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10 resolutions for the 2010 gardening year

Here are 10 resolutions for good gardening in 2010.

Understand that you share your garden with many creatures.

What do all living things need? Food, shelter and a place to raise their young.

Winter is a difficult time for all living things, but the Big 3 are necessary year round.

Many people feed birds. But raccoons, possums, squirrels, and yes, deer, coyotes and foxes, too, contend with cold weather just like you and me.

Don’t be so quick to remove a hedgerow, or a weedy area on your property.

What you call “ugly,” another critter may call “home.” Put your discarded Christmas tree in your yard, instead of immediately tossing it.

On a bitter winter night, that holiday tree can shelter small mammals and birds.

Some animals, like squirrels, hibernate but sometimes emerge in winter. If squirrels try to rob your bird feeder, put out nuts and dry corn for them.

Plant natives,

remove invasives.

What’s native and what’s invasive changes.  For example, bittersweet often is grown because of its pretty orange berries. Today, at least one kind is considered invasive. The same is true of several landscaping shrubs.

Check the University of Illinois website, http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu for information.

Enroll in a

gardening course.

Kishwaukee and Sauk Valley community colleges are among area institutions offering seasonal, day-long gardening classes, demonstrations and speakers, via the U. of I. Extension in Spring and Fall. Classes about plant care also are offered.

Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden, Rockford, has numerous, relatively inexpensive courses about gardening, landscaping and related topics. Check www.klehm.org.

Donate excess produce.

Been overwhelmed by too many tomatoes and green peppers? Local charities, such as Life Line in Oregon, are happy to take the extras.

Watch local newspapers for donation information.

Buy gardening accessories.

Even if your knees don’t creak, waterproof gloves, knee pads, small portable benches and ergonomic tools can take the “ouch” out of gardening.

Change your garden’s appearance.

Always planted in neat little rows? Then make 2010 the year you don’t.

Planting flowers and vegetables together can benefit both, especially if installing plants that ward off insects from their plant neighbors, or lure beneficial insects such as bees.

Odd-number combinations work best, so plant in groups of three, five, seven, nine, etc. for the best appearance.

If drivers zip past your garden at 65 mph, your efforts will be a blur unless you plant in big swatches of color.

“Big” means no beds smaller than 3 feet by 5 or 7 feet; even bigger is better. Plant each bed in a single variety with flowers in the same bright color, such as hot pink petunias, deep purple salvias or hostas with bright white flowers.

Beds needn’t be rectangles. Think of the curved feather-like dark and light shapes in the classic circular Taoist symbol of yin and yang. For an illustration, Google yin/yang symbol.

Plant heirloom flowers and veggies.

Many flower and vegetable varieties have disappeared. Flower types, like clothes, go in and out of fashion.

Vegetable varieties have disappeared in the quest for long shelf life. Several groups are involved in retaining older seed varieties.

In the U.S., Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah IA, probably is best-known, but it isn’t the only group doing so. Search:  seed savers; also see www.seedsavers.org.

Practice less poisonous plant disease and

insect controls.

The concept called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is an approach seeking to balance chemical controls with natural life cycles, with a goal of less dependence on chemicals.

For the past two years, this area has been besieged by gazillion Japanese beetles. Lures and bug spray haven’t helped. Popular bug attractants have backfired, luring more, not less, beetles to gardens where the attractants were placed.

Spraying insect killer doesn’t reach all the beetles, and harms beneficial insects.

Yes, I’ve resorted to chemical sprays to save my struggling roses from Japanese beetles, but I’ve done so only in the very early morning or near dark, when no bees are around, and only when there have been so many Japanese beetles that the environmentally sound way, knocking the beetles into a mixture of 1 part liquid soap to 20 parts water, doesn’t work. Search: Integrated Pest Management.

Buy local.

Shop at local commercial nurseries, and patronize the area’s many small-scale plant-related events, such as the seasonal Master Gardener-sponsored sales, and the many similar events sponsored by local groups and institutions.

Not into gardening? Buy fresh produce from various local farmers’ markets, once rare in the Sauk Valley area, but now commonplace.

In addition, several small vineyards have sprung up in Northern Illinois, selling their wares at local or regional stores, including in Byron, Dixon and Genoa.

Even if you aren’t a wine fan, it’s interesting to see, and yes, taste, what local vineyards yield. Google Northern Illinois Wineries.

And the final 2010 resolution?

Provide comfortable seating and some shade so you can sit back and admire all those fabulous flowers and vegetables you’ve worked so hard to grow!

For additional information, contact your local Extension Service office, or check the U. of I. website, http://urbanext.uiuc.edu.

The Ogle County office is at 421 W. Pines Rd., Suite 10, Oregon, 815-732-2101.

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