April 18, 2013
Chicagoland is often hit with spring and summer storms. The following are resources to help you prepare for and recover from these storms.
Sign up for Alerts from NotifyChicago on weather-related emergencies to traffic alerts http://goo.gl/DalT2
Thunderstorms (U of IL Extension) http://bi t.ly/q4NYO4
City of Chicago: Flood Preparedness http://goo.gl/26Ou7
Cleaning and Repairing Flooded Basements (Wisconsin Extension) http://goo.gl/b65Fr
Flooding: Disaster Resources (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/oysOxY
Flood Recovery Checklists (NDSU Extension) http://goo.gl/yiClW
Flood and Storm Recovery Links (Purdue Extension) http://goo.gl/7yUtC
Family Disaster Supply Kit http://bit.ly/nJcg8J
NOAA: Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States http://1.usa.gov/oMuIu3
Tornadoes - Disaster Resources (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/oveuEc
Lightning and Personal Safety (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/onNInR
Repair Storm Damaged Trees with Care (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/mmo495
Safe food handling during power outages (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/oeXDJi
Frozen Foods: When to Save and When to Throw Out (U of IL Extension) http://t.co/1ttJseb
Refrigerated Foods: When to Save and When to Throw Out (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/q20nUW
Using Portable Generators Safely (OHSA) http://goo.gl/0xZ0a
Sump Pump Tips (NDSU Extension) http://goo.gl/TG9mo
January 3, 2013
Contact: Susan Jongeneel
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Urban agriculture is promoted as a strategy for dealing with food insecurity, stimulating economic development, and combating diet-related health problems in cities. However, up to now, no one has known how much gardening is taking place in urban areas. Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a methodology that they used to quantify the urban agriculture in Chicago.
John Taylor, a doctoral candidate working with crop sciences researcher Sarah Taylor Lovell, was skeptical about the lists of urban gardens provided to him by local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
"Various lists were circulating," he said. "One of them had almost 700 gardens on it."
On closer inspection, however, many of these "gardens" turned out to be planter boxes or landscaping and were not producing food. On the other hand, Taylor suspected that there were unnoticed gardens in backyards or vacant lots.
"There's been such a focus on community gardens and urban farms, but not a lot of interest in looking at backyard gardens as an area of research," Lovell agreed. An accurate map of these sites would be helpful for advocacy groups and community planners.
Taylor uploaded the lists from the NGOs into Google Earth, which automatically geocoded the sites by street address. He used a set of reference images of community gardens, vacant lot gardens, urban farms, school gardens, and home food gardens to determine visual indicators of food gardens.
Using these indicators and Google Earth images, he examined the documented sites. Of the 1,236 "community gardens," only 160, or 13 percent, were actually producing food.
Taylor then looked at Google Earth images of Chicago to locate food production sites. This work took more than 400 hours over an 8-month period. He identified 4493 possible sites, most of which were residential gardens of 50 square meters or less, and visited a representative sample of gardens on vacant land to confirm that they were really producing food.
All the large sites and a sample of the small sites were digitized as shapefiles (digital vector storage formats for storing geometric location and associated attribute information) in Google Earth. These shapefiles were imported into Arc Map 10, a geographic information system (GIS) mapping tool, to calculate the total area.
The final estimate was 4,648 urban agriculture sites with a production area of 264,181 square meters. Residential gardens and single-plot gardens on vacant lots accounted for almost three-fourths of the total.
To map the gardens onto community areas, the shapefiles were joined with 2010 Census tract shapefiles and shapefiles of 77 community areas and neighborhoods from Chicago's GIS portal. The tract information was subsequently joined with the Census Bureau's 2005-2009 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates of demographic and housing characteristics.
The maps showed that garden concentration varied by neighborhood. "Chinatown, Bridgeport was kind of a hot spot," Taylor said. Both of these neighborhoods have large Chinese-origin populations. Even outside those areas, many of the larger gardens were associated with households headed by people of Chinese origin. Neighborhoods in the northwest with large numbers of Polish and Eastern and Southern European immigrants also had a high density of backyard gardens.
They were not all growing the same kind of food. "There are distinctions between these cultural groups because the crops they select are sometimes from their home areas in addition to the suite of crops we can all grow in our backyards," Lovell explained.
As people move across borders, they often bring seeds with them. "In a Mexican neighborhood where we were working, a lot of people grow a tropical corn that is 12 to 16 feet high," Taylor said. "It's grown not for the ears of corn but for the leaves, which are used to make tamales."
He noted that many older African-Americans in Chicago who came north during the Great Migration from the south from the early 1900s to the 1970s remember farming and growing up with gardens. "They are almost reproducing in miniature in their backyards the southern landscape and gardening practices that they associated with their youth," he said.
Garden type varied by neighborhood as well. Home food gardens are concentrated in the northwest, where people tend to live in detached houses. Vacant lot gardens are concentrated in the economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the south and west sides, as are the community gardens.
Lovell said that, in some communities, more than half of the lots are vacant, and making use of them could be a huge opportunity. Chicago has a program that allows people living next to a vacant lot to purchase it at a fraction of what it would normally cost.
The results of this study suggest that both backyard gardens and vacant lot gardens contribute substantially to Chicago's total food production.
"Home gardens actually contribute to food security," Taylor said. "They're underappreciated and unsupported." He noted that people grow not only for themselves but for their neighbors as well, which is particularly important in food deserts where fresh produce is in short supply.
"There is also potential for empowering people because they are using their own space to deal with their own food security concerns," Lovell added.
The study, "Mapping public and private spaces of urban agriculture in Chicago through the analysis of high-resolution aerial images in Google Earth" by John R. Taylor and Sarah Taylor Lovell, published in Landscape and Urban Planning, is available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016920461200237X.
December 15, 2012
"This is the 13th annual Herb Day," said Chuck Voigt, University of Illinois Extension vegetable and herb specialist and coordinator of the event. "Even those who have been to previous Herb Days will find this one to be loaded with especially knowledgeable and entertaining presenters."
Jane Taylor, from Cape Elizabeth, Maine is the founding director of the 4-H Childrens' Garden at Michigan State University and the "godmother" of children's gardens across the United States. She will speak about "Kids in the Herb Garden" and a second talk about grilling with herbs entitled "Fire It Up With Herbs."
Carolee Snyder, from Carolee's Herb Farm in Hartford City, Indiana, will provide information about the "Elderberry, Herb of the Year 2013." Snyder has served on the board of the International Herb Association, is a member of the Herb Society of America, and has been a perennial vendor in the Herb Day retail area.
Jan Powers, from Stone Well Garden in West Peoria, Illinois, last spoke at the 2003 Herb Day and is returning this year to talk about "Herb Gardens." Powers is well known in the Peoria area for her gardening expertise.
Voigt said there will be one additional speaker at the event.
In addition to the speakers, there will be a retail area selling a wide variety of herb, spice and gardening products as well as books and products from the presenters.
Advance registration of $60, which includes an herb-themed lunch buffet (including vegetarian options), must be received by Jan. 11 to guarantee lunch. For more information, call Linda Harvey at 217-244-1693 or send an email to email@example.com.
On-site registration on Jan. 19 begins at 8 a.m. and will continue only as long as space allows. On-site registration does not include lunch. The first educational session begins promptly at 9 a.m.
News Source: Chuck Voigt, 217-333-1969
News Writer: Debra Levey Larson, 217-244-2880
December 15, 2012
Take a moment from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to learn a few interesting facts about Christmas trees.
Thomas Edison's assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees in 1882. Christmas tree lights were first mass-produced in 1890.
The tradition of an official Chicago Christmas tree was initiated in 1913 when one was first lit by Mayor Carter H. Harrison in Grant Park.
Since 1971, the Province of Nova Scotia has presented the Boston Christmas tree to the people of Boston, in gratitude for the relief supplies received from the citizens of Boston after a ship exploded in 1917 following a collision in the Halifax, Nova Scotia Harbor. Part of the city was leveled, killing and injuring thousands.
In 1856 Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, was the first President to place a Christmas tree in the White House.
30.8 million live Christmas trees were purchased in the United States in 2011, with a real market value of $1.07 billion.
Christmas trees are grown and harvested in all 50 states.
Helicopters help to lift harvested Christmas trees from farms.
Artificial trees will last for six years in your home, but for centuries in a landfill.
In 1930 the U.S.-based Addis Brush Company created the first artificial Christmas tree made from brush bristles. The company used the same machinery that it used to manufacture toilet brushes, but they were dyed green.
An acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.
Live Christmas trees are involved in less than one-tenth of one percent of residential fires, and mostly when ignited by some external ignition sources. The major factors involved in Christmas tree fires are electrical problems, decorative lights, candles, and a heat source too close to the tree.
93% of real Christmas tree consumers recycle their tree in community recycling programs, their garden or backyard.
Check out the University of Illinois Extension website Christmas Trees & More for more information: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/trees/
Christmas tree facts updated by University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners Janice Byron, Carol Stitzer, and MaryAnne Spinner
Source: Ron Wolford, Extension Educator, Urban Horticulture, firstname.lastname@example.org
September 25, 2011
The United States has one of the most effective and efficient food production and food distribution systems ever created by man. That system makes the quality of life that we experience in the 21st century possible. However, that system can be rather fragile. The average unit of food consumed travels nearly 1500 miles from its place of origin before it arrives on one's plate. That we can transport goods like this is incredible, but citizens can easily lose access to this incredible system in one of four ways. It is not alarmist to imagine that one of the following scenarios will likely occur within the next 15 years.
First, access to food could be hampered by food safety concerns. E coli and Salmonella outbreaks have compromised portions of that distribution system over the past few years, and such an outbreak – in the right locale – could possibly eliminate much larger components of that system.
Second, the system itself can be compromised by natural disasters. Illinois residents have seen the very real breakdown in food supply following hurricanes and flooding in other parts of our country. Similar problems can arise in the state of Illinois. The most likely events include severe blizzards, flooding, and tornados – all of which can, given the right combination of events, collapse access to the food distribution system for a period of time. A more extreme - yet very possible – example is a solar storm. A severe solar storm could destroy the electrical grid and could destroy food distribution overnight. It would take weeks or months to recover from such an event (some say even longer). Combine this with the fact that most Illinois grocery stores have a few to several day supply of food, and one finds that a single natural disaster could quickly cascade into a much larger disaster.
Third, the food distribution system could be compromised by a terrorist attack. The type of attack capable of doing this would dwarf that of September 11, 2001. We have all heard the possible scenarios (scenarios that span from nuclear attacks to the use of biological agents). The attacks of ten years ago actually provide an example of this because they did have an impact on that system. Coffee distribution was briefly disrupted as aircraft were grounded. It takes little skill/imagination to extrapolate that food distribution impact to one of the scenarios mentioned earlier.
Fourth, economic instability can compromise access to the food distribution system. An example of this can be found in southern Illinois where economic stress has resulted in some areas with marginal access to groceries. The United States is in the third year of what is now being called "The Great Recession." Should our economic woes continue the situation in southern Illinois could be transferred to other regions and multiplied.
How can we address this fragility? The solution to this problem is two-fold. First, we must guide Illinois toward more resiliency in our current food production/food distribution system. We should find ways to build more fail safes into the system and we should build contingencies into the system that better weather natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Second, we must institute mechanisms that reduce the impact should the food production/food distribution system be compromised. We must develop mechanisms that provide some marginal level of support when our efforts toward resiliency fail. We will detail the local Extension office's approach to this two-fold strategy in the second part of this column.
Source: Matt Montgomery, Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms, email@example.com
September 21, 2011
Students discovered that the University of Illinois Sustainable Student Farm (SSF) provides more than locally grown produce at the second annual open house last Thursday, said Bruce Branham, a professor in the Department of Crop Sciences.
"We want to raise awareness of the student farm in addition to issues regarding our food systems and supplies," Branham said. "The farm is also a tool to show students where their food comes from."
Branham said more than 300 students, faculty, staff and community members attended this year's open house, a 100 percent improvement from last year's attendance.
"In addition to the horticulture and crop sciences students one would expect to see, we have had a lot interest from students in engineering, liberal arts and sciences, and other areas of study," Branham said.
Tours of the three-acre sustainable farm informed attendees about the day-to-day operations that provide the campus community with sustainable, locally grown food. Visitors also had the opportunity to taste this farm-fresh produce at a sampling provided by the U of I Dining Services. The menu included poblano corn tartlets, gazpacho shooters, pesto pasta salad, and pork loin with an apple chutney and sausage.
SSF produce is sold to U of I dining services for the residence halls and campus catering services. Produce is also sold at the SSF farm stand from June through November on the Quad directly behind the Illini Union every Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Despite these outlets, the farm is struggling to turn a profit due to the nature of running a sustainable farm. "Pesticides are a labor-saving tool," Branham said. "It takes a lot of labor to produce food sustainably, especially when we don't have the equipment we need to be more efficient."
Marlon Mueller-Soppart, a freshman in the College of Business, said the university should be a marker of sustainability.
"I believe sustainability is one of the only ways we can continue living on this planet," he said. "I wanted to find out how to be more sustainable, because frankly I don't have much of an idea about what it actually takes." Mueller-Soppart said he wants to get involved and see how farming "actually works."
"Agriculture is the foundation of everything' and I respect farmers a lot," he said. "I am from the city so I don't know anything about farming. It is good to see the other side of things."
Students can volunteer at the farm from February through November.
News writer: Claire Benjamin
phone: ; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
September 18, 2011
Cool, crisp weather has finally arrived after a very hot, humid and wet summer. Planting bulbs is probably the number one garden activity that takes place in the fall, but there are a number of other gardening and fall related activities to do.
Fall is a good time to have your soil tested because labs are not as busy as they are in the spring. A soil test will give you the pH and potassium, phosphorus and organic levels in your soil. PH measures the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. Most plants will grow well at pH between 6.0 and 7.5. Fall is the best time to have your soil tested because the weather is more settled than in the spring and soil labs are not as busy. To prepare a soil sample, take a trowel and collect four to six soil samples from different locations in your garden or lawn in a bucket. Spread the sample on newspaper and allow it to dry. Place about a one half pint dried soil sample in a sealed plastic bag and send it to the lab. For a listing of local soil testing labs, go to http://urbanext.illinois.edu/soiltest/. Contact the lab before sending in the sample for any special instructions.
Get Ready for Frost
Get ready for frost. On average our first fall frost occurs around October 15, but we have had frost in September. First frosts usually occur when cool weather arrives with clear nights with light winds. Open grassy areas are most likely to have frost versus areas under trees that are protected because the trees keep heat from escaping. Plantings close to the foundation of your home often survive a first frost because of the heat given off from house. To protect plants cover them with blankets, newspaper, straw, sheets, tarps, boxes, or plastic sheeting. Apply the covers later in the afternoon and remove them in the morning. Floating row covers can also protect plants. This spun polyester material will raise the temperature 2 to 5 degrees F around the plants.
Plant a Green Manure crop
Green manure crops include clover, annual ryegrass, winter wheat, winter rye and buckwheat. Green manure crops turned into the soil in the spring will improve soil structure and will add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Sow the seed thickly. Keep moist until germination occurs. Cut back plants that flower to prevent self-seeding. In early spring turn the green manure into the soil.
Transplant and divide perennials now. If you are planning to transplant established plants, cut them back by half and move to a prepared spot. Keep watered until the plant is established. Divide perennials when flowers get smaller, when the center of the plant dies out or when the plant just gets too big. All transplanting and dividing should be completed by October 1 to allow good root development before cold weather sets in.
Plant trees, shrubs and evergreens through September. Planting during this time period will allow the plant to become established before winter sets in. Water plants every 7 to 10 days during dry weather until the ground freezes.
Start a Compost Pile
Fall is a good time to start thinking about starting a compost pile. As we go later into the fall, dying plant material is more readily available for composting, plus you have all the fallen leaves. For more information on composting, check out the University of Illinois Extension website: Composting Central http://web.extension.illinois.edu/compostingcentral/
Remove dead plants from the vegetable garden after frost. If plants were not diseased, they can be turned into the soil or placed in a compost pile. Leaving dead plants in the garden will provide a home for over wintering insects. Spread a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic matter over the garden and dig in. The garden will be ready for planting in the spring.
Prepare Amaryllis for Flowering
Stop watering amaryllis in late summer to revive the bulb for flowering. Let the leaves die. Cut the dead leaves off to within 2-3 inches of the bulb. Place the potted bulb in a cool, dark place like the basement for 6 to 8 weeks. Bring the amaryllis into a bright, warm area and start watering. Keep the soil moist. It should bloom in 4 to 8 weeks after the start of watering.
Autumn is the best time to repair lawns. Seeding bare spots in the lawn from early to mid-September will allow the new growth to have enough time to germinate, grow and harden off before cold temperatures arrive. There is less competition from weeds in the fall because a lot of the annual weeds are dying out. Plus we are usually blessed with cool temperatures in the fall which is great for growing grass. Ideally dig the soil to at least 6-8 inches deep, spread grass seed over the area and tamp down. Keep the soil moist until germination. Cover with weed free straw to conserve moisture. If you are laying down sod, water the new sod several times a day for 1-2 weeks until it begins to knit or take hold. Be sure that water goes down through the thick sod and moistens the soil underneath for good root development. Do not let sod dry out.
Dig Up Cannas and Caladiums
Dig up cannas, elephant ears and caladiums after a frost. Cut the stems back to about 4-6 inches and dig the plant up. Wash the soil off the bulbs and let them dry in the sun. Place the bulbs in a container and cover with peat moss or sawdust. Place the container in a cool room like your basement. Check the bulbs every 3 or 4 weeks for any signs of rotting. Throw the rotten bulbs away. If you notice any shriveled bulbs, mist them with a little water. Pot the bulbs up in March and place in the garden after the last spring frost.
Bring in Houseplants
Start to bring houseplants indoors before cool weather arrives. Spray the plants with a stream of water to wash off insects. Remove any dead leaves. Isolate the plants from your houseplant collection for two weeks to be sure they have no insect and disease problems.
Visit an Apple Orchard
Plan a visit to a local apple orchard. There are over 2500 apple varieties grown in the United States. Apple harvest can go from August through November. Find a local apple orchard at the University of Illinois Extension website Apples and More at www.urbanext.illinois.edu/apples.
Visit a Pumpkin Farm
Take the family to a local pumpkin farm. Choose a pumpkin with a stem and never carry it by the stem. Pumpkins without a stem will not last long. Select a pumpkin with a flat bottom, so it will stand upright. Avoid pumpkins with holes, cuts or soft spots. These areas will rot. Light colored pumpkins are easier to carve because the skin is not as hard as darker orange colored ones, but they will not keep as well. Wash the pumpkin with warm water and let it dry before carving. For a listing of pumpkin farms, check out the University of Illinois Extension website Pumpkins and More at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/pumpkins/.
For more gardening information, check out the University of Illinois Extension website: Hort Corner at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/hort/.
July 25, 2011
On Tuesday, July 26, City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be holding a press conference to announce his Urban Agriculture policy proposal for the City. The event will be held at Growing Power's Chicago headquarters, located at 3333 South Iron Street, and will take place at 9 am.
Please come out and celebrate the Mayor's early efforts to improve Urban Agriculture and Food Policy within the city. The Iron Street farm is located West of the US Cellular Field, near 35th and Ashland. We hope to see you tomorrow morning!
Allyson M. Harmon
Food Policy Intern
Growing Power, Inc.
July 22, 2011
To spray or not to spray may be the question of the season in the garden, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
"Yes, it's a parody on a famous saying, but perhaps it will cause you to stop and think before grabbing a bottle of pesticide," said Martha Smith.
"Integrated Pest Management stresses monitoring your landscape and keeping a keen eye out for problems. We should be asking if it's a good time to spray or if there is an alternative.
"Most pest problems start out small. Perhaps an infested branch can be removed or critters can be picked by hand off a plant. It can save you time, energy, money and chemicals being added to the environment. If you seldom stroll through your landscape, you might not see a pest until it has consumed a major portion of your investment. By that time, a chemical control may be the only choice."
Smith offered some guidelines if you choose to combat garden pests with chemicals.
· Read the label. Understand what the product is intended to do and the best timing for application. When during the life span of the pest is it best to apply? Correct timing will give the best control with the least amount of chemical.
· Correctly identify the pest. Caterpillars resemble sawfly larvae, but the products to control them can be different. Also, is that caterpillar a true pest? If you choose a caterpillar control, don't question the absence of butterflies later in the season. Caterpillars can be voracious eaters, but the majority will turn into colorful butterflies.
· Mix the material as directed. Avoid thinking that if one teaspoon is recommended, two teaspoons will be better. Effectiveness will not be increased by doubling the amount of chemical. In fact, higher concentrations can harm plants.
· Follow all personal safety instructions on the label. A sleeveless tank top and flip-flop sandals are probably not the recommended protective clothing. Consider a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, eye protection, socks, closed-toe shoes and gloves even if they are not already instructed on the label.
· Use measuring utensils; don't guess at amounts. Have a set of measuring utensils specifically designated for chemicals. Write on them "chemicals only." Don't use utensils that are also used in food preparation.
· Spray on target. Don't apply a chemical across a 20-foot border when only two to three square feet require attention becaise it may not be necessary. Read the label to learn if the entire plant should be sprayed. Spray to the point of runoff and stop.
· Application equipment should be in good working order. Leaks can lead to damage on non-targeted plants. Use equipment that is recommended on the label.
· Spray when the weather is calm. Pesticide drift occurs when spray is carried off target by the wind. Drift can also be minimized by spraying at a lower pressure and using the largest nozzle opening that will still allow you to complete the task.
· Avoid spraying during the heat of the day. Some pesticides will burn plant material if they are applied when temperatures are too hot. High temperatures can also cause some pesticides to evaporate and decompose quickly. Spray in the morning.
· Avoid spraying before rain or before overhead irrigation, which will reduce the spray's effectiveness by washing the material off the target plant and possibly leading to groundwater contamination.
"Keep these spray guidelines in mind when selecting a pest control for your landscape," Smith said. "Monitor and identify the pest early. Consider your control options. Remember your control selection may not be what your neighbor would choose."
Source: Martha A. Smith, Extension Educator, Horticulture, email@example.com
July 19, 2011