August 12, 2008
I harvested my onions in late summer and they began to rot by fall. Why?
Onions may rot at either the base or neck. Rotting at the base may be caused by soilborne fungi or damage during harvest, but it is usually caused by damage from root maggots. If onion bulbs rot at the neck, either they have been cured insufficiently before storage or the leaves have been severely infected by fungi during the growing season. Onions that were "hilled" or covered with soil before harvest often start to rot soon after harvest. Many of the "sweet" varieties are very poor keepers and should be enjoyed fresh soon after harvest, as no method of storage keeps them from rotting for very long.
What causes my radishes to be too hot?
The hotness of radishes results from the length of time they have grown rather than from their size. The radishes either grew too slowly or are too old.
Why are my cucumbers tasteless? Did they cross with the neighbor's tasteless melons?
Contrary to popular myth, cucumbers do not cross-pollinate with muskmelons or watermelons and cause them to become bitter, tasteless, or off-flavor. Flavor has more to do with the variety, how cucumbers were grown, and weather conditions.
What causes small, sunken black areas near the end of peppers and tomatoes?
This condition is blossom-end rot that is quite common in tomatoes. It is caused by a calcium deficiency brought on by drought, uneven water availability, severe pruning, or pruning roots during deep cultivation. It is more prevalent during periods of heat and high humidity. Regular irrigation and mulching can help to prevent it. Soil applications of calcium seldom helps, though foliar calcium sprays may minimize the occurrence of the problem. Make sure the formulation is designed for foliar application or severe damage could result. Spray when tomatoes are young, about grape size. Once the blackened ends appear, affected fruits cannot be saved. Remove so that healthy fruit setting later can develop more quickly.
My lettuce tastes bitter. What can I do?
Lettuce may become bitter during hot weather and when seed stalks begin to form. Wash and store the leaves in the refrigerator for a day or two. Much of the bitterness will disappear.
What causes my carrots to turn green on the crown (top) of the root?
This condition is called "sunburning." It causes an off flavor and dark green pieces in the cooked product. Cut away the green portion and use the rest of the root. When the tops are healthy, sunburning can be avoided by pulling a small amount of loose soil up to the row when the roots are swelling (about 40 to 50 days after planting).
August 7, 2008
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDA) have confirmed that a beetle found in Deerfield, Illinois on Friday, August 1, 2008 is an Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB). The insect was discovered and was immediately reported to Deerfield Public Works staff that recovered it and forwarded it on to the appropriate authorities for positive identification.
August 5, 2008
One cannot appreciate the damage wind storms cause to trees until they've experienced a storm like the one that passed through Chicagoland on August 4, 2008. Fortunately, major wind storms do not occur on a regular basis. The trees that normally take the brunt of the damage - Chinese and Siberian elms, poplars, silver maples, birches and willows - are the predictable victims. All of these species have brittle wood and are easily damaged by wind storms.
Homeowners often plant fast-growing species like the ones mentioned above for rapid shade. Fast-growing trees normally have brittle wood and develop weak, V-shaped crotches that easily split apart under added weight. Often, trees with extensive internal rot and decay that may not have been evident from the exterior receive severe damage. Many times these trees overhang the house, driveway or power lines servicing the home. When large limbs or tree tops are broken in a wind storm, they can cause major damage and expense.
For homeowners with trees with major limb or top damage, two questions should be addressed. The first one is: "Does the condition of the tree warrant efforts to save it or should it be removed?" Major tree repair can be quite expensive and should only be attempted if a major portion of the tree is still intact and efforts can be made to maintain its attractiveness and value to the property. If the whole side or top is gone, it's questionable whether it's worth spending the time and money to salvage the tree. This is especially true if it's one with brittle wood that lends itself to similar problems in the future. While no one wants to remove a large, mature tree, the prudent decision may be to replace it with a young tree possessing desirable qualities.
The second question to consider is: "Can you handle the damage repair yourself or should you seek professional help?" Small limbs can be removed easily with pruning shears or a pole-lopper provided they are within your reach. Do you feel comfortable climbing a ladder up into the tree? Power equipment should never be operated from a ladder or in the tree where firm footing is questionable. Removing hanging limbs should be left to professional tree services. Look for them under Tree Service in the Yellow Pages. Make sure they carry proper liability and workmen's compensation insurance before allowing them to start the job. Ask if they have a certified arborist on their staff. You can also find a certified arborist through the International Society of Arboriculture website at http://www.treesaregood.org/findtreeservices/FindTreeCareService.aspx
The following are websites with information on how to deal with storm damaged trees and flooding:
Repair and Replacement of Storm Damaged Trees
Points on how to repair storm damaged trees and what to consider when replacing a tree
Storm Damage to Landscape Trees: Prediction, Prevention and Treatment
How to identify trees that may be susceptible to storm damage and steps to take to prevent damage
Repairing Storm Damage to Trees
Tips on repairing trees damaged by wind, ice and lightning
Repairing Storm Damage to Landscape Trees
Understanding the effect of floods on trees
Can These Trees Be Saved?
How to evaluate a tree for repair or replacement
Trees Are Good
Tree care information from the International Society of Arboriculture
Selecting Trees for Your Home
This site will help you make knowledgeable decisions when selecting a tree for your landscape
Illinois Tree Selection
This website provides you with a guide for selecting the best tree for your situation. It includes selection information, a list of some common diseases, and common insect or insect related problems for each species.
The overnight storms have resulted in tens of thousands of customers of the various electric utilities being without power. The latest word from ComEd and Ameren is that some of the outages may last for several days. Here are a couple of resources providing information about food safety and preparation during power outages:
Safe Food Handling During Power Outages
The safety of food may be a problem following any storm where electricity has been interrupted for an extended period of time. The following information is intended to help you judge the safety of your food after a power outage.
Preparing Food during a Power Failure
During a power failure, cooking and eating habits must change to fit the situation. You may have no heat, no refrigeration and limited water. In addition, health risks from contaminated or spoiled food may increase.
University of Illinois Disaster Fact Sheets
Fact sheets on disaster preparedness and recovery