We could all benefit from learning more about our "green world," especially the one in our own garden, and what better place to do that than at the local library?
"Many people don't know what's growing in their yard," said master gardener Nancy Cox of St. Charles. "We need to learn to plant something of value which also won't cause aggravation the rest of our lives."
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If you have any gardening questions, stop in the foyer at the St. Charles Public Library from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays, July 9 or Aug. 13, where you will find a University of Illinois Extension master gardener on hand with plenty of free advice to dole out.
Luci Taormina of St. Charles, a master gardener with the Extension, will be answering questions at the library on Saturday, July 9.
"At this time of the year, we get a lot of questions pertaining to the Japanese beetle, and many people are concerned about the emerald ash borer," said Taornima. "A lot of gardening questions concern growing vegetables, and lawn questions are always big."
Taormina will have information to hand out, as well as her own knowledge to share. Concerning keeping your lawn green and healthy, she advises folks not to cut it too short.
"That's a big factor in a lawn drying out. And cutting shorter than two inches kills the root," she said. "People also don't water deep enough. You have to give the lawn a good one-inch soaking."
But, she added, when it's really hot and dry out, especially over a period of time, the best rule of thumb is to let the grass go dormant.
Cox, who lives in St. Charles and has been a master gardener with the Extension for 20 years, staffed the desk at the library during this same offering, last year.
"I was there for three hours and had probably 12 people who stopped, talked, and asked for information," she said. "Their questions were mostly about what will grow around here, why won't something grow in their gardens, and what's wrong with something that's already there. Mostly, if something isn't growing, it's in the wrong location, or not getting enough sun or water."
As people become more attune to what grows well around here, Cox said, "We're seeing more and more native trees and bushes. They grow here without a lot of attention. So many native plants do that."
Examples of hearty native plants suggested by Cox include the Corylus americana, or American filbert (aka American hazelnut) tree, and the Carpinus caroliniana, or American hornbeam tree (also called blue beech, ironwood, musclewood, and water beech). A perennial favorite flowering plant appearing in many local gardens is the coreopsis, with its bright yellow petals, which return year after year.
It's not too late to add new plants to your garden, according to Cox, as long as you water them well. She also recommends "dead heading" throughout the season: cutting off old blossoms to encourage new growth, as well as regularly clearing dead plant material out of your garden to help plants avoid fungus and diseases.
Visitors are encouraged to bring any questions about where, when, what and how to plant; controlling weeds; identifying and controlling insects, and more.
With regard to insects, if there is something the master gardener is unable to identify, there are entomologists on staff at the Extension office, or a sample can be sent to the main Extension in Champaign-Urbana.
This is the second year the library is offering this free service, which is available to the general public.
"We did this last year, through the Extension. We feel this is another terrific free service provided to our patrons," said Merilee Curtis, a St. Charles librarian and program coordinator. "I think it's a good way for us to take advantage of the Extension's services."
Master gardeners at the University of Illinois Extension in St. Charles regularly provides this same free service, seven days a week, at 535 Randall Road. Residents of Kane County can stop in or call (630) 584-4610 with any questions pertaining to plants.
"The library program is a good way for us to meet the public, said Vicki Hagstotz, a master gardener and program coordinator for the Extension.
"It's just a different venue, with access for different people. We get about 15 visitors at the help desk at the library, and we get up to 20 calls daily at the Extension."