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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

Plant Peonies this Fall and Enjoy Perfect Blooms in the Garden

Peonies make a beautiful addition to the home garden and landscape! They add beauty with their wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of blooms as well as their wonderful fragrance. If planted correctly, peonies can last a long time in the garden from 50 to as much as 80 years. If you would like to plant peonies in your home landscape, fall is a good time to plant, so here are a few tips for planting perfect peonies.

Types & Cultivars:

There are three types of peonies for gardeners to consider for planting in the Kentucky garden.

  • Herbaceous/garden peonies are herbaceous perennials that reach 20 to 36 inches in height. This type is the most common peony used and is the least expensive compared to other peonies.
  • Tree peonies have woody stems that do not die back to the ground. They are a medium-sized shrub that reaches no more than 4 to 5 feet in height. Tree peonies are slow growing, so it may take four or more years to bloom well.
  • Intersectional peonies are a hybrid type produced by crossing a herbaceous peony with a tree peony. These peonies get the best of both worlds. They possess the hardiness of the herbaceous peonies with the attractive flowers and foliage of the tree peonies. Itoh peonies, named by the first hybridizer Toichi Itoh, are a type of intersectional peony.

When purchasing peonies, purchase tubers from a reputable nursery catalog or from a reliable local garden center in the area. It is a good idea to buy and shop early to guarantee the best selection and variety desired. Inspect tubers for rots before planting.

To guarantee an extended blooming display, choose a mixture of early to mid- to late-season peony varieties to plant. By buying plants with different blooming seasons, gardeners are guaranteed 6 total weeks of peony blooms to enjoy. Make sure to read plant descriptions in catalogs and watch labels in garden centers to find this information.

Here are some noteworthy peony cultivars of different types captured by fellow Kentucky gardeners:

Cultivar/Type: ‘Monsieur Jules Elie’, Herbaceous                                                                                                            Photo Credit: Dennis Morgeson, Washington Co. Extension Agent for Horticulture

 

Red Charm

Cultivar/Type: ‘Red Charm’, Herbaceous                                                                                                                           Photo credit: Dennis Morgeson, Washington Co. Extension Agent for Horticulture

 

 

Sara Bernhardt

Cultivar/Type: ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, Herbaceous                                                                                                                 Photo credit: Inette Goodin, Adair County Garden Club Member

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bartzella Peony

Cultivar/Type: ‘Bartzella’, Itoh Peony                                                                                                                  Photo Credit: Inette Goodin, Adair Co. Garden Club Member

 

Cora Louise

Cultivar/Type: ‘Cora Louise’, Itoh Peony                                                                                                   Picture credit: Dennis Morgeson, Washington Co. Extension Agent for Horticulture

 

'Misaka'

Cultivar/Type: ‘Misaka’, Itoh Peony                                                                                                                    Photo Credit: Dennis Morgeson, Washington Co. Extension Agent for Horticulture

 

Best Location for Peonies: Plant peonies in well-drained soil. Wet locations promote root rot problems that will cause damage to future plants. If soil does not drain well, build and install raised beds to improve soil drainage. Before planting, incorporate 2 to 4 inches of rich compost or well-aged manure to the planting area for added organic content. Peonies perform best in full sun with 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Some tree type peonies will benefit from a little bit of shade or filtered sun in the afternoon to help their bloom color last longer.

 

When to Plant: Fall is the absolute best time to plant peonies. September and October are ideal months for planting.

 

Planting Procedures: In the ideal location, next prepare the site for planting. Dig the planting hole to a depth of 12 to 18 inches and a width of 18 inches wide. Remove soil from the planting hole and break up any clods that come to the surface.

For herbaceous peonies, plant tubers 1 to 2 inches below the soil level with the eyes facing upwards and the roots facing down. Plant tree peonies below the graft union with 4 to 5 inches of soil covering the graft. The graft is noticeable by the ridge on the stem and the difference in bark texture. This deep planting helps the graft develop its own root system.

A common reason that peonies do not bloom is due to gardeners planting the tubers too deep. Take extra precautions to ensure the correct depth for the peony being grown. Use a measuring tape or yardstick, if needed.

Space multiple plants 3 to 4 feet apart in the row. Once in place, work the soil around the fleshy roots and fill the planting hole back with remaining soil. Water plants thoroughly.

 

Other Maintenance Tips: Keep soil moist when the weather is dry. Water is also very important during bud formation and flowering. Mulch newly planted plants with a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic mulch such as clean straw, pine needles, or bark mulch in late fall to keep plants from heaving in and out of the soil. The mulch also deters weeds from germinating and conserves soil moisture.

When new shots begin to form in the spring, place a stake like a tomato cage or a flower stake over plants to hold blooms up after a heavy rainfall or harmful winds. Fertilize plants in early spring when growth is 12 inches tall and immediately after flowering. It is best to lightly cultivate around the crown of the plant with ¼ cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer and water it in.

For more information about planting peonies this fall or growing peonies in the garden, contact the Warren County Extension Office at (270) 842-1681.

 

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand

Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture