It's that time of year when all gardeners need to start thinking about tender perennials and what their fate is to be. Do you overwinter them or do you let Mother Nature shorten their life? How much time do you have? Well not much. In the St Louis Metro East, about 90% of the time, the first frost has occurred by October 27th. The earliest we have had is September 20th and the latest is November 10th, so that means it could happen at any time. There are two major steps to my bringing plants into my unheated, but non-freezing garage to over-winter.

June begins the season of green, when the trees and shrubs are fully leaved and spring blooms have faded. My Jungle is primarily an iris garden, but it would be boring right now if made up of only green swords of foliage. Not to worry though, numerous late spring and early-summer blooming plants pick up the color standard so the Jungle does not suffer summer blahs. One of my favorites is trumpet beardtongue (Penstemon tubaeflorus), which unfortunately is listed as endangered in Illinois (see Checklist of Illinois Endangered and Threatened Animals and Plants).


For current research-based information on growing tree fruits, attend the 2017 Commercial Tree Fruit Schools. Speakers from University of Illinois, Weinzierl Fruit and Consulting, Illinois Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey Program, and the Farm Service Agency, will discuss a wide range of subjects to help you meet the challenges of tree fruit production. Special guest speaker, Dr. J.

Winter is still with us but a number of winter interest plants are already brightening an otherwise sleeping garden. Winter blooming plants like witch hazel (Hamamelis), hellebore (Helleborus), mahonia (Mahonia), Japanese pieris (Pieris), and paperbush (Edgeworthia) are especially good at harking the coming of spring.

August 1, 2017 10 AM – 5 PM

Trutter Center, Lincoln Land Community College, Springfield IL

Are you ready to take your wines to the next level?

Birds are arriving from their winter home to add their beauty and song to my landscape. I hope that I have created a suitable environment for them to complete a successful breeding season. A ruby throated hummingbird alerted me to his presence very recently, so I dropped everything to put out feeders. He seemed rather pleased. I have also sighted two pairs of rose-breasted grosbeak, indigo buntings, and eastern bluebirds. The elusive piliated woodpecker graced our peanut feeder and I am hopeful for future sightings. Skinks and tree frogs abound as well.

PLACE: Vegetable Crops Research Farm at Champaign, IL

DATE:  August 17, 2017

TIME: 1:30 – 3:00 P.M.

PRESENTATIONS: All at Research Plots of

Dear Small Fruit & Vegetable Growers:

I hope you will mark your calendars for the upcoming 2017 Gateway Small Fruit and Vegetable Conference.

This year, as in past years, we bring you an informative, practical, and up-to-date educational program to address the challenges of growing small fruit and vegetables commercially in Southern Illinois.

It is one thing to see food in the produce isle, it is altogether different to see that same edible portion growing on the plant. I have worked with specialty crops much of my adult life, but I have never lost my fascination of plants that produce food. Who can't stare in awe at a tree full of peaches or smile in excitement when pulling up peanut plants to reap the hidden rewards.

Winter has barely started, but it is already time to begin the planning process for starting vegetable transplants. Very hardy vegetables like broccoli and cabbage can be planted outdoors without protection 4-6 weeks before the last average frost-free date, which means transplants need to be seeded well in advance of this date.

On August 17, 2017, University of Illinois pumpkin expert Mohammad Babadoost detected downy mildew in a pumpkin field in St. Anne, Illinois (Kankakee County), and warns that it could spread quickly.

Babadoost, a plant pathologist in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I, observed heavy sporulation of the pathogen on leaves in the affected field. "With current weather conditions, the pathogen could spread very fast and affect all cucurbit crops," he says.

Farmers can protect cucurbit crops by applying fungicides, according to Babadoost.

Sticker shock, but definitely worth it! Some plants like lady slippers, a.k.a. hardy terrestrial orchids, can be relatively pricy in the world of herbaceous perennials (think ITOH and herbaceous yellow peony prices), and when combined with some very exacting growing conditions, most gardeners aren't willing to risk the added investment. This is definitely a species to research thoroughly before causing a stupid plant death.
Dear Growers,

After heavy rainfall of Tuesday (July 11th) in some parts of Illinois, we may experience substantial Phytophthora infection in cucurbit fields.

I recommend the following for the management of Phytophthora blight of pumpkins:

Spray plants at 7-day intervals with Orondis Opti + a copper alternated with Revus + a copper.

New label of premixed Odondis Opti can be found at the following link:

Did you know grape berries reach physiological maturity well before they taste good? Grape berry maturity occurs when seeds are able to germinate, which is immediately after véraison, or initiation of fruit ripening (start of color change). Try tasting a grape berry at this stage. I can guarantee the experience will pucker you up. Grapes are actually harvested at what is termed their technological maturity, which brings together a good balance of major components like sugars, organic acids and pH.

Register now for the 2107 Illinois Crop Management Conferences.

*Jan 18 - Mt Vernon
*Jan 25 - Springfield
*Feb 1 - Champaign

The medlar (Mespilus germanica) project was a success. I had enough bletted (very ripe but not rotted) fruit from one tree to make a small batch of jelly and try a new dessert bar recipe featuring medlars and walnuts. Having never tasted medlars before, I was worried I would hate the taste and had wasted my time, but I really enjoyed the unique, stewed-apple-like flavor created in both recipes. For the bar recipe, I pushed the whole bletted fruits through a screen sieve with a wooden spoon to separate out the skin and seeds and create a smooth fruit purée.

State pathologist Mohammad Babadoost reports downy mildew of basil was detected in Illinois on July 19th for the first time this season. This disease can spread quickly statewide in wet conditions so growers are advised to begin scouting now. Three registered fungicides; Quadris, Revus, and Ranman are very effective for control of downy mildew of basil and should be spray-applied at 7-day intervals at the first sign of the disease in the field. For more information:

URBANA, Ill. - Boxwood blight, a serious fungal disease, has been confirmed in Illinois. According to a University Diagnostic Outreach Extension Specialist, two boxwood samples were submitted to the University of Illinois Plant Clinic in late 2016. The samples came from Lake and Cook Counties in northeastern Illinois. Both were from recent landscape additions.

"Although the characteristic leaf spots were not apparent on the samples, defoliation and stem cankers were noted," says Diane Plewa.

An Illinois and Missouri local grains centered day of round-table discussions, networking and inspiration with farmers, brewers, distillers, and bakers. Brought to you by Food Works of Southern Illinois and Regenerate Illinois.

A personal thank you to the staff and volunteers of Clifftop. I could not have asked for a more beautiful site to view the solar eclipse with my family and friends on Monday, August 21st. A 360° sunset is a site I will never forget. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into making this such a special day for so many. As quoted on Clifftop's Facebook page "It was a long, hot day, but so worth it." I'm already looking forward to April 8, 2024 and hoping Clifftop will host the next full solar eclipse to be visible in our area!

Back to my jungle…

According to State Extension Pathologist Mohammad Babadoost, all cucurbit plants (vine crops) in northern Illinois and possibly other areas experiencing wet field conditions should be sprayed for Phytophthora. Spray with Revus alternated with Orondis Opti or Ranman. Because pumpkins have such dense canopies, add in addition ProPhyt to all sprays

Dwarfing rootstocks have always fascinated me, and the sweet cherry trees in my jungle really demonstrate their useful versatility. I have three sweet cherry trees and they are all similar in age, but they are all on different rootstocks, making them extremely different in size. My largest sweet cherry tree grew from a cherry pit a friend of mine had chucked into his garden, resulting in a standard seeding tree with no dwarfing. He helped me dig it up as a seedling and I planted it in my jungle.