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Fall Gardening: Enjoy 1 Last Blast in Your Yard

Jackie Riffice, a resident of Flossmoor and founder of Prairie Godmothers, offers some tips for gardeners looking to make the most of the fall growing season.

In September, many gardeners look to plant and harvest a last blast of vegetables or to build their landscape design by adding new trees and shrubs in select locations outside their homes.

Jackie Riffice, owner and founder of Flossmoor-based Prairie Godmothers, which abides by the motto of “Protecting the Planet, One Garden at a Time,” offers some tips to avoid trouble in a wacky weather year. Since launching her business five years ago, she has become a trusted advisor for home owners looking to boost curb appeal or freshen up the look of their gardens.

Riffice noted a warm winter was followed by a wet spring in the Chicago metropolitan area. More recently, residents in the area have suffered through drought conditions, the result of a sizzling summer. In light of the conditions, Riffice suggests the following for fall gardening:

1. Plant cool weather vegetables such as radishes and all types of leaf lettuce. But wait until the weather turns consistently cooler and be prepared to water your plants often if extreme heat persists.

2. Plant bushes, shrubs, trees. But, again, wait until the ground is softer and easier to work with, the result of a couple of good rains.

3. Split and move plants such as hostas. Pick places to add new flowering bulbs.

“This is a good time of year to split hostas,” Riffice said. “If yours are boring, chances are your neighbors are boring as well. They were probably bought and planted around the same time, perhaps even from the same nursery.

“So, this is where you develop your own ‘Hosta Fest.’ You take out the hostas you don’t want any longer, split them and pot them and take them to a ‘show and share’ event you can plan with friends.

“It’s also a good time to go to a fine nursery in your area and see what’s out there, what’s new. Like I said, there are over 500 varieties (of hostas). So, this is the time to mix it up. So, you take your boring hosta and you add smaller, larger or silver-hue hostas and all of a sudden they’re not so boring anymore.

“You’ve added different leaf sizes and shapes and different colors. It takes a little bit of planning. If you can do it by sharing with friends and neighbors, all the better because it is not going to cost you anything. And it’s very fun to try and figure out who’s hostas you want.”

Barb Ferrari September 05, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Love the idea of show & share, Jackie. Why toss away perfectly healthy plants when they can continue living at a new home?
Ron Kremer (Editor) September 05, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Hosta Fest is the best—idea. Thanks, Jackie.
Michael Riffice September 05, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Jackie...these are some great ideas and i look forward to implementing them around my home. Any suggestions that you can offer for me to have a small herb garden indoors during the winter? My wife is a chef and loves her fresh herbs... Thanks, Mike
Jackie of Prairie Godmothers September 05, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Mike The chef of the house will enjoy fresh herbs all season long with a small potted garden placed on a sunny windowsill. We recommend small pots with good drainage for each herb. Begin with starter herbs available at your local nursery. For an American selection, use parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (pardon the Simon and Garfunkle reference). If a Mediterranean kitchen is more to her liking, select oregano, basil, marjoram, and cilantro. Herb gardening, indoors and out, is contagious. The chef might request a greenhouse next!
Jackie of Prairie Godmothers September 05, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Look for the perennial plant exchange at Bella Vita in Homewood, IL, scheduled for late September.
Ron Kremer (Editor) September 05, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Jackie: How much will the greenhouse cost? Just kidding ... thanks for sharing tips on growing herbs in sunny windowsills. My son does this and enjoys adding fresh herbs to pasta dishes, etc.
Karen Schultz September 06, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Fellow gardeners...having an open house this coming weekend, Sept 7 & 8, from 10 am - 2pm. Tour my gardens and pond and learn about becoming a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Backyard Habitat. 18921 Creekview Lane, Mokena, IL Karen

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