Sage Advice teaches Landscape for Life™ Classes

Carol Becker, owner at Sage Advice, will once again be teaching Landscape for Life™ this spring.

This series is designed for homeowners, and will teach you how to attract beneficial insects and birds, eliminate water problems, build healthy soil, cultivate a safe lawn, and reduce maintenance time in your garden.

Lurvey Landscape Supply 2550 Dempster St., Des Plaines, will offer the series in their new garden center starting April 2 and running for four consecutive Saturday mornings from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Ms. Becker will teach all classes. Sign up HERE

The Morton Arboretum will offer the series starting April 19 in four evening classes from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and a final class on Saturday April 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Ms. Becker will be teaching the final class in this series. Sign up HERE.

Join us to learn how to create a great looking garden that’s healthier for you, your family, your pets, you pocketbook and the environment.

Here’s how you can support pollinators

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Native plants play a special role for pollinators in providing habitat for their own life cycle. We are all most familiar with the necessity of having milkweed available to support the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed to support the caterpillar that eventually becomes a Monarch butterfly. Other insects, including the all-important pollinating bees, also require specific native plants for their life cycle. We can help them by including some native plants in our gardens.
Here’s a list to get you started: milkweed, including butterfly weed, swamp milkweed, and common milkweed; thistle (as pictured); coneflower, particularly the native purple coneflower; monarda, coreopsis, foxglove penstemon; black-eyed Susan, and several grasses including little bluestem, panicum, prairie dropseed, and June grass.

Roof Gardens for Residential Sites

We’re pleased to present new pictures of Sage Advice Test Gardens, where we develop design solutions, test plants, and practice sustainability techniques.

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In these views you can see the roof garden, built 4 seasons ago to test techniques for building a small roofgarden on a shed or playhouse. During the last four seasons we have tested and retested plants the work in this environment, and we’ve identified those that flouish with little or no care.

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Try these native plants for color and variety

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A customer who has lots of coneflowers and coreopsis in his native plant garden recently asked me for a list of less common wildflowers that would add color to his summer garden, and I worked up this list:
Asclepias tuberosa (shown above) — this is the midsummer blooming orange butterfly weed that goes well with coneflowers and coreopsis

Amsonia — there are several native versions of this plant, commonly called bluestar. Amsonia illustris or Amsonia tabernaemontana are two that come to mind. Amsonia bloom right alongside and among the coreopsis and spreads nicely among other plants.

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Monarda bradburiana (above) is a beautiful and less common native beebalm if you can get it. The color of the leaves is a darker almost smoky green and it forms a nice clump.

Indian physic, Porteranthus stipulatus is a delicate plant with feathery leaves that forms a nice, airy clump among your grasses and has small starry white flowers. It’s captivating among other wildflowers.

Also plant some native asters for fall color. Sky blue aster, Symphyotrychium oolentangiense is a nice, delicate blue but can spread quite annoyingly if conditions are right. New England Aster, Symphyotrychium novae-angliae or smooth blue aster Symphyotrychium laeve are also options.

Next Year’s Lawn Care Starts Now

If you want a lush lawn next year, start thinking about it now! No kidding, the fall – not spring — is really the appropriate time to begin your annual lawn care program, especially if you want to convert to a lush, chemical free plan. This is so because so many things that contribute to a successful natural lawn should be done in the fall of the year. Consider these:

Overseeding: This technique includes spreading garden mix over bare or low spots and adding seed. This is best done in the fall when the temperatures cool and the rainfall increases. At this time of year weeds are in decline so you will have less weeding to do than if you tried overseeding in the spring.

Topdressing: This step involves spreading compost lightly throughout the lawn to build the soil underneath. Remember, what you see on top (in terms of green lawn) depends entirely on what lies beneath (in terms of healthy soil)! Compost adds organic matter to build the soil and is an important fall chore in the interest of next season’s lawn. Lurvey carries a full line of turf fertilizers for your lawn.

Core aerating: This mechanical process removes plugs of soil to provide additional oxygen to the roots, enabling them to better absorb nutrients and water. It also increases the activity of soil microorganisms and prevents fertilizer runoff. Aeration is best done in the fall when the roots of the lawn are not actively growing.

So, for next year’s lush lawn, start your work as the weather cools in August and September!

The biggest rain barrel you have ever seen

Typical water collection tank, Adelaide Australia
Typical water collection tank, Adelaide Australia

This is s typical water collection tank for a home in Adelaide Australia. It holds 20,000 gallons of water and supplies all the water needs for this 3-bedroom house. Water is purified on site and made ready for all uses, including drinking and cooking. All new homes are required to have tanks such as this, and color, placement, and set-up are regulated and inspected. City water is also available, via a huge pipeline, but this household has not used any for the last 4 years. Homeowners also have a separate system for purifying sewage and using the water to irrigate the garden.

What about water?

Water is scarce and valuable here. Australia, the size of the U.S., is divided into only six states and its population is just under 23 million.

One of the fastest growing states is New South Wales, where new homes are now required to have tanks for gray water, which is used for many purposes in the home, and not just watering the garden!

This is not news in South Australia, the “driest state in the driest inhabited continent on earth,” says the website www.waterforgood.sa.gov.au

South Australia is “also feeling the added pressures of climate change, drought and a growing population.” People here routinely haul water to fill tanks for gray water usage — it’s a generations-old practice, nothing new and nothing out of the ordinary. It’s what you do when underground aquifers are non-existent and all water needs are met by the rivers, which in turn are dependent on rainfall to maintain a level that can supply the population with H2O!

The droughts on the past two years are the harbingers of this kind of change in the U.S. if we don’t become better stewards fast.

Daily life in a dry land

It’s clear that folks here are used to conservation. Even before we got here we could tell. On the airplane, most paper is placed in recycle bags by passengers. Cans and bottles are recycled separately. Once on the ground we quickly learned that ALL toilets in Australia are dual flush, and at public venues, all paper products AND utensils sold at coffee shops and take out windows are compostable. Cups are always recyclable. EVERYWHERE, even street corners, we see three bins to sort trash, recycling and composting.