Category Archives: horticulture

Orchid Love in the Home

Orchids are a popular and colorful addition to any home setting. In this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I called up Dr. Rick Durham, Extension Professor and Consumer Horticulture Specialist to have him answer common questions about how to properly care for orchids in the home! To get the full scoop on showing orchid love in the home, stay right here for more on the Sunshine Gardening podcast!

Tell us about some of the common orchid types for the home.

Phalaenopsis – Moth Orchid – Southeast Asia

  • Often considered easiest to grow
  • Epiphytic
  • Require moderate light and good moisture
  • Temperatures of mid 60s night, 70-80 days
  • Flower spikes often produce new buds after flowering
  • May bloom anytime of the year, many flowers
  • Individual flowers last from a few days to a month or more
Moth Orchids

Dendrobium – many resemble Phalaenopsis, Philippines, Australia, East Asia

  • Epiphytic
  • More light than Phalaenopsis
  • Temperature variable, most require nights of 55-60, daytime in 70-80.
  • Somewhat forgiving of dry medium –pseudobulbs, some like a dormancy period
  • Seasonal bloom periods
  • Flowers may last for 6 weeks or more
Dendrobium Orchids

What kind of care is needed to keep orchids happy at home? Tell us more about the cultural requirements needed for orchids such as light, growing media, and humidity.

Light
• Orchids generally need bright, often indirect, light
• Those listed above will grow in the home under proper conditions
• Southeast or south exposure window is best for those needing lots of light: Cattleya, Oncidium, Dendrobium, close to window
• East or west exposure window is best for lower-light species: Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum
• No mid-day sun for any, may benefit from summers outdoors but no direct mid-day sun
• Also – possible to grow orchids under lights

Epiphytes – grow on trees
• Light, airy growing medium
• Tree fern fiber, fir bark, sphagnum peat, vermiculite, redwood fiber, lava rock, mounted on cork
• Pots should have ample drainage
• Pot-in-pot systems may increase humidity around root system, avoid standing water
• Repot every 2-3 years as medium breaks down and plants out grow their pot
• The presence of aerial roots is normal and healthy
• Soft, dark colored roots are a sign of too much water

Humidity
• Many orchid species are native to tropical rain forests
• Home humidity levels can be quite low (both summer
and winter)
• Avoid drafts of forced air (hot and cold)
• Use room humidifier, group plants together, or place plants on pebble-filled trays with water
• Spraying plants with water is less beneficial
• Orchids may benefit from summers outdoors
– protect from mid-day sun
– step up watering and increase fertility

How often should you water orchids? How often should you apply fertilizer?

Watering
• Water often enough so that medium stays moist, brief periods of dryness is ok
• Pots will become light – indication that water is needed
• If water accumulates in saucer or outer pot, pour it out soon after watering
• Ice can be used as a substitute for watering, I prefer to do so only occasionally
• Note pseudobulbs – They should be plump and firm, naturally shrivel with age

Fertilization
• Fertilization is most crucial when new growth is occurring (after flowering)
• Orchids are not heavy feeders
• I fertilize about once a month with a ¼ strength soluble house plant fertilizer
• I generally fertilize more in summer when I also water more

If someone wanted to learn more about orchids, what resources are available?

For more information, check out these resources:
• American Orchid Society, http://www.aos.org
• Wikipedia, http://www.wikipedia.org – search for various types of orchids
• Various on-line forums and web sites including YouTube videos of how to….

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on showing orchid love in the home! A special thank you to Dr. Rick Durham for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

To view the show notes for Episode 21, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture! You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com.

If you enjoy listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I would love if you could take a quick minute of your time to leave a review.

Leaving a review is simple! Just pop open that purple app on your phone, share your biggest takeaway from an episode or what you would like to hear featured in the future!

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

Show Love with a Flower Bouquet Subscription

Show love and support for local flower farmers this month by purchasing a seasonal bouquet subscription! With a seasonal bouquet subscription from a commercial cut flower grower, consumers ensure that their monies go back to the local economy to support farmers and their families.

A bouquet subscription is similar to a CSA which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. With this system, the consumer invests early in the growing season to assist the cut flower farmer with upfront costs such as seeds, soil amendments, and other materials and supplies. In return for the investment, the customer receives beautiful, seasonal, and locally-grown flowers from their fields.

Each bouquet looks different throughout the growing seasons. Spring bouquets are filled with stems of tulips, ranunculus, and poppies. Summer bouquets have stems of bright warm season flowers such as zinnias, sunflowers, celosia, and basil. Fall bouquets contain several other varieties of sunflowers and other fall themed blooms. Since the subscription lasts the entire growing season, they make wonderful gifts for that special someone in your life!  

Every cut flower grower operates their bouquet subscription service a little differently depending on what works best for their farm. Some may offer delivery and others may have a few designated locations on specific days for customers to pick-up. 

In South Central Kentucky, we are fortunate to have several cut flower growers to consider. Below is information about each cut flower grower in the south central Kentucky area and ways to contact them about their bouquet subscription service. 

· Warren County- Davida’s Flowers in Oakland, KY and Starry Fields Farm in Rockfield, KY

· Allen County- The Maple Yard and River Bend Blooms in Scottsville, KY

· Barren County- Thornless Thistle in Glasgow, KY

· Logan County- Old Roots Farm in Russellville, KY

To discover other cut flower farmers in Kentucky, check out this map from the center of crop diversification website. It lists commercial cut flower farms and the services that they offer throughout the state. To check it out, click here: https://uk-horticulture.github.io/KY-Cut-Flowers/

Here is a short video to learn more about flower subscription services as well.

Clean Up Garden Now for a More Productive Garden Next Spring!

Don’t put that trowel and rake away just yet! This year’s gardening season may be over, but it can also be a great opportunity to start preparations for next year’s gardening season. Taking care of a few garden clean-up chores now means fewer pests and disease problems which leads to a more productive garden for next spring! 

To help shine the light on garden clean-up, I contacted Kim Leonberger, our UK Agriculture Extension Associate to get the checklist needed to help take the guesswork out of garden clean-up. To hear the full episode, make sure to stay right here for Episode 20 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

  • Why do we clean up?
    • Plant pathogens such as fungi, bacteria, and viruses can survive in plant debris and on items in the garden.
    • Cleaning-up helps to remove these pathogen structures so that they do not survive winter and come back to cause issues next year.
    • Failure to clean-up can result in more disease next year.
  • What gardening activities should we consider to help clean-up our gardens for the winter?
    • Remove plants and plant debris.
    • Turn soil when possible.
    • Clean tools, stakes, cages, decorations, pots and other items from the garden.
  • Do not compost diseased plant material.
    • Diseased plant material should be burned, buried, or taken off-site.
    • Home compost bins do not get hot enough to kill these plant pathogens.
    • Large-scale, commercial compost piles do get hot enough to kill pathogens.
    • Some communities have yard waste pick-up, which go to a large compost pile. It is ok to put diseased material here.
  • Cleaning tools
    • Cleaning products (soaps and detergents) remove loose organic matter. Products include dish soap, hand soap, some household cleaners.
    • Disinfection products (disinfectants/sanitizers) have anti-microbial activity and can kill disease-causing micro-organisms. Products include rubbing alcohol (70%), 10% bleach (9 parts water and 1 part bleach), hand sanitizer, some household cleaners.
    • Steps to cleaning tools
      • Clean and scrub to remove organic matter.
      • Rinse to remove any residues.
      • Disinfect – Follow product directions. Most require a dip, soak, or spray. Be sure to note exposure time. A lot of products it is between 3 and 5 minutes. Bleach is the most effective and requires 30-45 seconds. However, bleach is corrosive so a rinse is need to limit effects. Make sure to never mix bleach with other cleaning products as a toxic gas can form.
      • Rinse and Dry.
      • Example of cleaning a tool – Wash with dish soap to remove soil and other organic matter. Rinse and dry. Dip in 10% bleach solution for 30-45 seconds. Rinse in clean water (not the same as before). Dry with a paper towel.

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on garden clean-up! A big thank you to Kim Leonberger for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To view the show notes for Episode 20, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture! You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com.

Kim Leonberger, UK Agriculture Extension Associate

Planting Peonies in the Garden

Peonies make a beautiful addition to the home garden and landscape! In Kentucky, peony blooms appear in spring around the month of May and their flowers have a richness unlike any other. Peonies add beauty with their wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of blooms as well as their wonderful fragrance! If planted correctly, peonies can last a long time in the garden from 50 to as much as 80 years. The fall season is the perfect time for plant peonies in your home landscape. To get the full scoop on tips for planting peonies in the garden, make sure to stay right here for Episode 19 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

Types & Cultivars:

There are three types of peonies for gardeners to consider for planting in the Kentucky garden.

  • Herbaceous/garden peonies are herbaceous perennials that reach 20 to 36 inches in height. This type is the most common peony used and is the least expensive compared to other peonies.
  • Tree peonies have woody stems that do not die back to the ground. They are a medium-sized shrub that reaches no more than 4 to 5 feet in height. Tree peonies are slow growing, so it may take four or more years to bloom well.
  • Intersectional peonies are a hybrid type produced by crossing a herbaceous peony with a tree peony. These peonies get the best of both worlds. They possess the hardiness of the herbaceous peonies with the attractive flowers and foliage of the tree peonies. Itoh peonies, named by the first hybridizer Toichi Itoh, are a type of intersectional peony.  

To hear more about planting peonies in the garden, make sure to check out the full episode on The Sunshine Gardening Podcast with host Kristin Hildabrand!

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on planting peonies in the garden! A big thank you to Dennis Morgeson for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To view the show notes for Episode 19, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture! You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com.

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

Tips for the Best Pumpkin

There is no better symbol for the month of October than the pumpkin! While pumpkins are widely used throughout the fall season to decorate the home, many people associate them with Halloween. Nowadays, pumpkins have expanded from the traditional orange Jack o Lantern pumpkin into a wide variety of shapes and colors. To find out more about pumpkins, I called up my good friend and co-worker Metcalfe County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources Brandon Bell. While talking to him, I discovered tips for picking the best pumpkin and how to properly store them at home. What I didn’t expect to learn was the better and more efficient way for carving my Jack o’ lantern! To find out this secret to carving pumpkins this season, make sure to stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!



There are a lot of different varieties of pumpkins that are available to the public to purchase. Tell us about some of those varieties and what trends you might have noticed with some of those varieties.

  • Pink Pumpkin. The first pick pumpkin developed was called a ‘Porcelain Doll’. Growers had to sign a contract to give some of their proceeds back to breast cancer awareness.
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Large White Pumpkins
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red
Various Pumpkin Varieties

A lot of these pumpkin varieties that you can find in these colors are stackable pumpkins, especially the orange and burnt orange and red Cinderella pumpkins. Most retailers will sell you a stack of pumpkins.

Cinderella pumpkins were the original stacker pumpkin, and then later they started incorporating other colors.

Looking for texture? Warty pumpkins and peanut pumpkins offer some unique shapes on the outside of the pumpkin.


How should you select the best pumpkin? What things should we look for to buy a good pumpkin?

Stackables pumpkins- get pumpkins that match each other. the flatter they are they better, Cinderella on bottom

Jack o’ lantern is shape, and will sit up on its own. Hard texture as far as the rind. Make sure that it is hardened off. Firm, stout green stems. Avoid shriveled up and soft stem. Pick up the pumpkins by the bottom rather than from the stem. Look for an overall good shape and color.

Earlier in the season, the stems are still green. A good stem means a lot. A bad stem will cause decay to form earlier.


As far as helping these pumpkins last during the season, what things can we do to encourage a longer lasting pumpkin? OR are there things that we don’t want to do.

Wait as late as possible to carve the pumpkins. Keep them under cool, dry and shady spot. Keep them out of direct sun.

Clean the pumpkin with a 10 percent bleach solution to help them last longer.


What is the best way to carve a Jack o’ lantern pumpkin?

Anytime that you expose the internal flesh of a pumpkin, it will start to decay. I have learned over the years with Jack o’ lantern pumpkins is to not cut the top off of it. It is actually better to cut it from the bottom of the pumpkin. Whenever the pumpkin starts to decay, it easily moves down the pumpkin. Cut the part from the bottom. It makes it harder for decay to move up from the bottom.


Do you have a favorite pumpkin? 

Old fashioned field pumpkin called ‘Autumn Buckskin’. People would refer to them as the cow pumpkin. Years ago, farmers would plant corn and mix pumpkin seed in with their corn for a companion crop. They would harvest their corn by hand and then also load the pumpkins on a wagon. Then, they would bust the pumpkin up and feed it to the cattle. Once the cattle acquire the taste of pumpkin, they will eat the entire pumpkin. It is basically the same pumpkin that you would find in a can of Libby’s pumpkin. Libby’s produces 85% of the US canned pumpkin.   


I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on tips for the best pumpkin. Thank you to Brandon Bell for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To view the show notes for Episode 18, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com. Thanks for listening gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!


Emerald Ash Borer Damage

Emerald Ash borer was discovered in Warren County, Kentucky back in July of this year 2021. Since Emerald Ash Borer was found in Kentucky in 2009, it has progressively spread throughout the state and destroyed several of our prized ash trees. The damage caused from Emerald Ash borer feeding brings on a lot of questions from Kentucky homeowners on: What control options are available? What trees can be replanted after the ash trees decline? These questions are all going to be answered in episode 17 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! In this episode, I chat with University of Kentucky Forestry Health Extension Specialist Dr. Ellen Crocker to ask specifically what options are available for Kentucky residents. To listen to the full episode, make sure to stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

Tell us more about the emerald ash borer and what damage it causes to Ash trees in Kentucky.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive insect from Asia. It is actually a beetle. Our ash trees do not have a good defense mechanism to them. It can rapidly kill ash trees.

Since it was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and since that time, it has swept through the country. It has killed millions of ash trees. Just this past year, especially in Western Kentucky there have been several new sightings. Larvae tunnel and kill the vascular tissue of the tree. Most homeowners will miss the insect damage. Less healthy tree? Missing part of the tree? Lots of damage done from the feeding. “D” shaped exit holes are found on the outside edge of the tree due to the shape of the abdomen.

In Kentucky, we have several varieties of ash. White and green ash trees are the most damaged. The blue ash have more natural resistance to it.


What homeowner options are available to help control this invasive insect pest?

Ask yourself “do you have ash trees on your property?”

You can apply yourself or contact a certified arborist in your area to apply the insecticide. There are several insecticides sold for control of emerald ash borer. Soil drench with imidacloprid to treat annually. Make sure to follow the label directions. Application amount is based on how big the trunk diameter is in size.  Treat annually with imidacloprid.

Certified arborists are paid professionals through the International Society for Arboriculture (ISA).

A few other things to consider about treating trees for EAB. Look at it as a protective insecticide application. The insecticide are systemic insecticides. So it may or may not be effective. Prioritize the trees that you want to save. Consider the costs associated with them. Time treatment according to the timing of the emerald ash borer.


What challenges does that bring to the woodlands or in the landscape?

Ash trees deteriorate rapidly. However, it doesn’t hurt the wood. Unfortunately, when they start to go downhill, they break apart. Other things start to happen when the tree can’t defend itself anymore. Ash are pretty hazardous to work with. Harvest your ash trees and offset the costs. In some properties, it can be 20-30 percent. Reach out to foresters in your local area. Consulting foresters will help you with making decisions.


Can you recommend other trees for replacing damaged ash trees?

Learn from the elm tree story. Replace with more than one species of tree. I recommend planting with a diversity of tree species. Consider a diversity of native species. We have an abundance of native plant species in the United States. Kentucky has over 100 native tree species. Pick the right tree for the right site. There is more than one choice. Take note of how wet the area and the soil type. Do you power lines overhead? Maybe you can choose something smaller. Looking for ideas? Visit a local garden or arboretum to get ideas.

A few of Dr. Ellen’s favorite trees:

Large shade trees: Oak species. Good shape. Good for wildlife.

Great fall color? Black Gum is an underused tree that has good fall color.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Black-Gum

Statement piece for winter?

  • Kentucky coffee tree.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Kentucky-Coffeetree

  • Catalpa tree.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Northern-Catalpa

Smaller trees? Yellow wood. Serviceberry.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Yellowwood

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Downy-Serviceberry

Laurie Thomas, Extension Forester with UK Forestry and Natural Resources spotlights a Native Tree of the Week during From the Woods Today program. To find out more information, go to https://anr.ca.uky.edu/tree-week-0.

KY Invasive Plant Council- native alternates to invasive plants

If someone wanted to learn more about emerald ash borer, what resource or website would be good for them to visit?

University of Kentucky Extension Entomology’s Department for Emerald Ash Borer: https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/entfact/kentucky-emerald-ash-borer-eab-resources-updates

Purdue University Emerald Ash Borer Cost Calculator: https://int.entm.purdue.edu/ext/treecomputer/


I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on the Emerald Ash Borer and the damage it can cause. A special thank you to Dr. Ellen Crocker for providing her expertise and being a guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

If you would like to see the show notes from Episode 17, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com. Thanks for listeners gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Caring for Fall Mums in the Garden

Welcome to Episode 16 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Thanks for joining me for this episode and I am your host Kristin Hildabrand, Warren County’s Extension Agent for Horticulture. I don’t know if you have been out and about lately but have you all noticed the bright and beautiful mum displays right now!? Mum is definitely the main flower that is in season and to be honest, it is the ray of sunshine in my life! I’ve been amazed at all the colors of mums being offered. One grower that I follow on Facebook, she offered a variety called ‘Darling Pink’ and another one called ‘Strawberry Ice’ mum. Both were absolutely gorgeous!

So, it is officially after Labor Day and home gardeners are planting gorgeous fall mums in their garden and landscape. Have you ever wondered what it takes to help these blooms last? Well, wonder no more because today, I am sharing 5 tips for caring for fall mums in the garden. These tips will help the mums last longer during the season and help them overwinter and come back for next year!


Tip #1: Select mums with more buds than flowers.

When selecting a mum to take home, choose a plant that has several tight buds on it. Over time, the buds will slowly open and help make the flowers last longer. Those buds that haven’t opened will last longer on your deck, patio, porch, or yard.

If you are looking for an instant pop of color to help dress up an outdoor event, go ahead and purchase mums with several flowers in bloom.


Tip #2: Choose the best location.

When choosing an ideal location for growing mums, select a site that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. Avoid garden spots that receive less than the recommended amount of sunlight hours, since it will dull the vivid blooms.

The next thing to remember about proper site selection for garden mums is to situate them in moist, well-drained soil. Mums are prone to getting root rot issues, so a well-drained soil helps in draining water around the root system. If your soil is less than ideal, incorporate 2 to 3 inches of organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. By adding organic material, you are helping the soil drain better and improving nutrient holding capacity.


Tip #3: Plant mums in the ground early.

If your goal is to overwinter mums to get them to come back next year, it is crucial to get the ground prepared and plant as soon as possible. The other important part to this tip is that you need to make sure that the mums don’t have any blooms at time of planting. By planting mums with more buds and planting them early, this allows the root system plenty of time to get established in the soil.

Make sure to plant mums at the same depth that they were growing in their original container. I recommend digging the planting hole first and then adding the mum still in the container to the planting hole. This specific planting procedure allows you to be a better judge of how much more depth or width is needed. Once the planting hole passes inspection, take the mum out of the container and plant into the hole. Avoid adding any fertilizer at this time. If planting more than one mum, space plants 18 to 24 inches apart.


Tip #4: Apply water and mulch.

After planting, water in the mums by targeting the stream of water right at the base of the plant. Avoid splashing the foliage which can lead to foliar diseases. It is best to practice morning watering routines rather than late afternoon watering. The morning watering routine allows plenty of time for the plant to dry off before night-time arrives.

Apply 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch such as woodchips, shredded bark, chopped leaves, or compost to help conserve soil moisture. This step is also important for overwintering since it will help protect the plant’s root system from extreme cold temperatures in the winter.


Tip #5: Pinch when needed.

Lastly, most garden mums will benefit from pinching the plants 2 to 3 times in spring and early summer. Pinching produces a more compact bushier appearance with additional flowers. Pinch back plants when new shoots are 6 inches tall by using pruning shearers or hedge clippers. After pinching, new lateral shoots will begin to develop along the stems. Repeat this same process again when the new shoots reach 6 inches and continue pinching until early July.


I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today about caring for fall mums in the garden! To see the show notes from Episode 16, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. You can find us at http://www.warrencountyagriculture.com. In the show notes, I have also posted the link to our quick 5 minute on fall mum care if you want to check it out!

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! As always gardeners, keep on digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!


References:

Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count!

I have just the activity to help YOU chase away the winter blues! It involves taking 15 minutes of your time and watching the birds in your backyard. This activity my friends is called the Great Backyard Bird Count and it is happening this year on February 12-15th 2021. This activity is coordinated by the National Audubon Society and other organizations to serve as an instant snapshot of birdlife around the world. Since bird populations are constantly changing, the information you collect from the GBBC helps scientist understand how birds are affected by environmental changes. The data collected over the years can display how certain species’ of bird populations are increasing or decreasing. It can also show scientists what kinds of birds are inhabiting cities and suburbs compared to the natural areas.

In this episode, I am visiting with Dr. Matthew Springer, our Assistant Extension Professor of Wildlife Management with the University of Kentucky to get the scoop on what all is involved with this Great Backyard Bird Count!

Dr. Matthew Springer, Assistant Extension Professor of Wildlife Management

Before we dive into today’s content, I have a favor to ask! If you enjoy listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcasts, let me know with a REVIEW on Apple Podcasts!

Leaving a review is simple! Just pop open that purple app on your phone, share your biggest takeaway from an episode or what you would like to hear featured in the future! As always, thank you for listening and leaving a review about the podcast!  

To listen to the full episode, make sure to see the audio link at the bottom of this blog post.

Remember to mark the calendar for the Great Backyard Bird Count happening February 12th until February 15th because it’s a fun and rewarding experience for people of all ages! It encourages gardeners to venture outside….or they can watch inside from their kitchen window!

If you would like to participate in other bird counts, Dr. Springer also mentioned about the Christmas Bird Count. To find out more about the Christmas Bird Count, please see the link listed here:  https://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count

Also below, I have listed more information about the Merlin app and the eBird app that Dr. Springer mentioned in the talk today as well as where to get more information about the Great Backyard Bird Count!

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

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

Helpful Resources:

Bird Identifying Apps to Use: https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/, https://www.birdcount.org/ebird-mobile-app/

How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, https://www.birdcount.org/

Create a Winter Container Garden

The holidays are literally right around the corner! Have you gotten all your decorating done? You may have answered yes to that question, but have you thought about the outdoor decorations? Have you ever heard of a winter container garden? Yes! You can create a container garden in the winter time. To find out just how to create a winter container garden, stay with me on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast for my secrets on creating a gorgeous winter container garden for this holiday season! 

Remember that pretty container filled with annual flowers that was used all summer and maybe even to fall if you weren’t too tired? Well, the same container can be re-worked and situated in your home’s entryway to welcome close family and friends in for the holidays!

To begin creating a winter container garden, use a hard plastic or wood container that can withstand the harsh winter elements filled with potting soil mix. Make sure the potting soil is a little below the top rim of the container. If not, add more potting soil or use newspaper to bring it closer to the top.

Next, collect clippings from different landscape trees and shrubs growing around your home or neighborhood. Examples of greenery might include southern magnolia, white pine, Eastern red cedar, holly, heavenly bamboo, spruce, boxwood, and Eastern hemlock. Cut varying lengths of greenery when gathering samples. The thought is to use the longer pieces to “spill” out of the arrangement and the shorter pieces to “fill” in around the spiller plants.

Kentucky’s landscape is filled with different varieties of evergreen trees and shrubs that can be cut and used as fresh greenery in a number of holiday decorations for the home! Take a look around your yard to see what greens are available in your neighborhood.

  • White Pine, scientifically known as Pinus strobus, offers a blue green color to arrangements and provides a nice fragrance when situated in the home. Not to mention, it has excellent needle retention.
  • Another readily available greenery item is Eastern Redcedar, Juniperus virginiana, which possesses fleshy blue berries for good color and smells wonderful when brought indoors.
  • Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, a favorite among Southerners has glossy, dark green leaves with velvety, brown undersides that give an interesting contrast when placed against other leaf textures.
  • Holly is another traditional holiday green that adds interest depending on the variety that is being used. Some leaves give a blue color while other holly varieties can be variegated. If looking for berries, make sure to collect from the female plant.
  • Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga Canadensis, is one of my favorites to use around the holidays for decorating. This evergreen gives a lacey effect to fresh arrangements. The leaves are flat and the undersides have more of a white appearance on the undersides. At the ends, find small pinecones that look like little ornaments attached.
  • Other types of greenery such as Colorado Blue Spruce, and Boxwood are acceptable, too.

Things to know before cutting. Make sure to use clean, sharp cutters and cut at an angle for better transport of water and nutrients. Before cutting greenery from trees in the landscape, carefully consider which branches need to be cut. It is best to distribute cuts evenly throughout the tree or shrub to preserve its natural form.

The tips to know to ensure freshness! After cutting the greenery, immerse stems into a bucket filled with water and soak it overnight to maximize moisture. An optional step would be to allow the greenery to dry and then spray it with an anti-transpirant such as Wilt-pruf to help seal in additional moisture. However if you are using blue spruce, juniper berries, or cedar avoid using anti-transpirants, since this product can damage the wax coating that gives the plants their unique color.  

Now comes for the fun part—creating the winter container garden! Here are some items that you will need before you begin the process.

Gather up a round tomato cage and turn it upside down where the wire stakes are pointed up. The round part of the tomato cage should be positioned on the bottom with the 4 prongs facing upward to look similar to a Christmas tree. This piece will serve as the thriller in this arrangement and also give the container some height.

For some added cheer, attach Christmas lights to the tomato cage using floral wire. Use a spiral pattern when adding the lights to the tomato cage, or if you prefer more lights, place strands on each wire of the tomato cage. Don’t forget to place the plug-in towards the back of the container and next to a plug-in.

After getting the lights attached, put a block of green floral foam in a sink filled with room temperature water. The floral foam will support the greenery in place and keep it fresh by holding in moisture. Avoid forcing it down in the water where air bubbles form and allow the water to slowly soak into the block like a sponge and sink to the bottom. Floral foam can be purchased at most big box stores or at your favorite craft and floral supply store.

Place the block of wet floral foam in the middle of the container, and put the round base of the tomato cage over the foam. Next, take a roll of clear tape and secure the sides of the cage and floral foam to the container to keep it from falling over.

Cut stems of greenery at an angle and insert them into the wet floral foam. Start on the sides, then the front, and back of the arrangement, so the greenery appears as if it is cascading over the sides of the container. Add smaller pieces of greenery to fill in around the spiller until the foam is no longer visible.

After the greens are placed, for the finishing touch, incorporate natural elements like red berries, magnolia pods, or pine cones for a creative personal touch. Place your arrangement near the entrance of your home and watch how it glows with glamour from top to bottom! Guests will enjoy viewing these fresh arrangements around the holidays, and you will appreciate it more, knowing that you created it yourself using natural materials from around Kentucky’s landscape!

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

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

Find Inspiration at the Virtual Specialty Crop Conference!

Make plans to attend the Virtual 2020 Specialty Crop Conference planned for Thursday, December 10th! This conference is geared toward both new and experienced growers looking to diversify their farming operations.

With the timing of this conference, producers can gain knowledge and inspiration to utilize on their farms! The conference is free and open to anyone who is interested in learning more about growing specialty crops in Kentucky. We have a great line-up of specialty crop growers, Extension specialists, and other speakers planned for this conference! View the photos below to see the specialty crops which will be highlighted at the conference.

To view the entire schedule for the Virtual 2020 Specialty Crop Conference, see the schedule listed below.

Virtual 2020 Specialty Crop Conference Agenda

If interested in attending the Virtual 2020 Specialty Crop Conference, register HERE by clicking on this link:

https://uky.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEucequrTIpE9ST7CKXdDfV_-2_roqoxpkn

If you have other questions related to the conference, please contact the Warren County Extension Office at (270) 842-1681!