April Gardening Tips
Kentucky gardens are bursting with spring color this month! Flowering trees and shrubs are blooming beautifully in the home landscape, while various types of flowering bulbs are scattered throughout garden beds. April is chock full of gardening activities to perform! Outdoor temperatures are cool enough that it makes it an ideal time to work outside. Today on episode 5 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing 4 quick tips of things to do right now in the garden for the month of April. Stay with me as I explain some of these much needed garden activities to help you get a jump start on the spring gardening season!Soil PreparationTo rototill or not to rototill? That is the question. Excessive rototilling, year after year, can damage soil structure and reduce the benefits of organic matter. Beneficial soil health builders such as earthworms and soil microbes are also damaged by it.If adding lime and fertilizers according to soil test recommendations, home gardeners will want to rototill the soil to a depth of eight to ten inches to prepare their garden for planting. Break up any clumps that may form during this process to help aerate the soil. If garden soil has good tilth from previous compost or manure applications and lime or fertilizer is not needed, gardeners can skip rototilling. Instead, use a garden shovel to loosen the soil before planting. Later, use an iron garden rake for smoothing and leveling out garden soils in order to make a good seed bed for plants.Remember to avoid working the soil when wet. The best test to see if the soil is too wet is to take a handful of soil and form it into a ball. If the soil crumbles readily after being pushed with your finger, the soil can be worked. On the other hand, if the soil does not break apart and stays in the ball form, the ground is too wet to be worked. Working wet ground leads to clods which make it difficult to loosen after being dried. Plus, clods greatly reduce the good seed to soil contact required for seeding germination of vegetable crops.Cool Season VegetablesContinue to plant cool season vegetables in the home vegetable garden. These plants like the cooler air temperatures of Kentucky and include plants such as spinach, lettuce, collards, turnip greens, onions, beets, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, early potatoes, radish, and Swiss chard. Some plants do better when directly sown into the ground and thinned out after germination. Swiss chard growing in a raised bed garden. To have a continuous supply of vegetables, plant a succession of those crops every 2 weeks. For more information about home vegetable gardening in Kentucky, see the publication number ID-128 titled Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky. It has everything that you will want to know about growing home vegetables in Kentucky. To view the link to the guide, please see the show notes. Plant a Spring Salad Bowl GardenTry a new spin on growing salad greens this year---in a salad bowl! Choose a shallow container that contains several holes for drainage. Since this is a salad bowl garden, the container does not necessarily have to be round, but it does make for an interesting container. Window boxes and rectangular containers are also acceptable.Next, select a good potting soil mix for growing lettuce greens in the container. Avoid potting mixes that contain lots of bark since this causes the pot to dry out quickly. A good potting soil mix will contain different soil less media components such as peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Some potting mixes will have soil release fertilizers added in, but it is usually better to incorporate these fertilizers separately. The fun part is deciding what plants to grow in your salad garden. Seeds can be started in your container, but it is easier to purchase transplants from a reputable garden center in your area. Several varieties of lettuce are available including arugula,...
15 Apr 2020
Hellebores- Lenten Rose
Flowers are like heaven to me. They brighten the darkest of days with their beauty and extensive variety of bloom shapes and colors. Today on episode 3 of the Sunshine Gardening podcast, I am sharing one of my favorite flowers for the garden! I guarantee after I am done talking about it, you will want this flower for your shade garden as well. Stay with me to find out the flower that I am referring to and learn the best growing tips to help it shine in your Kentucky garden.Flower CharacteristicsThe flower that I am covering today in episode 3 is Hellebore orientalis, is commonly referred to as Lenten Rose or Hellebores. While the rose family first comes to mind, this plant actually belongs to the Ranunculus or Buttercup Family. Helleborus xhybridus is a group of evergreen, late-winter or early-spring flowering perennials that are offered as ornamental plants for the garden.Blooms generally appear during Lent. Hence the name Lenten Rose. It is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring which earns it the name of “harbinger of spring”.Since the plant easily hybridizes, there is a wide variety of cultivars available in the marketplace. Colors include shades of pink, green, yellow, red, pure white, dark purple, and almost black. Other cultivars may have other interesting color patterns that are bicolor, speckled, spotted, and streaked with single or double forms. Some cultivars have picotee flowers where the color along the edge is darker.Lenten rose is hardy from zone 9 to zone 4. They will handle colder temperatures if some winter protection is provided.Lenten rose possess tough, almost woody stems. The leaves are described as being leathery, shiny and dark-green in color. They are palmate divided with 7-9 leaflets with coarsely cut leaf margins. These characteristics make it resistant to deer and rabbit feedings and the foliage will remain attractive all throughout the growing season.The flowers have an interesting growth habit. Flower buds form during the previous summer season. The flower spikes emerge from an underground rhizome in late winter.What we would call the petals are actually called sepals which is a modified calyx. There are 5 petal-like sepals that surround a ring of nectaries. The true petals are the nectaries that hold the nectar. Within the ring of petals are numerous stamens and pistils. After pollination occurs, the petals and stamens will then fall off leaving behind the sepals. They can remain on the plant for 1-2 months or sometimes even longer.Flowers reach about 1 to 3 inches wide and are described as being saucer like in appearance. The blooms are mostly downward facing.https://videopress.com/v/wXuAxKOc?preloadContent=metadataParts of the Hellebores BloomHow to Grow Lenten Rose in the Kentucky Garden Since hellebores are difficult to start from seed, it is best to purchase 2-3 year old plants. Position the plants in areas that receive partial to full shade.Plants will perform best when planted in moist, well-drained soil. They are sensitive to soggy soil, so make sure to provide good soil drainage. A good way to do this is to incorporate compost throughout the entire planting area prior to transplanting. They will also benefit from planting on a hillside, slope, or raised beds. It is noted that in these three areas it is easier to see the downward facing blooms.At first, hellebores are slow to establish. When they do reach maturity though, plants can reach 18 to 24 inches tall with a width of 24-30” inches. Mature plants can even have 50 or more flowers per plant.If planting multiple plants, space plants about 16 inches apart or more. Refer to the plant label to see recommendations on how far apart to space plants.Plants are self sowers so they put out a lot of seed. New seedlings will generally appear in the spring.Lenten roses are an outstanding plant for providing color and texture to the ornamental shade garden.
7 Apr 2020
National Gardening Month Activities
April is National Gardening Month! Gardening offers several benefits for the home gardener! Research shows that nurturing plants is good for all of us! Attitudes toward health and nutrition improve, community spirits grow, and kids perform better. There are lots of ways that communities, organizations, and individuals can get involved with gardening. Today on episode 4 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing 3 simple ways that you can celebrate National Gardening month at home. Let me tell you how you can get growing this month! #1 Create a DIY Newspaper PotAre you looking for a fun gardening project to try this year? Try making your own newspaper pots!This activity requires a few basic materials collected from around the home and is perfect for starting garden seeds to plant this spring. Here is a list of supplies you will need to get started: sections of recycled newspaper, high quality potting soil mixture, a variety of vegetable garden seeds, and a Mason jar. If you don’t have a Mason jar, an old aluminum vegetable can works great too!To start the newspaper pot, take a section of newspaper and fold it in half lengthwise like a hot dog bun. Make sure to press firmly along the folded edge. Next, place the Mason jar on top of the folded newspaper where half of the jar is on the newspaper and the other half is on the table. Once it is positioned in the right spot, roll the newspaper tightly around the Mason jar to create a round cylinder.To create the base of the pot, fold in the edges of the newspaper like an envelope. It’s best to fold in the sides first and then top to bottom. Flip the jar over and press the jar firmly against the table to make the folds as flat as possible. Remove the Mason jar from the newspaper and you have a newspaper pot! Repeat the process if making several newspaper pots.When ready to add potting soil mixture to the newspaper pot, first moisten the potting soil mixture in another container before adding. I like to use a wheel barrow because it gives me plenty of room to incorporate the soil and water together. Fill the newspaper pot with the moistened potting soil mixture. Plant a seed or two in the newspaper pot according to the recommended depth on the seed label and place on a tray.When ready to plant outdoors, make sure to bury the pot, so the rim is below the soil surface. Exposing the newspaper to the environment can cause moisture to wick away from the plant. https://videopress.com/v/evU3z604?preloadContent=metadata#2 Create DIY Seed TapeSeed tape makes it easy for gardeners to grow crops from tiny seeds. With seed tape, gardeners apply seed to tape and then plant the entire seed tape outdoors in the garden. Gardeners don’t have to worry about seeds floating away and there is no need to thin out plants. An added bonus is the seed tape disintegrates overtime and helps return nutrients back to the soil.Seed tape is available commercially through garden supply companies, however avid gardeners can make their own seed tape at home inexpensively! Making seed tape at home requires only a few basic items and materials collected from around the home. Now, let’s get started! Crops that are best when started from seed are: beets, Bibb lettuce, carrots, Chinese cabbage, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, parsnips, peas, pumpkins, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, snow peas, Southern peas, sweet corn, Swiss chard, turnips, turnip greens, and winter squash.Step 1: Gather up all supplies needed to make the seed tape. Grab a roll of toilet paper, garden seed packets, make your own glue using flour and water or purchase all-purpose glue, toothpick, clear ruler, scissors, and a black permanent marker.Step 2: Next, unroll the toilet paper from the roll and lay out on a flat even surface. Cut the toilet paper in half using a pair of scissors. The toilet paper serves as the “tape” portion of the seed tap...
15 Apr 2020
March Gardening Tips
Getting the garden ready for the season can feel like such a daunting task. At this point, the lawn may be looking shabby and appears that it needs a good hair cut to knock down some weeds. Weeds may be eyeing you each time that you walk past the landscape and flower beds. The vegetable garden needs some attention too! If you already feel defeated, I have got just the solution for you! In episode 2 of the Sunshine Gardening podcast, I am sharing my top 3 spring gardening chores to help you finish strong for the month of March. Once you have completed these chores, I bet that the other tasks will seem less daunting to you. Stay with me as we march into those spring gardening chores!Soil is the basic foundation block for gardening. All plants require essential nutrients to grow and this process is done by supplying nutrients through the root system which is then anchored into the soil. In Kentucky, soils are often times less than ideal with lots of red clay content which makes it difficult for soil drainage and nutrients to reach the plants root system. To help alleviate this issue, gardeners must first build good soil. The first stepto obtaining good soil is through the use of a soil test. Soil testing is oneof the best practices to perform annually for your garden because there issimply no guesswork involved. A standard soil test will determine the currentfertility status of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium(Mg), pH, and cation exchange capacity. Soil test recommendations will alsoreveal lime and fertilizer rates to apply which makes it extremely costeffective for home gardeners and even commercial horticulture producers. Mostvegetable gardens perform best under slightly acid conditions with a pH rangeof about 6.2 to 6.8. When taking asoil sample for a home vegetable garden plot, take soil samples 6 to 8 inchesdeep. Next, collect 12 to 15 core samples using either a soil probe, spade, ortrowel at the recommended depth. Make sure to take samples at random byscattering to different locations in the area to ensure a well, representedsample. After collecting samples, mix all the cores together in a clean bucket.Allow the sample to air-dry on newspaper for a day and bring contents in a bagto the Extension Office. Soil test samples generally take a minimum of a weekto two weeks maximum to get back. Extension agents will review the soil testresults, highlight the recommendations and sign it before returning to theclient in the mail. If you are sampling other areas around your home, contact the local Extension Office in your area. They will be happy to walk you through the proper steps in soil sampling different horticulture crops. The springseason is the perfect time for breaking ground. Sometimes though, the springweather can be a wet one. Wait to work the ground until the soil has dried. Workingground when wet hurts the overall soil structure by forming clods that aredifficult to break apart. Some gardeners may want to consider planting theirspring vegetable transplants in raised bed gardens since they warm up fasterand dry out quicker in comparison to conventional gardening plots. The bestindicator in knowing when to break ground is when soil is moist and crumblesreadily when formed into a ball. Loosen the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 incheswith a spade or rototiller. Pulverize any clods that may work their way to thetop, since large dirt clods can cause poor seed germination. Spread compost outand lightly work it into the soil. Incorporating Organic MatterAnother secretto achieving good garden soil is by incorporating organic matter. Adding theright ingredients of organic matter will improve soil structure and take careof several issues. It helps to loosen and improve soil drainage of heavy claysoils and increases both the nutrient and moisture holding capacities. Organicmatter also favors a buildup of beneficial organisms such as n...
1 Apr 2020
Most Popular Podcasts
Starting Seeds Indoors
Have you ever started seeds at home? What was the outcome? Were the seedlings leggy and stretched? Did the seedlings die? If these are some experiences that you have had, no more! Today, on episode 1 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I will share secrets to growing seeds indoors successfully. This information will make the difference and I assure that you will have healthier plants to transplant later into the garden. Stay with me to hear what secrets I have for starting seeds indoors for the Kentucky garden. Thejoys of starting seedsStartingseeds indoors can be such a rewarding experience for many gardeners! Thethought of planting small seeds in the soil, watching them emerge each day,handling the tiny seedlings, and seeing them develop into young plants justwarms my soul! Then, when the time is conducive for planting outdoors,gardeners can transplant their seedlings into the ground to watch it grow andmature further into an adult plant. This process from seed to plant is puresatisfaction and gratification for avid home gardeners! Home gardenersare able to grow new, improved, and unusual plant varieties that they might notfind available at local garden centers or nurseries. For instance, if you can’tfind an heirloom tomato variety called ‘Hillbilly Potato Leaf Tomato’, get seedfrom another grower and grow it yourself. Gardeners can be the best source forheirloom varieties. Another added benefit with starting seeds at home is thatgardeners reduce the amount of time required between planting and harvesting ofat least 4 to 8 weeks. This my friends is music to my ears!Whatto know ahead of time? Whilestarting seeds indoors is fun, it does require time and patience from gardeners.Regular monitoring of transplants is essential. Check seedlings daily for waterand to see if any additional fertilizer is needed. Growing seeds at home willrequire equipment such as grow lights, maybe a plant stand if growing severaldifferent plants, trays to support the developing plants, and possibly a timersystem. Cost of this equipment be based on your needs, so make sure to budgetfor them. List of materials for starting seeds indoors1. SeedFind a reputable source for seed. Companies that are reputable will stand behind their product and replace seed if there is a problem. Make sure seed varieties are locally adapted to the area. For recommendations on vegetables, check out ID-133. It lists vegetable cultivars that are suitable for Kentucky. Seeds sold in packages should display the crop, cultivar, germination, percentage, and chemical seed treatments, if any. Make sure to pay close attention to the sell by date. Inspect the seed before starting. Buy new seed since some seeds over a year old will not germinate (sprout) well. 2. Artificial Lighting A lot of gardeners that I talk to one on one at the Extension Office mention to me that they start their seeds in the windowsill. In other areas of the United States, this area may be fine, but for Kentucky, we get poor results when starting seeds in the windowsill. Seedlings turn out leggy and stretched where they are trying to reach the light. Options may be to use cool white fluorescent lamps alone, use a mixture of cool white and warm white fluorescent lamps, or a mixture of cool white and plant growth fluorescent lamps. All of these options are acceptable. Position the lamps 5 to 10 inches above the foliage. Operate them 12 to 18 hours/day. It might be a good idea to purchase a timer that will allow the lights to come on and off automatically. Keep seedlings cool enough about 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit for strong, sturdy growth after germination occurs. Do-it-yourself (DIY) grow light stand constructed out of PVC pipe 3. Soil Media MixA desirable soil medium for starting seed should be loose, well-drained and fine-textured. It should not contain any disease causing organism...
10 Mar 2020