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It's time to end the garden season...mostly

Fall perennials give their last show
Fall perennials give their last show
Jaime Zaplatosch

It has been a week of rain and 50 degree weather in the Chicago area. We have had quite the extended growing season this year, despite several prolonged cool, wet periods almost every month. Last night we had our first, solid frost - it's time to pack up for the year.

When you are out taking advantage of tomorrow's pleasant weather, make sure that you are careful about compacting your soil. We have had a lot of rain of late and the cool weather keeps that moisture in the soil longer. This is good for your plants, but bad for your soil if you walk on it. Raised beds are ok to work in, but be VERY careful about any walking on your planting beds. Avoid doing so if possible.

As optimistic as we may be, all of our warm season vegetables are finished growing for the season; the tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc. are not going to give you any more than what you can see right now. That is unless you are using row covers or tunnels to protect your plants from temperature variation and keep the surrounding air warmer.

Use your garden time to take down your edibles this weekend, but leave your perennials. Annual plants left in over the winter can pass disease on to next year's plants, so put them in the compost pile!

But keep those perennials - native or ornamental - above ground over the winter. The insects that help our garden grow need places to live over the winter. These plants should provide year-round habitat. In April you can worry about taking down what is left of the plants.

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