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Have you ever started seeds at home? What was the outcome? Were the seedlings leggy and stretched? Did the seedlings die?
If these are some experiences that you have had, no more! Today, on episode 1 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I will share secrets to growing seeds indoors successfully. This information will make the difference and I assure that you will have healthier plants to transplant later into the garden. Stay with me to hear what secrets I have for starting seeds indoors for the Kentucky garden.
The joys of starting seeds
Starting seeds indoors can be such a rewarding experience for many gardeners! The thought of planting small seeds in the soil, watching them emerge each day, handling the tiny seedlings, and seeing them develop into young plants just warms my soul! Then, when the time is conducive for planting outdoors, gardeners can transplant their seedlings into the ground to watch it grow and mature further into an adult plant. This process from seed to plant is pure satisfaction and gratification for avid home gardeners!
Home gardeners are able to grow new, improved, and unusual plant varieties that they might not find available at local garden centers or nurseries. For instance, if you can’t find an heirloom tomato variety called ‘Hillbilly Potato Leaf Tomato’, get seed from another grower and grow it yourself. Gardeners can be the best source for heirloom varieties. Another added benefit with starting seeds at home is that gardeners reduce the amount of time required between planting and harvesting of at least 4 to 8 weeks. This my friends is music to my ears!
What to know ahead of time?
While starting seeds indoors is fun, it does require time and patience from gardeners. Regular monitoring of transplants is essential. Check seedlings daily for water and to see if any additional fertilizer is needed. Growing seeds at home will require equipment such as grow lights, maybe a plant stand if growing several different plants, trays to support the developing plants, and possibly a timer system. Cost of this equipment be based on your needs, so make sure to budget for them.
List of materials for starting seeds indoors
- Find a reputable source for seed. Companies that are reputable will stand behind their product and replace seed if there is a problem.
- Make sure seed varieties are locally adapted to the area.
- For recommendations on vegetables, check out ID-133. It lists vegetable cultivars that are suitable for Kentucky.
- Seeds sold in packages should display the crop, cultivar, germination, percentage, and chemical seed treatments, if any.
- Make sure to pay close attention to the sell by date.
- Inspect the seed before starting.
- Buy new seed since some seeds over a year old will not germinate (sprout) well.
2. Artificial Lighting
A lot of gardeners that I talk to one on one at the Extension Office mention to me that they start their seeds in the windowsill. In other areas of the United States, this area may be fine, but for Kentucky, we get poor results when starting seeds in the windowsill. Seedlings turn out leggy and stretched where they are trying to reach the light.
- Options may be to use cool white fluorescent lamps alone, use a mixture of cool white and warm white fluorescent lamps, or a mixture of cool white and plant growth fluorescent lamps. All of these options are acceptable.
- Position the lamps 5 to 10 inches above the foliage.
- Operate them 12 to 18 hours/day. It might be a good idea to purchase a timer that will allow the lights to come on and off automatically.
- Keep seedlings cool enough about 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit for strong, sturdy growth after germination occurs.
3. Soil Media Mix
A desirable soil medium for starting seed should be loose, well-drained and fine-textured. It should not contain any disease causing organisms or significant amounts of fertilizer. Prepared media possessing these traits are available commercially, or component material can be purchased individually and mixed at home.
Soilless mixes are inert mixes containing no soil that are available for starting seeds. They are usually composed of a combination of peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. These can be purchased ready-made or can be mixed at home. Note that if using these mixes, they have little fertility, so seedlings must be watered with a diluted fertilizer solution.
Containers for starting seeds should be sterile and free from harmful chemicals. Previously used containers should be sterilized before use. Wash plastic or wooden containers thoroughly with soapy water to remove all debris. Then rinse containers by dipping them in a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water, and allow them to dry before filling with germination medium. Containers should also be sturdy and fit into the space available for growing plants in the home.
Plastic trays, fiber trays, or wooden flats
- Plants that are easy to transplant may be seeded directly into trays or flats for later transplanting into individual packs or pots, or wider spacing in flats.
- Starting seed in such containers saves space when compared with seeding directly into individual pots.
- Biodegradable pots made from peat or paper waste fibers can be purchased individually or in strips or blocks.
- They are porous and provide excellent drainage and air circulation to the root zone.
- The entire pot can be planted.
Compressed peat pellets
- Before hydration, peat pellets are about the size of a silver dollar but somewhat thicker.
- When placed in water, they swell to form a cylindrical netlike container filled with peat moss, ready for seeding or transplanting.
- Plant them directly into the garden.
Proper Planting Techniques
Step 1: Moisten the germination media. Fill the container to within ¾ inch of the top with the medium. Use a clean, small board to level the germination media and gently tap the container on a table or hard surface to remove any air bubbles.
Step 2: If seeding in a tray or flat, use a ruler or even a large wooden plant label to make shallow rows 1 to 2 inches apart. If using only one variety of seed, scatter or “broadcast” the seed evenly over the soil surface. Now, if using different seeds in the same tray, make sure to label the rows with a plant label marked with the name of the cultivar.
Step 3: Sow the seeds uniformly and thinly in the rows. For many small round seeds, drop them slowly in the rows by tapping the seed package over the row. Again, use a plant label for each row to distinguish the plant type, variety, and date of planting.
Step 4: For large-seeded vegetables such as cucumber, cantaloupe, and watermelon, plant directly into containers such as peat pots. Other seeds may also be handled this way to save the gardener on transplanting.
Step 5: Next, cover seeds with dry vermiculite or milled sphagnum moss. The depth of covering depends on the size of the seeds. Most fine seeds, like lettuce and petunia, need light to germinate and should not be covered. As a general rule, seeds other than especially fine seeds should be covered to a depth of 2 times their diameter.
Step 6: Moisten the surface of the media with a fine mist. You can do this with a spray bottle of water.
Step 7: Place the seeded container in a warm location under grow lights for germination. Generally, a range from 65 to 75 degrees F is best.
Step 8: Inspect daily for germination. Seeds are quickly killed if allowed to dry during germination. Watch closely for development of any disease and, if evident, take control measure promptly.
Other successful tips
- Good humidity and adequate water are necessary for producing good plants. Adequate watering implies keeping growing medium moist at all times but never soggy. Allow some drying between watering, but don’t allow seedlings to wilt at any time.
- Seedlings will need some fertilization for best development. It is best to use a soluble houseplant fertilizer that is sold in garden centers, nurseries or plant supply sections of department stores.
- Apply fertilizer at about half the recommended strength a few days after seedlings have germinated. After that, fertilize according to the recommendations listed on the fertilizer label. Water and fertilize carefully.
- Thin out other seedlings to make more room in the plant row.
- The process of hardening-off involves exposing transplants to cooler temperatures and giving them less fertilizer and water to “toughen” them.
- Begin the hardening off process about two weeks before planting in the garden. If possible, move plants to a shady, outdoor location with cooler temperatures. A cold frame is excellent spot for this purpose.
- When plants are first put outdoors, keep them in the shade, but gradually move them into sunlight for short periods each day, gradually increasing the length of exposure.
- Don’t put tender seedlings outdoors on windy days or when temperatures are below 45 degrees F. Reduce the frequency of watering to slow growth, but don’t allow plants to wilt.
- After proper hardening, plant transplants outdoors and light frosts will not damage them.
By having the right materials and following the proper steps to growing seeds at home, gardeners can be more successful when starting seeds indoors. If you would like more information on starting seeds indoors, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of the Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky publication also known as ID-128. This resource is great for learning more about home vegetable gardening in Kentucky from asparagus all the way to watermelon. For a link to this guide, make sure to see the show notes.
Hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To see the show notes for Episode 1 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.
Make sure to tune in with me for more gardening information each week right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To be notified of other future episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts to stay up to date on all the latest episodes. Each week, I plan to share seasonal gardening tips and tricks to help gardeners reach their goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over their Kentucky garden.
ID-133, Vegetable Cultivars for Kentucky Gardens 2013, http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id133/id133.pdf
ID- 128, Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
Move over Valentine’s Day! February is not only the month for flowers, but it is also a time for gardeners to show their love and care for fruits! Right now is the absolute best time of year to perform general maintenance practices such as pruning, fertilizing, and spraying needed for quality home fruit production.
Prune fruit trees to maximize sunlight and increase airflow through the tree’s canopy, while they are dormant in February or early March. All pruning cuts should be made at the branch bases, leaving only the branch collar (1/4 to ½ inch) so that wounds heal properly. First, remove all dead or diseased shoots and limbs. Both apple and pear trees are very susceptible to the bacterial disease called fire blight. This disease is easily recognizable by the “shepherd’s crook” and dark black color located at the end of a branch. Next, take out any signs of shriveled fruit left on the tree and dispose of it. Do not leave diseased plant debris near the growing site.
For the remainder of the trees, use heading back cuts to reduce the height of the tree so it is easier to manage and also thinning out cuts to open up the tree for sunlight and airflow. Make sure that the pruning blades are sharp to provide a nice clean cut. Sanitize blades of cutting tools between each cut with a 10 percent bleach solution or rubbing alcohol. This task may seem redundant but it protects healthy tissue from being infecting with harmful bacteria.
After trees are pruned, apply a dormant oil spray to both apple and pear trees. Dormant oil is a refined petroleum product that effectively controls red mites and scale insects from overwintering in tree bark with a suffocating layer of oil. Since this is a dormant oil, apply dormant oil spray before new growth begins in the spring and when temperatures are above freezing for at least 24 hours. Make sure to always read and follow label directions for proper use of any pesticide. Dormant oil is sold at local garden centers and is relatively inexpensive.
Lastly, fertilize fruit trees in February unless it is a newly planted tree. For first year plantings, fertility adjustments are made prior to planting so their root system has time to establish in the ground. During subsequent seasons, apply fertilizer rates according to the plant growth rate and condition. If the average terminal growth is less than the value listed under the desired vegetative growth in Table 1, increase the quantity of nitrogen applied. If the terminal growth exceeds the amount, reduce the quantity of nitrogen. Nitrogen should be at its peak level during the spring growing season.
To obtain more information related to fruit tree care and maintenance, please contact the Warren County Extension Office at (270) 842-1681.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is accepting applications to grow, broker, or process hemp in 2020. Among the major application changes for 2020:
- KDA will accept grower applications from November 15, 2019, to March 15, 2020.
- KDA will accept processor/handler applications beginning on November 15, 2019.
- The KDA will host an online application.
- The new online application will include a mapping function that will automatically upload the GPS coordinates.
Applications and details can be found at https://www.kyagr.com/marketing/hemp-pilot.html.
For more information watch Kevin Lyons, Monroe County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources talk about the Hemp Industry, Application Process, and Tips.
Some good news for the new hemp year:
EPA Approves Use of 10 New Pesticide Products for Hemp
Last Month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has approved 10 pesticides for use on Hemp for the 2020 growing season. Nine of these products are biopesticides and one is a conventional pesticide. This expands the tools producers have to combat insects, mites, and diseases.
- EPA Registration Number: 70310-5. Applicant: Agro Logistic Systems, Inc. Active ingredients: Azadirachtin and Neem Oil. Product type: Insecticide, Miticide, Fungicide, and Nematicide.
- EPA Registration Number: 70310-7. Applicant: Agro Logistic Systems, Inc. Active ingredients: Azadirachtin and Neem Oil. Product type: Insecticide, Miticide, Fungicide, and Nematicide.
- EPA Registration Number: 70310-8. Applicant: Agro Logistic Systems, Inc. Active ingredients: Azadirachtin and Neem Oil. Product type: Insecticide, Miticide, Fungicide, and Nematicide.
- EPA Registration Number: 70310-11. Applicant: Agro Logistic Systems, Inc. Active ingredient: Neem Oil. Product type: Insecticide, Miticide, and Fungicide.
- EPA Registration Number: 84059-3. Applicant: Marrone Bio Innovations, D/B/A Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. Active ingredient: Extract of Reynoutria sachalinensis. Product type: Fungicide and Fungistat.
- EPA Registration Number: 84059-28. Applicant: Marrone Bio Innovations, D/B/A Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. Active ingredient: Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain F727. Product type: Fungicide.
- EPA Registration Number: 91865-1. Applicant: Hawthorne Hydroponics LLC, D/B/A General Hydroponics. Active ingredients: Soybean Oil, Garlic Oil, and Capsicum Oleoresin Extract. Product type: Insecticide and Repellent.
- EPA Registration Number: 91865-3. Applicant: Hawthorne Hydroponics LLC, D/B/A General Hydroponics. Active ingredient: Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain D747. Product type: Fungicide and Bactericide.
- EPA Registration Number: 91865-4. Applicant: Hawthorne Hydroponics LLC, D/B/A General Hydroponics. Active ingredient: Azadirachtin. Product type: Insect Growth Regulator and Repellent.
- EPA Registration Number: 91865-2. Applicant: Hawthorne Hydroponics LLC, D/B/A General Hydroponics. Active ingredient: Potassium Salts of Fatty Acids. Product type: Insecticide, Fungicide, and Miticide.
By Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist
Lake Berry Farm is a small blueberry farm. We grow blackberries and strawberries but we also grow a variety of produce, including vegetables. My wife, Nancy also bakes variety of breads: sourdough, zucchini, and banana breads. She also makes fried pies, jams, jellies, etc. We retired and started farming as a hobby and it has grown into a full time job. We sell at some of the local farmers markets, including SoKY Marketplace in Bowling Green, Bounty of the Barrens in Glasgow, and Allen County Farmer’s Market in Scottsville. We also sell from our farm if someone contacts us or stops by. We are a proud member of Kentucky Proud. All of our contact information is listed on our Facebook page: Lake Berry Farms.
Kristin Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture prepares a tasty BBQ Sweet Potato Nacho recipe with sweet potatoes from Lake Berry Farm.
BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos:
Ingredients: 2 sweet potatoes (long and evenly round is ideal), washed and sliced into ¼ inch rounds; 2 tablespoons olive oil; ½ teaspoon salt; ½ teaspoon pepper; ½ red onion, diced; 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed; ½ bell pepper, diced; ½ avocado, pit removed and diced (optional). Dressing: 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice; ½ cup plain Greek yogurt; 1 ½ tablespoons barbeque sauce; ½ teaspoon chili powder. Instructions: Preheat oven to 425 degree F. Spread sweet potatoes rounds on a large sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast potatoes for 10-15 minutes, toss and continue roasting for another 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine ingredients for dressing in small bowl. Remove sweet potatoes from oven. Sprinkle onion, black beans, bell pepper and avocado (if using) over the sweet potatoes and let cool. Drizzle with dressing or use dressing to dip.
Kristin Hildabrand, Warren County Horticulture Agent visits with grower Jean Bowles of Kentucky Cuts to discuss her flower farm.
Jean is a cut flower grower who specializes in growing sunflowers, zinnias, and lisianthus during the summer season. In the Kentucky Farms Kentucky Flavor segment, she explains to Kristin the process she takes in growing cut flowers on the farm from seed to harvest. Jean shared that she got into farming because she enjoyed being outside and first started farming flowers, when her kids were young. She quickly figured out that it was going to take much more time than she could devote, so she left farming flowers for several years. Now that she is retired and her kids are grown, Jean is back to flower farming again! Her goal for the farm is to make it more self-sustaining! In the future, she hopes to try growing different flower varieties that most people don’t grow.
Kristin shows us how to make a fresh flower arrangement using seasonal flowers grown on the farm from Kentucky Cuts.
Before starting the arrangement process, gather a few items from around the house: a sharp pair of scissors, container or vase for the flowers, fresh water, and freshly harvested flowers. To begin making the arrangement, make sure that the container or vase is clean. Next, add fresh room temperature water to the vase. Now, the flower arranging process can begin! Use the thriller, spiller, and filler method, when arranging flowers. The thriller flower provides the height in the arrangement, the spiller plant cascades down and softens the sides, and the filler flower fills in the dead space. Place the thriller plant in the vase first. The thriller flower should only be about 1.5 to 2 times the height of the container. Make stem cuts at a diagonal to allow water to easily transport through the stem. Add the spiller plant next followed by the filler flowers. For more information about flower arranging, please contact the local Extension Office in your area.
Peach season is about over, but you can still get some white peaches and some late varieties at Dunn and Bowen Orchard, our Kentucky Farms, Kentucky Flavor feature farmer for August. Dunn and Bowen Orchard has been providing fresh peaches for over 40 years. With 3,500 trees they offer 14 different varieties of peaches.
Peaches have a fuzzy skin and come in many varieties with yellow or white flesh. There are “freestones” (flesh separates easily from pit) or “clingstones” (flesh clings to the pit). Peaches contain many nutrients but are most important for fiber and vitamins A and C. They are low in calories; one medium sized peach has about 35 calories. When selecting fruit, look for fairly firm to slightly soft fruit with yellow or cream-colored skin. Avoid peaches that are green, shriveled or bruised. Dunn and Bowen Orchard is located at 998 Aubrey Mills Road in Bowling Green, KY. If you have any questions, contact them at (270)597-3501. Check out Joanna’s visit to the Orchard as she talks with Chris Bowen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpCU75l5mPQ
If you need any inspiration for new peach recipes, be sure to contact your local extension office!
Kristin prepares a delicious roasted peach recipe with fresh peaches from Dunn and Bowen Orchard.
It may seem strange to cook fresh peaches when they are at their peak of juicy flavor, but roasting them actually deepens that flavor. Even if you are only planning to have one or two for dessert you can roast them all, but only drizzle honey or maple syrup on the ones you’re planning to eat right away. The rest will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 5 days. Eat them as a snack, or sliced up on yogurt, or even as a garnish for grilled chicken. (If you have a grill, these are also fantastic grilled.)
Roasted Peaches with Honey
Ingredients: 4 ripe peaches, halved and pitted; 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon; and 4 teaspoons maple syrup or honey. Instructions: Turn the oven on and set the heat to 425 degrees. Put the peaches, but side down, in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Put the baking dish in the oven and roast until the peaches are tender and have some brown on the cut sides, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle the peaches with cinnamon, drizzle with honey or maple syrup, and serve right away.
Watch the video tutorial on how to make these roasted peaches https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVrOZHC-W9U.
Groce Greenhouse and Produce is locally owned in Barren County by Bobby and Thelma Groce. Bobby’s daughter Samantha Geralds was highlighted during this season’s KYF2 spot. For July, they have a variety of different melons: watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydew, and specialty melons such as sensations, canary melons, and sprite melons.
Cantaloupe is a great source of vitamins A and C. A half cup serving provides 50 calories, 120 percent of vitamin 1 and 80 percent of vitamin c needed per day. They also contain phytochemicals that foster heart health and good vision, boost the immune system and reduce the risk of some cancers. You will also find many varieties of homegrown tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplants, sweet candy onions, sweet and hot banana peppers, bell peppers and much more. Groce Greenhouse and Produce can be found on Saturday’s from 8:00 Am until 1:00 PM at the SoKY Marketplace in downtown Bowling Green, as well as, on the Glasgow Square for the Bounty of the Barren’s Farmers Market on Saturday’s from 8:00 AM until Noon.
Glazed Cantaloupe Bread Recipe:
When selecting melons, choose melons heavy for their size with no visible bruises or yellow or cream undertone. Ripe melons will yield to slight pressure at the blossom end and have a fruity fragrance. Wash melons in warm water before cutting to rid the rind of any impurities that might be carried from the knife blade to the flesh. Cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Melons can be cut into halves, quarters, wedges, cubes or scooped into balls with a melon baller.
Joanna talks to Nicole and Jordan from Simple Greens to talk about their farming operation.
Nicole and Jordan decided to use their love of gardening to grow food, educate and advocate for a healthier happier community. What started as a healthy hobby of DIY gardening projects using repurposed materials has turned into lifestyle goals to grow healthy food for their selves and for their community. They are essentially a micro-farm. Every year they continue to gather data, learn from their yearly farming experiments and slowly figure out the best crops for the space they have. They live on 2.71 acres where they grow lettuce, greens, herbs and cucumbers hydroponically in several areas on their property including a 2 car garage. They find greens, lettuce and certain herbs grown hydroponically have better yields and are more ergonomically managed. Lettuce is a great beginning gardener plant. Other produce like tomatoes, sugar peas, root vegetables, most herbs, berries, flowers, etc. are grown in soil. They gather leaves in the fall to use as compost and mulch. They are in their 5th growing season. Their largest challenges? The have 4.
l) They have clay soil
2) On the sunniest spots on their shady property
3) It takes time to build the soil and rotate the right crops while building
“said” terrible soil
4) As you will see they are also operating in a small space.
That may be the most unique thing about them–their size. Big or small, each spot and plot in the yard viable for food production adds up and kicks the butts of the two people living there. Their goal is to keep experimenting and learning how to grow more produce varieties. They will expand at home until they can buy land to further their crazy dream. The idea is it will keep them happy and healthy.
Interested in trying a healthy snack? Check out the video for the Kale Mango Smoothie.
With daffodils, dogwoods, and forsythia in bloom, homeowners get the itch to spend some time in their yards. The following are some do’s and don’ts for spring lawn care on cool-season grasses (tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass) in 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. To learn how to sharpen your blade, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMy1j9NR89o&list=UUMFY6zEWe6uJEYakzOofhIg
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. More
information on fertilizing lawns can be found in this video:
Do: Apply a Pre-emergent Herbicide.
• Annual grassy weeds such as crabgrass and goosegrass begin to germinate in the spring
and depending on the thickness of the lawn, the amount of weed seed in the soil, and
the environmental conditions, untreated populations of these weeds can out-compete
and take over your desired lawn species. By applying a pre-emergent herbicide prior to
weed 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 pretty good indicator plant for knowing when to apply a pre-emergent herbicide by is
forsythia. Generally, a pre-emergent application should be applied before forsythia
drops its blooms (Figure 1).
• Do not apply weed and feed products as we don’t want to be applying nitrogen to our
cool-season lawns in the spring.
• If you miss the pre-emerge window, and weeds begin to germinate, your best bet is to
apply a post-emergent application to small seedlings as most pre-emergent products do
not work after germination. For more information on controlling weeds in your lawn,
check out the following publications:
Don’t: Seed in the Spring.
• The best time of year to seed lawns is in the early fall. The concern with planting in the
spring is that there is significant competition between seedlings and grassy weeds (and
weeds almost always outgrow our desired species) and the immature seedlings can
struggle with summer heat and drought more so than a mature lawn.
• If you have to seed in the spring, plant around the time that forsythia is in bloom (Figure 2), as soil temperatures are adequate at this point for germination of tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass.
• For more information on establishing or renovating lawns, see:
Do: Mow at Regular Height.
• Once the grass starts to grow in the spring, it will really start to take off. We see most of
the growth in the spring of the year, it slows down in the summer, and then ramps up
again in autumn (Figure 2).
• 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.
• Mowing at taller heights has been shown to reduce crabgrass populations without the
use of herbicides. Recommended heights for lawn grasses in Kentucky are:
o Tall fescue 3 inches or taller
o Kentucky bluegrass 2.5 inches or taller
• For more information on mowing your lawn, see the following publication:
By following these basic do’s and don’ts, you can start your lawn off on the right foot this spring and enjoy it more and work on it less throughout the year.
Source: Dr. Gregg Munshaw, Turfgrass Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky
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