Nick Frillman teaching pruning workshop at Refuge Food Forest

For those of us who are lucky enough to have access to fruit trees, fruit bushes, bramble fruits, or cane fruits during the year, we have a chore that needs doing this winter: pruning. Pruning out dead, dying or diseased wood from all those wonderful plants and trees is an absolutely essential part of their management if good quality and quantity of fruit harvest is desired. Pruning is done in the dormant season, which for this part of Illinois is roughly January 1st until mid-March (depending on spring weather). Don’t prune outside of that window.

bush bean seeds in hand

Here we are, knee-deep in the holidays, and our gardens have finally been tucked in for the long winter nap. It’s a time of year many growers look forward to, a time to finally put up their aching feet, assess how the growing season went, reflect on successes, failures and what to do better next year. Some of the decisions many folks reflect on, including myself, are: did I grow the right garden plants this year? The right variety? The right amount? The good news is that we have a nice chunk of time to look through seed catalogues and think all this through.

Stacked pumpkins in front of a hay bale

Celebrating the year’s crops with a Thanksgiving feast has been a tradition for over 400 years. Likely in 1621, individuals fed their families and communities by growing vegetables in the field. This past summer, Illinois residents went to farmer's markets despite pandemic conditions as America continues to demand locally sourced vegetables and increased access to healthy food.  

Turkeys roaming around in grass

It is hard to believe how quickly 2021 has gone by as we are just about a month or so away from Thanksgiving. As we find ourselves planning for our Thanksgiving meals, how to cook the turkey often comes into conversation. But before you can cook the turkey, you have to purchase it.

Like it or not, fall and winter will be here before we know it! During the off-season, too many gardeners leave their vegetable or flower gardens bare over winter. This can cause major problems for the following growing season, especially an invasion of winter weeds and erosion of high-quality topsoil to boot. Beat the weeds and hang on to your soil this fall, winter and spring by planting a cover crop, or at least putting down some straw. 

It is almost pawpaw eating time! For those not already in the know, you too could soon have the opportunity to try your first delicious pawpaw fruit.  If you’ve never heard of pawpaw before, don’t know what the fruit or the tree look like, and are interested to hear what all the hullabaloo is about, read on!

Oats, Outi Mähönen, via Unsplash

Do you struggle with weed control in the spring before planting your summer garden? Does your garden lose topsoil after a heavy rain due to slope? Would you like to improve soil structure and add organic matter to your garden?

Backyard cover cropping is for you!

We have enjoyed some pleasant weather recently, and it makes me think on the coming growing season, and the abundant locally produced fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, cut flowers and everything else available at farmers markets. However, there is another way to get some of these goodies for you and yours, and that is through CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture.

A farm-product subscription service, with a twist

black currants

With the end of winter near, it’s time to start planning for the garden season. At the outbreak of COVID-19 last year, many people attempted to grow some of their own food, re-popularizing the concept of WWII “victory gardens.” Increase your victory garden growing capacity by planting some black currant bushes this March! 

Beets, parsnip, squash and apples

Being thankful for our families has a new meaning this year, and the feast should be spectacular. Let’s add a sometimes-missing ingredient this year: the love that a local grower, baker, or cook puts into their product.

My role in the Thanksgiving meal is to procure ingredients and I challenge myself to buy mostly fresh local ingredients for the big meal.

Epiphany farms owner Ken Myszka speaks into microphone

He’s not just a restaurateur, nor just a farmer, nor just a chef, nor just an entrepreneur. He’s an influencer of sustainable eating. He wants to change the world, one delicious plate at a time. Ken Myszka, owner and operator of Epiphany Farms Hospitality Group, runs four celebrated restaurants in McLean County: Epiphany Farms Restaurant, Anju Above, and Bakery and Pickle, all in downtown Bloomington; and Old Bank Restaurant and Bar in LeRoy.