Category Archives: Kentucky Gardening

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:

Extension Master Gardeners Make a Difference with a Certified Monarch Waystation

In 2017, the Monarch Joint Venture organization reported that the iconic monarch butterfly has steadily declined by approximately 90% over the last 20 years. Warren County Extension Master Gardeners wanted to make a difference so they designed and installed a certified Monarch Waystation to provide habitat and to help increase the population of monarch butterflies.  A monarch waystation is a garden that includes milkweed plants which serve as the host plant for the monarch butterfly and a variety of nectar plants that the adult butterfly can use as a nectar source. This garden was situated on the Warren County Extension Office grounds to serve as an educational demonstration plot  so the general public would be encouraged to plant more native and pollinator friendly plants in their home garden and landscape.

A Monarch Waystation committee was formed to assist with the installation and timeline for the project. Committee      members worked closely with the agent throughout the 2020 – 2021 year to plan the certified Monarch Waystation. The committee secured a $1500.00 grant from the Warren County Soil Conservation District as well as other community donations. Other committee members contributed by checking and securing material costs and marketing for the project.

Extension Master Gardeners Interns from the virtual 2020  Master Gardener class were given the task of submitting      garden proposals for the future design of the Monarch Waystation. Completed proposals were reviewed by the     committee at the end of January 2021 and the final design was selected. The final design consisted of a combination of multiple designs submitted from the Master Gardener Interns with several native plants arranged in seven 4×8 feet raised beds. 

Warren County Extension Master Gardeners and Interns worked diligently together throughout the spring 2021 season to construct the Monarch Waystation gardens. Volunteers worked on different parts of the project to build the raised bed garden frames, add soil media components to the beds, plant hundreds of pollinator friendly plants, install the water feature and small bubblers for water sources, mulch plants, and water throughout the week. Visit the Warren County Extension Office website at www.warrencountyextension.com/monarch-waystation to see the entire process from start to finish. 

To highlight their efforts, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners received recognition through local media outlets. Their story was featured on WBKO-TV Channel 13, Spectrum News, and in the Bowling Green Daily Times newspaper.    Another TV segment appeared on the Extension Farm and Home Show during National Pollinator Week.

Warren County Extension Master Gardeners have also registered and certified their waystation through Monarch Watch which is the non-profit organization that manages the waystation. By registering their waystation, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners are supporting monarch conservation efforts and the preservation of the monarch      butterfly.

Master Gardeners have donated a total of 218 volunteer hours to the certified Monarch Waystation. According to the National Independent Sector, the value of volunteer time for the state of Kentucky is $23.10 per hour for 2020. If you multiply the hours donated by the hourly rate, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners have given a total of $5,035.80 to the Warren County community.  Plans are currently being made to install other features for the Monarch Waystation in the fall 2021 season.

Garden Spiders in Kentucky

If you have walked through the garden lately, you may have noticed several spiders. Now for some people, the thought of a spider makes them want to jump out of their shoes! But interestingly enough, spiders play an important role in a healthy ecosystem and there are benefits to having them in the garden. To help explain more about spiders, I called up Dr. Ric Bessin, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist to discuss more about the specific types of spiders found in Kentucky. I was amazed to learn about all the different types of spiders and the benefits that they can offer in our environment! So, make sure to stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast to hear the full interview!  

Introduction

  • Spiders are known as “arachnids,” and they all have 8 legs, 2 body parts (cephalothorax and abdomen), and no antennae.  
  • Arachnids also have fang-like mouthparts called “chelicerae” which insects do not have.  Insects and arachnids both belong to the same Phylum (Arthropoda), but insects are not arachnids, and arachnids are not insects.
  • Spiders can be distinguished from other arachnids in Kentucky by the connection between the abdomen and the cephalothorax.  In spiders, the connection between the cephalothorax and the abdomen is a narrow stalk.  In other Kentucky arachnids, the connection between the two body regions is broad, so that the distinction between the cephalothorax and abdomen is not obvious.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

There are many different types of spiders found in Kentucky. Here are a few types mentioned in this podcast episode.

Types of Spiders

Wolf spiders

Size: Wolf spiders range in size from tiny (the size of a pencil eraser) to about the size of a U.S. silver dollar, with legs outstretched 
Color: There are many species of wolf spiders in Kentucky, but most are dark or light brown, usually with contrasting spots or stripes. 
Features: Wolf spiders are fast-moving and they are typically seen running on the ground. They are not web builders. 
Notes: Wolf spiders often wander into homes. Because they are brown in color, wolf spiders are often mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of wolf spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals. Wolf spiders are among the most common kinds of spiders in Kentucky.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Funnel web/grass web spiders

Size: About the size of a U.S. quarter, with legs outstretched.
Color: Brown with prominent longitudinal gray or tan stripes. 
Features: Prominent hind spinnerets: these are two, small, finger-like projections on the end of the grass spider’s abdomen (used to spin the web). Many other spiders have spinnerets, but they are very large and distinctive in grass spiders. 
Notes: Grass spiders are very common in Kentucky lawns where they build large, funnel-shaped webs. They also occasionally wander into homes. Because they are brown and of a similar size, grass spiders are often mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, though, the bites of grass spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals.

(Newton, Townsend, 2010)

Fishing spiders

Size: A little larger than a U.S. silver dollar, with legs outstretched.
Color: Brown with contrasting, darker brown patterns. 
Features: Very large brown spiders; sometimes seen running on the ground or sitting motionless on tree trunks. 
Notes: Fishing spiders are common near streams and wooded areas in Kentucky, and they sometimes wander into nearby homes. They are among the largest spiders in our state, but they are not considered dangerous. Like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of fishing spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals. They are sometimes mistaken for brown recluse spiders, but adult brown recluses are smaller and lack the fishing spider’s distinct dark brown patterning.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Jumping spiders

Size: Typical jumping spiders are about the size of a U.S. dime, with legs outstretched. 
Color: There are many species of jumping spiders in Kentucky. Many are gray or black, while some are vividly colored. 
Features: Jumping spiders have distinctive, large eyes and a “flat faced” look. They are characterized by quick, herky-jerky motions and they do not build webs. 
Notes: Jumping spiders are common on the outsides of homes and buildings and they often wander into homes. Because some are brown in color, jumping spiders are sometimes mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, though, the bites of jumping spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals.

(Newton, Townsend, 2010)

Crab spiders

Size: Typical crab spiders are about the size of a U.S. nickel, with legs outstretched. 
Color: There are many species of crab spiders in Kentucky. Some are brown or tan, but most common species are bright white or vivid “neon” green or yellow. 
Features: Crab spiders are low and flat and their front two pairs of legs are very long. Crab spiders are not web builders. 
Notes: Crab spiders are very common in Kentucky flowers (where they hunt for bees), but they sometimes wander into homes. Because some crab spiders are brown in color, they are occasionally mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of crab spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Orb web spiders

Size: Orb weavers range in size from tiny (the size of a pencil eraser) to a little larger than a U.S. silver dollar, with legs outstretched. 
Color: There are many species of orb-weaver spiders in Kentucky. Some are solid tan or brown, while others are colorful with vivid patterns. 
Features: Orb weavers are distinguished by their webs: no other common Kentucky spiders make organized, circular, grid-like webs. Orb weavers are almost always encountered inside their webs. 
Notes: Orb weavers are commonly found on porches and gardens in Kentucky, especially in late summer. Occasionally, they will wander into a home and build a web in a doorway or windowsill. Some orb weavers are very large, but, like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of orb weavers are harmless except to allergic individuals. The Yellow-and-black Argiope (pictured below, top left), one of the largest spiders in Kentucky, is a type of orb weaver.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Harmful Spiders

There are two Kentucky spiders that can cause harm to humans: the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider. Tan to dark brown, a brown recluse’s abdomen and legs are uniformly colored with no stripes, bands, or mottling. The legs are long and thin and lack conspicuous spines. They have a dark violin-shaped mark on their back, with the neck of the violin pointing toward the rear of the spider. This feature is consistent in adult brown recluses, but is less obvious in younger spiders.

Their bites are serious and require immediate medical attention, but brown recluses are timid and unlikely to bite unless handled. These spiders are common in all areas of Kentucky. They tend to occur in hidden locations indoors and outdoors, such as piles of cardboard or paper, stacks of cut wood and wall-voids of buildings.

Black widow spiders are also common throughout the state. The female black widow is about a half-inch long and is glossy black with a variable number of red markings on the top and/or bottom of her abdomen. Adult males smaller and are similar in color, but with a few added white markings. Juveniles are highly variable. Their bites are very serious and require immediate medical attention, but the spider is timid and unlikely to bite unless handled. They tend to hide out in concealed outdoor locations such as piles of rocks or firewood and dark corners of garages and out-buildings. Females are common; males are very rarely encountered.

If interested in learning more information about spiders found in Kentucky, check out the Critter files that are posted on the University of Kentucky Extension website. Find the link to these files posted below in the references section. Field guides can also be a useful tool to keep on hand.

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today with Dr. Ric Bessin on Garden Spiders in Kentucky! A big thank you to Dr. Ric Bessin for being our guest!

Dr. Ric Bessin, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist

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

References:

Newton, B. & Townsend, L. (2010, January). Urban spider chart. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/spider-chart#widow.

Bessin, R. & Newton, B. (2016, May 18). Kentucky Critter Files. University of Kentucky Department of Entomology. http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CritterFiles/casefile/casefile.htm.  

2021 Annual Flower Garden Trial

The Warren County Extension Master Gardeners planted 20 new cultivars of annual flowers in May for the University of Kentucky Flower Trial Program. The University of Kentucky (UK) flower trial is a state-wide cooperative effort with the Master Gardener program to help evaluate performance of new flowering bedding plant cultivars in Kentucky. The main trial garden is located at the UK Arboretum in Lexington which contains 35 bedding plant cultivars.

Angelonia “Aria Purple”

Warren County is a trial site along with other counties including  Barren, Boyle, Breckinridge, Christian, Daviess, Hardin, Hopkins, Marshall, Mason, Mercer, Pulaski, and Washington.

The goal of the trial garden is to provide a fair evaluation of the garden performance for each flowering plant species and cultivar included.  To achieve this goal, it is necessary to use uniform cultural practices across the garden and to minimize environmental effects.

Pentas “Butterfly Red”

Extension Master Gardeners maintain the demonstration plots by watering and weeding the beds each week. Twice each month from mid-May until October, they rank the flowers on a scale of 0 to 5 with “5” being the best and “0” being the poorest.  

Lantana “Havana Sunset”

Here are some of the annual flower varieties that you will find in the 2021 growing season.

Bidens “Bidy Gonzales Top”
Canna “Cannaova Yellow”
Canna “Cannaova Red”
Lantana “Havana Harvest Moon”
Pentas “Butterly Light Lavender”
Catharanthus “Tattoo Papaya”
Catharanthus “Tattoo Cherry”

If interested in  viewing the annual flower garden trials, please feel free to stop by the Warren County Extension Office located at 5162 Russellville Road in Bowling Green, KY.

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!

Cover Crops for the Kentucky Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Cover Crops Profitably Resource Book

Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide

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

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

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

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

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

References:

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

Have you noticed Hammerhead Worms?

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

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

Photo Source: Judy Lacefield, Warren Co. Resident

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

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

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

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

Summer Garden Pests

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

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

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

Japanese Beetle Damage on Black Gum Landscape Tree

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

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

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

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

Photo Source: University of Kentucky Entfact-314

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

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

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

Dr. Jonathan Larson, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist

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

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

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture

References:

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