1. Published

    Troubleshooting Current/Future Fruit Tree Issues


  2. 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!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.
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    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".

  9. 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.
  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Published

    Like some of you, I don't have access to land to grow fruits and vegetables. My space is confined to a 10 x 10 ft deck that gets about 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. While some might find this limiting, I've risen to the challenge to see how much produce I can actually get off this deck this summer.

    Because I don't have land, this means I can't grow the vining crops like cucumbers, squash, and others. It means I also can't grow corn which needs a number of rows for good pollination. I am limited to growing in containers then.

  15. Published

    Unlike the berries and brambles I've written about in our berry and bramble series, I occasionally receive calls and emails asking about growing alternative berries. These are berries you've probably heard about in the last couple of years due to their increasing popularity based on the fruits having high antioxidants and large concentration of beneficial vitamins. For instance, Aronia is a tart berry that grows particularly well on Midwest farms and has seen a lot of research efforts into growing. Because of the sudden popularity of Aronia, growers are always looking for the "next" berry.

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    Now that you've decided on the type of raspberry you are going to grow, you'll need to address the plant's needs through management. Raspberry plants benefit from mulching around the plants. This should be no thicker than 2 inches to avoid rodents. The mulch can help with weed control and keeping water in the soil. Raspberry plants should have frequent, shallow irrigation of 1-1/2 inches every 7-10 days. Having a rain gauge nearby can determine if your plants are getting the water they need or if you will need to irrigate further.

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    Now that you've got your strawberry system setup and are managing them, you may have diseases and insect pests to deal with. Strawberries tend to have many different diseases that target them. They can affect the fruit, leaves, stolons, and the roots of the plant. Insect pests on strawberries are those that may eat the leaves, fruits, and flowers. When dealing with what you suspect is either insect damage or disease, it's best to look through Extension guides that are available. Damage from insects and diseases can look very similar.

  19. Published

    Strawberry management focuses on weeding, watering, controlling the stolons, and renovating the strawberry patch. Some of these are ongoing such as weeding and watering while other ones like renovating will come in to play in year 2-3. Many of these practices will depend on what your strawberry setup looks like. Smaller plantings may control weeds with hand-weeding while rows of strawberries will need a more robust weed management strategy.

  20. Published

    Strawberries are one of the most common berries grown in Northern Illinois at both homes and farms. Unlike other berries and brambles, strawberries do not always require intensive management such as pruning. Strawberry plants do need some attention when it comes to yearly management, dealing with runners from the plants, and preparing the strawberry plants for winter protection.

    There are three types of strawberries which include June bearing, everbearing, and day neutral.