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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky, ID-128- http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
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.
- 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.
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.
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 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!
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
Do you have trouble starting small seeded crops like lettuce, turnips, or cabbage in the garden? Does the seed end up blowing away in the wind or washing away after watering? Do you dread going back to thin out plants later?
If you answered “yes” to several of those questions, don’t worry, there is an easier solution called 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 returns nutrients 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 a few basic items and materials collected from around the home. Read here to find out how to make do-it-yourself (DIY) seed tape at home using this easy step- by- step photo guide.
Step 1: Gather up all supplies needed to make the seed tape. Grab a roll of toilet paper, make glue or use all-purpose glue, toothpick, garden seed packets, clear ruler, 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.
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!
To watch this process from start to finish, click on the picture above or Click Here to view this how to video for making DIY seed tape from our Warren County Agriculture YouTube channel.
Kristin G. Hildabrand, Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County
As the temperature starts to cool and the risk of frost becomes of concern, understand that summer vegetables are ending for the season. Don’t stop with summer vegetables! Gardening in the fall provides a new variety of vegetables such as fresh broccoli, greens, carrots, and radishes for the home gardener to enjoy!
How do you know when summer garden vegetables have finished producing for the year? Crops will begin to droop and will no longer produce fruit. Once this occurs, pull out the last of the summer crops. If diseased plants have been an issue, make sure to remove all plant material from the garden and dispose of them properly in the trash. Next, till up the ground about six to eight inches deep to prepare the ground for planting.
Before planting a fall vegetable garden, make sure to have the soil tested. Contact your local agriculture or horticulture extension agent to learn the correct procedure on how to collect a soil sample from the home vegetable garden. Collect the soil sample and take it to the extension office and expect to receive recommendations in one to two weeks. The soil testing report gives an overall picture of what the soil needs for optimum plant growth. August is a good time to have the soil tested, so gardeners have plenty of time to apply fertilizer before planting.
What to plant? When thinking about fall gardens, think green! Greens are great vegetables to grow when it starts to get cool. They even taste sweeter when picked after a frost. Some greens to plant are mustard greens, turnip greens, lettuce and spinach. Another great group of vegetables to grow are root vegetables. Carrots, radishes, and turnips grow well in the cooler months and give a great variety to the greens. So don’t stop now, get those seeds or small transplants planted and watch them grow!
For more information about fall gardening crops, check out the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service publication for Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky ID-128, http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf.
Written by: Katherine Ullery, Warren County Extension Master Gardener Intern