More first-time gardeners in Tri-States

You might have heard Rajah Maples mentioning her challenges and small successes as a first-year gardener on KHQA.

Come to find out, she's not the only one trying her hand, or "green thumb" in this case.

She spoke with a horticulture coordinator with the University of Illinois' Extension office.

Deborah Lee said more people are getting some of their food from Mother Earth this summer.

We asked Lee why more people are gardening in the Tri-States. Is it because of cost savings, health reasons or just to be a little more environmentally friendly?

Lee said, "I think it's all of those things, Rajah. I think people are just getting interested. We've had people call in the office and just talking with people that we meet that they are gardening maybe more than they have in the past 20 to 30 years or maybe for the first time."

And those first-timers have the University of Illinois Extension office as a resource. Area residents are able to call that office to ask questions and get tips -- all for free.

She said, "One of the first things I see with new gardeners is watering issues. People want to go out and water every night, and that's the worst thing you can do."

Lee says about an inch a week is ideal for gardens.

Rajah said, "My big problem this summer has been these weeds! Lee says you have two choices to keep weeds from overcoming your garden."

Lee said, "There's the Santa Claus method, which is hoe, hoe, hoe. I'm a lazy gardener, so I like to mulch, mulch, mulch."

Rajah said, "Next year, I'm opting for the latter! Here's a much easier alternative to pulling or hoeing those pesky weeks. Use newspaper to put down around your plants -- not the shiny ads, but the actual newsprinted-paper, which are soy-based. Then put grass clippings or some other type of mulch on top. That will help keep the area around your plants weed-free while keeping your produce organic and free of chemicals and pesticides.

Lee said, "There's something very fulfilling about planting seeds and being able to watch them grow and being able to eat that produce."

If you're interested in planting a garden, Lee says it's not too late.

Now's the time to start planting a fall garden.

You can find out which plants grow best for a fall garden at