male asparagus ferns on left, female asparagus ferns with seed on the right
February 05, 2020

Asparagus goes great with hollandaise sauce, has a nutty flavor when eaten raw (wash it first, and cut off the lower third), and is always a welcome treat at a restaurant. With a little patience and some planning, you can grow loads of asparagus each spring.

Growing Requirements

Full sun is required.

Poor drainage in your asparagus patch will promote disease issues in the roots.

February 11, 2020
When do I plant? Should I plant seeds or transplants? What about seed spacing? Find what works best for backyard vegetable growers in Illinois!
close up of cabbage
March 11, 2020

‘Tis the season for the garden seed catalogues. If you are like me, you are perusing through these catalogues that advertise 15 varieties of watermelon, 50 varieties of peppers, and even more tomato varieties to choose from. They all look amazing and are all claiming “vigorous!” “great flavor!” and “disease resistance!” So which one do you choose?

base of celery stalk sitting in water
March 17, 2020

Whether you have a young person at home for school closures, or are just young at heart yourself, experimenting with kitchen scraps can turn into a bountiful garden to enjoy again. Skip the compost bucket or garbage can, and re-grow your leftover veggies and fruits for beautiful houseplants and garden additions.

Kitchen scrap gardening reinforces the concepts of recycling and reusing, and learning plant parts.

The following fruits and vegetables are examples of plants that can be grown again and again:

beet greens and lettuce greens
March 17, 2020

Free time on your hands? Avoiding social spaces, but need some time outside?

First, remember that just because you're outside, the virus can still spread. If you're working with more than one person:

kohlrabi at Garden of Giving
April 02, 2020

In the last article, we talked about starting seeds indoor with limited resources. A lot of seed can be started outdoors during the month of April.

Carrots can be planted by seed starting April 10. Carrot seed is so small that inevitably you must thin your seedlings, which can be quite a tedious task. My advice is to mix the seed with soil or sand to spread the seed more evenly.  When you do thin or clip tops with a pair of scissors, use the seedlings in a fresh pesto or soup. Be patient as carrot seeds can be slow to germinate, but water daily.

LEGO art in the garden. Photo by Kelly Allsup.
April 24, 2020

Looking back, we may realize this was the year we had a surge in cultivating new gardeners and nature enthusiasts.

While most of my readers already garden and are looking for new tips and interesting information, we likely have brand new gardeners who can do without technical jargon and nuanced garden issues! Back to the basics!

Below are a few tips to be a successful new gardener.

tomato trellised on straw bale garden
May 13, 2020

Tomato plants are warm-season vegetables that should be planted after the danger of frost. For our area that means early to mid-May. Hopefully no one planted theirs before last weekend’s cold snap! Here are some steps to remember when growing your newly planted crop.

1. The first question you should ask is “Are these determinate or indeterminate plants?” Each has different requirements.

sweet potato held in black containers
June 04, 2020

This week’s gardening task includes planting sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes may be a long crop (4-5 months) but with a gardener’s care, one can have poundage of storable food.

Sweet potatoes, a tropical plant, usually need four to five months of warm day and night temperatures for optimal growth. Sweet potatoes are planted in late spring when weather warms. Sweet potato slips (shoots of mature potato) are planted in loose soil.

kohlrabi fall season garden delight
July 28, 2020

In the heat of summer’s end, vegetable gardeners are often drained by the weeding and watering routine, and ready to put the garden to bed.

But fall provides a more comfortable environment and some of the most productive gardening of the year when vegetables are planted in late summer and mature in the cool temperatures of fall. Fall vegetables require less watering, and sustain less insect and weed pressure.

basil and pepper sharing a five gallon bucket
July 28, 2020

For the last two years, I have been gardening in five-gallon buckets. A team of Extension colleagues from the Horticulture and Nutrition programs are teaching area residents who do not have access to garden space how to grow and their own herbs and veggies. The ‘Garden in a Bucket’ outreach has already reached hundreds of people in McLean, Livingston, and Woodford counties.

tomado demonstrating blossom end rot
August 18, 2020

1. Adding eggshells when planting tomatoes adds calcium and prevents blossom end rot. Fiction.

Eggshells add very little immediate calcium to the plant.

full season french intensive garden
September 03, 2020

Connie Kostelc has been a Master Gardener volunteer for University of Illinois Extension in Livingston County for the last 22 years. When gardening for edible plants, Connie uses the French intensive raised bed method.