top of page

Bee Hotel Project

Who stays in bee hotels?

Bee Hotels - artificial nesting structures for native bees - are common in gardens across the U.S.  These "hotels" are collections of tubes or drilled tunnels suitable for use by cavity nesting bees.

But are they the safe havens for bee biodiversity that they are made out to be?  Researchers need your help to  take a closer look!

Donate your bee hotel to science!

The University of Illinois is looking for volunteers to donate their existing bee hotels so they can collect data, with the goal to produce guidelines for how to best optimize bee hotels for conservation.  

If you are interested in donating your bee hotel, please start by clicking here to fill out a form.


Chase away winter blues with indoor gardening
From University of Illinois Extension


Dreading the long cold months of winter? Create a green space indoors with plants!

Historically, plants have been used for their medicinal properties. Growing movements like horticulture therapy use plants for their healing properties, individual health, and well-being.

We can engage with plants actively, by pruning or watering, or passively, by enjoying the sight or scent of a plant or flower. This is especially beneficial to those with limited mobility or limited communication skills. Research has shown that both active and passive interactions with plants and gardening experiences can have a pronounced positive effect on physical and psychological functioning.

Thank you to all who supported the
Wayne Countryside Garden Club's
2023 Holly Hanging in the Village of Wayne

Each and every year since 1955, members of the Wayne Countryside Garden Club have gathered after Thanksgiving to assemble the beautiful evergreen swags that decorate the entire village for the holidays.  The subsequent hanging of these swags by the local Boy Scout troop signals the official start of the holiday season in Wayne, and serves as an enduring symbol of Wayne's warmth and tradition as a community.  The volunteers from the Garden Club, along with the Boy Scouts, donate their time and efforts each year to make this wonder happen, but covering the costs of

the actual swags is dependent upon donations from the community.  

A contribution of any amount helps to support the efforts and is greatly appreciated.  


​To make a donation

By Mail:

Wayne Countryside Garden Club

P.O. Box 822

Wayne, IL 60184

By Paypal:

To donate through a secure Paypal portal using either credit card or Paypal account, click the button below.





Thank you for your consideration and contribution toward our efforts to bring cheer to the Village at this wonderful time of the year!  We wish you and yours a happy, warm and safe holiday season.

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
Online 2023 Holiday Greenery Sale Poster Legal Size Oct 13-2.jpg

Do Nature a Favor:
Leave the Leaves​ Please


In years past, it was considered a matter of routine to spend several days each fall raking leaves, cutting back spent blossoms, and exerting a good amount of energy making our landscapes look "NEAT and TIDY."  There was a consensus that a yard left to its own devices was somehow unkempt or neglected. 

We NOW know that by doing the OPPOSITE, we can all help protect overwintering pollinators by allowing them their natural habitat.  This is something that everyone can do this fall to preserve the overwintering habitat of insect pollinators. During the fall cleanup of your flower and vegetable garden, consider incorporating a few simple strategies into your garden routine. Below, you will find several simple things from the University of Illinois Extension th you can do to help. 

  • Leave your leaves. Instead of raking and removing the leaves from the garden, consider leaving them to provide insulation to overwintering insects. Illinois moths and butterflies will overwinter in the protected leaves, camouflaged to blend in. If that’s not an option, rake some leaves together and put them in the garden beds, where they will slowly break down and provide nutrients to your plants next season.

  • Leave spent flower stems and dead plant material. Instead of cutting back flower stems to the ground, leave some standing. Pollinators rely on hollow stems for nesting and shelter. Native bees like leafcutter and mason bees lay their eggs and nest in the stems and then emerge in the spring as temperatures warm up. Butterflies also overwinter as pupae that attach to dry stems. Keep seed heads on some plants like native grasses, sunflowers, and coneflowers to add winter interest to your garden. They also provide food and hiding spots for birds and wildlife during the cold winter months.

  • Create a brush pile. Instead of bagging up fallen branches or leaves, create a brush pile in a corner of the garden. The added insulation and protected space are great for bees and butterflies.

  • Leave some bare ground. Some gardeners might feel the urge to entirely cover the bare ground with mulch or leaves for the winter. About 70% of Illinois native bees are solitary, and many build their nests in the ground. Small holes in a sunny spot in the garden might not be an ant hill; it could be a bee nest. Layers of mulch prevent bees from nesting, so leaving some open bare ground allows it.

Learn more about supporting pollinators at For more information on fall cleanup techniques for your gardens, connect with a local Extension office at

Images from the Garden Club's
55th Annual Spring Luncheon

May 18, 2023 found many of us- along with community members, friends, and family- at the Dunham Woods Riding Club for the 55th Annual Spring Luncheon of the Wayne Countryside Garden Club.  Along with lunch and great company, we enjoyed a captivating flower arrangement presentation by Kiko Zimmerman, an internationally acclaimed ikebana artist.  Our traditional raffle and silent auction offerings were creative and playful, and guests left with some lovely prizes and favors to remind the of the magic of the day.

We know it's tempting to get to work, but...  
let your garden sleep IN in the Spring!

According to the University of Illinois Extension...There's Life Under those Leaves!

**Excerpt from the University of Illinois Extension**

Newsflash!! Pollinators like a "messy" garden. The rule of thumb for spring cleanup is to wait to clear plant material until temps are consistently above 50°F overnight. This gives insects time to emerge from dried plant stems, mulch, and old foliage.

     While our landscape beds and gardens will be places of burgeoning spring beauty as plant life begins its annual revival in the coming weeks, they are also ecological hotspots of awakening spring life in the insect world.

     Insects use our garden plants to overwinter in an amazing array of uses and various stages of life.  While some are able to hunker down for winter as adults, others seek refuge as larvae or eggs using a wide variety of plant materials and garden spaces as host.  Our cleanup activities this spring can have an alarming impact to insect life if care isn’t taken to accommodate these winter garden dwellers.

     The best plan for spring cleanup is to hold off until temperatures are consistently over 50 degrees overnight.  These warmer temperatures will spur insect eggs to hatch and larvae to emerge that overwintered in standing dead stems.  Butterflies and moths in chrysalises that cleverly mimic plant parts or get neatly tucked away in leaf litter will come out as temperatures rise.  Many species of native ground nesting bees will begin to emerge from our soil and start their life processes and standing dead stems that remain in the garden are valuable for nesting bees that will seek out hollow stems in spring.

     For any materials that you do remove now in the way of dead stems, leaves, or fallen limbs and twigs, find a place to loosely stack them in the hopes that insects may still emerge. Densely piled materials can begin the process of decomposition and kill or trap insects.  Once warmer weather sets in and insects become active, these materials can then be composted or removed, so a loose stack or multiple stacks are essential.        Better yet, use some of these materials as loosely stacked, natural mulch by leaving them at ground level near where they were standing.

Although the best strategy by far is no spring cleanup, some careful and thoughtful cleaning with insect needs in mind can be reasonable approach to striking a balance.  There will always be time during the growing season to complete the job once our insect friends have made their appearance for the year to fill their vital role in the natural world.


March  20, 2023
First Day of Spring

Blooming Garden

Many thanks to all who contributed
to a festive and successful Holly Hanging
in the Village of Wayne


Each and every year since 1955, members of the Wayne Countryside Garden Club have gathered after Thanksgiving to assemble the beautiful evergreen swags that decorate the entire village for the holidays.  The subsequent hanging of these swags by the local Boy Scout troop signals the official start of the holiday season in Wayne, and serves as an enduring symbol of Wayne's warmth and tradition as a community.  The volunteers from the Garden Club, along with the Boy Scouts, donate their time and efforts each year to make this wonder happen, but covering the costs of

the actual swags is dependent upon donations from the community.  

A contribution of any amount helps to support the efforts and is greatly appreciated.  


​To make a donation

By Mail:

Wayne Countryside Garden Club

P.O. Box 822

Wayne, IL 60184

By Paypal:

To donate through a secure Paypal portal using either credit card or Paypal account, click the button below.





Thank you for your consideration and contribution toward our efforts to bring cheer to the Village at this wonderful time of the year!  We wish you and yours a happy, warm and safe holiday season.

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

This Winter: Feed the Birds with DIY Feeders
By Brittnay Haag - University of Illinois Extension 

Blog Image (1)_5.png

Creating simple, homemade birdfeeders is a great way to support feathered friends during the cold winter months when food sources are scarce. It also allows us to be creative, resourceful, and engage with nature while stuck indoors. Make your backyard more wildlife-friendly by making a few of these natural, DIY birdfeeders.

Citrus Feeder
Select any citrus fruit to create this feeder. My favorite is grapefruit because they are large and smell delicious. Cut the fruit in half and scoop out the insides so you are left with a bowl (and enjoy the fresh treat!). Poke three holes through the peel evenly spaced around the orange, ½ inch down from the rim. Thread string through the holes, tying knots on the outside of the citrus to hold it in place, and then tie all the string ends together to create a hanger. Fill the citrus bowl with birdseed.

Pinecone feeder
Gather a pinecone, peanut butter or vegetable shortening, birdseed, and string to create this natural feeder. Attach the string to the pinecone to hang from a branch. Cover the pinecone in peanut butter or vegetable shortening, getting between the cracks and crevices of the cone. Next roll the covered pinecone in the birdseed, slightly pushing down so the seeds stick, covering it completely with seed. 

Cranberry-popcorn garland
Practice your sewing skills creating this feeder! Collect thread and needle, a bag of popcorn, and some fresh cranberries. Thread the fruit and popcorn onto the string, creating a pattern of your choice. Tie a knot in the string when you get the desired length, then use the garland to add décor to an evergreen tree in the landscape. If you want to create a wreath, simply use florist wire and twist the ends together to form a circle. You can also add other grains, cereal, fresh or dried fruit, or nuts to the mix!

What kind of birdseed should you use when creating your DIY feeders? Different birds have different preferences on the type depending on their beak and nutritional needs. The most popular among backyard birds is sunflower seeds. Birdseed mixes can also be used, but remember that higher-quality mixes will attract more diverse birds and will provide better nutrition and healthier birds.

When hanging your homemade birdfeeders, you also want to make sure you hang it away from other birdfeeders to prevent overcrowding and the spread of disease. Discard your feeder after the seeds are gone or if they become spoiled.

When making these feeders with children, talk about different foods that different birds eat and how bird species have beaks adapted to eating certain types of food. Create a journal to track what kind of birds visit your feeders and when you first see them.

Enjoy feeding and watching our feathered friends this winter!

Ways to Welcome Birds to Your Yard in Winter

Provide Food

One of the best ways to make your yard an attractive winter habitat to birds is to provide plenty of high nutrition food rich in fats such as suet, peanuts, nyjer seed, and black oil sunflower seeds.  The fat gives them an energy boost, and without high calorie, nutritious foods, they are less likely to survive those extra cold nights.

Give them Shelter

Whether you plant a grouping of evergreens in an out-of-the-wind location, or you hang roosting or nesting boxes and other bird shelters, if you provide safe places for them to seek shelter from the cold winds, you are likely to be a favorite spot for many types of birds.  Good shelter can make all the difference in whether a smaller, leaner bird is able to survive the winter.


Selection of Plants in your Yard & the Value of "Messiness"

Leave leaf "litter" in place in your yard for the food, water and shelter it can provide.  Brush piles can provide valuable quick shelter from potential predators.

Choose bird-friendly landscaping such as a selection of evergreens plants that provide safety as well as plants that will offer winter berries.


Tips for Enjoying your Garden*
(*even when the bounty can feel a bit overwhelming)

1) Plan for Succession Planting

A nice way to ensure that you will have lovely produce coming from your garden all season long is to plan to plant smaller amounts and groupings at a time, allowing space for the next round of plantings.  Plant enough to harvest and consume for a couple of weeks,, leave space in the row, and then the next 7-10 days, plant more seeds in the open space.  That way, you always have a fresh crop ready to harvest week after week.

2) Do a little bit of Weeding Each Day

We are all often quite busy in the summer with travel, seeing family and friends, etc.  One of the best ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed with one's vegetable garden is to weed a small amount each day.  If you have dogs, when you're out in the yard with them, simply pick 10 weeds at a time.  You'll be surprised how quickly an area can be weeded and it will certainly feel like less of an arduous chore.

3) Nourish your soil

Remember that growing vegetables takes quite a bit of the soil's nourishments, so it's important to replenish the soil with good, organic nutrients throughout the season.  You don't have to go out and purchase bulky bags of expensive ammendments- you can slowly add nutrients with things that come from your kitchen.  Crushed eggshells not only help add calcium to soil (which can help prevent blossom end-rot), but they also help aerate the soil and create an inhospitable environment for slugs, snails and (if crushed finely enough) can scour and weaken the shells of japanese beetles and flea beetles.  

4) Time your watering

While it seems like such a simple thing, watering well and appropriately can make such a big difference in your garden.  A few Do's and Don't of watering:


Focus watering on deeply soaking the base of the plants near the roots.  This promotes deep roots and avoids wetting the leaves.

Time your watering so that any leaves that do accidentally get water will dry out quickly.  Morning is best, as the plant will have time to dry out afterward.

Plan for about 1 inch of water a week.  Water deeply 2-3 times a week, adjust according to the amount of rain.


Don't water from overhead.  In the majority of cases, you want to avoid water on the leaves- water can promote fungal issues and can help some plant diseases spread.

Don't water often and shallowly - shallow watering can discourage deep roots and the plants will have less stability once fruiting.

5) Have fun and Experiment!  One of the best ways to keep enjoying your garden is to focus on the adventure of it all, to remember that we are constantly learning and that a little bit of experimentation and trying something new can lead to new discoveries.  Sometimes the weather "cooperates" and the harvest is like magic, and sometimes we have a rough season of it.  Att the very least, we've gotten fresh air and our hands in the soil, and we are better for that!


Fall Blooming Native Pollinator Plants


If you have ample blooms in your garden about now, you'll notice that the air is full of the buzzing and hum of wildlife working overtime. The bees need to store up nectar and pollen for their winter hibernation, migrating monarchs need energy for their journey to Mexico, and hummingbirds have the best chance of making it to the tropics if they have had plenty of late season nourishment first.  Now is the time to allow some of your vegetable garden plants to bloom; that basil we carefully tended so it wouldn't go to seed in the hot months can now provide extra fuel for little creatures through its blossoms.  Instead of hurrying to "clean up" a garden that might look like it's plotting a take-over, sit back and allow all of those late season blooms to shine and provide a lovely natural buffet for as long as they can!

Below you'll find a few dependable, native, fall bloomers to add to your garden:

1) Purple Aster (Aster spp.): There are over 90 species of asters native to North America.  They're ultra-appealing to pollinators, and they keep producing pollen and nectar for weeks on end.  Asters are adapted to sun and part shade.

2) Common boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum): is a valued plant by late-season pollinators. Its white, fluffy blooms host a broad diversity of pollinators. It prefers average to wet soil and thrives in my garden with little care.

3) Ironweed (Veronia fasciculata):  Capable of growing 4-6 feet tall, ironweed stands out in a late summer garden and is a favorite of many butterflies and otehr pollinators.  

4) Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis): Highly drought tolerant and easy to grow, goldenrod provides a great deal of pollen for bees in the late summer days.

5) Joe Pye Weed: (Cimifuga spp.): Butterflies adore Joe Pye weed, and it can continue to blooms into early October in the right conditions (Full to half-sun, normal to clay soils).

First Day of Fall 2021: September 22

Autumn Pond

First Day of Summer: June 20th


Things you can do to make your yard a friendly habitat for pollinators


1. Dandelions and other spring blooming weeds provide vital food for bees.  Please do not spray these important "weeds" with toxins.  Dandelions also help aerate the lawn and are an important source of nutrients for early spring pollinators.  The U.S. lawn grooming companies would have us all convinced that dandelions in our lawns are something to be ashamed of- but in other countries such as France, dandelions provide prized gourmet Spring greens for salads rich in vitamin C!

2. Go organic.  There's no need to use powerful poisons to protect your garden from insects and diseases. There is plenty of information available on controlling diseases in an ecological way.  You will not only be protecting your family and pets, but also the bees, birds, hummingbirds and butterflies and other living animals for whom insects are a vital food source.  Visit this site for more information on earth-friendly garden pest deterrents.

3. Provide shelter.  Don't over-groom your yard.  Beneficial insects and other pollinators take shelter in grass clippings, hedgerows, in the crooks of old tree stumps and such.  These spots can be great places for pollinators to seek shelter from the elements and from predators, and can also serve as miniature nurseries where they can raise their young.

4. Provide food and clean water.  Consider adding special feeders and putting out potted blooming plants in the early spring to provide food before the yard plants start to bloom.  Bees, butterflies and birds also need fresh water and can benefit greatly from water features such as bird baths.  Be sure to wash birdbaths out about once a week and replenish the fresh water to keep their water source healthy and disease-free.

Spring Pruning: Tips and Timing

Spring Buds
Spring 2020

With time still before much of the busy yardwork season begins, spring pruning is the perfect way to get out there and be productive in the garden.  The prospect of pruning can sometimes be daunting to gardeners- the questions of when to prune, how to prune, and what not to prune can lead some to avoid pruning altogether.  But with three simple guidelines, even the novice gardener can tackle the job with success.  In general, the three main goals of pruning are to:

  • Improve flowering and/or fruiting

  • Establish and maintain size and structure of the plants/trees

  • Remove dead, dying, disfigured, diseased or damaged wood.

10 Pruning Pointers  (Excerpted from the Old Farmer's Almanac)

  1. Prune summer-flowering plants, which will flower on the coming season’s new growth, while they are still dormant (late winter and early spring). Plants are dormant but the coldest part of winter has passed, lowering the chance of cold damage near pruning cuts. See our pruning chart for summer-flowering shrubs and trees.

  2. Prune spring-flowering plants immediately after their blossoms fade. Because they produce flowers only on old growth from the previous season, pruning soon after bloom will maximize flower production the next year. Pinch the candles on whorled-branching conifers when you see new growth. See our pruning chart for spring-flowering shrubs and trees.

  3. Prune butterfly bush severely. These plants bloom only on new shoots. Stimulate new growth by lopping the whole plant to within a few inches of the ground.

  4. Cut to the ground some or all of the oldest stems of shrubby dogwoods. This will make way for the youngest stems that will provide next winter’s show of bright yellow or red.

  5. On apple and other fruit trees, cut water sprouts right to their bases. These vigorous, upright shots soak up the plant’s energy and bear few or no flowers or fruits. Remove weak twigs.

  6. For smooth hydrangea, cut all stems to the ground. For bigleaf or oakleaf hydrangea, cut stems with old flowers still attached back to fat flower buds.

  7. For lilacs, remove all dead canes. Cut out all crossing branches, keeping the strongest or most useful ones for a graceful form. Cut back last year’s growth dramatically, though never more than one-third of the live wood.

  8. Avoid pruning a young or newly planted tree — it needs as many leaves as possible to produce the food required for good root growth.

  9. Always prune back to a healthy stem or branch without leaving stubs. This eliminates hiding places for pests and diseases, and looks better. 

  10.  Never cut back the plant’s leader—the top-most growing point of the tree—which is vital to letting the tree develop its natural form.

It's coming! First day of Spring 

spring landscape.jpg

Did you know that prior to the 14th Century, Spring was called "Lent" and, around that time, people used to say that the end of winter marked "Springing Time" because it was when the plants seemed to spring from the soil.  In the 16th Century, "Springing time" was eventually shortened to Spring, and no matter what one calls it, we all- gardeners and non-gardeners alike- look forward to it each year with anticipation!

The Garden in Winter

by Lucy Maud Montgomery



Frosty-white and cold it lies 
Underneath the fretful skies; 
Snowflakes flutter where the red 
Banners of the poppies spread, 
And the drifts are wide and deep 
Where the lilies fell asleep. 

But the sunsets o'er it throw 
Flame-like splendor, lucent glow, 
And the moonshine makes it gleam 
Like a wonderland of dream, 
And the sharp winds all the day 
Pipe and whistle shrilly gay. 

Safe beneath the snowdrifts lie 
Rainbow buds of by-and-by; 
In the long, sweet days of spring 
Music of bluebells shall ring, 
And its faintly golden cup 
Many a primrose will hold up. 

Though the winds are keen and chill 
Roses' hearts are beating still, 
And the garden tranquilly 
Dreams of happy hours to be­
In the summer days of blue 
All its dreamings will come true. 

Spring - Summer 

Why Native Plants Matter

Reprinted with permission from


Restoring native plant habitat is vital to preserving biodiversity. By creating a native plant garden, each patch of habitat becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals.

Over the past century, urbanization has taken intact, ecologically productive land and fragmented and transformed it with lawns and exotic ornamental plants. The continental U.S. lost a staggering 150 million acres of habitat and farmland to urban sprawl, and that trend isn’t slowing. The modern obsession with highly manicured “perfect” lawns alone has created a green, monoculture carpet across the country that covers over 40 million acres. The human-dominated landscape no longer supports functioning ecosystems, and the remaining isolated natural areas are not large enough to support wildlife.

Native plants are those that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved. They are the ecological basis upon which life depends, including birds and people. Without them and the insects that co-evolved with them, local birds cannot survive. For example, research by the entomologist Doug Tallamy has shown that native oak trees support over 500 species of caterpillars whereas ginkgos, a commonly planted landscape tree from Asia, host only 5 species of caterpillars. When it takes over 6,000 caterpillars to raise one brood of chickadees, that is a significant difference.

Unfortunately, most of the landscaping plants available in nurseries are alien species from other countries. These exotic plants not only sever the food web, but many have become invasive pests, outcompeting native species and degrading habitat in remaining natural areas.

Landscaping choices have meaningful effects on the populations of birds and the insects they need to survive. The bottom line is this—homeowners, landscapers, and local policy makers can benefit birds and other wildlife by simply selecting native plants when making their landscaping decisions. To do your part, you can use Audubon's handy database to discover native plants in your area and which types of birds they'll attract. Just enter your zipcode, and it's as easy as that. 

Benefits of Native Plants:

Low maintenance:
Once established, native plants generally require little maintenance.

Many native plants offer beautiful showy flowers, produce abundant colorful fruits and seeds, and brilliant seasonal changes in colors from the pale, thin greens of early spring, to the vibrant yellows and reds of autumn. 

Healthy Places for People:
Lawns and the ubiquitous bark-mulched landscapes are notorious for requiring profuse amounts of artificial fertilizers and synthetic chemical pesticides and herbicides. The traditional suburban lawn, on average, has 10x more chemical pesticides per acre than farmland. By choosing native plants for your landscaping, you are not only helping wildlife, but you are creating a healthier place for yourself, your family, and your community. 

Helping the Climate:
Landscaping with native plants can combat climate change. In addition to the reduced noise and carbon pollution from lawn mower exhaust, many native plants, especially long-living trees like oaks and maples, are effective at storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. 

Conserving Water:
Because native plants are adapted to local environmental conditions, they require far less water, saving time, money, and perhaps the most valuable natural resource, water.

In addition to providing vital habitat for birds, many other species of wildlife benefits as well. The colorful array of butterflies and moths, including the iconic monarch, the swallowtails, tortoiseshells, and beautiful blues, are all dependent on very specific native plant species. Native plants provide nectar for pollinators including hummingbirds, native bees, butterflies, moths, and bats. They provide protective shelter for many mammals. The native nuts, seeds, and fruits produced by these plants offer essential foods for all forms of wildlife.

Reprinted from with permission from the Audubon Society:

Late Winter Tasks for Gardeners

Although it's cold outside and most of our gardens are still slumbering and in various stages of dormancy, there are still fun, productive things gardeners can do to prepare for spring and our next gardening season.  Following is a list of ideas or projects that can help feed that late winter gardening urge, and many of them will help put your ahead of the curve come Spring!

1. Go through your garden tools and make sure they are clean and in good working order.  Now is a good time to sharpen blades, oil moving parts or to order new blades for bypass pruners if needed.

2. Walk through the yard and gently push back down any plants that might have heaved out of the soil during the winter.  Late spring frosts can sometimes cause more damage to roots as the plants are reemerging.

3. After we have had several days with temperatures above freezing, you can seed any bald patches in the lawn and/or grassy areas.  Make sure the seeds are in contact with the dirt.  The frost/thaw cycles of the next few weeks help work the seeds into the ground where they will be ready to germinate once the ground temperatures rise.  

4. Clean and disinfect bird feeders and baths.  

5. Continue to order seed, bulb, and nursery catalogs to assist in planning your garden for the upcoming year.

6. It’s tempting to get a head start on spring cleaning by clearing from your beds the old flower stalks, leaves, etc.

Remember, though, that many kinds of insects make use of garden detritus to lay eggs and spend the winter there in the insect form of hibernation, known as diapause. Birds and other animals appreciate the "mess" too and ultimately, letting all those old seed heads hang out will make your garden a more vibrant place.

7. Finally, why not take advantage of reading time by the late winter fire and find a new heirloom seed or native plant you can try in your garden during the coming season.  It's good for us all to stretch our imaginations a little, and we might just find an aspect of our gardens or gardening that we might not have known if we hadn't thought outside the box and tried a new venture!


Fall 2017

Fall Gardening Tasks

Excerpted in part from Chicago Botanic Garden's "Monthly Checklists"

General Garden Care
Keep the compost pile active by adding layers of green material (grass clippings and frost-killed annuals or perennials) and brown dried material (fallen leaves, shredded twigs, and dried grasses) with small amounts of soil, fertilizer, and moisture. Turn regularly. Keep diseased material out of the pile.

Excess fallen leaves can be shredded and kept aside to use later next month as mulch for perennial and garden beds once the ground has frozen hard.

Annual and Perennial Care

After a killing frost, remove annual plant material from your garden and add it to your compost heap.

Do not mulch your perennial garden area until the ground has frozen hard later in November.

Begin to plant spring-blooming bulbs. Mulch area after planting. If rodents, deer, or rabbits have been a problem in the past, consider planting varieties of the following pest-resistant bulbs: ornamental onion, grape hyacinth, fritillary, narcissus, windflower, winter aconite.

A few weeks after a killing frost, lift and store tender bulbs. This might be as late as November. Cut back above-ground foliage and stems of cannas and dahlias to 4 to 5 inches. Gently lift up tubers using a pitchfork. Shake off excess soil and dry tubers in a warm dry place. Do not separate the mass of tuberous roots at this time. When dry, place labeled tubers in cardboard boxes lined with newspaper and filled with barely moist wood shavings, peat moss, or vermiculite. Store between 40 and 50 degrees in a darkened room. Check periodically to be sure tubers haven’t rotted (throw away) or begun to dry out (sprinkle gently with water).


Fruit, Vegetable, and Herb Care
Harvest pumpkins before a killing frost.
Continue to harvest vegetables. If hard frost threatens, pick all tomatoes, including the unripe ones, and store in cardboard boxes or paper bags in basement.

Cut back any remaining herbs and bring them indoors to use fresh or dry.

Cover tender plants from light freezes at night by covering them with sheets, plastic, or upturned bushel baskets.

Apply a heavy mulch over leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, beets, and turnips to continue the harvest into early winter.

After a hard frost, remove all dead plant material from the vegetable garden and compost. Rototill 1 to 2 inches of organic material, composted manure, or shredded leaf mold into garden soil. Add granulated sulfur according to package directions.

Remove all fallen fruit from your garden and yard. Maintain proper sanitation throughout entire garden area.



Summer 2017

Tips for Safely Hosting Summer Hummingbird Visitors

Helpful guidelines from the Audubon Society on safe feeding of Summer's hummingbird visitors:

Maintain a healthy ecosystem in your yard.  Keep pesticide use to a bare minimum. Remember that if you lure hummingbirds to your yard, they will be eating from your yard, and you don't want them ingesting poison.

Hang your feeder in a shady spot to keep the sugar water from fermenting.

Sugar water is a very rich growth medium.  As such, yeasts, mold, and bacteria can quickly grow in the nectar we put out for them to eat, and can cause harm or even death.  

It is very important if we put feeders out, that we remember change the nectar every few days, especially when the temperatures climb.  Below you'll find a helpful guide to go by.

Daily high temperatures  Change nectar after

61-70                                   4-5 days

71-80                                   3 days

81-85                                   2 days

86+                                      daily

Nectar formula: 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.  Dissolve sugar into boiling water and let cool before filling feeder.  Stick with sugar and water.  Never use honey, artificial sweeteners, or red dye.

When changing the nectar, clean the feeder with 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water, and rinse well three times before adding new nectar solution.

For help identifying the types of hummingbirds seen in your yard, visit the Beauty of Birds site

Spring 2017
Excerpted in part from Chicago Botanic Garden's "Monthly Checklists"

Spring "To Do" List for the Midwestern Gardener



Divide and replant summerand fall blooming perennials.

Stake tall perennials before they reach 6 inches. Begin to regularly pinch back fall-blooming perennials such as chrysanthemums, asters and tall sedums. Pinch once a week until the middle of July. This promotes stocky growth.

Continue to direct the growth of perennial vines on their supports. Climbing roses should be encouraged to develop lateral, flower-bearing canes.

Continue to check peonies for botrytis blight or other foliar fungal problems. Peonies that suffered from botrytis or bud blast last year should be sprayed regularly, starting when the plants are between 2 to 4 inches tall. Cage or provide support for peony blossoms when the plants are 10 inches tall.

Let spring bulb foliage yellow and wither before removing it. The leaves manufacture food that is stored in the bulb for next year’s growth. Even braiding the foliage of daffodils can reduce the food production of the leaves.

Plant summer- and fall-flowering bulbs such as Asiatic and Oriental lilies, dahlias, peacock orchids (Acidanthera), cannas, tuberous begonias, caladium, crocosmia, freesia, gladioli, montbretia, and calla lilies.


Plant corn, snap beans, summer squash, and New Zealand spinach in mid-May.

Thin carrots, beets, and late lettuce.

Harvest green onions, lettuce, and radishes. Any of the mesclun mix or cut-and-come-again lettuces can be harvested to a few inches three separate times before the plants have exhausted themselves.

Now is a good time to sow some lettuce or kale to harvest early as baby salad greens.

Harvest mature asparagus and rhubarb.

Spread several inches of aged compost on vegetable and herb beds, if not done yet.

Remove flowers of June-bearing strawberries as soon as they appear. This is necessary just for the first growing season. The plants will now develop a stronger root system.

Remove flowers for ever-bearing and day-neutral strawberries as soon as they appear. Flowers that develop after July 1 can be left on the plants to set fruit for later in the season.

Winter 2017

Seed catalogs and garden dreaming on cold winter days

In the depths of winter, there are few things that can warm the hearts of gardeners more than the arrival of beautiful seed catalogs in the mail.  Even on the sunny days, the frozen ground reminds us that the lionshare of our productive work in winter can be found in those moments by the fire when we plan and dream of plotting our garden's growth in the spring.  Whether you are a vegetable gardener who starts many plants from seed indoors or you are exploring different varieties of flowers to add to a border, seed catalogs can provide spark for your inspiration.

There are so many options and many gardeners have their favorites, but some of the most interesting collections are by those companies who are most mindful of how special plants grown from true heirloom seeds can be.  Below is just a small list of wonderful companies that offer non-genetically modified, organic, heirloom seeds.  Often with spectacular photos, these catalogs contain mind-boggling varieties of species, and many that have been cultivated or have grown wild for centuries.  Note that while most of these companies will send you a free catalog, many now have a PDF form of their catalog available for immediate download on their website for those who can't wait or just to save trees, really. Happy garden planning!

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (Mansfield, MO): Over 1800 varieties of vegetables, rare herbs and flowers. You can request a catalog through their website or by calling (417) 924-8917.

Seed Savers Exchange (Decorah, IA): Working to save heirloom garden seeds from extinction, you can find really interesting, rare varieties here.  For a catalog, visit their website or call (563) 382-5990.

High Mowing Seeds (Wolcott, VT): Over 600 varieties -many of which are grown on the company's 40 acre farm.  Started by one man out of his backyard in 2001, they are committed promoting to organic, heirloom, open-pollinated seeds. Catalog can be requested on their website or by calling (866) 735-4454.

Pinetree Garden Seeds (New Gloucester, ME): Family owned, 1300 varieties, including many heirloom and organic seeds, tools, live plants, etc. For a catalog, fill out request form on their website or call (207) 926-3400.

Why Trees Change Color in the Fall

Prarie Path in Wayne IL

Every autumn we revel in the beauty of the fall colors. The mixture of red, purple, orange and yellow is the result of chemical processes that take place in the tree as the seasons change from summer to winter.
Trees change color due to two basic climate conditions: warm, sunny days followed by sudden drops in temperature, with cool nights and temperatures in the 40’s.

The weather pattern of sunny days and cool evenings starts the physical process of fall coloration. During the summer, leaves manufacture starches, sugars, and proteins which are distributed by chlorophyll, the green coloring matter in leaves. Because of the changing weather in fall, the food manufacturing process slows down, resulting in the chemical breakdown of the chlorophyll. As a result of the breakdown, the chlorophyll becomes colorless, permitting the other colors already present in the leaves to become visible.


There are two general classes of chemicals that are responsible for fall leaf coloring. Carotenoids are responsible for the yellows and orange and anthocyanins make up the red and purple. When the chlorophyll breaks down in the fall the carotenoids and anthocyanins that are present in the leaf are unmasked and show their colors.

It is on warm, sunny days, with readings in the 70's, that starches and sugars become trapped when temperatures plummet quickly in the evening. But, if the autumn is wet and cloudy, little food is manufactured, and if such days are followed by moist, warm evenings, no starches or sugars are retained in the leaves.

Contrary to popular belief, frost is not needed to bring about color changes. Leaves often color before frost, and even during the summer. Red and sugar maples as well as other trees, will flaunt branches of orange and red, often because sugars have accumulated due to injury to roots or trunks.


After a prolonged drought, fall color will come early, whereas, well nourished plants are inclined to color later.


Fall is a beautiful time of year in Wayne. A hike, horse or bike ride along one of our many trails through the surrounding prairies and woods is always a fun way to spend an afternoon enjoying the beauty of the fall colors.

September 2016

September Gardening Tasks: 

Readying Our Gardens for Fall and Winter

Exerpt from the Chicago Botanic Garden's "Monthly Gardening Checklists"

General Plant Care

September is a good time to begin a compost heap. Begin to layer grass clippings, dried fallen leaves, soil, a handful of fertilizer, and a little moisture. Shredded garden debris can be added as annuals and perennials die back next month.

Pick a dry day this month to test your soil. Plant Information at (847) 835-0972 has listings of soil testing agencies. Follow agency instructions on where and how to collect soil samples. Refrain from adding amendments, fertilizers, or other chemicals to your soil until you know what your soil lacks.

Tree and Shrub Care

Wait until trees and shrubs drop their leaves or undergo color change before planting them or digging and moving them to new sites.  At that time, they are entering dormancy and willnot suffer as much transplant shock when moved.

Broadleafed and needled evergreens are best planted or moved by October 1st.  Water deeply and thoroughly at planting time and each week up until ground freezes.

Continue to water large trees and shrubs, especially evergreens, until the ground freezes hard. Evergreens continue to lose moisture through their needles throughout winter and must have adequate water in their root zones to avoid winter burn or dessicated needles.

Wait until next month to fertilize any tree or shrub that looks like it might benefit from extra nutrition — for example, has stunted growth, has failed to fully flower or leaf out, or has undersized fruit or off-color foliage.

Annual and Perennial Care

Continue to deadhead both annuals and perennials to encourage further flowers.

Return of cool weather is a good time to refresh annual containers with cool-season favorites such as pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale, chrysanthemums, or fall-blooming asters. Asters and mums purchased in bloom this month are usually greenhouse-grown and not necessarily hardy. To increase their chances of making it through the winter, plant them directly in garden beds, rather than containers, early this month so they can establish their roots for a good four to six weeks before frost. Water well and mulch plants right away.

Do not cut back on perennials until their leaves and stems have lost all green color.

Daylilies and peonies can be divided or planted early this month. Water well to encourage healthy root development. Peonies should be planted so that the buds or eyes are no deeper than 2 inches below soil level. If planted too deeply, they will fail to flower.

Fruit, Vegetable and Herb Care

The next six weeks will provide an abundance of produce. Continue to harvest vegetables as they ripen. Warm-season crops like peppers and tomatoes must be picked as soon as possible. If an early frost threatens, cover these plants with baskets or light blankets. Refrigerating tomatoes causes them to lose their flavor. Store in a cool, 60- to 70-degree room for a few days.

Allow collards, kale, and Brussels sprouts to be hit with frost before harvesting. This improves their flavor.

Begin to harvest a second crop of any cool-season lettuces, spinach, peas, radishes, or chard that were planted in August.

Continue to snip herbs to use fresh, to dry, or to freeze. If herbs have gone to flower or seed, discontinue harvesting, since the flavor has then left the foliage.

Maintain good sanitation throughout the vegetable garden. Remove diseased plants immediately as well as those that have finished their growth cycle for the year. Compost only healthy plant material.

Indoor Plant Care

Cuttings from favorite or unusual varieties of annuals such as geraniums, coleus, begonias, and impatiens can be taken this month, potted up, and brought inside to a south-facing window. Some tender unusual container plants can be brought inside as whole plants — hebe, black mondo grass, mandevilla vine, and certain small geranium plants are a few. Many gardeners prefer to repot the plants and change the soil to a fresh, lightweight, soilless mix at this time.

Houseplants that have spent summers outside should be monitored in the event of a premature frost. Check plants carefully for any sign of insect or disease before bringing them indoors. Gradually reintroduce these plants to indoor conditions. Consider repotting and changing soil at this time. Do not change size of pot until spring.

Upcoming Local Garden Events

September 6

Garden Tour: Prairie.  Greg Kruckenberg from Cantigny Horticulture will guide an up-close look at Cantigny's two-acre prairie featuring native grasses and forbs, such as asters, echinacea and rudbeckia.  Depart from Visitor's Center at Cantigny at 11 a.m.

September 10

Prairie Walk at Garfield Farm Museum.  Tour the prairie with museum staff to learn about the native environment and ecosystems of Illinois.  Garfield Farm Museum, 3N016 Garfield Road, Campton Hills.  9 a.m.  Reservations encouraged.  Info: 630-584-8485 or

September 11

Trees of Illinois.  Learn to identify 20 to 30 of the most common trees in the woodlands and neighborhoods of the Chicagoland region.  Taught by Chric Benda, plant ecologist.  The Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle.  9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  $76.  Class held indoors and outdoors.  Info and registration: 630-719-2468 or

September 13 to October 4

Beginning Beekeeping.  Explore the history of beekeeping, bee anatomy, staring up a colony and managing it through the year, equipment basics, honey bee pests and diseases, harvesting honey, and more.  Taught by beekeeper Greg Fischer.  Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle. Four Tuesdays- 6:30pm -8:30 pm. Recommended text sold in bookstore.  For information and registration: 630-719-2468

September 18

Floral Design Workshop.  Walk on the Wild Side.  Create a floral arrangement using wildflowers you select and harvest from Cantigny's two acre prairie. Expert instruction by Alicia Cassidy.  All materials provided.  Meet at the Education Center at 1 p.m.  Cost $50.  Advance registration required.  Register through

September 25

McHenry County Farm Stroll and Market.  Self-guided tour of 11 family farms in McHenry County including Marengo, Hebron, Richmond, Harvard, Union, and Woodstock.  Free.  Showcasing local, organic and sustainable fruits, vegetables, animals, and more.  11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Free, but bring cash if you wish to purchase farm-grown and farm-related products.  For more information: or 815-338-1520

bottom of page