Category Archives: Houseplants
How to Grow Potatoes in the Kentucky Garden
Growing potatoes in the garden is such a fascinating crop to grow, since the edible portion of the plant is secretly grown underground. With the wide variety of potato shapes, sizes, and colors, this underground stem can enhance your garden and diet at the same time!
Start potatoes in the garden from seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are actually a piece of potato rather than a seed. Purchase “certified” seed stock from a reputable nursery or mail-order company. The certified means that the stock has been inspected and is disease free. Avoid using grocery store potatoes or potatoes from your own garden, since soil-borne diseases can be carried easily this way.
If seed potatoes are not cut, slice the tuber into pieces that are similar to the size of a small chicken egg. Make sure that each piece has at least 2 to 3 eyes which is a small depression where potato sprouts will form. Next, store newly cut pieces at room temperature for 1 to 3 days before planting. This gives the cut surfaces time to dry and form a callus, which decreases rotting.
In Kentucky, home gardeners can plant early potatoes from March 15th through April 10th in a well-drained, loamy soil high in organic matter. Soils should have a pH level of 5.0 to 5.5, so scab disease will not be a problem. When planting the seed pieces, drop them into a furrow that is 3 to 5 inches deep with 6 to 12 inch spacing in between pieces. Fill in the furrow to ground level. “Hill” potatoes when they reach 4 to 6 inches tall by mounding soil to cover most of the leaves. Three weeks later, hill again. This technique will make furrows between the rows at least 6 inches deep.
Since potatoes are shallow rooted, they need constant soil moisture. If soil dries out after tubers have formed, a second growth like a crack or knob will start when soil becomes moist again. Also, fluctuating dry and wet conditions can cause cavities near the center of the potato to develop.
Harvest mature potatoes after vines have been dead for two weeks. This method allows the skin to set and minimizes skin peeling, bruising, and rot while in storage. Quickly remove potatoes from the field to avoid sunscald damage if harvest conditions have high temperatures or bright sunlight. Also, be cautious to avoid bruising tubers during harvest.
For more information about growing potatoes in the Kentucky garden, make sure to contact the local Extension Office in your area. They have a free resource entitled “Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky” publication which can be found at http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/ID/ID128/ID128.pdf.
Control Tips for the Colorado Potato Beetle
Once gardeners plant potatoes in the garden, it won’t be much longer before they discover the black and yellow-striped “potato bug”. The potato bug is scientifically known as, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, or more commonly referred to as the Colorado potato beetle. Both the larvae and adult forms of this insect feed on potato foliage, and if left untreated, can quickly defoliate plants. The Colorado potato beetle can also be a serious pest to other vegetables including eggplant, pepper, and tomato.
To control Colorado potato beetle, it is good to understand the insect’s lifecycle. The beetle overwinters in the ground, and becomes active in the spring at the time when potatoes begin to emerge in May where they feed on weeds and early plantings of potato. The female beetles lay orange-yellow eggs in batches on the underside of leaves. Females can lay 500 or more eggs over a period of five weeks.
After the eggs hatch, the larvae appear in groups and begin feeding on potato foliage. The larvae are easily recognizable by their humpbacks with two rows of black spots on each side of their body. Then, the full grown larvae move down in the ground to pupate and in five to 10 days, the adult beetle emerges. In Kentucky, this lifecycle continues with two to three generations occurring annually.
Treatment for Colorado potato beetle in home vegetable gardens can be challenging, but not impossible. Check the undersides of potato leaves for egg masses. If noticed, remove leaves from the garden and dispose in the trash. Adult beetles can fly into gardens so make sure to inspect the garden regularly. For small gardens, handpicking may also be an effective means for control. In the morning, drop the adult and larvae forms into a bucket filled with soapy water. For chemical controls, please visit the local extension office in your area. They will be glad to give you recommendations of insecticides to apply for controlling the potato beetle.
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
- 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
Dendrobium – many resemble Phalaenopsis, Philippines, Australia, East Asia
- 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
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.
• 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
• Many orchid species are native to tropical rain forests
• Home humidity levels can be quite low (both summer
• 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?
• 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 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.
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Thanks for listening gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!
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