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Ornamental grasses look good throughout the seasons and provide texture and movement in the garden too. Grasses are selected for their attractive foliage, distinctive form, and/or showy flowers and seedheads. Make sure that the grass selected fits into the landscape plan. It must be the right size, shape, color, and needs to bloom in the correct season. Here is an overview of how to plant and grow ornamental grasses successively in the garden as well as a list of ornamental grass varieties that would be good to plant for great autumn color.
When: The best time to plant grasses is spring, so they will be established by the time hot summer months arrive. Container-grown grasses can be planted during the summer as long as adequate moisture is supplied. Cool-season grasses can be planted in early fall, but plenty of mulch should be used to protect fall plantings from winter kill.
Soil: Most grasses will grow in good or heavy clay soils. Those that have special soil requirements should be found on the print label when purchased.
Spacing: A general rule is to place plants as far apart as their eventual height. Grasses that have a mature height of 3 feet may be placed 3 feet apart from center to center. If quick cover is desired, and your budget allows, plant closer.
Planting: Keep the following guidelines in mind when planting ornamental grasses.
- Always try to match the original soil line of the plant.
- Do not plant too high or too low below the crown.
- Newly planted grasses are susceptible to drying out, so water them immediately after planting, and keep them well watered until they are established.
Mulching: Mulching is important to get your grass plant off to a good start. Mulch reduces weeds, conserves soil moisture, reduces soil temperature, and provides winter protection. A two-to-three-inch later of organic mulch is best.
Watering: Except in extreme periods of drought, most established grasses should receive enough rainfall in Kentucky without supplemental water. Drip irrigation, applied directly to the root zone, is best during flowering because overhead irrigation may cause rapid decline of flowers.
Cutting back foliage: Ornamental grasses should be cut back just before or as the new season’s growth begins to appear. For most grasses in Kentucky, cut back ornamental grasses in late February or March. This will allow you to enjoy the attractive tan and reddish foliage during the winter months Most grasses should be cut back to a few inches above the ground. A pair of hand pruners or string trimmers will work for most plants. However, most species that grow more than 10 feet tall will have large, woody stems that can be cut only with a string trimmer blade attachment, pruning saw, or chainsaw.
Dividing and transplanting: Grasses may need to be divided or transplanted to propagate more plants, renew older clumps that tend to die within the center of the clump, or move plants to a better location. Warm-season grasses should be divided in late fall, winter, or early spring. Divide the plants into good-sized divisions with multiple tillers (stems). They can be divided into smaller divisions, but these require more time to reach mature size. Keep newly divided plants moist and shaded until planted in their new location.
For more information on ornamental grasses for the Kentucky Landscape, contact your local Extension Office.
Information from this article was taken from Ornamental Grasses for Kentucky Landscapes, HO-79.
Starting June 1, 2020, the Kentucky Beef Quality and Care Assurance (BQCA) Certification is now available online. Producers can access the online BQCA program by visiting kybeefnetwork.com or http://afs.ca.uky.edu/beef/irm and clicking on “Beef Quality & Care Assurance”. The Beef Quality & Care Assurance certification costs $5 and can be paid online prior to the accessing the course.
This online process is similar to how in-person BQCA trainings are conducted. Producers must complete Module A – BQCA Overview, and two of the other modules: B – Genetics and Handling, C – Proper Equipment and Additional Cattle Handling, and/or D – Veterinary Diagnostics Lab. Each module contains a video that must be watched before completing the corresponding test. Producers have multiple attempts to achieve a passing score of at least 85%, for each test.
Upon successful completion of the course, your training will be processed by the Kentucky Beef Network and your BQCA training card will be mailed to your county Extension office at the end of each month. If you should need your BQCA number sooner, you can call KBN at 859-278-0899 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If a farmer cannot access the online course or wishes to wait until in-person trainings are available, and they had a valid BQCA number on March 1, 2020, their existing BQCA certification will remain active until live trainings are available again. These steps have been approved by the Governor’s Office for Ag Policy staff for compliance in the CAIP program.
The Kentucky Beef Network and University of Kentucky merged their Cattle Handling and Care Program with the National BQA program to create a new program, aptly named the Beef Quality and Care Assurance (BQCA) program. This program was implemented to raise awareness of practices that insure the proper handling and welfare of cattle while keeping farmers safe and continuing to supply healthy beef to consumers. In turn, this program enables beef and dairy producers to enhance their product, maximize marketability and strengthen consumer confidence.
The Kentucky BQCA program takes national BQA practices one step further to provide a holistic program for Kentucky producers, by adding a cattle handling and care component to the training model. Educational modules provide the best management practices for handling cattle and providing for their well-being, in addition to training on the core principles of BQA.
Instructions for Enrolling the KY BQCA Course in the Online Learning Environment
Are you interested in applying for Direct Payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program but aren’t sure how?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) will host a webinar on Thursday, May 14, 2020, at 1 p.m. ET, for farmers, ranchers and other producers interested in applying for direct payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).
To register: https://www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_SPWI7yOFSqaGG1JKzhEbjA. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. We encourage participants to submit questions through the Q&A box or by emailing CFAP.email@example.com. While questions will not be answered live during the webinar, answers will be posted at farmers.gov/CFAP.
USDA is hosting this webinar to share what information is needed to apply for direct payments through CFAP, once the application period begins. Producers who are new to participating in FSA programs are especially encouraged to join the webinar. More details about CFAP direct payments will be announced soon.
As part of President Trump and Secretary Perdue’s April 17 announcement of a $19 billion Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program, USDA will provide $16 billion in direct support based on losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted. Also, USDA will assist eligible producers facing additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.
A recording of the webinar, the answers to its questions, and other CFAP information can be found at farmers.gov/CFAP.
Kentucky Pest News: Zach DeVries and Mike Potter, Entomology Extension Specialists
Termite season has begun in Kentucky! To assist homeowners in addressing this growing problem, this article provides basic information on termite biology and control. That said, this article is intended to be a quick reference guide to answer the most common questions/concerns; for more detailed information please see our Entfacts on termites (Entfact-605, Entfact-604, Entfact-639)
Termites are small, soft-bodied social insects that feed on wood. They are found almost everywhere that wood is present and represent an important component of most ecosystems since they help remove dead wood from forests. That said, termites quickly become a problem when they invade our homes and structures. Termites cause billions of dollars in damage each year, and when identified in homes they should be of concern. Not only can their damage be costly, they can also impact real estate transactions and put people in incredibly stressful situations (what is worse than thousands of unidentified bugs flying around your home!).
Between the months of March and May (depending on temperature and rainfall) is when winged termites (known as “swarmers”) appear in homes. In nature, swarmers serve to disperse and reproduce, but when they emerge indoors, they become trapped and a major nuisance to homeowners. While swarmers found indoors are not a risk to homeowners (they can’t eat wood), they do indicate that an infestation is present.
The presence of swarmers indoors almost always indicates an infestation is present and requires treatment. Additionally, termite swarmers observed emerging from the base of a foundation wall or adjoining structure also warrant further investigation and possible treatment. That said, termites are ubiquitous in residential landscapes, and their presence around the outside of homes is not always cause for concern. Termite swarmers are also often confused with winged ants, which can swarm at the same time of year. Termites can be differentiated by their straight antennae, uniform waist, and wings of equal size. (Ants have elbowed antennae, constricted waists, and forewings that are longer than the hind wings).
Other signs of infestation are earthen (mud) tubes extending over foundation walls, support piers, sill plates, etc. The mud tubes are typically about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes can be thicker. Termites construct these tubes for shelter as they travel between their underground colonies and the structure. To help determine if an infestation is active, the tubes may be broken open and checked for the presence of small, creamy-white worker termites. If a tube happens to be vacant, it does not necessarily mean that the infestation is inactive; termites often abandon sections of tube while foraging elsewhere in the structure. Termite damaged wood is usually hollowed out along the grain, with bits of dried mud or soil lining the feeding galleries. Wood damaged by moisture or other types of insects (e.g., carpenter ants) will not have this appearance. Occasionally termites bore tiny holes through plaster or drywall, accompanied by bits of soil around the margin. Rippled or sunken traces behind wall covering can also be indicative of termites tunneling underneath.
Unfortunately, there will oftentimes be no visible indications that the home is infested. Termites are cryptic creatures and infestations can go undetected for years, hidden behind walls, floor coverings, insulation, and other obstructions. Therefore, it is critical that the signs listed above not be overlooked and that trained professionals be consulted to confirm an infestation.
Once termites have been identified in a structure, a professional pest management company should be consulted. While some pests can be managed effectively by homeowners, termites require a special skill set and equipment most householders do not possess. Therefore, we strongly recommend that termites be left to the professionals.
Treatment options are generally divided into two categories: (1) liquid barrier treatments and (2) baits. Liquid barrier treatments are applied into the soil surround the structure. The main idea is to form a non-repellent zone that will kill termites that tunnel through the treated soil (e.g. when they enter or leave the structure). Baits work by placing an insecticide treated, cellulose-based substrate into a cylindrical container in the ground surrounding the building. Termites forage around homes for food, and when they bump into the baits, they will begin eating and sharing this food with the colony. Once consumed, the baits will begin to slowly kill termites. Both treatments are usually effective, but the decision of which to use is best left to the pest control company and the homeowner. No matter which method is selected, it is important to have an experienced technician, backed by a responsible pest control company. It is important to note that all treatments take time to work, so the problem will not disappear overnight.
Due to the expense of termite treatment, homeowners often ask if “partial” or “spot” treatments can be conducted. While these are appealing, they are a major gamble for homeowners. Termite colonies often number in the hundreds of thousands, and we can only see a fraction of the population. Therefore, termite infestation signs are observed, they are usually indicative of a larger termite problem, meaning spot treatments are unlikely to be effective. Additionally, these treatments are generally not warrantied, meaning future problems will be the responsibility of the homeowner.
Lastly, it is important to note that when applied following the label instructions, registered termiticides pose no significant hazard to humans, pets, or the environment. However, please consult with your pest control provider to determine the best course of action if you have any concerns.
How to Select a Good Pest Control Company
Termite treatments are often expensive; therefore, it is important that homeowners take their time in selecting a company. Time is seldom an issue given that termite damage progresses slowly, meaning homeowners can take weeks (even a month or more) to make a decision with little increased risk to the structure. It is recommended that homeowners get a least a couple quotes so they can compare costs and treatment options. Oftentimes companies have different approaches regarding treatment, which is beneficial for homeowners to hear and compare. Some things to consider when selecting a pest control company:
- Reputation: How long has the company been around and how have they worked for other clients?
- Experience: How many termite jobs has the technician done and what is their success rate?
- Licensed and Insured: The company should be licensed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to operate a pest control business in the state of Kentucky. In addition, the company should hold insurance on all of their pest control operations.
- Membership in Pest Control Associations: Are they members of either the Kentucky Pest Management Association or the National Pest Management Association? Both offer numerous training resources and suggest that the company is an established firm with access to technical and training information needed to do the job correctly.
- Warranty/Service Agreement: Does the company guarantee their work and do they offer an annual renewal on the service?
- Ask lots of questions: This is a great way to determine the knowledge of the company providing the treatment.
Termites are a challenging pest to say the least. However, given the excellent termite control products currently available, an experienced technician should have little to no problem controlling infestations.
April is National Gardening Month! Gardening offers several benefits for the home gardener! Research shows that nurturing plants is good for all of us! Attitudes toward health and nutrition improve, community spirits grow, and kids perform better. There are lots of ways that communities, organizations, and individuals can get involved with gardening. Today on episode 4 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing 3 simple ways that you can celebrate National Gardening month at home. Let me tell you how you can get growing this month!
#1 Create a DIY Newspaper Pot
Are you looking for a fun gardening project to try this year? Try making your own newspaper pots!
This activity requires a few basic materials collected from around the home and is perfect for starting garden seeds to plant this spring. Here is a list of supplies you will need to get started: sections of recycled newspaper, high quality potting soil mixture, a variety of vegetable garden seeds, and a Mason jar. If you don’t have a Mason jar, an old aluminum vegetable can works great too!
To start the newspaper pot, take a section of newspaper and fold it in half lengthwise like a hot dog bun. Make sure to press firmly along the folded edge. Next, place the Mason jar on top of the folded newspaper where half of the jar is on the newspaper and the other half is on the table. Once it is positioned in the right spot, roll the newspaper tightly around the Mason jar to create a round cylinder.
To create the base of the pot, fold in the edges of the newspaper like an envelope. It’s best to fold in the sides first and then top to bottom. Flip the jar over and press the jar firmly against the table to make the folds as flat as possible. Remove the Mason jar from the newspaper and you have a newspaper pot! Repeat the process if making several newspaper pots.
When ready to add potting soil mixture to the newspaper pot, first moisten the potting soil mixture in another container before adding. I like to use a wheel barrow because it gives me plenty of room to incorporate the soil and water together. Fill the newspaper pot with the moistened potting soil mixture. Plant a seed or two in the newspaper pot according to the recommended depth on the seed label and place on a tray.
When ready to plant outdoors, make sure to bury the pot, so the rim is below the soil surface. Exposing the newspaper to the environment can cause moisture to wick away from the plant.
#2 Create DIY Seed Tape
Seed tape makes it easy for gardeners to grow crops from tiny seeds. With seed tape, gardeners apply seed to tape and then plant the entire seed tape outdoors in the garden. Gardeners don’t have to worry about seeds floating away and there is no need to thin out plants. An added bonus is the seed tape disintegrates overtime and helps return nutrients back to the soil.
Seed tape is available commercially through garden supply companies, however avid gardeners can make their own seed tape at home inexpensively! Making seed tape at home requires only a few basic items and materials collected from around the home. Now, let’s get started! Crops that are best when started from seed are: beets, Bibb lettuce, carrots, Chinese cabbage, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, parsnips, peas, pumpkins, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, snow peas, Southern peas, sweet corn, Swiss chard, turnips, turnip greens, and winter squash.
Step 1: Gather up all supplies needed to make the seed tape. Grab a roll of toilet paper, garden seed packets, make your own glue using flour and water or purchase all-purpose glue, toothpick, clear ruler, scissors, and a black permanent marker.
Step 2: Next, unroll the toilet paper from the roll and lay out on a flat even surface. Cut the toilet paper in half using a pair of scissors. The toilet paper serves as the “tape” portion of the seed tape project.
Step 3: Lay the seed tape on a flat surface and mark the correct plant spacing according to the crop being grown. Refer to the back of the seed packet to see how far apart to space between the seeds. Measure the plant distance using a ruler and mark the spot on the seed tape with the black permanent marker. If making multiple seed tapes for different crops, it is a good idea to label the seed tape with the crop name and the variety in the top right hand corner using an ink pen.
Step 4: Make the glue to adhere the seed to the tape. Mix 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of water together in a small mixing bowl until a thick paste forms. If needed, add additional water to make a glue type consistency. All-purpose glue also works good for seed tape.
Step 5: Before starting this step, empty the contents of the seed packet on a white plate or white piece of paper. This step makes it easy for gardeners to see the seed and pick it up to go on the seed tape.
Dip the end of a toothpick into the glue and place a small dot on the seed tape. Then, take the toothpick and pick up a seed to place on top of the freshly applied glue. Continue this process until all the seed tape is filled. Allow the glue to dry and roll the tape on the toilet paper roll. Store it in the refrigerator until environmental conditions are ready for planting
For knowing when to start seeds of different vegetable crops at home, I highly recommend that you see the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service’s publication on Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky. This publication is ID-128 and includes all things for growing vegetables in Kentucky. To view the link to this guide, make sure to see the show notes.
Step 6: When conditions are favorable, make a seed bed for planting. Place the seed tape in the planting row making sure to plant at the correct depth. Refer to the back of the seed packet for the correct planting depth. Lightly cover the seed tape with soil and water it in. Wait and watch for the seeds to germinate and come up in a perfectly straight row!
If you would like to see the process from start to finish on how to make DIY seed tape, check out my short video that is posted on the Warren County Agriculture YouTube channel. For a link to this 5 minute video, please see the show notes for episode 4.
#3 Grow an Indoor Garden
Maybe you want to grow a garden but would like to have something more for inside the house. Try an indoor garden! Thanks to the help of the Aero Garden, gardeners CAN grow plants from the comforts of their own home!
With this system, gardeners are equipped with all the tools needed in order to grow quality plants at home. They are supplied with a growth chamber that holds and supports the water and nutrients around the root system. Multiple grow lights are positioned at the top of the growth chamber to supply the correct amount of light required for plant germination. A nutrient solution is also included in the kit to feed developing plants as they grow. Every 2 weeks, gardeners will need to add additional nutrients by following the fertilizer recommendations listed on the bottle. Water is the only other element needed to complete this system and begin growing an indoor garden.
Gardeners have the choice of which plants that they wish to grow. Romaine lettuce reached out to us, but there are other plant offerings such as tomatoes, peppers, and herbs that are good too. The seeds are packaged in a conical shaped pod. Gardeners place the pointed part of the pod down into the water filled with the nutrient solution. The system is automated, so gardeners plug the system into an electrical outlet where it regulates the grow lights to come on and off. Germination generally occurs after 3 to 5 days.
This type of indoor garden represents a hydroponic garden system. Plants are grown in water without soil. Since water and nutrients are always available in hydroponics, plants are rarely stressed and grow healthier and more vigorously. Healthier plants mature quicker which leads to an earlier vegetable harvest. Hydroponic gardens also require less amount of space to grow since their root system does not have to spread out in search of food and water.
To stay up to date with the aero garden’s progress at the Warren County Extension Office, please like us on Facebook at Warren County Agriculture or follow us on our Instagram at Warren County Ag!
These are some simple ideas of ways to help celebrate National Gardening Month for April. To help showcase what you are growing this year in the garden, post a picture on Facebook and tag #sunshinegardening and #growinginWarrenCounty. I would love to see what plants you are growing this season!
If you would like additional information on ways to celebrate National Gardening Month, feel free to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all the information I have for today. Hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! For a more detailed description on how to create the DIY newspaper pots or seed tape mentioned in today’s show, please see the show notes for Episode 4. Find those notes by following me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture, https://warrencountyagriculture.com/. Feel free to leave any questions that you might have or make any additional comments on the blog. I would also love it if you could take time to leave me a review on iTunes, so I can know what information to bring to you each week. To sweeten the deal, the first 10 subscribers to leave me a review on iTunes will earn a gardening prize.
Make sure to tune in with me for more gardening information each week right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Each week, I plan to share seasonal gardening tips and tricks to help gardeners reach their gardening goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over your Kentucky garden. To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.
Keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!
Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky, http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
Video showing how to create the DIY seed tape, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SwoeWl2_OY.
Getting the garden ready for the season can feel like such a daunting task. At this point, the lawn may be looking shabby and appears that it needs a good hair cut to knock down some weeds. Weeds may be eyeing you each time that you walk past the landscape and flower beds. The vegetable garden needs some attention too! If you already feel defeated, I have got just the solution for you! In episode 2 of the Sunshine Gardening podcast, I am sharing my top 3 spring gardening chores to help you finish strong for the month of March. Once you have completed these chores, I bet that the other tasks will seem less daunting to you. Stay with me as we march into those spring gardening chores!
Soil is the basic foundation block for gardening. All plants require essential nutrients to grow and this process is done by supplying nutrients through the root system which is then anchored into the soil. In Kentucky, soils are often times less than ideal with lots of red clay content which makes it difficult for soil drainage and nutrients to reach the plants root system. To help alleviate this issue, gardeners must first build good soil.
The first step to obtaining good soil is through the use of a soil test. Soil testing is one of the best practices to perform annually for your garden because there is simply no guesswork involved. A standard soil test will determine the current fertility status of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), pH, and cation exchange capacity. Soil test recommendations will also reveal lime and fertilizer rates to apply which makes it extremely cost effective for home gardeners and even commercial horticulture producers. Most vegetable gardens perform best under slightly acid conditions with a pH range of about 6.2 to 6.8.
When taking a soil sample for a home vegetable garden plot, take soil samples 6 to 8 inches deep. Next, collect 12 to 15 core samples using either a soil probe, spade, or trowel at the recommended depth. Make sure to take samples at random by scattering to different locations in the area to ensure a well, represented sample. After collecting samples, mix all the cores together in a clean bucket. Allow the sample to air-dry on newspaper for a day and bring contents in a bag to the Extension Office. Soil test samples generally take a minimum of a week to two weeks maximum to get back. Extension agents will review the soil test results, highlight the recommendations and sign it before returning to the client in the mail.
If you are sampling other areas around your home, contact the local Extension Office in your area. They will be happy to walk you through the proper steps in soil sampling different horticulture crops.
The spring season is the perfect time for breaking ground. Sometimes though, the spring weather can be a wet one. Wait to work the ground until the soil has dried. Working ground when wet hurts the overall soil structure by forming clods that are difficult to break apart. Some gardeners may want to consider planting their spring vegetable transplants in raised bed gardens since they warm up faster and dry out quicker in comparison to conventional gardening plots.
The best indicator in knowing when to break ground is when soil is moist and crumbles readily when formed into a ball. Loosen the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches with a spade or rototiller. Pulverize any clods that may work their way to the top, since large dirt clods can cause poor seed germination. Spread compost out and lightly work it into the soil.
Incorporating Organic Matter
Another secret to achieving good garden soil is by incorporating organic matter. Adding the right ingredients of organic matter will improve soil structure and take care of several issues. It helps to loosen and improve soil drainage of heavy clay soils and increases both the nutrient and moisture holding capacities. Organic matter also favors a buildup of beneficial organisms such as natural bacteria and fungi needed to help break down the materials.
Types of organic matter include composted leaf mold, grass clippings, manure, newspaper, and pine bark humus. When using manure, avoid applying fresh manure in the spring, since the high nitrogen content can injure plant roots. Aged or composted manure can be applied in the garden at any time, spring or fall.
Planting Cool Season Vegetables
Cool season vegetables are the crops that thrive in the cooler temperatures of Kentucky’s spring gardening season. These plants grow best with relatively cool air temperatures between 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and are raised either for their leaves, stems, or flower buds. If you have produced transplants indoors, remember to “harden off” vegetable transplants two weeks before planting outdoors by gently exposing them to the outside temperatures. To do so, take your transplants outside in the day time and bring them in at night. If you want to learn more about hardening off, check out episode 1 on starting seeds indoors.
Early bird gardeners can move their cool season vegetable transplants out into the home vegetable garden beginning in March. March 25th happens to signal the time for planting cabbage, lettuce (leaf), Bibb lettuce (plants), head lettuce (plants), and onion (plants) outside. To know when to plant other future cool season vegetables crops in Kentucky, check out the Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky publication #ID-128. For a link to this guide, please see our show notes.
To avoid transplant shock and wilting, first soak the roots thoroughly an hour or two prior to transplanting in the ground and choose a shady day in late afternoon or early evening. Next, dig a hole that is large enough for the root system to spread out evenly and establish itself. Handle the plants carefully and set the plants to the lowest leaf at the recommended spacing for that specific vegetable being grown. This information can be found on the plant label or seed tag where you purchased plants. In each planting hole, pour 1 cup of starter solution such as a 20-20-20 analysis at the rate of 2 tablespoons per gallon of water around the plants. If you desire an organic source, fish emulsion is a recommended organic fertilizer starter solution.
Lastly, place more soil around each plant and press the soil firmly with your hands around the roots to get rid of any air pockets. After setting out the cool season vegetables, it is a good idea to check plants daily for moisture or insect pressure.
Getting the Mower Ready!
Before firing up the mower, spend some time to make sure that your mower is running in tip-top shape for the spring. Change the oil and air filter to help improve engine performance. This step can also help save on fuel and reduce emissions into the air. Refer to the owner’s manual if you have any questions. It is especially important to check the mower blades. If lawn mower blades are not sharp, dull blades can cause the engine to work harder since it takes more energy for the blade to run through the grass. Dull mower blades can also damage grass leaves which results in a ragged lawn appearance and can increase turf diseases. Depending on how often you mow, blades should be sharpened at least a couple of times each year. If this is not something that you feel comfortable in doing, take to a mechanic shop to have sharpened.
Lowering the Mowing Height in the Spring
Grass starts to grow again in the spring when temperatures start to increase. There may be an accumulation of dead grass leaves throughout the lawn that will encourage the soil temperature to stay cool. By removing this dead grass with lower the mowing height, sunlight can reach the soil surface better and promote the grass to grow earlier. Shorter mowing heights in spring may also help improve the density of the grass, which helps it have a better defense system for fighting annual grassy weeds like crabgrass. Remember to gradually lower the mowing height since a quick reduction in the turf canopy can cause an increase of crabgrass to germinate.
Applying pre-emergent herbicide to help control crabgrass and goosegrass
- Annual grassy weeds such as crabgrass and goosegrass begin to germinate in the spring. By applying a pre-emergent herbicide prior to germination, weed numbers can be drastically reduced and your lawn can have the chance to flourish without fighting weeds for space, nutrients, light, and water.
- In western Kentucky, a pre-emergent herbicide should be applied prior to around April 7. In central and eastern Kentucky, the spray before date is usually around April 15.
- A good indicator plant for knowing when to apply a pre-emergent herbicide is forsythia. Generally, a pre-emergent application should be applied before forsythia drops its blooms.
I hope that you can focus on other gardening tasks better now that I have covered areas like the soil, how to prepare the soil for planting, what vegetable plants are best for planting now, how to get the mower ready for the season, and other chores needed to help the spring lawn.
If you would like additional information on other tasks to perform for March, make sure to see the show notes. I have developed and compiled a checklist of garden activities to perform in and around the Kentucky garden for the month of March. Hopefully this guide will help you see the different jobs that are needed to be done now and get you a step ahead for future gardening tasks!
Hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To see the show notes for Episode 2 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 on the blog or contact me directly via email at email@example.com. Leave me a review on iTunes so I can know what information to bring to you each week. To sweeten the deal, the first 10 subscribers to leave me a review on iTunes will earn a gardening prize.
Make sure to tune in with me for more gardening information each week right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Each week, I plan to share seasonal gardening tips and tricks to help gardeners reach their gardening goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over your Kentucky garden. To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.
Keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!
- Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky, http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
- Weed Control for Kentucky Home Lawns, http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR208/AGR208.pdf
- Video for knowing how to sharpen lawn mower blades, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMy1j9NR89o&list=UUMFY6zEWe6uJEYakzOofhIg
Lake Berry Farm is a small blueberry farm. We grow blackberries and strawberries but we also grow a variety of produce, including vegetables. My wife, Nancy also bakes variety of breads: sourdough, zucchini, and banana breads. She also makes fried pies, jams, jellies, etc. We retired and started farming as a hobby and it has grown into a full time job. We sell at some of the local farmers markets, including SoKY Marketplace in Bowling Green, Bounty of the Barrens in Glasgow, and Allen County Farmer’s Market in Scottsville. We also sell from our farm if someone contacts us or stops by. We are a proud member of Kentucky Proud. All of our contact information is listed on our Facebook page: Lake Berry Farms.
Kristin Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture prepares a tasty BBQ Sweet Potato Nacho recipe with sweet potatoes from Lake Berry Farm.
BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos:
Ingredients: 2 sweet potatoes (long and evenly round is ideal), washed and sliced into ¼ inch rounds; 2 tablespoons olive oil; ½ teaspoon salt; ½ teaspoon pepper; ½ red onion, diced; 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed; ½ bell pepper, diced; ½ avocado, pit removed and diced (optional). Dressing: 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice; ½ cup plain Greek yogurt; 1 ½ tablespoons barbeque sauce; ½ teaspoon chili powder. Instructions: Preheat oven to 425 degree F. Spread sweet potatoes rounds on a large sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast potatoes for 10-15 minutes, toss and continue roasting for another 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine ingredients for dressing in small bowl. Remove sweet potatoes from oven. Sprinkle onion, black beans, bell pepper and avocado (if using) over the sweet potatoes and let cool. Drizzle with dressing or use dressing to dip.
Joanna talks to Nicole and Jordan from Simple Greens to talk about their farming operation.
Nicole and Jordan decided to use their love of gardening to grow food, educate and advocate for a healthier happier community. What started as a healthy hobby of DIY gardening projects using repurposed materials has turned into lifestyle goals to grow healthy food for their selves and for their community. They are essentially a micro-farm. Every year they continue to gather data, learn from their yearly farming experiments and slowly figure out the best crops for the space they have. They live on 2.71 acres where they grow lettuce, greens, herbs and cucumbers hydroponically in several areas on their property including a 2 car garage. They find greens, lettuce and certain herbs grown hydroponically have better yields and are more ergonomically managed. Lettuce is a great beginning gardener plant. Other produce like tomatoes, sugar peas, root vegetables, most herbs, berries, flowers, etc. are grown in soil. They gather leaves in the fall to use as compost and mulch. They are in their 5th growing season. Their largest challenges? The have 4.
l) They have clay soil
2) On the sunniest spots on their shady property
3) It takes time to build the soil and rotate the right crops while building
“said” terrible soil
4) As you will see they are also operating in a small space.
That may be the most unique thing about them–their size. Big or small, each spot and plot in the yard viable for food production adds up and kicks the butts of the two people living there. Their goal is to keep experimenting and learning how to grow more produce varieties. They will expand at home until they can buy land to further their crazy dream. The idea is it will keep them happy and healthy.
Interested in trying a healthy snack? Check out the video for the Kale Mango Smoothie.
With daffodils, dogwoods, and forsythia in bloom, homeowners get the itch to spend some time in their yards. The following are some do’s and don’ts for spring lawn care on cool-season grasses (tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass) in Kentucky.
Do: Get your Mower Ready for the Season!
• Having your mower ready to go before the season starts will save you downtime during the growing season.
• Sharpen blade. Having sharp mower blades are very important to turf aesthetics and
health. To learn how to sharpen your blade, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMy1j9NR89o&list=UUMFY6zEWe6uJEYakzOofhIg
Don’t: Apply Nitrogen.
• The vast majority of nitrogen fertilizer should be applied in the fall. Fall applications
improve the health of the lawn and result in a greener lawn in the winter, less spring
mowing, and less weeds, heat stress, need for water, and disease problems in summer.
• Nitrogen applied in spring and summer promotes growth of warm-season weeds such as crabgrass, goosegrass, and bermudagrass. Further, high amounts of nitrogen in spring
and summer can result in increased damage from white grubs in the soil. Adult beetles
are attracted to the lush lawns and high nitrogen levels restrict turf rooting which
compounds the damage from the white grubs feeding on the turf roots. More
information on fertilizing lawns can be found in this video:
Do: Apply a Pre-emergent Herbicide.
• Annual grassy weeds such as crabgrass and goosegrass begin to germinate in the spring
and depending on the thickness of the lawn, the amount of weed seed in the soil, and
the environmental conditions, untreated populations of these weeds can out-compete
and take over your desired lawn species. By applying a pre-emergent herbicide prior to
weed germination, weed numbers can be drastically reduced and your lawn can have
the chance to flourish without fighting weeds for space, nutrients, light, and water.
• In western Kentucky, a pre-emerge herbicide should be applied prior to around April 7.
In central and eastern Kentucky, the spray before date is usually around April 15.
• A pretty good indicator plant for knowing when to apply a pre-emergent herbicide by is
forsythia. Generally, a pre-emergent application should be applied before forsythia
drops its blooms (Figure 1).
• Do not apply weed and feed products as we don’t want to be applying nitrogen to our
cool-season lawns in the spring.
• If you miss the pre-emerge window, and weeds begin to germinate, your best bet is to
apply a post-emergent application to small seedlings as most pre-emergent products do
not work after germination. For more information on controlling weeds in your lawn,
check out the following publications:
Don’t: Seed in the Spring.
• The best time of year to seed lawns is in the early fall. The concern with planting in the
spring is that there is significant competition between seedlings and grassy weeds (and
weeds almost always outgrow our desired species) and the immature seedlings can
struggle with summer heat and drought more so than a mature lawn.
• If you have to seed in the spring, plant around the time that forsythia is in bloom (Figure 2), as soil temperatures are adequate at this point for germination of tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass.
• For more information on establishing or renovating lawns, see:
Do: Mow at Regular Height.
• Once the grass starts to grow in the spring, it will really start to take off. We see most of
the growth in the spring of the year, it slows down in the summer, and then ramps up
again in autumn (Figure 2).
• Because the grass grows at a high volume in the spring, it’s best to not let the height get
too long before mowing. Ideally, never cut off more than 1/3 of the leaf in one mowing.
For example, if you want to maintain your lawn at 3 inches, mow when the height
reaches about 4.5 inches. Removing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade results in a
reduction in root growth.
• Mowing at taller heights has been shown to reduce crabgrass populations without the
use of herbicides. Recommended heights for lawn grasses in Kentucky are:
o Tall fescue 3 inches or taller
o Kentucky bluegrass 2.5 inches or taller
• For more information on mowing your lawn, see the following publication:
By following these basic do’s and don’ts, you can start your lawn off on the right foot this spring and enjoy it more and work on it less throughout the year.
Source: Dr. Gregg Munshaw, Turfgrass Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky
2018 was Kentucky’s wettest year on record, and the new year seems to be more of the same. This means most livestock producers are dealing with less than ideal conditions, and cattle are showing signs of stress.
“It is important to understand this winter has been relatively easy temperature-wise but difficult for cattle in Kentucky,” said Michelle Arnold, ruminant extension veterinarian for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “Cows of all ages are losing weight now at levels typically seen in late winter.”
Prolonged cloudy, wet weather with regular bouts of rain has resulted in muddy conditions that require substantially more energy in feed just to maintain body heat.
“Hay quality is also exceptionally poor this year, as much of it was cut very ripe, rained on while curing and baled with enough moisture to support mold growth,” Arnold said.
Winter feeding programs on many farms aren’t enough to support cattle this year, especially those in late pregnancy or early lactation, or their newborn calves, even though bitter cold hasn’t been a factor to this point.
Arnold explained that cattle have several defenses against cold, the first of which is their hair coat. The coat grows longer in the winter and helps conserve heat and repel cold. If an animal’s coat cover is wet and muddy, its energy requirements can easily double, especially if the animal has no wind protection.
“Energy from intake of hay that is adequate for maintenance in normal years is falling far short of the requirement this year,” she said. “Cold conditions are not too difficult for cattle, but when rain and wind are added, heat loss is multiplied several times by the effects of conduction and evaporation. Under these circumstances, the ‘wind chill factor’ referred to by the meteorologist has real meaning to a cow.”
To combat this, producers need to supplement cattle with adequate energy and protein sources. Hay of unknown nutritional quality often does not provide enough nutrition to meet the animal’s basic requirements. This will result in depletion of body fat stores, followed by breakdown of muscle protein and finally death due to insufficient nutrition.
“Typically, near the end of most winters, both veterinary diagnostic laboratories in Kentucky receive older beef cows for necropsy,” Arnold said. “This winter, malnutrition cases include young cows and pre-weaning/weaning age calves, indicating serious nutritional deficiencies in the feedstuffs, especially the hay produced last summer. The producer may first notice a cow getting weak in the rear end. Later she is found down and is unable to stand. Death follows within a day or two after going down. Multiple animals may die within a short period of time.”
At necropsy, the pathologist may find a thin animal with no body fat stores, but the rumen is full of bulky, dry forage material which is poor quality hay. Even the small seam of fat normally found on the surface of the heart is gone, indicating the last storage area in the body for fat has been used up.
Despite having had access to free choice hay, these cattle died from starvation. Although hay may look and smell good, unless a producer tests the hay for nutritional content, he or she does not know the true feed value of that harvested forage.
“It is often difficult for producers to bring themselves to the realization that cattle can actually starve to death while consuming all of the hay they can eat,” Arnold said.
She also encouraged producers to look at their mineral supplementation, as copper and selenium levels have been far below acceptable levels this year. Deficiencies can lead to multiple problems, and it’s best to address them before they get to that point.
“We want producers to understand how important it is to test their hay. It is simple, inexpensive, and the results are easy to interpret,” Arnold said. “Your local Cooperative Extension Service office can help you. Other than that, review your nutrition program, and if your cows are losing weight, consider supplemental feed to get them through the rest of the winter.”
UK beef specialists Kevin Laurent, Jeff Lehmkuhler and Roy Burris created an online supplemental feeding tool at http://forage-supplement-tool.ca.uky.edu/, where producers may enter hay test values and stage of production to help find appropriate supplements for many operations. Producers should still monitor intake and body condition through the winter and make sure cattle have clean drinking water and access to a complete mineral supplement.
Michelle Arnold, 859-257-8283