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Planting Peonies in the Garden

Peonies make a beautiful addition to the home garden and landscape! In Kentucky, peony blooms appear in spring around the month of May and their flowers have a richness unlike any other. Peonies 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. The fall season is the perfect time for plant peonies in your home landscape. To get the full scoop on tips for planting peonies in the garden, make sure to stay right here for Episode 19 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

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.  

To hear more about planting peonies in the garden, make sure to check out the full episode on The Sunshine Gardening Podcast with host Kristin Hildabrand!

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on planting peonies in the garden! A big thank you to Dennis Morgeson for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To view the show notes for Episode 19, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture! You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com.

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

Tips for the Best Pumpkin

There is no better symbol for the month of October than the pumpkin! While pumpkins are widely used throughout the fall season to decorate the home, many people associate them with Halloween. Nowadays, pumpkins have expanded from the traditional orange Jack o Lantern pumpkin into a wide variety of shapes and colors. To find out more about pumpkins, I called up my good friend and co-worker Metcalfe County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources Brandon Bell. While talking to him, I discovered tips for picking the best pumpkin and how to properly store them at home. What I didn’t expect to learn was the better and more efficient way for carving my Jack o’ lantern! To find out this secret to carving pumpkins this season, make sure to stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!



There are a lot of different varieties of pumpkins that are available to the public to purchase. Tell us about some of those varieties and what trends you might have noticed with some of those varieties.

  • Pink Pumpkin. The first pick pumpkin developed was called a ‘Porcelain Doll’. Growers had to sign a contract to give some of their proceeds back to breast cancer awareness.
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Large White Pumpkins
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red
Various Pumpkin Varieties

A lot of these pumpkin varieties that you can find in these colors are stackable pumpkins, especially the orange and burnt orange and red Cinderella pumpkins. Most retailers will sell you a stack of pumpkins.

Cinderella pumpkins were the original stacker pumpkin, and then later they started incorporating other colors.

Looking for texture? Warty pumpkins and peanut pumpkins offer some unique shapes on the outside of the pumpkin.


How should you select the best pumpkin? What things should we look for to buy a good pumpkin?

Stackables pumpkins- get pumpkins that match each other. the flatter they are they better, Cinderella on bottom

Jack o’ lantern is shape, and will sit up on its own. Hard texture as far as the rind. Make sure that it is hardened off. Firm, stout green stems. Avoid shriveled up and soft stem. Pick up the pumpkins by the bottom rather than from the stem. Look for an overall good shape and color.

Earlier in the season, the stems are still green. A good stem means a lot. A bad stem will cause decay to form earlier.


As far as helping these pumpkins last during the season, what things can we do to encourage a longer lasting pumpkin? OR are there things that we don’t want to do.

Wait as late as possible to carve the pumpkins. Keep them under cool, dry and shady spot. Keep them out of direct sun.

Clean the pumpkin with a 10 percent bleach solution to help them last longer.


What is the best way to carve a Jack o’ lantern pumpkin?

Anytime that you expose the internal flesh of a pumpkin, it will start to decay. I have learned over the years with Jack o’ lantern pumpkins is to not cut the top off of it. It is actually better to cut it from the bottom of the pumpkin. Whenever the pumpkin starts to decay, it easily moves down the pumpkin. Cut the part from the bottom. It makes it harder for decay to move up from the bottom.


Do you have a favorite pumpkin? 

Old fashioned field pumpkin called ‘Autumn Buckskin’. People would refer to them as the cow pumpkin. Years ago, farmers would plant corn and mix pumpkin seed in with their corn for a companion crop. They would harvest their corn by hand and then also load the pumpkins on a wagon. Then, they would bust the pumpkin up and feed it to the cattle. Once the cattle acquire the taste of pumpkin, they will eat the entire pumpkin. It is basically the same pumpkin that you would find in a can of Libby’s pumpkin. Libby’s produces 85% of the US canned pumpkin.   


I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on tips for the best pumpkin. Thank you to Brandon Bell for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To view the show notes for Episode 18, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com. Thanks for listening gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!


Emerald Ash Borer Damage

Emerald Ash borer was discovered in Warren County, Kentucky back in July of this year 2021. Since Emerald Ash Borer was found in Kentucky in 2009, it has progressively spread throughout the state and destroyed several of our prized ash trees. The damage caused from Emerald Ash borer feeding brings on a lot of questions from Kentucky homeowners on: What control options are available? What trees can be replanted after the ash trees decline? These questions are all going to be answered in episode 17 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! In this episode, I chat with University of Kentucky Forestry Health Extension Specialist Dr. Ellen Crocker to ask specifically what options are available for Kentucky residents. To listen to the full episode, make sure to stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

Tell us more about the emerald ash borer and what damage it causes to Ash trees in Kentucky.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive insect from Asia. It is actually a beetle. Our ash trees do not have a good defense mechanism to them. It can rapidly kill ash trees.

Since it was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and since that time, it has swept through the country. It has killed millions of ash trees. Just this past year, especially in Western Kentucky there have been several new sightings. Larvae tunnel and kill the vascular tissue of the tree. Most homeowners will miss the insect damage. Less healthy tree? Missing part of the tree? Lots of damage done from the feeding. “D” shaped exit holes are found on the outside edge of the tree due to the shape of the abdomen.

In Kentucky, we have several varieties of ash. White and green ash trees are the most damaged. The blue ash have more natural resistance to it.


What homeowner options are available to help control this invasive insect pest?

Ask yourself “do you have ash trees on your property?”

You can apply yourself or contact a certified arborist in your area to apply the insecticide. There are several insecticides sold for control of emerald ash borer. Soil drench with imidacloprid to treat annually. Make sure to follow the label directions. Application amount is based on how big the trunk diameter is in size.  Treat annually with imidacloprid.

Certified arborists are paid professionals through the International Society for Arboriculture (ISA).

A few other things to consider about treating trees for EAB. Look at it as a protective insecticide application. The insecticide are systemic insecticides. So it may or may not be effective. Prioritize the trees that you want to save. Consider the costs associated with them. Time treatment according to the timing of the emerald ash borer.


What challenges does that bring to the woodlands or in the landscape?

Ash trees deteriorate rapidly. However, it doesn’t hurt the wood. Unfortunately, when they start to go downhill, they break apart. Other things start to happen when the tree can’t defend itself anymore. Ash are pretty hazardous to work with. Harvest your ash trees and offset the costs. In some properties, it can be 20-30 percent. Reach out to foresters in your local area. Consulting foresters will help you with making decisions.


Can you recommend other trees for replacing damaged ash trees?

Learn from the elm tree story. Replace with more than one species of tree. I recommend planting with a diversity of tree species. Consider a diversity of native species. We have an abundance of native plant species in the United States. Kentucky has over 100 native tree species. Pick the right tree for the right site. There is more than one choice. Take note of how wet the area and the soil type. Do you power lines overhead? Maybe you can choose something smaller. Looking for ideas? Visit a local garden or arboretum to get ideas.

A few of Dr. Ellen’s favorite trees:

Large shade trees: Oak species. Good shape. Good for wildlife.

Great fall color? Black Gum is an underused tree that has good fall color.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Black-Gum

Statement piece for winter?

  • Kentucky coffee tree.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Kentucky-Coffeetree

  • Catalpa tree.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Northern-Catalpa

Smaller trees? Yellow wood. Serviceberry.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Yellowwood

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Downy-Serviceberry

Laurie Thomas, Extension Forester with UK Forestry and Natural Resources spotlights a Native Tree of the Week during From the Woods Today program. To find out more information, go to https://anr.ca.uky.edu/tree-week-0.

KY Invasive Plant Council- native alternates to invasive plants

If someone wanted to learn more about emerald ash borer, what resource or website would be good for them to visit?

University of Kentucky Extension Entomology’s Department for Emerald Ash Borer: https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/entfact/kentucky-emerald-ash-borer-eab-resources-updates

Purdue University Emerald Ash Borer Cost Calculator: https://int.entm.purdue.edu/ext/treecomputer/


I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on the Emerald Ash Borer and the damage it can cause. A special thank you to Dr. Ellen Crocker for providing her expertise and being a guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

If you would like to see the show notes from Episode 17, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com. Thanks for listeners gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Caring for Fall Mums in the Garden

Welcome to Episode 16 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Thanks for joining me for this episode and I am your host Kristin Hildabrand, Warren County’s Extension Agent for Horticulture. I don’t know if you have been out and about lately but have you all noticed the bright and beautiful mum displays right now!? Mum is definitely the main flower that is in season and to be honest, it is the ray of sunshine in my life! I’ve been amazed at all the colors of mums being offered. One grower that I follow on Facebook, she offered a variety called ‘Darling Pink’ and another one called ‘Strawberry Ice’ mum. Both were absolutely gorgeous!

So, it is officially after Labor Day and home gardeners are planting gorgeous fall mums in their garden and landscape. Have you ever wondered what it takes to help these blooms last? Well, wonder no more because today, I am sharing 5 tips for caring for fall mums in the garden. These tips will help the mums last longer during the season and help them overwinter and come back for next year!


Tip #1: Select mums with more buds than flowers.

When selecting a mum to take home, choose a plant that has several tight buds on it. Over time, the buds will slowly open and help make the flowers last longer. Those buds that haven’t opened will last longer on your deck, patio, porch, or yard.

If you are looking for an instant pop of color to help dress up an outdoor event, go ahead and purchase mums with several flowers in bloom.


Tip #2: Choose the best location.

When choosing an ideal location for growing mums, select a site that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. Avoid garden spots that receive less than the recommended amount of sunlight hours, since it will dull the vivid blooms.

The next thing to remember about proper site selection for garden mums is to situate them in moist, well-drained soil. Mums are prone to getting root rot issues, so a well-drained soil helps in draining water around the root system. If your soil is less than ideal, incorporate 2 to 3 inches of organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. By adding organic material, you are helping the soil drain better and improving nutrient holding capacity.


Tip #3: Plant mums in the ground early.

If your goal is to overwinter mums to get them to come back next year, it is crucial to get the ground prepared and plant as soon as possible. The other important part to this tip is that you need to make sure that the mums don’t have any blooms at time of planting. By planting mums with more buds and planting them early, this allows the root system plenty of time to get established in the soil.

Make sure to plant mums at the same depth that they were growing in their original container. I recommend digging the planting hole first and then adding the mum still in the container to the planting hole. This specific planting procedure allows you to be a better judge of how much more depth or width is needed. Once the planting hole passes inspection, take the mum out of the container and plant into the hole. Avoid adding any fertilizer at this time. If planting more than one mum, space plants 18 to 24 inches apart.


Tip #4: Apply water and mulch.

After planting, water in the mums by targeting the stream of water right at the base of the plant. Avoid splashing the foliage which can lead to foliar diseases. It is best to practice morning watering routines rather than late afternoon watering. The morning watering routine allows plenty of time for the plant to dry off before night-time arrives.

Apply 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch such as woodchips, shredded bark, chopped leaves, or compost to help conserve soil moisture. This step is also important for overwintering since it will help protect the plant’s root system from extreme cold temperatures in the winter.


Tip #5: Pinch when needed.

Lastly, most garden mums will benefit from pinching the plants 2 to 3 times in spring and early summer. Pinching produces a more compact bushier appearance with additional flowers. Pinch back plants when new shoots are 6 inches tall by using pruning shearers or hedge clippers. After pinching, new lateral shoots will begin to develop along the stems. Repeat this same process again when the new shoots reach 6 inches and continue pinching until early July.


I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today about caring for fall mums in the garden! To see the show notes from Episode 16, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. You can find us at http://www.warrencountyagriculture.com. In the show notes, I have also posted the link to our quick 5 minute on fall mum care if you want to check it out!

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! As always gardeners, keep on digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!


References:

Be on the Lookout for Late Season Stinging Insects!

As we head towards Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer, people are noticing some our different species of stinging insects. The inquiries we have received have all focused on these insects being Asian giant hornets (aka the “murder hornet”), an insect not known to occur in the state. Thus far, that species has only been found in the Pacific Northwest.

What we do have in Kentucky are things like yellowjackets, paper wasps, and European hornets. Some of these are aggressive in their own right, and others do resemble the Asian giant hornet. Here are some tips on identification and advice on managing these insects, if necessary.





Yellowjackets

Yellowjackets are some of the most encountered stinging pests. These bright yellow and black-colored wasps are usually around a half inch long. The workers of a colony are the ones we encounter most often. In the earlier part of summer there are fewer workers, and they are on the hunt for meat, which they can obtain as prey items such as caterpillars or as scavenged material from garbage and roadkill.

Yellowjackets build papery, football shaped nests in the soil or in shrubs and occasionally trees. These nests expand over the course of the summer and by the end of the growing season can commonly contain thousands of workers. The workers switch from looking for protein to looking for more sugary materials. This means fruit, pop, fruit juices, and frozen treats. These workers and the original queen will all die when winter sets in though. Only new queens produced by the original will go into the next season to produce the next round of nests. The switch in diet and need to protect the new queens can mean more encounters with humans and an increased defensive nature when nests are discovered.





Paper Wasps

There are several paper wasp species that can be encountered. They tend to be 1/2 to 3/4 inch long and have smoky-colored wings that you can’t quite see through. Some species are brownish, others red, with some being black and yellow. One of the more common species, the European paper wasp, has coloration that looks very similar to a yellowjacket except their antennae are orange at the tips.

Paper wasps get their name for building umbrella-shaped nests that are constructed out of paper they make by chewing wood scrapings into a pulp. These nests are often found on trees, shrubs, eaves of homes, rafters, railings, and other semi-protected areas. Paper wasp nests don’t get as large as other stinging pests and as a group they tend to be less defensive of the nest than things like yellowjackets. They will sting though, and it can be quite painful. The nest is annual and the insects will die out by fall, with new queens produced overwintering to found their own nest the next season.





European Hornets

This species is the one that has been most confused for the Asian giant hornet. They are also a non-native species, but are slightly less famous than their larger cousins from Asia. Workers of this species are around an inch long, with queens reaching 1 1/2 inches in length. They have a pattern on their abdomen that resembles a yellowjacket’s and is also black and yellow. Their thorax and head are a mix of yellow with patches of dark red, which helps to differentiate them from the Asian giant hornet as well.

They build large paper nests that they will defend by stinging. These large insects are predators; they will consume almost anything they can catch and will eat honey bees (though not quite as aggressively as the Asian giant hornet). They are also known to steal prey from spider webs to eat for themselves. One other interesting feeding habit they demonstrate, in the fall, the workers will girdle tree branches and small trunks and then drink up the sugary material that leaks out.

Management of Stinging Insects

If folks are dealing with a nest of stinging insects, they should consider contacting a professional to help them eliminate the problem. Of course, that might not be feasible for some, so it is important to note the ways that these pests can controlled by homeowners on their own.

First and foremost, they will need to discover the entrance to the nest. Treating individual workers will not eliminate the problem.

Once the nest or entrance has been discovered, an aerosol wasp and hornet product (examples include Raid and Spectracide Wasp and Hornet) can be applied into and onto the nest. These are quick acting products, often needing just seconds to eliminate the nest. The application should be done at dusk or after dark to maximize control and minimize the chances of being stung. The person making the application should also have an escape route planned in advance and a place of safety to retreat to, just in case.





By Jonathan L. Larson, Entomology Extension Specialist

Garden Spiders in Kentucky

If you have walked through the garden lately, you may have noticed several spiders. Now for some people, the thought of a spider makes them want to jump out of their shoes! But interestingly enough, spiders play an important role in a healthy ecosystem and there are benefits to having them in the garden. To help explain more about spiders, I called up Dr. Ric Bessin, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist to discuss more about the specific types of spiders found in Kentucky. I was amazed to learn about all the different types of spiders and the benefits that they can offer in our environment! So, make sure to stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast to hear the full interview!  

Introduction

  • Spiders are known as “arachnids,” and they all have 8 legs, 2 body parts (cephalothorax and abdomen), and no antennae.  
  • Arachnids also have fang-like mouthparts called “chelicerae” which insects do not have.  Insects and arachnids both belong to the same Phylum (Arthropoda), but insects are not arachnids, and arachnids are not insects.
  • Spiders can be distinguished from other arachnids in Kentucky by the connection between the abdomen and the cephalothorax.  In spiders, the connection between the cephalothorax and the abdomen is a narrow stalk.  In other Kentucky arachnids, the connection between the two body regions is broad, so that the distinction between the cephalothorax and abdomen is not obvious.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

There are many different types of spiders found in Kentucky. Here are a few types mentioned in this podcast episode.

Types of Spiders

Wolf spiders

Size: Wolf spiders range in size from tiny (the size of a pencil eraser) to about the size of a U.S. silver dollar, with legs outstretched 
Color: There are many species of wolf spiders in Kentucky, but most are dark or light brown, usually with contrasting spots or stripes. 
Features: Wolf spiders are fast-moving and they are typically seen running on the ground. They are not web builders. 
Notes: Wolf spiders often wander into homes. Because they are brown in color, wolf spiders are often mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of wolf spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals. Wolf spiders are among the most common kinds of spiders in Kentucky.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Funnel web/grass web spiders

Size: About the size of a U.S. quarter, with legs outstretched.
Color: Brown with prominent longitudinal gray or tan stripes. 
Features: Prominent hind spinnerets: these are two, small, finger-like projections on the end of the grass spider’s abdomen (used to spin the web). Many other spiders have spinnerets, but they are very large and distinctive in grass spiders. 
Notes: Grass spiders are very common in Kentucky lawns where they build large, funnel-shaped webs. They also occasionally wander into homes. Because they are brown and of a similar size, grass spiders are often mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, though, the bites of grass spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals.

(Newton, Townsend, 2010)

Fishing spiders

Size: A little larger than a U.S. silver dollar, with legs outstretched.
Color: Brown with contrasting, darker brown patterns. 
Features: Very large brown spiders; sometimes seen running on the ground or sitting motionless on tree trunks. 
Notes: Fishing spiders are common near streams and wooded areas in Kentucky, and they sometimes wander into nearby homes. They are among the largest spiders in our state, but they are not considered dangerous. Like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of fishing spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals. They are sometimes mistaken for brown recluse spiders, but adult brown recluses are smaller and lack the fishing spider’s distinct dark brown patterning.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Jumping spiders

Size: Typical jumping spiders are about the size of a U.S. dime, with legs outstretched. 
Color: There are many species of jumping spiders in Kentucky. Many are gray or black, while some are vividly colored. 
Features: Jumping spiders have distinctive, large eyes and a “flat faced” look. They are characterized by quick, herky-jerky motions and they do not build webs. 
Notes: Jumping spiders are common on the outsides of homes and buildings and they often wander into homes. Because some are brown in color, jumping spiders are sometimes mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, though, the bites of jumping spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals.

(Newton, Townsend, 2010)

Crab spiders

Size: Typical crab spiders are about the size of a U.S. nickel, with legs outstretched. 
Color: There are many species of crab spiders in Kentucky. Some are brown or tan, but most common species are bright white or vivid “neon” green or yellow. 
Features: Crab spiders are low and flat and their front two pairs of legs are very long. Crab spiders are not web builders. 
Notes: Crab spiders are very common in Kentucky flowers (where they hunt for bees), but they sometimes wander into homes. Because some crab spiders are brown in color, they are occasionally mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of crab spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Orb web spiders

Size: Orb weavers range in size from tiny (the size of a pencil eraser) to a little larger than a U.S. silver dollar, with legs outstretched. 
Color: There are many species of orb-weaver spiders in Kentucky. Some are solid tan or brown, while others are colorful with vivid patterns. 
Features: Orb weavers are distinguished by their webs: no other common Kentucky spiders make organized, circular, grid-like webs. Orb weavers are almost always encountered inside their webs. 
Notes: Orb weavers are commonly found on porches and gardens in Kentucky, especially in late summer. Occasionally, they will wander into a home and build a web in a doorway or windowsill. Some orb weavers are very large, but, like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of orb weavers are harmless except to allergic individuals. The Yellow-and-black Argiope (pictured below, top left), one of the largest spiders in Kentucky, is a type of orb weaver.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Harmful Spiders

There are two Kentucky spiders that can cause harm to humans: the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider. Tan to dark brown, a brown recluse’s abdomen and legs are uniformly colored with no stripes, bands, or mottling. The legs are long and thin and lack conspicuous spines. They have a dark violin-shaped mark on their back, with the neck of the violin pointing toward the rear of the spider. This feature is consistent in adult brown recluses, but is less obvious in younger spiders.

Their bites are serious and require immediate medical attention, but brown recluses are timid and unlikely to bite unless handled. These spiders are common in all areas of Kentucky. They tend to occur in hidden locations indoors and outdoors, such as piles of cardboard or paper, stacks of cut wood and wall-voids of buildings.

Black widow spiders are also common throughout the state. The female black widow is about a half-inch long and is glossy black with a variable number of red markings on the top and/or bottom of her abdomen. Adult males smaller and are similar in color, but with a few added white markings. Juveniles are highly variable. Their bites are very serious and require immediate medical attention, but the spider is timid and unlikely to bite unless handled. They tend to hide out in concealed outdoor locations such as piles of rocks or firewood and dark corners of garages and out-buildings. Females are common; males are very rarely encountered.

If interested in learning more information about spiders found in Kentucky, check out the Critter files that are posted on the University of Kentucky Extension website. Find the link to these files posted below in the references section. Field guides can also be a useful tool to keep on hand.

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today with Dr. Ric Bessin on Garden Spiders in Kentucky! A big thank you to Dr. Ric Bessin for being our guest!

Dr. Ric Bessin, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! As always gardeners, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

References:

Newton, B. & Townsend, L. (2010, January). Urban spider chart. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/spider-chart#widow.

Bessin, R. & Newton, B. (2016, May 18). Kentucky Critter Files. University of Kentucky Department of Entomology. http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CritterFiles/casefile/casefile.htm.  

Flies and Pink Eye a Problem Again This Summer

By Ric Bessin and Jonathan L. Larson; UK Entomology Extension Specialists

Face flies are annoying pests for cattle that can impact the animal’s welfare by just constantly molesting the eyes of our animals. These flies are looking to feed on tears but will also feed on saliva, blood, and nasal discharges. They do this by using their unique mouthparts, which resemble sponges and help them consume their liquid foods. Recently, county Extension agents informed us that they have received a large influx of questions regarding the connection between these pests and their transmission of pink eye.

Identification & Life cycle

Face flies look very similar to house flies in shape and coloration but are slightly larger than their close relative. They are dark grey with four black stripes that run down their back. As with a lot of flies, the maggots develop in fecal material. Specifically, face fly maggots develop in freshly deposited cattle manure. The maggots will hatch from eggs and then go through four stages of development over 15 to 25 days, depending on the weather. During the summer, face flies are not often found in structures, but the adults do overwinter in barns or attics and will become active again in the spring to start the next generation of flies.

Figure 1: Face flies are in the same genus as house flies and look very similar to that species. They are slightly larger in comparison and are less common in structures in the summer. Adults can be found resting on plants and fences when not on animals. (Photo: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org)

Pink Eye Transmission

High numbers of face flies are associated with higher rates of pink eye issues. The feeding style of the flies causes more avenues of introduction by scratching the eyes, and the flies have been demonstrated to carry the causative agent of pink eye as well. Some estimates put the cost of pink eye in cattle at about $150 million annually.

Figure 2: Face flies feed on tears they induce from the eyes of cattle. The feeding style of the flies leads to irritation and can open the eyes up to infection by pathogens, in particular pink eye. (Photo: Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org)

Management Must Be Multifaceted

Fly control is essential, but can be difficult as face flies are only on the animal for a small percentage of the time. Therefore, addressing the egg and larval stages of the fly, as well as the adults, is most effective. A moderate to heavy fly infestation is when there are 10 to 20 flies per animal during the middle of the day. A single fly-control program will not work on every farm, so it often takes multiple tactics of control to achieve good results.

Fly tags (mid- to late May, through mid-September-October)(one ear tag or session or two sessions; be sure to use the number of tags required by the manufacturer), insecticide pour-ons, back rubbers (no 2 diesel), dust bags and knock-down sprays (Bachpack or ATV) are helpful in reducing the number of adult face flies on your animals. Fly traps in barns can also be helpful in reducing the number of flies. Feed additives with insect growth regulators are available that target the maggots that are laid in the manure. Encouraging dung beetles, which break down the manure pat, will also decrease egg survival.

Face flies can develop resistance to pesticides over time, so switching the drug mode of action of pesticides used every year is important. For example, if pyrethrins are used one year, then organophosphates should be used the following year. Waiting until the start of fly season to apply fly tags and removing the old fly tags in the fall also decreases the development of resistance. It is also extremely important to follow the safety precautions recommended by the manufacturer, as these insecticides can be toxic to people if handled improperly.

Appropriate grazing, along with clipping pastures will prevent seed-head development, reducing the irritation to the eyes of cattle, as well as reducing the resting areas for the flies. Clipping pastures to a low stubble height in May just after the seed heads emerge and again in mid-summer when weeds appear is recommended. Shaded areas need to be available to decrease the ultraviolet (UV) exposure and, in Herefords, breeding for pigmented eyelids has been successful, as this is a heritable trait. A good management program, including an appropriate vaccination program [especially infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and bovine viral diarrhea (BVD)] and having good quality nutrition and minerals available at all times, will improve the overall condition of the cattle and decrease the incidence of this disease. Overhead hay feeders should be lowered and round bales should be rolled out. Ensuring adequate bunk space will decrease direct contact between the animals. Animals that develop pinkeye should be isolated if possible.

Creating Winter Interest in the Garden

Winter time is the perfect time to plan for the garden. Have you ever thought about plants that would be best for creating winter interest? These plants provide beautiful winter interest through exfoliating bark, unique foliage, and interesting berries, fruits, and even cones. In this episode, I am chatting with Dr. Win Dunwell, University of Kentucky Extension Horticulture Specialist who’s area of specialization is Nursery and Landscape. In our chat, he recommends several winter hardy plants that would make ideal candidates for providing winter interest in Kentucky’s garden and landscape. To listen to the full episode, stay with me right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

Plants with Winter Features:

Ilex species Winter Red Ilex verticillate- still one of the best

Aronia arbutifolia Brilliantissima

Hammamelis virginiana Sunglow

Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’ / Dragon’s Eye Japanese red pine.

Remontant azaleas – Autumn Royalty

Tulip tree the left over seeds heads after seed has blown away look like little candelabras can be cut for table settings

Edgeworthia chrysantia zone 7 blooms over long period white creamy fragrant blooms on bare coarse stems.

Barks – lighting trunks

Persimmon bark dark blocks Host plant to Luna Moth

Sycamore London Plane tree cultivars look great in the winter back yard with trunk lighting

Stewartia pseudocamellia

Hardy Camellias

Leave perennials and grasses foliage and seed heads

Rhodea japonica green leaves and fruit (later than Jack in the pulpit or Green Dragon)

Hellebores I have SunShine Selections from Barry Glick’s Sunshine Farm and Gardens in West VA

Yucca Color Guard

Pachysandra procumbens

Lycoris radiata foliage

Arbovitaes turn brown but Eastern Red Cedar cultivars like Greenpoint and Taylor along with Juniperus chinesis Trautman

Snowdrops

Rose Hips Rosa rugosa, Carefree series, even Knockouts

Tips for hips:

Select roses with single, semi-double, or otherwise cupped-bloom form.

Stop pruning around September 1st.

Provide adequate irrigation with good drainage.

Encourage pollinators, like bees and other insects, to visit your roses by creating a naturalized edge or hedgerow.

Allow blossoms to fade and fall off of the plant naturally.

Uses for hips:

Clip single or clusters of rose hips and use in floral arrangements, wreaths, and holiday garland.

Wash, remove stems and coarsely chop for use in recipes to make jams, jellies, juices, and more. (Never use rose petals or hips sprayed with chemicals in any food product.)

https://www.heirloomroses.com/info/care/roses/roses-with-hips/

Walk in the woods the leaves of spring flowering native orchids are showy on the brown leaves of the trees leaves especially the one with green top and purple underside to the leaf, Tipularia discolor, Cranefly orchid, Aplectrum hyemale, Putty-root.  The leaves are more showy than the flower stalks.  Once you have seen the leaves and flowers you will find them very common to the area where they occur.

Early spring

Pachysandra

Cornus mas and C. officinales bloom Feb-March

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today over Creating Winter Interest in the Garden! To view the show notes for Episode 14, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture.

A big thank you to Dr. Win Dunwell for being our guest!

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

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

Winter Lawn Care Practices

It is safe to say that the lawn is no longer actively growing and is in for a long winter’s nap! Even though the lawn is considered dormant, it is important to practice caution with the winter lawn to avoid any setbacks for the upcoming season!

One major area of concern for winter lawns is the physical damage to it. Foot traffic and parking cars on winter lawns should be avoided to prevent further harm to the turf crowns. Leaves should also be removed and mulched to avoid any shading to the lawn.

Be aware and select de-icing materials that will not be harmful to the home landscape and turf. Rocks salts, calcium acetate, magnesium and potassium chloride, and urea are all harmful to turf, trees and shrubs! It is best to avoid these products, but if it can’t be helped, make sure to follow these basic guidelines:

  • Shovel ice and snow away as soon as possible and continue to exercise this routine frequently throughout the winter. Smaller amounts of de-icing material are less likely to wreak havoc to turf and nearby landscape plants.
  • Use deicers sparingly and never exceed the rate listed on the label.
  • Urea containing deicers should be avoided. They are said to be ineffective at lower temperatures, and the runoff sends excess nitrogen into the water supply.

For more information, make sure to contact your local Extension Office in your area.

Create a Winter Container Garden

The holidays are literally right around the corner! Have you gotten all your decorating done? You may have answered yes to that question, but have you thought about the outdoor decorations? Have you ever heard of a winter container garden? Yes! You can create a container garden in the winter time. To find out just how to create a winter container garden, stay with me on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast for my secrets on creating a gorgeous winter container garden for this holiday season! 

Remember that pretty container filled with annual flowers that was used all summer and maybe even to fall if you weren’t too tired? Well, the same container can be re-worked and situated in your home’s entryway to welcome close family and friends in for the holidays!

To begin creating a winter container garden, use a hard plastic or wood container that can withstand the harsh winter elements filled with potting soil mix. Make sure the potting soil is a little below the top rim of the container. If not, add more potting soil or use newspaper to bring it closer to the top.

Next, collect clippings from different landscape trees and shrubs growing around your home or neighborhood. Examples of greenery might include southern magnolia, white pine, Eastern red cedar, holly, heavenly bamboo, spruce, boxwood, and Eastern hemlock. Cut varying lengths of greenery when gathering samples. The thought is to use the longer pieces to “spill” out of the arrangement and the shorter pieces to “fill” in around the spiller plants.

Kentucky’s landscape is filled with different varieties of evergreen trees and shrubs that can be cut and used as fresh greenery in a number of holiday decorations for the home! Take a look around your yard to see what greens are available in your neighborhood.

  • White Pine, scientifically known as Pinus strobus, offers a blue green color to arrangements and provides a nice fragrance when situated in the home. Not to mention, it has excellent needle retention.
  • Another readily available greenery item is Eastern Redcedar, Juniperus virginiana, which possesses fleshy blue berries for good color and smells wonderful when brought indoors.
  • Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, a favorite among Southerners has glossy, dark green leaves with velvety, brown undersides that give an interesting contrast when placed against other leaf textures.
  • Holly is another traditional holiday green that adds interest depending on the variety that is being used. Some leaves give a blue color while other holly varieties can be variegated. If looking for berries, make sure to collect from the female plant.
  • Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga Canadensis, is one of my favorites to use around the holidays for decorating. This evergreen gives a lacey effect to fresh arrangements. The leaves are flat and the undersides have more of a white appearance on the undersides. At the ends, find small pinecones that look like little ornaments attached.
  • Other types of greenery such as Colorado Blue Spruce, and Boxwood are acceptable, too.

Things to know before cutting. Make sure to use clean, sharp cutters and cut at an angle for better transport of water and nutrients. Before cutting greenery from trees in the landscape, carefully consider which branches need to be cut. It is best to distribute cuts evenly throughout the tree or shrub to preserve its natural form.

The tips to know to ensure freshness! After cutting the greenery, immerse stems into a bucket filled with water and soak it overnight to maximize moisture. An optional step would be to allow the greenery to dry and then spray it with an anti-transpirant such as Wilt-pruf to help seal in additional moisture. However if you are using blue spruce, juniper berries, or cedar avoid using anti-transpirants, since this product can damage the wax coating that gives the plants their unique color.  

Now comes for the fun part—creating the winter container garden! Here are some items that you will need before you begin the process.

Gather up a round tomato cage and turn it upside down where the wire stakes are pointed up. The round part of the tomato cage should be positioned on the bottom with the 4 prongs facing upward to look similar to a Christmas tree. This piece will serve as the thriller in this arrangement and also give the container some height.

For some added cheer, attach Christmas lights to the tomato cage using floral wire. Use a spiral pattern when adding the lights to the tomato cage, or if you prefer more lights, place strands on each wire of the tomato cage. Don’t forget to place the plug-in towards the back of the container and next to a plug-in.

After getting the lights attached, put a block of green floral foam in a sink filled with room temperature water. The floral foam will support the greenery in place and keep it fresh by holding in moisture. Avoid forcing it down in the water where air bubbles form and allow the water to slowly soak into the block like a sponge and sink to the bottom. Floral foam can be purchased at most big box stores or at your favorite craft and floral supply store.

Place the block of wet floral foam in the middle of the container, and put the round base of the tomato cage over the foam. Next, take a roll of clear tape and secure the sides of the cage and floral foam to the container to keep it from falling over.

Cut stems of greenery at an angle and insert them into the wet floral foam. Start on the sides, then the front, and back of the arrangement, so the greenery appears as if it is cascading over the sides of the container. Add smaller pieces of greenery to fill in around the spiller until the foam is no longer visible.

After the greens are placed, for the finishing touch, incorporate natural elements like red berries, magnolia pods, or pine cones for a creative personal touch. Place your arrangement near the entrance of your home and watch how it glows with glamour from top to bottom! Guests will enjoy viewing these fresh arrangements around the holidays, and you will appreciate it more, knowing that you created it yourself using natural materials from around Kentucky’s landscape!

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, https://warrencountyagriculture.com/

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.