Friday, December 11, 2009

Very Nippy Night

At about 6:15 am this morning, my thermometer read 5 degrees. That's cold. It took that kind of a night to finally kill (or at least maim) the artichokes (pictured below) and the chard I had planted earlier this year. The thyme doesn't look like it's been hurt at all.

Our small fountain is pretty but the I'm sure the pump is toast.

And lastly, the contorted filbert (Corylus avellana 'Harry Lauder') is really showing off at this time of the year.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Another World

Our family did a very different thing over the Thanksgiving break -- we took a cruise. No hassles with cleaning the house and cooking for relatives (this would be hassles for my mom, not me).

Anyway, our cruise took us to Key West, Cozumel, and Belize. Belize was probably the most interesting place we went. This is relative since we only had about 5 hours in Key West and got totally rained out in Cozumel. Regardless, here are some interesting things about Belize:

  • They are a country with about 300,000 people
  • They are the only English-speaking central American country
  • They make cashew wine
This is the cashew tree (bad picture, taken from a moving boat)

Here's the wine bottle (I was pleasantly surprised by the taste!)

So this has nothing to do with horticulture in Pulaski Co, but just thought I'd share....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What does GREEN really mean?

What should it mean? Is it purely subjective? Maybe, I don't know. These questions are purely rhetorical. Does green mean sustainable?

Is growing organically being green? I think it depends. If I'm using something like Neem, which comes from trees in the Indian sub-continent (Wikipedia), and it must be shipped thousands of miles, is that really the best use of resources? Even if I'm using it on an organic garden in Kentucky? Or bat guano? Disturbing bats causes their numbers to decline, so is that sustainable or green?

Buying bagged compost that was made in Florida? Is that green? Is that sustainable?

What about lawn mowing, string trimmers, and leaf blowers? Today's mowers are gas guzzlers. They consume a large amount of energy and pollute our air with fumes and noise. Should we change the way we mow and trim? Should we demand cleaner gas-powered tools?

Is using manures on your gardens being green? Even if some can potentially carry bad, bad organisms that make humans sick?

I don't know the answers to these questions, they are more to ponder. To think about. To maybe change your idea of green.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Preparing for Winter

We've all heard the phrase 'putting the garden to bed'. I'm not fond of that phrase, really. There is so much activity that takes place in the winter. It can be pretty disruptive. Just think of all the freezing and thawing, frost heaving, all the microbial activity that continues to take place (maybe at a slower rate than summer). The snow, the ice, the cold winter rains. All these help with decomposition of organic matter over the winter.

I've given our garden at the office a nice layer of leaves -- just whatever I could rake up close by.

Then I was given some old straw bales left over from Halloween decorations. I would prefer to know my source of straw since I'd have some idea exactly what type of grasses made it up and -- more importantly -- if it came from a weed-infested field. But beggars can't be choosers.

I can plant right through this straw next spring. The worms should continue to work as it will be relatively warm over the winter with this nice layer on top. I'll take pictures next spring!

Monday, November 02, 2009

November Garden Images

Here are a few shots from the garden.
My artichoke plants haven't been killed by any frosts yet. Some of our annuals have bitten the dust as have some hostas.
Pyracantha berries are looking wonderful!
Calycanthus is showing some decent fall color especially when the sun hits it just right.
And lastly, our Itea virginica, Little Henry Virginia Sweetspire is putting on its red show.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Pesticide Poisoning? Clean Up When You're Done!

My dog, Lily, is all mutt pup. Not quite a year old, she runs the farm (literally and figuratively). Having had a very calm and slightly handicapped dog before (Emmylou had no right front paw) who passed away last year, I knew what I was in for with a puppy. But you know, you really never do.

Sunday morning she came in the house with tremors all over. She was also heavily salivating. I took her to the doggie ER. They suspected some sort of pesticide poisoning, either a permethrin or an organophosphate (like Sevin).

Although we could find no evidence of any pesticide jug that she had gotten into, it's a good time to bring up the issue of putting away things when you're done with them, especially pesticides if you have animals or kids around.

Lily had to spend the night at the vet but she's home and well now. Animal Care Center and Dr Hall, THANKS!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bagging Apples

Ever heard of this? Apple bagging is simply placing individual apples inside bags while they are still on the tree. Bags are put on when fruit is about quarter-sized. Bags remain on til about 3 weeks before harvest. Bagged apples will not color up properly, so taking them off well before harvest is a must.

Why, why, oh why would anyone do this? Well, apples get plenty of disease and insect pests. Most backyard fruit growers do not want to apply lots of pesticides. bagging fruit we are physically keeping the pest off the fruit without having to spray. An organic pest control method.

In addition to using the Japanese apple bags (from the website above), a UK entomologist gave me some nylons. Yes, there is anecdotal evidence that nylons (like what women slip on when trying on shoes) can work to deter pests.

I grow Liberty apple which is very disease resistant, but no apples are insect resistant. Here are my photos of bagged, nyloned, and not-bagged apples.

Pretty cool. But let me tell you, putting bags on apples is dang time consuming, especially the Japanese apple bags. Most of the bags I had put on had fallen off mid-season. The nylons were much easier to put on and did not tend to come off with bad storms and weathering.

The bagged apple was the biggest of the 3, shown below. And you can see what covered each of the 2 bagged apples.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Lovely Artichokes

Nope, artichokes are not my favorite food. Nor are they something we grow in Kentucky.

But....they are such cool-looking plants!

The leaves look like they would feel rough but it's just the opposite. The long, downy hairs on the leaf make it very soft.

They'll never make an artichoke but I could care less. They are beautiful!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Late blight a personal way

Late blight of tomatoes has hit home. Literally. A half-acre of my husband's tomatoes that were intended for fall sales has succumbed to this aggressive disease. The weather has not been helpful at all in reigning this monster in, either. Fog, rain (or even just a spritz of rain) and cooler weather have all contributed.

Here are some pictures -- and it ain't pretty.

Late blight is in Pulaski Co. FYI.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Cukes -- DONE

Last week, I had observed that my 'Diva' cucumbers were starting to get diseased. Specifically, I thought it was downy mildew that had come to visit. I was out-of-town on Friday and not at the office, obviously, over the weekend. Upon my return today - KABLAMO -- cukes were finished.

Although I didn't weigh them all, these 4 little plants put out a nice harvest of cucumbers this year. And we've had horrendously bad disease pressure this year, so I feel like I got all I could out of them.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Get to Know the Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald ash borer is a nasty, nasty bug. It hasn't been confirmed in Pulaski County but you can bet, we'll be one of the first 10 to 20% of counties in KY to get this insect. It's moving rapidly due to renegade campers moving infested ash firewood to their camping locations. And folks, we have many, many tourists from Ohio -- Ohio has had this pest for a good year or better.

A program dedicated to the emerald ash borer will be held on September 24 at 6pm at the Pulaski Co Extension Service office. Jody Thompson from the KY Division of Forestry will be here to lead the discussion.

There may be some little knick-knacks to giveaway as well. So... come! And bring your questions.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dominant Weeds in 2009

Everybody knows weeds since we all curse/hate/want to mangle them. But have you noticed some that have done exceptionally well this year? Here at the Extension office, I have noticed 2 that have really gotten my attention.

Virginia Copperleaf

My Weeds of the Northeast book lists this weed as a summer annual, reproducing via seed each spring. It says it can tolerate all moisture conditions. But as anyone living here knows, it's been a rainy year. This weed has always been at the office, but it's population has seemed to skyrocket and the dang things are BIG.

Virginia Buttonweed -- I see a pattern here....

The book says this is a perennial with thick stems growing prostrate. It can root at the nodes (like large crabgrass or bermudagrass). And get this -- this thing is supposed to produce flowers UNDERground!!! My reference says 'little is known about the belowground flowers'. And it seems this one does prefer moist areas. I don't remember seeing any of this last year, but it's come and decided it likes it here.

Weeds are definitely over-the-top this year.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Random Thoughts for a Monday

  • We finally started summer this weekend! Highs in the 90s! YAY! I don't think we broke 90 degrees the whole month of July.
  • I'm taking Master Gardener applications until Friday, August 14. The program will begin September 10, meets every Thursday from 9 til noon.
  • Can you believe it's August already -- and the kids are already in school.
  • Think about ordering garlic bulbs for planting in October.
  • Our dog likes sweetcorn -- she steals an ear, shucks it, and eats it. I've got to get that on tape.
  • If more people saw and smelled rotten tomatoes, fewer people would like them (I worked all weekend in tomatoes)

Friday, July 31, 2009

We Know Early Blight, but Late Blight??

Yes, late blight, the potato famine, a disease we rarely EVER see in Kentucky is here. And with a vengeance, especially in Eastern KY. This disease attacks both potatoes and tomatoes and has been diagnosed on tomatoes in Kentucky in the following counties: Laurel, Larue, Jackson, Breathitt, Johnson, Montgomery, and Wolfe.

Late blight is a fast-moving disease that has very much enjoyed the cool, damp, cloudy weather that we've had pretty much all this summer.

We are highly encouraging gardeners to scout their tomatoes (and potatoes) for this disease. Fungicides are recommended -- something like chlorothalonil (Daconil, Fungonil) or mancozeb/maneb.

For those of you doing things organically, use fixed copper or Oxidate. Under high disease pressure, even these will not work.

Let me know if you see anything suspicious in your gardens!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Harvest

I've been patiently waiting on my 'Purple Haze' (All-America selection) carrots to make a root. Here's what I got:

One turned out orange. I'm unaware of the stability of the purple color. Or maybe a stray seed just got packaged up in error. Look at the interior of this carrot! Great stuff! I took a bite before realizing I wanted to take a picture....

And here is one of my 'Diva' cucumbers, also an All-America selection. Not a spine on it, smooth as a baby's butt.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rain-soaked Garlic

As anyone who lives here is well aware, we have had a LOT of rain in 2009. Our unscientific rain count is up to almost 31 inches here at our office. We are ahead of the airport, who is officially about 7 inches above normal. WOW.

Every book/article/publication I read about garlic says 'Don't water up to 2 weeks before harvesting garlic'. Well, try doing that this year! Some of the garlic is 50-75% dead, so to me, it's harvesting time, regardless of whether or not we've had 2 weeks of dry. Here's what I pulled up today.

I took a picture of them uncleaned to show just how gobby and wet it was. This bed is still mostly clay, even though we add organic matter every year. The variety pictured is 'Belarus' I think. We had a lot of plant death due to onion maggots and bacterial soft rot which made my rows out of whack.

They've been hung up with the other 8 bulbs I harvested 3 days ago. Here's a weird thing, I planted some garlic at home about 2-3 weeks BEFORE this garlic and none of it is ready to harvest yet. Not sure what that tells me except different sites, same varieties, different harvest time -- it's all about your site, I reckon.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Carrots in Containers

Yep, I'm a weirdo. When it comes to plants, I try things that sometimes aren't normal. Most of the time I fail , but every once in a while, well, I hit the jackpot.

Look at these carrots I grew in a half-gallon milk jug. I can't remember when I sowed the seeds exactly but it was in the late winter. I thought 'What the heck', see if I can get a few fresh carrots from a windowsill. Truthfully, they've been sitting outside for about a month, but the germination and early growth was on a south-facing windowsill.

You'll notice some black holes in the container where there's still one carrot left -- that's where I pulled them from. My 2 kids were amazed, but we ate them last night along with new potatoes harvested from our compost pile! ha

Friday, June 05, 2009

Square foot gardening

I'm doing a couple of 4 x 4 foot square foot gardens at home. It's been interesting, to say the least. I've planted carrots, spinach (which has already been eaten/yanked), and fingerling potatoes.

The potatoes have been interesting to watch -- the Square Foot Gardening book (by Mel Bartholomew) says to plant 4 potatoes per square (12" x 12"). I barely covered them at first, then as they grew, I piled more and more soil mix/compost around them.There are 3 different varieties of fingerlings in this 4 x 4. It's weird how different potato plants can look.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cover Crops -- Built-in Nitrogen

Just today, Greg B came by and helped me take down the crimson clover and the kale which had both overwintered in my small raised bed gardens by the Extension office. We took a weedeater and cut them down, then took a little tiller and whisked them into the soil.

Here are before and after photos:

First is the kale
Second is the crimson clover

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Here's a few shots of the gardens at the Extension office.

Weeping redbud to the left.
Next is our less than one-year old European larch (Larix decidua 'Pendula')
Next is our Redtwig dogwood just breaking bud.
Last is our 'Carol Mackie' Daphne which is almost unpleasingly sweetly scented.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Mushroom Foray!

After several good soaking rains and coolish (but not cold) weather, mushrooms are coming out to greet spring. As I was passing by several logs inoculated with shiitake spawn that we have here at the office, it was easy to notice the large mushrooms protruding from the logs. I was excited! You'd be too, if you found these, take a look. One of 'em is a monster!

We've already found a recipe to make with these things, it's a shiitake and wild rice pilaf. And it is gooooood.....

UK has several Extension publications on growing shiitakes. They are toward the bottom of the page. Check them out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

After Some Brutal Weather

I snapped a few pictures today of my raised beds that have some crops planted in them. The crimson clover cover crop (top picture) is about half dead, but the dead half will certainly make a nice mat of material to plant into this spring (plus provide lots of nitrogen!)

The kale (picture 2) got nipped pretty hard by the brutal cold temperatures, so it's usefulness as an edible is shot. But it will hold the soil and provide organic matter to the bed. Not is all lost.

The third picture down in just a shot of both beds. Clover on the left, kale on the right.

The last picture is of some garlic. It has toughed it out without any mulch or straw or row cover. We'll be thankful for fresh garlic in July!! I've got several varieties planted so we'll make some comparisons later.

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