Raise, Grow, Harvest, Eat, Repeat A blog for growers, consumers, and backyard gardeners to grow, eat, and connect in the local food system. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/rss.xml Wrapping Up the Summer Vegetable Garden http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12844/ Fri, 01 Sep 2017 10:10:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12844/
  • Any hand tools that have come into contact with your plants and soil before storing for next season. it's especially important to remove any dirt that gets into corners of your tools. These are places where fungi/bacteria can overwinter and cause diseases next year. A bleach/rubbing alcohol solution can work for this. I like this guide from Wisconsin Extension.
  • Tomato cages should also be clean. Especially if you have had a season of tomato diseases.
  • Equipment that goes into the garden
  • A soil test. If you had issues with your garden and it was not pest related, you may have some soil issues going on. This could be an incorrect soil pH, low nutrient availability, small soil organic matter, etc. Many of these soil problems can be addressed through taking a soil test. Fall is the best time as this allows you to raise/lower pH over winter and into spring. If you are planning to plant perennial crops next spring/summer, it's especially important to have this done as it is hard to change soil pH and other soil properties once planted. You can find soil testing kits at our local offices in Jo Daviess/Stephenson/Winnebago Offices.
  • Garden Debris. If dead and decaying plant material that is diseased is left in the garden, you may have fungi/bacteria that overwinter in the soil and cause more problems next year. While some gardeners do let crops die off into ground without problem, it's important to be vigilant in what you leave behind in making sure it does not cause more problems next year.
  • Notes. Make drawings of what the garden looked like, what problems you had, what varieties grew well/not well, any information that will beneficial next year. I have to do this or else I forget next spring/summer how things really were.
  • Cool Season. Spinach, carrots, beets, lettuces, broccoli, cabbage, and many other cool season plants should be started from seed or transplant ASAP.
  • Garlic. Plant garlic this next month or regret it come June. I went into garlic planting last month.
  • Cover crops. You've got a short window to plant cover crops for fall. Mostly your options are wheat and rye. Yet again, I've talked about cover crops here from 2014.
  • Compost. This could be a good time to start your compost pile. University of Illinois Extension has a website for getting started.
  • Seeds. If you have heirloom seeds you want to save, now is the time to start seed saving. Sandra Mason, the University of Illinois Extension State Master Gardener Coordinator, goes into seed saving in her blog.
  • Crops. Pumpkins, winter squash, sweet potatoes, onions, and many others can be stored in the right conditions for the next couple of months. Each will have their own needs though so look for guides that can walk you through this.
These are just a couple of things you can do as you wrap up the garden this summer. There's certainly more things you can be doing (and should be doing!)
Late Summer Field Days: Recap http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12815/ Wed, 23 Aug 2017 13:36:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12815/ This year marks the third year that our offices have held the Late Summer Field Days. Each year since 2014, I have worked with a farmer in our area to showcase their farm and invite the general public out to visit. Unlike a farm tour, these field days have a set time and location. What I've enjoyed with these field days are the responses I get back from attendees: "I didn't know you could grow this here" or "I've driven by this place so many times but had no idea this farm was here". These are the type of responses I hope to have and to me, says that these field days are serving a purpose in helping people know how their food is grown and the grower/producer behind it. These field days allow the general public to ask a lot of questions and get advice on how to grow crops as many times what the homeowner/backyard grower is dealing with, the commercial grower deals with on a larger scale.

Our first field day this year was held at Wishful Acres Farm and Brewery in Lena, Illinois. Penny and Nate Peterson are the owners and operators. They have a very robust CSA (community supported agriculture) program where they deliver boxes of produce each week for a given amount of weeks for subscribers. In the last year, the farm expanded to a microbrewery operation on site. This is very unique in the Midwest to see an actual on farm brewery. They are using some of the fruits and hops they are growing in their beers too. Their brewery is open on Fridays (4-9PM), Saturdays (12-9PM), and Sundays (12-5PM).

Our second field day was at Groezinger Produce Farm. Located in Stockton, Illinois, Drew Groezinger oversees a vegetable farm operation and sells his produce to local restaurants, Territory Farmers Market, and a CSA. He further grows different dahlias in a new business he has started, Clara Joyce Flowers. Drew grew up in the 4-H program and is currently a college student, balancing out his commitment to his farm operation and schooling.

It was clear through both of this field days that farmers in our area are very passionate about what they do and how they grow and market their operations. Both are currently/moving into niche production that is setting them apart in our region. At the end of the day though, they are strong champions and assets in our local food systems in Northern Illinois.

So I know as I spoke with others that it will be hard to top these 2017 Late Summer Field Days next year but I will sure try.


Growing Great Garlic http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12806/ Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:33:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12806/
So let this be a reminder to you now: Plant Your Garlic in the Next 6 Weeks

When to Plant:

Garlic should be planted September to mid-October. Even if you plant the first week of September and mulch (more to come), you may have green growth from the garlic beyond the mulch layer and need to add more mulch. Any exposure of the green tips to winter may damage your garlic.

What to Plant

One clove will give you one head of garlic.

You want a hardneck type as these perform well in Northern Illinois. You might try softneck varieties but know that they still tend to perform poorly even with layers of mulch. Much of that will depend on our winter. Avoid grocery store garlic. This is commonly a softneck variety.

Hardneck varieties that have been recommended are 'Spanish Roja', 'Carpathian', and 'Georgian Crystal'. Drew Groezinger, a grower in Jo Daviess County, recommended to me 'German Porcelain', 'Chrysalis Purple', and 'Red Chesnok'.

Visit a farmers market in your area and talk to the growers there. If you purchase a head of garlic from them, these cloves can be planted in your garden this fall. Home and garden stores may have garlic too.

How Much to Plant

A homeowner asked me the other day how much garlic does one family need and much of it depends on your cooking style. A hardneck variety could have between 5-10 cloves in a head.  If you are cooking 3-4 times a week with a recipe using 1-2 cloves each time, you may find that you are using one head of garlic a week. In my family, this is pretty normal.

Where to Plant

Garlic needs a weed free area. Fertile soil is strongly encouraged. As you think about where you want to plant it, keep in mind that garlic has a long growing season. This space will not be available for crops until June/July of next year. I've not tried to grow garlic in containers although I imagine if you provide the garlic with the right growing media, proper drainage, and mulch, it may grow. This could be an experiment though.

How to Plant

Garlic should be planted twice the height of the clove with spacing 6-8 inches between.

You need to mulch. A good mulch layer of 6-8 inches is needed to provide insulation for the garlic as it develops. You may find that you need to keep laying this down in winter months. Straw, leaves, and other mixtures are your best bet. In November and December of 2016, we experienced warmer temperatures then usual, and many growers stated they had to add mulch for their garlic. It may be the case this season.

Your garlic will be ready next June and I'll be giving you a report in May as to how to harvest, store, and cure your garlic.

To reiterate: Plant Your Garlic This Fall.



Monthly Report- July 2017 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12781/ Mon, 07 Aug 2017 08:58:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12781/ Pest Update

As you know, July was extremely wet for us in Northern Illinois. This caused a lot of serious problems for some growers due to the amount of rainwater that we got in fits and spurts. Typically in the growing season, we need 1-1.5 inches of water a week. If your plants received too much, they may have shown wilting symptoms, a physical response to too much rainwater. If you are worried about more rainwater coming in, you can still mulch around your plants. This can help them deal with massive amounts of rainwater.

Mulching is recommended anyways when you are growing most plants as there is a lot of benefits to it. The slow and steady take up of water. Keeping soil from splashing onto plants. Balancing some of the cold/hot soil temperatures. It's not too late to add a mulch layer if many of your crops are not ready to be harvested. Leaves or straw can be useful for this.

In the Winnebago County Extension Garden, a tomato/tobacco hornworm feasted on a number of tomato plants. The easiest solution for this insect is handpicking. I've also seen flea beetle and cabbage worms, adult form of a moth. Both of these can be addressed with a floating row cover if your eggplant has fully developed.

Phytophera Blight is another concern on the squash family and peppers. Symptoms look like soft rot on the fruit as it has developed. Depending on the severity and your scale, you may be able to spray.

Crop Update

Crops that survived the heavy rain period tended to be okay. Much of this depended on where your farm and backyard was located as to how severe the rains were.

Garlic did well for most growers this year. I heard (and tasted!) some very good garlic. Due to the warmer than usual winter, a lot of that had to do with a better survival for some of the softneck varieties. As you purchase garlic from the farmers market, be thinking about saving some back to grow your own!

Most other vegetables (summer squash, tomatoes, peppers, and others) have done fairly well for us. In previous years, the colder night temperatures (50s) in July have slowed down the development of peppers.

Peach harvest is getting close. We are probably a week or two away from harvest. If you have a tree that survived that hard winter of 2014, you are most likely pleased with this. Aronia and haskap berry plants in the Winnebago County Extension Garden are also close to harvest.

The Stephenson County Extension Garden is growing a number tomato and squash plants. Both of these have been yielding well over the last couple of weeks. At the Jo Daviess County Extension Garden, there are a number of different herbs and cool season vegetables doing well in modified raised beds. One of the experiments over in that county is growing carrots in a 5 gallon bucket. The Master Gardeners are also growing herbs in modified bags of compost. This seems like a very inventive way to grow herbs that become very invasive like mint.

Experiment Update

The container gardeners are doing okay. Both the lunchbox pepper and tomato are yielding well so far. Yields seem smaller than they should be in my mind but it could also be that for this type of variety the yields just are not there.

And so far the watermelon is getting bigger and bigger. All things that I want to see.

Next Steps

Focus on weed management if you haven't yet or else you will regret this when you shut the garden down.

Now is the time to think about the cool season vegetables too.

And tillage radish, a cover crops, needs to be planted the next couple of weeks. It will winter kill but it desperately needs these hot soil temperatures in order to put on good growth and address your soil needs.


Monthly Report-June 2017 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12672/ Thu, 22 Jun 2017 10:42:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12672/  

Pest Update

With rains and seasonal weather, disease has begun to creep in. In the last week, I've seen apple scab and in a new twist, scab on stone fruit. For apple scab, it's too late for sprays to be effective in controlling the disease and you are better off removing fruit that has fallen around the trees. Removal of fallen leaves is also recommended. I've seen some Plum Curculio damage on apple trees as well.

Spotted Wing Drosophila still remains a problem for most growers in the area with the fruit flying hitting our area from mid-June to first hard frost. Both Michigan and Wisconsin provide guidance and recommendations.

It's still very early for disease and insects on the summer crops.

Crop Update

Now on to some good news. I expect a strong peach and cherry season if you are growing either of those. While many peach trees were removed/killed following the winter of 2014, some still had peach trees survive. There are two currently at the Winnebago Extension Garden with good looking fruit (although I should have pruned the trees). A sour cherry tree has also been prolific in production, yielding in the last two weeks. Strawberry season began last week regionally and it may be shorter than usual due to the weather.

Both rhubarb and asparagus did well this spring. The fern on the asparagus patch at the Winnebago Extension Garden came up in the last week. When rhubarb goes to seed and the asparagus fern appears, the season is now over for both of these crops.

You may also have had your cool season plants bolt. This "bolting" is when lettuces and others go to seed. This results in the crop being bitter and not appealing. You might try to replant this again or wait until August for a fall season crop.

We are about 2-3 weeks away from garlic in the area. Your scapes have most likely appeared. These green, "snake" like growths should be cut off. Don't throw them away as you can use them as you would any other garlic.

Experiment Update

The main experiment this summer is container gardening. I'm using 5 gallon buckets to grow a tomato, pepper, and watermelon. Within the bucket, I'm using a mixture of compost and vermiculite to help with drainage. Because of a low NPK in compost, I am addressing nutrient needs with fish emulsion. As you can imagine, there does need to be some drainage holes for these containers.

So far, the plants are looking good. Peppers are producing well with a 'Luncbox' variety chosen. I'm waiting for it to change color before picking. The tomato is a 'Patio' variety designed for the container garden. You can see in photos that it is producing small fruit. The Crimson Sweet watermelon is growing quite well in the container and 'm fairly surprised/pleased with it so far. I expect to harvest tomato and peppers in 2-3 weeks. I'll also need to trellis/move the melon somewhere else in the garden.

I'm also growing Haskep berries. These unusual fruit are tart and fairly compact. I've got 12 of these planted with them flowering. Like Aronia and others, Haskep is thought to be another trendy berry.

Next Steps

Be vigilant in your garden and growing area. Heavy rains and weather will dictate the development of certain diseases if the fungus or bacteria is present. If you are growing any members of the squash family, be on the look out when your plants flower as this is the time many of these cucumber beetles will move in and take over.


Summer Vegetable Garden: Top 10 for Beginners http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12613/ Thu, 01 Jun 2017 11:47:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12613/ Many backyard growers tend to know how to grow vegetables and what they need to do. Others may be intimidated by getting started. I had a question last week if it was too late to start summer vegetables. Starting a vegetable garden and container gardening is quite easy and if all goes according to plan with warm weather and necessary rain, you'll be on a path toward success in your first garden.
Below, I tried to compile a 10 Top List of Basic Information. I could spend hours on each topic but think that this should walk you through a full season. Getting started, selection, management, and harvest are all cornerstones to get growing. As I tend to worry about disease and insect problems I've add an 11. You'll still need to do a bit more research but this puts you on the right path.

1. Know what you can and cannot grow. You are bound by the growing season and your spacing requirements. And yes, you should follow spacing requirements between plants and rows. Some vegetables will grow well in containers. You can also grow a fall garden by planting certain vegetables the end of July/start of August

2. 160 Day Growing Season. In Northern Illinois, the last frost is around May 5th and the first frost is around October 5th. Between these dates is your growing season.

3. Let them mature. Seed packets and transplants will tell you the maturity date for when you can harvest. Make sure that date is within your growing season. While you can stretch it sometimes, you still are confined to this. Depending on when you start your garden, you may want to choose transplants over seeds.

4. Mix it up. Transplants and seeds. Disease resistance and heirlooms. Nightshade Family and Cucurbit Family. Not only will some of these features help you if disease becomes a problem but they can also attract a wide range of good insects to the garden.

5. Add to your soil. Your plants will need a fertilizer, usually a 10-10-10 is fine. But adding aged manure or compost will enrich your soil and start to feed these microorganisms that make the plant nutrients available. Organic matters, like manure and compost, will not fully address your plant's nutrient needs.

6. Stake em. Tomatoes need trellising to support them. Peppers may benefit from trellising. Even cucumbers may like a netting you provide for them. Tomato cages can be flimsy so you want to get heavy duty cages to support your plants. It is better to over support them then to under support them.

7. Mulch em. A good straw mulch and other organic material can keep weed problems from being an issue early on. Mulching can also address Blossom End Rot in tomatoes into the season too. In the fall, the mulch can be turned over into the soil.

8. Water in the Morning. Only water at the base of the plant. Bacteria and fungi that spread disease commonly move by water and if any of your plant is wet, this can spread disease. This is why watering in the morning will let these leaves dry out and keep disease from spreading. For that matter, avoid working in wet conditions. You might spread disease without realizing it.

9. Pick when ready. While many vegetables will change color when ready to be picked, other ones may require you factoring in their maturity date (when they are ready to be harvested) or other clues that you need to know. For instance, not all melons will slip off the vine and may need to be cut.

10. Get the proper diagnosis. Calling the Master Gardener hotline to diagnose your problem will ensure you are able to address problems early on. Too hot. Too wet. Too cold. Too dry. Many of these conditions increase disease problems, poor pollination, etc.

11. Remove and clean at the end of season. Yes, the last thing you want to do is this but removal of dead plants will keep any disease problems from entering the soil. Clean your garden tools and stakes with a rubbing alcohol solution

Sweet Potatoes: Right on Time http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12597/ Wed, 24 May 2017 11:42:00 +0000 http://web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw/eb362/entry_12597/ That isn't the case of course. Sweet potatoes need to be planted after our frost free date which for us in Northern Illinois is around the first week of June. By planting at the start of June, you can expect to harvest mid-September.

Sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family and have long, trailing vines that quickly cover the soil surface. There are bush varieties available if you are tight on space. The most common type of sweet potatoes are those with the orange flesh although you can find both yellow and white ones available. Yam and sweet potato are in different plant families though you would not know this based on how often the word yam is used in grocery stores. A true yam grows in the tropics.

North Carolina grows the most sweet potatoes in the United States; and many of these southern varieties do well for us in this region. Beauregard, Jewell, and Centennial are recommended varieties for Northern Illinois. Your harvest window for all of these is between 100-110 days.

You will purchase your sweet potatoes as "slips". Slips are planted at 12-18 inches apart in a bed with at least 8 inches of soil depth. Black plastic can increase soil temperatures, which leads to better yields. In years past, I've used heavy, black plastic for growing sweet potatoes. Yields have been very good. You may find that the sweet potatoes may become the size of smaller footballs by using this plastic. I found that the flavor was still good and that they were not woody. If using a black plastic, know that you may need to water your plants if we enter a period of drought as rainwater will only enter where the plant is planted. Allow 3-4 ft between rows for vines to spread.

In general, sweet potatoes do not have major issues compared to other vegetables. If we have a rainy season, we may see decline in yields and overall development of the sweet potatoes. So good drainage is utmost needed for growing your sweet potatoes. If you've got a heavy clay soil, adding compost before planting your sweet potatoes can put them on the right path. Because of the vining characteristic, weeds are not usually a problem.

In mid-September, you will harvest your sweet potatoes by digging up the sides of the bed, being careful to not cut into the sweet potatoes. Curing will be your next step after harvest. This process is done in fall where the roots are laid out for 2-3 hours than placed in a room around 85 F for 10-14 days then stored.

So start strong with the sweet potatoes and get them in the ground as we enter the month of June!