Will the bad winter put Fox Valley spring gardening on hold? – Elgin Courier News

By Mike Danahey

April 6, 2014 3:40PM

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Updated: April 6, 2014 5:04PM

A key to home gardening this year is going to be patience.

That’s the advice that Dan Linneman, a grower for the Goebbert’s Farm in Hampshire, offered as a harsh winter here oh so slowly turns to spring.

“The ground temperature needs to warm up,” Linneman said.

“We’ve had a good amount of sun, and longer days help with that” — as does rain, which helps thaw the ground that had been frozen several feet deep this past season, Linneman said.

During the winter, the sun helped warm the Goebbert greenhouses to 80 degrees during the day, but the heaters ran through most nights.

If the weather returns to more seasonally normal temperatures, Linneman expects people to be safely planting a week or two later than usual. And because of that, probably harvesting later in the year, too.

In this part of Illinois, home garden planting usually happens in mid-May. While frost can occur past that point, it’s not as common an occurrence that late in spring.

Opposite of 2012

Linneman mentioned that people won’t be cutting lawns until later, too, which is a far cry from when record-setting high temperatures hit the area in March two years ago.

That year’s odd weather caused woes of its own. Linneman noted that peach and apple trees blossomed early in 2012 in Michigan, then a hard frost came past the warmth, decimating crops.

The Goebbert’s will be opening its garden center (www.goebbertsgardencenter.com/home) at 40 W. Higgins Road (Route 72) in South Barrington for the season on April 11, and Linneman expects it will be slow at first.

With the weather the way it has been, no one has had a chance to work in the yard doing basic maintenance. And Linneman cautioned against trying to work the soil with it being so wet.

“It’s got to be dry enough for that. Otherwise, working it wet, it will turn to concrete,” Linneman said.

Echoing Linneman, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Program Coordinator Sarah Fellerer said, “You don’t want to work soil when it’s wet. Stay out of the garden.”

The DuPage, Kane and Kendall County part of the extension (web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/) offers master gardener help desks, with Kane County’s in St. Charles operating Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 630-584-6166.

Fellerer said many calls recently have been about problems with evergreen trees with brown tips or needles falling off branches or bushes that are brown. This is called winter burn or desiccation, Fellerer said, and it happens when such plants can’t get all the nutrients they need from the frozen soil.

Fellerer noted that it is too early in the season to know if such damage is permanent, and there is a very good chance the plants in such shape will survive.

As for bugs, Fellerer said experts are not predicting any fewer of them this spring and summer as a result of the bad winter.

Landscape tips

The extension also maintains a website called Lawn Talk (urbanext.illinois.edu/lawntalk/index.cfm), which is a guide specifically for lawncare in northern Illinois. The calendar there, too, will be shifted because of the conditions left by winter and lack of enough warmth to sod.

For those landscaping, to be on the safe side, Fellerer recommended home gardeners plant species native to this area that have adapted to the wild mood swings of weather found in Illinois. Those include the shrubs viburnum, dogwood and ninebark, and perennials such as indigo bushes and liatris.

Fellerer said the extension will be holding classes for home gardeners, with one set for April 8 on herbs, one on April 24 on pest control, and one May 6 on bargain gardening.

Either way, Fellerer said, “Your garden will catch up if you plant late.”

Plus, she knows how persistent nature is.

“I’m from Wisconsin,” she said.


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