Category Archives: horticulture
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!
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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!
How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, https://www.birdcount.org/
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.
If interested in attending the Virtual 2020 Specialty Crop Conference, register HERE by clicking on this link:
If you have other questions related to the conference, please contact the Warren County Extension Office at (270) 842-1681!
Do you have trouble establishing a good stand of grass in your home lawn? Do you notice bare spots? Do you have more weeds than grass? If you answered yes to any of these questions, fall is the absolute time to carry out several home lawn improvement practices to help improve the appearance of your Kentucky home lawn. Today on episode 11 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing the top 4 secrets to improving your home lawn this fall. For all the details, stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!
#1. When is the best time to perform lawn care practices in Kentucky? The turf care calendar for cool season lawns in Kentucky is found at the beginning of this guide. It shows each month of the year and highlights the best and second best times to perform specific lawn care practices for the Kentucky lawn. There are also foot notes located at the bottom of the page that gives more explanations related to the specific lawn care practices.
#2. Select the right grass for the Kentucky lawn. Based on research from the University of Kentucky, turf-type tall fescue performs the best for Kentucky Home Lawns. Tall fescue has good qualities including: There are also some slight drawbacks which include good traffic tolerance. For a link to see the publication on Selecting the Right Grass for your Kentucky Lawn, make sure to see the show notes. This publication explores the different types of grass species that can be grown in Kentucky and lists major qualities and problems associated with each grass type. Recommendations for the top performing varieties of tall fescue and other cool-season grasses are also included in this guide.
#3. Soil Test, Soil Test, Soil Test! The secret to having a nice looking lawn is by conducting a soil test. I often say that the secret to good plant growth is through the soil and by testing the soil, this process gives homeowners the exact recommendations of lime and fertilizer rates needed to reach optimum plant growth. To improve the appearance of the lawn, first start with a soil test.
To test the soil for a home lawn, sample the top 2 to 4 inches of soil using a garden shovel or trowel. Collect soil from different locations in the lawn at random and make sure to avoid getting any grass clippings or leaves when sampling. Some people sample their front and back yards separately. Place soil in a clean five-gallon bucket. Repeat this same process 10 to 12 times and mix all the samples together. If there is any excess moisture in the soil, allow the sample to dry on newspaper for 24 hours.
After collecting soil, bring samples to the local extension office. Some basic information about the crop being grown is needed to go along with the sample before being mailed. There is a small fee to pay for conducting a soil test, but I assure you that it is the best money that you will spend since it gives you the exact amounts for lime and fertilizer that is needed. When results come back, extension agents review and sign the soil test recommendations. Soil test results generally take about 7 to 10 days to be processed.
#4. When should I fertilize my home lawn? Fertilization is an important part of maintaining a home lawn. Fall is the absolute best time to fertilize cool season grasses in the Kentucky home lawn. By performing this practice in the fall, the root system is stronger and can make it through the winter months. September, October, and November are the best months to apply fertilizer according to soil test recommendations.
The number of times nitrogen fertilizer is applied depends on the lawn quality desired. Most general home lawns with no irrigation system are maintained at the low to medium maintenance levels. These levels require either one or two applications of nitrogen. Make sure to have the soil tested to know these exact recommendations for the home lawn.
If interested in knowing more information about home lawn fertilization, make sure to see the link in the show notes to achieve the publication for Fertilizing your Lawn, AGR-212.
While I know that I gave the top 4 secrets to improving your home lawn this fall, I also have a free resource that I am offering up today that can offer more help in home lawn improvement practices! This free resource is called the Home Lawn Improvement Guidebook. This guidebook will assist you in making the best decisions for how and when to improve the appearance of your Kentucky lawn. Material in this guidebook is provided by University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Turf Specialists and other Extension Professionals. If you would like a copy of this guidebook, make sure to contact the Warren County Extension Service at (270) 842-1681 or contact Kristin Hildabrand at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! I hope to see you again soon when the sun shines again!
Turf Care Calendar: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/agr/agr55/agr55.pdf
Selecting the Right Grass for your Kentucky Lawn: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR52/AGR52.pdf
Fertilizing your Lawn AGR-212: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR212/AGR212.pdf.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Winter Cover Crops for Kentucky Gardens and Fields, ID-113- http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id113/id113.pdf
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 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/.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Kristin G. Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture
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.
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!
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
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 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.
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.