Author Archives: warrencountyag

Ornamental Grasses

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

Maiden Grass

Growing Recommendations

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

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

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

Switch Grass

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

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

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

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

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

Feather Reed Grass

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

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

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

Cover Crops for the Kentucky Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Cover Crops Profitably Resource Book

Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide

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

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

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

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

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

References:

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

Have you noticed Hammerhead Worms?

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

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

Photo Source: Judy Lacefield, Warren Co. Resident

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

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

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

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

Summer Garden Pests

Home gardeners are busy harvesting their crops until the summer garden pests move in! To talk to an expert, I called up UK Extension Entomologist Dr. Jonathan Larson to see what information he could provide to keep these summer pests under control.

A popular summer pest in the Kentucky garden is the Japanese beetle. Japanese beetles are easily recognized by their attractive, shiny emerald-green and copper color. They are about 7/16 of an inch long, and if you look closely, you’ll see patches of white hair on their sides.

The beetles have sharp, chewing mouth parts that allow them to grind up tender leaf tissue between the veins, leaving the leaves skeletonized and lacy. But they don’t stop at leaves. They will shred flowers – you’ve probably seen them buried into the blooms on your roses – and even eat fruit. They attack and feed on more than 300 different plant species. Their favorites include linden, roses, grapes, blackberries and peaches.

Japanese Beetle Damage on Black Gum Landscape Tree

So how do you protect your garden from Japanese beetles? First, if you’re in the process of planning or planting your landscape, consider including species and cultivars they don’t like to eat. Examples of those are most oaks, hollies, tulip trees and silver maples.

For those of us whose landscapes are mature and planting more trees isn’t feasible, one of the best methods is to simply pick off and kill beetles when you see them on your plants. Beetles will be strongly attracted to a plant that is already damaged by beetles. The more damage, the more beetles, resulting in more damage and more beetles. It’s a vicious cycle. If you walk through your garden in the evening and remove beetles by hand, you’ll cut back on the number of beetles that show up the next day. Pick them off and plop them in a bucket of soapy water.

There are insecticides available that can help kill or repel beetles, but always follow the label instructions carefully and beware of treating any plant that is blooming. Organic options, which offer a three to four days of protection, include Neem oil, pyola and BtG (Bt for beetles). Synthetic options, which offer protection for one to three weeks, include bifenthryn, carbaryl, cyfluthrin and lamda-cyhalothrin.

Another common summer garden pest is the squash vine borer. The squash vine borer is a key pest of squash, gourds, and pumpkins in Kentucky. Symptoms appear in mid-summer when a long runner or an entire plant wilts suddenly. Infested vines usually die beyond the point of attack. Sawdust-like frass near the base of the plant is the best evidence of squash vine borer activity. Careful examination will uncover yellow-brown excrement pushed out through holes in the side of the stem at the point of wilting. If the stem is split open, one to several borers are usually present. The caterpillars reach a length of 1 inch and has a brown head and a cream-colored body. 

Photo Source: University of Kentucky Entfact-314

Monitor plants weekly from mid-June through August for initial signs of the borer’s frass at entrance holes in the stems. Very early signs of larval feeding indicate that other eggs will be hatching soon.

Home gardeners may have some success with deworming the vines. At the first signs of the sawdust-like frass, vines are slit lengthwise near where the damage is found and the borers removed. The stems should be immediately covered with earth. Sanitation is also important. After harvest is complete, vines should be removed from the garden and composted to prevent the remaining borers from completing larval development.

Gardeners should also be concerned with ticks that can harm the body. To hear the full interview with Dr. Larson, make sure to check out Episode 9 on Summer Garden Pests from the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

Dr. Jonathan Larson, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist

We appreciate Dr. Jonathan Larson being our guest on the show! If you would like to learn more about insects, Dr. Larson also has his very own podcast called Arthro-Pod. To hear more about what is covered on the Arthro-Pod, click here: http://arthro-pod.blogspot.com/.

As always, gardeners keep on digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture

References:

ENTfacts: By Number, http://entomology.ca.uky.edu/entfacts

Episode 8- Supporting Local Cut Flower Growers

July is American Grown Cut Flower Month! Now is the perfect time to celebrate the abundance of locally-grown cut flowers and the farmers that grow them. To discuss more about cut flower production, I interviewed my good friend and co-worker Alexis Sheffield to ask her why July is such a special month for cut flower growers. Alexis is the Boyle County Extension Agent for Horticulture and in her spare time runs a flower farm called Wild Roots. Find out more from her in our interview together on how you can celebrate American Grown Cut Flower Month and how you can support local cut flower farmers, right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast.

Alexis Sheffield, Boyle Co. Extension Agent for Horticulture &
Flower Farmer for Wild Roots

Get involved with Kentucky Grown Cut Flowers Month by joining us daily on Facebook (@KYHortCouncil), Instagram (@KYHorticulture) or Twitter (@KYHorticulture) to learn more about this specialty crop! Each day this month on the Kentucky Hort Council’s social media pages, you can learn more about local flower farmers and the beautiful fresh cut flowers they grow along with buying, delivery, and pick-up options.

Interactive Map: The Kentucky Commercial Cut Flower Grower Directory is now live! This tool helps to highlight local businesses and make it easy for customers to identify purchasing options.

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.

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

Creating a Hydrangea Heaven

June is the month with blessings from several varieties of the Hydrangea shrub in the Kentucky garden and landscape! Hydrangeas are the number 2 most popular shrub planted in the home landscape. It grows in zones 3-9 and offers different shapes and colors of blooms for the landscape throughout the growing season. This plant is relatively pest free if planted in the correct place for bloom production.  

Uses of Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas can be used in mass planting, border, and as an accent or specimen plant.

Types of Hydrangeas:

Smooth Hydrangea- Hydrangea arborescens

Oakleaf Hydrangea- Hydrangea quercifolia 

Panicle Hydrangea- Hydrangea paniculata

Bigleaf Hydrangea- Hydrangea macrophylla

Watering

Hydrangea means “water lover” in Greek where “hydra” means water and “angeon” means “vessel”. After planting, water hydrangeas consistently throughout their first year. Even after establishment, hydrangeas will require 1 inch of water per week either by rainfall or irrigation. Additional water may be needed in a sunny or windy location. Make sure to give hydrangeas the proper location based on the type being grown and provide ample amounts of mulch to conserve soil moisture and keep roots cool.

How to Adjust Bigleaf Hydrangea Flower Color

For Bigleaf hydrangea also known as Hydrangea macrophylla, blooms can vary by color from true blue, deep purple, to pink according to the soil’s pH or the availability of aluminum in the soil. For example, in acid soils, aluminum is more available and leads to a blue bloom color. In basic or more alkaline soils, aluminum is found in less amounts and gives a pink bloom color.

Altering soil pH for hydrangea production can take up to 6 months and requires a basic soil test for complete accuracy. Based on soil test recommendations, add powdered or pelletized lime or sulfur in the fall for desired pink or blue blooms for the following summer.

Remontant Hydrangeas

Remontant hydrangeas also referred to as “repeat bloomers” are plants that flower more than once in a single growing season. Some top mophead remontant selections include ‘Blushing Bride’, Endless Summer ‘Bailmer’, ‘Decatur Blue’, and ‘Nantucket Blue’. “Twist-n-Shout’ is the only remontant lacecap type. The bigleaf hydrangea cultivars are more strongly remontant. Make sure to fertilize remontant hydrangeas to help support repeat blooming.

Pruning

In order to prune hydrangea, know the type you have and understand if it blooms on old or new wood.

“Old Wood” refers to previous year’s growth. Hydrangea cultivars with old wood formed the buds the year before.

“New Wood” refers to the current year’s growth. Hydrangea cultivars that bloom on new wood set their buds during the year in which they bloom. 

When is the correct time to prune specific hydrangeas?

Smooth hydrangea blooms on the current year’s growth. For this type, prune back by early March, so plants have time to grow stems and form flower buds.

Oakleaf hydrangea– allow this type to grow in its natural form and prune as little as possible. Oakleaf hydrangea flowers are produced on old wood. If pruning is necessary, finish by the end of July to ensure that there is still time for next year’s flower buds to develop.

For panicle hydrangea, pruning isn’t needed. If you would like to create a neater and tidy appearance and help increase the size and number of blooms, cut the plants back hard to approximately two buds. The blooms will develop on new stems, so make sure that this pruning is performed once plants go dormant through early March. If you desire, panicle type hydrangeas can be trained to a tree form unlike other hydrangeas. Begin training at an early age and requires a stake to help support. To keep the tree form shape, remove branches that develop from the trunk several times throughout the year.

Once bigleaf hydrangea is mature, prune no more than one-third of the older branches to the base of the plant in early spring. Pruning will rejuvenate the plant without a large loss of flowers. To reduce size or for shaping, prune after blooms fade but no later than the end of July.

For more information about growing or caring for hydrangeas, please contact the Warren Co. Extension Office at (270) 842-1681.

Warren County Extension Office Operating Procedures

Several people may be wondering about how to submit samples to the Warren County Extension Office for soil, plant disease, weed, insect, and plant identification services. Read HERE to find out what is needed for each of these services.

Soil Sample Collections

How to Submit Soil Samples:

  1. Drop your collected soil sample in the drop box located in front of the Warren County Extension Office (WCEO) door entrance.
  2. Contact the office at (270) 842-1681 to give office staff general information related to your soil sample.
  3. Please pay with exact change or check which is $7.00 per soil sample.
  4. Results will be mailed to the client after agents review the soil tests. If you have any questions regarding your soil test recommendations, please contact the WCEO.
Plant Disease Samples

How to Submit Plant Disease Samples:

  1. If you suspect a possible plant disease, please submit a fresh plant sample along with 5 photos of the plant in its environment to the Warren County Extension Office.
  2. Samples may be dropped off at our location at 5162 Russellville Road and placed in the drop box which is located in front of the Warren County Extension Office entrance door.
  3. Pictures should show an overview of the planting or field, close-up photos of the parts affected (foliage, trunk, stem, etc.) as well as include general plant information (age of plant, when was the problem first noticed, what percentage is plants affected, and how the plant has been cared for such as watering, fertilizer application, and etc.)
  4. In the event that we need to mail off a plant sample, plant samples must be sent from Monday through Wednesday to ensure freshness.
  5. If you wish to make an appointment or have questions regarding your plant sample, please contact the Warren County Extension Office at (270) 842-1681 first.
Weed Identification- Field, Garden, and Lawn

Weed Identification Sample:

  1. Email photos of the weed to www.warrencountyextension.com/ and tell us where the weed is located such as garden, landscape, lawn, or agriculture field.
  2. A fresh weed sample may be needed if identification can’t be determined through email. Bring sample and place the sample along with client information in the drop box located in front of the WCEO entrance door.
  3. Contact the WCEO at (270) 842-1681 to notify our staff that you have a sample for identification.   
  4. Please tell us the best way to reach you either via phone or email. Agents will get back to you as soon as possible.
Insect Identification Services

Insect Identification:

  1. Email photos of the insect to www.warrencountyextension.com/ and tell us where the insect is located such as garden, home, landscape, lawn, or agriculture field.
  2. An insect sample may be needed if identification can’t be determined via email. Bring the insect sample along with client information to the Warren County Extension Office located at 5162 Russellville Road and leave in the drop box located in front of the entrance door.
  3. Contact the WCEO at (270) 842-1681 to let our staff know that you have a sample for identification.
  4. Please tell us the best way to reach you either via phone or email. Agents will get back to you as soon as possible.
Identifying Plant Samples

Plant Identification:

  • Drop a fresh plant sample at least 12 inches long or longer to the Warren County Extension Office located at 5162 Russellville Road along with client information and leave in the drop box located in front of the WCEO entrance door.
  • Email photos of the plants to www.warrencountyextension.com/ and tell us where the plant is located such as garden, landscape, lawn, or agriculture field. It helps to have as much information on the plant as possible such as bloom color or shape, when the plant blooms, etc.
  • Contact the WCEO at (270) 842-1681 to let our staff know that you have a sample for identification.
  • Please tell us the best way to reach you either via phone or email. Agents will get back to you as soon as possible.

For questions on how to submit samples for identification, please contact the Warren County Extension Service at (270) 842-1681. Please note if you reside in another county to contact your local Extension office to see the best procedure for handling these services.

Kentucky Beef Quality and Care Assurance (BQCA) Certification Now Available Online

Starting June 1, 2020, the Kentucky Beef Quality and Care Assurance (BQCA) Certification is now available online. Producers can access the online BQCA program by visiting kybeefnetwork.com or http://afs.ca.uky.edu/beef/irm and clicking on “Beef Quality & Care Assurance”. The Beef Quality & Care Assurance certification costs $5 and can be paid online prior to the accessing the course.

This online process is similar to how in-person BQCA trainings are conducted. Producers must complete Module A – BQCA Overview, and two of the other modules: B – Genetics and Handling, C – Proper Equipment and Additional Cattle Handling, and/or  D – Veterinary Diagnostics Lab. Each module contains a video that must be watched before completing the corresponding test. Producers have multiple attempts to achieve a passing score of at least 85%, for each test.

Upon successful completion of the course, your training will be processed by the Kentucky Beef Network and your BQCA training card will be mailed to your county Extension office at the end of each month. If you should need your BQCA number sooner, you can call KBN at 859-278-0899 or email at kbn@kycattle.org.

If a farmer cannot access the online course or wishes to wait until in-person trainings are available, and they had a valid BQCA number on March 1, 2020, their existing BQCA certification will remain active until live trainings are available again. These steps have been approved by the Governor’s Office for Ag Policy staff for compliance in the CAIP program.

•••

The Kentucky Beef Network and University of Kentucky merged their Cattle Handling and Care Program with the National BQA program to create a new program, aptly named the Beef Quality and Care Assurance (BQCA) program. This program was implemented to raise awareness of practices that insure the proper handling and welfare of cattle while keeping farmers safe and continuing to supply healthy beef to consumers. In turn, this program enables beef and dairy producers to enhance their product, maximize marketability and strengthen consumer confidence.

The Kentucky BQCA program takes national BQA practices one step further to provide a holistic program for Kentucky producers, by adding a cattle handling and care component to the training model. Educational modules provide the best management practices for handling cattle and providing for their well-being, in addition to training on the core principles of BQA.

Instructions for Enrolling the KY BQCA Course in the Online Learning Environment

https://warrencountyagriculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020-KYBQCA-Online-Instructions-FINAL-3.pdf

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.

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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