1. Published

    Tasting the first local fruit before Memorial Day weekend was not something I expected to be able to do in Northern Illinois, especially as we have had colder May temperatures and are in the middle of an abnormally dry period with a need for rain. Yet, seeing the small blue fruits ready to be picked, I knew it was Honeyberry season.

  2. Published

    Growing up in East Tennessee, okra was one of the most common vegetables I both ate and grew. Now that I live in the Midwest, I don’t see the crop as often in community gardens and at farmers markets. Yet you may have found this summer, as I have, that okra deserves a place in the summer garden.

  3. Published

    The fruits of our summer labors have started to ripen and will soon be ready for harvest. As gardeners, it is common we overplant. Most of us end up with more produce than we can use. Neighbors, friends, and others typically benefit from the overflow. Keep the tips here in mind to help get the longest life out of your harvest.

  4. Published

    Summer is here!

    As we approach the halfway mark for the month of June and look forward to summer plans, one thing many people are excited about is summer strawberries. Whether you are growing everbearing or June-bearing strawberries, harvest time is here for some and on its way for others.

    Strawberry varieties 

    June-bearing strawberries, depending on the variety, can bear fruit from early June through the Fourth of July. All four of these berries are noted for their taste, texture, suitability for being grown in Illinois

  5. Published

    Strawberries (Fragaria species) are one of summer’s best treats.

    Strawberry varieties

    Depending on the cultivar, strawberries differ in when they produce berries and what their berries look like. 

    • June-bearing strawberries provide a large crop of larger berries.
    • Everbearing strawberries produce smaller berries throughout the growing season.
    • Novelty types of strawberries can range in color (purple, yellow, white) and flavor.

    One unique novelty strawberry is the pineberry.

  6. Published

    Spring is a great time to be adding fruit trees to the backyard. Apple, peach, pear, cherry, and so many others are great additions. If you are a market grower, you may have customers asking about tree fruit and it may be time to finally decide on purchasing and plantings trees.

  7. Published

    Potatoes do not always get their due. Unlike their family member, tomatoes, that need assistance through a trellis and managing diseases/insects in the growing season, potatoes are not too needy. Yes, they might get diseases. Yes, they might get Colorado Potato beetle damage. Yes, you do need to hill them. Yes, they need good drainage in the soil. However, you're probably growing potatoes without thinking much about them. Perhaps it's time then to grow a different cultivar.

  8. Published

    Troubleshooting Current/Future Fruit Tree Issues


  9. Published

    Tomato Cages Vs. Stakes

    Click Here to View and Download as a PDF

    Last week, I held a "Totally Tomatoes, Perfect Peppers" Program in Freeport and was reminded yet again on how you can either be for tomato cages or staking. I'm firmly in a tomato staking corner but the merits of a tomato cage can be there too. So today, let's look at the pros and cons of these.

    First, Clean Them!

  10. Published
    5 Tips for Selecting Vegetable Transplants.

    1. Know it's Features

    Most transplants will come with detail on date to maturity (when to harvest), amount of sunlight needed, spacing, and even photos of the vegetable.

    "Patio" and "Bush" are two words that can denote good container varieties.

    Aim for short maturity dates for melons (less than 100 days) in Northern Illinois.

  11. Published

    All farmers markets look different. When you factor in time, day of week, location, customers, vendors, and other parameters, a farmers market's purpose and type will be transformed. While your market may have similar vendors as other markets, your location and purpose will unique.

  12. Published

    Now that you've decided that there is a need for a farmers market in your area, you now need to consider elements that can make or break your market. Time, day of week, and length of the farmers market season are crucial to a farmers market being successful and robust.

  13. Published

    After visiting a number of farmers markets this past summer, you may find that you are now thinking about starting your own in your community. Many towns and civic groups want to start a farmers market. They see that it could spur economic development, provide community pride and awareness, bring attention to the local foods community, among many other things it can do.

  14. Published
    As summer comes to a close this Labor Day weekend, most of your summer crops are still going/growing strong. The Extension gardens in Jo Daviess, Stephenson, and Winnebago Counties are still producing tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and cucumbers with some fall plantings of cool season crops soon to happen. While our gardens are still active, you may have reached an end to your summer garden (or given up! I've been there...) and there are some remaining tasks that you need to do to close down your summer vegetable garden.
  15. Published

    This year marks the third year that our offices have held the Late Summer Field Days. Each year since 2014, I have worked with a farmer in our area to showcase their farm and invite the general public out to visit. Unlike a farm tour, these field days have a set time and location. What I've enjoyed with these field days are the responses I get back from attendees: "I didn't know you could grow this here" or "I've driven by this place so many times but had no idea this farm was here".

  16. Published
    Attending the Midwest Garlic Fest last weekend in Elizabeth, I was reminded yet again of the wide range of varieties grown in Northern Illinois. Many of these varieties are unique in their flavor and heat. Inevitably, I get the phone call in the spring asking if you can plant garlic now. Unfortunately, it is too late. While many other members of the Allium family (onions, leek, shallots) are planted in the spring, garlic is the one member that needs to be planted in the fall.
  17. Published

    Pest Update

    As you know, July was extremely wet for us in Northern Illinois. This caused a lot of serious problems for some growers due to the amount of rainwater that we got in fits and spurts. Typically in the growing season, we need 1-1.5 inches of water a week. If your plants received too much, they may have shown wilting symptoms, a physical response to too much rainwater. If you are worried about more rainwater coming in, you can still mulch around your plants. This can help them deal with massive amounts of rainwater.

  18. Published


    Pest Update

    With rains and seasonal weather, disease has begun to creep in. In the last week, I've seen apple scab and in a new twist, scab on stone fruit. For apple scab, it's too late for sprays to be effective in controlling the disease and you are better off removing fruit that has fallen around the trees. Removal of fallen leaves is also recommended. I've seen some Plum Curculio damage on apple trees as well.

  19. Published
    Many backyard growers tend to know how to grow vegetables and what they need to do. Others may be intimidated by getting started. I had a question last week if it was too late to start summer vegetables. Starting a vegetable garden and container gardening is quite easy and if all goes according to plan with warm weather and necessary rain, you'll be on a path toward success in your first garden.
    Below, I tried to compile a 10 Top List of Basic Information. I could spend hours on each topic but think that this should walk you through a full season.
  20. Published
    Commonly the question I get asked is if it's too late to plant sweet potatoes. Most of this comes from the fact that in Northern Illinois, we are planting potatoes around Easter, March-April. So gardeners tend to think that sweet potatoes should be planted with regular potatoes.
    That isn't the case of course. Sweet potatoes need to be planted after our frost free date which for us in Northern Illinois is around the first week of June.