Blog Archives

Episode 8- Supporting Local Cut Flower Growers

July is American Grown Cut Flower Month! Now is the perfect time to celebrate the abundance of locally-grown cut flowers and the farmers that grow them. To discuss more about cut flower production, I interviewed my good friend and co-worker Alexis Sheffield to ask her why July is such a special month for cut flower growers. Alexis is the Boyle County Extension Agent for Horticulture and in her spare time runs a flower farm called Wild Roots. Find out more from her in our interview together on how you can celebrate American Grown Cut Flower Month and how you can support local cut flower farmers, right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast.

Alexis Sheffield, Boyle Co. Extension Agent for Horticulture &
Flower Farmer for Wild Roots

Get involved with Kentucky Grown Cut Flowers Month by joining us daily on Facebook (@KYHortCouncil), Instagram (@KYHorticulture) or Twitter (@KYHorticulture) to learn more about this specialty crop! Each day this month on the Kentucky Hort Council’s social media pages, you can learn more about local flower farmers and the beautiful fresh cut flowers they grow along with buying, delivery, and pick-up options.

Interactive Map: The Kentucky Commercial Cut Flower Grower Directory is now live! This tool helps to highlight local businesses and make it easy for customers to identify purchasing options.

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.

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

Warren County Extension Office Operating Procedures

Several people may be wondering about how to submit samples to the Warren County Extension Office for soil, plant disease, weed, insect, and plant identification services. Read HERE to find out what is needed for each of these services.

Soil Sample Collections

How to Submit Soil Samples:

  1. Drop your collected soil sample in the drop box located in front of the Warren County Extension Office (WCEO) door entrance.
  2. Contact the office at (270) 842-1681 to give office staff general information related to your soil sample.
  3. Please pay with exact change or check which is $7.00 per soil sample.
  4. Results will be mailed to the client after agents review the soil tests. If you have any questions regarding your soil test recommendations, please contact the WCEO.
Plant Disease Samples

How to Submit Plant Disease Samples:

  1. If you suspect a possible plant disease, please submit a fresh plant sample along with 5 photos of the plant in its environment to the Warren County Extension Office.
  2. Samples may be dropped off at our location at 5162 Russellville Road and placed in the drop box which is located in front of the Warren County Extension Office entrance door.
  3. Pictures should show an overview of the planting or field, close-up photos of the parts affected (foliage, trunk, stem, etc.) as well as include general plant information (age of plant, when was the problem first noticed, what percentage is plants affected, and how the plant has been cared for such as watering, fertilizer application, and etc.)
  4. In the event that we need to mail off a plant sample, plant samples must be sent from Monday through Wednesday to ensure freshness.
  5. If you wish to make an appointment or have questions regarding your plant sample, please contact the Warren County Extension Office at (270) 842-1681 first.
Weed Identification- Field, Garden, and Lawn

Weed Identification Sample:

  1. Email photos of the weed to www.warrencountyextension.com/ and tell us where the weed is located such as garden, landscape, lawn, or agriculture field.
  2. A fresh weed sample may be needed if identification can’t be determined through email. Bring sample and place the sample along with client information in the drop box located in front of the WCEO entrance door.
  3. Contact the WCEO at (270) 842-1681 to notify our staff that you have a sample for identification.   
  4. Please tell us the best way to reach you either via phone or email. Agents will get back to you as soon as possible.
Insect Identification Services

Insect Identification:

  1. Email photos of the insect to www.warrencountyextension.com/ and tell us where the insect is located such as garden, home, landscape, lawn, or agriculture field.
  2. An insect sample may be needed if identification can’t be determined via email. Bring the insect sample along with client information to the Warren County Extension Office located at 5162 Russellville Road and leave in the drop box located in front of the entrance door.
  3. Contact the WCEO at (270) 842-1681 to let our staff know that you have a sample for identification.
  4. Please tell us the best way to reach you either via phone or email. Agents will get back to you as soon as possible.
Identifying Plant Samples

Plant Identification:

  • Drop a fresh plant sample at least 12 inches long or longer to the Warren County Extension Office located at 5162 Russellville Road along with client information and leave in the drop box located in front of the WCEO entrance door.
  • Email photos of the plants to www.warrencountyextension.com/ and tell us where the plant is located such as garden, landscape, lawn, or agriculture field. It helps to have as much information on the plant as possible such as bloom color or shape, when the plant blooms, etc.
  • Contact the WCEO at (270) 842-1681 to let our staff know that you have a sample for identification.
  • Please tell us the best way to reach you either via phone or email. Agents will get back to you as soon as possible.

For questions on how to submit samples for identification, please contact the Warren County Extension Service at (270) 842-1681. Please note if you reside in another county to contact your local Extension office to see the best procedure for handling these services.

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

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:

Be SMART with Gardening Goals!

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.

 

MEASURABLE

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.

 

ACHIEVABLE

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!

 

RELEVANT

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.

 

TIME-SENSITIVE

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!

SMART goals image.PNG

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture Education       

How to Create a Winter Container Garden

Blog- Winter Container Garden7

December is the month for decorating your home for the holidays! Have you thought about how you might decorate the front porch area of your home? Well, good news! I have the perfect recipe for creating front porch flair with a festive winter container garden design! It’s simple, easy to create, and requires a few basic items, so let’s get started!

 

Blog- Winter Container1

Step 1: First, start the design with the container! Since the container is outdoors, make sure the material of the container will be able to withstand the cold winter weather. Stay away from terra cotta that will crack easily. Hard plastic or concrete containers work great. For this winter container garden, we re-used a plastic container that previously held summer annual flowers. Remove any remaining plant debris from inside the container. Make sure to keep the potting soil mixture to help build the base.

 

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Step 2: Next, gather a few basic supplies from around the home. A sharp pair of scissors, sheets of newspaper, and clear tape will come in handy for the next steps in the project.

 

Another important item needed is wet floral foam. Purchase wet floral foam from a local craft store or floral shop. Most of the time, the floral foam is located in the floral department of the store. Make sure that the package does say wet floral foam and not artificial.

 

Step 3: Fill the kitchen sink with cold water. When full, place two blocks of floral foam on top of the water. The water will gradually soak up into the foam like a sponge. Avoid pushing the foam down into the water which causes it to have air bubbles. Allow the floral foam to soak for a few hours.

Blog- Winter Container3

 

Step 4: After soaking the floral foam, start assembling the mechanics of the arrangement. Add a few sheets of newspaper to the container. On top of the newspaper, place the two blocks of wet floral foam. Secure it to the container with clear tape.

 

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Step 5: Go and gather fresh greenery from around the garden and landscape. Pine, cedar, boxwood, heavenly bamboo, holly, magnolia, and spruce are great sources of fresh greens to use in the winter container garden.

Using a mixture and variety of different greens makes for a beautiful winter container garden! Ask a neighbor if you can cut greens from their yard to use, if you have a limited supply.

For this particular arrangement, we used southern magnolia, pine, and heavenly bamboo berries.

Blog- Winter Container5

 

Steps for Designing the Winter Container Garden

  1. A winning container garden contains 3 types of plants: thriller, spiller and filler. The thriller plant makes the eye go up and gives height to the arrangement. So for this design, the black lantern serves as the thriller. Position the lantern in the middle of the container and push down into the foam. Inside the lantern, place an LED flameless candle to provide another touch of light to the outside porch.
  2. To serve as the spiller of the arrangement, place freshly cut pine stems into the floral foam around the bottom of the container. The spiller cascades over the side and softens the edges of the container. Start on the sides first and then go from front to back before filling in between the stems all the way around the bottom. Make sure to cut stems at a diagonal to allow the water to easily transport through the stems.
  3. For the filler, use magnolia leaves. These leaves are big and shiny and give nice contrast with the velvety brown undersides. Check to see that the floral foam is not showing and is covered with greenery.
  4. For the finishing touch, add brightly colored heavenly bamboo berries to provide a nice pop of color and help break up the green. Pinecones make a good additive for nature in the winter container! To brighten up the lantern, use a decorative bow to match the theme and color scheme of the arrangement.
  5. Place the finished winter container outside on the front porch to WOW your guests this holiday season and be proud that you created it yourself!

 

Blog- Winter Container6

For questions about creating a winter container garden, please contact Kristin Hildabrand, Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture, at (270) 842-1681 or Kristin.goodin@uky.edu.

 

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand

Horticulture Extension Agent

For Warren County

Don’t toss those Pumpkins just Yet!

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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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!

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  • 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.

 

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand

Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County

Consider Planting Garlic for the Kentucky Garden

growing great garlic headline

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.

soft neck garlic

Braided soft-neck garlic variety

 

hardneck garlic

Hard-neck garlic variety type

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.

garlic growing

Garlic actively growing in the garden.

For more information about growing garlic, check out these University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service publications:

 

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:

 

Planting Garlic:

 

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand, Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County