Category Archives: horticulture

Starting Seeds Indoors

Have you ever started seeds at home? What was the outcome? Were the seedlings leggy and stretched? Did the seedlings die?  

If these are some experiences that you have had, no more! Today, on episode 1 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I will share secrets to growing seeds indoors successfully. This information will make the difference and I assure that you will have healthier plants to transplant later into the garden. Stay with me to hear what secrets I have for starting seeds indoors for the Kentucky garden.

The joys of starting seeds

Starting seeds indoors can be such a rewarding experience for many gardeners! The thought of planting small seeds in the soil, watching them emerge each day, handling the tiny seedlings, and seeing them develop into young plants just warms my soul! Then, when the time is conducive for planting outdoors, gardeners can transplant their seedlings into the ground to watch it grow and mature further into an adult plant. This process from seed to plant is pure satisfaction and gratification for avid home gardeners!

Home gardeners are able to grow new, improved, and unusual plant varieties that they might not find available at local garden centers or nurseries. For instance, if you can’t find an heirloom tomato variety called ‘Hillbilly Potato Leaf Tomato’, get seed from another grower and grow it yourself. Gardeners can be the best source for heirloom varieties. Another added benefit with starting seeds at home is that gardeners reduce the amount of time required between planting and harvesting of at least 4 to 8 weeks. This my friends is music to my ears!

What to know ahead of time?

While starting seeds indoors is fun, it does require time and patience from gardeners. Regular monitoring of transplants is essential. Check seedlings daily for water and to see if any additional fertilizer is needed. Growing seeds at home will require equipment such as grow lights, maybe a plant stand if growing several different plants, trays to support the developing plants, and possibly a timer system. Cost of this equipment be based on your needs, so make sure to budget for them. 

List of materials for starting seeds indoors

1. Seed

  • Find a reputable source for seed. Companies that are reputable will stand behind their product and replace seed if there is a problem.
  • Make sure seed varieties are locally adapted to the area.  
  • For recommendations on vegetables, check out ID-133. It lists vegetable cultivars that are suitable for Kentucky. 
  • Seeds sold in packages should display the crop, cultivar, germination, percentage, and chemical seed treatments, if any.
  • Make sure to pay close attention to the sell by date.
  • Inspect the seed before starting.
  • Buy new seed since some seeds over a year old will not germinate (sprout) well.

2. Artificial Lighting

A lot of gardeners that I talk to one on one at the Extension Office mention to me that they start their seeds in the windowsill. In other areas of the United States, this area may be fine, but for Kentucky, we get poor results when starting seeds in the windowsill. Seedlings turn out leggy and stretched where they are trying to reach the light.

  • Options may be to use cool white fluorescent lamps alone, use a mixture of cool white and warm white fluorescent lamps, or a mixture of cool white and plant growth fluorescent lamps. All of these options are acceptable.
  • Position the lamps 5 to 10 inches above the foliage.
  • Operate them 12 to 18 hours/day. It might be a good idea to purchase a timer that will allow the lights to come on and off automatically.
  • Keep seedlings cool enough about 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit for strong, sturdy growth after germination occurs.
Do-it-yourself (DIY) grow light stand constructed out of PVC pipe

3. Soil Media Mix

A desirable soil medium for starting seed should be loose, well-drained and fine-textured. It should not contain any disease causing organisms or significant amounts of fertilizer. Prepared media possessing these traits are available commercially, or component material can be purchased individually and mixed at home.

Soilless mixes are inert mixes containing no soil that are available for starting seeds. They are usually composed of a combination of peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. These can be purchased ready-made or can be mixed at home. Note that if using these mixes, they have little fertility, so seedlings must be watered with a diluted fertilizer solution.

4. Containers

Containers for starting seeds should be sterile and free from harmful chemicals. Previously used containers should be sterilized before use. Wash plastic or wooden containers thoroughly with soapy water to remove all debris. Then rinse containers by dipping them in a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water, and allow them to dry before filling with germination medium. Containers should also be sturdy and fit into the space available for growing plants in the home. 

Plastic trays, fiber trays, or wooden flats

  • Plants that are easy to transplant may be seeded directly into trays or flats for later transplanting into individual packs or pots, or wider spacing in flats.
  • Starting seed in such containers saves space when compared with seeding directly into individual pots.

Peat pots

  • Biodegradable pots made from peat or paper waste fibers can be purchased individually or in strips or blocks.
  • They are porous and provide excellent drainage and air circulation to the root zone.
  • The entire pot can be planted.

Compressed peat pellets

  • Before hydration, peat pellets are about the size of a silver dollar but somewhat thicker.
  • When placed in water, they swell to form a cylindrical netlike container filled with peat moss, ready for seeding or transplanting.
  • Plant them directly into the garden.

 

Proper Planting Techniques  

Step 1: Moisten the germination media. Fill the container to within ¾ inch of the top with the medium. Use a clean, small board to level the germination media and gently tap the container on a table or hard surface to remove any air bubbles.

Step 2: If seeding in a tray or flat, use a ruler or even a large wooden plant label to make shallow rows 1 to 2 inches apart. If using only one variety of seed, scatter or “broadcast” the seed evenly over the soil surface. Now, if using different seeds in the same tray, make sure to label the rows with a plant label marked with the name of the cultivar.

Step 3: Sow the seeds uniformly and thinly in the rows. For many small round seeds, drop them slowly in the rows by tapping the seed package over the row. Again, use a plant label for each row to distinguish the plant type, variety, and date of planting.

Step 4: For large-seeded vegetables such as cucumber, cantaloupe, and watermelon, plant directly into containers such as peat pots. Other seeds may also be handled this way to save the gardener on transplanting.

Step 5: Next, cover seeds with dry vermiculite or milled sphagnum moss. The depth of covering depends on the size of the seeds. Most fine seeds, like lettuce and petunia, need light to germinate and should not be covered. As a general rule, seeds other than especially fine seeds should be covered to a depth of 2 times their diameter.

Step 6: Moisten the surface of the media with a fine mist. You can do this with a spray bottle of water.

Step 7: Place the seeded container in a warm location under grow lights for germination. Generally, a range from 65 to 75 degrees F is best.

Step 8: Inspect daily for germination. Seeds are quickly killed if allowed to dry during germination. Watch closely for development of any disease and, if evident, take control measure promptly.

Other successful tips

  • Moisture
    • Good humidity and adequate water are necessary for producing good plants. Adequate watering implies keeping growing medium moist at all times but never soggy. Allow some drying between watering, but don’t allow seedlings to wilt at any time.
  • Fertilization
    • Seedlings will need some fertilization for best development. It is best to use a soluble houseplant fertilizer that is sold in garden centers, nurseries or plant supply sections of department stores.
    • Apply fertilizer at about half the recommended strength a few days after seedlings have germinated. After that, fertilize according to the recommendations listed on the fertilizer label. Water and fertilize carefully.
  • Thin out other seedlings to make more room in the plant row.  
  • Hardening-off
    • The process of hardening-off involves exposing transplants to cooler temperatures and giving them less fertilizer and water to “toughen” them.
    • Begin the hardening off process about two weeks before planting in the garden. If possible, move plants to a shady, outdoor location with cooler temperatures. A cold frame is excellent spot for this purpose.
    • When plants are first put outdoors, keep them in the shade, but gradually move them into sunlight for short periods each day, gradually increasing the length of exposure.
    • Don’t put tender seedlings outdoors on windy days or when temperatures are below 45 degrees F. Reduce the frequency of watering to slow growth, but don’t allow plants to wilt.
    • After proper hardening, plant transplants outdoors and light frosts will not damage them.

By having the right materials and following the proper steps to growing seeds at home, gardeners can be more successful when starting seeds indoors. If you would like more information on starting seeds indoors, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of the Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky publication also known as ID-128. This resource is great for learning more about home vegetable gardening in Kentucky from asparagus all the way to watermelon. For a link to this guide, make sure to see the show notes.

Hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To see the show notes for Episode 1 and additional resources mentioned from today’s show, please follow me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture, https://warrencountyagriculture.com/. Feel free to leave any questions that you might have or any additional comments.

Make sure to tune in with me for more gardening information each week right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To be notified of other future episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts to stay up to date on all the latest episodes. Each week, I plan to share seasonal gardening tips and tricks to help gardeners reach their goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over their Kentucky garden.  

Happy Gardening!

Helpful Resources:

ID-133, Vegetable Cultivars for Kentucky Gardens 2013, http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id133/id133.pdf

ID- 128, Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf

February Fruit Tree Chores

Blog banner for February Fruit Chores

Move over Valentine’s Day! February is not only the month for flowers, but it is also a time for gardeners to show their love and care for fruits! Right now is the absolute best time of year to perform general maintenance practices such as pruning, fertilizing, and spraying needed for quality home fruit production.

Prune fruit trees to maximize sunlight and increase airflow through the tree’s canopy, while they are dormant in February or early March. All pruning cuts should be made at the branch bases, leaving only the branch collar (1/4 to ½ inch) so that wounds heal properly. First, remove all dead or diseased shoots and limbs. Both apple and pear trees are very susceptible to the bacterial disease called fire blight. This disease is easily recognizable by the “shepherd’s crook” and dark black color located at the end of a branch. Next, take out any signs of shriveled fruit left on the tree and dispose of it. Do not leave diseased plant debris near the growing site.

Fruit Tree Pruning

For the remainder of the trees, use heading back cuts to reduce the height of the tree so it is easier to manage and also thinning out cuts to open up the tree for sunlight and airflow. Make sure that the pruning blades are sharp to provide a nice clean cut. Sanitize blades of cutting tools between each cut with a 10 percent bleach solution or rubbing alcohol. This task may seem redundant but it protects healthy tissue from being infecting with harmful bacteria.

After trees are pruned, apply a dormant oil spray to both apple and pear trees. Dormant oil is a refined petroleum product that effectively controls red mites and scale insects from overwintering in tree bark with a suffocating layer of oil. Since this is a dormant oil, apply dormant oil spray before new growth begins in the spring and when temperatures are above freezing for at least 24 hours. Make sure to always read and follow label directions for proper use of any pesticide. Dormant oil is sold at local garden centers and is relatively inexpensive.

Lastly, fertilize fruit trees in February unless it is a newly planted tree. For first year plantings, fertility adjustments are made prior to planting so their root system has time to establish in the ground. During subsequent seasons, apply fertilizer rates according to the plant growth rate and condition. If the average terminal growth is less than the value listed under the desired vegetative growth in Table 1, increase the quantity of nitrogen applied. If the terminal growth exceeds the amount, reduce the quantity of nitrogen. Nitrogen should be at its peak level during the spring growing season.

Fruit Fertilizer Guidelines

To obtain more information related to fruit tree care and maintenance, please contact the Warren County Extension Office at (270) 842-1681.

 

Fresh Cut Flower Arranging with KY Cuts

Kristin Hildabrand, Warren County Horticulture Agent visits with grower Jean Bowles of Kentucky Cuts to discuss her flower farm.

Jean is a cut flower grower who specializes in growing sunflowers, zinnias, and lisianthus during the summer season. In the Kentucky Farms Kentucky Flavor segment, she explains to Kristin the process she takes in growing cut flowers on the farm from seed to harvest. Jean shared that she got into farming because she enjoyed being outside and first started farming flowers, when her kids were young. She quickly figured out that it was going to take much more time than she could devote, so she left farming flowers for several years. Now that she is retired and her kids are grown, Jean is back to flower farming again! Her goal for the farm is to make it more self-sustaining! In the future, she hopes to try growing different flower varieties that most people don’t grow.

Kristin shows us how to make a fresh flower arrangement using seasonal flowers grown on the farm from Kentucky Cuts.

Before starting the arrangement process, gather a few items from around the house: a sharp pair of scissors, container or vase for the flowers, fresh water, and freshly harvested flowers. To begin making the arrangement, make sure that the container or vase is clean. Next, add fresh room temperature water to the vase. Now, the flower arranging process can begin! Use the thriller, spiller, and filler method, when arranging flowers. The thriller flower provides the height in the arrangement, the spiller plant cascades down and softens the sides, and the filler flower fills in the dead space. Place the thriller plant in the vase first. The thriller flower should only be about 1.5 to 2 times the height of the container. Make stem cuts at a diagonal to allow water to easily transport through the stem. Add the spiller plant next followed by the filler flowers. For more information about flower arranging, please contact the local Extension Office in your area.

Don’t Miss Peach Season

Peach season is about over, but you can still get some white peaches and some late varieties at Dunn and Bowen Orchard, our Kentucky Farms, Kentucky Flavor feature farmer for August. Dunn and Bowen Orchard has been providing fresh peaches for over 40 years. With 3,500 trees they offer 14 different varieties of peaches.

Peaches have a fuzzy skin and come in many varieties with yellow or white flesh. There are “freestones” (flesh separates easily from pit) or “clingstones” (flesh clings to the pit). Peaches contain many nutrients but are most important for fiber and vitamins A and C. They are low in calories; one medium sized peach has about 35 calories. When selecting fruit, look for fairly firm to slightly soft fruit with yellow or cream-colored skin. Avoid peaches that are green, shriveled or bruised. Dunn and Bowen Orchard is located at 998 Aubrey Mills Road in Bowling Green, KY. If you have any questions, contact them at (270)597-3501. Check out Joanna’s visit to the Orchard as she talks with Chris Bowen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpCU75l5mPQ

If you need any inspiration for new peach recipes, be sure to contact your local extension office!

Kristin prepares a delicious roasted peach recipe with fresh peaches from Dunn and Bowen Orchard.

It may seem strange to cook fresh peaches when they are at their peak of juicy flavor, but roasting them actually deepens that flavor. Even if you are only planning to have one or two for dessert you can roast them all, but only drizzle honey or maple syrup on the ones you’re planning to eat right away. The rest will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 5 days. Eat them as a snack, or sliced up on yogurt, or even as a garnish for grilled chicken. (If you have a grill, these are also fantastic grilled.)

Roasted Peaches with Honey

Ingredients: 4 ripe peaches, halved and pitted; 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon; and 4 teaspoons maple syrup or honey. Instructions: Turn the oven on and set the heat to 425 degrees. Put the peaches, but side down, in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Put the baking dish in the oven and roast until the peaches are tender and have some brown on the cut sides, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle the peaches with cinnamon, drizzle with honey or maple syrup, and serve right away.

Watch the video tutorial on how to make these roasted peaches https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVrOZHC-W9U.

KYF2 Melons: Groce Greenhouse & Produce

Kristin Hildabrand visits with Samantha Geralds, Groce Greenhouse and Produce to talk about their family operation.

Groce Greenhouse and Produce is locally owned in Barren County by Bobby and Thelma Groce. Bobby’s daughter Samantha Geralds was highlighted during this season’s KYF2 spot. For July, they have a variety of different melons: watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydew, and specialty melons such as sensations, canary melons, and sprite melons.

Cantaloupe is a great source of vitamins A and C. A half cup serving provides 50 calories, 120 percent of vitamin 1 and 80 percent of vitamin c needed per day. They also contain phytochemicals that foster heart health and good vision, boost the immune system and reduce the risk of some cancers.  You will also find many varieties of homegrown tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplants, sweet candy onions, sweet and hot banana peppers, bell peppers and much more. Groce Greenhouse and Produce can be found on Saturday’s from 8:00 Am until 1:00 PM at the SoKY Marketplace in downtown Bowling Green, as well as, on the Glasgow Square for the Bounty of the Barren’s Farmers Market on Saturday’s from 8:00 AM until Noon.

Glazed Cantaloupe Bread Recipe:

When selecting melons, choose melons heavy for their size with no visible bruises or yellow or cream undertone. Ripe melons will yield to slight pressure at the blossom end and have a fruity fragrance. Wash melons in warm water before cutting to rid the rind of any impurities that might be carried from the knife blade to the flesh. Cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Melons can be cut into halves, quarters, wedges, cubes or scooped into balls with a melon baller.

Be SMART with Gardening Goals!

It’s officially a New Year! Avid gardeners setting goals this year have the best of intentions, but then life happens and it steers them away from their goals. Make 2019 a more successful gardening season with SMART goals! SMART goals give gardeners more direction, which helps them accomplish their gardening goals during the busy season. Read on to discover more about the basic principles of SMART gardening goals, so you can apply them!

 

SPECIFIC & START SMALL

Gardening is the number one hobby and activity for most Americans and it has a lot of areas to cover from flower gardening, vegetable gardening, herb gardening, and even edible landscaping. So when setting goals, be more specific rather than general. Instead of making the goal “I want to grow a garden this year”, make statements like “I want to install two, 4’ x 8’ raised bed gardens in the back yard to grow a pizza garden this year.” This garden goal is more specific than the first statement.

The other part of the S is to start small. It seems that gardeners make several resolutions at the beginning of the year and can’t make them all happen at once. It takes time to make a behavior a habit, so focus on one goal at a time. If installing 2 new raised bed gardens this year, wait and add more later in the fall or even next year before installing 10 at one time. Try and not overwhelm yourself.

 

MEASURABLE

Secondly, make goals measurable by giving yourself checkpoints like daily, weekly, and monthly to cross. Go a step further and give yourself a mid-year and end of the year step. Feel free to add a few other steps in between if needed. By placing checkpoints along the way, goals are much more “do-able”. Plus, it makes it easier to focus on the checkpoints rather than the big goal.

 

ACHIEVABLE

Evaluate the goals and find out if it is achievable. Ask yourself a few questions: Do you have the ability to complete the goal? Do you have the right skills or tools needed to reach that specific goal? Is the goal realistic for you? If you answered no to those questions, don’t feel bad. Simply adapt and change the goals to make it easier to accomplish. Don’t set yourself up for failure. You are hoping to make improvements in the New Year, not go backwards!

 

RELEVANT

Make sure that the goal is relevant to YOU! What garden goal is the most important to YOU and would bring YOU joy? If the garden goal fits both categories, there is a greater desire to keep after the goal to make improvements for the gardening season. If you have multiple goals, ask yourself the “why” part of the garden goal. For example, the reason that “I want to install one 4’ x 8’ raised bed garden in the back yard to grow a pizza garden this year” is to serve as a form of exercise and reap the benefits of the harvest by using the fresh ingredients to make fresh homemade pizzas at home to feed my family.

 

TIME-SENSITIVE

Lastly, have a deadline in mind of when you want to cross the finish line for the goal. With gardening, it is best to first organize thoughts, make a plan on paper, and then attack the plan as far as crossing those daily, weekly, and monthly checkpoints.

For the garden goal of “I want to install one 4’ x 8’ raised bed garden in the back yard to grow a pizza garden this year”, plan it out on paper and make a list. It may look something like this:

  • First of January- Do research & plan out the 2 raised gardens on grid paper.
  • By January 31st– Purchase all seeds for plants and building materials for raised beds.
  • By mid- to late-February- Start vegetable seeds under a grow light in the basement.
  • March- Build and install my raised bed garden frame. Make sure it is in the right location.
  • April- Purchase and fill the raised bed gardens with high quality garden soil.
  • May- Plant small vegetable transplants in the ground after the danger of frost has passed.
  • May through July- Care for plants daily. Water, fertilize, and check for insects. Remove diseased plants when necessary.

 

After writing out your garden goals, display them in an area that you frequently visit. Some people may choose to put them on the refrigerator door, in their calendar or planner, or on their personal computer. Pick the best spot for you because this spot will serve as a friendly reminder for those life moments.

Lastly with SMART garden goals, take time to celebrate your successes when completing those goals! Visit an out-of-state arboretum with other gardening friends! Attend a new gardening class. Buy a new plant for the landscape. Whatever it takes to stay motivated, do it!

SMART goals image.PNG

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture Education       

How to Create a Winter Container Garden

Blog- Winter Container Garden7

December is the month for decorating your home for the holidays! Have you thought about how you might decorate the front porch area of your home? Well, good news! I have the perfect recipe for creating front porch flair with a festive winter container garden design! It’s simple, easy to create, and requires a few basic items, so let’s get started!

 

Blog- Winter Container1

Step 1: First, start the design with the container! Since the container is outdoors, make sure the material of the container will be able to withstand the cold winter weather. Stay away from terra cotta that will crack easily. Hard plastic or concrete containers work great. For this winter container garden, we re-used a plastic container that previously held summer annual flowers. Remove any remaining plant debris from inside the container. Make sure to keep the potting soil mixture to help build the base.

 

Blog- Winter Container2

Step 2: Next, gather a few basic supplies from around the home. A sharp pair of scissors, sheets of newspaper, and clear tape will come in handy for the next steps in the project.

 

Another important item needed is wet floral foam. Purchase wet floral foam from a local craft store or floral shop. Most of the time, the floral foam is located in the floral department of the store. Make sure that the package does say wet floral foam and not artificial.

 

Step 3: Fill the kitchen sink with cold water. When full, place two blocks of floral foam on top of the water. The water will gradually soak up into the foam like a sponge. Avoid pushing the foam down into the water which causes it to have air bubbles. Allow the floral foam to soak for a few hours.

Blog- Winter Container3

 

Step 4: After soaking the floral foam, start assembling the mechanics of the arrangement. Add a few sheets of newspaper to the container. On top of the newspaper, place the two blocks of wet floral foam. Secure it to the container with clear tape.

 

Blog- Winter Container4

 

Step 5: Go and gather fresh greenery from around the garden and landscape. Pine, cedar, boxwood, heavenly bamboo, holly, magnolia, and spruce are great sources of fresh greens to use in the winter container garden.

Using a mixture and variety of different greens makes for a beautiful winter container garden! Ask a neighbor if you can cut greens from their yard to use, if you have a limited supply.

For this particular arrangement, we used southern magnolia, pine, and heavenly bamboo berries.

Blog- Winter Container5

 

Steps for Designing the Winter Container Garden

  1. A winning container garden contains 3 types of plants: thriller, spiller and filler. The thriller plant makes the eye go up and gives height to the arrangement. So for this design, the black lantern serves as the thriller. Position the lantern in the middle of the container and push down into the foam. Inside the lantern, place an LED flameless candle to provide another touch of light to the outside porch.
  2. To serve as the spiller of the arrangement, place freshly cut pine stems into the floral foam around the bottom of the container. The spiller cascades over the side and softens the edges of the container. Start on the sides first and then go from front to back before filling in between the stems all the way around the bottom. Make sure to cut stems at a diagonal to allow the water to easily transport through the stems.
  3. For the filler, use magnolia leaves. These leaves are big and shiny and give nice contrast with the velvety brown undersides. Check to see that the floral foam is not showing and is covered with greenery.
  4. For the finishing touch, add brightly colored heavenly bamboo berries to provide a nice pop of color and help break up the green. Pinecones make a good additive for nature in the winter container! To brighten up the lantern, use a decorative bow to match the theme and color scheme of the arrangement.
  5. Place the finished winter container outside on the front porch to WOW your guests this holiday season and be proud that you created it yourself!

 

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For questions about creating a winter container garden, please contact Kristin Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture, at (270) 842-1681 or Kristin.goodin@uky.edu.

 

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand

Horticulture Extension Agent

For Warren County

Don’t toss those Pumpkins just Yet!

We all love to decorate with pumpkins! So, what happens to all the pumpkins after the Halloween season is over? Before tossing those pumpkins, read over this article to find a few ideas of ways to reuse and re-purpose decorating pumpkins.

  • Eat pumpkin! Pumpkin is a nutritious food to consume. They are low in fat and sodium and are an excellent source of vitamin A and fiber. To prepare fresh pumpkin at home, wash the pumpkin and cut lengthwise. Remove the guts of the pumpkin and set aside. Place the pumpkin in a baking dish and bake in the oven on 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour or until tender.

Use fresh pumpkin in the Plate it up! Kentucky Proud recipes for the pumpkin apple muffins for breakfast or make fall spiced pumpkin bread to serve as a bread or dessert. Don’t forget that the pumpkin seeds can be eaten too! Take the seeds and roast them in the oven. Add your favorite seasonings and you have a healthy snack or seasonal salad topper.

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  • Make a pumpkin bird feeder! This is a fun project and activity to do at home. It  involves the kids plus it helps to feed the birds at the same time!

To make the pumpkin bird feeder, use a small to medium sized pumpkin and with a sharp knife cut into it and remove all the guts of the pumpkin. To make the hanger for the bird feeder, take heavy-duty string and tie it in a knot on the sides of the pumpkin by drilling a hole. Another option is to place the string around the sides of the pumpkin, in the grooves, and secure it down with clear tape. Tie the string together in a knot if using several pieces of string. Place birdseed in the center of the pumpkin, based on the birds you wish to attract. If you want to provide a place for the birds to perch while feeding, add tree branches or small twigs on the side of the pumpkin. Hang up the finished pumpkin bird feeder in a tree and watch the feathery friends from your favorite window.

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  • Create a table centerpiece using smaller pumpkins! Grab a white plate, small pumpkins, and collect fall clippings from trees and shrubs from around the landscape to create a simple fall centerpiece for the table. To begin, place one type of tree cutting on the bottom of the white plate to serve as the base. In the picture below, we used a deciduous shrub showing bright red berries. Then, place the small pumpkins on top of the shrub clippings. Make sure to use an odd number of pumpkins like 3’s or 5’s. Next, add another type of colorful fall foliage like the red maple leaves around the pumpkins for a little accent color. It is fine to use artificial leaves, if the real leaves have already gone by for the season. For some embellishment, place small raffia bows around the stems of the pumpkins. Personalize pumpkins with a Thanksgiving greeting or blessing for the table. Have fun and be creative!

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  • Lastly, recycle the pumpkin to the compost pile! It is always good to return nutrients to the soil by composting it. Cut up the pumpkin(s) into sections or quarters and add it to the compost pile. Add water and turn it often with a garden fork to incorporate with other materials in the pile. In a few short months, the compost pile will reduce in size and the finished compost product will smell earthy, feel crumbly, and appear dark in color.

 

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand

Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County

Plant Peonies this Fall and Enjoy Perfect Blooms in the Garden

Peonies make a beautiful addition to the home garden and landscape! They 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. If you would like to plant peonies in your home landscape, fall is a good time to plant, so here are a few tips for planting perfect peonies.

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.

When purchasing peonies, purchase tubers from a reputable nursery catalog or from a reliable local garden center in the area. It is a good idea to buy and shop early to guarantee the best selection and variety desired. Inspect tubers for rots before planting.

To guarantee an extended blooming display, choose a mixture of early to mid- to late-season peony varieties to plant. By buying plants with different blooming seasons, gardeners are guaranteed 6 total weeks of peony blooms to enjoy. Make sure to read plant descriptions in catalogs and watch labels in garden centers to find this information.

Here are some noteworthy peony cultivars of different types captured by fellow Kentucky gardeners:

Cultivar/Type: ‘Monsieur Jules Elie’, Herbaceous                                                                                                            Photo Credit: Dennis Morgeson, Washington Co. Extension Agent for Horticulture

 

Red Charm

Cultivar/Type: ‘Red Charm’, Herbaceous                                                                                                                           Photo credit: Dennis Morgeson, Washington Co. Extension Agent for Horticulture

 

 

Sara Bernhardt

Cultivar/Type: ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, Herbaceous                                                                                                                 Photo credit: Inette Goodin, Adair County Garden Club Member

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bartzella Peony

Cultivar/Type: ‘Bartzella’, Itoh Peony                                                                                                                  Photo Credit: Inette Goodin, Adair Co. Garden Club Member

 

Cora Louise

Cultivar/Type: ‘Cora Louise’, Itoh Peony                                                                                                   Picture credit: Dennis Morgeson, Washington Co. Extension Agent for Horticulture

 

'Misaka'

Cultivar/Type: ‘Misaka’, Itoh Peony                                                                                                                    Photo Credit: Dennis Morgeson, Washington Co. Extension Agent for Horticulture

 

Best Location for Peonies: Plant peonies in well-drained soil. Wet locations promote root rot problems that will cause damage to future plants. If soil does not drain well, build and install raised beds to improve soil drainage. Before planting, incorporate 2 to 4 inches of rich compost or well-aged manure to the planting area for added organic content. Peonies perform best in full sun with 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Some tree type peonies will benefit from a little bit of shade or filtered sun in the afternoon to help their bloom color last longer.

 

When to Plant: Fall is the absolute best time to plant peonies. September and October are ideal months for planting.

 

Planting Procedures: In the ideal location, next prepare the site for planting. Dig the planting hole to a depth of 12 to 18 inches and a width of 18 inches wide. Remove soil from the planting hole and break up any clods that come to the surface.

For herbaceous peonies, plant tubers 1 to 2 inches below the soil level with the eyes facing upwards and the roots facing down. Plant tree peonies below the graft union with 4 to 5 inches of soil covering the graft. The graft is noticeable by the ridge on the stem and the difference in bark texture. This deep planting helps the graft develop its own root system.

A common reason that peonies do not bloom is due to gardeners planting the tubers too deep. Take extra precautions to ensure the correct depth for the peony being grown. Use a measuring tape or yardstick, if needed.

Space multiple plants 3 to 4 feet apart in the row. Once in place, work the soil around the fleshy roots and fill the planting hole back with remaining soil. Water plants thoroughly.

 

Other Maintenance Tips: Keep soil moist when the weather is dry. Water is also very important during bud formation and flowering. Mulch newly planted plants with a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic mulch such as clean straw, pine needles, or bark mulch in late fall to keep plants from heaving in and out of the soil. The mulch also deters weeds from germinating and conserves soil moisture.

When new shots begin to form in the spring, place a stake like a tomato cage or a flower stake over plants to hold blooms up after a heavy rainfall or harmful winds. Fertilize plants in early spring when growth is 12 inches tall and immediately after flowering. It is best to lightly cultivate around the crown of the plant with ¼ cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer and water it in.

For more information about planting peonies this fall or growing peonies in the garden, contact the Warren County Extension Office at (270) 842-1681.

 

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand

Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture

Consider Planting Garlic for the Kentucky Garden

growing great garlic headline

If you enjoy cooking with garlic in the kitchen, you should try growing garlic in the garden! Garlic is an easy to grow crop for the Kentucky garden because it doesn’t have a lot of disease and insect pressure. Garlic produces large amounts if gardeners plant a recommended variety, plant in the right location and in the correct way, and provide proper maintenance when needed.

In Kentucky, garlic grows as a biennial crop. Gardeners plant garlic cloves in October or early November in order to establish a good root system. Make sure to plant garlic in loose well-drained soil with plenty of organic material. Soils that do not drain well will cause rotting to form. If soil types are not ideal, look into installing raised bed gardens, which are good options for growing garlic.

There are two types of garlic to grow in Kentucky, which are soft-neck or hard-neck garlic. Soft-neck garlic does not produce a scape and due to the soft neck nature, gardeners or market growers can braid their stems. Hard-neck garlic produces an elongated flower stalk known as a scape, which then forms a flower at the top called a bulbil. When the flower forms, remove it so that the developing garlic bulb increases in size. Since hard-neck garlic has better cold-hardiness, it generally performs better in Kentucky gardens.

soft neck garlic

Braided soft-neck garlic variety

 

hardneck garlic

Hard-neck garlic variety type

Purchase certified seed stock from a reputable garden or nursery source. Cultivars will differ greatly from other varieties according to clove arrangement, number of cloves, size of cloves, color, flavor, and skin tightness. It is important to buy the specific garlic variety early in advance to guarantee the desired variety. The popular varieties tend to sell out before other varieties.

Soft-neck garlic is referred to as Silverskin, Artichoke, or Italian garlic. California Early and California Late are the best represented varieties for soft-neck types. The hard-neck may be purple, purple striped or white. Hard-neck varieties include Roja, German Red, Valenica, and Continental.

After the first hard frost, gardeners will need to apply a 2-4 inch layer of clean straw to insulate and protect the developing bulbs from cold temperatures. In spring, when garlic begins actively growing, gardeners will need to apply fertilizer. Garlic is ready for harvest in July or early August when leaf tops begin to dry and bend toward the ground.

garlic growing

Garlic actively growing in the garden.

For more information about growing garlic, check out these University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service publications:

 

If you would like to watch more about growing garlic, see the links below from the Warren County Agriculture YouTube channel. Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture Kristin Hildabrand discusses selecting garlic varieties and planting garlic on the Farm and Home Show. Click on the links below to see this information:

Selecting Garlic Varieties:

 

Planting Garlic:

 

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand, Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County