2018 was Kentucky’s wettest year on record, and the new year seems to be more of the same. This means most livestock producers are dealing with less than ideal conditions, and cattle are showing signs of stress.
“It is important to understand this winter has been relatively easy temperature-wise but difficult for cattle in Kentucky,” said Michelle Arnold, ruminant extension veterinarian for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “Cows of all ages are losing weight now at levels typically seen in late winter.”
Prolonged cloudy, wet weather with regular bouts of rain has resulted in muddy conditions that require substantially more energy in feed just to maintain body heat.
“Hay quality is also exceptionally poor this year, as much of it was cut very ripe, rained on while curing and baled with enough moisture to support mold growth,” Arnold said.
Winter feeding programs on many farms aren’t enough to support cattle this year, especially those in late pregnancy or early lactation, or their newborn calves, even though bitter cold hasn’t been a factor to this point.
Arnold explained that cattle have several defenses against cold, the first of which is their hair coat. The coat grows longer in the winter and helps conserve heat and repel cold. If an animal’s coat cover is wet and muddy, its energy requirements can easily double, especially if the animal has no wind protection.
“Energy from intake of hay that is adequate for maintenance in normal years is falling far short of the requirement this year,” she said. “Cold conditions are not too difficult for cattle, but when rain and wind are added, heat loss is multiplied several times by the effects of conduction and evaporation. Under these circumstances, the ‘wind chill factor’ referred to by the meteorologist has real meaning to a cow.”
To combat this, producers need to supplement cattle with adequate energy and protein sources. Hay of unknown nutritional quality often does not provide enough nutrition to meet the animal’s basic requirements. This will result in depletion of body fat stores, followed by breakdown of muscle protein and finally death due to insufficient nutrition.
“Typically, near the end of most winters, both veterinary diagnostic laboratories in Kentucky receive older beef cows for necropsy,” Arnold said. “This winter, malnutrition cases include young cows and pre-weaning/weaning age calves, indicating serious nutritional deficiencies in the feedstuffs, especially the hay produced last summer. The producer may first notice a cow getting weak in the rear end. Later she is found down and is unable to stand. Death follows within a day or two after going down. Multiple animals may die within a short period of time.”
At necropsy, the pathologist may find a thin animal with no body fat stores, but the rumen is full of bulky, dry forage material which is poor quality hay. Even the small seam of fat normally found on the surface of the heart is gone, indicating the last storage area in the body for fat has been used up.
Despite having had access to free choice hay, these cattle died from starvation. Although hay may look and smell good, unless a producer tests the hay for nutritional content, he or she does not know the true feed value of that harvested forage.
“It is often difficult for producers to bring themselves to the realization that cattle can actually starve to death while consuming all of the hay they can eat,” Arnold said.
She also encouraged producers to look at their mineral supplementation, as copper and selenium levels have been far below acceptable levels this year. Deficiencies can lead to multiple problems, and it’s best to address them before they get to that point.
“We want producers to understand how important it is to test their hay. It is simple, inexpensive, and the results are easy to interpret,” Arnold said. “Your local Cooperative Extension Service office can help you. Other than that, review your nutrition program, and if your cows are losing weight, consider supplemental feed to get them through the rest of the winter.”
UK beef specialists Kevin Laurent, Jeff Lehmkuhler and Roy Burris created an online supplemental feeding tool at http://forage-supplement-tool.ca.uky.edu/, where producers may enter hay test values and stage of production to help find appropriate supplements for many operations. Producers should still monitor intake and body condition through the winter and make sure cattle have clean drinking water and access to a complete mineral supplement.
Michelle Arnold, 859-257-8283
It’s officially a New Year! Avid gardeners setting goals this year have the best of intentions, but then life happens and it steers them away from their goals. Make 2019 a more successful gardening season with SMART goals! SMART goals give gardeners more direction, which helps them accomplish their gardening goals during the busy season. Read on to discover more about the basic principles of SMART gardening goals, so you can apply them!
SPECIFIC & START SMALL
Gardening is the number one hobby and activity for most Americans and it has a lot of areas to cover from flower gardening, vegetable gardening, herb gardening, and even edible landscaping. So when setting goals, be more specific rather than general. Instead of making the goal “I want to grow a garden this year”, make statements like “I want to install two, 4’ x 8’ raised bed gardens in the back yard to grow a pizza garden this year.” This garden goal is more specific than the first statement.
The other part of the S is to start small. It seems that gardeners make several resolutions at the beginning of the year and can’t make them all happen at once. It takes time to make a behavior a habit, so focus on one goal at a time. If installing 2 new raised bed gardens this year, wait and add more later in the fall or even next year before installing 10 at one time. Try and not overwhelm yourself.
Secondly, make goals measurable by giving yourself checkpoints like daily, weekly, and monthly to cross. Go a step further and give yourself a mid-year and end of the year step. Feel free to add a few other steps in between if needed. By placing checkpoints along the way, goals are much more “do-able”. Plus, it makes it easier to focus on the checkpoints rather than the big goal.
Evaluate the goals and find out if it is achievable. Ask yourself a few questions: Do you have the ability to complete the goal? Do you have the right skills or tools needed to reach that specific goal? Is the goal realistic for you? If you answered no to those questions, don’t feel bad. Simply adapt and change the goals to make it easier to accomplish. Don’t set yourself up for failure. You are hoping to make improvements in the New Year, not go backwards!
Make sure that the goal is relevant to YOU! What garden goal is the most important to YOU and would bring YOU joy? If the garden goal fits both categories, there is a greater desire to keep after the goal to make improvements for the gardening season. If you have multiple goals, ask yourself the “why” part of the garden goal. For example, the reason that “I want to install one 4’ x 8’ raised bed garden in the back yard to grow a pizza garden this year” is to serve as a form of exercise and reap the benefits of the harvest by using the fresh ingredients to make fresh homemade pizzas at home to feed my family.
Lastly, have a deadline in mind of when you want to cross the finish line for the goal. With gardening, it is best to first organize thoughts, make a plan on paper, and then attack the plan as far as crossing those daily, weekly, and monthly checkpoints.
For the garden goal of “I want to install one 4’ x 8’ raised bed garden in the back yard to grow a pizza garden this year”, plan it out on paper and make a list. It may look something like this:
- First of January- Do research & plan out the 2 raised gardens on grid paper.
- By January 31st– Purchase all seeds for plants and building materials for raised beds.
- By mid- to late-February- Start vegetable seeds under a grow light in the basement.
- March- Build and install my raised bed garden frame. Make sure it is in the right location.
- April- Purchase and fill the raised bed gardens with high quality garden soil.
- May- Plant small vegetable transplants in the ground after the danger of frost has passed.
- May through July- Care for plants daily. Water, fertilize, and check for insects. Remove diseased plants when necessary.
After writing out your garden goals, display them in an area that you frequently visit. Some people may choose to put them on the refrigerator door, in their calendar or planner, or on their personal computer. Pick the best spot for you because this spot will serve as a friendly reminder for those life moments.
Lastly with SMART garden goals, take time to celebrate your successes when completing those goals! Visit an out-of-state arboretum with other gardening friends! Attend a new gardening class. Buy a new plant for the landscape. Whatever it takes to stay motivated, do it!
Kristin G. Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture Education
December is the month for decorating your home for the holidays! Have you thought about how you might decorate the front porch area of your home? Well, good news! I have the perfect recipe for creating front porch flair with a festive winter container garden design! It’s simple, easy to create, and requires a few basic items, so let’s get started!
Step 1: First, start the design with the container! Since the container is outdoors, make sure the material of the container will be able to withstand the cold winter weather. Stay away from terra cotta that will crack easily. Hard plastic or concrete containers work great. For this winter container garden, we re-used a plastic container that previously held summer annual flowers. Remove any remaining plant debris from inside the container. Make sure to keep the potting soil mixture to help build the base.
Step 2: Next, gather a few basic supplies from around the home. A sharp pair of scissors, sheets of newspaper, and clear tape will come in handy for the next steps in the project.
Another important item needed is wet floral foam. Purchase wet floral foam from a local craft store or floral shop. Most of the time, the floral foam is located in the floral department of the store. Make sure that the package does say wet floral foam and not artificial.
Step 3: Fill the kitchen sink with cold water. When full, place two blocks of floral foam on top of the water. The water will gradually soak up into the foam like a sponge. Avoid pushing the foam down into the water which causes it to have air bubbles. Allow the floral foam to soak for a few hours.
Step 4: After soaking the floral foam, start assembling the mechanics of the arrangement. Add a few sheets of newspaper to the container. On top of the newspaper, place the two blocks of wet floral foam. Secure it to the container with clear tape.
Step 5: Go and gather fresh greenery from around the garden and landscape. Pine, cedar, boxwood, heavenly bamboo, holly, magnolia, and spruce are great sources of fresh greens to use in the winter container garden.
Using a mixture and variety of different greens makes for a beautiful winter container garden! Ask a neighbor if you can cut greens from their yard to use, if you have a limited supply.
For this particular arrangement, we used southern magnolia, pine, and heavenly bamboo berries.
Steps for Designing the Winter Container Garden
- A winning container garden contains 3 types of plants: thriller, spiller and filler. The thriller plant makes the eye go up and gives height to the arrangement. So for this design, the black lantern serves as the thriller. Position the lantern in the middle of the container and push down into the foam. Inside the lantern, place an LED flameless candle to provide another touch of light to the outside porch.
- To serve as the spiller of the arrangement, place freshly cut pine stems into the floral foam around the bottom of the container. The spiller cascades over the side and softens the edges of the container. Start on the sides first and then go from front to back before filling in between the stems all the way around the bottom. Make sure to cut stems at a diagonal to allow the water to easily transport through the stems.
- For the filler, use magnolia leaves. These leaves are big and shiny and give nice contrast with the velvety brown undersides. Check to see that the floral foam is not showing and is covered with greenery.
- For the finishing touch, add brightly colored heavenly bamboo berries to provide a nice pop of color and help break up the green. Pinecones make a good additive for nature in the winter container! To brighten up the lantern, use a decorative bow to match the theme and color scheme of the arrangement.
- Place the finished winter container outside on the front porch to WOW your guests this holiday season and be proud that you created it yourself!
For questions about creating a winter container garden, please contact Kristin Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture, at (270) 842-1681 or Kristin.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kristin G. Hildabrand
Horticulture Extension Agent
For Warren County
We all love to decorate with pumpkins! So, what happens to all the pumpkins after the Halloween season is over? Before tossing those pumpkins, read over this article to find a few ideas of ways to reuse and re-purpose decorating pumpkins.
- Eat pumpkin! Pumpkin is a nutritious food to consume. They are low in fat and sodium and are an excellent source of vitamin A and fiber. To prepare fresh pumpkin at home, wash the pumpkin and cut lengthwise. Remove the guts of the pumpkin and set aside. Place the pumpkin in a baking dish and bake in the oven on 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour or until tender.
Use fresh pumpkin in the Plate it up! Kentucky Proud recipes for the pumpkin apple muffins for breakfast or make fall spiced pumpkin bread to serve as a bread or dessert. Don’t forget that the pumpkin seeds can be eaten too! Take the seeds and roast them in the oven. Add your favorite seasonings and you have a healthy snack or seasonal salad topper.
- Make a pumpkin bird feeder! This is a fun project and activity to do at home. It involves the kids plus it helps to feed the birds at the same time!
To make the pumpkin bird feeder, use a small to medium sized pumpkin and with a sharp knife cut into it and remove all the guts of the pumpkin. To make the hanger for the bird feeder, take heavy-duty string and tie it in a knot on the sides of the pumpkin by drilling a hole. Another option is to place the string around the sides of the pumpkin, in the grooves, and secure it down with clear tape. Tie the string together in a knot if using several pieces of string. Place birdseed in the center of the pumpkin, based on the birds you wish to attract. If you want to provide a place for the birds to perch while feeding, add tree branches or small twigs on the side of the pumpkin. Hang up the finished pumpkin bird feeder in a tree and watch the feathery friends from your favorite window.
- Create a table centerpiece using smaller pumpkins! Grab a white plate, small pumpkins, and collect fall clippings from trees and shrubs from around the landscape to create a simple fall centerpiece for the table. To begin, place one type of tree cutting on the bottom of the white plate to serve as the base. In the picture below, we used a deciduous shrub showing bright red berries. Then, place the small pumpkins on top of the shrub clippings. Make sure to use an odd number of pumpkins like 3’s or 5’s. Next, add another type of colorful fall foliage like the red maple leaves around the pumpkins for a little accent color. It is fine to use artificial leaves, if the real leaves have already gone by for the season. For some embellishment, place small raffia bows around the stems of the pumpkins. Personalize pumpkins with a Thanksgiving greeting or blessing for the table. Have fun and be creative!
- Lastly, recycle the pumpkin to the compost pile! It is always good to return nutrients to the soil by composting it. Cut up the pumpkin(s) into sections or quarters and add it to the compost pile. Add water and turn it often with a garden fork to incorporate with other materials in the pile. In a few short months, the compost pile will reduce in size and the finished compost product will smell earthy, feel crumbly, and appear dark in color.
Kristin G. Hildabrand
Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County
Kristin visits with Michelle Wheeler of River Bend Family Farm in Scottsville for a session of Kentucky Farms, Kentucky Flavor. In this episode we learn a little more about River Bend Family Farm.
My family has been farming in northern Indiana since they came over from Germany and England in the early years of our nation. I grew up on a grain farm where we grew seed corn, sweet corn, beans, and alfalfa/brome grass hay under center pivots. I am the middle daughter of three girls, and we worked with our parents baling and stacking hay, driving tractors, and doing the daily work of a farm. I was very involved in 4-H and decided to major in Agribusiness Economics at Southern Illinois University. After college I worked in crop protection in the midwest for DowElanco and Zeneca, where I loved being in the field working with my retail and grower customers. Once we had children, our two agricultural career household decided that David would be the primary career and I did contract work in the crop protection business to be able to maintain my skills and contacts, while being able to enjoy staying home with our three children. In 2014, we finally were able to purchase 132 acres of our own, after living in Briarwood Subdivision for 14 years. My love for growing and preserving flowers and vegetables goes back to my Grandmother, so in an effort to try to produce an income stream to offset the debt load we took on, we decided I would try growing vegetables on a small scale to offer to CSA customers. We have added cut flowers and this year our pumpkin patch.
Joanna shows us how to make a delicious Tex Mex Spaghetti Squash Casserole.
Spaghetti squash is low in calories. One cup raw squash contains 42 calories. It contains vitamin C, potassium and calcium. It is naturally free of fat and cholesterol. Choose squash that is a creamy to deep yellow in color. Look for hard skinned, evenly colored squash without blemishes or ridges. Avoid squash that are tinged with green as they are not mature. Spaghetti squash can be stored at room temperature for up to one month. Longer if stored in a cool, dry, dark location. Do not wash before storing. The recipe is as followed:
1 small (about 2 pounds) spaghetti squash, 1 pound lean ground beef, ½ cup chopped onion, ½ cup chopped bell pepper, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 2 teaspoons dried cumin, ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes, 1 (4 to 5 ounces) can chopped mild green chilies, 1 ½ cups low fat cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the squash by carefully cutting it in half lengthwise with a sharp knife and scooping out the seeds. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, cut-side down and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a sharp knife can be easily inserted into the rind. Remove the squash from the oven and cool. Use a fork to scrape out the stringy flesh from the shell and place in a colander. Press out as much liquid as possible. Place squash in a medium bowl and keep warm. In a skillet, cook the ground beef over medium heat until browned. Add the onion, red bell pepper and garlic. Continue to cook until the vegetables are tender. Add the cumin, cayenne pepper and salt. Drain well and set aside. In a small bowl combine the chopped tomatoes and green chilies. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with non-stick coating. Layer half of the spaghetti squash in the bottom of the pan. Spread half the meat mixture on top of the squash. Layer half of the tomatoes and chilies on top of the meat and top with half of the cheese. Repeat the layers. Bake at 350 degrees F until the casserole is hot all the way through and the cheese is bubbly, 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.
Grazing forages during the summer months is a great way to reduce stored feed costs. However, there are some risks that come with grazing certain forages and weeds. It is important to be cautious this summer to reduce the risk for prussic acid poisoning, as prussic acid poisoning tends to be worse during times of drought.
Prussic acid poisoning occurs when plants such as sorghum, sudangrass, sorghum-sudan hybrids, Johnsongrass, wild cherry, and others contain cyanide-producing compounds. Wild cherry and Johnsongrass have much more risk than the other forage species listed above. If large amounts of these forages are consumed, especially after frost or during severe drought, then prussic acid (cyanide) is produced and interferes with oxygen utilization and livestock can die from respiratory paralysis. Symptoms appear quickly after the forage is consumed. These symptoms may include cherry red colored blood, staggering, labored breathing, spasms, foaming at the mouth, falling, thrashing, severe convulsions, and death. If an animal is seen showing these symptoms, seek immediate treatment for these animals by a veterinarian.
To reduce the risk of prussic acid poisoning, consider some of the following management tools:
- Incorporate forages that do not produce prussic acid into the diet to dilute the concentration of prussic acid.
- Avoid applying high levels of nitrogen to soils deficient in phosphorus and potassium, as this may cause levels of prussic acid to increase .The amount of nitrogen added should be determined by using a soil test.
- Contact your local county extension agent and inquire about getting your forages tested before placing cattle on these fields.
- Use “test” animals if you have not had high risk forages tested, rather than
- turning the whole herd onto a new field.
- Cut high risk forages for hay, as prussic acid content decreases significantly during the curing process.
- A fair amount of prussic acid also escapes as a gas during fermentation when used for silage. However, be sure to delay feeding silage for six to eight weeks following ensiling.
- Although these practices may reduce the risk of prussic acid poisoning, it is still important to be cautious when feeding forages with possible high prussic acid content.
Peonies make a beautiful addition to the home garden and landscape! They add beauty with their wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of blooms as well as their wonderful fragrance. If planted correctly, peonies can last a long time in the garden from 50 to as much as 80 years. If you would like to plant peonies in your home landscape, fall is a good time to plant, so here are a few tips for planting perfect peonies.
Types & Cultivars:
There are three types of peonies for gardeners to consider for planting in the Kentucky garden.
- Herbaceous/garden peonies are herbaceous perennials that reach 20 to 36 inches in height. This type is the most common peony used and is the least expensive compared to other peonies.
- Tree peonies have woody stems that do not die back to the ground. They are a medium-sized shrub that reaches no more than 4 to 5 feet in height. Tree peonies are slow growing, so it may take four or more years to bloom well.
- Intersectional peonies are a hybrid type produced by crossing a herbaceous peony with a tree peony. These peonies get the best of both worlds. They possess the hardiness of the herbaceous peonies with the attractive flowers and foliage of the tree peonies. Itoh peonies, named by the first hybridizer Toichi Itoh, are a type of intersectional peony.
When purchasing peonies, purchase tubers from a reputable nursery catalog or from a reliable local garden center in the area. It is a good idea to buy and shop early to guarantee the best selection and variety desired. Inspect tubers for rots before planting.
To guarantee an extended blooming display, choose a mixture of early to mid- to late-season peony varieties to plant. By buying plants with different blooming seasons, gardeners are guaranteed 6 total weeks of peony blooms to enjoy. Make sure to read plant descriptions in catalogs and watch labels in garden centers to find this information.
Here are some noteworthy peony cultivars of different types captured by fellow Kentucky gardeners:
Best Location for Peonies: Plant peonies in well-drained soil. Wet locations promote root rot problems that will cause damage to future plants. If soil does not drain well, build and install raised beds to improve soil drainage. Before planting, incorporate 2 to 4 inches of rich compost or well-aged manure to the planting area for added organic content. Peonies perform best in full sun with 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Some tree type peonies will benefit from a little bit of shade or filtered sun in the afternoon to help their bloom color last longer.
When to Plant: Fall is the absolute best time to plant peonies. September and October are ideal months for planting.
Planting Procedures: In the ideal location, next prepare the site for planting. Dig the planting hole to a depth of 12 to 18 inches and a width of 18 inches wide. Remove soil from the planting hole and break up any clods that come to the surface.
For herbaceous peonies, plant tubers 1 to 2 inches below the soil level with the eyes facing upwards and the roots facing down. Plant tree peonies below the graft union with 4 to 5 inches of soil covering the graft. The graft is noticeable by the ridge on the stem and the difference in bark texture. This deep planting helps the graft develop its own root system.
A common reason that peonies do not bloom is due to gardeners planting the tubers too deep. Take extra precautions to ensure the correct depth for the peony being grown. Use a measuring tape or yardstick, if needed.
Space multiple plants 3 to 4 feet apart in the row. Once in place, work the soil around the fleshy roots and fill the planting hole back with remaining soil. Water plants thoroughly.
Other Maintenance Tips: Keep soil moist when the weather is dry. Water is also very important during bud formation and flowering. Mulch newly planted plants with a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic mulch such as clean straw, pine needles, or bark mulch in late fall to keep plants from heaving in and out of the soil. The mulch also deters weeds from germinating and conserves soil moisture.
When new shots begin to form in the spring, place a stake like a tomato cage or a flower stake over plants to hold blooms up after a heavy rainfall or harmful winds. Fertilize plants in early spring when growth is 12 inches tall and immediately after flowering. It is best to lightly cultivate around the crown of the plant with ¼ cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer and water it in.
For more information about planting peonies this fall or growing peonies in the garden, contact the Warren County Extension Office at (270) 842-1681.
Kristin G. Hildabrand
Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture
If you enjoy cooking with garlic in the kitchen, you should try growing garlic in the garden! Garlic is an easy to grow crop for the Kentucky garden because it doesn’t have a lot of disease and insect pressure. Garlic produces large amounts if gardeners plant a recommended variety, plant in the right location and in the correct way, and provide proper maintenance when needed.
In Kentucky, garlic grows as a biennial crop. Gardeners plant garlic cloves in October or early November in order to establish a good root system. Make sure to plant garlic in loose well-drained soil with plenty of organic material. Soils that do not drain well will cause rotting to form. If soil types are not ideal, look into installing raised bed gardens, which are good options for growing garlic.
There are two types of garlic to grow in Kentucky, which are soft-neck or hard-neck garlic. Soft-neck garlic does not produce a scape and due to the soft neck nature, gardeners or market growers can braid their stems. Hard-neck garlic produces an elongated flower stalk known as a scape, which then forms a flower at the top called a bulbil. When the flower forms, remove it so that the developing garlic bulb increases in size. Since hard-neck garlic has better cold-hardiness, it generally performs better in Kentucky gardens.
Purchase certified seed stock from a reputable garden or nursery source. Cultivars will differ greatly from other varieties according to clove arrangement, number of cloves, size of cloves, color, flavor, and skin tightness. It is important to buy the specific garlic variety early in advance to guarantee the desired variety. The popular varieties tend to sell out before other varieties.
Soft-neck garlic is referred to as Silverskin, Artichoke, or Italian garlic. California Early and California Late are the best represented varieties for soft-neck types. The hard-neck may be purple, purple striped or white. Hard-neck varieties include Roja, German Red, Valenica, and Continental.
After the first hard frost, gardeners will need to apply a 2-4 inch layer of clean straw to insulate and protect the developing bulbs from cold temperatures. In spring, when garlic begins actively growing, gardeners will need to apply fertilizer. Garlic is ready for harvest in July or early August when leaf tops begin to dry and bend toward the ground.
For more information about growing garlic, check out these University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service publications:
- Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
- Garlic & Elephant Garlic: http://www.uky.edu/ccd/sites/www.uky.edu.ccd/files/garlic.pdf
If you would like to watch more about growing garlic, see the links below from the Warren County Agriculture YouTube channel. Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture Kristin Hildabrand discusses selecting garlic varieties and planting garlic on the Farm and Home Show. Click on the links below to see this information:
Selecting Garlic Varieties:
Kristin G. Hildabrand, Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County
Do you have trouble establishing a good stand of grass in your home lawn? Do you notice bare spots? Do you have more weeds than grass? If you answered yes to any of these questions, September is a good month to carry out several lawn maintenance practices to help improve the appearance of your lawn.
- Soil Test, Soil Test, Soil Test!
The secret to having a green lawn is a soil test. Testing the soil gives homeowners the exact recommendations of lime and fertilizer rates needed to reach optimum plant growth. To improve the appearance of the lawn, first start with a soil test.
To test the soil for a home lawn, sample the top 2 to 4 inches of soil using a garden shovel or trowel. Collect soil from different locations in the lawn at random and make sure to avoid getting any grass clippings or leaves when sampling. Some people sample their front and back yards separately. Place soil in a clean five-gallon bucket. Repeat this same process 10 to 12 times and mix all the samples together. If there is any excess moisture in the soil, allow the sample to dry on newspaper for 24 hours.
After collecting soil, bring samples to the local extension office. In Warren County, soil tests cost $7.00 per sample. Some basic information about the crop being grown is needed to go along with the sample before being mailed. When results come back, extension agents review and sign the soil test recommendations. Soil test results generally take about 7 to 10 days to be processed.
- Sow Grass Seed
Mid-August through late September is the best time to establish new grass in the home lawn. The best type of grass to select for a home lawn situation is a turf type tall fescue variety. Purchase a recommended variety of turf type tall fescue with a dark green color and improved disease tolerance. Kentucky 31 fescue has a lighter green color and is less dense compared to newer tall fescue varieties. To see a list of recommended turf type tall fescue varieties, please visit this link: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/ukturf/tf.html.
Before sowing grass seed, make sure that the soil is prepared and ready in order to get good seed to soil contact. Seed tall fescue at 6 lbs. per 1,000 square feet using a rotary spreader. For best coverage, divide the seed in half and sow this half in one direction. Then, apply the other half of seed crosswise over the first run. Cover the seed by raking lightly or rolling with a water-ballast roller. Place a light covering of clean straw over top of the newly seeded area. Water the area frequently after sowing seed until seedlings germinate. For more information about lawn establishment in Kentucky, check out the AGR-50 publication through the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service found at this link: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR50/AGR50.pdf.
- Fall Lawn Fertilization
Fall is the absolute best time to fertilize cool season grasses in the home lawn. By performing this practice in the fall, the root system is stronger and can make it through the winter months. September, October, and November are the best months to apply fertilizer according to soil test recommendations.
The number of times nitrogen fertilizer is applied will depend on the lawn quality desired. Most general home lawns with no irrigation system are maintained at the low to medium maintenance levels. These levels require either one or two application of nitrogen. Make sure to have the soil tested to know these exact recommendations for the home lawn.
For more information about home lawn fertilization, see the AGR-212 publication for Fertilizing your Lawn: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR212/AGR212.pdf.
- Lawn Renovation Practices
In certain situations, homeowners may want to consider other lawn renovation practices. These situations are when there is less than 50% desirable turf, the soil is compacted, the need to decrease weeds, and to improve damaged areas of turf from heavy traffic or disease. To learn more about specific lawn renovation practices, visit AGR-51 publication for Renovating Your Lawn at this link: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/agr/agr51/agr51.pdf
September is the month for second chances in the home lawn! Take advantage of our soil testing services and get the soil tested. Look at purchasing an improved variety of tall fescue and sow seed in September. If needed, carry out other lawn renovation practices in the fall to improve the appearance. These turf tips will help put you on the right road to seeing results in the home lawn for next year!
Kristin G. Hildabrand, Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County