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Columns

Learning to Grow: Some gardening questions for the Help Desk

Allium Summer Beauty is a perennial that rabbits usually steer clear of, writes columnist and master gardener Jody Lay. The plant is in the onion family.
Allium Summer Beauty is a perennial that rabbits usually steer clear of, writes columnist and master gardener Jody Lay. The plant is in the onion family.

Master gardeners enjoy helping county residents with their lawn and garden questions. If you have a question for a master gardener, the Help Desk is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the end of October.

Call 630-584-6166 or drop in the office at 535 S. Randall Road in St. Charles. Here are some commonly asked questions.

I want to grow more perennials. What can I plant that isn’t on the rabbit buffet?

It seems the rabbit population is on the rise! Rabbits, specifically eastern cottontails, typically live 12 to 15 months and can rear up to six litters in a lifetime, averaging five kittens per litter. (Yes, that is the technical term for a baby bunny.) So, one happy little rabbit couple, living in their warren (a rabbit den), can propagate a whole herd (a group of rabbits). Thankfully they raise picky eaters. Bunnies do not like anything in the allium, or onion, family, so allium Summer Beauty is an alluring perennial choice. Some other perennial options include yarrow, astilbe, foxglove, irises, lamb’s ear, daylilies and sedum. I have a lot of hostas, and this year the rabbits hit them hard. You can get more info on rabbits here: https://extension.psu.edu/cottontail-rabbits.

Can I grow citrus fruit indoors, and is it worth it?

That depends on what you want from the tree. Indoor citrus trees can produce small but intense fruit, and the flowers provide a delicious fragrance regardless. Site selection is the key. If you have an ideal space, where the temperature stays around 65 degrees throughout the day and it gets several hours of direct sunlight, you’re in luck. The most common option, with the highest success rate is Citrofortunella mitis, or calamondin orange. Its tiny but sour fruit is ideal for marmalades or cocktails. Just remember to plant it in soil rich with organic matter, fertilize regularly and wash the leaves frequently to prevent insects. In addition to calamondin oranges, Meyer lemons and kumquats also make great “houseplants."

How do I control yellow flowering clover? Pulling it doesn’t seem to work.

Yellow flowering clover, or Oxalis, is also called yellow wood sorrel, and hand pulling it is the easiest and only 100 percent organic option of control. Otherwise, you can spot treat it with an herbicide. A quick shot as the plant emerges will kill it and keep it from spreading. Call the Kane County Extension office for chemical control options.

Jody Lay is a University of Illinois Extension master gardener for Kane County. The “Learning to Grow” column runs weekly during warmer months of the year. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for more information. Feedback on this column can be sent to editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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