Monday, April 07, 2014

Beauty is underfoot in our Kentucky Woodlands!

This past Sunday afternoon was the perfect day for a walk in the woods with my family.  As cold as it has been my expectations were not great that we would see a whole lot of spring color.  However, I was pleasantly surprised that the color came in many forms, shapes. and hues. 

Our first lesson was pointed out by my daughter when she noticed a mass of chartreuse green  hanging from an otherwise barren tree.  this turned out to be a honeysuckle vine holding on to the leaves it had from last fall.  This was very eye-catching because of the stark difference between its display and everything else in its surroundings.  The trees all wore fine coats of grays, blacks, and brown hues.   The many textures of the bark provided an ever-changing show no matter the size or perspective of the person.   Sometimes the perspective is better the lower you are to the ground as was evident from the many "What's this Daddy?" I received from my 5 year old throughout the walk.  His unique perspective allowed him to quickly pick up the colors and flowers that weren't as readily visible to myself.  We discovered stark whites in the large shelf mushrooms,  Bloodroot flowers, and Twinleaf.  Green hues were in great abundance with the many mosses, the emerging Bluebell foliage, and the unique unfolding of the Buckeye leaves. 

My oldest son loves nature and all it has to offer but on this day his hunt was to discover the perfect place to read the next of a long line of books and to let nature happen around him.  He must of pointed out twenty places where he could recline and read.

For two hours we walked and talked about the complexities and simplicities of an awakening spring forest.  With our heads down, (not to look at a screen) trying to one up the other on the next colorful find and to keep from trampling Mother Natures carpet we enjoyed a day of beauty and togetherness.  Get out to the woodlands and enjoy the beautiful show that Mother will be unveiling all season long in a slow and steady cadence, much like the "What's this Daddy?" that I heard on our walk. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Why do my broadleaf evergreens look so bad this spring?

Winter Drying on Boxwood
Broadleaved evergreens like hollies, magnolias, boxwoods, and rhododendrons have been beaten up this past winter and are looking pretty ragged coming into spring.  Winter drying is the culprit and was expected based upon what kind of winter we just went through.  The discoloration occurs because of the plants leaves dry out during frozen ground conditions.  This means that the soil around the roots remained frozen for an extended period of time and the plant could not take up needed moisture to maintain the foliage.  While the soil was frozen and no uptake of water was taking place the winds were still evaporating moisture from the foliage resulting in the burnt or scorched appearance.

Winter Drying on Magnolia
Winter Drying on Holly
The unfortunate thing is there is not a lot of options for dealing with the problem after it happens.  We generally see very little long term effects from this problem.  Usually the worse case is some twig die-back and an un-thrifty appearance to the plant for awhile.  Generally they will put new leaves back on and resume normal appearance as the spring continues to improve.   Patience will be the order of the spring to get back to a more lush landscape.  To read more about how to manage this problem next winter read the following:  Leaf Scorch and Winter Drying of Woody Plants

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Vegetable gardening good for the belly, soul, and the wallet!

Click here for your copy
All of us are basically a generation removed from there being no question about where at least a portion of your food comes from.  When I was growing up in the late 70's and early 80's we were going to have a garden it just was a matter of how big and what was to be grown.  Now a days it seems we are wishy washy on whether we'll put out a couple of tomatoes.  Our garden each year was lead and planned by my Grandmother and my aunt.  It covered about a half acre and fed about three good sized families.  It was a given that we would all spend some time in the garden and grandma dictated when and what  needed to be done.  This community/family garden really shaped my future and set me on the path that led me to becoming a Horticulturist.  But it was the social aspect that really formed my values and honed my belief in the strengths of an extended family.  It was everything from the sowing of seed, cutting and gathering bean poles, finding the first ripe tomato, and the inevitable dirt clod fight among cousins that cultivated both the love of family and gardening.  Let it be known that my Uncle Herb just about always found the first tomato and always had a shaker of salt in his pocket for said event.

Get your family involved and garden together the kids may fuss now but I guarantee they will have the good memories forever.  If the thought of a vegetable garden intimidates you join forces with someone with all the experience of gardening but just can't do garden work like they used to.  You'll both benefit immensely from the experience and your food knowledge will greatly improve.  The Home Vegetable Gardening In Kentucky you see pictured in this entry is a wonderful publication for all levels of gardening experience.  You can click on the picture caption  to see a pdf of the publication but if you would like a copy just send me an email at with your name and address and we will mail you one out, or you can simply stop by the Nelson County Extension office for your free copy.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What will all this road salt do to our landscapes?

Think Spring, this weather can't last forever can it? 
With all the winter weather we have been enduring our plants are forced to endure even more.  With the frequent "1 inch blizzards" (as one person on facebook called them) comes the need for safety on the roads. To achieve safer roads we are forced to turn to sodium chloride or deicing salt to melt away the (what i am now referring to as the white plaque) snow.  However, with all its safety and melting abilities it also poses many problems for our landscapes and lawns.

The damage won't show up immediately but will come on gradually this spring as the plants begin to grow. Rather than me describe what might take place I am going to refer you to a really good Purdue University publication that even provides you with a list of plants that can tolerate high salt levels.  See Salt Damage in Landscape Plants for more detailed information.  Salt will do the greatest damage where it is being thrown as a spray by passing automobiles or when plants are in the direct runoff path as the melting "white plague" moves the salt into landscape beds etc.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Benefits and process of seed starting at home

Starting your own seeds at home can be a rewarding experience.  You most definitely will save money on your plants but for me the most rewarding aspect is that you ensure what varieties you get.  Many varieties are not always available at the garden center and sometimes are not labeled properly.  Improper labeling only shows up 3 months later when your Big Boy tomatoes turn out to be yellow and pear shaped.  Below are some tips on how to make the most out of starting your own seeds.

Starting Seeds at Home Take Home Points:

  • Start with a good seed starting soil-less media which would include peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. 
  • Pay attention to the planting depth of your seeds and cover lightly if necessary.
  • Maintain a constant heat and humidity level around the germinating plants.  This will ensure quick and even germination.
  • Lighting is very important. Regular Bright light Fluorescent bulbs will provide a very desirable visible spectrum for plant growth. They are as good or better than the so called plant grow bulbs. Do not use incandescent, too much heat, and not enough usable light spectrum.
  • Lighting should remain on throughout the germination phase and as long as they are grown inside. A 16 hour cycle of lighting will be best and the light should remain 2 to 3 inches above the plant canopy while grown indoors for optimum growth.
  • Air circulation is very important after germination for two reasons; it helps to reduce disease problems and it also helps to strengthen the stems.
  • A soil thermometer will help you gauge temperature levels in the seed starting area. Different plants prefer different temps but as a general rule between 70 and 80 degrees will suffice.
  • Light fertilization should begin shortly after germination and as a general rule begin with a halved rate of fertilize based on the indoor plant feeding directions found on the back of your choice of soluble fertilize.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Blackberry Pruning Demonstration

John Strang, University of Kentucky Extension Fruit Specialist provides a very thorough lesson on how to prune thorny and thornless blackberries. John provides some teminology and tips within his video that I have bulleted for you below.  
  • Primocane is a first year growth and does not fruit (unless it is a primocane fruiting variety)
  • Floricane is the same shoot after overwintering.  This shoot will flower and fruit in the second year
  • Rednecked Cane Borer is an insect that bores into the can and cause an enlarged growth
  • 4-6 canes per hill or 6 canes per foot of row
  • Laterals pruned to 12 -16 inches
  • Remove prunings from the orchard
  • Floricanes should be removed in the Fall if possible