We are officially into the dog days of summer; with daylight noticeably shorter than around the June solstice, berry season is sadly coming to an end. However, there is one local berry that is putting on a show right now. Besides its fruit, elderberry has many other contributions to the landscape that we can be thankful for. If you’re reading this in September, you’ve missed the berries, but read on so you can be on the lookout for edible perks of the elderberry next year!

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! 

Seedlings growing in paper eggshell cartons

Believe it or not, it's never too early to start making plans for this year's garden. Knowing when to plant for your area and getting your plants started right will help you maximize the growing season.

When to grow?

Planting dates are determined two things: the first and last frost dates where you grow, and how much time it takes for a crop to mature. Always check the plant tag or seed packet for the recommended date.  

blueberries on the bush

The 2021 Garden Trends Report by Garden Media Group says, “Victory garden was spurred by the increase in home cooking in 2020. GMG says 31 percent of people would like to grow fruits in their backyard and berries are at the top of the list.”

Photo credit Kelly Allsup. Gardeners prune brambles in late winter to help the plants produce more fruit in the growing season

One of the simple joys of summer is picking berries straight from the bush and enjoying a sweet treat. Pruning blackberry and raspberry bushes now ensures a bumper harvest in the summer.

Females can start laying eggs as soon as you see adults. Once the adult flies are discovered, management decisions should be made. Adult flies are tan with red eyes and a tiny 2-3mm-long (up to a one-eighth of an inch). Males have characteristic dark spots on their wings that can easily be seen with a magnifying glass. Adults live for up to 2 weeks, and females can lay up to 300 eggs. Development from egg to adult can occur in as little as eight days, and 10 or more generations may occur within a season.

Strawberries can be greatly rewarding and only require a few simple, timed garden tasks. Plant strawberry plants this spring for next year's harvest of plump juicy berries.

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Before planting bare-root bundles, amend the soil with organic matter. Organic matter consisting of plant and animal materials will provide nutrients and help retain water and encourage root growth. University of Illinois strongly suggests not planting strawberries where tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers have been grown because of disease issues.