Category Archives: UK Cooperative Extension Service

Tips for the Best Pumpkin

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


Do you have a favorite pumpkin? 

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


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


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.  

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!

MCA Virtual Field Day

Join in on the Mammoth Cave Area Virtual Field Day that will be held on Tuesday, October 27th from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. This program will be held exclusively on Zoom video conferencing technology. The program is of no cost, but interested producers are required to pre-register. Participants will tour and learn about the following farms in the Mammoth Cave Area:

  • Ag Diversification: Producing and Selling Ear Corn For Profit: McKinney Farms – Butler County
  • High Tunnel Strawberry Production: Kevin Lyons – Monroe County
  • Managing Mud in High Traffic Areas with Winter Feeding Pad: Ricky & Kay Keen – Simpson County


Participants will also have the opportunity to talk with each farmer during the program to help answer any question attendees may have. Pre-registration is required. To register go to this registration link
https://uky.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMlc-ygrTkqHtK9UBZUNbaKGepf7gwHVh0x or contact your local extension office. This event is being hosted by agriculture and horticulture agents in the Mammoth Cave Area.