Monthly Archives: April 2020

Time for Termites!

Kentucky Pest News: Zach DeVries and Mike Potter, Entomology Extension Specialists

Termite season has begun in Kentucky!  To assist homeowners in addressing this growing problem, this article provides basic information on termite biology and control. That said, this article is intended to be a quick reference guide to answer the most common questions/concerns; for more detailed information please see our Entfacts on termites (Entfact-605Entfact-604Entfact-639)

Termite Basics

Termites are small, soft-bodied social insects that feed on wood. They are found almost everywhere that wood is present and represent an important component of most ecosystems since they help remove dead wood from forests. That said, termites quickly become a problem when they invade our homes and structures. Termites cause billions of dollars in damage each year, and when identified in homes they should be of concern. Not only can their damage be costly, they can also impact real estate transactions and put people in incredibly stressful situations (what is worse than thousands of unidentified bugs flying around your home!).

Figure 1: Termite workers and swarmers. (Photo: Mike Potter, UK)

Spring Emergence

Between the months of March and May (depending on temperature and rainfall) is when winged termites (known as “swarmers”) appear in homes. In nature, swarmers serve to disperse and reproduce, but when they emerge indoors, they become trapped and a major nuisance to homeowners. While swarmers found indoors are not a risk to homeowners (they can’t eat wood), they do indicate that an infestation is present.

Infestation Signs

The presence of swarmers indoors almost always indicates an infestation is present and requires treatment. Additionally, termite swarmers observed emerging from the base of a foundation wall or adjoining structure also warrant further investigation and possible treatment. That said, termites are ubiquitous in residential landscapes, and their presence around the outside of homes is not always cause for concern. Termite swarmers are also often confused with winged ants, which can swarm at the same time of year. Termites can be differentiated by their straight antennae, uniform waist, and wings of equal size. (Ants have elbowed antennae, constricted waists, and forewings that are longer than the hind wings).

Other signs of infestation are earthen (mud) tubes extending over foundation walls, support piers, sill plates, etc. The mud tubes are typically about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes can be thicker. Termites construct these tubes for shelter as they travel between their underground colonies and the structure. To help determine if an infestation is active, the tubes may be broken open and checked for the presence of small, creamy-white worker termites. If a tube happens to be vacant, it does not necessarily mean that the infestation is inactive; termites often abandon sections of tube while foraging elsewhere in the structure. Termite damaged wood is usually hollowed out along the grain, with bits of dried mud or soil lining the feeding galleries. Wood damaged by moisture or other types of insects (e.g., carpenter ants) will not have this appearance. Occasionally termites bore tiny holes through plaster or drywall, accompanied by bits of soil around the margin. Rippled or sunken traces behind wall covering can also be indicative of termites tunneling underneath.

Unfortunately, there will oftentimes be no visible indications that the home is infested. Termites are cryptic creatures and infestations can go undetected for years, hidden behind walls, floor coverings, insulation, and other obstructions. Therefore, it is critical that the signs listed above not be overlooked and that trained professionals be consulted to confirm an infestation.

Treatment Options

Once termites have been identified in a structure, a professional pest management company should be consulted. While some pests can be managed effectively by homeowners, termites require a special skill set and equipment most householders do not possess. Therefore, we strongly recommend that termites be left to the professionals.

Treatment options are generally divided into two categories: (1) liquid barrier treatments and (2) baits. Liquid barrier treatments are applied into the soil surround the structure. The main idea is to form a non-repellent zone that will kill termites that tunnel through the treated soil (e.g. when they enter or leave the structure). Baits work by placing an insecticide treated, cellulose-based substrate into a cylindrical container in the ground surrounding the building. Termites forage around homes for food, and when they bump into the baits, they will begin eating and sharing this food with the colony. Once consumed, the baits will begin to slowly kill termites. Both treatments are usually effective, but the decision of which to use is best left to the pest control company and the homeowner. No matter which method is selected, it is important to have an experienced technician, backed by a responsible pest control company.  It is important to note that all treatments take time to work, so the problem will not disappear overnight.

Due to the expense of termite treatment, homeowners often ask if “partial” or “spot” treatments can be conducted. While these are appealing, they are a major gamble for homeowners. Termite colonies often number in the hundreds of thousands, and we can only see a fraction of the population. Therefore, termite infestation signs are observed, they are usually indicative of a larger termite problem, meaning spot treatments are unlikely to be effective. Additionally, these treatments are generally not warrantied, meaning future problems will be the responsibility of the homeowner.

Lastly, it is important to note that when applied following the label instructions, registered termiticides pose no significant hazard to humans, pets, or the environment. However, please consult with your pest control provider to determine the best course of action if you have any concerns.

How to Select a Good Pest Control Company

Termite treatments are often expensive; therefore, it is important that homeowners take their time in selecting a company. Time is seldom an issue given that termite damage progresses slowly, meaning homeowners can take weeks (even a month or more) to make a decision with little increased risk to the structure. It is recommended that homeowners get a least a couple quotes so they can compare costs and treatment options. Oftentimes companies have different approaches regarding treatment, which is beneficial for homeowners to hear and compare. Some things to consider when selecting a pest control company:

  • Reputation: How long has the company been around and how have they worked for other clients?
  • Experience: How many termite jobs has the technician done and what is their success rate?
  • Licensed and Insured: The company should be licensed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to operate a pest control business in the state of Kentucky. In addition, the company should hold insurance on all of their pest control operations.
  • Membership in Pest Control Associations: Are they members of either the Kentucky Pest Management Association or the National Pest Management Association? Both offer numerous training resources and suggest that the company is an established firm with access to technical and training information needed to do the job correctly.
  • Warranty/Service Agreement: Does the company guarantee their work and do they offer an annual renewal on the service?
  • Ask lots of questions: This is a great way to determine the knowledge of the company providing the treatment.

Termites are a challenging pest to say the least. However, given the excellent termite control products currently available, an experienced technician should have little to no problem controlling infestations.

USDA Announces $19 Billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

We have received many questions about who will receive Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), what are the determinations, etc.  I talked with Sherri Brown, Warren-Edmonson County Farm Service Agency Executive Director and they are still waiting on guidance from the state and national level on how sign-ups are going to occur and the specifics on how the payments will be made.  Please continue to watch our social media sites for additional information as it comes down about the CFAP program.  Below is the information from a press release from the USDA about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

At the bottom of this article is information about our USDA Service centers from their newsletter and a USDA website to check about updates.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. President Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.

CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities. The program includes two major elements to achieve these goals.

  1. Direct Support to Farmers and Ranchers: The program will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.  

USDA will provide $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers including:    

  • $9.6 billion for the livestock industry
    • $5.1 billion for cattle
    • $2.9 billion for dairy
    • $1.6 billion for hogs
  • $3.9 billion for row crop producers
  • $2.1 billion for specialty crops producers
  • $500 million for other crops

 
Producers will receive a single payment determined using two calculations:

  • Price losses that occurred January 1-April 15, 2020. Producers will be compensated for 85% of price loss during that period.
  • Second part of the payment will be expected losses from April 15 through the next two quarters and will cover 30% of expected losses.

 
The payment limit is $125,000 per commodity with an overall limit of $250,000 per individual or entity. Qualified commodities must have experienced a 5% price decrease between January and April.
 

USDA is expediting the rule making process for the direct payment program and expects to begin sign-up for the new program in early May and to get payments out to producers by the end of May or early June.

  • USDA Purchase and Distribution: USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. We will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.

Our USDA Service Centers in Kentucky will continue to be open for business by phone appointment only and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While our program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with our producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the Farm Service Agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment.

I also encourage you to visit farmers.gov/coronavirus to keep up-to-date on temporary program flexibilities available as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Freeze Damage???

On April 15, temperatures in Warren County dropped below freezing. Since that time I have had some questions about damage and some inquiries about how to estimate damage. I have compiled some information put together by our UK Extension Specialists. As you can see in the tables below provided by Matt Dixon with the UK Weather Center, temperatures did get below 31 degrees for around 5 hours. 

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Scouting for Wheat Damage

Carrie Knott, Extension Agronomist-Princeton, University of Kentucky

Published on Kygrains.info

Tuesday night temperatures dipped to or below 24°F for several hours at many locations throughout Kentucky. For winter wheat that has reached the jointing (Feekes 6) growth stage, or beyond, damage can occur to the developing wheat head at these temperatures.

In general, we think that injury can occur if temperatures are at or below those listed in the table below for 2 or more hours.

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Some areas across the state already had wheat that was beginning to head. This will make scouting field for freeze damage very important.

To assess wheat freeze damage:

1. Wait until high temperatures are at least 40°F for 5 to 7 days. According to the projected weather forecast, we will have high temperatures greater than 40°F all week, therefore assessing freeze damage Monday or Tuesday will likely provide an good estimate of freeze damage.

2. Scout fields

A. For fields that have not yet headed and look for yellow, chlorotic growing points and    limp leaves. There will likely be yellow leaf tips, but as long as the growing point is not affected, there will likely be minimal to no damage.

B. For fields that are in the ‘Boot’ (Feekes 10) growth stage, dissect out the heads and look for damage.

C. For field that have headed or beyond, inspect heads and florets for damage.

3. An additional concern for wheat stands and yield potential is heaving.  If extreme temperature changes occur the freezing and thawing cycle may push wheat plants out of the soil.  This will result in reduced stands and could ultimately affect yield if heaving occurs on a large percentage of the field.

Accessing Corn & Soybeans Freeze Damage

By: Dr. Chad Lee, University of Kentucky Grains Crop Specialist

We need about 5 days of warm weather before freeze damage symptoms are evident. You may see hints of damage earlier than 5 days, but you won’t be able to identify the extent of damage in most fields.  

Soybeans:

We need about 5 days of warm weather before the freeze damage is evident on the crop. Any freeze damage below the cotyledons will kill the plant. If the cotyledons survive, then the soybean plant has full to nearly full yield potential. 

Soybeans in the crook stage, where the plant is just emerging and the stem looks like a shepherd’s crook, are extremely sensitive to freezing weather. We can almost assume that soybeans at this stage are killed from the freeze. If the majority of the field was at this stage, then the farmer should plan to replant. Scouting the field about 5 days after the freeze is warranted, but one should expect to need to replant in these fields. 

For soybeans that had not emerged or soybeans with at least unifoliate leaves, the soybeans have a better chance of surviving. Sometimes, the upper leaves will insulate and protect the lower leaves. As long as the node at the cotyledon survives, the plant should survive. 

Corn: 

We need about 5 days of warm weather before the freeze damage is evident on the crop. I expect minimal yield loss on corn. I do expect nearly all aboveground growth to be frozen and dead, but I expect corn plants to survive. For corn planted at the proper depth, the growing point is at least a half-inch below the surface. As long as that growing point survives, corn has 100% yield potential, even if all aboveground growth dies. The soil often buffers the freezing temperatures and insulates the growing point. Look for areas in the fields where: 

  1. seeds are shallow – shallow seeds put the growing point closer to the soil surface
  2. furrows are not fully closed – open furrows allowing freezing to get to the seed quickly. 
  3. areas of the field that are saturated: the higher water content will often freeze deeper in the soil than fields as field capacity
  4. expect there to be more damage in tilled fields, including “vertical tilled” fields. The reside from no-till provides a temperature buffer. I expect fields with cover crop residue to be buffered as well. 

Other Thoughts on Scouting and Assessing Damage

When scouting either crop about 5 days after the freeze event, look for plants or plant structures that have turned brown or black. Look for signs of loss of turgor pressure. I think most aboveground damage will be easy to see in a few days. 

For corn, take a shovel and dig up a few plants to evaluate the growth above the seed. If there are no signs of brown/black areas on the plants, and if turgor pressure is good, then the seedlings are very likely to survive. 

As you scout, please send us some images. 

Forages:  Alfalfa & Red Clover

Dr. Jimmy Henning, UK Forage Extension Specialist

In Scouting Alfalfa stands in Lexington, Dr. Henning noticed some variable damage in Alfalfa stands but thinks that most will grow out of it.  Red clover is much less affected in the instances he has witnessed.  However, if you have seen damage or have more questions.  AGR-236 Managing Frost Damaged Alfalfa Stands

Fruit and Vegetables

We will not know damage to fruit trees until they have had a chance to grow and develop more.  Blooms were damaged but will not know the full extent of the damage for a bit. Small fruit crops like strawberries if they were not covered suffered damage.  Crops like asparagus that were not able to be covered or harvested experienced a loss.

Freeze damaged asparagus

If you have any questions or photos to share, please contact us at the extension office.

April Gardening Tips

Kentucky gardens are bursting with spring color this month! Flowering trees and shrubs are blooming beautifully in the home landscape, while various types of flowering bulbs are scattered throughout garden beds. April is chock full of gardening activities to perform! Outdoor temperatures are cool enough that it makes it an ideal time to work outside. Today on episode 5 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing 4 quick tips of things to do right now in the garden for the month of April. Stay with me as I explain some of these much needed garden activities to help you get a jump start on the spring gardening season!

Soil Preparation

To rototill or not to rototill? That is the question. Excessive rototilling, year after year, can damage soil structure and reduce the benefits of organic matter. Beneficial soil health builders such as earthworms and soil microbes are also damaged by it.

If adding lime and fertilizers according to soil test recommendations, home gardeners will want to rototill the soil to a depth of eight to ten inches to prepare their garden for planting. Break up any clumps that may form during this process to help aerate the soil.   

If garden soil has good tilth from previous compost or manure applications and lime or fertilizer is not needed, gardeners can skip rototilling. Instead, use a garden shovel to loosen the soil before planting. Later, use an iron garden rake for smoothing and leveling out garden soils in order to make a good seed bed for plants.

Remember to avoid working the soil when wet. The best test to see if the soil is too wet is to take a handful of soil and form it into a ball. If the soil crumbles readily after being pushed with your finger, the soil can be worked. On the other hand, if the soil does not break apart and stays in the ball form, the ground is too wet to be worked. Working wet ground leads to clods which make it difficult to loosen after being dried. Plus, clods greatly reduce the good seed to soil contact required for seeding germination of vegetable crops.

Cool Season Vegetables

Continue to plant cool season vegetables in the home vegetable garden. These plants like the cooler air temperatures of Kentucky and include plants such as spinach, lettuce, collards, turnip greens, onions, beets, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, early potatoes, radish, and Swiss chard. Some plants do better when directly sown into the ground and thinned out after germination.

Swiss chard growing in a raised bed garden.

To have a continuous supply of vegetables, plant a succession of those crops every 2 weeks. For more information about home vegetable gardening in Kentucky, see the publication number ID-128 titled Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky. It has everything that you will want to know about growing home vegetables in Kentucky. To view the link to the guide, please see the show notes.  

Plant a Spring Salad Bowl Garden

Try a new spin on growing salad greens this year—in a salad bowl! Choose a shallow container that contains several holes for drainage. Since this is a salad bowl garden, the container does not necessarily have to be round, but it does make for an interesting container. Window boxes and rectangular containers are also acceptable.

Next, select a good potting soil mix for growing lettuce greens in the container. Avoid potting mixes that contain lots of bark since this causes the pot to dry out quickly. A good potting soil mix will contain different soil less media components such as peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Some potting mixes will have soil release fertilizers added in, but it is usually better to incorporate these fertilizers separately. 

The fun part is deciding what plants to grow in your salad garden. Seeds can be started in your container, but it is easier to purchase transplants from a reputable garden center in your area. Several varieties of lettuce are available including arugula, romaine, spinach, and Swiss chard. Planting culinary herbs like cilantro, dill, and parsley will offer additional flavor as well.

Lastly, space transplants about three to four inches apart in your container. Make sure to locate your container in an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight and check every day for watering needs. A good rule of thumb is to perform the “finger test” where you feel around the soil with your fingers. If the soil feels dry, add water until it begins to run out the drainage holes in the bottom of the container. 

Keep plants moist and well fertilized during the growing season. Harvest a month after planting by picking individual leaves from plants. If you enjoy growing lettuce for salads, make succession plantings two to three weeks apart to provide an adequate harvest.

Watch for Cabbage Maggot in the Garden

Be on the lookout for cabbage maggots, if you have newly transplanted cabbage in the garden. Cabbage maggots have white, legless bodies with a pointed head and a blunt rear. The pupae stage of this insect likes to overwinter in the soil where they enjoy feeding on small roots or tunnel into larger stems of plants. When the soil warms in the spring, adults emerge and then mate which leads to further egg laying of this insect.

Cabbage Maggots
Source: Dr. Ric Bessin, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist

To control maggots, delay planting time if you know a long period of cool and wet spring weather is predicted. Cabbage planted during this time is placed at a greater risk for damage. Scout and closely evaluate around cabbage plants daily during favorable conditions.  Young plants seem to be more easily damaged than established plants. Make improvements to make sure that the garden soil drains well. Raise the soil 4 to 6 inches like a bed and place plants directly into the raised garden area. Some gardeners may want to spend a little extra money by building a frame using wood boards or landscape timbers to support the soil around plants so they will not wash away after a heavy rain.

Practice Companion Planting Strategies for the Home Vegetable Garden

Utilizing companion planting strategies in the vegetable garden can give several advantages for the home gardener. In this practice, plant two or more plant species next to one another to gain benefits such as growth, pest control, or improved flavor. It has even shown to maximize vegetable yields.

Planting herbs around vegetables invite beneficial organisms to the garden. Herbs like basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley attract beneficial insects to feed and find shelter to support various stages of their predatory and parasitic insects. Lady beetles, lacewings, praying mantids, and spiders are among those organisms that are attracted to aromatic culinary herbs. Not only are companion plantings good at attracting beneficial organisms, but they also draw in pollinators. Bees really enjoy the blooms of basil, buckwheat, and clover.

If you are planting crops in the cabbage family, try planting other crops around it such as aromatic herbs, celery, beets, onions, spinach and Swiss chard. If you are planting lettuce, using crops like carrots and radishes. Remember that the key to success with companion planting is experimentation and observation in the garden. Write down those successes and failures in a garden journal to help remember that information to use for the next growing season.

Another plant that immediately comes to mind when talking about companion planting concept is marigolds. Several gardeners religiously plant this warm season annual flower every year for added diversity and to protect their vegetables from harmful insects. Research has shown that the roots of specific marigolds produce biochemicals that are poisonous to minute worm-like organisms that damage plants and reduce yields. This benefit is noticed after growing marigolds as a cover crop and turning them into the soil.   

I hope that you found this information helpful today. If you would like additional information on other April gardening tasks to perform this month in the Kentucky garden, make sure to see the show notes. I have developed and compiled a checklist of garden activities to perform in and around the Kentucky garden for the month of April. Hopefully this guide will help you see the different jobs that are needed to be done now and get you a step ahead for future gardening tasks!

April Gardening Checklist

To view the show notes, visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture, https://warrencountyagriculture.com/. Feel free to leave any questions that you might have or make any additional comments on the blog.

Since April is National Gardening month, I would love to see what you are growing this year in your garden! To help showcase what you are growing this year in the garden, post a picture on Facebook and add the hashtag #sunshinegardening and #growinginWarrenCounty if you are a Warren County, KY resident. I would love to see how you are growing your garden this year! It doesn’t matter if it is vegetables, herbs, flowers, landscape trees or fruit trees. I want to see your garden plants!  

Again, I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Make sure to tune in with me for more gardening information each week right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Each week, I plan to share seasonal gardening tips and tricks to help gardeners reach their gardening goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over their Kentucky garden. To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.

Make sure to leave me a review on iTunes, so I can know what future gardening information to share with you each week. To help sweeten the deal, the first 10 subscribers to leave me a review on iTunes will receive a gardening prize. 

Keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Resources:

Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky, ID-128- http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf

National Gardening Month Activities

April is National Gardening Month! Gardening offers several benefits for the home gardener! Research shows that nurturing plants is good for all of us! Attitudes toward health and nutrition improve, community spirits grow, and kids perform better. There are lots of ways that communities, organizations, and individuals can get involved with gardening. Today on episode 4 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing 3 simple ways that you can celebrate National Gardening month at home. Let me tell you how you can get growing this month! 

#1 Create a DIY Newspaper Pot

Are you looking for a fun gardening project to try this year? Try making your own newspaper pots!

This activity requires a few basic materials collected from around the home and is perfect for starting garden seeds to plant this spring. Here is a list of supplies you will need to get started: sections of recycled newspaper, high quality potting soil mixture, a variety of vegetable garden seeds, and a Mason jar. If you don’t have a Mason jar, an old aluminum vegetable can works great too!

To start the newspaper pot, take a section of newspaper and fold it in half lengthwise like a hot dog bun. Make sure to press firmly along the folded edge. Next, place the Mason jar on top of the folded newspaper where half of the jar is on the newspaper and the other half is on the table. Once it is positioned in the right spot, roll the newspaper tightly around the Mason jar to create a round cylinder.

To create the base of the pot, fold in the edges of the newspaper like an envelope. It’s best to fold in the sides first and then top to bottom. Flip the jar over and press the jar firmly against the table to make the folds as flat as possible. Remove the Mason jar from the newspaper and you have a newspaper pot! Repeat the process if making several newspaper pots.

When ready to add potting soil mixture to the newspaper pot, first moisten the potting soil mixture in another container before adding. I like to use a wheel barrow because it gives me plenty of room to incorporate the soil and water together. Fill the newspaper pot with the moistened potting soil mixture. Plant a seed or two in the newspaper pot according to the recommended depth on the seed label and place on a tray.

When ready to plant outdoors, make sure to bury the pot, so the rim is below the soil surface. Exposing the newspaper to the environment can cause moisture to wick away from the plant.      

#2 Create DIY Seed Tape

Seed tape makes it easy for gardeners to grow crops from tiny seeds. With seed tape, gardeners apply seed to tape and then plant the entire seed tape outdoors in the garden. Gardeners don’t have to worry about seeds floating away and there is no need to thin out plants. An added bonus is the seed tape disintegrates overtime and helps return nutrients back to the soil.

Seed tape is available commercially through garden supply companies, however avid gardeners can make their own seed tape at home inexpensively! Making seed tape at home requires only a few basic items and materials collected from around the home. Now, let’s get started! Crops that are best when started from seed are: beets, Bibb lettuce, carrots, Chinese cabbage, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, parsnips, peas, pumpkins, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, snow peas, Southern peas, sweet corn, Swiss chard, turnips, turnip greens, and winter squash.

Step 1: Gather up all supplies needed to make the seed tape. Grab a roll of toilet paper, garden seed packets, make your own glue using flour and water or purchase all-purpose glue, toothpick, clear ruler, scissors, and a black permanent marker.

Step 2: Next, unroll the toilet paper from the roll and lay out on a flat even surface. Cut the toilet paper in half using a pair of scissors. The toilet paper serves as the “tape” portion of the seed tape project. 

Step 3: Lay the seed tape on a flat surface and mark the correct plant spacing according to the crop being grown. Refer to the back of the seed packet to see how far apart to space between the seeds. Measure the plant distance using a ruler and mark the spot on the seed tape with the black permanent marker. If making multiple seed tapes for different crops, it is a good idea to label the seed tape with the crop name and the variety in the top right hand corner using an ink pen.

Step 4: Make the glue to adhere the seed to the tape. Mix 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of water together in a small mixing bowl until a thick paste forms. If needed, add additional water to make a glue type consistency. All-purpose glue also works good for seed tape. 

Step 5: Before starting this step, empty the contents of the seed packet on a white plate or white piece of paper. This step makes it easy for gardeners to see the seed and pick it up to go on the seed tape.

Dip the end of a toothpick into the glue and place a small dot on the seed tape. Then, take the toothpick and pick up a seed to place on top of the freshly applied glue. Continue this process until all the seed tape is filled. Allow the glue to dry and roll the tape on the toilet paper roll. Store it in the refrigerator until environmental conditions are ready for planting

For knowing when to start seeds of different vegetable crops at home, I highly recommend that you see the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service’s publication on Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky. This publication is ID-128 and includes all things for growing vegetables in Kentucky. To view the link to this guide, make sure to see the show notes.

Step 6: When conditions are favorable, make a seed bed for planting. Place the seed tape in the planting row making sure to plant at the correct depth. Refer to the back of the seed packet for the correct planting depth. Lightly cover the seed tape with soil and water it in. Wait and watch for the seeds to germinate and come up in a perfectly straight row!

If you would like to see the process from start to finish on how to make DIY seed tape, check out my short video that is posted on the Warren County Agriculture YouTube channel. For a link to this 5 minute video, please see the show notes for episode 4.

#3 Grow an Indoor Garden

Maybe you want to grow a garden but would like to have something more for inside the house. Try an indoor garden! Thanks to the help of the Aero Garden, gardeners CAN grow plants from the comforts of their own home!

With this system, gardeners are equipped with all the tools needed in order to grow quality plants at home. They are supplied with a growth chamber that holds and supports the water and nutrients around the root system. Multiple grow lights are positioned at the top of the growth chamber to supply the correct amount of light required for plant germination. A nutrient solution is also included in the kit to feed developing plants as they grow. Every 2 weeks, gardeners will need to add additional nutrients by following the fertilizer recommendations listed on the bottle. Water is the only other element needed to complete this system and begin growing an indoor garden.

Gardeners have the choice of which plants that they wish to grow. Romaine lettuce reached out to us, but there are other plant offerings such as tomatoes, peppers, and herbs that are good too. The seeds are packaged in a conical shaped pod. Gardeners place the pointed part of the pod down into the water filled with the nutrient solution. The system is automated, so gardeners plug the system into an electrical outlet where it regulates the grow lights to come on and off. Germination generally occurs after 3 to 5 days. 

Romaine lettuce growing in the indoor plant garden.

This type of indoor garden represents a hydroponic garden system. Plants are grown in water without soil. Since water and nutrients are always available in hydroponics, plants are rarely stressed and grow healthier and more vigorously. Healthier plants mature quicker which leads to an earlier vegetable harvest. Hydroponic gardens also require less amount of space to grow since their root system does not have to spread out in search of food and water.

To stay up to date with the aero garden’s progress at the Warren County Extension Office, please like us on Facebook at Warren County Agriculture or follow us on our Instagram at Warren County Ag!

These are some simple ideas of ways to help celebrate National Gardening Month for April. To help showcase what you are growing this year in the garden, post a picture on Facebook and tag #sunshinegardening and #growinginWarrenCounty. I would love to see what plants you are growing this season!

If you would like additional information on ways to celebrate National Gardening Month, feel free to reach out to me via email at kristin.goodin@uky.edu.

That’s all the information I have for today. Hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! For a more detailed description on how to create the DIY newspaper pots or seed tape mentioned in today’s show, please see the show notes for Episode 4. Find those notes by following me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture, https://warrencountyagriculture.com/. Feel free to leave any questions that you might have or make any additional comments on the blog. I would also love it if you could take time to leave me a review on iTunes, so I can know what information to bring to you each week. To sweeten the deal, the first 10 subscribers to leave me a review on iTunes will earn a gardening prize. 

Make sure to tune in with me for more gardening information each week right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Each week, I plan to share seasonal gardening tips and tricks to help gardeners reach their gardening goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over your Kentucky garden. To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.

Keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Resources:

Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky, http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf

Video showing how to create the DIY seed tape, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SwoeWl2_OY.

Do’s and Don’ts of Spring Lawn Care in Kentucky

Here is a quick list of do’s and don’ts for the Kentucky home lawn to use during the spring season. See the attached list below.

Spring Lawn Care Guide for Kentucky

Do: Get your Mower Ready for the Season! 
• Having your mower ready to go before the season starts will save you downtime during the growing season.
• Sharpen blade. Having sharp mower blades are very important to turf aesthetics and health.

Do: Apply a Pre-emergent Herbicide. 
• Annual grassy weeds such as crabgrass and goosegrass begin to germinate in the spring. By applying a pre-emergent herbicide prior to germination, weed numbers can be drastically reduced and your lawn can have the chance to flourish without fighting weeds for space, nutrients, light, and water.
• In western Kentucky, a pre-emerge herbicide should be applied prior to around April 7. In central and eastern Kentucky, the spray before date is usually around April 15.
• A good indicator plant for knowing when to apply a pre-emergent herbicide is forsythia. Generally, a pre-emergent application should be applied before forsythia drops its blooms.

Do: Mow at Regular Height. 
Because the grass grows at a high volume in the spring, it’s best to not let the height get too long before mowing. Ideally, never cut off more than 1/3 of the leaf in one mowing. For example, if you want to maintain your lawn at 3 inches, mow when the height reaches about 4.5 inches. Removing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade results in a reduction in root growth.
• Mow at taller heights to reduce crabgrass populations without the
use of herbicides. Recommended heights for lawn grasses in Kentucky are:
Tall fescue- 3 inches or taller
Kentucky bluegrass- 2.5 inches or taller

Don’t: Apply Nitrogen. 
• The vast majority of nitrogen fertilizer should be applied in the fall. Fall applications improve the health of the lawn and result in a greener lawn in the winter, less spring mowing, and less weeds, heat stress, need for water, and disease problems in summer.
• Nitrogen applied in spring and summer promotes growth of warm-season weeds such as crabgrass, goosegrass, and bermudagrass. Further, high amounts of nitrogen in spring and summer can result in increased damage from white grubs in the soil. Adult beetles are attracted to the lush lawns and high nitrogen levels restrict turf rooting which compounds the damage from the white grubs feeding on the turf roots.

Don’t: Apply Weed and Feed Products. 

• Do not apply weed and feed products as we don’t want to be applying nitrogen to our cool-season lawns in the spring.

Don’t: Seed in the Spring. 
• The best time of year to seed lawns is in the early fall. A spring planting has significant competition between seedlings and grassy weeds and the immature seedlings can struggle with summer heat and drought more.

For more information about home lawn care in Kentucky, please contact the Warren County Cooperative Extension Service at (270) 842-1681.

Source: Dr. Gregg Munshaw, UK Extension Turf Specialist

Hellebores- Lenten Rose

Flowers are like heaven to me. They brighten the darkest of days with their beauty and extensive variety of bloom shapes and colors. Today on episode 3 of the Sunshine Gardening podcast, I am sharing one of my favorite flowers for the garden! I guarantee after I am done talking about it, you will want this flower for your shade garden as well. Stay with me to find out the flower that I am referring to and learn the best growing tips to help it shine in your Kentucky garden.

Flower Characteristics

  • The flower that I am covering today in episode 3 is Hellebore orientalis, is commonly referred to as Lenten Rose or Hellebores. While the rose family first comes to mind, this plant actually belongs to the Ranunculus or Buttercup Family.   
  • Helleborus xhybridus is a group of evergreen, late-winter or early-spring flowering perennials that are offered as ornamental plants for the garden.
  • Blooms generally appear during Lent. Hence the name Lenten Rose. It is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring which earns it the name of “harbinger of spring”.
  • Since the plant easily hybridizes, there is a wide variety of cultivars available in the marketplace. Colors include shades of pink, green, yellow, red, pure white, dark purple, and almost black. Other cultivars may have other interesting color patterns that are bicolor, speckled, spotted, and streaked with single or double forms. Some cultivars have picotee flowers where the color along the edge is darker.
  • Lenten rose is hardy from zone 9 to zone 4. They will handle colder temperatures if some winter protection is provided.
  • Lenten rose possess tough, almost woody stems. The leaves are described as being leathery, shiny and dark-green in color. They are palmate divided with 7-9 leaflets with coarsely cut leaf margins. These characteristics make it resistant to deer and rabbit feedings and the foliage will remain attractive all throughout the growing season.
  • The flowers have an interesting growth habit. Flower buds form during the previous summer season. The flower spikes emerge from an underground rhizome in late winter.
  • What we would call the petals are actually called sepals which is a modified calyx. There are 5 petal-like sepals that surround a ring of nectaries. The true petals are the nectaries that hold the nectar. Within the ring of petals are numerous stamens and pistils. After pollination occurs, the petals and stamens will then fall off leaving behind the sepals. They can remain on the plant for 1-2 months or sometimes even longer.
  • Flowers reach about 1 to 3 inches wide and are described as being saucer like in appearance. The blooms are mostly downward facing.
Parts of the Hellebores Bloom

How to Grow Lenten Rose in the Kentucky Garden  

  • Since hellebores are difficult to start from seed, it is best to purchase 2-3 year old plants. Position the plants in areas that receive partial to full shade.
  • Plants will perform best when planted in moist, well-drained soil. They are sensitive to soggy soil, so make sure to provide good soil drainage. A good way to do this is to incorporate compost throughout the entire planting area prior to transplanting. They will also benefit from planting on a hillside, slope, or raised beds. It is noted that in these three areas it is easier to see the downward facing blooms.
  • At first, hellebores are slow to establish. When they do reach maturity though, plants can reach 18 to 24 inches tall with a width of 24-30” inches. Mature plants can even have 50 or more flowers per plant.
  • If planting multiple plants, space plants about 16 inches apart or more. Refer to the plant label to see recommendations on how far apart to space plants.
  • Plants are self sowers so they put out a lot of seed. New seedlings will generally appear in the spring.
  • Lenten roses are an outstanding plant for providing color and texture to the ornamental shade garden. Utilize them as a specimen plant where they are the star of the show, as a border plant, or even as a groundcover. They work great when planted in containers and in between deciduous shrubs and under trees or naturalized in woodland areas.  
  • If looking for companion plants to plant next to Lenten rose, consider other spring flowers such as snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) and wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa). Plants with contrasting foliage such as ferns and hostas would also work.
  • No dividing is required like other perennials unless you want to acquire more plants. If yes, divide clumps in September or October. Water the plant a day or two before digging then work a shovel in a circle around the plant in order to dig it up. Wash off the soil around the plant and then divide it with a sharp knife between growth buds. Make sure to leave at least 3 buds on each division. Prepare the soil before planting and deeply since the plant has a deep root system. Position the crown where the stem joins the roots at soil level. Avoid covering plants with excess compost or mulch since this application can lead to rots.    

Benefits of Planting Hellebores in the Kentucky Garden

Since flowers are actually sepals, they do not fall off of the plant quickly and can last up to 2 months or longer. They make a great cut flower. It is best to harvest stems when the stamens have fallen off and the flower feels papery and stiff. Cut them using a sharp pair of pruners and place them in a vase filled with clean water.  Add floral preservative to the water to help extend the vase life. Since leaves contain alkaloids that can cause mild dermatitis with sensitive individuals, protect hands with gloves when cutting stems.  

Hellebores utilized as a cut flower in a vase.

Once established, plants are relatively drought tolerant and considered low maintenance. Require little fertilization. A spring application of compost should be enough. The Perennial Plant Association voted it “Perennial Plant of the Year” in 2005. Plus, deer and rabbit won’t bother them due to the thick rough leaves.  

I truly believe that Lenten Rose will make a great perennial flower for the Kentucky garden and work hard for the Kentucky gardener. Its wide variety of colorful blooms and shapes, easy growth habit, and low maintenance care make it a win win for gardeners to plant in their shade garden.

If you would like additional information on how to add Lenten rose in your garden or landscape, make sure to see the show notes. I have included some pictures of different varieties of Lenten rose found at Mammoth Cave Transplants. The wide variety of colors and blooms are breathe taking, so I invite you to check them out. Find the show notes on the blog at Warren County Agriculture.

That’s all the information for today. Hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To see the show notes for Episode 3 and additional resources mentioned from today’s show, please follow me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture, https://warrencountyagriculture.com/. Feel free to leave any questions that you might have or any additional comments on the blog or contact me directly via email at kristin.goodin@uky.edu. Leave me a review on iTunes so I can know what information to bring to you each week. To sweeten the deal, the first 10 subscribers to leave me a review on iTunes will earn a gardening prize. 

Make sure to tune in with me for more gardening information each week right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Each week, I plan to share seasonal gardening tips and tricks to help gardeners reach their gardening goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over your Kentucky garden. To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.

Keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Resources:

Kowalski, J. (2016, March 7). Heavenly Hellebores. The Ohio State University. Retrieved from https://bygl.osu.edu/node/99.

Mahr, S. (2018, March 23). Lenten Rose, Helleborus xhybridus. Wisconsin Master Gardener website. Retrieved from https://wimastergardener.org/article/lenten-rose-helleborus-xhybridus/

Perry, Dr. L. (n.d.). Hellebore: The Lenten Rose. University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science. Retrieved from https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/hellebore.html