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.”