Blog Archives

Combating the Spread of Fire Ants  

Source: Joe Collins, Kentucky Deputy State Entomologist 

We know that fire ants have been in the state since 2000. They have typically been an invasive species only in Western Kentucky; however, earlier this year, Kentuckians discovered them in the eastern part of the state. These ants can pose a risk to human, animal and crop health. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t currently list Kentucky as an “invaded” state, you should still know how to prevent, spot, report and treat fire ants in case you do encounter them. 

So far fire ants have been confirmed in southeastern counties like McCreary and Whitley counties along the Tennessee border, but the survey is ongoing to determine the boundaries of the infested area. If you are in or around an area where fire ants have been reported, it is important to report suspected fire ant mounds. Fire ants can spread to new areas of the state through the movement of certain agricultural products. For example, fire ants can infest round bales stored in the field or on the ground, so be wary in purchasing these types of bales. 

Fire ants are known for their mound-like nests. These nests vary in size but can be as large as 18 to 24 inches tall, and the mound has a fluffy soil appearance. You’ll typically find these mounds in open sunny areas on level ground or on a southern facing slope, and you won’t usually find them in wooded areas.

If you suspect fire ants on your property, do not approach the mound as fire ants are very aggressive and may sting if you disturb the mound. To report a mound, contact your local extension agent or submit a report to ReportAPest@uky.edu including a photo or video and address or GPS coordinates of the mound. 

If fire ants are identified on your property, you may use fire ant baits such as Advion, Amdro and Extinguish to eliminate the ants. Read and follow the directions on the product label. Do not use gasoline, diesel or other flammable products as a control tactic. 

For more information about fire ants, contact the Warren County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. 

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.  

Some Early Thoughts On This Fall’s Soil Fertility Management

UK College of Agriculture, Food & Environment Corn & Soybean News (August 2022)

Dr. John Grove, Professor of Agronomy/Soils Research & Extension

SOIL TESTING for the next crop is important this fall. The summer season’s drought, after spring wetness (with compaction issues), is causing lower, more variable, corn and soybean yields. Lower grain yield means lower nutrient removal, but this is not perfectly predictable from a yield monitor. Drought affected grain is usually nutrient rich compared to rainy season grain. More corn acres will be harvested for silage rather than grain and nutrient removal is greater with silage. Soil test ‘problem’ fields/areas identified earlier this season. If you don’t do your own soil sampling, you might want to book sampling services early – this year there are more questions that need samples to inform deci-sion-making.

SOIL ACIDITY hurts root activity – a bigger problem in droughty seasons. Once soil test results are in, take a close look at soil pH. If needed, and if weather permits, lime should always be applied in the fall. Good quality lime takes time to dissolve and cause the carbonates to neutralize soil acidity.

DECIDING WHETHER TO APPLY fall nutrients, especially for corn and soybean, is more difficult this year. The decision generally depends on the target crop (wheat/forages vs. corn/soy); economics/value of fertilizer, time, and equipment; and the soil test value (low values mean higher recommended rates – better nutrient use efficiency when needy soils are fertilized to better match crop demand = spring for summer crops like corn and soybean). Fertilizer prices are lower (except for potash) now, but still high relative to prior years.

WHEAT follows corn in many areas. This year, most wheat will not need fall nitrogen (N). Lower corn yield causes less N removal. Tissue N will be higher in corn residues, giving greater N availability as residues decompose. Many grain producers have fields in forage production. Likely under fertilized this year, these crops/fields may really need some fall fertility to improve stand health, winterhardi-ness, and both forage quality and stand competitiveness with weeds next spring.

A WINTER COVER CROP can contribute. In addition to protecting against soil erosion (especially with less full-season soy residues this year), cover crops cause greater nutrient retention against fall-winter losses. One ton of rye dry matter (good stand, 12 to 18 inches tall) contains about 35 lb N, 45 lb K2O, and 10 lb P2O5. These nutrients won’t all be immediately available with rye termination next spring, but $32(N) + $33(K2O) + $7(P2O5) = $72 worth of nutrients, considering the most recent aver-age retail fertilizer price levels (https://www.dtnpf.com/agriculture/web/ag/crops/article/2022/08/02/summer-slump-retail-fertilizer), are retained.

FALL NUTRIENT SOURCE DECISIONS might also be difficult. This fall, the need for fertilizer N will be significantly lower. Fall application of N, regardless the nutrient source, will be less economical and losses are more likely, given likely greater fall background soil N levels. Nutrient sources containing N and other important nutrients (DAP, 18-46-0; MAP, 11-52-0; poultry litter) are usually priced consid-ering their N content, making them less desirable for fall application to wheat, corn, and soy acres this fall. DAP, 18-46-0, is a popular fertilizer P source and the most recent DTN survey average retail price (the URL just above) was $1005/ton. Urea, 46-0-0, was $836/ton ($0.909/lb N). This means that the 360 lb N in one ton of DAP was worth about $327, and the phosphate value was $678/ton DAP ($0.737/lb P2O5). About a third of the price of DAP is in the value of N it contains – N that is less likely to be needed this fall. You might ask your fertilizer retailer to bring in triple super phosphate (0-46-0) so that you can meet your fall phosphate needs without losing money on unnecessary N.

FERTILIZER PLACEMENT (banding) improves fertilizer P and K use efficiency, relative to broadcast fertilizer. AGR 1 (http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/agr/agr1/agr1.pdf) indicates that in spring, if soil test P and/or K are very low or low, one-third to one-half the recommended rates of P2O5 and/or K2O for corn can be used if it is banded 2 to 4 inches from the row. Relevant research for Kentucky soils is not available, but I’d estimate that precision (GPS guided) banding fall applied P and K would similarly improve their use efficiency relative to fall broadcast P and K. Precision fall banding would likely be superior to spring broadcasting, though not as good as spring banding, as long as corn is planted 2 to 4 inches from the banded P and K. Precision fall placement anticipates precision spring planting.

Feeding of Japanese Beetles on Soybean also Cause Injuries to Blooms

UK College of Agriculture, Food & Environment Corn & Soybean News (August 2022)

Dr. Raul Villanueva, Extension Entomologist

Japanese beetles, Popillia japonica (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) are native to Asia. This species was first detected in the early 1900s in New Jersey, but now occurs throughout many areas of the United States. This is a well-established pest in Kentucky.

Japanese beetles have only one generation per year. Its larval stage lives underground feeding on roots, with adults emerging in early-July through mid-September. The larval form of this carabid is called white grub.

Adult beetles are considered destructive pests of many ornamentals, turf, and landscape plants. In soy-bean fields, it has been observed feeding on leaf tissue between leaf veins; in many cases this feeding leaves a lace-like, skeletonized appearance. Figures 1A and 1B show initial feeding and advanced skele-tonized leaf, respectively. Leaf damage in soybeans can appear severe as leaves can be completely skel-etonized, and many beetles may be found aggregating on plants in a patchy distribution of the field. However, this injury seldom requires control measures.

At this time, I am reporting a not as well-known feeding habit of Japanese beetles in soybeans. I had heard that this insect was causing some damage to soybean blooms in the North Central region of the U.S. While conducting tallies for insects in soybeans, I observed that a couple of beetles were aggregat-ed under the foliage, and they were feeding on the blooms (Figure 2). Injury to soybean blooms may reduce pod development; however, studies to evaluate the impact of this feeding behavior have not yet been conducted. Feeding on flowers or fruit by Japanese beetles is typical for fruits or ornamental plants.

Late Season Weed Escapes

UK College of Agriculture, Food & Environment Corn & Soybean News (August 2022)

Dr. Travis Legleiter, Assistant Extension Professor & Jonathan Green, Extension Professor

Herbicide applications on full season soybean have been wrapped up on most acres for several
weeks now, and double crop applications will be wrapping up soon. Despite most herbicide application
being concluded, there are scattered fields with weeds such as waterhemp and Palmer amaranth poking
through the soybean canopy. Unfortunately, even with the most robust herbicide program a few escapes can occur, especially around field edges, planting skips, wheel tracks, and spots with underdeveloped soybean canopy. The questions that often occur is how to control these late escapes and what efforts are worth the cost to control these escapes.

What can I spray on escapes?
There is often the temptation to spray late season escapes in soybean, especially if escapes occur at
high densities. Although, the majority of postemergence soybean herbicides are not labeled for application either during or past the reproductive stages. Those without a reproductive stage restriction often have a restriction based on timing to harvest, most of which are labeled to be applied
no later than 45 to 70 days prior to harvest. We have already surpassed that date or are quickly approaching that time in most soybean fields. So, to answer the question, in most cases we unfortunately do not have products labeled for applications of herbicides this late in the season in soybean.
A few selected herbicide products that we often receive questions about for late season escapes are
listed in Table 1 along with the growth stage or pre-harvest applications restriction. A complete list
of soybean herbicide application timings can be found on page 100 of the 2022 Weed Control Guide
for Kentucky Grain Crops (AGR-6).

Outside of fact that most herbicide are not labeled to be applied this late in the season, the size of the
weed escapes is the other limiting factor. If you are seeing escapes in soybean at this time of year,
these plants are much too large to effectively control with postemergence herbicides. At best you
may stunt or suppress the escapes, but these plants are very likely to survive applications and potentially produce seed, if they have not already begun seed production. Additionally, within the list of
herbicides in Table 1 that you may still be able to be apply, many are PPO-inhibiting herbicides (i.e.
Cobra, Flexstar, Ultra Blazer, Phoenix). While it may be tempting to try to apply one of these herbicides to control late escapes of Palmer amaranth and waterhemp, it must be noted that many of our
pigweed populations are also resistant to the PPO-herbicides. Even if you do have a PPO-susceptible
population of Palmer amaranth or waterhemp, the plants are too large or mature at this time in the
season to be controlled by these herbicides. These PPO-inhibiting herbicides are only effective on
small pigweeds. Furthermore, some late season applications of PPO type herbicides such as Cobra
and Phoenix can cause severe leaf burn which could slow soybean growth and development as it recovers.


So what can be done on late season escapes of waterhemp and Palmer amaranth?
A primary goal for management of these two troublesome weeds is to reduce or eliminate new seed
production within infested fields. While this does not eliminate the current seed bank or keep seed
from moving into the field in the future, it is a large step in reducing the build of an unmanageable
seed bank.

If only a few escapes are occurring within scattered spots of the field or along the field edges, a few
hours of mechanically pulling plants and removing them from the field can go a long way. If you
choose to pull plants, you must remove the plants from the field as both waterhemp and Palmer
plants can re-root when simply laid back on the ground. Removal of even a couple of plants from a
field can go a long way considering a single plant can produce up to half a million seeds. This applies to plants that are growing just adjacent to your field as well, as these plants are also likely to
contribute to the seed bank within the field. The cooler temperatures that are forecast and ample
soil moisture in most of the state over the coming weeks will make for easier pulling of these plants.

In some cases, though, the number of escapes is too great to justify the labor to pull all the plants. In
these cases, your options really are limited. If the escapes happen to be a few dense pockets across
the field (too many weeds overall to hand pull, but only exist in a couple of areas or clumps within
the field), you may be wise to simple harvest around those pockets in the fall and sacrifice the soybean crop within those areas. Combines are a great source for spreading waterhemp and Palmer
seed. Any time you harvest through a patch of waterhemp or Palmer plants all of the biomass including seed is widely dispersed out the back end of the combine with the chaff, and is likely to be
transported to other fields. Harvesting around those pockets does not prevent the waterhemp and
Palmer seed from entering the seed bank, but it does help keep the weed seed localized to that spot;
whereas, a combine would spread that seed over the remainder of the field and onto others. If you
choose the option of harvesting around these pockets, make sure to note the locations for the coming years to possibly implement a more aggressive weed management program in those areas specifically.

Basic Rules to Follow for the First Spring Mowing  

Many homeowners dust off their mowers and start its engines early in the month of April to mark the first mowing of the spring season! Before taking off, follow a few of these basic rules when mowing to guarantee the best looking turf for the home lawn.  

Make sure that mower blades are sharp. A dull mower blade causes leaf bruising and tearing of the grass which results in a rugged appearance that favors turf diseases. Dull blades even increase fuel consumption and put wear on engine parts. Homeowners can sharpen the blades at a mower repair shop or with a few simple tools from the garage. All mower blades should be sharpened several times during the year.

Set the mower blade at the correct mowing height for the specific grass species that is grown in the home lawn. For a cool season tall fescue lawn, the ideal mowing height is between 2 inches to 3.5 inches tall. See table 1 below for optimum mowing heights recommended for Kentucky lawns according to turf type species being grown. Once the correct mowing height is set, this amount will also determine how often the lawn is mowed. For example, if the lawn is mowed at 3.5 inches, it may require mowing once a week. If the height is lowered, mowing will occur more frequently.

Remember to only remove one third of the leaf blade at one time. For example, if the desired mowing height is 2 inches, the lawn should be mowed when it reaches 3 inches tall. Removing more than one third of the leaf at one time leads to clumping of dead clippings which blocks sunlight to the living grass underneath. This lack of sunlight causes yellowing on the blades to the living grass and can result in plant death.

In spring, while the grass is actively growing, homeowners can lower the recommended mowing height to help remove the dead grass leaves. By removing this debris with low mowing, sunlight can reach the soil surface and encourage earlier growth in the grass. When disease pressure is increasingly higher in the summer, homeowners should raise their mowing heights. If different mowing heights are desired, it is recommended to reduce mowing heights gradually rather than in one mowing.

Table 1: Mowing Heights for Kentucky Lawns

Grass SpeciesOptimum Height (Inches)
Bermudagrass1.0–2.0
Kentucky Bluegrass2.0–3.5
Perennial Ryegrass1.5–2.5
Tall Fescue2.0–3.5
Zoysiagrass1.0–3.0

Kristin G. Hildabrand is the horticulture extension agent in Warren County, Kentucky. She loves helping clients answer horticulture questions and can be reached at kristin.goodin@uky.edu.

Orchid Love in the Home

Orchids are a popular and colorful addition to any home setting. In this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I called up Dr. Rick Durham, Extension Professor and Consumer Horticulture Specialist to have him answer common questions about how to properly care for orchids in the home! To get the full scoop on showing orchid love in the home, stay right here for more on the Sunshine Gardening podcast!

Tell us about some of the common orchid types for the home.

Phalaenopsis – Moth Orchid – Southeast Asia

  • Often considered easiest to grow
  • Epiphytic
  • Require moderate light and good moisture
  • Temperatures of mid 60s night, 70-80 days
  • Flower spikes often produce new buds after flowering
  • May bloom anytime of the year, many flowers
  • Individual flowers last from a few days to a month or more
Moth Orchids

Dendrobium – many resemble Phalaenopsis, Philippines, Australia, East Asia

  • Epiphytic
  • More light than Phalaenopsis
  • Temperature variable, most require nights of 55-60, daytime in 70-80.
  • Somewhat forgiving of dry medium –pseudobulbs, some like a dormancy period
  • Seasonal bloom periods
  • Flowers may last for 6 weeks or more
Dendrobium Orchids

What kind of care is needed to keep orchids happy at home? Tell us more about the cultural requirements needed for orchids such as light, growing media, and humidity.

Light
• Orchids generally need bright, often indirect, light
• Those listed above will grow in the home under proper conditions
• Southeast or south exposure window is best for those needing lots of light: Cattleya, Oncidium, Dendrobium, close to window
• East or west exposure window is best for lower-light species: Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum
• No mid-day sun for any, may benefit from summers outdoors but no direct mid-day sun
• Also – possible to grow orchids under lights

Epiphytes – grow on trees
• Light, airy growing medium
• Tree fern fiber, fir bark, sphagnum peat, vermiculite, redwood fiber, lava rock, mounted on cork
• Pots should have ample drainage
• Pot-in-pot systems may increase humidity around root system, avoid standing water
• Repot every 2-3 years as medium breaks down and plants out grow their pot
• The presence of aerial roots is normal and healthy
• Soft, dark colored roots are a sign of too much water

Humidity
• Many orchid species are native to tropical rain forests
• Home humidity levels can be quite low (both summer
and winter)
• Avoid drafts of forced air (hot and cold)
• Use room humidifier, group plants together, or place plants on pebble-filled trays with water
• Spraying plants with water is less beneficial
• Orchids may benefit from summers outdoors
– protect from mid-day sun
– step up watering and increase fertility

How often should you water orchids? How often should you apply fertilizer?

Watering
• Water often enough so that medium stays moist, brief periods of dryness is ok
• Pots will become light – indication that water is needed
• If water accumulates in saucer or outer pot, pour it out soon after watering
• Ice can be used as a substitute for watering, I prefer to do so only occasionally
• Note pseudobulbs – They should be plump and firm, naturally shrivel with age

Fertilization
• Fertilization is most crucial when new growth is occurring (after flowering)
• Orchids are not heavy feeders
• I fertilize about once a month with a ¼ strength soluble house plant fertilizer
• I generally fertilize more in summer when I also water more

If someone wanted to learn more about orchids, what resources are available?

For more information, check out these resources:
• American Orchid Society, http://www.aos.org
• Wikipedia, http://www.wikipedia.org – search for various types of orchids
• Various on-line forums and web sites including YouTube videos of how to….

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on showing orchid love in the home! A special thank you to Dr. Rick Durham for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

To view the show notes for Episode 21, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture! You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com.

If you enjoy listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I would love if you could take a quick minute of your time to leave a review.

Leaving a review is simple! Just pop open that purple app on your phone, share your biggest takeaway from an episode or what you would like to hear featured in the future!

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

Show Love with a Flower Bouquet Subscription

Show love and support for local flower farmers this month by purchasing a seasonal bouquet subscription! With a seasonal bouquet subscription from a commercial cut flower grower, consumers ensure that their monies go back to the local economy to support farmers and their families.

A bouquet subscription is similar to a CSA which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. With this system, the consumer invests early in the growing season to assist the cut flower farmer with upfront costs such as seeds, soil amendments, and other materials and supplies. In return for the investment, the customer receives beautiful, seasonal, and locally-grown flowers from their fields.

Each bouquet looks different throughout the growing seasons. Spring bouquets are filled with stems of tulips, ranunculus, and poppies. Summer bouquets have stems of bright warm season flowers such as zinnias, sunflowers, celosia, and basil. Fall bouquets contain several other varieties of sunflowers and other fall themed blooms. Since the subscription lasts the entire growing season, they make wonderful gifts for that special someone in your life!  

Every cut flower grower operates their bouquet subscription service a little differently depending on what works best for their farm. Some may offer delivery and others may have a few designated locations on specific days for customers to pick-up. 

In South Central Kentucky, we are fortunate to have several cut flower growers to consider. Below is information about each cut flower grower in the south central Kentucky area and ways to contact them about their bouquet subscription service. 

· Warren County- Davida’s Flowers in Oakland, KY and Starry Fields Farm in Rockfield, KY

· Allen County- The Maple Yard and River Bend Blooms in Scottsville, KY

· Barren County- Thornless Thistle in Glasgow, KY

· Logan County- Old Roots Farm in Russellville, KY

To discover other cut flower farmers in Kentucky, check out this map from the center of crop diversification website. It lists commercial cut flower farms and the services that they offer throughout the state. To check it out, click here: https://uk-horticulture.github.io/KY-Cut-Flowers/

Here is a short video to learn more about flower subscription services as well.

Tornado Relief Fund

KCARD is working with the Kentucky Farm Bureau Education Foundation and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to develop the Kentucky Agriculture Disaster Relief Program. This program will help farmers in Kentucky access needed farm supplies from local farm retailers following the disasters experienced in many areas of Kentucky on December 10 and 11, and on January 1.  Farm retailers in the program will receive funds to offset the costs of such supplies for farmers. 

How does the program work?  The participating retailer will set up an account in their sales system to record sales of eligible supplies to eligible farmers up to $1,500 per farmer.  They will provide records of those sales to the program and receive reimbursement (up to $30,000/store, subject to change) for those sales. 

What supplies are eligible under the program? 

  • Fencing supplies- wire, staples, fence chargers, testers, etc.  
  • T-posts and wooden posts 
  • Tools, such as hammers, rakes, and shovels 
  • Rope and bungee cords 
  • Livestock mineral and mineral feeders 
  • Hay and livestock feed 
  • Work gloves 
  • Chain saws, bar oil, and sharpeners 
  • Hay rings 
  • Gates 
  • Tarps 

What farmers are eligible?  Farmers will have to certify that they have farm property in one of the following counties and experienced farm damage from the storms on December 10 and 11, 2021, and on January 1, 2022:  Barren, Caldwell, Calloway, Christian, Fulton, Graves, Hart, Hickman, Hopkins, Logan, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Taylor, and Warren.  Farmers will sign a form at the retailer and provide their contact information. How do I become a Participating Retailer?  Participating retailers must be located in or near the affected area, be locally owned and operated, have the necessary inventory on hand or be able to secure it, and agree to maintain the necessary records for the program.  If you meet these criteria and are interested in the program, you can contact KCARD staff member, Mattea Mitchell at 270-681-0163 or by email at mmitchell@kcard.info.  Our first priority is to get at least one store in or near affected counties.  Additional stores will be added as funds are available.

What Retailers are currently participating? 

Caldwell County

Akridge Farm Supply & Ace Hardware

55 Wyatt Street, Fredonia, KY 42411

(270) 545-3332

Graves County

Falder’s Farm Home and Industry Supply

1428 Cuba Road, Mayfield, KY 42066

(270) 247-7790

Hart County

Hedgepeth Farm Supply

1406 Hedgepeth Road, Canmer, KY 42722

(270) 528-2133

Hopkins County

Calhoun Feed Service/Southern States

515 Nebo Road, Madisonville, KY 42431

(270) 821-5034

Logan County

Southern States – Russellville Cooperative

209 North Bethel Street, Russellville, KY 42276

(270) 726-7678

Marion County

T&H Feed Service

836 West Main Street, Lebanon, KY 40033

(270) 692-2749

Marshall County

Marshall County Co-op

501 Popular Street, Benton, KY 42025

(270) 527-1323

Taylor County

Arnold’s Feed and Seed

599 Arnold Road, Campbellsville, KY 42718

(270) 465-3659

Warren County

Southern States – Bowling Green Cooperative

640 Plum Springs Loop, Bowling Green, KY 42101

(270) 843-1146

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!