Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
Weekly Crop Update 12-3-14
By Mike Roegge, University of Illinois Extension, Adams/Brown/Hancock/Pike/Schuyler
This past growing season was a good one for most gardeners. Crop farmers harvested one of the very best corn crops on record, and vegetables responded positively to the great growing conditions as well. This year we had moisture throughout the summer and July was one of the coolest ones on record, which undoubtedly led to the bounty.
But before the past year gets to be somewhat fuzzy, now is the time to note how your garden grew so that you can make any corrections for next year. Which varieties did the best? Which varieties didn't perform as expected? Did some have disease issues that prevented good yields? Which ones tasted the best? Do you really need all those zucchini plants? Or maybe you should consider planting the same number of zucchini but spread out through the summer?
Did the planting dates work out to allow you to harvest throughout the summer or do you need to massage them somewhat and also consider multiple plantings? Should you plant container tomatoes or determinates rather than indeterminates? Is your garden fertilized to allow the best yields? Should you consider using newspaper and straw/grass clippings to reduce weeds next year? Although we had a great year for moisture, next year will probably be more normal, so are you prepared to water if necessary?
Which variety of onions did you grow? Are they well adapted to storage? How was your control of insects? Corn earworm, potato beetles, aphids, cucumber beetles and other pests can wreak havoc on your plants, are you/were you prepared? Remember to map the garden each year to avoid planting the same crop family in the same area. You need to rotate so that there is a two or three year gap between crop families to help avoid disease issues. A great way to help you record these is a calendar. Seems like everyone has calendars they give away this time of year. Make your garden notes on the day you observe them and keep that calendar handy for future reference.
A good set of notes sure makes the job of planning next years' garden much easier. Knowing which varieties to plant, when to plant, and how they yielded can pay big benefits. Also consider how you can improve your growing skills over the winter. We have (and others do as well) plenty of options to help you improve your growing knowledge. Take a look at our upcoming programs (many of which are webinars that you can attend from home) on our webpage: web.extension.illinois.edu/abhps
Lastly, you may have noticed that Kari Houle, our Horticulture Educator, has had articles in this column in the past. Beginning next week, she and I will alternate articles each week. We look forward to this new format. We'll call the column "Good Growing" and will include articles and growing information on both edible and non-edible plants. We hope you enjoy.