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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!

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Happy Gardening!

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

How to Create a Winter Container Garden

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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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

Plant Peonies this Fall and Enjoy Perfect Blooms in the Garden

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

Types & Cultivars:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Red Charm

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

 

 

Sara Bernhardt

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bartzella Peony

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

 

Cora Louise

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

 

'Misaka'

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Happy Gardening!

Kristin G. Hildabrand

Warren County Extension Agent for Horticulture

Consider Planting Garlic for the Kentucky Garden

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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.

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Braided soft-neck garlic variety

 

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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.

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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