Monthly Archives: October 2020

7 Fun Ways to Use Pumpkin this Season!

#1. Eat Them!

Pumpkin is a nutritious food to consume. They are low in fat and sodium and provides 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 place it in a baking dish. Bake in the oven on 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour or until tender. For some nutritional pumpkin recipes, check out the Chocolate Pumpkin Snack Cake and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.

CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN SNACK CAKE

• 1 (18.5 ounce) box Devil’s Food cake mix

• 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin or 2 cups fresh pumpkin (cooked and mashed)

1. Mix cake mix and pumpkin in a large bowl. Batter will be thick. 2. Spread batter into a greased 13 x 9 inch cake pan. 3. Bake according to cake mix package directions for a 13 x 9 inch pan. 4. Cool and cut into 15 pieces. OPTION: Try using other flavors of cake mix, such as spice or butter pecan. Cupcakes can also be made with this recipe.

NUTRITION FACTS PER SERVING: 140 calories; 2.5 g total fat; 1 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 260 mg sodium; 29 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 2 g protein; 30% Daily Value of vitamin A; 2% Daily Value of vitamin C; 4% Daily Value of calcium; 8% Daily Value of iron

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.

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Ingredients: 

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1¼ cups honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups fresh pureed pumpkin
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 cups Granny Smith apples, finely chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt and spices. In a small bowl, combine honey, eggs, pumpkin and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apples. Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups, two-thirds full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Yield: 18 muffins

Note: Can substitute two cups granulated sugar for honey, decrease baking soda by ¼ teaspoon and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Nutritional Analysis: 200 calories, 7 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 3 g protein

Don’t forget that the pumpkin seeds can even 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.

#2. Decorate Them!

One fall activity that youth look forward to is pumpkin decorating! Take your family to a local pumpkin patch to pick out their own pumpkin. Once you have picked out a pumpkin then your child can select their preferred method on how to decorate their pumpkin, without the hassle of having to carve them too! Options may include painting their pumpkins with acrylic paints or creating their own designs. Parents may want to purchase decorating kits at local crafts stores. The kits can be purchased in all different designs like dinosaurs, cats, Disney characters, or funny jack-o-lantern faces. The best part about these kits is they can be recycled year after year. Another option is fun 3-D stickers where kids can make funny faces on their pumpkin. The last kit used was a cat kit that came with foam parts and pipe cleaners. With the foam Halloween decorating kits, it contains everything that a parent would need to help their child decorate their pumpkin.  If you do plan on carving the pumpkin, carving design books are available where the design is perforated instead of having to use scissors to cut them out. 

#3. Create a Fresh Pumpkin Centerpiece using Natural Elements!

With pumpkins in a huge supply this October, create a fresh do-it-yourself pumpkin centerpiece to brighten up your lovely abode! First, gather a few materials to begin your project — a sharp knife, a big spoon, one block of wet floral foam, clear tape, scissors, a small pie pumpkin, and a variety of seasonal flowers and natural elements from the landscape such as garden canna, dried hydrangeas, purple basil, sedum, and goldenrod.

Begin by soaking a block of floral foam in a sink filled with cold water to get it wet. Allow the water to gradually soak up into the foam and avoid pushing it down in the water where it can gather air bubbles. While the block is soaking, take the pie pumpkin and with a knife carve a circle around the top of the pumpkin’s stem to hold the wet foam of your arrangement. Remove and discard the seeds and pulp.

Next, place the water saturated block of floral foam inside the pumpkin. You may have to cut it with a knife to make sure that it fits in the opening of the pumpkin. This is the perfect membrane for holding the mechanics of the arrangement.

Add the thriller of the arrangement first which would be the tall garden canna to give it some height. Make sure to cut stems at a diagonal so water will easily transport up the stem. Next, add dried hydrangeas to serve as the main flower for the arrangement. Place the purple basil greenery around the hydrangeas to give a nice pop of color. Lastly, add the stems of sedum and goldenrod as the filler flower to fill in the dead space and finish the arrangement.

#4. Make a Gratitude Pumpkin!

Spend time with family by creating a gratitude or a thankful pumpkin. To create this pumpkin, take a black permanent marker and have each member of the family write what they are thankful for each day. Keep the pumpkin on the table until Thanksgiving to serve as a reminder of what your family is thankful for this season!

#5. Assemble a Table Centerpiece using Pumpkins!

Another way to use other pumpkins this season is to create a pumpkin centerpiece! Grab a white plate or tray from around the house, other types of pumpkin whether it be multi-colored ones or small white ones, and collect fall clippings from trees and shrubs around the landscape to create a simple fall centerpiece for the table!

To begin this process, place one type of tree cutting on the bottom of the white plate or tray to serve as the base. In the picture above, we used a deciduous shrub showing bright red berries. In the picture below, we selected heavenly bamboo. Next, place the pumpkins on top of the leaf clippings. Make sure to use an odd number of pumpkins like 3’s or 5’s. Next, add another type of colorful fall foliage around the pumpkins for some accent color like the red maple or even the Northern Sea Oats. For some extra embellishment, place small raffia bows around the stems of the pumpkins. You can also add little tea lights around the pumpkins if you have any extra room. Another added touch would be to personalize the pumpkins with Thanksgiving sayings or blessings for the table. Have fun and be creative!

Other pumpkins used in a centerpiece.

#6. Make a Pumpkin Bird Feeder!                                 

This is a fun project and activity to perform at home and involve 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 knife cut and remove all the guts of the pumpkin. To make the hanger for the pumpkin bird feeder, take heavy-duty string and attach it to the sides of the pumpkin by drilling a hole. Another option is to place the string around the sides of the pumpkin and 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 when feeding, add tree branches or small twigs to the sides. Hang up the finished pumpkin bird feeder in a tree and watch the feathery friends from your favorite window.

#7 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 from the compost pile. In a few short months, the compost pile will reduce in size and finished compost will smell earthy, feel crumbly, and appear dark in color.

Fall Home Lawn Improvement Practices

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, fall is the absolute time to carry out several home lawn improvement practices to help improve the appearance of your Kentucky home lawn. Today on episode 11 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing the top 4 secrets to improving your home lawn this fall. For all the details, stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

#1. When is the best time to perform lawn care practices in Kentucky? The turf care calendar for cool season lawns in Kentucky is found at the beginning of this guide. It shows each month of the year and highlights the best and second best times to perform specific lawn care practices for the Kentucky lawn. There are also foot notes located at the bottom of the page that gives more explanations related to the specific lawn care practices.

Preview of the Turf Care Calendar for Cool-Season Lawns

#2. Select the right grass for the Kentucky lawn. Based on research from the University of Kentucky, turf-type tall fescue performs the best for Kentucky Home Lawns. Tall fescue has good qualities including: There are also some slight drawbacks which include good traffic tolerance. For a link to see the publication on Selecting the Right Grass for your Kentucky Lawn, make sure to see the show notes. This publication explores the different types of grass species that can be grown in Kentucky and lists major qualities and problems associated with each grass type. Recommendations for the top performing varieties of tall fescue and other cool-season grasses are also included in this guide.

#3. Soil Test, Soil Test, Soil Test! The secret to having a nice looking lawn is by conducting a soil test. I often say that the secret to good plant growth is through the soil and by testing the soil, this process 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. Some basic information about the crop being grown is needed to go along with the sample before being mailed. There is a small fee to pay for conducting a soil test, but I assure you that it is the best money that you will spend since it gives you the exact amounts for lime and fertilizer that is needed. 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.

#4. When should I fertilize my home lawn? Fertilization is an important part of maintaining a home lawn. Fall is the absolute best time to fertilize cool season grasses in the Kentucky 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 depends 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 applications of nitrogen. Make sure to have the soil tested to know these exact recommendations for the home lawn.

If interested in knowing more information about home lawn fertilization, make sure to see the link in the show notes to achieve the publication for Fertilizing your Lawn, AGR-212.

While I know that I gave the top 4 secrets to improving your home lawn this fall, I also have a free resource that I am offering up today that can offer more help in home lawn improvement practices! This free resource is called the Home Lawn Improvement Guidebook. This guidebook will assist you in making the best decisions for how and when to improve the appearance of your Kentucky lawn. Material in this guidebook is provided by University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Turf Specialists and other Extension Professionals. If you would like a copy of this guidebook, make sure to contact the Warren County Extension Service at (270) 842-1681 or contact Kristin Hildabrand at kristin.goodin@uky.edu.

I hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! For more information about today’s show, make sure to see the show notes on the blog at Warren County Agriculture.

To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, make sure to hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts. By hitting the subscribe button, you will be notified of future shows where gardening tips and tricks will be shared to help gardeners reach their gardening goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over your Kentucky garden.

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! I hope to see you again soon when the sun shines again!

Helpful Resources:

Turf Care Calendar: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/agr/agr55/agr55.pdf

Selecting the Right Grass for your Kentucky Lawn: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR52/AGR52.pdf

Fertilizing your Lawn AGR-212: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR212/AGR212.pdf. 

MCA Virtual Field Day

Join in on the Mammoth Cave Area Virtual Field Day that will be held on Tuesday, October 27th from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. This program will be held exclusively on Zoom video conferencing technology. The program is of no cost, but interested producers are required to pre-register. Participants will tour and learn about the following farms in the Mammoth Cave Area:

  • Ag Diversification: Producing and Selling Ear Corn For Profit: McKinney Farms – Butler County
  • High Tunnel Strawberry Production: Kevin Lyons – Monroe County
  • Managing Mud in High Traffic Areas with Winter Feeding Pad: Ricky & Kay Keen – Simpson County


Participants will also have the opportunity to talk with each farmer during the program to help answer any question attendees may have. Pre-registration is required. To register go to this registration link
https://uky.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMlc-ygrTkqHtK9UBZUNbaKGepf7gwHVh0x or contact your local extension office. This event is being hosted by agriculture and horticulture agents in the Mammoth Cave Area.

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses look good throughout the seasons and provide texture and movement in the garden too. Grasses are selected for their attractive foliage, distinctive form, and/or showy flowers and seedheads. Make sure that the grass selected fits into the landscape plan. It must be the right size, shape, color, and needs to bloom in the correct season. Here is an overview of how to plant and grow ornamental grasses successively in the garden as well as a list of ornamental grass varieties that would be good to plant for great autumn color.

Maiden Grass

Growing Recommendations

When: The best time to plant grasses is spring, so they will be established by the time hot summer months arrive. Container-grown grasses can be planted during the summer as long as adequate moisture is supplied. Cool-season grasses can be planted in early fall, but plenty of mulch should be used to protect fall plantings from winter kill.

Soil: Most grasses will grow in good or heavy clay soils. Those that have special soil requirements should be found on the print label when purchased.

Spacing: A general rule is to place plants as far apart as their eventual height. Grasses that have a mature height of 3 feet may be placed 3 feet apart from center to center. If quick cover is desired, and your budget allows, plant closer.

Switch Grass

Planting: Keep the following guidelines in mind when planting ornamental grasses.

  • Always try to match the original soil line of the plant.
  • Do not plant too high or too low below the crown.
  • Newly planted grasses are susceptible to drying out, so water them immediately after planting, and keep them well watered until they are established.

Mulching: Mulching is important to get your grass plant off to a good start. Mulch reduces weeds, conserves soil moisture, reduces soil temperature, and provides winter protection. A two-to-three-inch later of organic mulch is best.

Watering: Except in extreme periods of drought, most established grasses should receive enough rainfall in Kentucky without supplemental water. Drip irrigation, applied directly to the root zone, is best during flowering because overhead irrigation may cause rapid decline of flowers.

Cutting back foliage: Ornamental grasses should be cut back just before or as the new season’s growth begins to appear. For most grasses in Kentucky, cut back ornamental grasses in late February or March. This will allow you to enjoy the attractive tan and reddish foliage during the winter months Most grasses should be cut back to a few inches above the ground. A pair of hand pruners or string trimmers will work for most plants. However, most species that grow more than 10 feet tall will have large, woody stems that can be cut only with a string trimmer blade attachment, pruning saw, or chainsaw.

Feather Reed Grass

Dividing and transplanting: Grasses may need to be divided or transplanted to propagate more plants, renew older clumps that tend to die within the center of the clump, or move plants to a better location. Warm-season grasses should be divided in late fall, winter, or early spring. Divide the plants into good-sized divisions with multiple tillers (stems). They can be divided into smaller divisions, but these require more time to reach mature size. Keep newly divided plants moist and shaded until planted in their new location.

For more information on ornamental grasses for the Kentucky Landscape, contact your local Extension Office.

Information from this article was taken from Ornamental Grasses for Kentucky Landscapes, HO-79.

Cover Crops for the Kentucky Garden

Crimson Clover & Cereal Rye Cover Crop
Photo Source: Rachel Rudolph, UK Extension Vegetable Specialist

Our gardens are finally slowing down for the season. One thing you may ask yourself is should I consider sowing a cover crop for my Kentucky garden? Your mind may wonder next what type of cover crop should I sow? How is the best way to sow a cover crop? To find out more information about cover crops, I contacted our UK Extension Vegetable Specialist Dr. Rachel Rudolph to see what recommendation she had on cultivating cover crops. After talking with her, I discovered selecting a cover crop comes down to what you are hoping to accomplish for your garden plot.

Interview Guest: Dr. Rachel Rudolph,
University of Kentucky Extension Vegetable Specialist

Why would gardeners want to sow cover crops for their gardens? What are the advantages or benefits? Cover crops have the potential to lend several benefits for the Kentucky garden. Most of the benefits proven through research are increased soil organic matter, weed suppression, soil structure improvement, pest and pathogen suppression, soil micro-organism promotion, improved nutrient cycling and management, increased water infiltration, reduced soil erosion, and even attract and provide habitat for native pollinators to the garden.

Which cover crops perform best for Kentucky gardens? Generally not one cover crop will capture all the benefits listed above. The question goes back to the home gardener to decide “why do I want a cover crop?” and “what am I hoping to accomplish in my garden?”. Once you answer that question, it gets much easier to implement a cover crop for the garden. For example, let’s say that you desire a cover crop for weed suppression. The next question you may ask is what time of year do I want to deal with weed suppression? You may answer this question as the winter and summer months are needed more for weed suppression. Make sure to know what growing location you are located in as well as the soil type. Also, consider what type of crops are being grown in your garden. What will happen after these crops come out of the garden? What does your timeline look like? Once you answer some of those basic questions, you will better understand what cover crop is needed or wanted for your garden.

If you are looking for a cover crop that might check multiple boxes for benefits with the home gardener, cereal rye might be a good option! With cereal rye, it will increase organic matter content in the soil, reduce weeds, improve soil structure, promote soil micro-organisms, decrease soil erosion, increase water infiltration, and help improve nutrient cycling.

Cereal Rye mixed with Crimson Clover
@ The UK Horticulture Research Farm

How should we prepare before sowing cover crops in the garden? Before getting started, home gardeners should do their homework to know how much biomass will be produced from their specific cover crop being grown. For instance, cereal rye can get several feet tall at maturity, so ask yourself, are you equipped to handle it. Make sure that you are prepared and ready for when that times comes. Also, understand when the cover crop needs to be terminated.

When it comes to seeding these cover crops, most of them can be sown by broadcast seeding it. To know how much to apply over the area, measure the acreage of the garden and know what the recommended seeding rate for the cover crop. Next, prepare to broadcast the cover crop seed over the area. It may be helpful to mix it other additions such as potting soil or sand, so you feel it better and achieve better coverage when broadcasting the seed over the ground.

Next, prepare the soil before sowing the cover crop. Soil should be loose, crumbly, and soft on the top like planting for a vegetable garden. Gardeners should be able to rake the soil softly over the entire area. Avoid rocky or compacted soils.

If someone would like to learn more about cover crops, here are some other good resources to consider adding to your library.

Managing Cover Crops Profitably Resource Book

Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide

To listen to the full interview with Dr. Rachel Rudolph on Cover Crops for the Kentucky Garden, check out Episode 10 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion on things to consider when selecting and growing a cover crop for the Kentucky garden! To view the show notes for Episode 10 on Cover Crops for the Kentucky Garden, visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. Go to www.warrencountyagriculture.com

If you would like more information about cover crops for Kentucky gardens, make sure to contact your local Extension Office in your area.

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

Gardeners keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

References:

Winter Cover Crops for Kentucky Gardens and Fields, ID-113- http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id113/id113.pdf

Have you noticed Hammerhead Worms?

Last week, a client sent me a photo of a hammerhead worm. To be honest, I had never seen one or even heard of it before. I thought this article would shed more light on this unique creature. Read here to find out more information about hammerhead worms.

Hammerhead worms are flattened, very long earthworms, and have a broad shovel-like head. They can be 10 or more inches in length. Please see the picture below received from a Warren County resident.

Photo Source: Judy Lacefield, Warren Co. Resident

Hammerhead worms are earthworm and mollusk predators and have been a problem in earthworm farms. These are terrestrial planarians. They are able to detect secretions left by earthworms in the soil, and then track, kill, and consume those earthworms. They are able to kill earthworms many times their size as hammerhead worms can use a neurotoxin (tetrodotoxin) to paralyze the worm. Hammerhead worms have the potential to greatly impact local earthworm populations. These hammerhead worms have few predators.

Reproduction can be sexual, or asexual as all the species are hermaphroditic.  Some species can use fragmentation, fission of posterior body fragments. These diverse reproductive strategies enable hammerhead worms to spread rapidly.

While there are native hammerhead worm species, this species appears to be invasive from southeastern Asia; however, I am not able to confirm this. This species is widely distributed and has been in the United States for over a century.

Information for this article was taken from Ric Bessin, Entomology Extension Specialist Kentucky Pest News article published on September 8, 2020 found at https://kentuckypestnews.wordpress.com/2020/09/08/hammerhead-worms/.