Home gardeners have finally gotten warm-season vegetable crops planted in their home vegetable gardens. Now, you may wonder, “What should I do next?” Today on episode 7 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing 4 secrets on how to keep your garden looking attractive to finish strong for the month of May! Stay with me for more details right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!
#1- Use Companion Planting Strategies.
Gardeners have planted several warm-season vegetables in the garden this month! They may have planted a nice mixture of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, squash, and sweet corn. Alongside these vegetables, gardeners should consider planting culinary herbs since they serve as a great companion plant. Companion planting is defined as planting two or more crops near each other crops in the vegetable garden to gain benefits for the home gardener. It has been shown to maximize vegetable yields, improve pest management, increase nutrient uptake, and enhance pollination with some crops.
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 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 for attracting beneficial insects, they also draw in native pollinators. Some examples of culinary herbs to make room for in the garden are basil and oregano. Basil is a good herb for planting around tomatoes and provides shelter for a number of beneficial insects such as lady beetles and lacewings. Oregano is the pizza herb to use for seasoning pizza dishes at home.
Another plant that comes to mind with companion planting is marigolds. Several gardeners plant this warm season flower every year in their garden to protect vegetables from harmful insects. Research has shown that the roots of marigolds produce biochemical that are poisonous to minute worm-like organisms that can cause damage to plants.
To discover other possibilities of companion plants to use in the home vegetable garden, make sure to see the show notes. I have included a table that lists crops that do well when planted next to each other in the home vegetable garden.
|Corn||Beans, Cucumbers, English Pea, Irish Potato, |
|Cucumber||Beans, Cabbage, Corn, English Pea, Radish, Sunflowers|
|Eggplant||Basil, Beans, Catnip, Lemon Grass, Marigold|
|Okra||Peppers, Squash, Sweet Potatoes|
|Pepper||Basil, Clover, Marjoram, Tomato|
|Squash||Nasturtium, Corn, Marigold|
|Sweet Potato||Okra, Peppers, Sunflowers|
|Tomato||Asparagus, Basil, Carrot, Cucumber, |
Marigold, Onions, Parsley, Rosemary
Source: ATTRA publication on
Companion Planting & Botanical Pesticides: Concepts & Resources
#2- Provide vegetable plants with water after being planted.
It is important to provide plants with water after being planted in the ground. Carry out watering routines in the morning between the hours of 6am and 10am. This time frame allows plants plenty of time to dry off during the day. Avoid splashing the foliage with water to reduce foliar diseases.
While it may be expensive, drip irrigation is a convenient way to provide consistent soil moisture to plants. Water is targeted at the base of the plant which is then absorbed by the root system.
Here are critical times to water common vegetable crops in the home garden.
- Cucumber- flowering and fruit development
- Eggplant- uniform supply from flowering through harvest
- Melon- fruit set and early development
- Pepper- uniform supply from flowering through harvest
- Summer squash- bud development, flowering, and fruit development
- Sweet Corn- silking, tasseling, and ear development
- Tomato- uniform supply from flowering through harvest
#3- Apply fresh organic mulch.
Mulch can offer several benefits to the home gardener! It helps conserve soil moisture by creating a barrier between the soil and the air, controls weeds by blocking the sunlight, and is aesthetically pleasing and attractive to the garden.
Apply 2 to 4 inches of fresh mulch around plants to help conserve soil moisture and reduce weeds. If you desire an organic mulch, layers of newspaper or straw are good mulches to consider. These mulches will return nutrients into the ground after they have decomposed. Another option would be inorganic mulch like black plastic. This type of mulch will reduce weeds and encourage earlier planting for crops by 2 weeks.
#4- Side-dress vegetables at the correct time.
In order for vegetables to produce lush, continuous growth throughout the season, they require a uniform supply of nutrients. Gardeners should side-dress vegetable transplants at the correct time and at the recommended rate to give them an extra supply of nutrients needed for continuous growth throughout the season.
Here are the recommended times for side-dressing common vegetables in the home garden.
- Cucumber- apply 1 week after blossoming begins and Eggplant- after first fruit set
- Peppers- after first fruit set
- Squash- additional nitrogen might reduce yield or lower quality
- Sweet corn- when plants are 12 inches tall
- Tomatoes- apply 1 to 2 weeks before first picking and same amount 2 weeks after first picking
I hope that you found this information helpful today. If you would like additional information on other gardening tasks to perform this month, make sure to see the show notes on the blog at Warren County Agriculture to find the May Gardening Checklist that I have created. It lists other activities to do in and around the home garden. To view this checklist, 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.
As always, 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.
Gardeners 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
It’s officially a New Year! Avid gardeners setting goals this year have the best of intentions, but then life happens and it steers them away from their goals. Make 2019 a more successful gardening season with SMART goals! SMART goals give gardeners more direction, which helps them accomplish their gardening goals during the busy season. Read on to discover more about the basic principles of SMART gardening goals, so you can apply them!
SPECIFIC & START SMALL
Gardening is the number one hobby and activity for most Americans and it has a lot of areas to cover from flower gardening, vegetable gardening, herb gardening, and even edible landscaping. So when setting goals, be more specific rather than general. Instead of making the goal “I want to grow a garden this year”, make statements like “I want to install two, 4’ x 8’ raised bed gardens in the back yard to grow a pizza garden this year.” This garden goal is more specific than the first statement.
The other part of the S is to start small. It seems that gardeners make several resolutions at the beginning of the year and can’t make them all happen at once. It takes time to make a behavior a habit, so focus on one goal at a time. If installing 2 new raised bed gardens this year, wait and add more later in the fall or even next year before installing 10 at one time. Try and not overwhelm yourself.
Secondly, make goals measurable by giving yourself checkpoints like daily, weekly, and monthly to cross. Go a step further and give yourself a mid-year and end of the year step. Feel free to add a few other steps in between if needed. By placing checkpoints along the way, goals are much more “do-able”. Plus, it makes it easier to focus on the checkpoints rather than the big goal.
Evaluate the goals and find out if it is achievable. Ask yourself a few questions: Do you have the ability to complete the goal? Do you have the right skills or tools needed to reach that specific goal? Is the goal realistic for you? If you answered no to those questions, don’t feel bad. Simply adapt and change the goals to make it easier to accomplish. Don’t set yourself up for failure. You are hoping to make improvements in the New Year, not go backwards!
Make sure that the goal is relevant to YOU! What garden goal is the most important to YOU and would bring YOU joy? If the garden goal fits both categories, there is a greater desire to keep after the goal to make improvements for the gardening season. If you have multiple goals, ask yourself the “why” part of the garden goal. For example, the reason that “I want to install one 4’ x 8’ raised bed garden in the back yard to grow a pizza garden this year” is to serve as a form of exercise and reap the benefits of the harvest by using the fresh ingredients to make fresh homemade pizzas at home to feed my family.
Lastly, have a deadline in mind of when you want to cross the finish line for the goal. With gardening, it is best to first organize thoughts, make a plan on paper, and then attack the plan as far as crossing those daily, weekly, and monthly checkpoints.
For the garden goal of “I want to install one 4’ x 8’ raised bed garden in the back yard to grow a pizza garden this year”, plan it out on paper and make a list. It may look something like this:
- First of January- Do research & plan out the 2 raised gardens on grid paper.
- By January 31st– Purchase all seeds for plants and building materials for raised beds.
- By mid- to late-February- Start vegetable seeds under a grow light in the basement.
- March- Build and install my raised bed garden frame. Make sure it is in the right location.
- April- Purchase and fill the raised bed gardens with high quality garden soil.
- May- Plant small vegetable transplants in the ground after the danger of frost has passed.
- May through July- Care for plants daily. Water, fertilize, and check for insects. Remove diseased plants when necessary.
After writing out your garden goals, display them in an area that you frequently visit. Some people may choose to put them on the refrigerator door, in their calendar or planner, or on their personal computer. Pick the best spot for you because this spot will serve as a friendly reminder for those life moments.
Lastly with SMART garden goals, take time to celebrate your successes when completing those goals! Visit an out-of-state arboretum with other gardening friends! Attend a new gardening class. Buy a new plant for the landscape. Whatever it takes to stay motivated, do it!
Kristin G. Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture Education
We all love to decorate with pumpkins! So, what happens to all the pumpkins after the Halloween season is over? Before tossing those pumpkins, read over this article to find a few ideas of ways to reuse and re-purpose decorating pumpkins.
- Eat pumpkin! Pumpkin is a nutritious food to consume. They are low in fat and sodium and are an excellent source of vitamin A and fiber. To prepare fresh pumpkin at home, wash the pumpkin and cut lengthwise. Remove the guts of the pumpkin and set aside. Place the pumpkin in a baking dish and bake in the oven on 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour or until tender.
Use fresh pumpkin in the Plate it up! Kentucky Proud recipes for the pumpkin apple muffins for breakfast or make fall spiced pumpkin bread to serve as a bread or dessert. Don’t forget that the pumpkin seeds can be eaten too! Take the seeds and roast them in the oven. Add your favorite seasonings and you have a healthy snack or seasonal salad topper.
- Make a pumpkin bird feeder! This is a fun project and activity to do at home. It involves the kids plus it helps to feed the birds at the same time!
To make the pumpkin bird feeder, use a small to medium sized pumpkin and with a sharp knife cut into it and remove all the guts of the pumpkin. To make the hanger for the bird feeder, take heavy-duty string and tie it in a knot on the sides of the pumpkin by drilling a hole. Another option is to place the string around the sides of the pumpkin, in the grooves, and secure it down with clear tape. Tie the string together in a knot if using several pieces of string. Place birdseed in the center of the pumpkin, based on the birds you wish to attract. If you want to provide a place for the birds to perch while feeding, add tree branches or small twigs on the side of the pumpkin. Hang up the finished pumpkin bird feeder in a tree and watch the feathery friends from your favorite window.
- Create a table centerpiece using smaller pumpkins! Grab a white plate, small pumpkins, and collect fall clippings from trees and shrubs from around the landscape to create a simple fall centerpiece for the table. To begin, place one type of tree cutting on the bottom of the white plate to serve as the base. In the picture below, we used a deciduous shrub showing bright red berries. Then, place the small pumpkins on top of the shrub clippings. Make sure to use an odd number of pumpkins like 3’s or 5’s. Next, add another type of colorful fall foliage like the red maple leaves around the pumpkins for a little accent color. It is fine to use artificial leaves, if the real leaves have already gone by for the season. For some embellishment, place small raffia bows around the stems of the pumpkins. Personalize pumpkins with a Thanksgiving greeting or blessing for the table. Have fun and be creative!
- Lastly, recycle the pumpkin to the compost pile! It is always good to return nutrients to the soil by composting it. Cut up the pumpkin(s) into sections or quarters and add it to the compost pile. Add water and turn it often with a garden fork to incorporate with other materials in the pile. In a few short months, the compost pile will reduce in size and the finished compost product will smell earthy, feel crumbly, and appear dark in color.
Kristin G. Hildabrand
Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County
If you enjoy cooking with garlic in the kitchen, you should try growing garlic in the garden! Garlic is an easy to grow crop for the Kentucky garden because it doesn’t have a lot of disease and insect pressure. Garlic produces large amounts if gardeners plant a recommended variety, plant in the right location and in the correct way, and provide proper maintenance when needed.
In Kentucky, garlic grows as a biennial crop. Gardeners plant garlic cloves in October or early November in order to establish a good root system. Make sure to plant garlic in loose well-drained soil with plenty of organic material. Soils that do not drain well will cause rotting to form. If soil types are not ideal, look into installing raised bed gardens, which are good options for growing garlic.
There are two types of garlic to grow in Kentucky, which are soft-neck or hard-neck garlic. Soft-neck garlic does not produce a scape and due to the soft neck nature, gardeners or market growers can braid their stems. Hard-neck garlic produces an elongated flower stalk known as a scape, which then forms a flower at the top called a bulbil. When the flower forms, remove it so that the developing garlic bulb increases in size. Since hard-neck garlic has better cold-hardiness, it generally performs better in Kentucky gardens.
Purchase certified seed stock from a reputable garden or nursery source. Cultivars will differ greatly from other varieties according to clove arrangement, number of cloves, size of cloves, color, flavor, and skin tightness. It is important to buy the specific garlic variety early in advance to guarantee the desired variety. The popular varieties tend to sell out before other varieties.
Soft-neck garlic is referred to as Silverskin, Artichoke, or Italian garlic. California Early and California Late are the best represented varieties for soft-neck types. The hard-neck may be purple, purple striped or white. Hard-neck varieties include Roja, German Red, Valenica, and Continental.
After the first hard frost, gardeners will need to apply a 2-4 inch layer of clean straw to insulate and protect the developing bulbs from cold temperatures. In spring, when garlic begins actively growing, gardeners will need to apply fertilizer. Garlic is ready for harvest in July or early August when leaf tops begin to dry and bend toward the ground.
For more information about growing garlic, check out these University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service publications:
- Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
- Garlic & Elephant Garlic: http://www.uky.edu/ccd/sites/www.uky.edu.ccd/files/garlic.pdf
If you would like to watch more about growing garlic, see the links below from the Warren County Agriculture YouTube channel. Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture Kristin Hildabrand discusses selecting garlic varieties and planting garlic on the Farm and Home Show. Click on the links below to see this information:
Selecting Garlic Varieties:
Kristin G. Hildabrand, Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County
Do you have trouble establishing a good stand of grass in your home lawn? Do you notice bare spots? Do you have more weeds than grass? If you answered yes to any of these questions, September is a good month to carry out several lawn maintenance practices to help improve the appearance of your lawn.
- Soil Test, Soil Test, Soil Test!
The secret to having a green lawn is a soil test. Testing the soil gives homeowners the exact recommendations of lime and fertilizer rates needed to reach optimum plant growth. To improve the appearance of the lawn, first start with a soil test.
To test the soil for a home lawn, sample the top 2 to 4 inches of soil using a garden shovel or trowel. Collect soil from different locations in the lawn at random and make sure to avoid getting any grass clippings or leaves when sampling. Some people sample their front and back yards separately. Place soil in a clean five-gallon bucket. Repeat this same process 10 to 12 times and mix all the samples together. If there is any excess moisture in the soil, allow the sample to dry on newspaper for 24 hours.
After collecting soil, bring samples to the local extension office. In Warren County, soil tests cost $7.00 per sample. Some basic information about the crop being grown is needed to go along with the sample before being mailed. When results come back, extension agents review and sign the soil test recommendations. Soil test results generally take about 7 to 10 days to be processed.
- Sow Grass Seed
Mid-August through late September is the best time to establish new grass in the home lawn. The best type of grass to select for a home lawn situation is a turf type tall fescue variety. Purchase a recommended variety of turf type tall fescue with a dark green color and improved disease tolerance. Kentucky 31 fescue has a lighter green color and is less dense compared to newer tall fescue varieties. To see a list of recommended turf type tall fescue varieties, please visit this link: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/ukturf/tf.html.
Before sowing grass seed, make sure that the soil is prepared and ready in order to get good seed to soil contact. Seed tall fescue at 6 lbs. per 1,000 square feet using a rotary spreader. For best coverage, divide the seed in half and sow this half in one direction. Then, apply the other half of seed crosswise over the first run. Cover the seed by raking lightly or rolling with a water-ballast roller. Place a light covering of clean straw over top of the newly seeded area. Water the area frequently after sowing seed until seedlings germinate. For more information about lawn establishment in Kentucky, check out the AGR-50 publication through the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service found at this link: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR50/AGR50.pdf.
- Fall Lawn Fertilization
Fall is the absolute best time to fertilize cool season grasses in the home lawn. By performing this practice in the fall, the root system is stronger and can make it through the winter months. September, October, and November are the best months to apply fertilizer according to soil test recommendations.
The number of times nitrogen fertilizer is applied will depend on the lawn quality desired. Most general home lawns with no irrigation system are maintained at the low to medium maintenance levels. These levels require either one or two application of nitrogen. Make sure to have the soil tested to know these exact recommendations for the home lawn.
For more information about home lawn fertilization, see the AGR-212 publication for Fertilizing your Lawn: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR212/AGR212.pdf.
- Lawn Renovation Practices
In certain situations, homeowners may want to consider other lawn renovation practices. These situations are when there is less than 50% desirable turf, the soil is compacted, the need to decrease weeds, and to improve damaged areas of turf from heavy traffic or disease. To learn more about specific lawn renovation practices, visit AGR-51 publication for Renovating Your Lawn at this link: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/agr/agr51/agr51.pdf
September is the month for second chances in the home lawn! Take advantage of our soil testing services and get the soil tested. Look at purchasing an improved variety of tall fescue and sow seed in September. If needed, carry out other lawn renovation practices in the fall to improve the appearance. These turf tips will help put you on the right road to seeing results in the home lawn for next year!
Kristin G. Hildabrand, Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County
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