Indoor Herb Care – Winter Edition...

After the past few frosty weeks, fresh herbs on the windowsill are a welcome sight in the home of a gardener with an itchy green thumb. Whether you’ve transplanted them from your garden or are eyeing some at the grocery store, we have a few tips for you to keep them in the best shape while they grow indoors throughout the next several months. Type of pot and soil Make sure your pot has a drainage hole at the bottom. If your decorative pot does not have a drainage hole, pot your herb plant in a plastic pot (with a drainage hole) that is slightly smaller than the decorative pot. Place this inside the decorative pot, and keep an eye on the water level so your plant roots aren’t sitting in water. If you’ve transplanted your herbs from outdoors, use lightweight potting soil to fill out the pot. A good potting soil will contain expanded perlite in addition to organic material. Perlite allows for better drainage and air flow around roots that are confined in a pot. Light  Right now in Chicagoland the days are not only growing shorter, but the sun is also positioned lower in the sky. This means that plants have much less light available, so you can expect them to grow more slowly. Be sure to put your plants in south or west facing windows where they can get at least six hours of light per day. If this isn’t an option, you might consider inexpensive grow lights to supplement. A 60-watt incandescent plant & aquarium bulb installed in a clip lamp 10″ inches above the plants will help during the darkest days of winter. If you are using a compact fluorescent bulb, you can position it just a few...

Summer Fungi Aren’t So Fun...

Summer weather has begun! While heat and humidity are favorable to growth for many of our favorite summer fruits and vegetables, they are also favorable to many diseases in the garden. The first signs – yellowing leaves, brown streaks, and white fuzzy patches – are easy to ignore at first, but left alone, they will spread throughout the plant and the rest of your garden fairly quickly. Here are some of the issues we’re seeing now, or will see soon: Cucumbers, Zucchini, Squash and Melons – Powdery Mildew Powdery mildew starts off as small, fuzzy white dots on the tops and bottoms of leaves of plants in the cucurbit family. Unless you’re looking at the plant very closely, it’s easy to miss, as the white dots can blend in with the textured leaves. Once the fungus has spread, the entire leaf will be covered with white or grayish-white ‘film’. As soon as you see this on your plant, carefully remove heavily infected leaves (leaves fully covered  with the white, fuzzy mycelium of the fungus) and deposit in the trash. Try to snip, rather than tear off the leaves, and be sure not to shake the powdery “dust” which contains the spores onto other leaves. Do not compost the leaves either, as the spores can survive until next year and go on to start new fungal infections. Treat leaves that have just a few spots, or leaves with no spots but are on the same plant as other infected leaves with any of the following sprays approved for organic gardening: GreenCure, Serenade, or Actinovate. Follow the directions on the labels carefully. Anti-fungal sprays are best applied on the tops and bottoms of the leaves in the evening, out of direct sunlight. You can also try a homemade...

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