Are you an avid vegetable gardener or maybe you just want to know more about growing food?University of Illinois Extension has brought you this new resource that is sure to be a "garden changer" for the novice and the expert!Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest is out now and available to help you with your gardening goals.


The third edition of "Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest" was recently released and is now available for purchase.This valuable reference discusses all major and minor vegetable crops in the Midwest, providing recommended varieties and specific information on when to plant, spacing and depth of planting, care throughout the growing season, common problems and best harvesting practices.It is a comprehensive guide to successfully growing vegetables in our area, containing useful tips that have been field tested for almost 40 years.

A team of Extension specialists, led by Elizabeth Wahle, took up the project of completing the third edition update.

"We decided to keep the focus on the beginner, not production gardening," Wahle said, although she admits there is something in this edition for everyone."A lot of time was invested in updating the recommended varieties, so gardeners would have more information on the individuality of specific vegetable varieties."

Wahle's team did an excellent job updating recommendations for specific varieties of vegetables to reflect current availability, which is invaluable to gardeners, from beginner to advance levels.For convenience, variety recommendations have been organized into their own chapter, listing quite a bit of additional detail on each to include information such as days to maturity, relative disease resistance and a comments section that directs attention to other important specifics.

Another wonderful attribute of this publication is the photography."Line drawings included in past editions were sufficient, but this recent update includes actual pictures that add much more detail," Wahle said.The high-quality images included in this update replace or supplement line drawings in older editions to add a magnificent new level of detail.

The updated print edition of "Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest" may be purchased at the University of Illinois Extension McLean County Office at 1615 Commerce Parkway in Bloomington at (309) 663-8306 or at by searching the title above.

Amaryllis bulbs are commonplace in decorating for the holiday because of their bold, grand, exquisite presences drawing you across the room for a closer look.My experience in growing these show stopping flowers began in the research greenhouse at the University of Illinois.I was t in charge of growing amaryllis flowers for Diane Noland's topiary lesson.The lesson was always one of the last lessons for the semester and be close to the holidays.Each year after cutting my prized stems, the leaves would start to form and I would fertilize and grow as I did my other tropical in the greenhouse.Then in the early summer, I would force them to go dormant by laying the pots on their side in a dark location withholding water and removing leaves as they turned yellow In the fall 6-8 weeks before before the lesson, I would repot and begin to water.Most bulbs you buy in the garden center during October and November are ready to flower and have already experienced dormancy.Some are already in pot and will be closer to blooming.

Planting New

  1. Place bulb in pot about one or two inches wider than the bulb in soilless media found in the garden center.Can plant three in pot for greater display.Buy bigger, firm, healthy looking bulbs.
  2. The lower half of the bulb and any roots that may have already formed should be below the soil line and water until it comes out the drainage holes
  3. Place in sunny warm location
  4. Water sparingly
  5. Turn plant daily as soon as flowering stalk has emerged from the bulb
  6. When in bloom, place in cooler location out of direct sun so that it will bloom longer

Reblooming from Houseplant

  1. Once flowers fade remove flowering scape
  2. Allow foliage to grow and treat like other houseplants, placing outside when temperatures warm.Let the soil dry between waterings and fertilizer regularly.
  3. The bulb will need to go through a resting period for approximately eight to twelve weeks before it can be forced to bloom again.
  4. The bulb will need to resume growing for 4-8 weeks before you will have your show stopping flower display.For a December first class, I had to resume growth in early to mid-October.

Go out and buy your bulbs, soilless media and pots now for an easy to grow and brilliant holiday décor sure to light up a room.

Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educator Kristin Bogdonas, far right, leads a Smarter Lunchrooms program in Illinois. Bogdonas is on a team that received ICE grant funding to identify effective Smarter Lunchroom techniques and address food waste concerns.
Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educator Kristin Bogdonas, far right, leads a Smarter Lunchrooms program in Illinois.Bogdonas is on a team that received ICE grant funding to identify effective Smarter Lunchroom techniques and address food waste concerns.
URBANA, Ill.–Seven projects have been selected to receive funding in the 2018 Interdisciplinary Collaboration Extension (ICE) grant competition.ICE grants fund partnerships between University of Illinois Extension personnel and faculty in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences for projects that will use campus-based research to enhance the quality of life of people in communities across Illinois.Project themes vary widely –from improving school nutrition programs to helping farmers manage nitrogen application –but all focus on research with practical applications for Illinois residents.Each winning team will receive up to $60,000 that can be spent over two years to enact their projects.Of 22 total proposals submitted for review, seven were selected for funding, described below.All departmental affiliations are in the College of ACES unless noted otherwise.An interdisciplinary collaboration to improve child diet quality and reduce wasted food in school nutrition programs
Principal Investigator:Melissa Pflugh Prescott, Assistant Professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition
Co-Principal Investigators:Kristin Bogdonas, Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educator;Brenna Ellison, Associate Professor, Agricultural and Consumer Economics;Ashley Hoffman, SNAP-Ed Extension EducatorOver 29,000 U.S.schools have implemented Smarter Lunchroom strategies, which aim to reduce food waste and encourage students to increase their consumption of vegetables and healthy foods.Recent critiques have questioned whether the program's effects on consumer behavior are meaningful or overstated.This project will implement and evaluate Smarter Lunchrooms interventions at two schools –Stark County Elementary School and Bethel Grade School District 82 –in order to develop a simulation tool that identifies effective Smarter Lunchroom techniques and addresses food waste concerns.Chicago safe soils initiative:developing and disseminating tools to identify and mitigate soil heavy metal risks to urban stakeholders
Principal Investigators:Andrew Margenot, Assistant Professor, Crop Sciences;Zack Grant, Local Food Systems and Small Farms Extension Educator
Co-Principal Investigator:Nico Martin, Assistant Professor, Crop Sciences
Collaborators:Laura Calvert, Executive Director, Advocates for Urban Agriculture;Mark Clark, Clinical Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northwestern UniversityIn the Chicago metropolitan region, Extension and College of ACES researchers have identified hotspots of lead in soils being used for food production and uncertainty from stakeholders on how to identify and manage soil lead contamination.This project will develop open-access tools to identify soil contamination, inform stakeholder decision-making, and develop evidence-based guidelines for managing soil lead risk to food production in the Chicago metropolitan region.Pest and beneficial insects in Illinois cover crops
Principal Investigators:Nicholas Seiter, Research Assistant Professor, Crop Sciences;Duane Friend, Energy and Environmental Stewardship Extension Educator;Nathan Johanning, Local Food Systems and Small Farms Extension Educator;Ken Johnson, Horticulture Extension EducatorPractical recommendations for integrated pest management are still evolving for systems that incorporate cover crops, and are currently based largely on anecdotal information rather than empirical data.This project will identify the pest and beneficial insect complex that inhabits rye cover crops in Illinois and develop appropriate monitoring recommendations for producers.Putting University of Illinois Extension at the forefront of the coming data-intensive farm managementrevolution:A tool to help farmers turn on-farm experiments into profitable decisions
Principal Investigator:N.Dennis Bowman, Commercial Agriculture Extension Educator
Co-Principal Investigators:David Bullock, Professor, Agricultural and Consumer Economics;Nicolas Martin, Assistant Professor, Crop Sciences
Collaborators:Shaowen Wang, Professor, Geography and Geographic Information Science;Phillip Alberti, Commercial Agriculture Extension Educator;Talon Becker, Commercial Agriculture Extension Educator;Russel Higgins, Commercial Agriculture Extension Educator;Jessica Soule, Commercial Agriculture Extension EducatorInefficient application of nitrogen fertilizer on farm fields lowers both farm income and water quality.This project will test and refine a new decision tool software package designed to enable extension personnel and certified crop advisors (CCAs) to discuss nitrogen management with farmers, based on data from their own farms.It will also offer training to Extension professionals to train CCAs to run on-farm trials with their farmer clients, and use the resulting data to improve input management.Rainbow Extension 3.0:Building supportive communities through Extension programming
Co-Principal Investigators:Ramona Faith Oswald, Professor and Interim Head, Human Development and Family Studies;Anne Silvis, Extension Program Leader, Community and Economic Development
Collaborators:Annie Hobson, 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator;Laura L.Payne, Professor and Extension Specialist, Recreation, Sport and Tourism;Lisa Diaz, Extension Program Leader, 4-HAccording to the 2013 Williams Institute report, there are 368,700 individuals in Illinois who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ).Research shows that LGBTQ individuals experience amplified risk for poor physical and mental health and that building community supports can buffer these outcomes.This project will engage Extension educators statewide to survey the needs, barriers, and social climate experienced by LGBTQ individuals in their communities, to better address the physical and mental health disparities faced by LGBTQ individuals and work toward building more supportive and affirming communities.Reducing the impacts of phytophthora root rot and stem blight through outreach and the development of molecular-based management tools
Principal Investigator:Nathan Kleczewski, Research Assistant Professor and Extension Pathologist, Crop Sciences

Mohammed Babadoost, University of Illinois go to plant pathologist, says, "This year's processing pumpkin crop is the best it has been in the last two decades." Babadoost attributes the success of the pumpkin crop to new varieties, more successful management of diseases like downy mildew and phytophtera by the growers and drought during the summer that does not favor some of these disease pressures.Babadoost has spent years in his career being a resource to pumpkin growers across the state.

Some readers may not know that Illinois is the top producing pumpkin state in the United States, whether it is jack-o-lanterns or pumpkin for processing.

More than 90% of the pumpkin pie filling sold in the United States comes from two processing plants located near Peoria, Illinois.Babadoost also states, "This year the pumpkins feeding into those plants are yielding a record breaking 27 tons per acre.The average is about 23.This is pretty amazing given that a plant disease nearly wiped out the whole industry in the state a couple of decades ago." These processing pumpkins are not the jack-o-lantern or pie pumpkin type that reminds you of fall but are a different species that produces fine textured and dark orange flesh but look more like buff colored watermelons on the outside.

For those of us at home, who tried are thumb at growing pumpkins, may not have had the same success story.If the gardener did not have a preventative practice to controlling powdery mildew, they may have lost all their leaf covering causing their pumpkins to sunburn in the warm sunny weather of our late summer.Babadoost said, "Most growers use a preventative program for powdery mildew starting in the last week of July before they see the telltale white fungal spores on the leaves." He said that treatments like potassium of fatty acids and sulfur can be very effective on powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew also becomes prolific if the weather is hot and dry.It can affect other vine crops like cucumber, melons, squash, and ornamental gourds.It is spread by wind.The disease attacks the lower surface of the leaves first, meaning scouting for the disease during the appropriate environmental conditions is crucial.The white mycelium eventually covers the entire leaf.The following cultural tips can help you grow a better crop of pumpkins

  1. Do not overcrowd these plants as air circulation is crucial in preventing disease
  2. Rotate, do not plant your squash or pumpkins in the same place in the garden year after year
  3. Scout early and control early
  4. Harvest pumpkins if leaves have fallen off from disease and leaves three to four inches of stem so the pumpkins will keep well.

Other issues on pumpkins this year were lesions from sitting on moist soils, bacterial leaf spot, squash bug feeding damage and phytophtera.

If you are a planner, you have most likely jotted down the dishes that you plan to cook and present to your family on Thanksgiving Day.Perhaps you are sticking with traditional favorites or trying something new to shake things up.

My role in the family dinner is to help procure the ingredients.Last year, I challenged myself to buy mostly local ingredients for the big meal and I plan to keep the tradition alive.Not only will I support local farmers and producers, but the ingredients will be the freshest for our very special meal.You, too, can buy local and eat local this Thanksgiving holiday.

•Attend the 12th Downtown Bloomington Annual Thanksgiving Farmers Market at Grossinger Motors Arena from 9 to 11 a.m.Nov.17.Local farmers will provide a range of products including fruits, vegetables, herbs, dairy, pork, beef, poultry, pastries and eggs.Most people would agree that food tastes better when it is fresher.I do not have to be an expert to say that the eggs my dad gave me from his own chickens tasted better than anything I could buy in the store.

Last Thanksgiving, our table was adorned with Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, cheese, eggs and cupcakes, all from local producers.

•Buy local honey instead of using sugar.Go to a farmers' market, Green Top Grocery, Common Grounds grocery, or visit the Central Illinois Beekeeper Association on Facebook to obtain the sweet stuff locally.Honey has minerals, vitamins and is a natural energy booster.Last Thanksgiving, I found fresh local honey at a large chain store and used it to drizzle on our sweet potatoes and in our hot teas.

•Buy your breads, rolls, pies and cookies from a local bakery.Some will have seasonal specials and hours.Some will have a booth at the Thanksgiving Farmers Market.Last Thanksgiving, I went to my favorite bread store and got a seasonal savory option and their most popular dessert bread.

•Go to a local meat shop or ask your grocer if the meat has been produced locally.Last Thanksgiving, we had a local restaurant cook our turkey for us.It not only freed up the kitchen, but was smoked and delicious.

•Buy several pumpkins and canned pumpkin for the big day.A farmer in Illinois most likely grew those pumpkins that are highlighted in your decorative display and the pumpkins from which you make pie.Despite early growing concerns about disease outbreaks, Illinois has had a great year for pumpkin production.

Growing degree days since April 1:1849 GDD (Average (11 year):1669) (From the Illinois State Water Survey Degree-Day Calculator)

4 inch soil temp:79.3°F (10 am 4-inch soil temperature under bare soil) (From the Illinois State Water Survey Illinois Climate Network)

Study offers new method of identifying sweet corn hybrids for increased yield and profit.Corn hybrids with improved tolerance to crowding stress, grown at higher plant populations than their predecessors, have been a driver of rising field corn yields in recent decades.Large differences in crowding stress tolerance (CST) recently reported among popular sweet corn processing hybrids has growers and processors wondering if newly emerging hybrids also offer improved CST.For more information, click here.

Food Safety Considerations for Food Crops.According to the Illinois State Climatologist, after a record-setting June, as well as a wet May beforehand and a wet July so far, we are seeing the agricultural impacts of the wet growing season.Right now, the state-wide July precipitation in Illinois is at 3.1 inches.That is about 50% above the long-term average for this time in the month.

With all of this precipitation, what are the issues facing growers in light of our current growing conditions?Flooding is defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "flowing or overflowing of a field with water outside a grower's control." Due to microbial and other concerns, produce cannot be harvested and sold into the public food supply once it contacts flood water.The FDA publication, Guidance for Industry:Evaluating the Safety of Flood-affected Food Crops for Human Consumption, provides guidance to growers on how to evaluate the safety of flood-affected food crops for human consumption including:

  • safety of food crops when flood waters contacted the edible portions of the crops;
  • safety of food crops when flood waters did NOT contact the edible portions of the crops;
  • assessment of flood-affected fields before replanting;and
  • additional controls to avoid cross-contamination after flooding.
For more information, check out the article, Food Safety Considerations for Flooded Vegetable Crops in the July 9 issue of Vegetable Crops Hotline.For organic growers, check out this excellent article by Jim Riddle, Impact of Flooding on Organic Food and Fields, that explores the immediate and long-term impacts of flooding on organic farms, foods, and fields. Jim also presented a webinar on this topic that is available on eXtension at Flooding and Organic Certification Webinar.
Mark Your Calendar - 2015 Pumpkin Day.Illinois is the leading state in pumpkin production.More than 90% of processing pumpkins produced in the United States are grown and processed in Illinois.If you want to learn more about raising pumpkins or get the latest information on new varieties and pest management practices, make sure to attend the annual Pumpkin Field Day hosted by the University of Illinois Extension.The 2015 Pumpkin Field Day will be held on Wednesday, Sept.2 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m..For additional information and to register, click here.

Growing degree days since April 1:1690 GDD (Average (11 year):1490) (From the Illinois State Water Survey Degree-Day Calculator)

4 inch soil temp:75.7°F (10 am 4-inch soil temperature under bare soil) (From the Illinois State Water Survey Illinois Climate Network)

They're Back!!! Japanese Beetle have been with us for several weeks now.They will feed on over 250 different plants, but do have their favorites.Sevin is a very effective product against the beetle.When you first notice the beetles, take action, as they send out pheromones when feeding begins, letting their buddies know about the feast.(Mike Roegge, University of Illinois Extension) Click here for a University of Illinois publication that discusses the discusses lifecycle, scouting and management.

Spotted Wing Drosophila.Since June 22 we have consistently captured a few spotted wing Drosophila flies in traps at the University of Illinois Fruit Research Farm at Urbana (12 traps checked 2-3 times per week).Numbers of adults captured in traps have not been high (less than 3 per trap over 2-3 days), and nearly all have been females.On June 17 we first found larvae in mulberries and tart cherries by using sugar water flotation, and earlier this week we found 90 larvae per 50-gram sample of black raspberries and 197 larvae per 50-gram sample of red raspberries.(Samples came from unsprayed plants at University of Illinois Fruit Research Farm at Urbana.) Everyone who grows raspberries and blackberries commercially (and backyard growers as well) must control this insect to see a marketable or usable crop.See the March 19, 2015, issue of the Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News for information on scouting and management.(Dr.Rick Weinzierl, University of Illinois) Click here for some short post-harvest interval (PHI) and organic options. Also check out this article, New Research Shows Spotted Wing Drosophila Repellent Naturally Produced in Fruits here.

Healthy Soil is a Weather Risk Management Tool, According to Report.Healthy soil can protect us from drought and flood impacts, saving farms, rural communities, and even the American agriculture industry, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation.Can Soil Save Us?Making the Case for Cover Crops as Extreme Weather Risk Management details the many benefits of investing in healthy soil as protection from natural disasters.The report is available online. A great resource for cover crop information can be found on the Midwest Cover Crops Council website @

Interested in urban agriculture and community gardens? If so, check out the upcoming 3rd Annual Roots to Rooftop event.School and community gardens, a rooftop garden, and an urban farm will be on display on Sunday, July 19.There will be a bike tour from 10:00 am-12:30 pm and a car tour from 1:00-4:30. For more information, click here.

Growing degree days since April 1:1534 GDD (Average (11 year):1311) (From the Illinois State Water Survey Degree-Day Calculator)

4 inch soil temp:72.6°F (10 am 4-inch soil temperature under bare soil) (From the Illinois State Water Survey Illinois Climate Network)

Wettest June on Record for Illinois.Illinois now has its wettest June on record with a statewide average rainfall of 8.91 inches as of June 27.More rain is expected through June 30.
  1. 2015 with 8.91 inches (as of 6/27)
  2. 1902 with 8.27 inches
  3. 2010 with 7.71 inches
  4. 1998 with 7.64 inches
  5. 2000 with 7.34 inches

Statewide records for Illinois go back to 1895. For more information from the State Climatologist Office for Illinois, click here.

All the rains and high humidity are causing nearly all fruit and vegetable crops disease issues. Tomatoes are no exception.Early blight and Septoria leaf spot (see photo) are the two most common fungal diseases.These organisms survive year to year in soil.The best option to provide control is to keep any soil from splashing onto lower leaves.There they produce spores and the next rain splashes them onto the next higher set of leaves, and the disease progresses up the plant.Just as soon as the plants are in the ground- mulch.The problem is that rain can splash these spores into the air, so moving the tomatoes some distance away is very helpful.These diseases can survive in the soil for several years.Chlorothalonil, a general use fungicide, can provide some help with these diseases.For more info, check out the University of Illinois Extension's Common Problems for Vegetable Crops @ information on organic control of Septoria leaf spot of tomatoes, click here and for information on early blight management for organic tomato production, click here.
Agritourism Farmer Training Intensive, August 1-2 at Prairie Fruits Farm &Creamery in Champaign.Agritourism offers farmers the opportunity to bring the public onto their farms and tell the story of their products.At the same time, it can be a powerful, untapped revenue stream, but there are many barriers to success that can be difficult to overcome.The Land Connection will host an intensive workshop on agritourism from August 1 to August 2 at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Champaign, Illinois, which was named an Illinois Agriculture Agri-Tourism Leader for 2013.Register online here.
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