When local orchard branches are laden with delicious jewels of fruit, the apple season has arrived. Before sinking your teeth into this year’s harvest, consider the rich history of this commonplace fruit.

Black and red blackberries ripen on stems in the grass

You enjoy fresh fruit and now you want to grow your own. Starting a garden requires plants and some growing knowledge. The problem is, growing your own food is a long-term commitment that can be intimidating. University of Illinios Extension believes growing your own food should be a joy, not a burden. Join friends and neighbors at The Refuge Food Forest and let us help you grow your first harvest. 

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.

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!

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! 

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.

Bronze leaves of Tree of Heaven

In the world of landscaping, trees are the backbones of the landscape. They are permanent structures that have stately features, shade our homes, provide spring floral displays, and some amazing fall color. There are, however, some trees that just behave badly. You’re likely familiar with maples that drop their helicopter seeds (known as samaras) all over the neighborhood, sprouting up scattered shoots in our lawns and flowerbeds—hard to call this a bad tree with the fun they bring to children, but a nuisance to be sure.