Diseases of garden plants
Flowers - Annuals
Flowers - Perennials
Native Plant gardening
|A while back I read about some places that grow the "old fashioned" seed for tomatoes and other vegetables, etc. Would you have their Web sites or e-mail addresses? Troy, Louisville|
|Hello, Troy in Kentucky: There is nothing more satisfying than planting a seed, watching it grow, and enjoying the food it produces. It is a gratifying experience and your taste buds will thank you. As far as reputable companies that offer heirloom seeds there are a few to choose from. I am not sure which company you were reading about but here are a few options: Renee’s Garden Seeds is located in California and they offer a large variety of organic heirloom seeds; their Web site is www.reneesgarden.com and their phone number is (888) 880-7228. Baker Creek Seeds is another great source for non-treated, heirloom seeds. Their Web site is rareseeds.com/about
and they can be reached at (417) 924-8917. Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit member organization where you can purchase heirloom seeds. Their Web site is www.seedsavers.org
and you can reach them by phone to request a catalog at (563) 382-5990. I am certain that there are other great seed sources out there but these are a few that I know from experience are reputable places to purchase from. There are so many wonderful choices, so have fun deciding what to grow and think spring!|
|Are okra leaves edible? How do you cook them? Dale, Sand Springs|
|Hello, Dale: Okra (Abelmoschus aesulentus) is a nice addition to the vegetable garden. Of course it produces edible pods, which would be the main reason for growing, it but it is also serves as an ornamental with hibiscus-like yellow blossoms. Okra is often thought of as a southern vegetable. It is grown all over the world but is thought to originate in Africa. In our part of the world, the fruit is harvested and commonly used in gumbos or served as a side dish sautéed or fried. To answer your question, yes, the foliage of the okra is edible. The leaves are velvety to the touch so the texture will depend on the way it is prepared. It is usually steamed or stir-fried, but it can also be eaten raw in a mixed green salad.|
|As new gardeners, we planted potatoes and now we do not know what to do with them. We dig them up but how do we store them?
|Hello, Dolores in Kentucky: Potatoes are a fun crop to grow, and with so many cultivars you can grow several different kinds each year. Selecting varieties that are early maturing, as well as ones that are mid to late maturing, will provide you with potatoes all season long and enough to store for the winter months. If you wait a couple of weeks after the vines have died to harvest the early crop of potatoes, the skins are sure to be toughened. If you dig them up before the vines have died back, the potatoes may be smaller and the skins not as tough but still totally edible. With the later planted crops, they should be dug as soon as the first frost kills the vines. When digging up your potatoes, be careful not to bruise them, especially if you intend on storing them. This will cause rot, and you also want to avoid keeping the potatoes in the field after they have been dug. Exposing them to high temperatures and intense sunlight can cause sunscald and as a result they will turn green and taste bitter. As a general rule, late harvest potatoes store better than early harvest ones. Either way, it is important to let them dry in a dark space with good air circulation for a couple of weeks to allow them to cure. During the curing process, the ideal temperature would be 50-55 degrees F. After the tubers have cured they can be placed in crates, baskets, or mesh bags. Do not clean the potatoes until you are ready to eat them. Leaving a bit of soil on them helps them to store better. They can be stored for four to six months in a cool (40 degrees F) space with good air circulation and relatively high humidity. Storing them in a clean space will help prevent disease issues.|
|Can you recommend one of the new asparagus cultivars? I planted one of the older cultivars (Mary Washington) several years ago and it is producing well. I want to plant a new bed with one of the newer cultivars (one of the Jersey types), but I haven't found any in local stores. Mark, Shelbyville|
|Hello, Mark in Kentucky: When given the right growing conditions asparagus will provide many years of harvest. It is true, however, that the all-male hybrid cultivars are more productive than the old-fashioned female Mary and Martha Washington plants. The female plants have to use more energy to produce seed and as a result the yield is decreased. Jersey King, Jersey Giant, Jersey Prince, and Jersey Knight are all male cultivars that are resistant against rust and would make a great addition to your asparagus bed. Since you are already growing this perennial I will not go into detail in terms of preparing the bed, planting, or harvesting, but if you need information you can visit http://ces.ca.uky.edu/daviess-files/Horticulture/Feb_1_09_asparagus.pdf
. This is a publication about growing asparagus for Kentucky gardeners. As far as locating these cultivars you may have to drive into Louisville, but The Plant Kingdom on Westport Road carries ‘Jersey Giant’ and Bunton Seed on East Jefferson Street carries ‘Jersey Knight.’ The best time to plant asparagus in Kentucky is early March through early April so hopefully your bed is prepped and you can get the crowns in the ground relatively soon.|
|Can you tell me where I can buy reasonably priced, bulk organic compost for my veggie garden? I live in northern Kentucky, 5 minutes from Cincinnati. Judy, Hebron|
|Hello, Judy in Kentucky: The addition of organic compost is a great way to amend the soil in your vegetable garden. It certainly is more economical to purchase in bulk as opposed to bags but still it is not a cheap product. You may want to contact the horticulture agents in Boone County at (859) 586-6101 for local recommendations. Ammon’s Nursery, Baeten’s Nursery, Evans Landscaping, Marvin’s Organic Gardens, and Ohio Mulch were all possible sources recommended by the arboretum. I know that in the Louisville area the master gardeners sometimes sell compost as well as the zoo so these may be other options for you. The Cincinnati Zoo is known for their horticulture program and they may make and sell their own compost. In the future keep in mind that the cheapest source for organic compost is to make it yourself. This is sometimes not feasible but it sure beats loading the truck up with compost and hauling it into the garden. Making your own compost means you can add it gradually as it is ready and it is a continual source of nutrients for your plants.|
|Could you please tell me when to start heirloom watermelon seeds for outside planting right after the Derby? I have several varieties with no specific instructions on any of them. Larry, Bloomfield|
|Hello, Larry: Watermelon is a wonderful treat in the summer time, especially if it is homegrown! This warm-season crop will be damaged by frost so we must plant outdoors after the frost-free date has passed. The average frost-free date for our area is May 10. Planting after this date will allow enough time for the soil temperature to rise. There are many different heirloom varieties, and each will differ in size, flavor, shape, and maturity time. Depending on variety these melons will mature anywhere from 70-100 days. Watermelon is a vine that requires a lot of space to grow. Keep this in mind when preparing the space for planting. It is best to sow the seeds in raised planting rows/hills that are 6-8 feet apart. The seeds should be planted 1 inch deep and 6-12 inches apart. They may need to be thinned after you determine the best plants. Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) are sun lovers so they will need to be planted where they will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. They are also heavy feeders so it will benefit the plants to add compost to the soil before planting. If you want to get a head start you can start your seeds indoors two to three weeks before the frost-free date. They will need to stay around 80-85 degrees F indoors so you may need a heating mat to place under the containers. Make sure to keep the soil evenly moist and then you can transplant them outdoors after May 10. For now make sure your seeds are stored in a cool, dark, dry space.|
|How do I keep my pumpkins disease-free? Last year, after they bloomed, they just dried up and completely died. I'm trying again.
|Hi, Parker: Pumpkins are great fun to grow in the garden, and just like any other crop success depends on site selection, seed selection, and good sanitation practices. Seeds should be selected for disease resistance and purchased from a reputable source. For a list of disease-resistant varieties that are good for Kentucky gardeners, visit www.uky.edu/Ag/IPM/manuals/ipm12pum.pdf. Site selection is just as important. Pumpkins can grow in part shade but they are heavy feeders, so amending the soil with compost prior to planting is a good idea. Good air circulation and drainage is essential for a healthy crop. These cucurbits should not be grown in the same space where other vine crops, peppers, or tomatoes have grown for at least three years because they are vulnerable to some of the same diseases. Diseases can overwinter in the soil so good sanitation is important as well. All plant debris should be cleaned up and disposed of to reduce the chance of disease spread. I hope you get to carve a home-grown pumpkin this year!|
|How do you grow eggplant?
|Hello, Mark: Growing eggplant in the home garden is very rewarding and a tasty treat to put on the summer dinner menu. Eggplants are considered warm-season vegetables. This means that they should only be planted after the frost-free date has passed and the soil has had time to warm up. They are very susceptible to cold damage so planting them at the right time is the first step to a healthy crop. Other factors to consider when planting eggplant are the amount of available sunlight, nutrients, and space. As with other vegetables, eggplant requires a minimum of six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. The soil should be nutrient-rich and not too compacted to allow for good air circulation for the roots. Depending on cultivar, eggplants should be spaced a good 30-36 inches apart. Smaller fruited types will require less space, so when you purchase your starter plants make sure they have a grower's tag in them so you will know exactly what you are growing and how much space they will need. Purchasing transplants as opposed to growing from seed is a better option for Kentucky gardeners because of the length of our growing season. Seeds will take eight to 10 weeks to produce a starter plant, and 50 to 80 days to harvest. For now, if you have not had your soil tested you might consider having this done before the planting season arrives. Contact your County Cooperative Extension Service for more information on having your soil tested. The Allen County phone number is (270) 237-3146.
|I always put pine straw around my tomatoes. However, I have a huge garden this year, and I need to know if I can put the pine straw around all the rest of my vegetables? I know pine straw is an acidic mulch so it's best with acid-loving plants. Do you have a list of these vegetable plants? Clay, Rocky Point|
|Hello, Clay: Pine straw is a fine choice to use around the rest of your vegetable plants. Most edible plants prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil. This is true for the most commonly grown vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, and sweet corn. Of course, there are exceptions like Brussels sprouts that prefer a more alkaline soil, but for the most part you should not hesitate to use pine straw. The main purpose of using any mulch is to keep the weeds down and the moisture in. It is also helpful in preventing soil-borne diseases from splashing up onto the plant material. Be careful not to apply too much mulch; a 2-inch layer is all you need to be effective. Any thicker and we are creating a nice environment for insects and disease to live. The reality of using pine straw as a mulch is that even after years and years of breakdown it only slightly changes the pH of the soil. You can always have your soil tested through your County Cooperative Extension Service to know exactly what you are dealing with in terms of pH and nutrients. More important than the mulch you choose are the nutrients you add back to the soil every year. Vegetable gardens will benefit greatly from composted manure. If you are interested in having your soil tested you can visit the Pender County Web site at: http://pender.ces.ncsu.edu/index.php?page=home
or contact them at (910) 259-1235. They will also be able to supply you with literature on growing vegetables in North Carolina.|
|I am just sick. I think I have ruined my vegetable garden. I have used Preen for vegetables and really like it. I asked hubby to pick up some for me. He bought Preen for Southern gardens and I didn't notice until I put it down on my garden. Have I ruined my vegetable garden? Will this make the fruit poisonous? Will I be able to grow vegetables on this ground later? Nancy, Fort Myers|
|Hello, Nancy in Florida: The main difference in the Preen vegetable weed control and the Southern garden weed preventer is the active ingredients. Preen for vegetables is an organic product with corn gluten being the active ingredient. Preen for Southern gardens is not organic with the active ingredient being dithiopyr. I contacted the company to be sure I was giving you the right advice and they said you should not plant edibles in the space where you have applied the Southern weed preventer for an entire year. I know this is not what you wanted to hear but it is better to be safe than sorry. Active charcoal granules can be applied to neutralize the active ingredient dithiopyr in an ornamental garden but is still not recommended for use in an edible garden. Hopefully you have another sunny space you can plant veggies in this year and then next spring you can plant again in your current vegetable garden. The good news is that it is still very early in the season and you have time to re-think your garden. Keep in mind that many vegetables do well in containers and you could actually place the containers on top of the soil in your vegetable garden. This way you know they are in a sunny location and if you add a layer of mulch on top of the soil you do not have to worry about absorption of harmful chemicals. This way you can still have your vegetable garden in the same place only they are container-grown plants. You can all your local garden centers and see if they sell or give away their larger nursery pots. This would be an economical way to plant in containers. I know this is disappointing but it is only for one year.|
|I am still pretty new to vegetable gardening but I love it. I haven't been as successful as I would like in the past, but I am still learning. I was wondering about the weather we are having this year. It seems unseasonably warm to me, as was our whole winter. I wonder how this will affect our gardening? I need to start seeds for my garden but I really don't have a great setup in the home for doing this. I have no windows that get a lot of light and I do not have any of the equipment I could use to make up for this. Is it possible to start my seeds in small pots outdoors right now and bring them in at night? If we have a day or two of cold weather I could put them in the best window I have, until warm weather reappears. I will be growing peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce mostly. Susan, Dwarf|
|Hi, Susan in Kentucky: Indeed this year so far has brought us warmer than normal temperatures and it can make the gardener in us want to get an early start on our vegetable gardens. The reality is that it is not black and white, and if we look back at 2007 we had a really warm spring and then killing frosts around Easter time. Mother Nature is very unpredictable and it is best to take precautions if you want to plant before the average frost-free date (May 10) for our area arrives. For the crops you mentioned, all are considered warm-season crops but the lettuce is a cool-season crop. The lettuce seeds can be sown directly into the garden now but the warm-season crop should be started in containers. Each seed packet will have specific instructions in terms of germination time so keep this in mind when planting your seeds. I think you are fine to start the seeds and keep them outside but pay close attention to the weather forecast and bring them in if nighttime temperatures fall below 50 degrees F. Vegetable gardening is very rewarding and we learn from year to year what works and what does not in our own gardens. The most important aspects of a vegetable garden is the amount of light and nutrients. The space should get a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day and the soil should be nutrient-rich. If you have not added any amendments it might be a good idea. If you want more specific information on growing vegetables in Kentucky you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
. This link is to a publication available for home gardeners provided by the Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with land grant universities in Kentucky.|
|I am wondering about multiplying onions. When do you take them up? Do you cut the tops off or just let them dry up? And do you take them apart if there is a cluster of them or leave them together? These are the onions you put out in the fall. Larry, Somerset|
|Hello, Larry in Kentucky: Fall planted multiplier onions (potato onions and shallots) should be harvested when 75 percent of the top growth has fallen over. This means your onions are ripe and ready to be pulled from the soil. As you notice the tops begin to fall over, you will want to avoid adding any additional moisture. To harvest you can either gently pull up the clusters or gingerly dig them up. It is best to harvest during dry weather, and it is important to be careful during harvest not to bruise the onions as this can increase rot during storage. After they have been lifted from the ground, you will want to gently remove the soil. It is not essential that you get them completely clean, in fact, it is better to leave a bit of the soil intact. Move them out of the direct sun to avoid sunscald and allow them to dry. You can also leave them in the field but cover the bulbs with the tops to prevent sunscald. Good air circulation is essential at this stage. You can also hang the onions in small bunches to dry. After the onions have completely dried they are ready to be cured. Move the onions to a shaded, dry space that is not too cool and spread them out on screens or wooden shelves. This process usually takes three to four weeks. At this point they are ready for storage and you will want to remove all but ¾ of an inch of the tops and store them in cool (35-40 degrees F) space that is dry and has good air circulation. You can separate the bulbs from the clusters at this stage. Mesh bags or wooden crates with open slats work great for storage.|
|I believe my rhubarb plants are too overcrowded as most of the stalks are very thin. Could you please tell me what time of year I should thin them out and how I should go about doing that? Kimberley, Steinbach|
|Hi, Kimberley: How long has your rhubarb been in the ground? This cool-season perennial vegetable can grow to be overcrowded but this usually takes several years. So depending on how old your plants are they may need to be divided. If they have only been in the ground for a couple of years it may be a nutrient issue; you can have your soil tested to determine if it's lacking essential nutrients. An indication of crowns being overcrowded is the stalks reducing in size so this indeed may be the issue. The best time to divide your rhubarb is in the early spring as soon as the ground can be worked. When the time comes, take your spade and gently lift the plants from the ground, shake off the soil, and divide them into apple size pieces. It is always best to have a plan before you start breaking the crowns apart. It is not an exact science and you do not have to be nice about it; rhubarb is a pretty tough plant and will take some man-handling. It does not matter the method of division, you can use your hands or a tool, whatever is easier for you. Each new plant should have at least one bud and undamaged roots. Get them back in the ground as soon as possible and treat them as you would any new planting. Do not harvest them the first year and only lightly the second; the third year and the following years after you can harvest up to one-half of the stalks. The rest need to remain on the plant so the foliage can store nutrients for the crown. Over-harvesting can also result in thin stalks.|
|I have a couple of mystery squash growing in my garden. I thought I had planted an acorn squash, but this one is pale green, elongated, and must have cross-pollinated with something else last year. I sent three photos to Kentucky Living's general e-mail for you to look at. Lori, Edmonds, WA
|Hi Lori: I have not seen your pictures but as a general rule, squash will cross-pollinate with other squash if grown in close proximity to each other. This is likely what has happened, but it is also possible that the plant was not tagged correctly by the grower if you purchased a start instead of seed from a reputable supplier. This does not make the squash you are growing any less edible or decorative, but may make them less disease- or insect-resistant. Saving seeds of squash is not typically a recommended practice unless you just want to experiment. Hybrid squash do not usually come true from seed saved from the previous season.
|I have a perennial bed that I want to kill out and plant a small garden this spring. It is very thick with vegetation right now. I'm concerned about spraying it then sowing vegetables. I understand that putting down plastic will take a long time to kill it out. I sprayed it a couple of times in the fall, which helped a very little. Stacy, Lancaster|
|Hello, Stacy in Kentucky: Every season in the garden is different and winter is the time to sit back and ponder ideas for next year’s growing season. A garden is ever-changing and sometimes we want to pull everything out and start over. The good news is that this is possible with a little bit of manual labor. Switching out a perennial bed for a vegetable garden is certainly doable but the task of getting the perennials out of the way is the first order of business. The lack of success with spraying may have to do with what you sprayed, how much you sprayed, what you are trying to kill, and if the plant was actively growing or able to absorb the active ingredient (likely glyphosate). Since your goal is to replace a perennial bed with a vegetable garden, you are better off digging up the plants, re-working the soil, and re-planting. It would be unfortunate to kill perennials that another gardener friend may love to have. They may even come dig them out for you. If this is an established perennial bed you will have the roots to contend with even if you just kill the plants, so you might as well just dig up the healthy plant and their roots so you have a “clean” bed to plant your veggies in. Black plastic is a great way to kill turf and prepare a bed but it does take time and not so ideal in a perennial bed that already has plantings. Digging out the existing perennials is the most environmentally friendly option and really makes the most sense in terms of re-planting. Glyphosate and other chemical sprays have their place but knowing you are going to eat the plants growing in this soil is just another good reason to hand-dig.|
|I have a raised garden bed that I have covered with black roofing paper; will I need to remove the paper before I plant my veggies? Richard, Walton|
|Hi, Richard in Kentucky: Home vegetable gardening is a great way to provide you and your family/friends with healthy, great-tasting food. There are many benefits to growing vegetables in raised beds, including the fact that they drain better since the soil is not so compact, and eliminate issues if you are dealing with poor soil conditions. As for the black roofing paper, I assume you have used this for weed control in the garden. It is not normally recommended since in most cases roofing paper has been treated with chemicals that can be leached into the soil and taken up by the roots of your edibles. This can affect the health of your plants, so you will want to remove the roofing paper before planting any vegetables, herbs, or fruit in this bed. In the future, newspaper or cardboard would be a better choice for weed control.|
|I have an 8 x 12 raised vegetable garden. I was wondering where I can send a soil sample to have it tested? John, Louisville|
|Hello John in Kentucky: Having your soil tested is always a good idea just to give you an idea of pH and nutrient levels, and if you need to amend or add anything back to the soil. In Louisville, the Jefferson County Extension Service is the place to have this done. The offices are located at 810 Barret Avenue and their phone number is (502) 569-2344; this is where you can drop off your soil samples so they can send them to the lab at the University of Kentucky. Since you are only interested in having your soil tested for the vegetable garden, make sure you let the horticulture agent know this when you drop your sample off. You may need to fill out a form and you will also want to mention this on the form. To take your samples, you will need a spade or auger and a clean plastic pail. You will want to take 10-15 random samples and each should be 4-6 inches deep. You will need a total of 2 cups of soil. Make sure the soil is dry before mixing it all together and taking it in to the office. There is a small fee to have your soil tested but it's worth every penny in terms of maintaining plant health. If you have recently added compost or any type of plant food your soil samples will not come back accurate. If you are interested in watching a video on how to take soil samples you can visit http://jefferson.ca.uky.edu/index.php?q=horticulture and click on the link to the soil sample video.|
|I live in Brooklyn, NY, and have a terrace with a southeast exposure that gets close to 14 hours of sun each day. In the spring I started some corn seeds indoors then transplanted them to a washbasin with a depth of 10 inches and a diameter of 3 feet. As promised on the seed pack's label 73 days later I reaped almost one dozen ears of the sweetest corn I've ever tasted. I immediately planted another crop and as of today the stalks reached a height of 7-8 feet. The ears seem less developed than their predecessors, and I picked one the other day and when I removed the husk I found it underdeveloped in spots and overdeveloped with large kernels in other areas.
I feel fortunate that the earlier crop succeeded but disappointed that the latter one appears to have failed. I water and weed judiciously and will admit to perhaps overcrowding my plants but this still doesn't account for one crop failing after an earlier one prospered.
I would appreciate any ideas on your part.
Lawrence G, Brooklyn|
|Hello, Mr. Maglione: When kernels fail to develop or are sporadically developed on an ear of corn this means that they were not fully pollinated. Corn is pollinated solely by wind, which is why commercial growers plant in several shorter rows as opposed to a few longer rows; this allows for optimal pollination. In your situation you can bag pollinate next year's crop to ensure a full ear of corn. Unfortunately it is too late for your second crop this year. You would think that planting successive crops in the same space they would be pollinated in the same manner but it really just depends on which way the wind blows when pollen shed occurs on the tassel. Not to get too technical but the tassel produces the pollen and as the wind blows it comes into contact with the silk, eventually pollinating each individual kernel. Each strand of silk is attached to a single kernel so this is why we see random kernel development with poor pollination. For next year keep an eye on the tassel and as soon as you notice pollen (yellow/white dust) developing, place a paper bag over the ear and lightly shake. You can do this for a couple of days in a row as long as you see pollen, leaving the bag on for a few hours each time. Pollen is usually shed during the mid-morning hours as long as it is not wet. Look for the pollen in the mid-section of the tassel working its way upward. Good sweet corn is definitely a treat in the summer and well worth growing. I am glad your first crop was a success!|
|I live on the north side of a building. My balcony gets plenty of indirect sunlight, but nothing direct. I would like to start a garden for cooking (I'm interested in non-edibles too) but know it is challenging to grow in the shade. What can I plant?
Alex, New York|
|Hello, Alex: You are correct in saying that edibles are a challenge to grow in any space that does not receive full sun. But you are not entirely out of luck, there are a few options that can do well with less light, so you may try them on your balcony to see how they do. Your success will all depend on how much actual sunlight these plants receive so it is certainly worth trying. Of course, tomatoes and peppers will not be happy on your north-facing balcony, but other options such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and peas are worth trying. Lettuce and other leafy greens such as arugula, spinach, and kale are probably the most tolerant of lower light levels. Later in the spring there will be many shade-loving options to choose from, including annuals like Persian shield and torenia, perennials such as ferns and coral bells, and shrubs such as azaleas and some hydrangea. Depending on the size of your balcony and your containers, you could plant a combination of different plants that give you interest throughout the seasons. Visit your local garden center to see what catches your eye. Let me know if you need more suggestions in terms of non-edibles.|
|I planted a garden last year for the first time. Almost nothing produced. My corn was about 3 feet tall, the cantaloupe grew but produced no edible fruit, etc. I want to plant again this year but don't know what the problem was. Maybe my soil? Kim, Lexington|
|Hello, Kim in Kentucky: Gardening can be very rewarding and just as frustrating. Considering that you had little success with any of the crops you planted, we can’t chaulk it up to a bad seed. It has to be environmentally related. So, let’s rule out the most obvious possibility: how much light does the vegetable garden receive? If it is any less than six hours then unfortunately no veggie or fruit is going to thrive in those conditions. They demand full sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Did you add compost or any other amendment before you planted? If not, lack of nutrients could be another possibility. It would be a good idea to have your soil tested for nutrient levels and pH. This can be done through your Cooperative Extension Service. You can read more about having your soil tested in Fayette County at http://fayette.ca.uky.edu/soilsamples. Of course, too much or too little water and lack of pollination could also be factors. Any plant that is stressed is going to be more susceptible to insect and disease issues. When vegetables and fruits are given sufficient light, food, and moisture, they should provide you with a bounty of produce. In your case, it may be a combination of different elements, but not knowing specifics about your garden it is hard to say.|
|I planted a small vegetable garden for the first time. I would like to know if I could use the mulch I use on my flower beds on my vegetables. It's a dyed mulch. Pete, Harrison City|
|Hello, Pete: Congratulations on your first vegetable garden! Yes, you can use the same mulch on your vegetable garden as you did in your flower beds. Make sure it is just a thin layer, no thicker than 2 inches. Otherwise it can become a safe haven for insects and other disease problems. Dyed mulch is more for show and it is used only for aesthetic purposes. There is no beneficial reason to use dyed mulch; in fact, it can be more of a nuisance, in my opinion, when it gets wet and the dye color bleeds. Most dyes are made of plant-based products so they would be safe to use in your vegetable garden. It is also fine to switch up the mulch you use in your vegetable garden. There are no rules that say you must be uniform in the garden! I would go for a pine bark mulch or pine straw as opposed to a hardwood mulch that can become very dense and matted. Either way, the idea of mulching is to reduce weeds and help retain soil moisture.|
|I planted asparagus from seeds two years ago. It looks good and should be ready to start cutting next spring. Do I need to do anything to it this winter, let it fade on its own or cut it back, etc.? Michael, Louisville, KY Michael, Louisville|
|Hello, Michael : Good for you! You have been patient and allowed this perennial vegetable to establish itself and now you will benefit for many years. Asparagus is a long-lived perennial vegetable that will produce for 15+ years. For the long-term health of your plants, it is best not to over-harvest while the plants are still young. Next year you can harvest for six to eight weeks. This year, all growth should be removed after a killing frost. This allows optimal time for food storage but also prevents potential disease problems. As with any vegetable in the garden, a fertile/nutrient-rich soil is essential for a good crop. Asparagus will appreciate additional compost and fertilizer. Next spring you can side-dress your veggies with 1 pound of a slow-release fertilizer with a ratio of 5-10-10 per 100 square feet. You can always have your soil tested for nutrient levels through the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service. For any gardener that has space in the sun this is one vegetable that is definitely worth planting.
|I planted old-fashioned onions this spring; they are now over knee-high and still green. When can I harvest them? I want some to plant this fall. GILBERT, SOMERSET|
|Hello, Gilbert in Kentucky: I assume by “old fashioned” onions you are referring to the popular onion sets that are sold in garden centers in the early spring. These should be harvested when two-thirds of the tops have fallen over or died back. Spring planted onions should be harvested during the late summer or early fall. When the foliage starts to turn yellow this is a sign that the bulbs are ready to be harvested. Avoid letting all of the foliage die back before lifting them from the soil. When it is time to harvest, carefully lift the bulbs with your hand or a gardening tool but be careful not to bruise the bulbs since this can promote rot. The bulbs should be placed on a drying rack and allowed to dry for at least two weeks. They are now ready for storage in a cool, dry space that has good air circulation. Your fall planted onion sets will be ready for harvest early next summer.
|I planted pole beans in the spring. They are very healthy looking plants but no flowering = no beans. What's my problem, please? If I may, I also planted one thornless blackberry plant last year and started new plants by burying some of the vines. Great tasting blackberries, currently the plant is about 6 ft. tall and falling over. Should I prune the plant back or wait till fall and restart additional plants? Tom, Brooksville|
|Hello, Tom in Kentucky: There are a few possibilities why your beans are not flowering, the most common reason being not enough sunlight. Pole beans require a minimum of six hours of direct light. The plant itself may be happy in part shade but you will not get to enjoy many beans. Another possibility is too much nitrogen fertilizer. Plant food that is high in nitrogen encourages foliage growth but actually discourages flowering. One last thought is when air temperatures reach 90 degrees F or above pod set is typically decreased, and we have had a lot of those days this summer. Depending on when you got your seeds or starts in the ground and how many days the variety you planted takes to harvest, it may not be time for your vine to flower yet. Pole beans bloom mid to late summer depending on a few different variables. As for your blackberries, it depends on what kind you are growing. From the height you mentioned I assume you are growing semi-erect and these cultivars should be pruned during the winter while they are dormant. They should be cut back where the canes start bending over. They can also be pinched back during the summer months if at any time the canes have put on more than one foot of new growth. This will encourage larger fruit. So really the decision is yours, if you wish to propagate more plants than go ahead and do so, but if you have enough and just want to maintain the ones you have you can prune them this winter. For more detailed information on growing/pruning blackberries, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho15/ho15.pdf.|
|I planted some yams in April I only planted one and now the vine has gone crazy all over the sidewalk and in the bed I planted it in. Our dogs have peed on the plant: will that harm the plant and is it still safe to eat the yams? Also, when should I dig the yams up? Linda, Railto|
|Hi, Linda in California: Yams and sweet potatoes are often referred to as the same but actually belong to different families and are native to different parts of the world. Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and true yams are native to Africa. That being said, gardening in California you may have the extended growing season conducive to growing yams. You will want to harvest your crop after the first frost kills the foliage. If this does not happen before Thanksgiving you can dig them the day of or a couple of days before. If you do not use them all you can cure them, unwashed, in a dry shaded space for a couple of weeks and then they can be stored for up to six months. They should be stored in a cellar-like environment with cool temperatures, around 40 degrees F, with good air circulation. When digging your yams be careful not to damage them and if any of them get bruised in the process be sure to eat those first. As for your dogs, their urine can certainly damage plant material, although it has to be a consistent habit in combination with lack of rainfall/water. Dog urine is alkaline, it can over time alter the pH of the soil and damage plant material, but from the way you described your vine it seems perfectly happy. In the future if this is a problem, there are environmentally safe products out there for deterring dogs.
|I tilled and planted onion sets in the garden today. What else can I plant? Gary, Louisville|
|Hi, Gary in Kentucky: This is the time of year we gardeners start getting fidgety about digging in the soil. February is still a bit too early to plant the spring vegetable garden. Ideally temperatures should consistently be between 50-65 degrees F. before we plant directly into the garden. We can, however, start planting seeds indoors so our seedlings will be ready to transplant in a couple weeks. Cool-season crops will tolerate light frost and can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. As for options for the spring garden there are many other cool-season crops to consider. Lettuces and greens are probably the most common, but carrots, potatoes, brussels sprouts, peas, and broccoli also like the cooler, shorter days. The broccoli and brussels sprouts should be purchased as transplants and planted directly in the garden but the others can be grown from seed. Always purchase your seed from a reliable source and make sure to follow packet instructions since each vegetable/green has different germination requirements. It is best to place your seeds in a south-facing window. Be sure to use quality potting mix and seed trays or containers that allow for drainage. The soil should be consistently moist but not sopping wet or the seeds will rot. The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has a publication available for gardeners on home vegetable gardening. If you would like to read more detailed information on specific veggies you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf. Since this is a newly tilled bed you might consider adding some compost if you have not already done so.
|I want to start a vegetable garden this year, and I will be using raised beds as I live in the city on a small lot. 1) How deep should my beds be? 2) What mix of soil should I use for the veggies?
|Hello, Tim: Starting a vegetable garden is a great way to provide you and your family/friends with fresh food. Even a small city lot is enough space to grow herbs and veggies. Gardening in raised beds is ideal for your situation. Before constructing your beds, keep in mind that vegetables require full sun so make sure you have a space that will receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. The dimensions of your raised beds are going to be up to you and the space limitations you are working with. The most important dimension is the depth. Ideally you do not want it to be any less than a foot deep and in direct contact with the existing soil. This allows enough space for the roots to spread and continue into the earth if needed. This is especially true if you intend to grow any root vegetables. Growing in raised beds certainly has its advantages, one of the most important being that we can create the ideal soil mixture for our plants. A mixture of quality topsoil, compost, and manure provides plants with the optimal environment in which to grow. Soil structure, fertility, drainage, and pH are all important aspects in creating this environment. First you will want to till up the base soil and then add topsoil, compost, and decomposed manure. Different layers of soil can create barriers, not allowing soil to penetrate, so make sure to mix it all together. Equal parts topsoil and amendments is best, but heavier on the topsoil is fine as well. There is a movement in Louisville inspired by 15,000 farmers that encourages city dwellers to start growing their own food. Their Web site is full of information on square foot gardening in raised beds along with planting diagrams. If you are interested you can visit their Web site at www.15thousandfarmers.com/Home_Page.html.|
|I was wanting to grow some vegetables in my house this winter. I have a 17-month-old daughter who does not permit me to do a lot of outdoor gardening, and I was wondering what would the best to grow starting this month. Jamie, Nicholasville, KY Jamie, Nicholasville|
|Hi Jamie: Gardening with little ones can be a challenge, and you may have more weeds than you would like, but getting outdoors and in the garden is good for everyone! My 1- and 3-year-old daughters have picked more green tomatoes than red this year, but they enjoy it and it allows me to get other gardening tasks accomplished. It may all seem overwhelming but remember that you do not have to grow anything on a large scale. A small backyard garden or even container gardening may seem more feasible. If you have a south-facing window, this will be the best place to attempt to grow anything indoors. The light levels are so much lower indoors, especially during the winter months, so this presents the challenge of growing indoors, but as a general rule, root crops and leafy greens can tolerate a bit of shade. Each crop has its own planting season, and the next planting opportunity as the temperatures cool down is our cool-season crops. These can be planted twice per growing season: once in the early spring and again later in the summer or early fall. Depending on what you and your family like to eat, your options include: broccoli, parsnips, cauliflower, green onions, Brussels sprouts, radishes, potatoes, peas, rutabaga, spinach, and lettuce or greens, among others. If you are interested in reading more detailed information about vegetable gardening in Kentucky, the Cooperative Extension Service, in collaboration with land grant universities, provides publications to home gardeners; the following link is to the home vegetable gardening publication: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf.
|I was wondering what type of fertilizer to use for rhubarb? Barbara, Nelson|
|Hello, Barbara: Rhubarb is considered a sun-loving, cool-season, hardy vegetable. Ideally, these plants should be grown in soil that is well-drained, fertile, and has a pH between 6.0-6.8. If you have not already had your soil tested, you may consider doing so. This way you can adjust the pH if needed. If you have not planted your rhubarb and are still in the planning stages, it is a good idea to work some compost/manure into the soil. If you are currently growing rhubarb in the garden, it will benefit from a side dressing of compost throughout the growing season. Otherwise, a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer such as 10-10-10 should be applied each spring before new growth begins. As with any fertilizer, it is important to follow application rates as directed by each product. Rhubarb is a vegetable that should not be harvested the first year but it is well worth the wait.
|I was wondering why I can't get much fruit off my plants? My tomatoes grow real well and have lots of blooms on them but don't produce tomatoes. When they do, it is only a couple of them and they are small. Also, I have that problem with my romano green beans. Can you tell me why this is happening? Stephen, Bowling Green|
|Hello, Stephen: It will soon be time to plant our vegetables for this year's growing season! Vegetable gardening can be very rewarding but also very frustrating if what we plant does not produce a good crop. Both tomatoes and beans should be planted in a space where they will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. The soil should be rich in nutrients and well-drained. Good air circulation is important in preventing disease with these vegetables. There are a few possibilities why you are not getting much to eat off your plants. First, we always want to buy our seeds or plants from a reliable source. If you have planted the tomatoes and the beans in the same location in the garden year after year, you might consider moving them this year. Lack of pollination can also be an issue but one that you can help with a thin paint brush going from flower to flower just as any pollinator would. Mother Nature can also have an effect on vegetable production. When the temperatures rise above 85 degrees F tomatoes tend to stop producing fruit. Another possibility is blossom drop, which can occur when the weather is cool and wet as well as when it is hot and dry. Too much nitrogen fertilizer will also cause your plants to stop producing. Always follow recommended application rates on the label of your favorite fertilizer. These are just a few possible thoughts of why your plants have not done well in the past. It could be one factor or a combination of different circumstances. If you would like more information on growing vegetable in Kentucky, visit: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf|
|I would like to start vegetables from seeds in my home. In the past I have tried this, but invariably the plants will grow too fast and become spindly. I have normally started the seed in potting soil next to a window. I now have plant lights and wondered if they might help. I'm particularly interested in tomatoes. Ken, Lexington|
|Hello, Ken: It is that time of year when we start dreaming about spring and what we can do indoors to get a jump start on the gardening season. This certainly includes starting our vegetable seeds indoors so that when our frost-free date arrives, usually May 10, our seedlings have rooted and are ready to be transplanted in the garden. Providing the right environment is hard to do indoors when the light levels are so low during this time of the year. It is best to place your seeds in a south-facing window or under lights if you do not have a good window. The lights should not be used before the seeds actually germinate, but once they do you can keep them under the lights for 14-16 hours each day. I would suspect this is the reason for your plants becoming spindly. Keep the lights 2-4 inches away from the seedlings and move them up as they continue to grow. Temperature and humidity are also important factors in terms of healthy seedlings. Indoor temperatures should be 65-75 degrees F. Heat mats are very useful if the space where you are keeping the seeds is drafty. A humidifier can also be beneficial. Use a good potting soil that is peat-based. The soil should be consistently moist. Be careful not to over-water since the seeds can rot if over-saturated. Half-strength fertilizer can be used every third week but be careful not to over-fertilize. It is always a good idea to acclimate them before planting them in the garden. Taking them outside and keeping them in a shady spot, then gradually moving them into the full sun, will help reduce transplant shock and potential burns. Always purchase your seed from a reliable source and make sure to follow packet instructions since each vegetable has different germination requirements.|
|I'm a new vegetable gardener and have a community garden. Any ideas what I can plant now, 1/16/10? I just put in green and red peppers, a tomato plant, okra, and an eggplant. Rebecca, Louisville|
|Hi, Rebecca: Congratulations on your first vegetable garden! I bet it will not be your last. There is something very satisfying about growing our own food and bringing it to the table. This time of year there are still many other options for planting such as carrots, radishes, beets, cucumber, beans, and squash, just to name a few. Depending on the dimensions of your plot you could add all of these or maybe just a couple. At this time of year it may not be feasible to start from seed but this all depends on the crop you are growing. Tomatoes and peppers should not be started from seed this time of the year but many of the other veggies are certainly fine to start from seed. They all have different germination times so read the seed packets before planting. Keep in mind that later in the fall we can again plant cool-season crops like lettuce, kale, spinach, and broccoli. The Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service has a great publication on vegetable gardening here in Kentucky. You can contact them directly and have them send you a copy or online you can read it at www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf. This literature is for home gardeners provided by the University of Kentucky. It is full of very specific information on all of the vegetables we can grow.|
|I'm in central Kentucky. I'd like to grow edible plants in my garden but would like to make sure we don't have a lead contamination problem. Could you please tell me where to get the soil testing done? Any chance some groups are doing it for free?
Just out of curiosity: I know lead tends to accumulate more in leafy greens, and less in fruits like tomatoes, pepper, etc. How about seeds? There are plenty of individual growers who sell seeds, and most of them don't do soil testings. Is it safe to buy seeds from them? Should we stick to the well-known seed companies?
|Hello, Cath in Kentucky: It is certainly a good idea to have your soil tested if you are concerned about high levels of lead in your soil. For general soil testing in Kentucky, I always suggest contacting your County Cooperative Extension Service but the University of Kentucky lab does not test for lead so the Boyle County office suggested an independent lab in Owensboro. Water Agriculture Lab in Owensboro charges $15 and will give you the results within a week. To take a sample you will want to dig up 1-1.5 cups of soil in your vegetable garden. Take small samples randomly throughout the garden and then combine all of it into a plastic Ziploc bag. To avoid inaccurate results you will want to use a plastic, chrome, or stainless steel spoon or digging tool to collect your soil. After it is collected you can send it to Water Agriculture Lab at 2101 Calhoun Rd. in Owensboro, KY 42301. If you want to contact them their phone number is (270) 685-4039. You can send a check along with the sample or they will invoice you later. Include your contact information with your sample. For future reference or other gardening references you can always contact your Boyle County Extension Service. Their Web site is http://boyle.ca.uky.edu. You are correct in saying that plants store pollutants in their foliage and so lettuce and other leafy greens may not be safe to consume if grown in contaminated soil. It is always best to purchase seeds from a reliable source. If you are looking for organic seed options, Baker Creek and Renee’s Garden are both good mail order options. Check with your local garden centers as well. I would suspect they may even carry these seeds.|
|I'm looking for a publication or listing of which particular variety of vegetable is least susceptible to insects/insect diseases. Charles, Bay St. Louis|
|Hello, Charles in Mississippi: It is always a good idea to plant disease-resistant varieties whether you are dealing with landscape or edible plant material. There are going to be certain vegetable varieties that are better for your climate and growing conditions than others, so it would be best to contact the Hancock County Cooperative Extension Service. They work together in collaboration with the land grant schools in your state to do research and provide reliable information to the home gardener. The following link provides information on vegetable gardening in Mississippi and choosing disease resistant varieties: http://msucares.com/lawn/garden/vegetables/list/index.html
. They should also have a publication on disease-resistant crop options for your area that they can send to you. You can contact the agriculture or horticulture agent at (228) 476-5456 or visit their Web site at http://msucares.com/cgi-bin/countypage.cgi?county_number=23. Keep in mind that all plants are more susceptible to insect and disease issues when we cannot provide them with the growing conditions they need to thrive. A vegetable garden should be located in a space that receives a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. Nutrient-rich, well-drained soil and good air circulation is also important.|
|In the past we have planted our garden in the middle of May. We just put our garden out today, May 29. Is this too late? We planted tomatoes, peppers, and squash. Angela, Waynesburg|
|Hello, Angela in Kentucky: The average frost-free date for our area is May 10; this means that after this date passes it is safe to plant warm-season crops. Although this year has been warmer than average, and if we had known we could have gotten a jump start on the growing season, but Mother Nature is very unpredictable so it is always better to be safe than sorry. It is certainly not too late to plant your warm-season vegetable garden. As the old saying goes “better late than never,” but in all reality you are just a couple of weeks behind and you will still have plenty of tomatoes, peppers, and squash to harvest. Preparing the soil is an important first step in any successful vegetable garden. Ideally the garden is south-facing so that it will receive plenty of sunshine. The soil should be fertile and well-drained. The pH should be between 6.2 and 6.8. and sufficient water is essential to a healthy crop. Cool-season crops can be planted again this fall. If you would like to read more information on growing vegetables, the following publication is available to home gardeners from the Extension Service. It has full planting information on home vegetable gardening in Kentucky: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf. Enjoy your harvest!
|Is it better to cover your newly dug potatoes after you put them in the bin with lime? Ireta, Strasburg, VA
|Hello, Ireta: Growing and storing potatoes is a great way to enjoy food from the garden year-round. After the foliage has died back, we know it is time to harvest the tubers. Any damage to the potatoes can cause considerable decay in storage, so it is important to be gentle when handling them. After harvesting, you will want to cure the potatoes to toughen the skins. Once removed from the soil, they should not be exposed to light, so yes, you will want to cover them or place them in a shaded space to keep them from turning green. Cure them unwashed in a dry, shaded space for a couple of weeks and then they can be stored for several months. Lime is not necessary for the curing/storing process. They should be stored in a cellar-like environment with cool temperatures around 40 degrees F with good air circulation. Discard any potatoes that show signs of deterioration or decay.|
|Is it necessary to cover lettuce after planting? My grandparents always made lettuce beds llike tobacco beds and covered them with tobacco canvas. Charlotte, Carlisle|
|Hello, Charlotte in Kentucky: Lettuce and other greens are considered cool-season crops and can be sown directly into the garden now. If the temperatures drop into the 20s you will want to cover them but otherwise they are happy to germinate and grow during cooler weather. The colder the temperatures, the longer it will take for the seeds to germinate. Lettuce can be grown directly in the soil but also makes for a nice container planting. Preparing the soil is an important first step in any successful vegetable garden. If you have not already chosen a space for the greens to grow, now is the time to do so. Ideally this space would be south-facing so that it will receive plenty of sunshine. The soil should be fertile and well-drained. If you are interested in reading more about vegetable gardening in Kentucky, the following publication is available to home gardeners from the Extension Service. It has detailed planting information on home vegetable gardening in Kentucky: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf. The great thing about cool-season crops is that we get to plant them again in the fall. Freshly harvested greens are a yummy addition to the dinner table!|
|Is it okay to start planting carrots, onions, and broccoli now even though the back of the seed pack says April? Marc, Louisville|
|Hello, Marc: Growing vegetables from seed can be very rewarding and an economical way to put food on the table. Seed packets do not always take into consideration what part of the country you are gardening in so here is some local advice: the first thing you want to do is make sure your planting beds have been turned and have enough nutrients for your seeds to germinate and begin growing. Both broccoli and onions are considered cool-season crops. This means they are tolerant of frost and can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. It is fine to plant your onion and broccoli seeds now. Carrots should be planted a little bit later than onions and broccoli, but since it is late March it is fine to plant them as well. As with all the vegetables you are growing, you want to follow recommended spacing and planting depths as directed on the seed packet. Onions can be a bit finicky to grow from seed, so make sure to remove all weeds and thin out all veggies after they have grown a couple of inches in height. For more specific information on gardening at home in Kentucky visit: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf. This publication is available to us from our Extension Service in collaboration with land-grant universities. It is full of reliable information from planting to harvesting all the veggies we can grow in Kentucky.
|Is Nuprid 2F insecticide safe to use on potatoes, as a seed preparation? Are they safe to eat after using this insecticide? Tim, Banner|
|Hi Tim: Nuprid 2F is an insecticide that contains the active ingredient imidicloprid. Like all other products with this active ingredient, it is widely used in commercial farming. This chemical belongs to a group of neonicotinoids that, as a seed treatment, work systemically to kill insects that feed on plant foliage. The residual effect of this chemical is long-lasting. Is it safe? It certainly would not be used by any farmer practicing sustainable methods. Studies have indicated high toxicity to honey bees, birds, aquatic animals, and other beneficial insects. Purchasing certified, disease-resistant seed, rotating your crop, and practicing good cultural control will help reduce insect/disease issues. If you want to grow your food organically this is not a good option. Banner, KY|
|It's the 4th of July and my first garden has done pretty good. What do I still have time to plant and harvest? Jim, Somerset|
|Hello, Jim in Kentucky: I am glad to hear you have had a successful garden so far! It has been so hot and dry that growing anything this season has been a challenge. Each crop has its own planting season, and the next planting opportunity in terms of food will be later this month through August and September as the temperatures cool down. Then it will be time to get our cool-season crops in the garden for fall harvest. These can be planted twice per growing season: once in the early spring and again later in the summer/early fall. Depending on what you and your family like to eat, your options include: broccoli, parsnips, cauliflower, green onions, Brussels sprouts, radishes, potatoes, peas, rutabaga, spinach, and lettuce/greens, among others. If you are interested in reading more detailed information about vegetable gardening in Kentucky, the Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with land grant universities provides publications to home gardeners and the following link is to the home vegetable gardening publication: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
|Last year I grew futsu and cushaw (green/white stripe) in close proximity to each other and collected the seeds. This year I have grown what seems to be a hybrid from the futsu seeds. Please comment with your opinion. Jon, Red Bud|
|Hi, Jon: Both 'cushaw' and ‘futsu’ are cultivars that belong to the Cucurbita mixta and moschata species respectively. As a general rule, squash will cross-pollinate with other squash if grown in close proximity to each other. So, yes, this would make sense that you now have a squash that has characteristics of both. It does not make them any less edible or decorative, but may make them less disease/insect resistant. Saving seeds of squash is not typically a recommended practice unless you just want to experiment. Squash has both male and female flowers on the same plant and are pollinated by bees. Hybrid squash do not usually come true from seed saved from the previous season. This is especially true in situations like yours where you have different plants growing in the same space. It is fun to be surprised! If your goal is to have the same fruit each season you are better off purchasing the plant or only growing one variety and then collecting your seed.|
|Last year we planted sweet potato plants only to find when dug up some were dark in color but most were an orange color. The orange colored ones stored much better than the dark colored ones. What do you think caused this difference? Also, what are the ideal storage conditions for sweet potatoes?
|Hello, Ralph in Kentucky: I suspect the difference had to do with the quality of the slips or seeds you planted. It is best to purchase only certified disease-free seed from a reliable source and in the future you can propagate your own slips. This will eliminate potential insect and disease issues. It is also a good idea to rotate your crop every few years. As for storing sweet potatoes, any damage to the roots can cause considerable decay in storage. After harvesting, dry the sweet potatoes for two to three hours. Then spread them out in baskets lined with newspaper. Place them in a dry area where the temperature will remain 80 degrees to 85 degrees F for 10 days to two weeks. After this curing period, place them where the temperatures will range from 55 degrees to 60 degrees F with a relative humidity of about 85 percent. Sweet potatoes treated this way will store for several months. Remove any roots that show signs of deterioration or decay. Sweet potatoes prefer lower levels of nitrogen and higher levels of potassium and phosphorous. You can have your soil tested through the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service if you think this might be a concern. Rows should be 3-4 feet apart and slips can be planted every 12-18 inches within each row. If you want more detailed information on growing sweet potatoes in Kentucky and variety recommendations, you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id195/id195.pdf.
|My corn crop grew nice and tall and very healthy looking, but the ears are very small and undeveloped. What did I do wrong? Clem, Troy|
|Hello, Clem in New York: Small ears of corn can be an indication of a potassium deficiency. In some cases the levels of potassium are fine but with certain types of soil and moisture levels it may not be available for the plant to absorb. You can have your soil tested through your County Cooperative Extension Service to determine if this is the problem. This could also be a pollination issue: for optimal pollination, it is best to plant at least three short rows as opposed to one long row. When kernels fail to develop or are sporadically developed on an ear of corn this means they were not fully pollinated. Corn is pollinated solely by wind, which is why commercial growers plant in several shorter rows as opposed to a few longer rows. Pollination really just depends on which way the wind blows when pollen shed occurs on the tassel. The tassel produces pollen and as the wind blows it comes into contact with the silk, eventually pollinating each individual kernel. Each strand of silk is attached to a single kernel so this is why we see random kernel development with poor pollination. Like any other crop, adequate moisture and sunlight are essential for a good harvest. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do at this point to help your crop for this season but have your soil tested and adjust your planting design if needed for next season.|
|My mother and I are interested in starting a veggie garden and organic fruit garden at her house in prospect. Is this possible? If so, how in the world do we go about doing it? Christopher, Louisville|
|Hello, Christopher in Kentucky: Vegetables and fruits can be grown in any garden as long as the space receives a minimum of six hours of direct sun and has nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Your only limitations in terms of what you can grow is how much space you have. Starting a vegetable garden is very exciting and this is the time of year to prepare the soil for planting. Preparing the soil is an important first step in any successful vegetable garden. If you have not already chosen a space for the veggies/fruit to grow, now is the time to do so. Ideally this space would be south-facing so that it will receive plenty of sunshine. The soil should be fertile and well-drained. The pH should be between 6.2 and 6.8. If you have not had your soil tested, you can do this through the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service. The results will indicate if you need to amend your soil with any fertilizer or lime. Each crop has its own planting season, so depending on what you and your family want to grow you could start planting the cool-season crops in the early spring. Broccoli, cauliflower, green onions, and lettuce/greens are all considered cool-season crops. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and many others need to wait until May to plant them in the garden. You can always get a head start and start your seeds indoors and then transplant them into the garden later. The following publication is available to home gardeners from the Extension Service. It has planting information on home vegetable gardening in Kentucky: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf. Fruits are also fun to grow in the garden and many of them can be grown year-round. Apples, pears, blueberries, raspberries, figs, and strawberries are just a few that will give us fruit each year. www.uky.edu/Ag/Horticulture/homefruitrec.pdf is another publication on growing fruit for the home gardener. Some fruits like blueberries have specific pH requirements and so having your soil tested is a good idea. If you are gardening on a new construction site you will likely need to amend the soil to add nutrients after you have killed off the grass. Getting the garden ready to plant can be a big job but the results are well worth the effort.|
|My son and I are getting into organic gardening and want to plant some perennial vegetables like ground nut and sunchokes, among a few. Do you know where we can get some starts of perrenial vegetables and herbs here in Kentucky? We have looked online but most places are in other states and we want to keep our money local if we can. Crickett, Cynthiana|
|Hello, Cricket in Kentucky: Planting perennial vegetables and herbs is a great way to provide your family and maybe some lucky friends with fresh, local food; and it is fun too! Here in Kentucky, asparagus, rhubarb, garlic, Greek oregano, thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and rosemary (Rosmarinus officionalis ‘Arp’) are all considered perennial edibles. The herbs can be a bit tricky since there are many nonperennial varieties of mainly rosemary and thyme, so just be sure to purchase perennial varieties. Perennial fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, figs, apples, pears, and pawpaws may be a thought for next year. As for finding a local source for some of these edibles I would start at your local garden centers, or farmers' markets are always a great place to find local starts. The agriculture/horticulture agent(s) at the Harrison County Extension Office may have suggestions for local options as well. You can visit their Web site at http://harrison.ca.uky.edu. Peanuts are considered ground nuts but all other nuts are actually tree nuts and many of them are hardy for us. If you wanted to grow tree nuts, Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery is located in Upton, KY, and they would be a localish, reliable source: www.nolinnursery.com. You might even ask your gardening friends if they have any in their gardens that they could divide for you. Make sure your new edible garden receives plenty of sunshine and that the soil is nutrient-rich and drains reasonably well. If you would like more information on growing edibles in Kentucky you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf. Other sources for organic seed options are Baker Creek and Renee's Garden. Have fun!|
|My squash grew 3-4 inches, then stopped, and is rotting on the ends. Can you help? Tim, Murrells Inlet |
|Hi, Tim: Ah, it is nice to hear from someone from my old stomping grounds. Say hello to Bubba Love for me! Squash is susceptible to a few different insects and disease. I’m sorry I cannot say for certain what is happening with your crop, but from what you have described it sounds like your fruit has blossom end rot. This is a physiological disorder that is caused by a calcium deficiency usually brought on by consistently wet soil or uneven moisture levels.You should take a sample to the Horry County Cooperative Extension Service for the agriculture/horticulture agent to take a look at. They will also be able to test your soil for you. They are located in the Industrial Park in Conway. The phone number is (843) 365-6715. Visit the following Web site for more information on growing squash in South Carolina: www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/crops/hgic1321.html.
|Our back yard was landscaped in the '80s or '90s by a previous owner. We are somewhat on a hill and as part of this they used vertical railroad ties through all of the yard as retainers for dirt and planters. As a result there is a LOT of railroad ties in the yard. My concern is that we usually like to have a lot of edibles in our landscape. What is the danger from the chemicals in the ties having leached into the soil to eating food from fruits and veggies grown in the yard?
|Hi, Steve in Arizona: Railroad ties are treated with creosote, which is a general name given to a mixture of chemicals used as a type of wood preservative. As the railroad ties are replaced, they sometimes end up being used for retaining walls or edging in home gardens. The most common type of creosote is a product created when coal is heated to make gas. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies creosote as a possible carcinogen. There have been studies on the potential of plant roots to absorb these harmful chemicals and the results indicated more of a risk with tuberous vegetables. That being said, we know that creosote does leach into the soil but the older the tie the less creosote that remains. New ties should never be used in the garden so it is good that yours have been around for a while. You may want to designate a space for your vegetable/fruit garden that is as far away for the railroad ties as possible. Hopefully this is feasible and if not, container gardening may be the way to go. You could still incorporate edibles into the landscape in containers without the risk of absorption. The main goal is to not use them as borders in the edible garden, and if you have to you should wrap the ties in plastic so the roots will not come into contact with the ties.
|Some of the leaves on my veggies are turning yellow with brown spots--what could this be? Gina, Smithfield|
|Hi, Gina: Any vegetable that is not planted in ideal conditions is more likely to be stressed and therefore more likely to become diseased. What vegetables are you growing? Different plants are susceptible to different problems so it is hard to give you specifics, but yellow foliage with brown spots sounds like a bacterial/fungus problem. This problem is more prevalent during humid periods, especially if the plants are overcrowded and watered overhead. If this is only happening on the lower leaves, you will want to strip the plant of that foliage. This will prevent additional spores from splashing up and making contact with the plant. Consistent moisture is important and watering early in the morning is the best since it allows for the sunlight of the day to dry off the foliage. Keep in mind that it is somewhat normal as the foliage ages and if the percentage of infected leaves is less than 20 you should not be too concerned. Of course, good sanitation practices are important so removing any unhealthy foliage is necessary. If the entire plant is affected it may be too late to save them and should really be removed to prevent any future spread. For a positive diagnosis take a sample to your County Extension Service.|
|The first and second year of growing the Christmas butter bean, I had great sucess. Now I'm lucky to get enough to can. Can you help? Debby, Russellville|
|Hi, Debby: This is such a beautiful bean! Christmas lima beans, also known as butter beans in the south, are sometimes referred to as the chestnut lima because of its nutty flavor. These heirloom beans are usually terrific producers so there is something else causing them not to produce. Beans will only be happy if we can provide them with the growing conditions they thrive in. They require a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. They should be planted in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. It is always a good idea to rotate crops every few years to help prevent disease. You might try growing them in another part of the garden this season. If your plants were lush and flowered before, then this is more likely a result of Mother Nature. Hot and dry conditions like we had last summer can cause the flowers to drop, preventing the bean from forming. As the pods are forming/growing, it is important that the plants receive a bit of extra moisture or this can slow down their production. So, there are a few different factors to take into account for this growing season. You may want to have your soil tested so you can amend it if need be. You can have your soil tested through your County Cooperative Extension Service. The Logan County phone number is (270) 726-6323 or you can visit their Web site at ces.ca.uky.edu/logan.|
|The last several years, my tomatoes, like this year. were going just awesom--lot of tomatoes on them, plants were perfect. Then, like the last few years, all at once they start to die from the ground up. This has happened in two garden places I have had. I have done everything I know to do to stop this, with no luck. Michael, South Shore|
|Hello, Michael: There are many diseases that can affect homegrown tomatoes. That is why it is important to grow disease-resistant varieties and plant them in ideal growing conditions. Since you have tried growing them in different locations and they seem to be happy and then all of the sudden they fail, it sounds more like an environmental issue. Are you aware of any walnut trees growing in the area? Even if the trees have been removed and the roots are still decaying, it can cause walnut wilt, which causes internal decay starting in the lower stems and works its way up, suddenly killing the plant. They basically wilt and die. This is true for eggplants and peppers as well. There are other fungus and disease problems associated with tomatoes, but I cannot say for certain what is happening with yours without seeing a sample. Since this has happened several years in a row in different areas of the garden, you should take a sample to your County Extension Office for a positive analysis. That way you know exactly what you are dealing with and how to prevent future problems. As with any crop, good sanitation practices are very important in reducing insect and disease problems. The Greenup County offices are located at 226 West Main Street. Linda Hieneman is the Agriculture and Natural Resource agent. She can be reached at (606) 473-9881.|
|This isn't really a gardening question but by some chance do you know where we can purchase California carrots in bulk in Louisville? We have purchased them from A.J. Passafiume's for over 11 years but recently they are not getting California carrots but carrots from Michigan and Mexico, and they just don't taste the same. We have lived on a vegetarian diet over 11 years, and juicing daily. We use about 25 lbs of carrots each week. We have tried to grow carrots in our garden but we don't usually have much of a crop at all. If you have tips on how to grow good juicing carrots, that would also be appreciated. Donna, Louisville, KY
|Hi Donna: We are fortunate in Louisville to have a number of sources for fresh locally grown vegetables. Farmers' markets during the growing season are abundant and carrots should not be hard to find, but also some of the brick and mortar stores like Whole Food and Rainbow Blossom also buy from local farmers. Joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) is also an option; there are many to choose from and Grasshoppers Distribution is a great way to connect you with local farmers who can provide you with carrots and a lot of other fruits and veggies. You would need a lot of space in the garden to grow the quantity of carrots you consume but even if you have a small space it is certainly worth growing some. There are many different varieties of carrots and they differ in shape, color, and size but they all grow best in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Taste improves as the carrots mature and it is best not to store them near apples because they can become bitter if exposed to ethylene that the apples give off. Carrots are a great source of vitamin A and can be stored in the freezer for year-round use.|
|We are growing pumpkins this year and some of the vines are beginning to dry out, causing the pumpkins to come off. How can we preserve them until October when we want to use them for decorating? Deborah, Shepherdsville|
|Hello, Deborah: It has been a challenging year for growing pumpkins here in Kentucky. Considering all the rainfall we have had this season and the potential wilt and borer problems that exist every year, it may be hard to find nice pumpkins this Halloween. The good news is first, that you have pumpkins, and secondly, that you can store them and keep them for decoration. Ideally they should be cured in a space that has good air circulation and air temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees F. Avoid placing them in a damp location such as a root cellar where moisture can rot the crop. Store them on a piece of wood or cardboard instead of the floor. It can certainly still get hot here in September but the current temperatures we are having will help keep your pumpkins as well. When growing pumpkins for Halloween it is best to put off planting them before the middle of June so they do not ripen before you are ready to use them. Fall is fast approaching and it will soon be time to decorate.|
|We are growing sweet corn for the first time. I am concerned about pests, especially earworms, and how to protect my plants against them. We planted six 40-foot rows of the Peaches & Cream variety. What is the best way to have a successful crop out of our home garden, without those nasty worms? Lisa, Bloomfield|
|Hello, Lisa: As with any vegetable in home gardens, it is important to provide the plants with optimal growing conditions. All plants are more susceptible to insect and disease problems when they are stressed from inadequate growing conditions. Sweet corn should be planted in a space where it will receive all-day sun. A minimum of six hours of direct light is ideal. Good air circulation, consistent moisture, and a nutrient-rich, well-drained soil is just as important. Each plant should be spaced at least a foot apart to allow for good air movement. Good cultural practice is the first step in harvesting a healthy crop. Weeding and keeping the space free of fallen plant debris is essential for reducing insect problems. Peaches & Cream is a good home garden variety of sweet corn. This bicolor hybrid is a reliable early producer. Corn earworms are a common problem but are not usually as frequently found on early plantings as they are with later plantings. Since this is the first year for your crop, you should not be too concerned about these pests. When growing vegetables we always want to be aware of the possible insect and disease problems, but the best prevention is a clean garden. Avoid using any harmful chemicals on your crop and if you notice something off, take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Service for analysis. For more information on growing corn and other vegetables in Kentucky, visit: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
|We have grown intermediate day onions in Kentucky (Superstar and Candy Apple) for the past two years with great success. However, when it comes time to harvest them there lies the problem. We are unable to keep them lying out in the sun due to unpredictable weather, so this year we brought them into the garage and they began to rot. Both the red and white onions get mushy and we end up tossing more than 95% of the harvest. Same thing happened last year, except they were in the barn. We put them on plywood and they are there for at least two weeks. What are we doing wrong? Do they actually need to cure in order to be able to store them? If so, can you describe how you dry and cure in detail? Do they need to dry hanging up? Or on racks? In a particular temperature?
|Hi, Stephanie: Enjoying produce you have harvested is very satisfying. I am sure you are discouraged with the curing/drying process but it is essential for keeping your onions longer. The good news is that you do not need a sunny location to let them dry. It is more important to keep them in a dry, warm space with good air movement out of direct sunlight. Placing the newly harvested onions on a screen will allow good air circulation on all sides. Substitute this for your plywood. Another option is to braid the tops and hang them to dry. You are correct in letting them cure for at least two weeks. Sometimes this can take up to a month before the outer layer of the onion dries and the tops of the onions are dry as well. This is when you will know it is safe to move them to another location to store them. At this time, cut back the tops back to about an inch and place them individually in mesh bags, nylon bags, or crates. This location should be a consistently cool temperature, ideally between 32 and 40 degrees F. It is also important that this is a dry space such as a basement or unheated garage. Rotting can be an issue if the space is damp.|
|We planted cauliflower from seed for the first time. All the plant did was grow, there's no head and it has yellow flowers on it. Is there any way we can save the seeds for next year's planting? Or does the plant have to be pulled up and gotten rid of? Nancy, Parry Sound|
|Hi, Nancy: Cauliflower is considered a cool-season vegetable, meaning that it should be planted in the very early spring for early summer harvest or planted in the late summer for fall harvest. It will not tolerate hot temperatures. It actually does much better as a fall crop. This vegetable requires more specific growing conditions than others. A cool, humid climate is necessary and the plant benefits from a fertilizer higher in nitrogen. Any disruptions in environmental growing conditions can have negative effects on this vegetable. This is why it does better as a fall crop as weather is more stable at this time. Seeds should be started four to six weeks before they can be transplanted into the garden or you can purchase starter plants and directly plant them in the garden. As the heads, also known as curds, develop it is necessary to tie the foliage up around them so the sunlight is not directly exposed to them, causing discoloration and an unpalatable taste. This process is known as blanching and should be done as soon as the curd begins to show. They should be examined every couple of days in the early morning before the sunlight is strong to determine if they are ready to harvest. In your case it sounds like the plants were left to flower and at this point it is better to pull the plants and try again in the fall.
|What can I do to the vegetable garden now for spring planting? Dora, Louisville, KY Dora, Louisville|
|Hi Dora: As the growing season winds down, it is a great time to reflect on what worked and what can be improved upon in the vegetable garden. No matter what you and your family enjoy eating from the garden, a successful vegetable garden starts with plenty of sunshine and healthy soil. After you pull your cool-season crops, you can plant a cover crop such as clover or alfalfa. These cover crops, or "green manure" as they are sometimes called, are beneficial in a number of ways; they help prevent erosion and control weeds. Their roots break up compacted soil, which improves air and oxygen movement. As spring arrives these cover crops can be turned into the soil, recycling nutrients and increasing organic matter in the soil. Even though we can't grow vegetables during the off-season we can help improve soil structure during this down time, which promotes healthy and bountiful crops for the next growing season. While these cover crops are doing their job we can sit in the warmth of our homes, rummage through our seed catalogs, and dream of next year's possibilities in the vegetable garden.|
|What can I spray my potatoes with to keep the bugs off? John, Albany|
|Hello, John: Here in Kentucky we can grow potatoes as an early crop or a late crop; either way they are fun and easy to grow and well worth the effort. Potatoes are subject to a few different aboveground insects as opposed to the insects that live in the soil. The most common insects that affect the foliage are aphids, leafhoppers, flea beetles, hornworms, and Colorado potato beetles. It is important to first identify the culprit and then take action. Taking a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Service or to a knowledgeable staff member at your local garden center will be beneficial in identifying the insect. For pictures and more information on each of these insects visit www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef304.asp
. You may be able to identify the insect from these pictures since they are all very different in appearance except for the beetles. Unfortunately I cannot give you specific control recommendations not knowing what we are dealing with. The Clinton County offices are located at 2601 N. Highway 127. Their phone number is 387-5404. The agriculture/horticulture agent(s) will be able to identify the insect and give you control recommendations specifically for the insect you are dealing with.|
|What cantaloupe should I plant in my garden in eastern Kentucky? I planted the variety 'Athena' with no success. Edwin, Cannon|
|Hello, Ed: Successfully growing fruits and vegetables in the home garden can be a very rewarding accomplishment but when it does not work out as planned do not give up just re-evaluate the situation. The most important aspect to consider is the cultural conditions in which your cantaloupe was growing. This vegetable should be grown in a space that receives full sun. A minimum of six hours of direct sun is necessary for best production. Cantaloupe prefers to grow in a sandy or loamy soil that is fertile and has excellent drainage. The soil pH should be slightly acidic (6.1-6.5) or neutral (6.6-7.5) If your melons were growing in a space that has previously been used for growing other vine crops or peppers this could be the problem. It is best to stick to a three-year rotation because of potential disease problems. The most common problems associated with cantaloupes are bacterial wilt, mildew, and aphids. ‘Athena’ is a cultivar that is recommended by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture so I would suspect that the crop failure had more to do with the growing conditions. If you have not had your soil tested you can do so through the Cooperative Extension Service. The results will give you the soil pH as well as other beneficial information. If you would like to try another cultivar, the 2009 list for recommended vegetable cultivars for the Kentucky garden is available at www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id133/id133.pdf. Cantaloupes require a lot of room in the garden. Each plant will need 4-6 feet to mature. Planting on mounds and mulching will help prevent weeds and potential mildew as well as maintain moisture levels.|
|What is a good ratio of fertilizer to put on my vegetable garden? Sandra, Summit|
|Hello, Sandra: As a general rule, most vegetables are happy with a fertilizer that has relatively low numbers of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This is of course if your soil has sufficient nutrients to begin with. Having your soil tested every few years is always a good idea. The results will tell you the pH and level of nutrients. Having this done by your cooperative Extension service will give you accurate results and recommendations for additional nutrients if needed specifically for a vegetable garden. If this is a space you have grown vegetables in the past, the nutrients are surely depleted by former crops and need to be added back into the soil. Remember to rotate your crops every few years. Choosing an organic fertilizer is important when it comes to edibles in the garden. Compost is a great source of nutrients for your veggies. Different vegetables like different amount of nutrients. For example, tomatoes do not like a lot of nitrogen but peppers do, and most root vegetables prefer a higher amount of potassium. Amending your soil with hen manure that has a ratio of 1-1-1 is a safe way to go. Avoid using any product that has high numbers of either nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium.
There are other soil conditions to take into account as well. The soil should be well drained meaning that there should not be standing water in that space after a day of rainfall. Components of soil can be very complex but for the most part making sure that it drains well and has sufficient nutrients are the most important aspects for happy vegetables. Healthy plants, soil and an abundant amount of sunlight is a sure fire recipe for a bountiful harvest.
|What is the tall stem in the middle of a rhubarb plant--is this a seed pod? Leonard, West Liberty|
|Hello, Leonard: It sounds like what you are referring to is a seed stalk. Some varieties of rhubarb, especially the ornamental ones, are more likely than others to produce seed stalks. These flowering seed stalks are commonly found among older, mature plants as well as when they become overcrowded or in need of nutrients. If you are growing this as a vegetable and not an ornamental plant, the seed stalks should be removed as soon as you notice them because they will take energy away from producing the edible stalks (petioles). Allowing the rhubarb to flower will reduce the vigor of the plant. Flowering may continue to occur so keep an eye on your vegetable (yes, it truly is a veggie!) and remove them as soon as you notice them. You should be able to pull them out of the plant but you may need to get your pruners out. If your plants are older, you may consider thinning them out. If you have not added any compost this season, go ahead and do so--your rhubarb will be very thankful. Remember that the foliage is poisonous! Only eat the stalks. I hope you get to enjoy some rhubarb pie.|
|What will cause cucumber and squash to wilt? They will grow, bloom, and maybe produce one product and then wilt and die. Rose, Walton, KY Rose, Walton|
|Hi Rose: Cucumber and squash are both members of the cucurbit family and there are several different insect and diseases that can affect these crops. Wilting, as you have described, can be an indication of bacterial wilt but I can only speculate without being able to see your plants. Have you grown other members of the cucurbit family in this space in the past? This would include pumpkins, melons, and gourds, and if so did you have problems with these crops? These cucurbits should not be grown in the same space where other members of the same family have grown for at least three years because they are vulnerable to some of the same diseases. Diseases can overwinter in the soil so good sanitation is important as well. The best thing to do would be to take a sample to your Cooperative Extension office and have them send it off for analysis. You can visit the Boone County Web site at boone.ca.uky.edu. Just like any other crop, success depends on site selection, seed selection, and good sanitation practices. Seeds and starts should be selected for disease resistance and purchased from a reputable source. For now, make sure to remove all foliage that is severely infected or pull all diseased plant material from the ground and turn the soil so the potential for disease does not survive from year to year.|
|When and what kind of fertilizer should I use for rhubarb and asparagus?
Marilyn J., Donnellson|
|Hello, Marilyn: As with any vegetable in the garden, a fertile/nutrient-rich soil is essential for a good crop. Asparagus will appreciate additional compost and fertilizer added to the soil at the time of planting. If this is your first year planting asparagus, you should go this route; otherwise you should side-dress your veggies with 1 pound of a slow-release fertilizer with a ratio of 5-10-10 per 100 square feet. After growth begins and once again during the growing season, you can add ammonium nitrate at a rate of 10 Tbs. for each 10 feet of planting row. As for rhubarb, if this is your first year growing, go ahead and incorporate some compost into the soil at planting time. You can also use a commercial fertilizer such as 16-8-8. Rhubarb has a high nitrogen requirement, so the first number in the fertilizer ratio should be the highest. Rhubarb can be fertilized three times per year: once at planting, again when the growth begins, and then after harvest to keep the soil rich. Rhubarb also responds well to manure. With any fertilizer you should try to work it into the top 6 inches of soil and water in. Side-dressing will work just fine as long as the soil is not compacted and it is allowed to work its way down into the soil. You may also consider having your soil tested through your County Cooperative Extension Service if you have not already done so.|
|When and what veggies should I plant to keep my garden going all year long? Pamela, Nancy|
|Hello, Pamela: Growing vegetables in your home garden is a lot of fun and very rewarding. Living in Kentucky we have a couple of different growing seasons separated into warm-season and cool-season crops. The only perennial vegetable we can grow is asparagus; all other crops have to be planted annually. Cool-season crops should be planted late winter/early spring and again later in the fall. Warm-season crops should only be planted in the garden after the frost-free date for your area passes. Each crop has its own planting season, so depending on what you and your family want to grow you can start thinking about your fall planting now. Broccoli, cauliflower, green onions, Brussels sprouts, and lettuce/greens are all cool-season crops. You will need to wait until next May to plant tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, and other warm-season crops. You can always get a head start and start your seeds indoors and then transplant them into the garden later. Preparing the soil is an important first step in any successful vegetable garden. If you have not already chosen a space for the veggies to grow, now is the time to do so. Ideally this space would be south-facing so it will receive plenty of sunshine. The soil should be fertile and well-drained. The pH should be between 6.2 and 6.8. If you have not had your soil tested, you can do this through your County Cooperative Extension Service. The results will indicate if you need to amend your soil with any fertilizer or lime. The following publication is available to home gardeners from the Extension Service. It has detailed planting information on home vegetable gardening in Kentucky: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
|When are the signs right to put out my tomato and other vegetable plants? Karen, Gamaliel|
|Hi, Karen in Kentucky: Tomatoes are considered warm-season crops and are safe for planting now. In the Louisville area our average frost-free date is May 10; you are farther south and so you can plant a bit earlier than we can. Cool-season vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green onions, kale, and other greens can be planted in the early spring and again as the temperatures cool down in the fall. Warm-season crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, and the majority of other vegetables require warm air and soil to grow properly. Vegetable crops may have their growing season but they all prefer the same growing conditions. A vegetable garden should be south-facing so it will receive optimal sunlight. The soil should be nutrient-rich and most vegetables prefer the soil pH to be between 6.2 and 6.8. If you have not added compost or other amendments to your soil recently your plants will benefit from doing so. If you want more detailed information on growing vegetables in Kentucky, the following publication is available to home gardeners from the Extension Service. Visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf to read this publication.|
|When is a good time to start our vegetable garden? Christine, Shepherdsville|
|Hello, Christine: Preparing the soil is an important first step in any successful vegetable garden. If you have not already chosen a space for the veggies to grow, now is the time to do so. Ideally this space would be south-facing so that it will receive plenty of sunshine. The soil should be fertile and well-drained. The pH should be between 6.2 and 6.8. If you have not had your soil tested, you can do this through your County Cooperative Extension Service. The results will indicate if you need to amend your soil with any fertilizer or lime. Each crop has its own planting season, so depending on what you and your family want to grow you could start planting the cool-season crops now. Broccoli, cauliflower, green onions, and lettuce/greens can all be planted now. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and many others need to wait until May to plant them in the garden. You can always get a head start and start your seeds indoors and then transplant them into the garden later. Now would be a good time to start the seeds of warm-season crops. If you are wondering about specific vegetables, I will be happy to give you advice. The following publication is available to home gardeners from the Extension Service. It has full planting information on home vegetable gardening in Kentucky: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf |
|When is the best time to disk up the ground for a vegetable garden? Kay, Pattersonville|
|Hello, Kay in New York: As a general rule, soil can be worked anytime of the year except when it is frozen (obviously). You also want to avoid tilling the soil if it is too wet because of compaction issues, which can lead to lack of oxygen movement. Using disks is a more conventional method of tilling and may not be necessary if you are preparing a smaller garden, but if you have thoughts of going big then hand turning the soil is not feasible. The concern when using this type of equipment is disturbing the deeper layers of soil where beneficial earthworms live and potential erosion problems. There is always going to be controversy concerning the debate of till vs. no-till, but as gardeners we have to decide what is best for our own circumstances. So, to answer your question, go ahead and prepare the vegetable garden now. It is too late to plant cool-season vegetables but you still have plenty of time for the warm-season crops and later in the fall you can plant the cool-season ones. If you have not had your soil tested, this is always a good idea, so you know what you are dealing with in terms of pH and nutrients. You can have this done for a small fee through your County Cooperative Extension Service. You can tell them you are preparing a vegetable garden and they will take this into account when they give you recommendations for amendments if any are needed. You can call then at (518) 372-1622 or visit their Web site at http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/schenectady
. Vegetables thrive in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Make sure the space where you want to prepare your garden will receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. The Extension office should be able to give you a publication of recommended planting times for vegetables in your state.
|When is the best time to disk up the ground for a vegetable garden? Jennifer, Leitchfield|
|Hi, Jennifer in Kentucky; As a general rule, soil can be worked anytime of the year except when it is frozen (obviously). You also want to avoid tilling the soil if it is too wet because of compaction issues, which can lead to lack of oxygen movement. We have had such a mild winter that now would be a good time to get your vegetable garden ready for planting. Using disks is a more conventional method of tilling and may not be necessary if you are preparing a smaller garden, but if you have thoughts of going big then hand turning the soil is not feasible. The concern when using this type of equipment is disturbing the deeper layers of soil where beneficial earthworms live and potential erosion problems. There is always going to be controversy concerning the debate of till vs. no-till, but as gardeners we have to decide what is best for our own circumstances. So, to answer your question, go ahead and prepare the vegetable garden now. Spring is just around the corner and cool-season crops will be ready for planting shortly. If you have not had your soil tested, this is always a good idea, so you know what you are dealing with in terms of pH and nutrients. You can have this done for a small fee through your County Cooperative Extension Service. You can tell them you are preparing a vegetable garden and they will take this into account when they give you recommendations for amendments if any are needed. You can visit the Grayson County Web site at http://ces.ca.uky.edu/grayson or contact them at (270) 259-3492. Enjoy your harvest!|
|When is the best time to water tomato plants, morning or night? What about feeding them? Kenneth, Bowling Green|
|Hello, Kenneth: There is not much that can equal the taste of a home-grown tomato! As gardeners it is up to us to make sure they are planted in optimal growing conditions and receive adequate nutrients as well as moisture. As with all plantings, it is best to water early in the morning so the sun and heat of the day allow the foliage to dry out and prevent potential disease. It is in the best interest of the plants only to water the soil and to avoid overhead watering. When we water later in the day and water the leaves, this makes them more susceptible to mildew and fungal problems. As far as fertilizing your tomatoes, it is best to amend the existing soil with compost or a well-balanced fertilizer before planting. This will ensure that the plants have the essential nutrients they need for fruit set. They can then be fertilized as they begin to produce fruit. A well-balanced fertilizer is fine such as 10-10-10 but too much nitrogen (the first number N-P-K) can cause leafy growth and prevent fruiting, so avoid using any fertilizer with a high nitrogen number. Espoma has an organic fertilizer for tomatoes called Tomato-Tone (4-7-10). This can be used as a side dressing after the first fruit set and then every three to four weeks. As with any product, always follow recommended application rates.|
|When is the right time to plant asparagus in Meade County, KY? Alan, Vine Grove|
|Hello, Alan in Kentucky: Asparagus is a perennial crop that will give you years and years of delicious harvest. The best time to plant asparagus is early March through early April in Kentucky. Before purchasing your crowns it is a good idea to prepare the bed and remember that this vegetable is going to live there for 15-30 years, so make sure it is a space that will not be disturbed in future plantings. An asparagus bed should be located in a space where it will receive full sun, a minimum of six hours daily, and well-drained soil. You want to avoid low, poorly drained areas. If you have not had your soil tested this is a good idea so you know if you need to amend the soil before planting. You can have this done through the Meade County Extension Office. Their Web site is ces.ca.uky.edu/meade. Asparagus thrives in nutrient-rich soil so it will benefit the crop to add additional compost each year. As you prepare the bed you want to dig trenches 12-15 inches wide and 6-8 inches deep. At planting time take each crown and place it in the trench, spreading the roots out, and filling the crown with 2-3 inches of soil. As the shoots grow you will continue to cover them with soil until the trench is filled. Each crown should be placed approximately 15 inches apart in the trench and if you have multiple rows there should be 30 inches between them. Spears should not be harvested the first year. They need this time to store and transfer food to the roots so they can grow strong and healthy. The second year they can be harvested for three to four weeks and then should be left alone to again store up nutrients. The third year the crop can be harvested for eight to 10 weeks. All spears should be removed after a killing frost to prevent potential disease problems. For the long-term health of your plants it is best not to over-harvest while the plants are still young. A layer of mulch will help in terms of weed control and soil temperature.|
|When planting seed potatoes that have sprouted, do I remove the sprouts before planting? Dexter, North Webster|
|Hi, Dexter: In our region of the country potatoes can be planted two times per year: once to enjoy in the early summer and a second planting to be ready to harvest later in the fall. So for this growing season we have missed the opportunity to plant the early crop, but now is the time to get the fall harvest in the ground. You may end up with a lower yield planting at this time of the year (June) but still very much worth the effort. To answer your question, each seed piece should ideally have two or three eyes. Removing these sprouts will cause a delay in vine growth and increase the actual number of vines. This may be advantageous in some plants but not so with potatoes because it will reduce the size of each individual potato. It is perfectly okay to plant sprouted seeds. The main concern is to not let them dry out before planting and to purchase certified seed. Each seed piece should be planted 3-5 inches (early crop) or 5-6 inches (later crop) deep; 10-12 inches apart with 36 inches between rows. Harvest your fall crop after the first frost kills the foliage. Cure them unwashed in a dry shaded space for a couple of weeks and then they can be stored for up to six months. They should be stored in a cellar-like environment with cool temperatures around 40 degrees F with good air circulation.|
|When should asparagus be fertilized and what kind of fertilizer should be used? Robert, Owensboro|
|Hi again, Robert: It sounds like you will be eating a lot from your garden this year! Good for you. Asparagus is a long-lived perennial vegetable. As with any vegetable in the garden, fertile/nutrient-rich soil is essential for crop production. Asparagus will appreciate additional compost and fertilizer added to the soil at the time of planting. Each spring you can side-dress your veggies with 1 pound of a slow-release fertilizer with a ratio of 5-10-10 per 100 square feet. After growth begins and once again during the growing season, you can add ammonium nitrate at a rate of 10 Tbs. for each 10 feet of planting row. Compost is always beneficial to the soil. Keeping the soil evenly moist will allow available nutrients to be taken up through the roots. Mulch will help keep the soil evenly moist and will also help control potential weeds.|
|When should I plant sweet corn? What kind of sprayer should I use, and how many times should I spray? William, Smith Grove|
|Hello, William: It is nice to ponder the thought of growing vegetables this time of year. Sweet corn is a crop that requires a bit more space to grow than some other veggies but well worth it. Sweet corn will usually produce one to two ears of corn per plant. Keep this in mind when planting your seed and you can stagger the plantings every couple of weeks so you will have a crop to harvest all season long. In Kentucky, we can begin to plant seed a few days before our frost-free date, which is May 10. There are many varieties of sweet corn and they differ in terms of quality as well as days to reach maturity. There are also early, mid, and late season maturing varieties of sweet corn. The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has publications available to home gardeners. You might be interested in reading "Vegetable cultivars for Kentucky gardeners" and "Home vegetable gardening in Kentucky." This literature is available to you online at www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/pubs.htm or from your County Extension agent. It is always a good idea to buy seed from a reputable source and purchase disease-resistant varieties. I am not exactly sure what you are referring to in terms of spraying. If you are wondering about fertilizing your crop, it is a good idea to lightly fertilize at the time of planting and then again when they are 4 inches and 10 inches tall. A side dressing of ammonium nitrate may be needed when the corn is about 2 feet tall. Adding nutrients to the soil is recommended over spraying the foliage. You can always have your soil tested through your County Extension service. If I have not answered your spraying question, let me know and I will be more specific.|
|When transplanting tomato plants that were planted in loose soil and were unable to keep a root ball, what recommendations would you have to keep them alive after replanting? Scott, Fort Mitchell, KY Scott, Fort Mitchell|
|Hi Scott: Loose soil is good in terms of air circulation, but it is never good when the plant that is being transplanted does not have any soil surrounding the roots. It really is essential for a successful transplant to keep the root ball intact. This is true for small seedlings as well as a larger tree or shrub and anything in between. If there is literally no soil surrounding the tomato roots it may be too much stress on the plant to survive. Hopefully they were immediately placed back in the soil and watered. They will probably need to be staked to help support the weight of the plant. The best case scenario is that they take root in their new home and you get to enjoy some tomatoes. If they are not going to survive, they will decline rapidly. In the future when transplanting, it is always best to use a sharp hand trowel or spade and start digging farther out and take as much soil with the plant as possible. If they are seedlings grown in containers they should not be pulled out of the soil by the stem, but gingerly eased out of the container by placing the container upside down and using your free hand to catch the seedling as it leaves the container. Hopefully your tomatoes are still alive and are getting adjusted to their new home.|
|When would be the best time to begin planting my vegetable garden? BeLinda, Martin|
|Hello, BeLinda in Kentucky: Like all plants, vegetables, greens, and herbs require specific growing conditions, and here in Kentucky we divide our growing season into two different categories: cool-season and warm-season crops. Cool-season crops are those that can tolerate cooler temperatures and even a little frost. In early March, we can begin planting all greens, including spinach, kale, and lettuce as well as peas and green onions. Later in March, we can plant broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and onions. The warm-season crops can be planted after the frost-free date for your area passes, usually around May 10. Warm-season crops include tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumber, eggplant, corn, and herbs, just to name a few. Now is a good time to start these warm-season vegetables indoors if you want to plant them from seed. Otherwise, you can plant directly into the garden later in the summer. The cool-season crops can be planted again in the fall. I am not sure exactly how much space you have or what you would like to grow in your garden, but for more detailed information on all aspects of vegetable gardening in Kentucky you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf. This is a link to a publication provided by our Extension service in collaboration with land grant universities. It has specific information on all aspects of vegetable gardening, from preparing a vegetable garden to crop rotation and guidelines of when to plant specific crops.|
|Where can I buy fresh rhubarb or frozen rhubarb in Owensboro, Kentucky? Ann, Owensboro|
|Hi Ann: Rhubarb is not a standard product in the produce section of most grocery stores but this does not mean it is not available. I suspect the demand for rhubarb is not very high and so you will have better luck finding it at your local farmers' market or specialty grocery stores. If it is not available at your farmers' market you can ask to see if any of the vendors will have any for harvest in the future. I am not familiar with your shopping options in Owensboro but the agriculture/horticulture agent(s) in Daviess County might have local suggestions for you. You can visit their Web site at http://daviess.ca.uky.edu/StaffDirectory. If you have any space in your garden you might consider growing it. Rhubarb is a cold-hardy, herbaceous perennial for those of us gardening in Kentucky. The tart stalks vary in color depending on cultivar but the plant itself is somewhat ornamental. Rhubarb crisp was a staple in my childhood. I have often wondered why more people don't grow it in their gardens. Owensboro, KY.|
|Where is a good place to purchase vegetable plants in Louisville? Craig, Louisville|
|Hello, Craig: We are fortunate here in Louisville to have a many locally owned garden centers that provide top quality plant material. Of course, I am biased and think the best garden center in Louisville is the Plant Kingdom on Westport Road in St. Matthews. Depending on where you live in the city, Wallitsch on Hikes Lane or Boone Gardiner in Crestwood may be closer options for you. They are both reliable sources for vegetables as well as any of the Paul’s Fruit Markets around the city. They usually have the plants as well the harvested crop. Trying to find vegetable plants in July is not going to be as easy as during the previous spring months. You may not be able to find specific varieties you are looking for. It might be worth a phone call before venturing out. Cool-season crops such as broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage will be ready to plant shortly. If you want more information on growing vegetables at home in Kentucky, visit the following Web site: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
. This is a publication available to home gardeners from our Cooperative Extension Service.