Monday, December 24, 2012

12 New Trees and Shrubs

In honor of 12/12/12 a couple of weeks ago, I'm rounding out my '12 New _____ Plants' to try during 2013 with a list of trees or shrubs.  You can see the other two 12-lists by scrolling down.

12 New or Different Trees or Shrubs to try in 2013
  1. Yellowwood -- a spring-flowering, overlooked native plant, yellowwood was featured in the UK College of Ag's AgMag this fall.
  2. Cryptomeria (Japanese cedar) -- makes a great screen plus it's different!  Try it!
  3. Green Panda Bamboo TM -- a great non-invasive bamboo
  4. Buttonbush -- thrives in wet areas but grows very well in non-soppy areas too
  5. Goldenraintree -- not my favorite but it's easy and different and not at all a bad plant
  6. Lacebark pine -- what's not to like? It's a pine AND it has exfoliating bark.
  7. Ginkgo -- get a male cultivar like 'Autumn Gold' but there are others
  8. Doublefile Viburnum -- impresses me more and more each time I see one.
  9. Chastetree -- interesting compound leaves (remind you of marijuana), provides purple blooms June/July through frost and the bees love it!
  10. Japanese zelkova -- this is just a good street tree, very tolerant of urban conditions. In Somerset, these can be seen more around businesses but they lend themselves well to just being in someone's yard as a shade tree.
  11. Fothergilla -- I just love these plants. Extremely nice fall color, wonderful spring blooms.
  12. Virginia sweetspire -- if you need a plant to fill in an area in 3 to 4 years, with white bottebrush blooms and red fall color, you want this one. 'Little Henry' is a good dwarf selection.

Doublefile viburnum

Dwarf fothergilla

Green Panda bamboo       

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12 New Annuals

In honor of last week's date of 12/12/12, in this 2nd week, we'll be talking about 12 new annuals/perennials for home landscapes.  Last week I listed 12 fruits and vegetables.

12 New or Different Annuals and Perennials to try in 2013
(A) designates annual, (P) perennial
  1. Amaranth -- 'Love Lies Bleeding' is very cool. And if you want some art in the garden, try the very sculptured-looking 'Elephant Head' (A)
  2. Hyacinth bean -- need a vine for summer/fall only to block that western sun? Grow this lovely plant with very cool-looking seeds. Even dried pods look good. (A)
  3. Black-eyed Susan -- these have been around forever, but they perform! 'Indian Summer' is a good choice, 'Goldilocks' is a double. (P)
  4. Zinnias -- these just make me smile, remind me of my grandmother. They are easy and will self-sow somewhat. Butterflies love them. Profusion or Zahara series are recommended. (A)
  5. Ornamental peppers -- my fave 'Numex Twilight', but so many others like 'Black Pearl' and the miniature 'Medusa' (A)
  6. Sunflowers -- I know they're popular, but try some of the pollenless varieties. And remember to bring them inside so you can admire them. (A)
  7. Sun coleus (A)
  8. Papyrus -- 'King Tut' or 'Baby Tut' love water and were used at the Children's Garden & here at our office in containers. Brings some interesting texture to the garden. (A)
  9. Any Liatris (blazingstar) (P)
  10. Any Baptisia (false blue indigo) -- a misnomer now since there are yellow varieties of this (P)
  11. Bulbs -- ornamental alliums, daffodils, species tulips, or lilies are recommended (P)
  12. Japanese anemone -- these late summer and fall bloomers are overlooked way too much. Team it up with some asters and you've got a great display (P)
You'll notice that some of these are old, really old.  But they're still good.

Amaranth, Elephant Head FLOWER 0.15 g - Click Image to Close
Elephant Head amaranth

Hyacinth bean

'King Tut' papyrus
Numex Twilight ornamental pepper

Japanese anemone

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12 -- Let's Do 12 New Plants!

On this unique date, let's use it to think about 12 new varieties of vegetables/fruit (today), 12 new varieties of annuals (week of Dec 17), and 12 new types of trees or shrubs (week of Dec 24) for our landscapes.

12 New or Different Vegetables or Fruits to try in 2013
  1. Sprouting broccoli
  2. Shell beans -- I know that beans are one of the cheapest things in the store, but you can't buy Vermont Cranberry beans or Pawnee shell beans at the grocery.
  3. Carrots -- if you think you know what carrots taste like, grow them yourself and be amazed! Try different varieties like 'Purple Haze' or 'Atomic Red'.
  4. Popcorn or cornmeal corn (why not?)
  5. Eggplant -- there are more uses for eggplant than you think, so try it.  They are beautiful as well, varying shapes and sizes.
  6. Snap, snow, or shelling peas -- easy and done by the end of May. Pretty flowers
  7. Fall bearing blackberries &/or raspberries -- Prime ARK 45 (black), Caroline or Heritage (rasp). Easy pruning.
  8. Snacking peppers -- they're small, colorful, and extremely sweet. Johnny's Seed calls them 'Lunchbox Peppers
  9. Blueberries -- soil test first but they are super healthy and easy to grow once soil conditions are correct.  New pink varieties like 'Pink Lemonade', 'Tophat' for containers (oh, and you'll need two varieties)
  10. Garlic -- so easy, just do it.
  11. Cilantro -- either the flat leaf that looks like parsley or try 'Delfino'
  12. Corn salad or mache -- this was Thomas Jefferson's favorite green. Grow it and see why.

Mache (from Johnny's Seed)

Item Photo
Pawnee shell bean (from Seeds of Change)
Orient Charm (F1)
Orient Charm (from Johnny's Seed)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I will be the first to admit, daffodils are not my favorite flower.  In fact, I'm not sure how I would answer that question anyway, but it would not be with 'daffodil'.

But I am now addicted.  To daffodils.  Daffs, as the familiar call them.

But I can't afford them, at least not in the amounts I'd like.  So, as with some addictions, I'll take my daffs in small, annual doses.

Have you ever heard of the cyclamineus types of daffs?  They are distinctive because of their reflexed perianth segments (say that 3 times fast).  Here's one called 'Beryl':

And how about the jonquilla group? Heard of them?  Daffs in this group have multiple flowers per stem. Yes, multiple. And they have a fragrance!  Look at this one called 'Blushing Lady':

And there are the Poets (poeticus group).  They are distinguished by a spicy fragrance and dogwood-like bloom, this one is called 'Actaea':

There are so many more.  The miniatures, the doubles, the large cups, the small cups, the split-collars. And 99.99% of them are perfectly hardy in our Zone 6. 

So, get moving, as daffs like these are selling out quickly. The Children's Garden at the Pulaski County Library and the Pulaski County Extension office gardens will be blooming next spring with some of these wonderful daffs!

** pictures come from Brent and Becky's Bulbs website
** more information can be found at the American Daffodil Society

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rain Gardens

It was raining this morning, so I thought I might do a post on rain gardens.  Makes sense at 5:15am....

A rain garden is a strategically located low area planted with (usually) native plants that intercepts runoff from rain events and allows it to infiltrate the soil.

Just think of all the paved areas we have...rain will not penetrate into soil but is directed into storm sewers where this unfiltrated water is either redirected through waste water treatment or goes directly into lakes, ponds, or streams.  I don't know about you, but I see some gross stuff on pavement.  Not only oil and other car or truck leakages but roadkill, trash, etc.

A city block will shed 9 times more runoff than a wooded area of similar size.

Rain gardens will:
  • increase the amount of water that infiltrates the soil to recharge aquifers
  • help protect communities from flooding and drainage problems
  • help protect streams and lakes from pollutants carried by runoff
  • protect against the negative effects of impervious surfaces created by development
  • enhance neighborhood beauty
  • provide wildlife habitat (birds, bees, and butterflies)
All construction isn't bad I realize, but better builders may consider permeable pavement in parking lots or sidewalks. 

For more information, click here.

Pulaski County will be getting a rain garden in the spring of 2013 and the public will be invited to attend to learn how to situate and construct one of these.  Should be fun.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Potato Harvest for Home Gardeners

At the office, I planted potatoes using a couple of different methods a home gardener might try.

One was the square foot gardening method where I planted potatoes in 2 squares side-by-side.  I used the 'high-rise' method where I built another 1' x 2' x 6" square so that I could add more soil as the potatoes grew.  In total, the square foot gardening method gave me about 12" of depth in which potatoes could form.

5/23/12, about 8 weeks of growth
The other method of raising potatoes was using a grow bag.  I had 2 different colors of these bags (which cost me $20 each).  With this method, you fill up the bag, eventually to the top, as the potato grows. 

4 seed pieces per square planted 3/28/12
Kennebec potatoes were planted on 3/28/12.  Four seed pieces went in each square of the square foot garden and 8 seed pieces were planted into each grow bag. So each method was planted with equal numbers of seed pieces.

8 seed pieces were planted in each bag 3/28/12

So, here's what the plants looked like prior to harvest:

Square foot garden 7/17/12
Tan bag 7/17/12

Black bag 7/17/12

 And here's the harvest 16 weeks after planting:
Left sq ft garden, middle black bag, right tan bag

Pure numbers tell us that the 2 squares of the square foot garden produced the best, yielding 19 potatoes weighing 4.05#.
The black bag ended up producing a lot of little tubers (23 total) weighing in at 2.69#.
The tan bag produced the least (13 tubers in all) weighing 2.13#.

The best quality is dependent on whether you like new potatoes over baking or slicing sized potatoes.  For new potatoes, the black bag produced more smaller ones.  However, I would say the best overall was the sq ft garden harvest.

I suspect that in a 'normal' year (whatever that is) overall, plants would have yielded more.  With temps in the 100s for a week or more, tubers will not (and did not) size up. I suspect that perhaps the medium in which the tubers were forming was cooler in the sq ft garden bed than in the grow bags.  However, I did not measure the temperature.

Happy gardening!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blister Beetles Now Appearing

Blister Beetles Appearing

Blister beetle 
Margined blister beetles

Blister beetles can be quite a sight in the home garden.  About this time of year, their populations build up to incredible numbers.  They amass on and can defoliate plants in a day or two if the infestation is severe enough. They seem to prefer plants in the Solanaceous family like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.

Beetles are about a half-inch long.  Their name comes from the defensive chemical, a blistering agent, that is released when they are handled or disturbed. These insects are most active in the morning and late afternoon and may disappear during the hottest part of the day. They are easily disturbed and will drop off the plant or run away if disturbed.

The striped blister beetle has a yellow-orange head and body with three long black stripes running along each wing cover. It will feed on many different vegetables but seems to prefer the fruits of solanaceous plants. They also are foliage feeders with big appetites. Striped blister beetles form large mobile feeding masses so they can descend on an area and cause a lot of damage in a short time. Other species in the area include the black blister beetle and the margined blister beetle. The latter has a black body with thin gray stripes along the wing covers and a gray abdomen. These two species frequently feed on flowers, the black blister beetle can be found on alfalfa flowers.

Pyrethroid products work well against blister beetles.  Neem may be of help as a feeding deterrent.  Organic controls include Neem, spinosad products, and shaking the beetles into soapy water.

Blister beetles can kill horses. For more information, 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vegetables Used to Not Be Cool

You know that (old) country song by Barbara Mandrell, 'I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool'?  Well, in a much less vocal way, I feel much the same way about vegetable growing.

Eggplant, look at those dark stems!
As a student at the University of Kentucky in 1994, I found that very few of my fellow students were into vegetables, and I mean very few.  There was me and this one other guy.  That's it.  But that's exactly where I wanted to be!   Most students knew at that time more money could be had in knowing about turf or landscaping.  And I'll bet they are making more money than me.

I've always loved vegetables and the notion that feeding yourself is important. And everyone seems to have finally caught up with me 20 years later (I understand I am not the only one, but sometimes you feel like you are).  The latest issue of Horticulture magazine is all about Edible Gardening.  This is a magazine I get because of its ornamental slant (Organic Gardening mag -- you have been there the whole time!).  But this issue is saying feeding yourself is now somehow hot. I just hope it is not a fad.

It has been pure delight over the last 5 years or so to see examples of this all over the place:
Eggplant flower
My Square Foot Gardening class even sold out earlier this month and we had people on the waiting list.  That would not have happened 10 years ago.  I absolutely love it.

Welcome to my vegetable world, everyone!  Good to see you here!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Redbud Bloom Over the Years

Here are various pictures and dates of redbuds in bloom over the years either at the Children's Garden at the Pulaski Co Library or at the Pulaski Co Extension Office.






3/28/07 -- Easter freeze came and killed everything 4/5/07


These pictures chronicle our 'normal' bloom time over the last 5 years.  Or maybe late March is the new normal.  We are very, very likely to have a killing frost over the next 4 to 5 weeks.  Just keep that in mind as you are planning and planting your garden.

Be prepared to cover tender plants.  Strawberries are blooming.  There will be strawberries in April at the rate we're going.  Brambles have broken bud.  Any freeze will knock out berries for this year.  Peaches are beginning to bloom and apples aren't that far behind.

I'm not sure what I will do if there are no Kentucky peaches this year....I can eat my weight in them!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Turf Short Course Part 2

Dr Tim Phillips presented a talk on roses at the Turf Short Course during the landscape track.  Dr Phillips is a fescue breeder at UK, but his sideline is roses.  He's in charge of the rose garden at the UK Arboretum.  Here are some tidbits from that talk:
  • There are over 1700 varieties of roses at the Arboretum
  • Knockouts came on the scene in 1999
  • AARS (All America Rose Selections) have conducted no-spray trials for a number of years, winners have had no fungicides or insecticides sprayed.  Here are some of the winners:
  • Cheap roses from box stores -- 80% of the time they are mislabeled or have rose mosaic virus
  • Roses do much better in the sun, minimal amount if 4 hrs sun each day for OK flowering
    • 8 hours of sun per day -- you get twice as many roses than at 4
    • 12 hrs of sun per day -- get more flowers but individual flowers don't last as long, may bleach out color
  • If planting bare-root roses, do not skip this step -- soak roots for 24 hours before planting
  • Don't prune weak plants as hard as you might robust plants
  • Climbers should be pruned after they are done flowering, usually around late June
  • Roses do not like wilting at all
  • After a couple of freezes (<25F), trim roses back to 2-4' tall
  • Rose rosette is becoming a huge problem.  Be on the lookout and prune out early, otherwise it will become systemic and you must remove the entire plant

Friday, February 24, 2012

Turf Short Course

I attended one day of the Turf Short Course in Louisville yesterday.  As it turned out, I went to sessions on Landscapes, but came away with some very interesting info.

Steve Higgins presented on water quality and how what landscape professionals do affects our water supply:
  • We all live downstream.
  • KY has over 7000 impaired streams (2010)
  • Test your soil, don't guess.  Only put down the nutrients that are deficient.  Over fertilizing with phosphorus and nitrogen are huge problems, creating dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Landowners with streams or creeks or ponds -- establish no mow areas around them.  Mowing close to water's edge destabilizes the soil and allows tons of sediment erosion.  For ponds, this leads to a dying or fast-aging pond.
  • He argues that in subdivisions, just about all areas (even grassy areas) are impervious to water.  Compaction of soil during construction is a huge issue.  Also, contractors regularly bury construction debris.  
  • To reduce runoff, the UK Hospital has created a rooftop garden, very cool.
  • Buy only the pesticides you need.  If your pesticide storage areas are overflowing, get rid of unused or old pesticides by calling the KY Dept of Agriculture's Pesticide Division.
Lynn Rushing presented a wonderful presentation on ponds:
  • Ponds go through natural cycles each year.
  • Ponds, especially those near subdivisions, are the trash cans for the entire area -- pesticide and fertilizer runoff all collects in ponds.  Sediments collect there as well.
  • Healthy pond has good digestion of organic matter -- each year, 1 to 5" of muck accumulate if the pond is not digesting well.
  • Ponds should not be swimming pools -- it's an ecosystem unto itself.  Many life forms share the space and we must respect them all.
  • Algae are very common problems in ponds when the ecosystem is out of balance.  If you use a herbicide to kill 100% of the algae all at once, you will get a fish kill.
  • To manage algae, dredging helps, but only one part of the solution
  • To manage algae, bottom aeration is a great help because it's basically constant dredging.
  • Ponds die every 12 years or so.
  • Canada geese are terrible pests -- one goose can produce 1200# of poop each year, 8 produce as much as a cow.
  • Mallard ducks are wonderful additions to ponds because they eat algae and pond weeds, plus their poop actually inhibits algal growth!  Amazing.
  • Aeration is key, bottom aeration is best, fountains are just for show.  Oxygenating the pond prevents anaerobic digestion and bad odors.  They should even during the winter.
  • Grass carp eat crass, not algae or pond weeds that indicate a healthy pond -- they actually can increase algae growth
  • If you see blue or black lumpy globs of algae, these could be TOXIC.  Cows, horses, dogs can be killed.
Hope you find this as interesting as I do.  Good conference.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

You Can't Stop an Early Spring

You know, I'm the first person who would like to see spring come early.  However, during the winter, if it's going to be cold, I like it to stay cold.

There is plenty of evidence of plants resuming growth during this stint of temperatures in the 50s.  Take a look at our daffs. 
Feb 1, 2012

Last year, our daffodils here at the office weren't at this stage until March 1.  A whole dang month.
March 1, 2011

In 2010, daffodils were at the stage they're at right now on March 9.  More than a dang month.

March 9, 2010
Even fennel is putting out new growth.
Fennel emerging Feb 1, 2012
Freezing temperatures are far from over.  I'm discouraged, especially for fruit growers.  Apple, pear, and peach buds are beginning to swell, making them less hardy.  Blackberries and raspberries will also start growing.  When flower buds are killed, fruit crops are gone.  Let's hope we get back to normal temperatures and stay there.  Or the flip side would be to stay warm -- I like that a little better!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beginning Beekeeping Program

A Beginning Beekeeping school will be held in Pulaski County starting February 14 at 6pm.  Three other sessions will be held:  Feb 21, Feb 28, and March 13.  All begin at 6pm, all at the Pulaski County Extension Service office.  Fee for the program is $20.

Beekeeping in this day and age is not like your father's or your grandfather's beekeeping.  We have many pests and diseases of which some are relatively new.  As much as I used to think that honeybees should be left to do what honeybees do, I am beginning to become a convert.

Now, it is not my style to micro-manage the bees. I tend to let the bees be bees.  However, from the discussions I hear around the table at our beekeeping association meetings, you must be more proactive than reactive.  Dispensing some sort of pesticide for varroa mites is part and parcel of beekeeping in the 21st century.  So is feeding them to get them through the winter.

I'm sure, if I were a good beekeeper, there are many other jobs I should be doing in my hives.  But for now, I'm just a mediocre beekeeper.

Here is the best part about keeping bees!!!  Taking them to classrooms.  Bees make you cool, you feel like a rock star in those elementary schools.

Come to our beginning bee school starting February 14 and you too, can become a bee rock star!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Info from the KY Fruit and Vegetable Conference

I go to the Kentucky Fruit & Vegetable Conference every single year.  It is THE meeting for KY growers of fruits, vegetables, organics, grapes, and wine.  Over the years, I have seen such a shift, in a good way, in regards to participant age.

I was usually considered one of the younger participants.  Of course, every year I go adds a year to my life, but as a 44 year old, I am now one of the older ones.  This is SO GREAT!  I see more and more younger people at these meetings and it encourages me, it should encourage all of us.

So, new info that might be of interest follows:
  • For decreasing soil pH (this was in the blueberry talk), Sulforix is now on the market.  You use much less Sulforix per acre than you would elemental sulfur to get the same desired effect.
  • If you think you might try to find some grant funding for what you're doing, your first stop should be the Kentucky Agribusiness Grant Facilitation Program.  Great info here!
  • For those of you who want to process food, the Kentucky Food Systems Innovation Center is worth looking at. They hold Better Process Schools and other pertinent trainings for food entrepreneurs.
  • School tours at your fruit or vegetable farm can make good business sense.  Go to Kentucky Farms Are Fun website to get resources.  Ever hear of motor coach tours?  They're looking for interesting stops all the time!
  • Sweet corn growers now have Roundup Ready and Bt sweet corns.  By using these corn varieties, they can decrease their pesticide use by up to 85%.
  • I was amazed (and dumbfounded) by a blackberry training system called Rotatable Cross Arm Trellis.  If the yields they reported were correct, we all should be growing blackberries this way.  Incredible. I'm sure UK will have some local yields to report in the future.
  • Lastly, but certainly not least, NRCS is now funding high tunnels in Pulaski Co.  We were one of the last counties in KY to get this funding.  Contact your local NRCS for more details. First application deadline is February 3, 2012!!