KY Nature Preserves – News for 2020

Kentucky Nature Preserves manages four distinct programs to conserve Kentucky’s natural areas. While these programs all share common goals—rare species habitat, environmental education opportunities, and conserving natural areas through a combination of land acquisition, conservation easements, and public-private partnerships– they have some differences. Find out what’s happening in our commonwealth’s national areas by reading the 2020 Report.

 

Things to do in November

  • Peonies – Remove this year’s perennials spent foliage. If peony foliage has fallen, rake it up to prevent disease carrying over to next year. If still attached pull it from the base. Do not add to the compose. Plant peonies while soil temperature is above 40 degrees(Sunday it was 60). Peonies planted now will grow feeder hair roots that take up nutrients preparing them for early spring growth.
  • Pumpkins – According to Margaret Roach, garden writer, recycle your un-cut pumpkin into a planter. Remove the top, clean the interior, fill 3/4s with potting soil and plant a perennial or spring seeds. When the pumpkin begins to wilt, plant it in the garden where it will provide nutrients as it breaks down.
  • Roses – Jackson & Perkins has introduced its 2021 roses. Pre-order now and pay when shipped. info@jacksonandperkins.com, 1-800-292-4769.
  • Houseplants – Protect plants from pets and small children by placing containers out of their reach. Keep foliage off of cold windows. Start Christmas cactus plants by placing 6” long leaf segments. When roots appear, plant in potting soil and share with friends.
  • Trees and shrubs – Use evergreen prunings to make wreaths. Submerge the prunings in water overnight to condition them, then place in a container with enough water to cover the stem ends, then in a cool location until ready to use. Magnolia is the longest lasting in or out of water. Pine dries the fastest. Personalize your holiday wreaths. Check out online and local nurseries for live wreath design ideas. Alternately, purchase an undecorated evergreen wreath and add evergreens from your yard. Include magnolia leaves and pods, deciduous leaves, spirea and ginkgo branches, dried perennial stems, privet berry clusters, bittersweet, and whatever of interest from your yard.

In the Garden – Storing Vegetables Overwinter

Warm spring, mild summer and plenty of water this year produced a bumper crop of vegetables. Some continue to produce more. No doubt you have given lots of vegetables and fruits to friends and neighbors, and frozen and canned the rest. What do you do with the remaining vegetables? Our grandparents saved them in the root cellar. Few of us have , but can create similar

Not all vegetables have the same storage requirements. Some prefer cold and dry, others cold and moist.

Storage is similar to that of tender flower bulbs. Store in a cool basement, unheated attic but not in an enclosed garage as the roots will absorb vehicle exhaust. Occasionally check as to moistness or dryness, rot, or root growth. If vegetables freeze, use them as soon as possible.

It is important to store vegetables at a consistent temperature. Insulated coolers packed with hamster bedding, straw, or newsprint are ideal. Vegetables that like cold and damp prefer 32-60 degrees with high humidity. Radishes and rutabagas store for 2-3 months; and beets, carrots and turnips 4-5 or 6 months. Remove excess foliage and keep roots from touching to reduce rot.

Cool and dry vegetables prefer 40-60 degrees. Store in wire baskets for greater air circulation, lower humidity (60-70 percent). Place onions( on high shelves(warmer). Hang garlic in mesh bags in a dark location Both onion and garlic will last 5-8 months.. Place beets, radishes and turnips into soil, in a bright window to provide winter harvest. Sweet potatoes will last 4-6 months, require 55-60 degrees and darkness. Keep winter squashes at 55-60 degrees. Store on an upper shelf individually. Acorn, small pumpkins and spaghetti squash last 1-3 months, buttercup and large pumpkins 3-4, and Hubbard and butternut 6 months.

Mint – a multi-purpose plant

Ah, summer is here, at least that is what the calendar says. My idea of summer is sitting on the porch with a cool glass of any iced drink to which mint has been added. No matter how hot it is,  mint makes it feel so much cooler.

Mint is very versatile. It enhances food, is used in cosmetics and medicines, and is often considered a weed as it is so easy to grow. No matter whether mint is native or hybridized, it is easily recognized by its fragrance and its unique square stem. The most popular, of course, are spearmint (Mentha spicata) and peppermint (M.piperita), though Applemint (M. suaveolens) is rapidly catching up to the first two.

USING MINT

In Kentucky, the most familiar use of spearmint is as the mint in Mint Julep at Derby Time. One preferred variety is actually called “Kentucky Colonel.” Spearmint is preferred over peppermint for its more subtle flavor, which accounts for its widespread use in foods from the Middle East, such as Lebanon and Iran, to this country.

Other flavored mints include Chocolate mint (a hit of spearmint, mostly used for desserts), Basil mint, lavender mint, licorice mint, and these fruity mints.

  • apple – less invasive and sweeter than most;
  • citrus – lemony, used in Asian dishes;
  • ginger – spicy, spearmint-like’
  • orange – strong flavor
  • grapefruit – subtle flavor
  • pineapple – variegated green and white foliage, mostly ornamental.

There is also pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), for which the Pennyrile Region was named. An American plant in the area is called False Pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides) and resembles the European species. Both can be lethal if ingested and yet are very soothing to the skin. In fact, rub any mint leaf on a bee sting and it will ease the pain. 

Liberally cut mint for fresh use or freeze any time of the year. Its essence peaks just before it starts to flower.

GROWING MINT

Mint is not a large family in the Plant Kingdom, but it is found world-wide. That means that different mints have different needs: some require wet soil and are often found along creek banks, pools, and lakes, while others  need well-drained or even very dry soil. Some like full sun; others like partial shade. Most have long, serrated leaves, though leaves may be oval or fuzzy.

The commonly grown varieties of mint prefer damp sites. Online catalog companies are generally sold out of seeds, but the more common plants still are available. Here are some ways to propagate it:

  1. The simplest way to propagate is pull up a handful of mint, cut in half, break the soil surface, water well, place the roots on the soil, cover with soil, and tamp down.
  2. Or, cut the top six inches, remove all but the top two sets of leaves, and stick in water. When root begin to form, plant in a container. Place the container on a hard surface and repot when roots grow out of the pot.

Be careful, though: Mint stolons (the root system) can spread 20 feet or more. Plant different varieties far apart or keep in pots, otherwise they will cross-breed and cancel out each other’s flavor.

Sources

  • Friends
  • local nurseries and garden centers (currently limited varieties)
  • Growers Exchange (thegrowers-exchange.com) mints listed above, native herbs, etc. $6.95. Ships in late August

Gardening Tips for July

“If it rains on the first ‘Dog Day’ (July 3), it will rain for forty days.”

From Secrets of a Kentucky Gardener by Karen Angelucci


15 Minutes gardening

Prevent herbs from going to flower or seed. Snip a handful of herbs, rinse, chop, fill ice cube trays and freeze to use in summer drinks or winter stews.

Garden

  •  Deadhead to force flowering plants to fool the plants in producing more flowers.
  • Daylilies: As they cease blooming divide and replant.
  • Ivy: Thicken ivy by watering it with a mix of ¼ teaspoon ammonia to a gallon of water every two weeks.
  • Hollyhocks: Condition hollyhocks by putting the cut stem in boiling water for a few seconds.
  • Container Gardening  Keep container plants moist. Watering at night  allows the plant to soak up water and start the day well hydrated. Bury the end of one end of wet cotton rope in the container plant’s soil and the other in a container of water. Place ice cubes on container plant soil to give it slow release water.
  •  No more moth balls: Once a popular animal repellent, never use moth balls around plants to control or repel animals. They are EPA-certified only for use in a sealed container for clothes moths only. The ingredients are not initially poisonous but can cause serious problems that can be lethal.
  • Beware of commercial compost: Do not use commercial compost if you garden organically. Insecticides may have been used on the composted plant material and they may break down or not.
  • Conditioning hollyhocks and dahlias, immediately place cut stems in water. Recut, dip in boiling water and then singe the stem ends.

Vegetables

  • Watermelons contain lots of water, but do not need excess water as they originated in arid areas and are adapted to storing water. Reduce water are they start to mature and avoid getting leaves wet as to reduce rot.
  • Garlic: Cut flowering society garlic to the ground to prevent going to seed. The seed have a high germination rate and soon will invade other plants. Cut flowering stems to dry readily for fall decorating.
  • Harvest herbs by cutting back at least 1/3. Sweet marjoram, oregano, sweet thyme and thyme respond to cutting to the ground. Gather bunches with elastic to hold them as the stems shrink and using a drapery hook, hang in a cool, airy, dark place to dry.
  • Tomatoes need 6 hours of full sun for best production. Big Girl tomato plant (Burpee) requires only 5 hours of sun.
  • Plant pumpkin (90-120 days to mature) until July. Soak the seed 6-24 hours before planting to soften the hard-shelled seed. As the fruit grows, inscribe a design or drawing for special Halloween decorations.

Lawn

  • Replace mower blades and have the old sharpened. Keep beds clean and cut grass from piling up around trees, mow away from the tree trunks.

Trees

  • Protect the trunks: String weeders are wonderful when edging beds and walks but can be deadly to trees when they break the bark, permitting insects and disease to enter. To prevent damage, place a one-liter plastic drink bottle around the base of the trunk. Cut off the top and bottom of the bottle, and slit along one side. Secure in place by mounding mulch or dirt on the outside.
  • Crape myrtles: Now is the time to start planting crape myrtles as they love hot soil. The Crape Myrtle Company (crapemyrtle.com) recommends feeding them now and early August with 10-10-10 as they are heavy feeders.
  • “Ann” Magnolia soulangeana (tulip magnolia)is a rebloomer. Not as many blooms as in the spring, but still a delight to see.
  • Pruning: Finish pruning spring flowering plants by the end of July.

June Garden Tasks

THINGS TO DO

15 Minute – Cat Gardening (plus 10-14 days of growing time)– Cats are known to nibble on house plants that may not be safe for them. While barley, oat, rye, and wheat aid their digestion, they  may contain ingredients that are not necessarily safe for cats. Pet store kits are much more reliable and contain seeds, soil, and potting container.

Garden – Those pesky weeds still are out there and multiplying overnight. Leave some iris stalks for fall designs.

Sharing flowers with friends is a thoughtful gesture but to avoid allergies or COVID, call first. As an alternate, send pictures of individual flowers and bouquets.

Trees and shrubs – Warm and wet spring have produced fast-growing branches.  Privet is a fast-growing, dramatic shrub when in bloom in May and June. When blooms start to fade, cut back to shape and prevent setting seed. Each flower produces a seed that will readily germinate, and this plant is on the invasive species list for Kentucky. If you like to prune, this is the hedge for you. Even if you cut too much, it will regrow readily.

Prune the bloomed-out branches of bush honeysuckle and spirea  to keep their shape and produce buds for next year. Dig or pull up tree saplings. Dig buckeyes straight down to get the entire tap root. If some remains, it will regenerate before you can blink your eyes.

Vegetables – Keep a record of plants that attract insects, those that don’t, and little tricks to improve their growth and harvest. Companion plant radishes, and spread wood ash around onions to deter onion maggots. Check for slugs, and place strips of copper or builders sand around the plants they enjoy. Replace plants with those that insects don’t like: with basil, parsley, sage, and beans, corn, chard, pumpkin, and sunflower.

An old gardeners’ adage is that perimeter plant the garden with marigolds to deter insects. It is lovely, but it is not an effective insect repellant. However, daffodils will deter ground burrowing animals as the bulbs contain toxins. The first year the burrowers will discover the bulbs, and thereafter they will avoid.

Hanging Baskets

When Mother Nell (Mrs. James Smith) lived in her home Bide-a-Wee in Paducah a century ago, she was the first to have hanging baskets of Boston ferns on her front porch. To all who travel through Paducah today, her home is best known as Whitehaven Welcome Center (I-24, exit 7).

Nothing adds more welcome to a home quite the same as hanging baskets. The secret is that they are hanging at eye level much as you would hang a picture, and that immediately gets guests’ attention, who don’t have to look down to enjoy colorful beds. For you, it’s easy to change out their colors and designs and to maintain them.

Create a several-month basic design with seasonal plants can be replaced. Select tall, vining and fluffy annuals and perennials that can be changed during the season. Include Iva Lace, sweet potato vine, or creeping thyme to hide the container. The volume will give the impression of a larger container than it really is. Hardy plants give different texture in the winter.

Plants should be have the same environmental requirements. For sunny locations, plant verbena, moss rose, geranium, marigold, bacopa (and shade) for its delicate blooms. For shade, plant tuberous begonia and impatiens, and of course, ferns.