Author Archives: warrencountyag

May Vegetable Gardening Tips

Home gardeners have finally gotten warm-season vegetable crops planted in their home vegetable gardens. Now, you may wonder, “What should I do next?” Today on episode 7 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing 4 secrets on how to keep your garden looking attractive to finish strong for the month of May! Stay with me for more details right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

#1- Use Companion Planting Strategies.    

Gardeners have planted several warm-season vegetables in the garden this month! They may have planted a nice mixture of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, squash, and sweet corn. Alongside these vegetables, gardeners should consider planting culinary herbs since they serve as a great companion plant. Companion planting is defined as planting two or more crops near each other crops in the vegetable garden to gain benefits for the home gardener. It has been shown to maximize vegetable yields, improve pest management, increase nutrient uptake, and enhance pollination with some crops. 

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 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 for attracting beneficial insects, they also draw in native pollinators. Some examples of culinary herbs to make room for in the garden are basil and oregano. Basil is a good herb for planting around tomatoes and provides shelter for a number of beneficial insects such as lady beetles and lacewings. Oregano is the pizza herb to use for seasoning pizza dishes at home.

Another plant that comes to mind with companion planting is marigolds. Several gardeners plant this warm season flower every year in their garden to protect vegetables from harmful insects. Research has shown that the roots of marigolds produce biochemical that are poisonous to minute worm-like organisms that can cause damage to plants.

To discover other possibilities of companion plants to use in the home vegetable garden, make sure to see the show notes. I have included a table that lists crops that do well when planted next to each other in the home vegetable garden.

Crop:Companions:
CornBeans, Cucumbers, English Pea, Irish Potato,
Pumpkin, Squash  
CucumberBeans, Cabbage, Corn, English Pea, Radish, Sunflowers  
EggplantBasil, Beans, Catnip, Lemon Grass, Marigold  
OkraPeppers, Squash, Sweet Potatoes  
PepperBasil, Clover, Marjoram, Tomato  
SquashNasturtium, Corn, Marigold  
Sweet PotatoOkra, Peppers, Sunflowers  
TomatoAsparagus, Basil, Carrot, Cucumber,
Marigold, Onions, Parsley, Rosemary  

Source: ATTRA publication on
Companion Planting & Botanical Pesticides: Concepts & Resources

#2- Provide vegetable plants with water after being planted.

It is important to provide plants with water after being planted in the ground. Carry out watering routines in the morning between the hours of 6am and 10am. This time frame allows plants plenty of time to dry off during the day. Avoid splashing the foliage with water to reduce foliar diseases.

While it may be expensive, drip irrigation is a convenient way to provide consistent soil moisture to plants. Water is targeted at the base of the plant which is then absorbed by the root system.

Here are critical times to water common vegetable crops in the home garden.

  • Cucumber- flowering and fruit development
    • Eggplant- uniform supply from flowering through harvest
    • Melon- fruit set and early development
    • Pepper- uniform supply from flowering through harvest
    • Summer squash- bud development, flowering, and fruit development
    • Sweet Corn- silking, tasseling, and ear development
    • Tomato- uniform supply from flowering through harvest

#3- Apply fresh organic mulch.

Mulch can offer several benefits to the home gardener! It helps conserve soil moisture by creating a barrier between the soil and the air, controls weeds by blocking the sunlight, and is aesthetically pleasing and attractive to the garden.

Apply 2 to 4 inches of fresh mulch around plants to help conserve soil moisture and reduce weeds. If you desire an organic mulch, layers of newspaper or straw are good mulches to consider. These mulches will return nutrients into the ground after they have decomposed. Another option would be inorganic mulch like black plastic. This type of mulch will reduce weeds and encourage earlier planting for crops by 2 weeks.  

Organic mulch return nutrients to the soil after decomposing.

#4- Side-dress vegetables at the correct time.

In order for vegetables to produce lush, continuous growth throughout the season, they require a uniform supply of nutrients. Gardeners should side-dress vegetable transplants at the correct time and at the recommended rate to give them an extra supply of nutrients needed for continuous growth throughout the season.

Here are the recommended times for side-dressing common vegetables in the home garden.

    • Cucumber- apply 1 week after blossoming begins and Eggplant- after first fruit set
    • Peppers- after first fruit set
    • Squash- additional nitrogen might reduce yield or lower quality
    • Sweet corn- when plants are 12 inches tall
    • Tomatoes- apply 1 to 2 weeks before first picking and same amount 2 weeks after first picking

I hope that you found this information helpful today. If you would like additional information on other gardening tasks to perform this month, make sure to see the show notes on the blog at Warren County Agriculture to find the May Gardening Checklist that I have created. It lists other activities to do in and around the home garden. To view this checklist, 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.

As always, 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. 

Gardeners 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

Top 10 Tomato Growing Tips

It is no wonder that tomatoes are the number one vegetable that every gardener makes room for in their vegetable garden! Tomatoes can be cultivated in different soil types and grown in many areas. The wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of tomatoes make it easy for gardeners to select their favorite variety based on taste. Today on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing 10 top tomato tips to give you better tasting tomatoes this season.

  1. Know your tomato type. Determinate type tomatoes, also called bush tomatoes, grow to a certain height and then stop. Generally they range in size from 2-3 feet in height. The fruits of determinate tomatoes also ripen all about the same time. For this reason, these tomatoes are ideal for gardeners who wish to can and preserve their tomatoes from the season. Determinate tomatoes work best for small gardens or even container gardens. These do not require support system or structure. Some examples of determinate type tomatoes include Mountain Spring, Mountain Pride, Patio, and Sunmaster. Indeterminate type tomatoes. This tomato type is also referred to as vining tomatoes. Vining type tomatoes keep growing and growing until they are killed by frost. Their mature heights can reach anywhere from 3 to 6+ feet. With that said, indeterminate tomatoes will require sturdy support system through caging, staking, or trellising. The fruit is also staggered throughout the growing season. Common examples of indeterminate tomatoes include Better Boy, Early Girl, Sungold, and Super Sweet 100.   Semi-determinate plants. Plants are intermediate in size between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. These varieties produce fewer suckers than indeterminate varieties and reach a height of 3 to 5 feet. An example of a semi-determinate tomato variety is Celebrity. Dwarf indeterminate. This type is a new tomato classification where the tomatoes produce very short, bushy plants that are similar to determinate types, but keep flowering and producing fruit continuously like indeterminate tomato varieties. Some examples of dwarf indeterminate tomatoes are Husky Red Cherry and Husky Gold.
  2. Plant tomatoes in succession. It is easy to get carried away and plant all the tomatoes in the garden at once. Instead, stagger tomato plantings to help lengthen the season. Select an early maturing tomato for canning and preserving and then plant a mid-season tomato. The late maturing varieties are good to capture the last remaining harvests before fall frosts set in.
  3. Plant them deep and provide plenty of space. Set tomato transplants in the garden a little deeper than when it was growing in the container. The stems will form roots compared to other vegetables. If plants appear leggy, place the leggy tomato stem in a trench and place soil on top where the top part is pointed up. It is best to give plants plenty of space to grow and develop. For determinate type tomatoes, space them 24 to 36 inches between plants and 3 feet apart in rows. For indeterminate type tomatoes, space plants 36 inches apart with 4 to 5 feet in rows.  
  4. Utilize a support system. Tomatoes will benefit from the use of a support system such as a cage, stakes, or even a trellis system. Using these support systems keeps fruit off the ground, which prevents fruit rotting and other harmful diseases. Staking tomatoes makes the job easier to care for them and helps aid in reducing fruit rots. Caging tomatoes gives the benefit of showing fewer cracks and sunburn on fruit. It also helps them ripen more uniformly and produces fewer cull fruits. Whatever the preferred method, gardeners need to implement the support system shortly after planting to avoid damaging the root system.
  5. Give them water. The best thing that you can do for tomatoes is to make sure to water them and water them consistently. I recommend watering early in the morning rather than later in the evening. A morning watering routine will allow plants to dry off during the day. If you water in the evening, plants stay moist and that can bring on more tomato diseases. When you water plants, target the stream of water directly at the root system so the root system can take up the water and transfer up the stem to the plant. Avoid hitting the foliage when watering to also help in decreasing tomato diseases. Deep, infrequent watering is strongly encouraged over light, frequent watering. This tip allows help promote a deeper root system for the plant. 
  6. Mulch them. Apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch around tomato plants. Mulch conserves soil moisture, protects low growing tomatoes, and prevents water from splashing onto the foliage which spreads disease such as blight. It also helps to deter weeds from growing and it is also very attractive in the garden. Selecting an organic mulch such as leaves, straw, grass clippings, and even newspaper will return nutrients to the ground and help the soil structure after it decomposes. Lastly, mulch will also assist in reducing blossom end rot from occurring later in the season.
  7. Prune suckers. Indeterminate tomato varieties like cherry type tomatoes will benefit from removing suckers that grow below the first flower cluster. The sucker is a small plant that is located in the axil of each leaf of the tomato plant. It robs energy and nutrients from the tomato plant, so it is best to pinch it before it becomes too large.
  8. Side-dress them. Tomato plants benefit from additional fertilizer after the fruit has set. When first fruits reach golf ball size, scatter 1 TBS ammonium nitrate in a 6 to 10 inch circle around each plant. Water thoroughly and repeat every two weeks.
  9. Scout plants daily and perform health checks. Different insects and diseases can affect tomato plants throughout the growing season. Scout plants daily to determine if there are any plant pests. Look on the undersides of leaves for any aphid damage, watch for water soaked areas to form on the fruit from blossom end rot, and keep an eye on foliage for early signs of tomato blight. Blight starts at the bottom of the plant and eventually works its way up to the new growth of the plant. For questions on tomato pests, contact your local Extension Office in your area. They can help pinpoint the problem and help you come up with a solution.
  10. Enjoy the tastes of tomatoes! Tomato growers are often rewarded with more than enough tomatoes when they reach the harvest stage. Share the bounty with family, friends, and neighbors. I find that it is fun to try different tomatoes varieties to compare and explore their tastes. You can easily see which tomatoes that you want to add to your garden for next year!  

Well, there you have it, Kristin’s top 10 tomato growing tips. With all these tips, I guarantee that you will be harvesting tomatoes quicker than you can say “BLT”! I hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast. If you would like additional information on growing tomatoes for the Kentucky garden, make sure to see the show notes for episode 6. I have posted the link to the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service publication for Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky. This is the gardening bible to help you learn more about gardening in Kentucky. To can find more information on tomatoes, turn to pages 42 and 43 in this publication. To view the show notes, visit the blog at Warren County Agriculture, https://warrencountyagriculture.com/. Feel free to leave any questions that you might have on the blog or make additional comments.

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.

I would love it if you could leave me a review on iTunes, so I can know what future gardening information to share with you next time. To help sweeten the deal, the first 10 subscribers to leave me a review on iTunes will receive a gardening prize. 

Gardeners, 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

Applying for Direct Payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Are you interested in applying for Direct Payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program but aren’t sure how?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) will host a webinar on Thursday, May 14, 2020, at 1 p.m. ET, for farmers, ranchers and other producers interested in applying for direct payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

#UKAgPrograms #UKAgriculture

To register: https://www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_SPWI7yOFSqaGG1JKzhEbjA. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. We encourage participants to submit questions through the Q&A box or by emailing CFAP.webinars@usda.gov. While questions will not be answered live during the webinar, answers will be posted at farmers.gov/CFAP.

USDA is hosting this webinar to share what information is needed to apply for direct payments through CFAP, once the application period begins. Producers who are new to participating in FSA programs are especially encouraged to join the webinar. More details about CFAP direct payments will be announced soon.

As part of President Trump and Secretary Perdue’s April 17 announcement of a $19 billion Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program, USDA will provide $16 billion in direct support based on losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted. Also, USDA will assist eligible producers facing additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.

For more information: https://www.ams.usda.gov/content/usda-host-webinar-producers-interested-applying-direct-payments-through-coronavirus-food

A recording of the webinar, the answers to its questions, and other CFAP information can be found at farmers.gov/CFAP.  

Virtual Wheat Field Day

To view the video, click here.

In this time of social distancing and much uncertainty, University of Kentucky scientists are using innovative ways to get producers the information they need to grow high quality crops. As a result, members of the UK Wheat Science Group have turned their annual Wheat Field Day into a virtual experience this year. It is scheduled for 9 a.m. until noon CDT May 12 on the video conferencing app Zoom.

“We wanted to provide the results from our unbiased wheat research that our producers are accustomed to, and we also wanted to make sure the program was safe for all participants and speakers amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Carrie Knott, grain crops specialist with the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “A virtual field day seemed like the perfect solution.”

UK specialists and industry representatives will make presentations much as they would during a normal field day. Participants can expect to hear information on wheat management, small grain economics, sustainability, UK variety trials, rye, and management of diseases, insects and weeds in winter wheat. As in the past, producers will have an opportunity to ask specialists questions and interact with each other during the online event.

Pesticide applicators can receive one specific continuing education unit for categories 1A, 4 and 10 for attending the virtual field day.

Producers can view the field day through Zoom using any type of computer or mobile device.  The direct link to the meeting, other ways to participate and additional information about the field day are available at https://wheatscience.ca.uky.edu. Once they click the field day link, participants will receive a prompt to install Zoom, if they have not already done so. Contact: 

Carrie Knott, carrie.knott@uky.edu

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. 

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated

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.

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated

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