Q. A huge ash tree from my neighbor's yard to the south of my house was removed and now my shade garden is out in the open sun. What can I do to keep my garden looking good?
A. I had a similar situation. The ash tree in my front yard was removed because of the ash borer. Once the tree was removed, a decision needed to be made. Without any shade, my shade plants were destined to bake in the sun.
I donated all of my shade plants, hostas, coral bells, ferns, etc., to a charitable organization, which was greatly appreciated. If you're struggling with where to donate your shade plants, contact your local garden club. I'm sure they would be glad to help. They might even volunteer to dig up the plants.
Now the fun begins. What an opportunity! You get to create a new sun garden!
The first question you should ask yourself: do I want to change the size and or shape of the existing garden? Once you've made the decision to change the shape, lay out your garden hose into the shape and size to see if it meets your expectations.
After the shape and size have been determined, the next step will be to remove the turf from the new space. This can be done with clear plastic, cut to size held down by landscape staples. The plastic will kill the grass underneath it. This will take some time. Once this is done, remove the dead grass.
If you are happy with the size and shape of the existing garden, you will still need to amend the soil. Whatever you choose to plant, good soil is essential. Prior to planting, incorporate compost, manure or peat moss to improve soil quality. Spread 3 to 6 inches of the material on the garden area and spade it in.
There are so many new plant hybrids and existing native plants to choose from. The next decision is what kind of a sun garden would you like? Perennials, shrubs and natives are all good choices. You'll need to design your new garden, which requires planning on your part. Think about the garden you want to have and your budget. Research sun-loving plants you find interesting.
Check out various nurseries in your area for ideas. Use graph paper to layout your design.
Fall is an excellent time for planting. Perennials, trees and shrubs are best to plant in fall when cooler and more even climate conditions prevail. This results in less stress to plants while getting them established. Soils are easily worked in the fall and are warmer, stimulating good root growth. There are also less insect and plant disease in the fall. The added bonus for fall is you might get some bargains as the planting season ends!
Always remember when you're planting to allow enough room for all of your plants to mature. Next spring, once the perennials have emerged and if you can't stand the gaps between your new plants, fill in the space with some annuals. They will add color and variety until your new sun garden matures.
-- Terri Passolt
• Provided by Master Gardeners through the Master Gardener Answer Desk, Friendship Park Conservatory, Des Plaines, and University of Illinois Extension, North Cook Branch Office, Arlington Heights. Call (847) 298-3502 Monday, Wednesday and Saturday or (847) 201-4176, ext. 14, on Fridays.