When digging a new garden, check for underground utilities

  • Plan to rotate the crops in your vegetable garden to control pest problems.

    Plan to rotate the crops in your vegetable garden to control pest problems. Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

By Tim Johnson
Chicago Botanic Garden
Updated 5/21/2018 6:32 AM

If you have a lot of digging to do in your garden, it's important to have your underground utility lines located before starting the work. In the suburbs, call JULIE at (800) 892-0123 or 811 to have your yard marked for underground utilities (this is a free service).

JULIE stands for Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators. Its website is www.illinois1call.com. In Chicago, call DIGGER at (312) 744-7000. It generally takes two working days for these services to locate your utility lines, so allow plenty of time before digging.

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These locating services will not mark any lines you have installed yourself, such as a gas line to a grill or wires for landscape lighting. Dig carefully by hand if you are working within 18 inches of either side of any marked underground utilities.

Also, take care when digging in gardens with underground sprinklers.

• Rotate the crops in your vegetable garden to control pest problems. This is the easiest way to practice organic, integrated pest management gardening.

Many insects and diseases attack vegetables within the same plant family. By planting vegetables from a different family in a problem area, you minimize the chances for a repeat infection.

The basic families include the cabbage family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radishes and turnips); cucumber family (gourds, melons, squashes and cucumbers); nightshade family (eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers); goosefoot family (spinach and beets); onion family (leeks, garlic and onions); legume family (all peas and beans), and the carrot, celery and parsnip group.

• With warmer weather settling in, you may need to start routinely watering any new plants you have installed this spring. It would also be a good idea to check any plants that were installed last year if there is not a good soaking rain any time soon.

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

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