Why would you ever want to make mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes? Mashed potatoes are great, but lately I’ve been making mashed cauliflower, and it’s great too!
In years past, I haven’t had too much luck growing strawberries. I’ve tried growing them in containers this year and have had a lot better luck. Strawberry plants grow great in the ground, but when I did this I didn’t get any strawberries! I realize now it was because the chipmunks were eating them all. If a chipmunk didn’t get them, pests would eat a hole in the strawberry making it no longer edible.
Strawberries require some work each year to keep them producing through the years. They are not plant and forget type plants. The plants grow best when planted in the ground, but there are downsides to this.
When growing in-ground, you need an ample amount of space to devote to strawberries because they spread by runners. You have to constantly pull the ones that are growing beyond where you want them. The plants and berries are very susceptible to pests, fungi, and critters. You can literally have a good sized strawberry patch, and not harvest a single one.
It’s certainly much easier to just buy strawberries at the grocery. But have you ever tasted a fresh strawberry? Most of the time, grocery store strawberries seriously lack flavor. Since strawberries go bad so quickly, they have to be picked really early to make the journey to the grocery store, so they never ripen naturally.
They can have 4 times the amount of pesticides on them as compared to other foods. Some tested, had toxic chemical residues so high, it was illegal.
And have you seen the price of organic strawberries? They’re usually around $6, or more. It’s only been one time I found some organic strawberries on sale for $2. Plus, organic doesn’t mean they haven’t been sprayed with something. You know how homegrown strawberries have been grown.
One key tasks to keeping a strawberry patch is to do ‘strawberry rejuvenation’. Old plants need to send out runners to make new plants. These new plants will be the ones to create berries in the future. So, you have to thin out the old plants to make room for the new ones, or they’ll produce less over time.
I’ve also tried growing strawberries in raised beds, but they still escape the raised bed and send runners down to the ground. If your raised bed is short, it’s not going to help a lot against critters.
A couple years ago, I ended up digging up my plants out of the ground, and using them as a groundcover in some pots I have small trees planted in. I figured if I got any strawberries, it’d be a bonus.
It took a while for them to establish, but this year, I’ve had a steady stream of strawberries each day! It is not as easy for the critters to get in the pots and they’re less noticeable. I will still have to do a ‘strawberry renovation’ and remove the older plants and plant with new ones this fall. I can just clip young plants off the runners and plant them.
I also tried growing some in hanging baskets this year and they’ve done well too. I could only get 3 plants in each basket however. By being in hanging baskets, the chipmunks can no longer get to them.
I was sent 3 hanging baskets from the brand, Emerging Green. The material of the baskets is supposed to be more environmentally friendly, however I’m not sure how. The baskets are a typical hanging basket size, which is kind of small. I do like that the wire is thicker than most hanging baskets, which makes them look nicer. They seem like they can hold up for a few years. They also came with the coco fiber liners, and I think they are a good deal for a 3 pack. For an annual hanging basket, you could plant 1 supertunia in it, and have a great colorful display!
The strawberries in the pots overwintered just fine in my zone 7B, but this can be hit or miss depending on your climate and how rough the winter is. Move containers to a protected spot out of wind, but where they will still receive water through the winter. Covering with a frost cloth may help.
You can purchase new strawberries each year instead of overwintering them. However, I’m not interested in buying new plants each year since they’re $6 each at my local nursery. Young plants need time to establish too, which will take away from production.
Here are a few tips to growing strawberries:
The type I have is a June bearing type, which forms one crop over the course of 2-3 weeks. Everbearing is supposed to produce 2 crops, one at the beginning of the season and another at the end of the season. The berries will also be smaller. I’ve grown this type before, and it never produced a second crop. Day neutral strawberries will produce small crops throughout the season. The June bearing is the most popular and there’s a reason why.
If you want to cover up your strawberries, use an agriculture mesh fabric. DO NOT use bird netting, since it will net the birds! I have grown mine in pots and don’t feel like I have lost that much to wildlife, so I have not bothered with covering them.
Pick the strawberries just right before they’re fully ripe so the wildlife doesn’t get them first. They will finish ripening in the house in 1-2 days.
Keep the strawberries well watered through summer and fertilized in the spring. Strawberries use a lot of nitrogen, however too much nitrogen can impede production or create soft berries. You can lightly feed a month before they will be producing berries, but it’s best to fertilize after fruiting in order to prepare them for the following year. How fertilizer they need will depend on the soil they’re planted in.
For more information on growing strawberries in your area, contact your local extension office.
Each spring billions of birds migrate back north to the upper parts of the United States and Canada. Many are traveling from Mexico, South and Central America, or the southern US.
Birds migrate at night and they use the sky and the stars as their navigation map. Artificial lighting from buildings, street lights, and towers are confusing to the birds and they can become disoriented. This in turn, causes birds to collide with the buildings, especially those made of glass.
Bird vision is different than ours, and they cannot see reflection like we do.
This artificial light can also throw off their migration path, causing the birds confusion and using up priceless energy in distress.
Thousands of birds can perish over a single night due to one single city building. Collision is the second leading cause of death for birds (cats are the #1 cause). Buildings are the most single cause, with cars, and electric lines the following leading causes.
Thankfully, some cities in the US have initiated ‘Lights Out’ programs. These are voluntary type programs encouraging building owners to turn off building lights during certain times of the year during certain hours at night (sunset to sunrise) when birds are migrating (April/May and September/October). All in point to reduce the number of bird collisions into the buildings. Some of the programs also have volunteers who scour the grounds around buildings for research purposes or to save injured birds who have a chance.
Cities have been seeing many benefits to the Lights Out programs including saving energy. Reducing light pollution is going to also help other wildlife, and even us humans too.
Read more about the Lights Out Programs: https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/beginners/helping-birds/lights-out-programs-north-america/
It starts by talking to elected officials and building owners. Audubon Society has some good tips on how to get started with this advocacy. https://www.audubon.org/conservation/project/lights-out
Only use outdoor lights when you need them. Here are some other tips to reduce light pollution at home.
Motion Lights: If you need security, switch to a motion light fixture. There’s fancier styles of motion lights on the market now that look better than the basic ones. GE even makes motion sensor light bulbs!
Safer Light Bulbs: If anything, use warm toned bulbs instead of blue ones (which mimic daylight). I’m unsure about the affects of colored light bulbs. Switch to lower wattage bulbs. High wattage bulbs are usually unnecessary. Your neighbors will also probably be happier. (Wish 2 of my neighbors would read this!)
Solar Lighting: Use some low key solar lighting instead of bright outdoor lights.
Deflect Light: If you do need to keep a light on at night, use something to deflect light the downward. I have ‘turtle safe’ style lights at my house, which directs light downward, instead of out into the air where it is not needed.
Landscaping Lighting: Don’t use landscaping lighting, or use it minimally. As a landscape designer, using landscape lighting minimally and affectively looks better than lighting up the whole landscape at night. I often see landscape lighting done to extreme and I personally don’t think it even looks good.
Bonus: If you reduce light pollution around your home, you’ll probably see more lightening bugs too. Light pollution is severely affecting lightening bug populations.
Usually birds see the reflection of surrounding habitat in the window and they think they’re heading toward sky, greenery, or a perch. You can reduce this chance by simply having something in or on the window the birds can see to know the window is solid. Most people have window coverings or grid lines in the windows. If it is a large blank window or a sliding glass door, you can use bird screens or different types of window films to reduce glare.
The following article has some really good tips: https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/gear/preventing-bird-window-collisions/15-products-prevent-birds-hitting-windows/
There’s a joke in Kentucky that goes something like this, “If you don’t like the weather just wait a day”.
Yesterday I worked outside in a t-shirt and got hot (and a sunburn!) This morning I’m wearing my winter coat and hat! While most of the time, it’s just a blip to our fashion choices, these weather fluctuations can be harmful.
Specifically I’m referring to cold snaps we’ve had in mid to late springtime in 2020, and now 2021.
In Kentucky and other regions of the US, May of 2020, we had several periods of heavy frost and freezing temperatures. Flash forward to last night, April 21 2121, we received a good amount of accumulated snow with temperatures just below freezing.
Our average last FROST date is technically April 15th. Much less freezing temperatures in May, or snow accumulations in late April. Who knows what else is yet to come this spring.
What happens when it freezes and snows in late spring and how is this detrimental to the ecology, farming, the nursery and landscaping trade, and beloved garden plants?
While most plants are likely to bounce back just fine, some species will take a hit.
Some native spring flowering plants will likely loose their flowers and won’t develop seed pods. In an already struggling environment of habitat loss and invasive plants, this could influence populations of spring wildflowers. Thankfully, many are probably insulated by the forest canopy and leaf litter on the forest floor. So, in an insulated forest environment they are hopefully well protected.
If fruiting plants are in flower, and their flowers are damaged, they may not set fruit. Including nut trees. This could affect how much food is available for birds and wildflower later this year.
In the case of late snow, trees and shrubs can be easily damaged this time of year. There is a reason trees and shrubs loose their leaves in winter. If trees have leaves in high winds, there is a higher chance that tree can be damaged or fall down. The same with snow. If trees have leafed out and we receive snow, there is more weight on the tree and a higher chance of it being damaged.
Late frosts and freezes is just one nightmare for farmers. Many fruit trees and shrubs bloom early in the season. If those flowers are damaged, they cannot develop, and they cannot form fruit. The plants then really struggle to produce any fruit at all. This in turn creates shortage, raises prices in the grocery store, and quality is compromised. No telling how this affects the farmer. The same goes with any planted crop that cannot take the late freeze or frost.
In May of 2020 and last night, I saw my local nurseries posting on social media about covering up plants. They showed rows of nursery plants covered up in swaths of horticultural fleece. Last year due to the several late freezes in May, the Japanese Maples at the nursery took a hit. They did not look their prime the rest of the year and I wonder if sales declined due to this.
While most shrubs were probably okay, perennials, herbs, and vegetables can quickly perish in frosts or freezes. In addition, these plants are grown in greenhouses to get a head start, so they’re very acclimated to the nice cushiony temperatures and environment they were grown in. They’re already trying to adapt to being outside, much less a frost or freeze.
Many nurseries do not have greenhouses. If they do, they may not be at the retail location. It’s probably virtually impossible to transport plants back to a greenhouse considering the sheer number of plants, staff, space, and the last minute forecasts.
The freezes in May last year made my business more aware of planting client’s gardens too early. This year, I’ve been quite apprehensive to start too much planting, especially perennials. The last thing I want to do, is plant a client’s garden full of perennials, and we get a late snow or freeze. It would not be a good position to be in!
To plant or not to plant? That is the question. Landscaping businesses can suffer the loss of income either way they decide. Plants may perish if planted too early and we get a late freeze or snow. It questions who is responsible. If they replace plants, it’s a loss. Push projects later into the season, and the work season shortens, which may mean taking on less projects.
Landscaping companies already have short time frames to work within a year (unless they do hardscaping, snow removal for example). Planting season around Kentucky is about a 6-7 month timeframe at most. Late freezes, rainy days, temperatures over 90 degrees, and early freezes all shorten that season to maybe 4-5 months.
Plants are very resilient. I was amazed how well plants did with the several late freezes in May 2020. The tender leaves on my fringe tree and buttonbush, froze off 3 times! While they barely flowered last year, the leaves grew back like new.
While I think most plants do just fine, some will not fair well.
It’s always sad to see flowers go earlier than they should. My tulips are likely done for. The tender petals on some native wildflowers will probably drop. Some plants may have the tips of their stems scalded. Many plants could be set back or show damage the rest of the year, but they will likely live on.
If the plant is already suffering, a freeze can do it in. My mom had a yellowwood tree that was making it, but not thriving. They are difficult trees to establish. The freeze sadly did it in last year. A friend just had a Japanese maple planted. There was phythophthora root rot in the soil, which causes a slow decline in plants. Also sadly, the freeze secured its final fate.
I forgot to cover my blueberries last night. I wonder if the flowers were damaged; will they form fruit this year?
I covered up my onion transplants and hope my seeds trying to germinate faired well.
I wonder how well my hostas did…
Last year, I could not plant some of my vegetables until very late in the year. I didn’t get tomato seeds planted until June. I barely got any tomatoes last year. What is a home vegetable gardener to do? For me, it means starting them inside early and waiting. Growing them up larger before planting will take more work.
While most plants can go through a late freeze, frost, or snow just fine, some will not. This will affect wildlife and the economy in several different ways. These impacts can be large and severe, especially on agriculture. I have never seen freeze and frost this late in the spring as I have these past 2 years. Will this be a common trend? This may affect how we landscape our backyards.
Choosing native plants that are more resilient to frost and freeze will be more important. My native columbine was barely scathed.
Every gardener should have some horticultural fleece on hand and items to secure it down to the ground.
Last week I was a guest at the Wallis House, which is the home of The Garden Club of Kentucky. I got to speak with a lovely group of ladies on how to attract birds to your landscape. Hopefully I inspired them to plant some new plants in their gardens that the birds will appreciate.
The Garden Club of Kentucky was incorporated in 1931. It is divided into districts, 5 total in Kentucky, and has over 50 local chapters. You can join any local garden club or you can join the Garden Club of Kentucky at large. You can check their map to see which clubs are local to you.
The Nannine Clay Wallis House & Arboretum in downtown Paris, Kentucky is their headquarters. The house was built in the 1850s on its 4 acres of land. The property was bequeathed to the Garden Club of Kentucky upon Wallis’s death in 1971, who was the second president of the club.
The house is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is rentable for weddings, meetings, and other special occasions. Definitely consider supporting this venue for your next special event! The home is open to tours by appointment, but the Arboretum is open to the public daily dawn to dusk. They have some neat trees, including the Kentucky Grand Champion Northern Red Oak.
I was partial to this Basswood.
While both in the genus Tilia, In America, we call the species Basswood (like Tilia americana), and in Europe, they’re called Lindens or even Limes.
After I spoke, we had some super cute sugar cookies and lemonade a lady made for us!
Before I left, I was then given something to take home with me. A Wallis Rabbit! This rabbit has an interesting story!
Before we left, we walked around the Arboretum grounds, which had a lot of nice spring color…
…some interesting garden nooks…
…and a goldfish pond.
If you’re around Paris, KY make sure to stop by the Wallis House for a walk around the gardens.
I put my ‘William Wallace” rabbit where I had seen the real rabbit who lives in my yard had been the day before, eating the phlox flowers…