News from the Research Desk

News from the Research Desk Blog

Curcubit Pests

Cucumbers, pumpkins, summer and winter squash are all from the Cucurbitaceae or gourd family. And being from the same family (as in taxonomic rank), all varieties of curcubits can succumb to the same diseases and pests.

minicuke flowerAt this stage of the growing season (i.e. late June), curcubits typically are flowering and getting ready to set fruit. One may even be seeing fruit on the vines of these plants. But now is the time to beware of common problems associated with these plants in the home garden.

Squash beetles, squash bugs, and squash vine borers are prevalent in northeast Illinois. These pests specifically target curcubits in all forms but there are methods to take that can eradicate or mitigate their effect on the plant’s health. Powdery mildew is another common problem associated with curcubits and can be avoided if they are well-spaced in the garden and located in full sun.

Here is some useful information on how to deal with these problems from the Illinois Extension: Good Growing–The Trouble with Curcubits.

IL Business Interruption Grant (BIG) Program begins June 23

From the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO):

DCEO will launch the first round of Business Interruption Grants (BIG) by providing $60 million to businesses experiencing losses or business interruption as a result of COVID-19 related closures. DCEO will begin distributing funds to qualifying businesses in early July.
In the first wave of grants, priority will be given to small businesses that have been heavily restricted or completely shut down during the pandemic and are located in disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs). Businesses eligible for the program must have experienced extreme hardship, demonstrated by eligible costs or losses in excess of the grant amount, since March and may continue to face depressed revenues or closure. Businesses must also have been in operation for at least three months prior to March 2020. An emphasis will also be placed on those businesses that are located in areas that have experienced recent property damage due to civil unrest, exacerbating the economic impacts of COVID-19.
Specifically, the program includes support for:

Businesses in DIAs – $20 million for businesses that are located in a subset of DIAs that have recently experienced significant property damage, providing 1,000 grants of $20,000 each

Bars and Restaurants – $20 million for bars and restaurants unable to offer outside service, providing at least 1,000 grants of up to $20,000 each

Barbershops and Salons – $10 million for barbershops and salons, providing 1,000 grants of $10,000 each

Gyms and Fitness Centers – $10 million for gyms and fitness centers that have lost significant revenue due to COVID-19, providing 500 grants of $20,000 each

The application for BIG will be available on Tuesday, June 23–keep checking site for updates.

Hot Weather Watering

Now that the days are warming up and hot weather is here to stay, watering the vegetable garden can be a tricky business. The most common mistake a new vegetable gardener can make is over-watering. Outdoor garden plants generally need about one inch of water per week.

watering cans

The best approach is to water deeply and infrequently (i.e. weekly). Deep watering encourages deep root growth–if watering is done often and sparsely, roots will will stay nearer the soil surface, eventually stunting plant growth. Rainfall should be taken in to account when assessing the water needs of garden plants. One strategy to ensure sufficient watering is to water at the base of a plant and count to 20. Come back in 30 minutes and check to see if the soil is moist down at least 6 inches.

The timing of when to water is also an important consideration. On hot days, it’s best to water very early in the morning before the sun is hot enough to evaporate the soil moisture of newly watered plants. Some home gardeners opt to water in the evening during hot weather, but if the leaves of garden plants are left wet overnight one risks the growth of powdery mildew.

The use of mulch (straw, wood chips, leaves etc.) can help retain soil moisture and suppress weed growth. In the case of tomatoes and potatoes, mulch serves an extra purpose as it keeps the soil from splashing on the leaves and infecting the plant with soil-borne fungi and disease.

Check out this article for more information: Illinois Extension: New Vegetable Garden Maintenance–Weed and Watering.

Garlic Scape Season

bed of garlicGrowing garlic in home gardens is easy and fun. And one of the best times of the year for growing garlic is garlic scape time!

There are two types of garlic, hardneck and softneck. Softneck is typically the variety sold in grocery stores as it can be stored longer than hardneck. Hardneck garlic is the variety that produces a garlic scape–essentially a hard flower stalk

bed of garlicGarlic scapes should be cut from the stalk when they are long enough to curl back toward the stalk. By removing them, the plant will be using it’s energy to increase the garlic bulb/head size instead of toward flowering and seed production.

Garlic scapes are also delicious and can be used in place of garlic in most any recipe. Here’s a link to some recipe ideas: University of Illinois Extension: Game for Garlic Scapes?

Here in northeast Illinois, garlic should be planted in the fall, 6 to 8 weeks before the ground is expected to freeze. But even garlic planted in late November to early December can produce good-sized garlic heads. Garlic is typically ready to harvest in mid to late July. Check out this guide from the University of Illinois Extension: Growing Garlic.

Cook County Community Recovery Loan Fund Now Accepting Applications

Cook County has launched an initiative to provide economic relief to small businesses and independent contractors in response to COVID-19. Beginning today, the Community Recovery Loan Fund is accepting applications. The $10 million fund offers one-time, zero-interest loans up to $20,000 for small businesses and up to $10,000 for independent contractors. The fund is only available in Suburban Cook County. Application deadline is June 17, 2020
Who can apply?
Small Businesses  are eligible if they are: 
  • Employing 25 or fewer employees
  • Earning less than $3 million in annual revenue
  • Located in suburban Cook County, and
  • Revenues have decreased more than 25% as a result of COVID-19
Independent Contractors  are eligible if you are:
  • Making at least half of your yearly income in 1099 contract work 
  • Earning less than $100,000 annually 
  • Residing in suburban Cook County