Preparing your gardens for chilly weather - – Rockford’s News Leader

Preparing your gardens for chilly weather

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All good things come to an end and it won't be long until our warmer days are a distant memory.  In October, this means our growing season is winding down.

Fall temperatures are right on our heels and before the thermometers take a plunge, we have some helpful tips so your plants and gardens can weather the season. 

"That first killing frost will end annuals and your tender bulbs that are in for Summer. And the vegetable garden, most of that will be done," said Meghan Bowe, program coordinator at the University of Illinois Extension office in Rockford.

That includes some of our summer favorites: "Tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers; those will be done. They're tender to cold temperatures," said Bowe.

There are some ways to keep your plants around a little longer, like using specialized insulating cloth found at your garden center, which will create a greenhouse effect on a tiny scale.  So you "might be able to get another month out of your growing season."

The University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Program can give you tips and hints, even answer questions you may have about fruits, vegetables, and flowers growing in your gardens. In fact, Bowe said that leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and collard greens---even Brussels sprouts---thrive in cooler Fall weather. These plants can and often do survive the first frost.

Flowers are another story, however.

"It's time to divide your perennials and the general rule of thumb is that perennials that bloom in Spring, (should be divided) in Fall," Bowe said.

Then it's out with the old.  "Remove any diseased plants from the vegetable garden.  Don't leave them over Winter if you had insect or disease problems," said Bowe, because those diseases could return in the Spring.

And in with the new.  "Fall is also a great time to be planting trees. It's the best time, really, to put trees and shrubs in," according to Bowe.

If you have any questions, just contact the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Program. 

Master gardeners "go through an education program and then they volunteer their time back to gardens in the area, like (the U of I) demonstration garden (in Rockford)," said Bowe.  Members also answer questions on their help line, sharing their university-based information to our local community.

They are currently taking applications for new members.  Contact the extension office at (815)986-4357 for more information.

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