USDA Announces $19 Billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

We have received many questions about who will receive Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), what are the determinations, etc.  I talked with Sherri Brown, Warren-Edmonson County Farm Service Agency Executive Director and they are still waiting on guidance from the state and national level on how sign-ups are going to occur and the specifics on how the payments will be made.  Please continue to watch our social media sites for additional information as it comes down about the CFAP program.  Below is the information from a press release from the USDA about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

At the bottom of this article is information about our USDA Service centers from their newsletter and a USDA website to check about updates.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. President Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.

CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities. The program includes two major elements to achieve these goals.

  1. Direct Support to Farmers and Ranchers: The program will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.  

USDA will provide $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers including:    

  • $9.6 billion for the livestock industry
    • $5.1 billion for cattle
    • $2.9 billion for dairy
    • $1.6 billion for hogs
  • $3.9 billion for row crop producers
  • $2.1 billion for specialty crops producers
  • $500 million for other crops

 
Producers will receive a single payment determined using two calculations:

  • Price losses that occurred January 1-April 15, 2020. Producers will be compensated for 85% of price loss during that period.
  • Second part of the payment will be expected losses from April 15 through the next two quarters and will cover 30% of expected losses.

 
The payment limit is $125,000 per commodity with an overall limit of $250,000 per individual or entity. Qualified commodities must have experienced a 5% price decrease between January and April.
 

USDA is expediting the rule making process for the direct payment program and expects to begin sign-up for the new program in early May and to get payments out to producers by the end of May or early June.

  • USDA Purchase and Distribution: USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. We will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.

Our USDA Service Centers in Kentucky will continue to be open for business by phone appointment only and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While our program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with our producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the Farm Service Agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment.

I also encourage you to visit farmers.gov/coronavirus to keep up-to-date on temporary program flexibilities available as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Freeze Damage???

On April 15, temperatures in Warren County dropped below freezing. Since that time I have had some questions about damage and some inquiries about how to estimate damage. I have compiled some information put together by our UK Extension Specialists. As you can see in the tables below provided by Matt Dixon with the UK Weather Center, temperatures did get below 31 degrees for around 5 hours. 

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Scouting for Wheat Damage

Carrie Knott, Extension Agronomist-Princeton, University of Kentucky

Published on Kygrains.info

Tuesday night temperatures dipped to or below 24°F for several hours at many locations throughout Kentucky. For winter wheat that has reached the jointing (Feekes 6) growth stage, or beyond, damage can occur to the developing wheat head at these temperatures.

In general, we think that injury can occur if temperatures are at or below those listed in the table below for 2 or more hours.

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Some areas across the state already had wheat that was beginning to head. This will make scouting field for freeze damage very important.

To assess wheat freeze damage:

1. Wait until high temperatures are at least 40°F for 5 to 7 days. According to the projected weather forecast, we will have high temperatures greater than 40°F all week, therefore assessing freeze damage Monday or Tuesday will likely provide an good estimate of freeze damage.

2. Scout fields

A. For fields that have not yet headed and look for yellow, chlorotic growing points and    limp leaves. There will likely be yellow leaf tips, but as long as the growing point is not affected, there will likely be minimal to no damage.

B. For fields that are in the ‘Boot’ (Feekes 10) growth stage, dissect out the heads and look for damage.

C. For field that have headed or beyond, inspect heads and florets for damage.

3. An additional concern for wheat stands and yield potential is heaving.  If extreme temperature changes occur the freezing and thawing cycle may push wheat plants out of the soil.  This will result in reduced stands and could ultimately affect yield if heaving occurs on a large percentage of the field.

Accessing Corn & Soybeans Freeze Damage

By: Dr. Chad Lee, University of Kentucky Grains Crop Specialist

We need about 5 days of warm weather before freeze damage symptoms are evident. You may see hints of damage earlier than 5 days, but you won’t be able to identify the extent of damage in most fields.  

Soybeans:

We need about 5 days of warm weather before the freeze damage is evident on the crop. Any freeze damage below the cotyledons will kill the plant. If the cotyledons survive, then the soybean plant has full to nearly full yield potential. 

Soybeans in the crook stage, where the plant is just emerging and the stem looks like a shepherd’s crook, are extremely sensitive to freezing weather. We can almost assume that soybeans at this stage are killed from the freeze. If the majority of the field was at this stage, then the farmer should plan to replant. Scouting the field about 5 days after the freeze is warranted, but one should expect to need to replant in these fields. 

For soybeans that had not emerged or soybeans with at least unifoliate leaves, the soybeans have a better chance of surviving. Sometimes, the upper leaves will insulate and protect the lower leaves. As long as the node at the cotyledon survives, the plant should survive. 

Corn: 

We need about 5 days of warm weather before the freeze damage is evident on the crop. I expect minimal yield loss on corn. I do expect nearly all aboveground growth to be frozen and dead, but I expect corn plants to survive. For corn planted at the proper depth, the growing point is at least a half-inch below the surface. As long as that growing point survives, corn has 100% yield potential, even if all aboveground growth dies. The soil often buffers the freezing temperatures and insulates the growing point. Look for areas in the fields where: 

  1. seeds are shallow – shallow seeds put the growing point closer to the soil surface
  2. furrows are not fully closed – open furrows allowing freezing to get to the seed quickly. 
  3. areas of the field that are saturated: the higher water content will often freeze deeper in the soil than fields as field capacity
  4. expect there to be more damage in tilled fields, including “vertical tilled” fields. The reside from no-till provides a temperature buffer. I expect fields with cover crop residue to be buffered as well. 

Other Thoughts on Scouting and Assessing Damage

When scouting either crop about 5 days after the freeze event, look for plants or plant structures that have turned brown or black. Look for signs of loss of turgor pressure. I think most aboveground damage will be easy to see in a few days. 

For corn, take a shovel and dig up a few plants to evaluate the growth above the seed. If there are no signs of brown/black areas on the plants, and if turgor pressure is good, then the seedlings are very likely to survive. 

As you scout, please send us some images. 

Forages:  Alfalfa & Red Clover

Dr. Jimmy Henning, UK Forage Extension Specialist

In Scouting Alfalfa stands in Lexington, Dr. Henning noticed some variable damage in Alfalfa stands but thinks that most will grow out of it.  Red clover is much less affected in the instances he has witnessed.  However, if you have seen damage or have more questions.  AGR-236 Managing Frost Damaged Alfalfa Stands

Fruit and Vegetables

We will not know damage to fruit trees until they have had a chance to grow and develop more.  Blooms were damaged but will not know the full extent of the damage for a bit. Small fruit crops like strawberries if they were not covered suffered damage.  Crops like asparagus that were not able to be covered or harvested experienced a loss.

Freeze damaged asparagus

If you have any questions or photos to share, please contact us at the extension office.

April Gardening Tips

Kentucky gardens are bursting with spring color this month! Flowering trees and shrubs are blooming beautifully in the home landscape, while various types of flowering bulbs are scattered throughout garden beds. April is chock full of gardening activities to perform! Outdoor temperatures are cool enough that it makes it an ideal time to work outside. Today on episode 5 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing 4 quick tips of things to do right now in the garden for the month of April. Stay with me as I explain some of these much needed garden activities to help you get a jump start on the spring gardening season!

Soil Preparation

To rototill or not to rototill? That is the question. Excessive rototilling, year after year, can damage soil structure and reduce the benefits of organic matter. Beneficial soil health builders such as earthworms and soil microbes are also damaged by it.

If adding lime and fertilizers according to soil test recommendations, home gardeners will want to rototill the soil to a depth of eight to ten inches to prepare their garden for planting. Break up any clumps that may form during this process to help aerate the soil.   

If garden soil has good tilth from previous compost or manure applications and lime or fertilizer is not needed, gardeners can skip rototilling. Instead, use a garden shovel to loosen the soil before planting. Later, use an iron garden rake for smoothing and leveling out garden soils in order to make a good seed bed for plants.

Remember to avoid working the soil when wet. The best test to see if the soil is too wet is to take a handful of soil and form it into a ball. If the soil crumbles readily after being pushed with your finger, the soil can be worked. On the other hand, if the soil does not break apart and stays in the ball form, the ground is too wet to be worked. Working wet ground leads to clods which make it difficult to loosen after being dried. Plus, clods greatly reduce the good seed to soil contact required for seeding germination of vegetable crops.

Cool Season Vegetables

Continue to plant cool season vegetables in the home vegetable garden. These plants like the cooler air temperatures of Kentucky and include plants such as spinach, lettuce, collards, turnip greens, onions, beets, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, early potatoes, radish, and Swiss chard. Some plants do better when directly sown into the ground and thinned out after germination.

Swiss chard growing in a raised bed garden.

To have a continuous supply of vegetables, plant a succession of those crops every 2 weeks. For more information about home vegetable gardening in Kentucky, see the publication number ID-128 titled Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky. It has everything that you will want to know about growing home vegetables in Kentucky. To view the link to the guide, please see the show notes.  

Plant a Spring Salad Bowl Garden

Try a new spin on growing salad greens this year—in a salad bowl! Choose a shallow container that contains several holes for drainage. Since this is a salad bowl garden, the container does not necessarily have to be round, but it does make for an interesting container. Window boxes and rectangular containers are also acceptable.

Next, select a good potting soil mix for growing lettuce greens in the container. Avoid potting mixes that contain lots of bark since this causes the pot to dry out quickly. A good potting soil mix will contain different soil less media components such as peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Some potting mixes will have soil release fertilizers added in, but it is usually better to incorporate these fertilizers separately. 

The fun part is deciding what plants to grow in your salad garden. Seeds can be started in your container, but it is easier to purchase transplants from a reputable garden center in your area. Several varieties of lettuce are available including arugula, romaine, spinach, and Swiss chard. Planting culinary herbs like cilantro, dill, and parsley will offer additional flavor as well.

Lastly, space transplants about three to four inches apart in your container. Make sure to locate your container in an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight and check every day for watering needs. A good rule of thumb is to perform the “finger test” where you feel around the soil with your fingers. If the soil feels dry, add water until it begins to run out the drainage holes in the bottom of the container. 

Keep plants moist and well fertilized during the growing season. Harvest a month after planting by picking individual leaves from plants. If you enjoy growing lettuce for salads, make succession plantings two to three weeks apart to provide an adequate harvest.

Watch for Cabbage Maggot in the Garden

Be on the lookout for cabbage maggots, if you have newly transplanted cabbage in the garden. Cabbage maggots have white, legless bodies with a pointed head and a blunt rear. The pupae stage of this insect likes to overwinter in the soil where they enjoy feeding on small roots or tunnel into larger stems of plants. When the soil warms in the spring, adults emerge and then mate which leads to further egg laying of this insect.

Cabbage Maggots
Source: Dr. Ric Bessin, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist

To control maggots, delay planting time if you know a long period of cool and wet spring weather is predicted. Cabbage planted during this time is placed at a greater risk for damage. Scout and closely evaluate around cabbage plants daily during favorable conditions.  Young plants seem to be more easily damaged than established plants. Make improvements to make sure that the garden soil drains well. Raise the soil 4 to 6 inches like a bed and place plants directly into the raised garden area. Some gardeners may want to spend a little extra money by building a frame using wood boards or landscape timbers to support the soil around plants so they will not wash away after a heavy rain.

Practice Companion Planting Strategies for the Home Vegetable Garden

Utilizing companion planting strategies in the vegetable garden can give several advantages for the home gardener. In this practice, plant two or more plant species next to one another to gain benefits such as growth, pest control, or improved flavor. It has even shown to maximize vegetable yields.

Planting herbs around vegetables invite beneficial organisms to the garden. Herbs like basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley attract beneficial insects to feed and find shelter to support various stages of their predatory and parasitic insects. Lady beetles, lacewings, praying mantids, and spiders are among those organisms that are attracted to aromatic culinary herbs. Not only are companion plantings good at attracting beneficial organisms, but they also draw in pollinators. Bees really enjoy the blooms of basil, buckwheat, and clover.

If you are planting crops in the cabbage family, try planting other crops around it such as aromatic herbs, celery, beets, onions, spinach and Swiss chard. If you are planting lettuce, using crops like carrots and radishes. Remember that the key to success with companion planting is experimentation and observation in the garden. Write down those successes and failures in a garden journal to help remember that information to use for the next growing season.

Another plant that immediately comes to mind when talking about companion planting concept is marigolds. Several gardeners religiously plant this warm season annual flower every year for added diversity and to protect their vegetables from harmful insects. Research has shown that the roots of specific marigolds produce biochemicals that are poisonous to minute worm-like organisms that damage plants and reduce yields. This benefit is noticed after growing marigolds as a cover crop and turning them into the soil.   

I hope that you found this information helpful today. If you would like additional information on other April gardening tasks to perform this month in the Kentucky garden, 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 April. 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!

April Gardening Checklist

To view the show notes, visit 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.

Since April is National Gardening month, I would love to see what you are growing this year in your garden! To help showcase what you are growing this year in the garden, post a picture on Facebook and add the hashtag #sunshinegardening and #growinginWarrenCounty if you are a Warren County, KY resident. I would love to see how you are growing your garden this year! It doesn’t matter if it is vegetables, herbs, flowers, landscape trees or fruit trees. I want to see your garden plants!  

Again, I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! 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 their Kentucky garden. To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.

Make sure to leave me a review on iTunes, so I can know what future gardening information to share with you each week. To help sweeten the deal, the first 10 subscribers to leave me a review on iTunes will receive a gardening prize. 

Keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Resources:

Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky, ID-128- http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf

National Gardening Month Activities

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. 

Romaine lettuce growing in the indoor plant garden.

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 kristin.goodin@uky.edu.

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!

Resources:

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.

Do’s and Don’ts of Spring Lawn Care in Kentucky

Here is a quick list of do’s and don’ts for the Kentucky home lawn to use during the spring season. See the attached list below.

Spring Lawn Care Guide for 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.

Do: Apply a Pre-emergent Herbicide. 
• 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-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 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.

Do: Mow at Regular Height. 
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.
• Mow at taller heights to reduce crabgrass populations without the
use of herbicides. Recommended heights for lawn grasses in Kentucky are:
Tall fescue- 3 inches or taller
Kentucky bluegrass- 2.5 inches or taller

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.

Don’t: Apply Weed and Feed Products. 

• Do not apply weed and feed products as we don’t want to be applying nitrogen to our cool-season lawns in the spring.

Don’t: Seed in the Spring. 
• The best time of year to seed lawns is in the early fall. A spring planting has significant competition between seedlings and grassy weeds and the immature seedlings can struggle with summer heat and drought more.

For more information about home lawn care in Kentucky, please contact the Warren County Cooperative Extension Service at (270) 842-1681.

Source: Dr. Gregg Munshaw, UK Extension Turf Specialist

Hellebores- Lenten Rose

Flowers are like heaven to me. They brighten the darkest of days with their beauty and extensive variety of bloom shapes and colors. Today on episode 3 of the Sunshine Gardening podcast, I am sharing one of my favorite flowers for the garden! I guarantee after I am done talking about it, you will want this flower for your shade garden as well. Stay with me to find out the flower that I am referring to and learn the best growing tips to help it shine in your Kentucky garden.

Flower Characteristics

  • The flower that I am covering today in episode 3 is Hellebore orientalis, is commonly referred to as Lenten Rose or Hellebores. While the rose family first comes to mind, this plant actually belongs to the Ranunculus or Buttercup Family.   
  • Helleborus xhybridus is a group of evergreen, late-winter or early-spring flowering perennials that are offered as ornamental plants for the garden.
  • Blooms generally appear during Lent. Hence the name Lenten Rose. It is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring which earns it the name of “harbinger of spring”.
  • Since the plant easily hybridizes, there is a wide variety of cultivars available in the marketplace. Colors include shades of pink, green, yellow, red, pure white, dark purple, and almost black. Other cultivars may have other interesting color patterns that are bicolor, speckled, spotted, and streaked with single or double forms. Some cultivars have picotee flowers where the color along the edge is darker.
  • Lenten rose is hardy from zone 9 to zone 4. They will handle colder temperatures if some winter protection is provided.
  • Lenten rose possess tough, almost woody stems. The leaves are described as being leathery, shiny and dark-green in color. They are palmate divided with 7-9 leaflets with coarsely cut leaf margins. These characteristics make it resistant to deer and rabbit feedings and the foliage will remain attractive all throughout the growing season.
  • The flowers have an interesting growth habit. Flower buds form during the previous summer season. The flower spikes emerge from an underground rhizome in late winter.
  • What we would call the petals are actually called sepals which is a modified calyx. There are 5 petal-like sepals that surround a ring of nectaries. The true petals are the nectaries that hold the nectar. Within the ring of petals are numerous stamens and pistils. After pollination occurs, the petals and stamens will then fall off leaving behind the sepals. They can remain on the plant for 1-2 months or sometimes even longer.
  • Flowers reach about 1 to 3 inches wide and are described as being saucer like in appearance. The blooms are mostly downward facing.
Parts of the Hellebores Bloom

How to Grow Lenten Rose in the Kentucky Garden  

  • Since hellebores are difficult to start from seed, it is best to purchase 2-3 year old plants. Position the plants in areas that receive partial to full shade.
  • Plants will perform best when planted in moist, well-drained soil. They are sensitive to soggy soil, so make sure to provide good soil drainage. A good way to do this is to incorporate compost throughout the entire planting area prior to transplanting. They will also benefit from planting on a hillside, slope, or raised beds. It is noted that in these three areas it is easier to see the downward facing blooms.
  • At first, hellebores are slow to establish. When they do reach maturity though, plants can reach 18 to 24 inches tall with a width of 24-30” inches. Mature plants can even have 50 or more flowers per plant.
  • If planting multiple plants, space plants about 16 inches apart or more. Refer to the plant label to see recommendations on how far apart to space plants.
  • Plants are self sowers so they put out a lot of seed. New seedlings will generally appear in the spring.
  • Lenten roses are an outstanding plant for providing color and texture to the ornamental shade garden. Utilize them as a specimen plant where they are the star of the show, as a border plant, or even as a groundcover. They work great when planted in containers and in between deciduous shrubs and under trees or naturalized in woodland areas.  
  • If looking for companion plants to plant next to Lenten rose, consider other spring flowers such as snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) and wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa). Plants with contrasting foliage such as ferns and hostas would also work.
  • No dividing is required like other perennials unless you want to acquire more plants. If yes, divide clumps in September or October. Water the plant a day or two before digging then work a shovel in a circle around the plant in order to dig it up. Wash off the soil around the plant and then divide it with a sharp knife between growth buds. Make sure to leave at least 3 buds on each division. Prepare the soil before planting and deeply since the plant has a deep root system. Position the crown where the stem joins the roots at soil level. Avoid covering plants with excess compost or mulch since this application can lead to rots.    

Benefits of Planting Hellebores in the Kentucky Garden

Since flowers are actually sepals, they do not fall off of the plant quickly and can last up to 2 months or longer. They make a great cut flower. It is best to harvest stems when the stamens have fallen off and the flower feels papery and stiff. Cut them using a sharp pair of pruners and place them in a vase filled with clean water.  Add floral preservative to the water to help extend the vase life. Since leaves contain alkaloids that can cause mild dermatitis with sensitive individuals, protect hands with gloves when cutting stems.  

Hellebores utilized as a cut flower in a vase.

Once established, plants are relatively drought tolerant and considered low maintenance. Require little fertilization. A spring application of compost should be enough. The Perennial Plant Association voted it “Perennial Plant of the Year” in 2005. Plus, deer and rabbit won’t bother them due to the thick rough leaves.  

I truly believe that Lenten Rose will make a great perennial flower for the Kentucky garden and work hard for the Kentucky gardener. Its wide variety of colorful blooms and shapes, easy growth habit, and low maintenance care make it a win win for gardeners to plant in their shade garden.

If you would like additional information on how to add Lenten rose in your garden or landscape, make sure to see the show notes. I have included some pictures of different varieties of Lenten rose found at Mammoth Cave Transplants. The wide variety of colors and blooms are breathe taking, so I invite you to check them out. Find the show notes on the blog at Warren County Agriculture.

That’s all the information for today. Hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To see the show notes for Episode 3 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 kristin.goodin@uky.edu. 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!

Resources:

Kowalski, J. (2016, March 7). Heavenly Hellebores. The Ohio State University. Retrieved from https://bygl.osu.edu/node/99.

Mahr, S. (2018, March 23). Lenten Rose, Helleborus xhybridus. Wisconsin Master Gardener website. Retrieved from https://wimastergardener.org/article/lenten-rose-helleborus-xhybridus/

Perry, Dr. L. (n.d.). Hellebore: The Lenten Rose. University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science. Retrieved from https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/hellebore.html

March Gardening Tips

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.

Cool-season vegetable transplants
Photo
Source: Mammoth Cave Transplants

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.
Forsythia shrub in bloom during the spring.

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! 

March Gardening Checklist
Contact the Extension Office for a copy of this guide.

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 kristin.goodin@uky.edu. 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!

Helpful Resources:

Starting Seeds Indoors

Have you ever started seeds at home? What was the outcome? Were the seedlings leggy and stretched? Did the seedlings die?  

If these are some experiences that you have had, no more! Today, on episode 1 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I will share secrets to growing seeds indoors successfully. This information will make the difference and I assure that you will have healthier plants to transplant later into the garden. Stay with me to hear what secrets I have for starting seeds indoors for the Kentucky garden.

The joys of starting seeds

Starting seeds indoors can be such a rewarding experience for many gardeners! The thought of planting small seeds in the soil, watching them emerge each day, handling the tiny seedlings, and seeing them develop into young plants just warms my soul! Then, when the time is conducive for planting outdoors, gardeners can transplant their seedlings into the ground to watch it grow and mature further into an adult plant. This process from seed to plant is pure satisfaction and gratification for avid home gardeners!

Home gardeners are able to grow new, improved, and unusual plant varieties that they might not find available at local garden centers or nurseries. For instance, if you can’t find an heirloom tomato variety called ‘Hillbilly Potato Leaf Tomato’, get seed from another grower and grow it yourself. Gardeners can be the best source for heirloom varieties. Another added benefit with starting seeds at home is that gardeners reduce the amount of time required between planting and harvesting of at least 4 to 8 weeks. This my friends is music to my ears!

What to know ahead of time?

While starting seeds indoors is fun, it does require time and patience from gardeners. Regular monitoring of transplants is essential. Check seedlings daily for water and to see if any additional fertilizer is needed. Growing seeds at home will require equipment such as grow lights, maybe a plant stand if growing several different plants, trays to support the developing plants, and possibly a timer system. Cost of this equipment be based on your needs, so make sure to budget for them. 

List of materials for starting seeds indoors

1. Seed

  • Find a reputable source for seed. Companies that are reputable will stand behind their product and replace seed if there is a problem.
  • Make sure seed varieties are locally adapted to the area.  
  • For recommendations on vegetables, check out ID-133. It lists vegetable cultivars that are suitable for Kentucky. 
  • Seeds sold in packages should display the crop, cultivar, germination, percentage, and chemical seed treatments, if any.
  • Make sure to pay close attention to the sell by date.
  • Inspect the seed before starting.
  • Buy new seed since some seeds over a year old will not germinate (sprout) well.

2. Artificial Lighting

A lot of gardeners that I talk to one on one at the Extension Office mention to me that they start their seeds in the windowsill. In other areas of the United States, this area may be fine, but for Kentucky, we get poor results when starting seeds in the windowsill. Seedlings turn out leggy and stretched where they are trying to reach the light.

  • Options may be to use cool white fluorescent lamps alone, use a mixture of cool white and warm white fluorescent lamps, or a mixture of cool white and plant growth fluorescent lamps. All of these options are acceptable.
  • Position the lamps 5 to 10 inches above the foliage.
  • Operate them 12 to 18 hours/day. It might be a good idea to purchase a timer that will allow the lights to come on and off automatically.
  • Keep seedlings cool enough about 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit for strong, sturdy growth after germination occurs.
Do-it-yourself (DIY) grow light stand constructed out of PVC pipe

3. Soil Media Mix

A desirable soil medium for starting seed should be loose, well-drained and fine-textured. It should not contain any disease causing organisms or significant amounts of fertilizer. Prepared media possessing these traits are available commercially, or component material can be purchased individually and mixed at home.

Soilless mixes are inert mixes containing no soil that are available for starting seeds. They are usually composed of a combination of peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. These can be purchased ready-made or can be mixed at home. Note that if using these mixes, they have little fertility, so seedlings must be watered with a diluted fertilizer solution.

4. Containers

Containers for starting seeds should be sterile and free from harmful chemicals. Previously used containers should be sterilized before use. Wash plastic or wooden containers thoroughly with soapy water to remove all debris. Then rinse containers by dipping them in a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water, and allow them to dry before filling with germination medium. Containers should also be sturdy and fit into the space available for growing plants in the home. 

Plastic trays, fiber trays, or wooden flats

  • Plants that are easy to transplant may be seeded directly into trays or flats for later transplanting into individual packs or pots, or wider spacing in flats.
  • Starting seed in such containers saves space when compared with seeding directly into individual pots.

Peat pots

  • Biodegradable pots made from peat or paper waste fibers can be purchased individually or in strips or blocks.
  • They are porous and provide excellent drainage and air circulation to the root zone.
  • The entire pot can be planted.

Compressed peat pellets

  • Before hydration, peat pellets are about the size of a silver dollar but somewhat thicker.
  • When placed in water, they swell to form a cylindrical netlike container filled with peat moss, ready for seeding or transplanting.
  • Plant them directly into the garden.

 

Proper Planting Techniques  

Step 1: Moisten the germination media. Fill the container to within ¾ inch of the top with the medium. Use a clean, small board to level the germination media and gently tap the container on a table or hard surface to remove any air bubbles.

Step 2: If seeding in a tray or flat, use a ruler or even a large wooden plant label to make shallow rows 1 to 2 inches apart. If using only one variety of seed, scatter or “broadcast” the seed evenly over the soil surface. Now, if using different seeds in the same tray, make sure to label the rows with a plant label marked with the name of the cultivar.

Step 3: Sow the seeds uniformly and thinly in the rows. For many small round seeds, drop them slowly in the rows by tapping the seed package over the row. Again, use a plant label for each row to distinguish the plant type, variety, and date of planting.

Step 4: For large-seeded vegetables such as cucumber, cantaloupe, and watermelon, plant directly into containers such as peat pots. Other seeds may also be handled this way to save the gardener on transplanting.

Step 5: Next, cover seeds with dry vermiculite or milled sphagnum moss. The depth of covering depends on the size of the seeds. Most fine seeds, like lettuce and petunia, need light to germinate and should not be covered. As a general rule, seeds other than especially fine seeds should be covered to a depth of 2 times their diameter.

Step 6: Moisten the surface of the media with a fine mist. You can do this with a spray bottle of water.

Step 7: Place the seeded container in a warm location under grow lights for germination. Generally, a range from 65 to 75 degrees F is best.

Step 8: Inspect daily for germination. Seeds are quickly killed if allowed to dry during germination. Watch closely for development of any disease and, if evident, take control measure promptly.

Other successful tips

  • Moisture
    • Good humidity and adequate water are necessary for producing good plants. Adequate watering implies keeping growing medium moist at all times but never soggy. Allow some drying between watering, but don’t allow seedlings to wilt at any time.
  • Fertilization
    • Seedlings will need some fertilization for best development. It is best to use a soluble houseplant fertilizer that is sold in garden centers, nurseries or plant supply sections of department stores.
    • Apply fertilizer at about half the recommended strength a few days after seedlings have germinated. After that, fertilize according to the recommendations listed on the fertilizer label. Water and fertilize carefully.
  • Thin out other seedlings to make more room in the plant row.  
  • Hardening-off
    • The process of hardening-off involves exposing transplants to cooler temperatures and giving them less fertilizer and water to “toughen” them.
    • Begin the hardening off process about two weeks before planting in the garden. If possible, move plants to a shady, outdoor location with cooler temperatures. A cold frame is excellent spot for this purpose.
    • When plants are first put outdoors, keep them in the shade, but gradually move them into sunlight for short periods each day, gradually increasing the length of exposure.
    • Don’t put tender seedlings outdoors on windy days or when temperatures are below 45 degrees F. Reduce the frequency of watering to slow growth, but don’t allow plants to wilt.
    • After proper hardening, plant transplants outdoors and light frosts will not damage them.

By having the right materials and following the proper steps to growing seeds at home, gardeners can be more successful when starting seeds indoors. If you would like more information on starting seeds indoors, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of the Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky publication also known as ID-128. This resource is great for learning more about home vegetable gardening in Kentucky from asparagus all the way to watermelon. For a link to this guide, make sure to see the show notes.

Hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To see the show notes for Episode 1 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.

Make sure to tune in with me for more gardening information each week right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To be notified of other future episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts to stay up to date on all the latest episodes. Each week, I plan to share seasonal gardening tips and tricks to help gardeners reach their goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over their Kentucky garden.  

Happy Gardening!

Helpful Resources:

ID-133, Vegetable Cultivars for Kentucky Gardens 2013, http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id133/id133.pdf

ID- 128, Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf

February Fruit Tree Chores

Blog banner for February Fruit Chores

Move over Valentine’s Day! February is not only the month for flowers, but it is also a time for gardeners to show their love and care for fruits! Right now is the absolute best time of year to perform general maintenance practices such as pruning, fertilizing, and spraying needed for quality home fruit production.

Prune fruit trees to maximize sunlight and increase airflow through the tree’s canopy, while they are dormant in February or early March. All pruning cuts should be made at the branch bases, leaving only the branch collar (1/4 to ½ inch) so that wounds heal properly. First, remove all dead or diseased shoots and limbs. Both apple and pear trees are very susceptible to the bacterial disease called fire blight. This disease is easily recognizable by the “shepherd’s crook” and dark black color located at the end of a branch. Next, take out any signs of shriveled fruit left on the tree and dispose of it. Do not leave diseased plant debris near the growing site.

Fruit Tree Pruning

For the remainder of the trees, use heading back cuts to reduce the height of the tree so it is easier to manage and also thinning out cuts to open up the tree for sunlight and airflow. Make sure that the pruning blades are sharp to provide a nice clean cut. Sanitize blades of cutting tools between each cut with a 10 percent bleach solution or rubbing alcohol. This task may seem redundant but it protects healthy tissue from being infecting with harmful bacteria.

After trees are pruned, apply a dormant oil spray to both apple and pear trees. Dormant oil is a refined petroleum product that effectively controls red mites and scale insects from overwintering in tree bark with a suffocating layer of oil. Since this is a dormant oil, apply dormant oil spray before new growth begins in the spring and when temperatures are above freezing for at least 24 hours. Make sure to always read and follow label directions for proper use of any pesticide. Dormant oil is sold at local garden centers and is relatively inexpensive.

Lastly, fertilize fruit trees in February unless it is a newly planted tree. For first year plantings, fertility adjustments are made prior to planting so their root system has time to establish in the ground. During subsequent seasons, apply fertilizer rates according to the plant growth rate and condition. If the average terminal growth is less than the value listed under the desired vegetative growth in Table 1, increase the quantity of nitrogen applied. If the terminal growth exceeds the amount, reduce the quantity of nitrogen. Nitrogen should be at its peak level during the spring growing season.

Fruit Fertilizer Guidelines

To obtain more information related to fruit tree care and maintenance, please contact the Warren County Extension Office at (270) 842-1681.

 

Hemp Updates

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is accepting applications to grow, broker, or process hemp in 2020. Among the major application changes for 2020:

  • KDA will accept grower applications from November 15, 2019, to March 15, 2020.
  • KDA will accept processor/handler applications beginning on November 15, 2019.
  • The KDA will host an online application.
  • The new online application will include a mapping function that will automatically upload the GPS coordinates.

Applications and details can be found at https://www.kyagr.com/marketing/hemp-pilot.html.

For more information watch Kevin Lyons, Monroe County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources talk about the Hemp Industry, Application Process, and Tips.

 

Some good news for the new hemp year:

EPA Approves Use of 10 New Pesticide Products for Hemp

Last Month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has approved 10 pesticides for use on Hemp for the 2020 growing season. Nine of these products are biopesticides and one is a conventional pesticide. This expands the tools producers have to combat insects, mites, and diseases.

Biopesticides

  • EPA Registration Number: 70310-5. Applicant: Agro Logistic Systems, Inc. Active ingredients: Azadirachtin and Neem Oil. Product type: Insecticide, Miticide, Fungicide, and Nematicide.
  • EPA Registration Number: 70310-7. Applicant: Agro Logistic Systems, Inc. Active ingredients: Azadirachtin and Neem Oil. Product type: Insecticide, Miticide, Fungicide, and Nematicide.
  • EPA Registration Number: 70310-8. Applicant: Agro Logistic Systems, Inc. Active ingredients: Azadirachtin and Neem Oil. Product type: Insecticide, Miticide, Fungicide, and Nematicide.
  • EPA Registration Number: 70310-11. Applicant: Agro Logistic Systems, Inc. Active ingredient: Neem Oil. Product type: Insecticide, Miticide, and Fungicide.
  • EPA Registration Number: 84059-3. Applicant: Marrone Bio Innovations, D/B/A Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. Active ingredient: Extract of Reynoutria sachalinensis. Product type: Fungicide and Fungistat.
  • EPA Registration Number: 84059-28. Applicant: Marrone Bio Innovations, D/B/A Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. Active ingredient: Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain F727. Product type: Fungicide.
  • EPA Registration Number: 91865-1. Applicant: Hawthorne Hydroponics LLC, D/B/A General Hydroponics. Active ingredients: Soybean Oil, Garlic Oil, and Capsicum Oleoresin Extract. Product type: Insecticide and Repellent.
  • EPA Registration Number: 91865-3. Applicant: Hawthorne Hydroponics LLC, D/B/A General Hydroponics. Active ingredient: Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain D747. Product type: Fungicide and Bactericide.
  • EPA Registration Number: 91865-4. Applicant: Hawthorne Hydroponics LLC, D/B/A General Hydroponics. Active ingredient: Azadirachtin. Product type: Insect Growth Regulator and Repellent.

Conventional Pesticides

  • EPA Registration Number: 91865-2. Applicant: Hawthorne Hydroponics LLC, D/B/A General Hydroponics. Active ingredient: Potassium Salts of Fatty Acids. Product type: Insecticide, Fungicide, and Miticide.

 

By Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist