Archive for August, 2013

August 21, 2013

The Local Beet

I would like to thank all who visit this site and tell everybody about another site that I blog at, The Local Beet. It is a Chicago Area site that has a lot of great info for those who live in the Chicago Region.

August 20, 2013

A Great Source for Info on Preserving Your Harvest

Anybody who gardens this time of year may ask themselves what to do with all of the bounty that has arrived. Give it away to friends and neighbors? Hold a huge feast? You may want to consider storing or preserving it for the lean months of winter and into the spring. With its current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation, The National Center for Home Food Preservation is an excellent source for all types of food storage and preservation.


The Center was established with funding from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (CSREES-USDA) to address food safety concerns for those who practice and teach home food preservation and processing methods.

The Center’s website has publications, seasonal tips, USDA Bulletins, and a “How do I?” section that has instructions on canning, smoking, freezing, drying, and storing what you have grown all summer.


The National Center for Home Food Preservation can be found at:

They also have a great blog:


August 20, 2013

Fall is Garlic Planting Season!

Dahinda, IL: Used to add flavor to dishes worldwide, and known for its medicinal properties, garlic is also one of the easiest garden crops to grow.  Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, and chive. Garlic in unusual as a garden crop in that, as you would a flower bulb, you normally plant it in the fall. Fall is right around the corner as they say and if you want to grow some garlic next year right now would be a great time to start planning.

Russian Red Garlic - a Rocambole Photo: Maine Potato Lady

Russian Red Garlic – a Rocambole Hardneck Photo: Maine Potato Lady

There are two main varieties of garlic, hardneck and softneck. These two groups are also broken down into hardnecks: Porcelain Garlics, Rocambole Garlics, and Purple Stripe Garlics and softnecks: Artichoke Garlics and Silverskin Garlics and a few others. There are many varieties in each of these categories as well. In Illinois the hardneck varieties generally do better than softneck. Though there are several softneck varieties, such as Inchellium Red that will do well in Illinois.

Inchelium Red garlic - an Artichoke Softneck Photo: Maine Potato Lady

Inchelium Red garlic – an Artichoke Softneck Photo: Maine Potato Lady

Garlic should be planted in well drained soil with a good amount of organic matter. Compost will help give the garlic the proper amount of organic matter. If the soil is too moist the garlic can rot in the ground. A raised bed will help garlic it is grown in areas that remain damp all year. The bulbs should be planted 8 to 12 inches apart in rows about 18 inches apart. The cloves should be planted with the tip, or narrow end, facing up and about an inch or so deep. Mulch, such as straw, should be placed on the garlic to help protect it during the winter and protect it from the effects of the freeze-thaw cycle.

Garlic must experience a chilling period before it will set a head. Planting it in the fall gives it this chilling period and allows for some growth before spring. It must be planted early enough to allow for this early growth but not too early that there is excessive growth. Excessive growth will be burned off by a hard freeze and will hurt the plant. Early October is when I generally plant garlic. This seems to be the ideal time to plant it throughout the northern half of Illinois.

In the spring, after the green shoots start poking through, remove the straw mulch. Keeps weeds controlled as they will quickly take over limiting the garlic’s ability to grow. Garlic needs to be kept well watered as well. Pests and diseases that affect garlic are similar to what affects other members of the allium family such as onions. Be on the look out for onion thrips, onion maggots and bulb rot. If given a well drained site to grow with good air circulation and a good crop rotation plan, garlic is relatively care free.

Freshly Harvested Garlic

Freshly Harvested Garlic

Hardneck varieties develop “scapes” or flower shoots that should be removed. If left on the plant the scapes can reduce the size of the bulb. The scapes are edible themselves and if harvested early enough, can be used in many dishes.

Freshly Harvested Garlic

Freshly Harvested Garlic

Harvest garlic before the tops completely die down. The best is when there are still several green leaves. If left too long in the soil the outer skin can rot leaving only loose bulbs. After harvesting, remove excess soil but do not wash. Lay the plants or hang them in a well ventilated room. Do not leave them in the sunlight. After 4 to 6 weeks, roots and tops can be trimmed off. For appearance the outer dirty skins can be removed. Store cured garlic in a cool dry place.  Save some of the cloves to replant again in the fall.

Garlic Growing in the Field Photo:

Garlic Growing in the Field Photo:

As it is pretty easy and carefree to grow garlic is a great crop for novice gardeners, try growing some this fall! There are many good books and websites devoted to growing garlic. Some garlic info can be found at:

The Boundary Garlic Farm:

Mother Earth News:

Some good sources for garlic to plant are:

Filaree Farm:

Maine Potato Lady:

Great Northern Garlic:


August 13, 2013

August is Prime Time for the Fall and Winter Garden

Dahinda, IL: For many Illinoisans the first hard freeze signals the end of the gardening season. It is a time to clean up the garden and store what it has reaped and plan for next year. But as author and farmer Eliot Coleman, among others, has shown year round vegetable production is possible even in the harsh climes of Illinois. August is the time to start planning and even planting for your winter garden.


Winter harvested broccoli Photo:

Winter harvested broccoli Photo:

Illinois is as far south as the Mediterranean Sea and receives more winter sunlight than the South of France.  Taking advantage of this fact and using unheated and minimally heated greenhouses and row covers one can enjoy freshly harvested vegetables in the dead of winter. Common vegetable crops that are produced in Illinois for fall and winter harvest include cole crops, several varieties of greens and several hardy bulb type crops as well.


Cauliflower in the winter Photo:

Cauliflower in the winter Photo:



A fall and winter garden will add more vegetables to your supply and make use of you garden plot for a much longer time. The fall garden requires less time and labor because the soil was already worked up in the spring. Many vegetables, such as kale and Swiss chard, are known to develop a better flavor when harvested after the weather freezes. Many other crops, such as broccoli and cauliflower, develop a higher quality when grown in the fall rather than during the mid-summer.


Winter crops in a hoop house  Photo: Chiot’s Run blog

Winter crops in a hoop house Photo: Chiot’s Run blog


If you do plan to grow vegetables for fall and winter harvest, right now is a prime time to start planting. According to the University of Illinois Extension:


“Timing is critical for this type of production to be successful. August signals an important time period to begin seeding a number of crops. The idea is to get the majority of the growth the plants need completed before the coldest temperatures of winter arrive.”

When planting in August or September for the fall and winter garden you generally follow what is done when planting in the spring but there are several things to keep in mind. It is generally hotter and drier this time of year and this should be taken into consideration. The soil temperature will be higher at the end of summer compared to the spring. For several types of vegetables this will affect the germination rate.

Many growers who do grow in the fall and winter use various types of protection to enhance their ability to produce a crop during this time of year. The use of floating row covers and hoop houses will give the grower an advantage and will provide good protection against cold, frost and drying wind. Row covers and plastic can even be used inside a hoop house giving and added layer of protection to crops. Of course, a hoop house can also be heated if you want to go through the expense of doing so.


Crops growing in hoop house in the winter Photo:

Crops growing in hoop house in the winter Photo:

The planting dates for a number of fall vegetable crops for Central Illinois are up to this week for beets, carrots, endive, snap beans and summer squash. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage can be planted now as well and can be directly seeded but they generally do better from transplants. Kohlrabi and winter radish can be planted from August 15th to the 24th. Leaf lettuce, mustard, spinach, spring radish can be seeded from mid-August to mid-September.




A couple of great resources for planning a winter garden are two books by Eliot Coleman.  His

Four-Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook are extensive in detailing how to grow vegetables even in winter in cold climates like Maine, where he resides. Using different techniques and types of protection as shown in these books, vegetables can be grown in all four seasons in our Illinois climate.

August 5, 2013

Be on the lookout for the Spotted Wing Drosophila!

According to a recent press release put out by the University of Illinois Extension an invasive pest that is relatively new to Illinois, the Spotted Wing Drosophila, has been found again this year in various locations in Illinois. Last fall samples were found in Peoria County and according to University of Illinois Extension Entomologist Dr. Rick Weinzierl, “It likely is present in most, if not all, of the counties in Illinois.”

The Spotted Wing Drosophila Photo: Michigan State University

The Spotted Wing Drosophila Photo: Michigan State University

The Spotted Wing Drosophila is a pest that will attack thinned skinned fruits including cherries, blueberries, grapes, nectarines, pears, plums, peaches, raspberries, and strawberries. They are also a moderate risk to tomatoes. The insects will lay its eggs into ripening fruit before fruit is ready for harvest. Infested fruits are destroyed due to larval feeding and subsequent rot.

The adult Spotted Wing Drosophila is tan with red eyes and is tiny, 2-3 millimeter long. Males have dark spots on their wings. Adults live up to 2 weeks, and females can lay up to 300 eggs. Development from egg to adult can occur in as little as eight days, and 10 or more generations may occur within a season.

The Larval Stage of the Spotted Wing Drosophila Photo: University of California

The Larval Stage of the Spotted Wing Drosophila Photo: University of California

The insect is a somewhat new pest arriving in North America as late as 2008. According to Wikipedia:

Drosophila suzukii, commonly called the spotted-wing drosophila, is a vinegar fly—closely related to Drosophila melanogaster (the common vinegar fly). Native to southeast Asia, D. suzukii was first described in 1931 by Matsumura. Observed in Japan as early as 1916 by T. Kanzawa, D. suzukii was widely observed throughout parts of Japan, Korea, and China by the early 1930s. By the 1980s, the “fruit fly” with the spotted wings was seen in Hawaii. It first appeared in North America in central California in August 2008 and is now widespread throughout California’s coastal counties, western Oregon, western Washington, and parts of British Columbia and Florida. During the summer of 2010 the fly was discovered for the first time in South Carolina, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Utah. In fall 2010 the fly was also discovered in Michigan and Wisconsin. The pest has also been found in Europe, including the countries of Italy, France, and Spain.

The Spotted Wing Drosophila on a Raspberry Photo: University of California

The Spotted Wing Drosophila on a Raspberry Photo: University of California

Damaged Cherries due to The Spotted Wing Drosophila  Photo:

Damaged Cherries due to The Spotted Wing Drosophila Photo:

There was a $500 million loss due to pest damage in 2008 which was the first year the Spotted Wing Drosophila was observed in California. This is an indication of the potential damage the pest can cause after introduction to a new location. Economic losses have now been reported across North America and in Europe as the fly has spread to new areas.

This year’s samples in Illinois were found in traps placed in raspberries at the University of Illinois Research Farm near Urbana.  Infested fruit was also found south of Springfield. To avoid finding the small white maggots of this pest in your crops it is suggested that you remove and destroy overripe fruit and keep fruit harvested.

To monitor presence of the adults a simple trap can be made out of a clear plastic cup with numerous small holes and a plastic wrap lid and hung in the shade near raspberries. Apple cider vinegar is used as bait in the bottom of the cup and this will keep the flies trapped until they can be identified.

The Spotted Wing Drosophila Photo: Washington State University

The Spotted Wing Drosophila Photo: Washington State University

Further information can be found at the following sites: