All this wet weather is creating havoc on area gardens. Plants aren't growing or are barely hanging on and the disease situation is escalating. Many people I've spoken to have complained about their tomato plants, and how they're dying from the bottom up. This is caused by two fungal diseases: early blight and Septoria leaf blight. Driving rain splashes the soil (and disease organism) onto the lower leaves. The disease multiplies and the next rain splashes it to the next set of leaves. Keeping rain from splashing soil is the chief means of reducing these diseases.

It didn't seem like February would ever end! Too many cloudy days and too many snowy days just didn't sit well with me. I'd much rather endure the cold with sunshine. But spring is on its way (March 20 is the actual date) and the days are lengthening and soon we'll be in the garden planting.

Seed catalogues have arrived and many have placed their order. But some of you will purchase your plants and seeds locally. Consider the following that could provide some benefits in terms of improved satisfaction and yields.

We've all heard about the next new herbicide technology that will help with control of glyphosate resistant waterhemp and marestail. Both Monsanto and Dow are introducing new products that contain phenoxy herbicides (2,4-D and dicamba) mixed with glyphosate to be applied to genetically modified crops. These phenoxy herbicides have been altered somewhat from their original to help prevent vapor drift. In the past both these phenoxy products have had a bad reputation linked to vapor drift to susceptible species. They've been known to drift even several days after their application.

In the spring have you ever seen a lilac bush and for some reason maybe there are only blooms at the very top and the sides are barren of flowers or maybe wondered why the poor lilac didn't bloom at all? Maybe the same thing happened to a forsythia bush or any number of other spring blooming shrubs.

It didn't seem like February would ever end! Too many cloudy days and too many snowy days just didn't sit well with me. I'd much rather endure the cold with sunshine. But spring is on its way (March 20 is the actual date) and the days are lengthening and soon we'll be in the garden planting.

Seed catalogues have arrived and many have placed their order. But some of you will purchase your plants and seeds locally. Consider the following that could provide some benefits in terms of improved satisfaction and yields.

The constant rains and saturated soils have been causing havoc for many growers. Trying to plant, harvest, control weeds and diseases and just about anything related to plant production has been almost impossible. According to my records, 16 of 31 days in May I recorded precipitation, 16 of 30 days in June I recorded precipitation and thus far 9 of 21 days in July.

As 2015 draws to a close, most producers are kind of glad to bid it farewell. It was a difficult year for many. There was simply too much rain for most soils to handle and the result was corn that yielded below average. There is always the exception, and some of those soils that drain well did in fact produce a great crop. The problem was there just wasn't a great percent of those good acres.

This morning I was working with a group of kids and helping them learn how to garden. We planted tomatoes, peppers, acorn squash, and sunflower seeds. When I was showing them how to plant, one of the things I told them was "the greatest thing about gardening is that you can get dirty and no one can get mad at you." There is something satisfying about digging in the dirt and putting in plants or seeds.

Everywhere you look – fall plants at local garden centers and other locales have arrived. Mums in full bloom, ornamental kale, pansies, pumpkins….fall gardening season has arrived! So what should you be doing in the garden now that it's September? Here are some great fall gardening tips.

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has recently been in the local news again. The City of Quincy began having city ash trees treated earlier this month and a comment was made by the applicator that they believed that EAB was already in Quincy. Since that time, I have been in contact with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and at this time as of June 24, 2015 EAB has NOT been confirmed in Quincy. People will ask if it could be here and yes it could, but we just haven't found it as of yet. Of course one of the major questions is how can I protect my trees from Emerald Ash Borer.

Earlier today I was presenting to a group about growing plants in containers and one of the things I mentioned was growing herbs in containers. That gave me the perfect article idea and on the drive back I began to think about all the potential there is for growing herbs in containers.

August 15-21 there will be several restaurants in Quincy that will feature at least one course that consists of locally grown product. Termed "Locavore" Restaurant Week, Bittersweet Confections, BoodaLu Steakhouse, The Maine Course, Thyme Square Café and 2thirty4 have all agreed to participate in celebrating the products grown in the Quincy area. Michele Wilkerson, who owns GrownNGathered, a store front that sells local vegetables (and organic products) is coordinating and organizing this endeavor.

Fall is a perfect time for gardening. And considering how the spring weather treated us I think we can be assured that fall has to be much better. The variety of crops is limited for fall planting, simply due to the length of the remaining season. And also due to the fact that unlike spring planting when temperatures are increasing, in the fall temperatures are declining and day length is shortening. Which means you'll need to consider which crops will grow under those conditions.

Wondering what to do with fallen leaves? Consider compost. Some people call it black gold, most call it by its proper name: compost. This material provides so many benefits to the soil that all gardeners should strongly consider its use. The addition of compost can improve the soils ability to store nutrients and water, improve water drainage and air movement, improves the soil structure, and more. Every soil can benefit from the addition of compost, but some soils become markedly improved by its addition, especially high clay soils.

Spring has sprung! Or at least the temperatures during the first part of the week sure made it appear that Mother Nature was ready to start growing. Some field activity on the better drained soils and 70 degree temperatures made us all somewhat excited for another growing season.

Purchasing and consuming locally grown products has been rapidly increasing in popularity recently. From fruit and vegetables to meat and eggs, more people are consuming more locally grown products today than anytime during the past several decades. They're doing it for several reasons; one of the biggest is because of the taste difference.

Monday night saw a large storm with extremely damaging winds blow through parts of the counties that I work in. The damage to trees was unbelievable, I saw pictures on Facebook and local media websites – trees ripped up from the ground, trees snapped in half, trees fallen on homes and vehicles, broken limbs, and more. I teach a lot about structural pruning and how to care for trees to make them a long term part of the landscape, but sometimes Mother Nature comes along and thwarts all of our best intentions.

The days are finally longer and the weather is warming up. Gardens are in bloom and some of our spring blooming bulbs are finishing their displays. I always receive questions about what you should or shouldn't do after your spring blooming bulbs are done blooming – what can you do to help make sure that they are ready to go again for next year.

So here are a few pointers for taking care of your spring blooming bulbs after they finish blooming.

I'm not sure if the gnats that were bothering me this weekend were Buffalo Gnats or not, but now is the time of year when we can normally expect them. I started noticing them on Saturday and Sunday, but thankfully the winds were strong enough that they didn't bother me much. But this morning, when the winds were calm, they were really starting to become a nuisance. Hovering around my face and causing some irritation.

All this wet weather is causing issues with many plants, especially the annuals. Root systems aren't able to function in anaerobic soils which cause a variety of issues, including poor growth and reduced nutrient uptake.

For over a century growers have been using steam to heat the soil to help eliminate many pests of soils. Many greenhouses utilized this method of sterilization in the early 1900's and before. Back then there weren't very many alternatives to eliminate pests other than steam heat. Today there are far fewer users of steam sterilization, but to those who do it can be a great tool to manage insects, weeds and diseases.

I'm sitting here writing and the high today is supposed to be 63 can you say I am more than excited? With spring quickly winging its way towards us my brain is already jump starting with ideas for this year's gardening season. Each year I like to try something new or different and experiment and in the last few months pollinators and native plants have really been on my gardening radar between listening to a keynote session by Dr.

My son Wilson researched and wrote this up. Thought it was interesting.




"If life gives you cabbage, make sauerkraut." - Dale Carnegie

Putting Small Acreage to Work will be held on Saturday, Feb. 14th at John Wood Community College, 1301 S. 48th in Quincy. If you're looking for ideas on how to utilize smaller acreages for income producing activities or for fun and leisure, then this program will provide you with a number of options to consider.

Before we know it we'll soon be seeing seed and garden catalogs in our mailboxes. If you're like me, you're also receiving emails with all the pretty pictures of new varieties of vegetables and flowers and of course you say you want them all. The choice to grow plants from seed is a fulfilling one, but one that needs a few basic supplies and a little planning.

It never seems to fail – once people know you're a horticulturist and you teach about plants, people always want to know what your favorite plants are. Often my reply is do I have to pick just one?

The rain of last week was certainly welcome. Amounts varied but all was welcome. Lawns had begun to go dormant and many other plants were just hanging in there coping with the stress. All the rain we had during the summer weakened root systems and these plants just can't handle much stress. You may have noticed how quickly the corn crop matured this year. In a matter of just a few weeks, the corn plant died, prematurely. As a result we're finding that test weight is down somewhat.

With a new year comes new changes.  Mike Roegge, Small Farms & Local Foods Extension Educator, and myself (Kari Houle, Horticulture Extension Educator) would like to welcome you to our new blog Good Growing and hopefully you will continue to follow along with us as we provide you information to keep you growing in your gardens.  Each week will be a different topic including vegetables, locally grown, perennials, annuals, trees, shrubs, and more.  Posts will be once a week at minimum..

Before we know it we'll soon be seeing seed and garden catalogs in our mailboxes. If you're like me, you're also receiving emails with all the pretty pictures of new varieties of vegetables and flowers and of course you say you want them all. The choice to grow plants from seed is a fulfilling one, but one that needs a few basic supplies and a little planning.

Dormant bramble care

Fertilizing and pruning brambles needs to take place before plants leaf out, which means if you haven't yet done so, now is the time. There are three production "systems" for brambles. One for red and yellow raspberries, one for black raspberries and erect blackberries, another for semi erect blackberries.

As I sit here and write this article I wonder where the summer went and where 2015 is disappearing too. It's now September and even though the temperatures in the first week have been in the 90s, September means cooler weather making it easier and more desirable to spend time in the garden. I know that it's something I'm excited about – my garden is completely out of control and needs to be reined back in.

Maybe you're going to take advantage of adding some new plants or divide plants already in your garden this month. Now is a great time to divide perennials including:

For those of you growing winter greens in a high tunnel, be wary of aphids infesting your leafy greens, especially spinach and lettuce. These carryover pests from the summer crops can build up populations fairly rapidly in the confines of a tunnel, in the absence of predators. Plus these past few days have been sunny, which increases the temperatures in the tunnel, which increases growing degree days, which increase the aphid populations!
If you're like me, I'm itching to get out and work in the garden and see plants come to life and watch my garden grow. But sadly, here it is still nearly the end of January and the weather teases us with thoughts of the warmth to come with temperatures creeping into the 40s and yet we know the cold weather is not yet done.

Even though we still have time before being out in the garden with the warmth of the sun on our backs, there are plenty of opportunities to spice up your gardening knowledge.

You may or may not believe in global warming, but I don't think anyone can argue that our climate has been changing of late. Whether climate change can be attributed to Mother Nature or to man or a combination, there's no doubt change is occurring. What is normal? By my count, there have been at least three storms in December where thunder and lightning occurred. I also believe there were two days this month that we set record highs. Has that ever occurred? Flooding in December? When is the last time that occurred?

As I look out the window, the wind is blowing, leaves are slowly beginning to change color and float to the ground, the sky is overcast and it is officially fall as per the calendar and it is starting to feel and look like fall. I love fall for many reasons, the changing colors of leaves, cooler weather, pumpkins, apples, and much easier to spend time in the garden.

Don't forget that we'll be providing an opportunity for you to learn about apple and peach growing and pruning this weekend. Saturday, beginning at 9am, at Edgewood Orchards, the Zellerman brothers will talk about production practices and demonstrate proper pruning methods for several tree fruit crops. Edgewood is located just east of Interstate 72. Turn east on Columbus Road and follow the sign. So we'll have enough handout materials, register at

There is a song that had been performed by Jerry Garcia (and others) that has some lyrics that described a staple part of the diet for Midwesterners for many years. From the song "Shady Grove" comes the following: Peaches in the summertime, apples in the fall. Fifty years ago, that made perfect sense since we didn't have the ability to transfer food around the globe.

Good Growing

By: Kari Houle, University of Illinois Extension Adams/Brown/Hancock/Pike/Schuyler Counties

One of my favorite types of gardens to plan and work in is my shade garden. For me, there are a couple of reasons that shade gardens are great. The variety of plants that are suitable to shady locations is really interesting and it continues to grow each year with new varieties and introductions. Also, a shade garden can be a nicer garden location to work in when it's hot out.

beetles dead on window sill

Each fall, as temperatures diminish and day length gets shorter, Asian lady beetles begin to accumulate around larger buildings. They're getting ready to go into their winter habitat, which in their native Asia, is sheltered areas along a mountain side. It's hard to find very many mountain sides in Illinois, so they're seeking out the closest alternative, larger buildings.

Lady beetles are predators. Their favorite food is aphids. The years we have high soybean aphid populations are the years in which Asian lady beetle populations are huge as well.

The 2015 edition of our Eat Fresh, Eat Local food guide is  now available. Use this guide to find farms in the area that sell directly to consumers. You'll find listings for fruit/vegetable, meat/eggs, honey/syrup, organic and specialty items. In addition we list every Farmers Market in the area as well as some restaurants that serve local food as well. Use this guide to help you find fresh, locally raised products you're sure to enjoy and share with your family.

The March issue of National Geographic magazine has the headline "The War on Science". The article contained describes a number of practices that have been scientifically proven, but which some are skeptical. The magazine asks the question: What's causing reasonable people to doubt reason? Examples include: The moon landing was fake; Climate change does not exist; Vaccinations can lead to autism.

The following article was written by my son Wilson, who has been researching some of the crops we grow. I sure didn't know the information presented here, but thought it was an interesting fact to show how we as humans adapt plants to suit our needs. And it's something we've been doing for thousands of years.

A Curious Case of Artificial Selection

We've certainly caught up with moisture for the year during this past month. I'm sure most would like to see some sunshine and warm weather. I'm not sure we've had the combination of these two for many days this spring. But the grass in the lawn is certainly enjoying the weather.

This upcoming conference combines the Ill Small Fruit/Strawberry School with the Southern IL Vegetable School. The dates are Feb. 10-11 and will be held in O'Fallon, IL (across river from St. Louis). It's an excellent program that will offer many folks an opportunity to learn more management techniques about the food they grow. following is the link for the program and registration.

This morning when I walked into my office I was absolutely thrilled to see Hyacinths blooming. The first official day of spring was this past Friday (March 20) and last night we had our first spring thunderstorm. It's exciting to see things begin to wake up and the green come back to the world as plants return to life from their winter sleep. Stores are beginning to put out the gardening supplies – palettes of potting mix, seed packet displays, gardening tools, those things that excite the gardener in all of us.

Is one of your New Years' resolutions to eat healthier? To perhaps grow some of your own food? Growing some of your own food is a fun and rewarding task that provides much more than a fresh tasting juicy tomato or some tender green beans. You'll also get outdoors in the sunshine, enjoy the relaxation of some moderate exercise and generally feel good about yourself through growing and nurturing plants from seeds to harvest. And most folks just need a small amount of space to grow. It's amazing how much produce can be grown in an area of just 4' by 20'.

I've had a number of calls recently from pond owners who want to begin control of algae in ponds. It seems that the algae is rising to the surface of the pond much earlier than normal this year. Each fall, as the strength of the sun diminishes, algae reduces the amount of photosynthesis taking place and it gradually sinks to the bottom of the water. As the sun strengthens during the spring, allowing photosynthesis to resume, the plants rise to the surface.

How familiar are you with invasive plants? What exactly is an invasive plant?

By definition according to the Illinois Invasive Species Council an invasive plant is "any species that is not native to that ecosystem, including its seeds, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species and whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm."

I received an email the other day asking about Squash Vine Borer. The individual that contacted me informed me that they had already seen one out and felt that it was early as his squash were just beginning to vine out. Usually squash vine borer is more commonly seen in late June through beginning of July for emergence, but when the weather warms up faster, insect emerge sooner, plants bloom sooner. This is where Growing Degree Days come in.

The other week I presented a program as part of a statewide webinar series called Busting Garden Myths. It's a fun program that looks at some common garden myths that prevail from various books, old wives tales, stories told over the years, the internet, etc. As an Extension Educator, the information I provide about plants and gardens is a result of research from University researchers. Below are some of examples of garden myths that have been busted.

1) If I treat my yard for white grubs this year, I won't have Japanese Beetles next year.

One of my great loves of plants is that we can create new plants from existing. There are a number of houseplants that are easy to propagate and if you're like me you can never seem to have enough of your favorite plants!

When propagating houseplants, there are usually three different methods and which method to use is determined by what plant you are trying to grow. There are two other methods of houseplant propagation which includes Division and Air Layering but that's for another time.

The other week I presented to a group of Master Gardeners about Fabulous Fall Plants. There are amazing plants that spice up our landscape in the fall when so much else is worn out and tired. Most of us are probably familiar with the typical pansies, mums, and ornamental kale, but what other plants are great for fall interest? There are plenty of perennials, trees and shrubs that provide us great fall color and here are just a few to peak your interest.

If you've ever thought about trying a new enterprise on a few acres of ground, you need to consider attending an event that we hope will provide you with some excellent ideas to consider. Many folks are investigating opportunities for some extra income on a few acres while others are simply looking for an interesting hobby. Either way, this workshop will provide you with several potential ideas to consider.

The workshop is entitled "Putting Small Acres to Work" and will be held on Sat. Feb. 14, at John Wood Community College in Quincy.