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Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008 10:41 pm

Enjoy the season with autumn gardening chores

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Don't let recent cool temperatures make you think that the gardening season is over. Fall is a great time to get a few last chores done and get a head start on next spring. Here are a few items to add to your fall garden "to do" list.

It's not too late to plant spring bulbs. While bulbs should be planted as soon as possible, they can be planted until the ground freezes. Select firm, disease-free bulbs. Plant large bulbs such as tulips and daffodils six to eight inches deep. Small bulbs such as crocus and grape hyacinth should be planted three inches deep. Be sure to plant bulbs with pointed end up and flat side down.

Clean annual plant debris from vegetable and flower gardens. This includes plant remnants and weeds. Don't underestimate the power of a few weeds. Remember the saying, "One year of seeds equals seven years of weeds."

Perennial flower beds should be mulched. Do this after plants are dormant, around mid-November. Mulch with a loose organic mulch to a depth of three to four inches. Most plant debris can be removed from the garden, however ornamental grass foliage can be left as it adds winter interest to the landscape.

After roses are completely dormant, around Thanksgiving, remove leaves from around the plant. Protect hybrid tea roses by applying a winter protection. This can be done several different ways. For information and pictures of how to provide winter protections visit the University of Illinois Extension "Our Rose Garden" at http: //www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/roses/.

Start a compost pile with leaves and garden debris. Many gardeners enjoy turning composting leaves, lawn clippings, shredded twigs and vegetable and food waste into something that can be reapplied to the landscape. Composted material is a great soil amendment. A compost pile should be in a contained structure. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate. Tie four pallets together or stack several layers of concrete blocks together. The minimum size for a compost pile should be 3' x 3' x 3' and the maximum size is 5' x 5' x 5'. For compost bin ideas stop by the Sangamon-Menard Master Gardener demonstration gardens located on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Mulch strawberry plants to protect them from extreme cold. Strawberries should be mulched before the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This is generally done around mid-November. Use a loose organic material such as clean seed-free wheat straw.

Enjoy the beauty of fall while preparing your garden for winter.

Master Gardener Training

University of Illinois Extension Sangamon-Menard Unit is accepting applications for winter Master Gardener training program. This program is designed to increase the availability of University-based horticultural information to local communities and individuals through trained volunteers known as Master Gardeners.

Master Gardener trainees receive in-depth unbiased, research-based training from University of Illinois Extension educators and specialists. The basic training consists of 60 hours of classsrom-style training in the areas of botany, vegetables, tree and small fruits, insects, diseases, soils, fertilizers, tree and shrub care, and herbaceous ornamentals.

A Master Gardener intern is expected to return 60 hours of volunteer service in the year following their graduation. Volunteer service hours consist of answering homeowner horticulture questions at the Extension office and approved community service programs. Once the initial hours of service are completed, interns become Master Gardeners.

Classes will be offered on Thursdays from
9 a.m. to 4 p.m., starting Jan. 22 and ending April 2, 2009. There is a fee.

Class size will be limited. Applications are available through Nov. 7. If interested, contact the Sangamon-Menard Extension Unit at
782-4617.

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