Friday, June 6, 2014

Fireflies are Beautiful Pest Control

Remember how much fun it was to chase fireflies when you were young? Once you caught a firefly, you would hold it in your hand to watch the flickering light for a few moments and then release it unharmed to fly away.
Fireflies at night, taken with a cell phone.
Interestingly, fireflies do more than generate entertaining childhood memories; they also help control some pests in the garden. On summer nights, glow worms (luminescent firefly larvae) often emerge from their underground homes to forage for food. A typical menu includes slugs, snails and caterpillars including cutworms. The larvae feed much like a spider by injecting a paralyzing toxin into their prey; then, injecting digestive juices to dissolve the prey and allow it to be more easily consumed. The adults probably feed on plant nectar to sustain their energy requirements.
There are several theories about why fireflies glow. One is that the flashing light is a homing beacon for the opposite sex. The male flies around flashing the signal to attract a female’s attention. A female on the ground or on low-growing foliage will signal back when a male visits her vicinity. To avoid confusion, each firefly species has its own specific signal to attract a mate.
Another theory is that firefly larvae use their luminescence to warn a potential predator that they taste bad. Larvae contain defensive chemicals in their bodies. When disturbed, larvae also increase their glow’s intensity and frequency.
Typical nighttime habitats for adults and larvae take place in rotting wood or other forest litter, or on the edges of water sources such as streams, ponds, marshes and ditches. The highest species diversity is in tropical Asia and Central and South America. Incidentally, some Asian species have tracheal gills that enable them to live under water where they feed on aquatic snails.
To attract fireflies to your property, reduce or eliminate lawn chemicals. Add low, over-hanging trees, tall grass and similar vegetation to give adult fireflies a cool place to rest during the day. Reduce extra lighting on your property because this light interferes with fireflies’ luminous signals, making it harder for them to locate mates in the area. Fireflies also determine the time of night they’ll flash by the intensity of ambient light. This is why you don’t see many fireflies flashing on clear nights with a full moon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Butterfly gardens

A beautiful flower garden that will attract butterflies.
A flower bed or garden can be eye catching and, with the right kinds of plants, can attract some of nature’s most colorful creatures. Planning, planting and tending a butterfly garden are great ways for youth to create an outdoor classroom with lots of possibilities for learning. Here are a few tips to help get started.
Location is very important.  All insects are cold blooded and cannot internally regulate their body temperature.  Butterflies will readily bask in the sun when it is warm, but few are seen on cloudy days.  It is a good idea to leave open areas for butterflies to sun themselves, as well as partly shaded areas with trees or shrubs for shelter when it’s cloudy or too hot. 
Butterflies like puddles. Males of several species congregate at small rain pools, forming puddle clubs. Permanent puddles are easy to make.  Bury a bucket to the rim, fill it with gravel or sand, and then pour in sweet drinks or water
Different types of butterflies have different preferences of nectar color and taste. A wide variety of food plants will give the greatest diversity of visitors. Try staggering wild and cultivated plants, as well as blooming times. Groups of the same plants are easier for butterflies to see than single flowers. Aster, butterfly weed, purple coneflower and verbena attract many species of butterflies.  Overripe fruit is attractive to butterflies as well. 
Water your garden with soaker hoses whenever possible. Overhead watering can wash nectar from the flowers and reduce the amount of available food.
Another way to attract butterflies to your garden is to offer food plants for females to lay their eggs. Some females are picky about the host plants where they will lay their eggs. To attract a particular type of butterfly, you may need to know the plant needs for the adult and the larvae or caterpillar. 
Butterfly gardens are a great source for learning about your own backyard environment.  They also offer enjoyment, photo opportunities and an outlet for artistic talent. By creating a garden habitat, you can help conserve butterflies by providing food, water and shelter to some of nature’s most enchanting creatures.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

16th Annual Plant Fair!

Three lovely Master Gardeners selling plants at the Plant Wagon
The Lincoln Trail Area Master Gardeners are hosting the 16th annual Plant Fair May 17, 2014 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hardin County Coop. Extension Office (201 Peterson Drive, Elizabethtown.) Lincoln Trail Area Master Gardeners

This year we have 50 vendors! Selling everything garden related. Here's the list:

CARDIN LOOP  -  Red Cedar Birdhouses, Garden Benches, Gourds
CATHY’S HERBS & QUILTSHerbs & Related Items
COLONIAL WAGON & WHEEL - Metal Lawn & Garden Art           
COOPS D’VILLA -  Birdhouses, Bat Houses, Garden Items
COUNTRY CORNER GREENHOUSES - Nursery Plants & Garden Items
ENTOMOLOGY SOLUTIONS, LLCGood Bugs to sell, Pet Bugs to see
FALLEN MAPLE FARM - Plants, Birdhouses, Twisted Sticks
FAMILY THYME CREATIONS - Standard & Butterfly Koi, Water Plants
GAIL’S GOODS - Plants, Garden Crafts
GLENNWOOD GARDENS - Japanese Maples, Trees, Shrubs
GRANDMA’S KETTLE CORN - The Best Kettle Corn Around
HARMON’S TOUCH -  Wood Lighted Houses, Planters, Unique Birdhouses
HINTON’S ORCHARD -  Vegetable, Annuals, Perennials, Hanging Baskets, Pots
JONI’S JUNQUE - Jewelry, Yard Art, Chalkboards, Signs
LEGENDS & FAIRY THINGS - Hand Crafted Fairy Houses, Book
LINDSAY’S HOUSE OF PLANTSHanging Baskets, Flowers
LOG CABIN GREENHOUSESSedums, Water Plants, Vines, Perennials
MEL’S KY CRAFTSWooden Flowers, Planter Boxes, Yard Art
OLD THYME LOGHOUSE GARDENS -  Lavender, Unusual Plants
OUTDOOR POWER SOURCE, INC -  Stihl Handheld Tiller, Garden Items
PEERCE’S FARM & GREENHOUSES -  Annuals, Hanging Baskets
REID’S PRODUCE -  Recycled Garden Art, Plants
ROCKY TOP CRAFT SHOPBarn Wood Benches, Garden Items
S&S WOOD PRODUCEWooden Bowls, Wooden Cake Stands, Wood Pen
SHERMAN KASINGERDecorated Garden Shovels, Garden Art, Wreaths
STICK WORKS -  Hand Crafted Walking Sticks
THIS ‘N THATUp-cycled Signs, Chairs, Garden Tool Bags, Garden Art
THOMAS TOMATOES -  Tomato Plants
THREE SPRINGS FARM - Porch Pots, Hanging Baskets, Veg & Flower Plants
TOMATO SPRING -  Tomato Stakes
TOP DOLLAR RECYCLINGConcrete Items & Yard Art
WONDERS OF WATER -  Fountains, Water Plants, Koi Fish, Pond Equipment

Weed Control

Weeds in a garden

Everyone looks forward to that first ripe tomato or ear of corn picked from their own carefully tended gardens.  But after some vigorous hoeing on a hot humid day, some may be asking themselves if it is all worth it. 

Weeds compete with crop plants for water, nutrients and sunlight.  Some weeds, like quackgrass, can chemically inhibit vegetable plant growth.  Others host insect pests and pathogens.  All of these result in fewer fresh vegetables for your table. 

There are some preventive practices that effectively combat weeds.  Frequent hoeing or rototilling on a weekly basis helps eliminate weeds when they are small and easily removed.  By planting rows a little closer, vegetable crops provide more shade which also helps to reduce weed pressure.  After harvesting a crop, plant another in its place to continue using the space.

Mulching works very well in the home garden.  Use organic material such as grass clippings, leaves or straw to eliminate weed growth and build up organic matter to make the soil more fertile and friable.  Do not use grass clippings from a lawn that  was treated recently with the herbicide 2, 4-D.  Treated clippings can cause twisting of the vegetable plants and can even kill some sensitive vegetable crops.  Be careful about the kind of organic material you use.  Hay can introduce a considerable load of weed seeds into your garden. 

Black plastic mulch is of specific benefit to certain vegetables including tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and vine crops.  In addition to shading out and eliminating weeds, plastic mulches conserve moisture and promote early crop growth by helping to heat up the soil in spring.  Landscape fabric has the added advantage of being water permeable and can be used for multiple years; although it is more expensive than black plastic. 

Most importantly, do everything possible to keep garden weeds from going to seed.  One red root pigweed plant can produce 100,000 seeds that can continue to germinate over the next 15 to 20 years. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Last of the season's classes!

These are the last of the spring's classes.  To sign up, go to Hardin County, KY Extension Office.  In the upper right corner, click on "Register for Classes"

Sweet Potato varieties
How to Grow: Sweet Potatoes* - May 7  This southern staple can be grown successfully in Kentucky.  Learn the tips and tricks to harvesting full-sized flavorful roots.  Hardin County Extension Office beginning at 6:00 p.m. $5
Make your Own Mosaic Pot – May 20 and 22  In this two-part class, you will decorate an 8-inch terracotta pot and saucer with mosaic tiles in the first class. Then, come back the next day and learn all about grouting. All supplies are included. Class size is limited to 25. Hardin County Extension Office beginning at 6:00 p.m. $35.
Payment for each of the Gardener’s Toolbox classes are required TWO WEEKS prior to the class date.  You will be registered on a first pay, first registered basis.  Cancellations will be fully refunded TWO WEEKS prior to the class date. Please let us know as early as possible if you have to cancel, we probably have others on a wait list.