"Fall is a time when gardeners want to refresh a few of their container gardens or flower borders, replacing the tired annuals for some new color," said Greg Stack. "Traditionally, gardeners have looked to the workhorse of fall flowers, the chrysanthemum. But maybe you're getting bored with mums or you're a gardener who wants to think outside the 'mum' box and add dependable fall color but do it with other plants."

There are a lot of new things that are starting to appear in garden centers that make great color additions to the fall garden, he noted.

"The problem is, they have names that are very unfamiliar. Unfamiliarity breeds uncertainty and uncertainty leads you back to mums," Stack said. "There are some great mum alternatives for those who want to venture down a different road. These alternatives can add color and at the same time last well into fall--even tolerating light frost for extended color."

Stack said that first on this list of alternatives are the ornamental cabbage and kale. These relatives of the more familiar edible varieties offer a plant that provides long-lasting color through foliage. The leaves toward the center can take on shades of pink, red, or white. Plants grow about 10-to-12 inches tall and often as wide. When planted in groups, they can make a very striking color statement.

"What is even better, they laugh at the cold only getting better as it gets colder," he related. "The color can last into December when winters are mild."

Osteospermum is another daisy-like flower in colors of orange, white, and yellow often found with a very contrasting center or "eye." These plants grow 10-to-14 inches in nice mounds. They can often do very well even when temperatures drop into the mid-20s.

"Nemesia is not a household name in flowers but it is an excellent fall flower," said Stack. "This annual often does better in the fall than the summer when temperatures are not to its liking. Nemesia does very well even when temperatures drop into the 20s.

"This compact plant grows to about 14 inches and has flowers that look like tine cluster of violets or open face snapdragons. They make an excellent companion for use with fall pansies or mums."

Pansies, he added, are excellent for taking color well into the fall and doing very well as a flower that can take the cold.

"Pansies have long been the 'fall and winter' flower for southern gardeners," he said. "In the Midwest, they can add color to flower beds and containers. Newer varieties also have the ability to over winter and give early spring color."

Another great autumn performer is diascia. It forms mound-shaped plants eight to 10 inches tall and literally covered with tiny flowers in shades of pink, orange, lavender, white, and salmon. These plants perform best when the weather is cool and can, if they get a good snow cover, come back to repeat in the spring.

"Bracteantha is another show-stopper," Stack said. "This plant produces flowers that feel like straw, hence the common name strawflower. Outstanding for their brilliant clear colors in white, yellow, and orange, bracteantha will definitely add color and interest.

"The plant grows to about 12 inches and produces flowers well into the fall. It has a nice, neat habit and is great for cutting and drying."

Stack admitted that the flowers he described are not familiar names.

"But if you see any of these names at your garden center, don't run the other way," he said. "Take a few home. They are sure to please and be just different enough that you might start a new garden trend in your neighborhood."


August 25, 2006

Source: Greg Stack (708) 720-7520 Contact: Bob Sampson Extension Communications Specialist Phone (217) 244-0225; rsampson@uiuc.edu

Over wintering Tropical Plants

If you want a back yard or deck next spring that is reminiscent of Key West or a Jimmy Buffet concert, you need to correctly over winter your tropical plants, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"In order to protect the investment you made this spring in your tropical plants, which sometimes cost as much as more permanent perennials and shrubs, take a little time to see how you can successfully and easily over winter these garden gems," said Greg Stack.

"The use of tropicals in home gardens as points of interest, color, texture has increased dramatically. Many garden centers now offer a much larger selection of some very exotic-looking plants."

The most commonly used tropicals such as elephant ear, palms, cannas, hibiscus, ferns, angel trumpet, and caladium really enjoy Midwestern summer, he added.

"It gets hot and humid and with ample moisture these plants can grow to impressive size," he said. "So what do you do with them when it gets cold and threats of frost start to show up in the weather forecast?

"You round 'em up and bring them in."

But most gardeners are usually not going to have the space or right conditions to physically dig these plants up, bring them indoors, and maintain them over the winter, Stack admitted.

"Some plants like the elephant ears and palms can tolerate the lower light indoors but the majority prefer greenhouse conditions to really look good," he said. "So, what are the alternatives?"

Many tropicals such as elephant ear, cannas, and caladium form tubers, bulbs, or corms. These underground structures can be successfully over wintered and then replanted next season, he said.

The best time to dig up these bulbs, tubers, and corms is in the fall right after a light frost has turned the leaves on these plants a little brown. This tells the plant it is time to go dormant. After this happens, cut the stems back to about six inches and carefully dig the plant up.

"There are several methods for storing these dormant bulbs and no one way is better than another. It is more of what works for you," said Stack.

One of the more successful storage techniques includes washing the soil from the bulbs and allowing them to air dry. Many of these bulb-producing tropicals will have produced many bulbs over the summer that can be separated prior to storage.

"This is a great way to increase your stock of tropicals and have a really tropical backyard next year," Stack noted.

Once dry, place the bulbs in containers that are well-ventilated such as milk crates, bread crates, or similar containers. Pack the bulbs with peat moss, small bark chips, or sawdust. This material helps to hold just enough moisture to keep the bulbs from shriveling.

"The bulbs now need the right climate to make it through the winter," he said. "Place the crates in a dark place where the temperature is around 40 to 50 degrees. Basements, cellars, and crawlspaces work great. Check on the bulbs monthly to look for signs of rotting or shriveling. Discard the rotten bulbs and spray the shriveled bulbs with a little water to get them plumped back up.

"Storing the dormant bulbs this way will allow you to get a jump start on spring. Re-pot the bulbs about six to eight weeks before the last frost in your area. Doing this allows you to get a larger, fuller plant for your tropical garden much earlier in the summer."

Tropical hibiscus is a very common and popular tropical plant. Potted specimens can be found at almost every garden center in the spring. Hibiscus is often used as a container garden plant.

"While they can be brought in before the first frost and maintained as a growing plant, the results are often not terrific," Stack said. "Because these plants demand such high light, the foliage soon turns yellow and falls from the plant. The flower buds also tend to fall off before they open."

Stack suggested an over wintering alternative for hibiscus.

"Bring the containerized hibiscus indoors before frost. Don't water and allow the soil to go dry," he said. "The result will be that all the leaves will fall off the plant. This is good because now the plant has gone dormant. Place the plant in an area that is around 40 to 45 degrees. Check on the soil moisture about every two weeks and if the soil is dry two to three inches down in the pot, add a small amount of water. This will keep the stems from shriveling but not encourage new growth."

Angel trumpet is over wintered the same way, he added. Both are plants that get better with age. By carrying over plants from year to year they get larger and make very impressive and imposing specimens in the garden.

"In the spring, bring the plant into a warmer, well-lighted area, water well, and prune back lightly," he said. "In a few weeks, you should have a newly revived plant ready for the garden."

Bananas, he noted, are great conversation pieces in the garden. But what do you with a banana that might be eight to 10 feet tall during the winter months?

"The answer is simple: cut it down," said Stack. "Bananas are the easiest tropicals to over winter. If the banana was grown in a container, cut the plant down at pot level right after a light frost darkens the foliage.

"Move the container to a dark area in a 40 to 45 degree temperature, and keep the soil on the dry side. As spring approaches, you'll see a new shoot coming from the center of the cut stump. That is your new banana. After the threat of frost passes, put it back outdoors and with plenty of moisture and fertility that once small banana will grow to immense proportions."

If the banana was growing directly in the garden, however, dig it up but don't cut it back. Wrap the root ball in a black plastic garbage bag and store it just like you would a containerized plant. In the spring, cut it back to about four inches above the root ball, pot it up, and start your new banana growing.

"No matter how you choose to over winter your tropicals, you will be rewarded with having larger, more imposing specimens as well as more of them when you start to divide those that produce bulbs and offshoots like banana," Stack said.