With the recent long period of below normal temperatures, have you thought about whether your hive of honey bees is needing food? Now may be a great time to give your bees supplemental food or a winter feeding.

Planting cool season vegetables in July and August when it's 100 degrees outside seems counter-intuitive doesn't it? But for experienced vegetable gardeners, now is the time that the fall's bountiful harvest of cool season vegetables is prepared for.

Ever heard of an Ugli fruit or a tried a purple carrot? What about kohlrabi or jicama?

In the last six months, I have taught a couple programs titled "New and Unusual Foods." The design of the classes were different, but the central idea was this: let's try a new food.

This winter, like many, has taken a toll on evergreens in our gardens and landscapes. Just driving down the highway or through a neighborhood, you can notice browning on evergreen shrubs and trees. So the question is, why does this happen?

Since evergreens retain their leaves throughout the winter, they are susceptible to a variety of winter related problems. These leaves are still living and need to be able to use and uptake water from the soil.

How well do you know Thanksgiving turkey safety tips? Let's find out!

Thanks to the "Turkey for the Holidays" website from UI Extension for these tips!

Q: How long does a turkey take to thaw?
A: Allow about 24 hours of defrost time for every 5 pounds of turkey. For example, a 20 pound turkey will take 4 to 5 days to thaw.

Fudge, tea rings, macaroons, baklava, pralines, and brittles! These are some of the nutty holiday sweets we indulgence in this time of year. Besides these delectable offerings, unshelled nuts to be eaten in their natural state are common around the holiday season as well. I'm going to date myself, but stockings at my house didn't have toys, but a wonderful mixture of fruit, nuts and candy. The preponderance of nuts in the fall and early winter of course relate to the natural time of harvest- and a reason why so many holiday recipes call for them.

June is Men's Health Month. So, to the guys, this is all about you!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 men die from heart disease. Food choices can help reduce the risk of heart disease and complications such as heart attack and stroke.

One way to improve heart health is to reduce sodium. Table salt is made up of both sodium and chloride. While the words "sodium" and "salt" are often used interchangeable, sodium is a part of salt.

There are many ways to reduce sodium in our food choices, including the two below:

        A problem that seems to be an increasing across the area with oak trees is Bacterial Leaf Scorch. Up until about 2012 or so, this disease was considered a minor problem that oak trees typically overcame. Here recently, this disease is causing a slow decline of our older oak trees once they become infected.
        What do the symptoms look like? The first noticeable symptom is premature browning of leaves in mid-summer.

        Frozen fruits and veggies are some of my favorite convenience foods. I enjoy raspberries, but buying fresh means I get very few raspberries per dollar compared to what I can get frozen. I admit the frozen raspberries are not the plump fruit of fresh and fall apart, but that is okay with me since I usually use them for smoothies and to flavor yogurt.

        If you have recently seen a bright yellow or yellow-orange slimy blob after our recent stretch of rainy days, then you may have seen a slime mold. It is not unusual to see them in the summer after a period of heavy rainfall or in areas that are heavily irrigated. They commonly appear on wood-mulched beds, or heavily thatched lawns.

        To my knowledge, people generally do not purposefully go to the grocery store to purchase a potted plant from the floral department; or have it on their shopping list unless maybe at Easter. Frequently, it is a purchase made on the way to a friend or family members home as a gift to the host, or as an impulse buy for yourself when you are feeling particularly over worked and under-appreciated and decide, so rightly so, that you deserve this small spot of beauty to brighten your home!

        As we approach the end of April and the temperatures warm into the 70's, we get the "itch" to plant our gardens. But when is it safe to plant our warm-season vegetables and to move our tropical house plants outside?

        Our warm season vegetables like cucumbers and squashes need a soil temperature of 70 deg. F.  Tomatoes and green beans need soil temperatures in the mid-50's and minimum temperatures that are above 45 deg. F.  For us here in this part of Illinois, we typically can not expect those kind of temperatures until after our last expected frost.

        Our second week's CSA share arrived with more heads of lettuce, leeks, broccoli, kohlrabi, basil, Napa cabbage, and green bell peppers.

          For those who not been following along on the CSA Insider or social media (@nutritiondmp), join us! We want to hear what recipes and information you want to learn about! Plus, we give you tips and information to use local produce before it comes out on the blog.
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          Kohlrabi:  What is This?

          With winter in retreat, the garlic in my garden is growing well after a rather rough winter. From the picture, you can see what looks like dead grass stems on either side on my garlic row. Well those are my spring oats that I planted at the end of August when I formed my garlic row beds. At the end of September, I planted my garlic cloves on the top of the row beds. It is the cover crop I plant ahead of garlic to reduce the competition from winter annual weeds and to provide a protective winter mulch.

          There really is no more beautiful indoor plant than the orchid in my opinion, but I hear from many gardeners that they are scared to grow orchids, which is a shame! In reality, they shouldn't be scared. Orchids are long-lasting flowering plants that make great houseplants and they're really not that hard to grow!

          First off, let's explain the various orchid types that you could grow indoors:

          Do you have landscape plants that the leaves are stippled or showing yellow sickly spots and a few leaves are twisted as though they are wilting? You may even notice a few little white spots on some of the leaves and stems. You may have an infestation of the scale insect.

          We are seeing some unfortunate incidents of fire blight in our area, very much connected to the extended rainy spring we experienced. Fire Blight (Erwinia amylovora) is a devastating, yet common bacterial disease affecting an estimated 75 species of plants in the Rosaceae family. Most susceptible are apple, crabapple, pear and ornamental pear trees, however other host plants include cotoneaster, hawthorn, flowering quince, raspberry, blackberry, mountain ash and spiraea.

          Recently people have been noticing large numbers of brown moths fluttering around flowering trees and resting on the sides of homes. These are newly emerged Armyworm Moths. According to Kelly Estes at the Illinois Natural History Survey, these are the moth stage of this spring's larval generation (caterpillars). This spring, Armyworm caterpillars did cause damage in area wheat  and hay fields.

          What gets a gardener through the dark days of winter? Thinking about spring planting of course! And what better way to get prepared for spring, than starting seeds indoors in preparation for spring planting.

          Why start your plants from seed?

          Our office bought a CSA share!

          Never head of a CSA – or community supported agriculture? Fellow extension educator, Andrew Larson, wrote a summary of this newer area of agriculture.

          Each week this summer, we are sharing our experiences using our CSA items, from recipes to farmer tips, and more.

          Follow along on social media and this blog to see it all. If you want more tips, sign-up for our weekly CSA Insider update.

          Are you pining to grow something green, smell something green, see something green or taste something green- as if it were already spring?

          The green scratch for all those cravings is within your reach! Microgreens are a super easy solution to help alleviate winter blues. Have you tried growing or eating them before?

          We got 2 week's worth of food this week from the CSA.  CSA Week 13 and 14 included sweet corn, green bell peppers, eggplant, green beans, baby sweet bell peppers, spaghetti squash, watermelon, and yellow summer squash.

          As there were no "new" foods - that is, foods we had not seen in previous weeks - this week we made veggie broth with food scraps.