Blog Archives

Fall Home Lawn Improvement Practices

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, fall is the absolute time to carry out several home lawn improvement practices to help improve the appearance of your Kentucky home lawn. Today on episode 11 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing the top 4 secrets to improving your home lawn this fall. For all the details, stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

#1. When is the best time to perform lawn care practices in Kentucky? The turf care calendar for cool season lawns in Kentucky is found at the beginning of this guide. It shows each month of the year and highlights the best and second best times to perform specific lawn care practices for the Kentucky lawn. There are also foot notes located at the bottom of the page that gives more explanations related to the specific lawn care practices.

Preview of the Turf Care Calendar for Cool-Season Lawns

#2. Select the right grass for the Kentucky lawn. Based on research from the University of Kentucky, turf-type tall fescue performs the best for Kentucky Home Lawns. Tall fescue has good qualities including: There are also some slight drawbacks which include good traffic tolerance. For a link to see the publication on Selecting the Right Grass for your Kentucky Lawn, make sure to see the show notes. This publication explores the different types of grass species that can be grown in Kentucky and lists major qualities and problems associated with each grass type. Recommendations for the top performing varieties of tall fescue and other cool-season grasses are also included in this guide.

#3. Soil Test, Soil Test, Soil Test! The secret to having a nice looking lawn is by conducting a soil test. I often say that the secret to good plant growth is through the soil and by testing the soil, this process 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. Some basic information about the crop being grown is needed to go along with the sample before being mailed. There is a small fee to pay for conducting a soil test, but I assure you that it is the best money that you will spend since it gives you the exact amounts for lime and fertilizer that is needed. 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.

#4. When should I fertilize my home lawn? Fertilization is an important part of maintaining a home lawn. Fall is the absolute best time to fertilize cool season grasses in the Kentucky 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 depends 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 applications of nitrogen. Make sure to have the soil tested to know these exact recommendations for the home lawn.

If interested in knowing more information about home lawn fertilization, make sure to see the link in the show notes to achieve the publication for Fertilizing your Lawn, AGR-212.

While I know that I gave the top 4 secrets to improving your home lawn this fall, I also have a free resource that I am offering up today that can offer more help in home lawn improvement practices! This free resource is called the Home Lawn Improvement Guidebook. This guidebook will assist you in making the best decisions for how and when to improve the appearance of your Kentucky lawn. Material in this guidebook is provided by University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Turf Specialists and other Extension Professionals. If you would like a copy of this guidebook, make sure to contact the Warren County Extension Service at (270) 842-1681 or contact Kristin Hildabrand at kristin.goodin@uky.edu.

I hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! For more information about today’s show, make sure to see the show notes on the blog at Warren County Agriculture.

To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, make sure to hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts. By hitting the subscribe button, you will be notified of future shows where gardening tips and tricks will be shared to help gardeners reach their gardening goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over your Kentucky garden.

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! I hope to see you again soon when the sun shines again!

Helpful Resources:

Turf Care Calendar: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/agr/agr55/agr55.pdf

Selecting the Right Grass for your Kentucky Lawn: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR52/AGR52.pdf

Fertilizing your Lawn AGR-212: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR212/AGR212.pdf. 

Cover Crops for the Kentucky Garden

Crimson Clover & Cereal Rye Cover Crop
Photo Source: Rachel Rudolph, UK Extension Vegetable Specialist

Our gardens are finally slowing down for the season. One thing you may ask yourself is should I consider sowing a cover crop for my Kentucky garden? Your mind may wonder next what type of cover crop should I sow? How is the best way to sow a cover crop? To find out more information about cover crops, I contacted our UK Extension Vegetable Specialist Dr. Rachel Rudolph to see what recommendation she had on cultivating cover crops. After talking with her, I discovered selecting a cover crop comes down to what you are hoping to accomplish for your garden plot.

Interview Guest: Dr. Rachel Rudolph,
University of Kentucky Extension Vegetable Specialist

Why would gardeners want to sow cover crops for their gardens? What are the advantages or benefits? Cover crops have the potential to lend several benefits for the Kentucky garden. Most of the benefits proven through research are increased soil organic matter, weed suppression, soil structure improvement, pest and pathogen suppression, soil micro-organism promotion, improved nutrient cycling and management, increased water infiltration, reduced soil erosion, and even attract and provide habitat for native pollinators to the garden.

Which cover crops perform best for Kentucky gardens? Generally not one cover crop will capture all the benefits listed above. The question goes back to the home gardener to decide “why do I want a cover crop?” and “what am I hoping to accomplish in my garden?”. Once you answer that question, it gets much easier to implement a cover crop for the garden. For example, let’s say that you desire a cover crop for weed suppression. The next question you may ask is what time of year do I want to deal with weed suppression? You may answer this question as the winter and summer months are needed more for weed suppression. Make sure to know what growing location you are located in as well as the soil type. Also, consider what type of crops are being grown in your garden. What will happen after these crops come out of the garden? What does your timeline look like? Once you answer some of those basic questions, you will better understand what cover crop is needed or wanted for your garden.

If you are looking for a cover crop that might check multiple boxes for benefits with the home gardener, cereal rye might be a good option! With cereal rye, it will increase organic matter content in the soil, reduce weeds, improve soil structure, promote soil micro-organisms, decrease soil erosion, increase water infiltration, and help improve nutrient cycling.

Cereal Rye mixed with Crimson Clover
@ The UK Horticulture Research Farm

How should we prepare before sowing cover crops in the garden? Before getting started, home gardeners should do their homework to know how much biomass will be produced from their specific cover crop being grown. For instance, cereal rye can get several feet tall at maturity, so ask yourself, are you equipped to handle it. Make sure that you are prepared and ready for when that times comes. Also, understand when the cover crop needs to be terminated.

When it comes to seeding these cover crops, most of them can be sown by broadcast seeding it. To know how much to apply over the area, measure the acreage of the garden and know what the recommended seeding rate for the cover crop. Next, prepare to broadcast the cover crop seed over the area. It may be helpful to mix it other additions such as potting soil or sand, so you feel it better and achieve better coverage when broadcasting the seed over the ground.

Next, prepare the soil before sowing the cover crop. Soil should be loose, crumbly, and soft on the top like planting for a vegetable garden. Gardeners should be able to rake the soil softly over the entire area. Avoid rocky or compacted soils.

If someone would like to learn more about cover crops, here are some other good resources to consider adding to your library.

Managing Cover Crops Profitably Resource Book

Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide

To listen to the full interview with Dr. Rachel Rudolph on Cover Crops for the Kentucky Garden, check out Episode 10 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion on things to consider when selecting and growing a cover crop for the Kentucky garden! To view the show notes for Episode 10 on Cover Crops for the Kentucky Garden, visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. Go to www.warrencountyagriculture.com

If you would like more information about cover crops for Kentucky gardens, make sure to contact your local Extension Office in your area.

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

Gardeners keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

References:

Winter Cover Crops for Kentucky Gardens and Fields, ID-113- http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id113/id113.pdf

Summer Garden Pests

Home gardeners are busy harvesting their crops until the summer garden pests move in! To talk to an expert, I called up UK Extension Entomologist Dr. Jonathan Larson to see what information he could provide to keep these summer pests under control.

A popular summer pest in the Kentucky garden is the Japanese beetle. Japanese beetles are easily recognized by their attractive, shiny emerald-green and copper color. They are about 7/16 of an inch long, and if you look closely, you’ll see patches of white hair on their sides.

The beetles have sharp, chewing mouth parts that allow them to grind up tender leaf tissue between the veins, leaving the leaves skeletonized and lacy. But they don’t stop at leaves. They will shred flowers – you’ve probably seen them buried into the blooms on your roses – and even eat fruit. They attack and feed on more than 300 different plant species. Their favorites include linden, roses, grapes, blackberries and peaches.

Japanese Beetle Damage on Black Gum Landscape Tree

So how do you protect your garden from Japanese beetles? First, if you’re in the process of planning or planting your landscape, consider including species and cultivars they don’t like to eat. Examples of those are most oaks, hollies, tulip trees and silver maples.

For those of us whose landscapes are mature and planting more trees isn’t feasible, one of the best methods is to simply pick off and kill beetles when you see them on your plants. Beetles will be strongly attracted to a plant that is already damaged by beetles. The more damage, the more beetles, resulting in more damage and more beetles. It’s a vicious cycle. If you walk through your garden in the evening and remove beetles by hand, you’ll cut back on the number of beetles that show up the next day. Pick them off and plop them in a bucket of soapy water.

There are insecticides available that can help kill or repel beetles, but always follow the label instructions carefully and beware of treating any plant that is blooming. Organic options, which offer a three to four days of protection, include Neem oil, pyola and BtG (Bt for beetles). Synthetic options, which offer protection for one to three weeks, include bifenthryn, carbaryl, cyfluthrin and lamda-cyhalothrin.

Another common summer garden pest is the squash vine borer. The squash vine borer is a key pest of squash, gourds, and pumpkins in Kentucky. Symptoms appear in mid-summer when a long runner or an entire plant wilts suddenly. Infested vines usually die beyond the point of attack. Sawdust-like frass near the base of the plant is the best evidence of squash vine borer activity. Careful examination will uncover yellow-brown excrement pushed out through holes in the side of the stem at the point of wilting. If the stem is split open, one to several borers are usually present. The caterpillars reach a length of 1 inch and has a brown head and a cream-colored body. 

Photo Source: University of Kentucky Entfact-314

Monitor plants weekly from mid-June through August for initial signs of the borer’s frass at entrance holes in the stems. Very early signs of larval feeding indicate that other eggs will be hatching soon.

Home gardeners may have some success with deworming the vines. At the first signs of the sawdust-like frass, vines are slit lengthwise near where the damage is found and the borers removed. The stems should be immediately covered with earth. Sanitation is also important. After harvest is complete, vines should be removed from the garden and composted to prevent the remaining borers from completing larval development.

Gardeners should also be concerned with ticks that can harm the body. To hear the full interview with Dr. Larson, make sure to check out Episode 9 on Summer Garden Pests from the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

Dr. Jonathan Larson, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist

We appreciate Dr. Jonathan Larson being our guest on the show! If you would like to learn more about insects, Dr. Larson also has his very own podcast called Arthro-Pod. To hear more about what is covered on the Arthro-Pod, click here: http://arthro-pod.blogspot.com/.

As always, gardeners keep on digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture

References:

ENTfacts: By Number, http://entomology.ca.uky.edu/entfacts

May Vegetable Gardening Tips

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.

Crop:Companions:
CornBeans, Cucumbers, English Pea, Irish Potato,
Pumpkin, Squash  
CucumberBeans, Cabbage, Corn, English Pea, Radish, Sunflowers  
EggplantBasil, Beans, Catnip, Lemon Grass, Marigold  
OkraPeppers, Squash, Sweet Potatoes  
PepperBasil, Clover, Marjoram, Tomato  
SquashNasturtium, Corn, Marigold  
Sweet PotatoOkra, Peppers, Sunflowers  
TomatoAsparagus, 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.  

Organic mulch return nutrients to the soil after decomposing.

#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!

Resources:

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