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Buckets, Bales, & Bushels

Connecting You with Your Food, Farmers, and Community
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Recycle Your Grass Clippings

Our grass clippings are too valuable to waste! When left on the lawn, properly mowed grass clippings filter down to the soil and decompose rapidly,usually within a few weeks. During the breakdown process, the clippings feed soil organisms, recycle plant nutrients, and contribute organic matter to the soil. These are all great things for our lawns. Research tells us that grass clippings...

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Gardening Roller Coaster

If you are an amusement park enthusiast you are familiar with the feeling of great anticipation as you are fastened into your roller coaster car. With your shoulder harness securely fastened, the anticipation builds with click, click, click, as you ever so slowly climb to the top of one of the coaster peaks. Eak! Will you be met with an accelerated descent, a loop-the-loop or a sharp curve? Garden...

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A Peck of Pepper Problems

The untold story of Peter Piper's Peppers: peppers can be hard to grow! Growing your own peppers makes perfect sense if you are a gardener. Whether you chop, dice, roast, stuff, pickle, grill or dry the brilliant colored vegetable, they are handy to have in your kitchen. You may have wandered the farmers market or supermarket and noticed they are a little pricey! Maybe Peter Piper knew growing...

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Grafting for the Homeowner

Grafting is the technique of combining two plants to create one more desirable plant. Just as people have different strengths, so do plants. One variety might produce fantastic tasting fruits, another variety might tolerate poor soils, while another might be known for being a more compact plant. Grafting is one way to combine good qualities of different plants to create a better harvest....

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Firewood Tips for the Homeowner

A variety of creatures live in or on trees cut for firewood or settle in stacked wood that is destined for the stove or fireplace. Insect invasion of homes from firewood can be reduced by following these rules: Inspect wood as you pick it up. Check surfaces that were on the ground or against other pieces. Brush off the creatures that you see and knock wood toget...

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Cheese, Please

The "Back to Basics" do-it-yourself series returns to UI Extension in Macon, DeWitt, and Piatt counties. If you have not already checked out our classes , take a look today. Cheese making has appeared on this year's agenda, and class participants will get...

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Delight in Fall

The morning now greets us with a crisp chill and the darkness of the evening comes sooner than many would like this time of year.  For some, fall is a much anticipated time while others skip this season already dreading what follows - winter. As we bring in the final garden harvest for the season, decorate with corn stalks & pumpkins, and begin planning for fall activities there is...

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Great Garlic

While you are scouring the markets for pumpkins, squash & apples – you might keep a look out for something a little more aromatic - garlic. If you reside in Illinois – October is the best time to plant garlic, usually by the second week of the month. The goal is to have it in the ground six weeks before a freeze. The cooler weather and shorter days of fall are ideal for root development and...

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Plant Cover Crops Now - To Improve Your Garden

As our gardens wind down the growing season, fall is the time to get our gardens ready for next spring. Have you ever considered planting a cover crop in your garden? Maybe you should, cover crops improve our garden soil in many ways. Cover crops add a blanket of green to our otherwise bare soil that protects the soil from eroding, their roots keep soil nutrients from leaving the your...

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Hints for Harvesting

As the growing season begins to wind down for some crops you might find yourself scratching your head when it comes time to harvest your winter squash, pumpkins, cantaloupes and watermelons. If you are lucky enough that your plants still have vibrant green foliage – count your garden blessings. Powdery mildew swept through our Piatt County Extension Office demonstration a few weeks...

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Native plants, pollinators, and the elusive low maintenance garden

I am in the midst of a hard-learned lesson in my garden. You would think the friendly local Extension Horticulture Educator would do her homework on each plant before planting in her garden. Well, think again. I have made my fair share of gardening mistakes, planting plants that have either failed to thrive, or worse-- have threatened a hostile takeover of my garden beds. One pla...

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If There's a Will, There's a Way - In the Garden

It's a bucket, a former vessel for pounds of icing, waiting to make the next birthday celebration a sugary delight. That same bucket can bring similar merriment to those who once had a garden but because of life events, aging bodies, various health situations or limited amounts of sun in their yards, on their balcony or patio, can no longer have the garden they once did. Last year we shared the id...

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Frugal or Smart Gardening?

Have you wondered the aisles of your local garden center and had that same rush of adrenaline you get while looking through seed catalogs in the winter? Walking through a greenhouse in the spring is like going to the grocery store hungry – bring a list! If you are new to the vegetable gardening scene you may spend more money than necessary unless you do a little research or ask your fel...

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Growing Berries in Containers-- The First Year

Last spring we set out to try a number of different container growing methods for vegetables. We demonstrated a few at the Piatt County Extension office, both commercially available and repurposed containers were featured. I planted a few different containers of tomatoes and peppers at my house as well. I thought I was done until one fateful trip to the garden center. One sunny spring d...

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Winter Workers - Worms!

As the snow and cold continue, I find myself dreaming about ways to stay connected to the outdoors, the garden & living things! I know plant life outside is just dormant but tending to a worm farm in the winter can be a fun activity for all ages. Besides, they don't require the attention of other household pets – no walking or training required or risk of household destruction. Did you kno...

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Now is a Great Time to Try Something New

New Year or not, everyone has a list of "someday, I would like to try…" activities. What is on your list? It can be something small or of epic proportion. Let's face it; life isn't going to get less busy so why not start working on that list now. What is stopping you? "Trying something new often requires courage, opens up the possibility for you to enjoy something new, keeps you from be...

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Winter is Coming, Time to Put a Cover On

It is time to put a cover on your garden, a cover crop that is. Cover crops are an amazing addition to any garden. Cover crops are truly amazing. They benefit the garden in many different ways: recycling nutrients, breaking up compaction, increasing the soil's water holding capacity, suppressing weeds, adding nitrogen, attracting pollinators, adding soil organic matter,...

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Beyond Butternut, Acorn & Spaghetti

If I say squash, you might say butternut, acorn, spaghetti ; perhaps even delicata or carnival if you're an avid stuffer of squash. How about Sunshine, Thunder, Australian Butter, Jarrahdale to name a few? These lovely beauties not only look festive but taste good too. Fall is a great time to find some lesser known (or tasted) squash to add to your dinner table. Figure out which ones you like b...

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Cranberry What and Mala Who?

We've all been there, there at the garden center toward the end of the season when there are tons of unclaimed plants and the growing season is coming to a close. What happens to the poor unclaimed annual plants? Well, they go home with people for really, really cheap depending on where you do your shopping. (Insert plant happy dance here!) The latest finds for the season were two plant...

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The First Harvest of Blue Tomatoes

I really burst my husband's bubble last week when he proudly told me how he gave some of the 'Indigo Blue' tomatoes I've been growing away to someone we know. He said they were beautiful and "totally blue and ripe". When I told him that not a single one was even close to being ripe, and the blue color had nothing to do with ripeness, he got very defensive...

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Attack of the Blue Tomatoes!

For the ninth year in a row, Macon County Master Gardeners, Green Thumb community gardeners and I have planted a selection of tomato cultivars for our annual Tomato Taste Panel. During this event, community members to join us in tasting 30-40 different heirloom and hybrid tomato cultivars. The goal is to introduce people to the incredible diversity among tomato cultivars, and encourage people t...

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Straw - For More than Scarecrows

If you've been following the Bucket, Bales & Bushels blog for long, you know we're trying our hand at Straw Bale Gardening for the first time this year. Despite a seemly slow start, the plants have been in the bales for about 8-10 weeks and are looking good. In addition to the bales we have planted at the office, I also have...

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How Does Your Garden Grow

The peas are producing and the broccoli is generating small florets for snacking. The bush beans & pole beans have both germinated. Moss rose was planted to replace the lettuce in the gutter garden which will tolerate the heat of summer without any trouble. The impatiens are flourishing in their A-frame pallet garden. The plants in the straw bales are growing okay. I am being a litt...

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From Bucket to Bowl

Our bucket gardens have attracted a lot of attention to the Piatt County Extension office. There were some doubters, even in our own office, who said we would never harvest anything fit to eat from them. Today we proved them wrong and served a delicious lunch of cream of broccoli soup and kale chips using two of the cr...

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Hmmm Good - Triple M Farm

There is a new CSA in DeWitt County and its name is Triple M Farm. Greg and Mariah Anderson are the owners and have been in business since 2008. They started by raising fall mums and this year they have expanded to growing bedding plants, and fresh local produce. Greg grew up on a farm that grew vegetables and strawberries, so raising vegetables are nothing new to this couple. Triple M...

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