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updated: 10/3/2013 11:49 AM

Steppingstones help make gardening a bit easier

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  • After digging a depression for your steppingstone, fill it with construction sand to make a base for the stone.

      After digging a depression for your steppingstone, fill it with construction sand to make a base for the stone.

 
By Tim Johnson | Chicago Botanic Garden

Install steppingstones in garden beds where you frequently need to walk. There is a wide variety of materials to choose from. Pick a style that complements your house, your plant materials and the other hardscape elements in your yard.

Dig a slight depression for each steppingstone and fill it with construction sand before setting the stone into place. The sand base will help to keep the stones from shifting when they are walked upon. Small steppingstones will be less stable than large ones. Stones that are thin (less than a half inch or so) will be lighter and easier to work with, but they will be more likely to crack while you are installing them or if the base under them is poorly prepared or uneven.

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Hanging garden tools on the wall of your garage will take up less space and make them easier to access. Pegboard is convenient for hanging tools.

It also is a good practice to clean tools before putting them away. Remember to sharpen your tools on a regular basis to make your gardening chores easier.

Schedule a time in October to have your sprinkler system winterized. Water left in the system over the winter can freeze and crack sprinkler heads and pipes. Compressed air is typically used to blow water out of the system.

Hot and dry weather in September put a lot of stress on plants. There are trees and shrubs with leaf scorch in the landscape, with some trees shedding leaves early. Provide supplemental water as needed if the dry weather continues. Leaves that wilt or are an off-color of green are signs that a plant is under drought stress. Evergreens that are an off color or that are shedding needles on the inside of the plant should also be checked to see if the soil around their roots is dry.

Downy mildew, a fungal disease, affected many common impatiens plants late in the season last year. Several beds of impatiens at the Garden were killed by this disease in 2012. If you have had this disease in your garden this year, wait several years before planting common impatiens again. The disease spores can linger in the garden,

The disease affects common impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), while New Guinea impatiens, (Impatiens hawkerii) is highly resistant. Some symptoms include new leaves that are small or discolored (yellow or pale green), stunted growth overall with yellowish foliage, flower buds that fail to form, leaves that curl downward and a fluffy white fungal covering on the lower surface of the leaf. As the disease progresses, the plants will become barren stalks with one or two yellow leaves left.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden, chicagobotanic.org.

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