- Acid Mine Drainage & Land Reclamation
- Commercial Horticulture
- Farm Management
- Forest Stewardship
- Gardens, Lawns & Landscapes
- Container Gardening
- Dealing with Dandelions
- Early-Season Planting
- Fall Gardening
- Garden Calendar
- Gardening 101
- Hanging Baskets
- How to start a garden
- Moonlight Garden
- Ornamental Plants
- Plan Before Planting
- Seed Saving Tips
- Starting plants for spring
- Top 10 Beneficial Insects
- Turfgrass in Shady Areas
- Vegetable Gardening
- Winterizing Lawns & Gardens
- Master Gardener Program
- Oil & Natural Gas
- Pasture & Hay
- Soil Fertility and Its Management
- Forage Species
- Forage Crop Establishment
- Pasture and Grazing Management
- Hay and Haylage Management
- Forage Quality
- Animal Nutrition and Production
- Pasture-Based Livestock Production
- Budgets for Pasture and Hay Management
- Risk Management in Pasture and Hay Production
- Weed Control in Pasture and Hay Fields
- Videos - Pasture and Hay
- Hay for Sale
- Appalachian Grazing Conference
- Soil and Water
- Sustainable Agriculture
- Women in Agriculture
- WVU-ES Small Farm Center
- Youth Agriculture
Adapted from WVU Extension Service resources by Rachel Del Signore, WVU Extension Service Communications intern
Does the thought of planting a large, traditional garden intimidate you? Are you concerned about the amount of work that must go into creating and maintaining it? An alternative to traditional gardening is the raised bed. There are many benefits to using a raised bed. They are easy to make, easier to maintain and allow those with physical disabilities to more easily enjoy gardening. Their versatility and adaptability gives many types of gardeners an easier and more convenient way to do what they love.
Raised beds can help extend the growing season of different crops. This reduces the risk of insects and diseases. Since pests become a problem as the temperatures get warmer, establishing a crop slightly outside the traditional growing window is a good way to avoid those issues. Most raised beds are ready to plant several weeks before the traditional season as the soil in the raised bed is more easily warmed.
An additional benefit is better drainage when using a raised bed due to the height. This means that overwatering is less of a problem. Soil compaction is greatly reduced, fertilization becomes more economical and the effective use of growing space is greatly increased; by using the raised bed technique, you can use 60 to 80% of the area for growing plants. That’s almost double the space used in a traditional garden laid out in rows.
A raised bed garden can be great for gardeners who are physically challenged, because there is less bending and kneeling involved in tending to the crops. A typical raised bed is usually 8 to 10 inches tall, but they can be made taller to avoid back strain from bending over. Raised beds can also be constructed for gardeners who are in wheelchairs. It’s recommended that these beds be built 27 inches high to accommodate those gardeners.
To construct the simplest of raised beds, rake soil into a ridge 4 to 8 inches high. These are called free-standing beds. After the soil is raked, avoid walking on it again during the growing season.
A more permanent solution is to build one out of wood, stone, cement blocks or plastic containers. The choice of material is up to the user, and this is a great way to add a personal touch to match the décor of any home or patio. However, do not use lumber that has been treated or painted with toxic chemicals that could leach into the soil.
Gardeners can make raised beds as stretch as long as they want, but the width should not be more than 4 feet. This allows the gardener to easily reach into the middle of the bed from any side.
For more information about raised bed gardening, contact your local WVU Extension Service office.
Adapted from an article for the West Virginia Farm Bureau News originally by Lewis Jett, WVU Extension consumer horticulture specialist.
Beans have been cultivated in the Appalachian Mountains for thousands of years, and heirloom beans are considered heritage crops by many West Virginians. Reasons for this range from their excellent horticultural traits that allow them to be well adapted to the mountain environment, to their versatility in recipes and home-cooked meals. Whether you love a bowl of hot chili on a cold winter’s night, or soup beans and cornbread, beans are the addition that make these meals hearty and delicious. As if we needed another reason to love this crop, they are also easy to store and have a long shelf-life, approximately two to three years for the dried varieties. With a life span that long, you can expect to have delicious and nutritious meals for many winters to come.
Lewis Jett, West Virginia University Extension’s horticulture specialist, evaluated heirloom beans last summer. Fourteen varieties of West Virginia beans were planted at the WVU Organic Farm in Morgantown. The varieties included pole beans with unique names, such as Turkey Craw, Rattlesnake, Logan Giant, Fat Man, October Tender Hull, Coal Camp, Williams River, Ground Squirrel, White Greasy Pole, Speckled Christmas, Scarlet Runner, Aunt Glenda’s Pole Bean, Flood Bean and Kunde Beans (cowpea type). Many of the varieties were found at Flanagan’s Farm near Summersville.
The beans were distinct colors ranging from black, brown and white to mottled seed coats. All 14 varieties showed excellent growth and were easy to grow organically. It didn’t take long for the beans’ vines to cover the trellises, and they were then harvested after drying. After they dried, the beans were mechanically shelled and bagged.
High-yielding varieties included Logan Giant, which produced a medium brown seed; October Tender Hull, which had a light brown seed with maroon streaks and Fat Man and White Greasy Pole, which had high yields of white beans.
Heirloom beans can be harvested fresh, semi-dry or dry. Some pole beans are dried in the pods and shelled for cooking. Most pole beans and half runners are harvested fresh and are eaten or canned before the bean fills out while the pods are still tender. Some pole beans, referred to as “shelly beans,” are harvested just as the bean develops in the pod. These beans are shelled and eaten fresh or canned.
West Virginians have selected and saved seeds from bean varieties for generations. Heirloom varieties, diverse with unique color and flavor, are genetic treasures that must be preserved for future gardeners not only in the Appalachian region, but the entire world. Their versatility and adaptability make them a unique crop that can be used in many different ways, especially in the kitchen. We’ve always known that beans were delicious in a soup or casserole, but their versatility and adaptability make them a unique crop to our area that we should cherish and protect.
Autumn creeps slowly into the mountain valleys of West Virginia.
Cool, crisp evenings signal the end of summer and our gradual march toward winter. Colors slowly appear, then radiate, in the trees hugging the sides of the mountains.
Summer-visiting birds pack up and move south, preferring to winter in warmer locations. And I find it harder and harder to remove myself from the embrace of my warm, comfortable bed. Autumn is here!
These cooler temperatures signal the end of summer, but the beginning of fall colors and wildflowers.
Though even if temperatures were to remain warm, many of the plants would still know that it is time for fall. How? It all comes down to how their internal clocks are set. For many plants, signals come from light and not temperature.
Did you ever wonder how chrysanthemums know to wait until fall to bloom? Or how about Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti knowing when their respective holidays are around the corner?
It’s because they look to the sky and set their clocks by the amounts of light and dark during the day.
As autumn marches ever onward, the length of daylight dwindles and the nights become longer. On the autumnal equinox which is Monday, by the way the sun will shine directly on the equator and day and night will be equal in length.
Afterward, the days will grow shorter and we will have less daylight than dark until the shortest day on the winter solstice.
For example, the change in leaf color from green to fall’s vibrant oranges, reds and yellows occurs because the tree perceives both the shortening days and the cooler temperatures to break down the green pigment chlorophyll to save energy for winter.
Where light can really make a difference, though, is in giving plants a signal to initiate flowering.
Plants exhibit what is called a photoperiod. This photoperiodicity (now that’s a $50 word) means that when it comes to flowering, plants can either be long-day plants, short-day plants or day-neutral plants.
As the name suggests, day-neutral plants will flower at any time without regard to the length of light or dark. Good examples of these plants are the annuals we plant in late spring that flower all the way until frost kills them, and several of the plants in the vegetable garden such as tomatoes. Daylight makes no difference to these plants.
But light does matter to short- and long-day plants.
Long-day plants will only bloom when the amount of daylight is longer than the period of darkness. Depending on the plant, there is a set amount of light that the plant must receive before it will flower.
Plants such as petunia, daylily and iris are long-day and require at least 12 hours of light to bloom. Sometimes this day length isn’t required for blooming, but will make blooming much faster in plants like sunflowers and snapdragons.
Short-day plants need a period of at least a few weeks where the daylight is short and the period of darkness is long. Research actually shows that it is the long period of darkness that is most important rather than the length of light. So if the darkness is interrupted by a flash of light during the night, even for just a few seconds, the flowering of that plant can be interrupted.
If the length of darkness does not reach the length that the plant needs to initiate flowers, or if it continually gets interrupted by flashes of light, the plant may never bloom.
Many of our fall-blooming plants, such as chrysanthemums and those bluish-purple asters sold beside them, are short-day plants and will not bloom if they do not have enough uninterrupted darkness.
Those Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti also are dependent on long nights to bloom.
Another well-known short-day plant is the poinsettia. Right now is about the time that you need to give it at least 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness so that it will start to change color. You can do this by putting a box over the plant, or moving it to a completely darkened room for 14 hours a day. You’ll need to continue this routine until about the middle of November.
This little light phenomenon is often a surprise to students when I talk about it in the botany class for the Master Gardener program. Sometimes you get that “aha!” moment on their face when they realize that the reason their plants don’t bloom is because of either too much or not enough light.
One of the most common problems my students face is with getting hydrangeas to bloom. While not necessarily a short-day plant, most hydrangeas do not bloom if they get too much light (say, more than 14 hours). The illumination from a porch light, solar light or dusk-till-dawn light that bathes the plant well into the night may just be keeping it from blooming.
Next time you plant something near an outdoor light source, be sure to do a little research to check out its photoperiod. Otherwise, you might end up with a late bloomer.
When you talk about killer plants, your mind may conjure images of a man-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors,” insect-eating Venus flytraps or poisonous plants like deadly nightshade.
While all of those scenarios are interesting in and of themselves, what about plants that attack other plants?
I’m talking, of course, about parasitic plants. These plants thrive on stealing nutrients from other plants, either weakening them or, quite possibly, killing them.
Parasitic plants connect themselves to a host plant and siphon off the sugars that plant produces and the nutrients it pulls from the soil. These plants often bend the definition we have in our heads of plants, since they don’t have to behave like other plants that make their own food.
Probably the most well-known (and beloved) parasitic plant is mistletoe. The plant that gives us the warm fuzzies and romantic feelings around the holidays makes its living by feeding off of the trees in which it lives. They don’t talk about that aspect of the plant in all those Christmas songs. It doesn’t kill the tree, but a heavy infestation can weaken a tree and slow its growth.
While they are few in number, there are some parasitic plants you may run into. Another parasitic plant in our part of the world is the Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), a white, chlorophyll-free plant that resembles a smoking pipe as it unfurls from the forest floor. Without chlorophyll, it can’t make its own food, so it connects itself to a nearby tree (usually beech) for nutrients.
Another plant, called a beech drop (Epifagus americana), also makes its living in the same manner. A plant called squaw root or bear corn (Conopholis americana), because it resembles an ear of corn growing out of the forest floor, is a parasitic plant that connects with the roots of oak trees.
These plants may cause a little damage to their host plants. This week, though, there seems to be something more sinister afoot. I received two different calls about the same parasitic plant this week, from different parts of the state (one of which came from Ann Berry, associate vice president for marketing and outreach at WVU). It seems that the problem here was with a parasitic plant called dodder (Cuscuta sp.). Despite the name, I assure you that this plant does not dodder around when it comes to feeding off other plants. This plant can severely infect and potentially kill any plant it touches.
Seeds of the plant germinate in the soil, so it starts life just like any other plant. Once germinated, though, the seedling has about 10 days to find a host plant to attach to and begin feeding. But this is not left to chance it seems that dodder is a pretty good hunter. Scientists have determined that dodder can, in a way, sense chemical signals from nearby plants and grow directly toward them.
Dodder is an odd-looking plant, and many people don’t even know to classify it as a plant. It grows in long strings, often without leaves (or only having inconspicuous ones). Different species can be different colors. The one that is most common here is often a yellow-orange color.
Once the dodder touches the soft tissue of a plant (leaves or stems), it inserts a structure called a haustorium into the plant. The haustorium inserts itself into the plants vascular tissue (veins) and siphons off the water, sugars and nutrients. After the connection is made, the dodder plant detaches its roots and becomes completely reliant upon the host plant. Luckily it has trouble attacking woody plants, so it mainly goes after herbaceous ones.
One connection is bad enough, but the dodder twines its way around the plant as it grows, resembling what some would call “silly string.” Everywhere the dodder touches the host, it sends in new haustoria to strengthen its connection. If other plants are close enough, the dodder will grow outward through the air to ensnare another host. It can easily grow to encompass many plants, covering them completely and eventually strangling them or starving them out.
My advice to both of the callers this week was to remove as much of the plant as possible, as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the plant can regrow from the connections it makes with the host plant, so you often need to remove whole parts of the plant or the whole plant itself. If it has only made one or two connections, you may be able to control it just by removing the dodder from the plant.
Dodder is hard to see on the ground as it germinates, so it is only usually spotted after it has attached and grown on a plant. If you do happen to catch it before it attaches to a plant, cultivating the soil to break it up and removing as much by hand as possible will help. Unfortunately, there is no spray or control method that will kill the dodder without killing the host.
Dodder is definitely a bizarre plant that many have not seen. Keep an eye out for it this year, since it seems to be cropping up in unexpected places. It just goes to show you that sometimes it’s a plant-eat-plant world out there.
by John Porter, WVU Extension Agent, Kanawha CountyThe heat of summer has finally arrived.
The blazing sun and sticky humidity are enough to make you want to stay in the cool breeze of the air conditioner. It seems an odd time to be thinking about fall, but it is time to plant a few things in the garden so that you can have a last hurrah in the veggie patch.
Most people think that the only time to plant a vegetable garden is May. Those people are sorely mistaken. One of the most productive seasons in the garden is fall, and even early winter.
The cool-season crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale are surefire additions to the garden this time of year. These crops will thrive as the temperatures cool, and will even endure frost and light freezes. In fact, many of them have a milder, sweeter flavor after a frost because of a reaction that the plant has to produce sugars after a cold snap.
Chard, beets, carrots and radishes are also common fall garden fare (radishes will need to wait until it is cooler, but the time is ripe for sowing beets and carrots right now). You’ll also want to wait until cooler weather to sow a crop of lettuce or spinach for the fall and winter.
Don’t think that fall planting is limited to cool-season crops, though. Many fast-maturing warm-season crops can be planted in late summer for late-season garden glory. These are convenient to fill in space vacated by early crops or by diseased plants that need to be removed. I know a certain bed of tomatoes that may find itself replaced if it doesn’t slow down with the Septoria leaf spot.
Beans are a good candidate for late-summer planting, but you’ll need to make sure they are a fast-maturing variety. Bush beans are usually the quicker growers. Pole beans and lima beans usually take a longer period, so those don’t do as well later in the season.
It is also a possibility to squeeze in a late crop of cucumbers or summer squash as well. This can be good if your cukes and squash succumb to disease, squash vine borers or cucumber beetles. Planting late can often mean that you are missing the primetime for specific pests. You’ll probably have fewer problems with squash vine borer in the fall than you would in the summer.
The key to fall planting is to know how many days it takes for the crop to mature. Check out the seed package or the plant tag there should be a time to maturity on there. Just count backward from the first frost date (usually during Oct. 20-30 for most of our area). Be sure to add a few weeks to account for slower growing in cool weather and to allow for a reasonable harvest time.
For the cool-season crops, you don’t have to worry about frost, but you will want to get them grown before a good freeze.
You can give yourself a little more time if you plan on incorporating a season extension practice in the garden. Using a row cover or constructing a low tunnel can give you several more weeks of growing time. It can be possible to enjoy a fresh tomato or green beans straight from the garden on the Thanksgiving table, or some fresh broccoli or kale at Christmas. But it all starts with a little planning in the heat of summer.
Urban ag conference
Those who want to increase their knowledge and skills for urban agriculture should take a look at the second annual West Virginia Urban Ag Conference. It is a conference that I co-coordinate on behalf of WVU Extension with the folks at WVSU Extension, the Capitol Conservation District, and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (in partnership with the West Virginia Farmers Market Association, West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service).
During the conference, you’ll get to hang out with me, my urban ag friends, and some of the best experts in the region.
This year the conference has moved to Sept. 18 and 19 on the campus of West Virginia State University.
Workshops will include gardening, small-scale livestock, conservation, homesteading, marketing and more. The first 100 people who register for the rain-barrel workshops in the conservation track will go home with a free complete rain barrel.
One of the featured speakers will be my friend and fellow garden professor Joseph Tychonievich, an author and plant breeder, who will be presenting “Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener.” Tyler Baras (The Farmer Tyler), an urban hydroponic farmer with The GrowHaus in Denver (thegrowhaus.org), will be presenting “Successful Urban Farming!” thanks to a sponsorship from HortAmericas and urbanagnews.com.
The conference will kick off on the evening of Sept. 17 with the Urban Ag Hop, a self-guided tour of gardens, urban farms and community gardens in the Charleston area. The tour will end with a local-foods afterparty at the J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works in Malden. Locals who do not attend the conference will be able to participate in the Urban Ag Hop as well (registration to come soon).
Early-bird registration is open until Saturday for a discounted registration fee of $60. The price goes up to $80 on Aug. 9 and $100 on Aug. 23. To register for the conference, visit urbanagwv.com.
by Mary Beth Bennett, WVU Extension Agent, Berkeley County
In my travels around the county I’ve seen some beautiful flowering shrubs in a variety of colors. The shrubs I’ve seen recently are Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia) and they come in a variety of colors and sizes. Research on Crape myrtles was done by the late Dr. Donald Egolf at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C. to come up with varieties that were resistant to powdery mildew and root hardy to USDA zone 6 (where we are). Many of the most popular Crape Myrtle varieties for sale today are hybrids developed at the U.S. National Arboretum.
The Crape Myrtle is native to China, Japan and Korea. Old varieties were not very cold tolerant and had problems with powdery mildew. The ‘crape’ in the name came from the flowers’ texture reminding one of crape fabric and ‘myrtle’ to being members of the large myrtle family. The timber of some species is used in shipbuilding.
Crape Myrtles thrive in full sun in well-drained, moist soil. They like a soil pH of 5.0 -6.5. They grow fast, and will tolerate dry conditions once established. They have a long blooming season of showy flowers that bloom on current season’s growth. They fit well in any landscape since they are available in heights from 18 inches to 40 feet. They can be planted any time of the year. Most varieties in our area are grown as shrubs, either upright or spreading. There is a tree variety of Crape Myrtle but it tends to grow in warmer climates. Many types of Crape Myrtle have interesting bark that exfoliates in thin flakes, exposing the inner bark making it attractive in winter.
According to the U.S. National Arboretum (USNA) the Lagerstroemia indica and hybrids within this species are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 7-9 (Virginia to Florida) but are often killed to the ground in severe winters in Zone 7. Lagerstroemia fauriei is reliably hardy as far north as USDA Hardiness Zone 6. The USNA hybrids that have Lagerstroemia fauriei as a parent are hardier than Lagerstroemia indica cultivars.
Crape Myrtles can be grown in northern area with various microclimates and cultural practices needed to enhance hardiness. Avoid excessive watering, pruning or fertilizing in the fall because it forces new growth and the plant does not have time to harden off making it more likely to be killed by winter cold. Avoid planting them against south-facing walls because they tend to radiate heat that can break dormancy during brief winter warm spells. Crape Myrtles are heat loving shrubs that may not bloom well in cool climates.
If you like Crape Myrtles but have not had success growing them you might try miniature plants that grow no more than three feet in height. This allows you to take measures to protect them from winter cold. Several varieties developed at the National Arboretum by Dr. Egolf are ‘Chickasaw’ and ‘Pocomoke’ both varieties are Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei.
According to the USNA ‘Chickasaw’ is the first true miniature Lagerstroemia indica x L. fauriei hybrid, reaching a height of 20 inches and a width of 26 inches after seven years in container culture. It is highly tolerant to powdery mildew. It was produced and selected by Dr. Donald Egolf from a complex pedigree involving five original plants and their progeny intercrossed for five generations. Approximately one-third of its genotype was contributed by L. fauriei. The first cross in this pedigree was made in 1967, and the final cross that resulted in ‘Chickasaw’ was made in 1989 taking 22 years to develop this variety of Crape Myrtle. It was released in 1997 as rooted cuttings to wholesale nurseries and available to retail nurseries in 1999-2000.
‘Pocomoke’ was a second in the series of true miniature hybrids reaching a height of 19 inches and a width of 35 inches after 8 years of container culture.
For more information on Crape Myrtles or to see them growing you can visit the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. http://www.usna.usda.gov/Information/hoursadm.html.
It should be noted that in addition to breeding, evaluating, and selecting new and improved cultivars of crape myrtles, the National Arboretum is also responsible for serving as the International Cultivar Registration Authority (ICRA) for the genus. The ICRA serves several important roles in promoting stability in nomenclature, including registering and publishing cultivar names and maintaining records of historical and current cultivar names, origins, and descriptions.
The previous version of the Lagerstroemia (crapemyrtle) checklist was published in 1978, which is the same year that the first two hybrid crapemyrtles ‘Natchez’ and ‘Muskogee’ were introduced by the National Arboretum. Since then, many new crapemyrtle cultivars have been developed and introduced by the Arboretum and other programs. Unlike the first edition, this latest edition of the checklist will not be published in hard copy, but is posted on the National Arboretum’s web site: http://www.usna.usda.gov/Research/ Herbarium/Lagerstroemia/. It serves
to document and validate the names of many of these newer cultivars.
by John Porter, WVU Extension Agent, Kanawha CountyLast week I made my way to South Dakota for the annual meeting of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents. It is a fun conference made even more special this year by the fact that WVU President E. Gordon Gee was in attendance as the conference co-keynote speaker and recipient of the Service to American/World Agriculture award.
Two days into the conference, though, something wasn’t quite right. I kept feeling worse and worse, and by Wednesday I was confined to my hotel room (save for a venture out to the conference banquet for dinner). I would not have been functional for the rest of the trip save for the kindness of a co-worker who went through the pharmacy red tape to procure and deliver “the good stuff” to my hotel room.
I thought I had a sinus infection at best (I get them often) and the flu at worst (yes, it was really that bad). But guess what I’m just really allergic to South Dakota. Two days after my return and I’m nearly back to normal (well, my normal, anyway).
Those who know me know that I suffer from the occupational hazard of allergies. Irony dictates that my allergies are only to about two dozen plants and two molds (that occur in mulch/compost).
My best guess is that I had a reaction to the corn pollen of South Dakota. It makes sense while we do grow some corn here in West Virginia, the Mount Rushmore State boasts an estimated 4.75 million acres of corn. I don’t think I was tested for corn pollen allergies, but since corn is not a major crop here, it may not be part of the common test.
I tell this story not for sympathy (well, OK, maybe a little) but it brings up a good illustration about pollination strategies of plants.
You see, plants like corn rely on chance and wind to spread their genes around. In corn, the pollen drops from the male flowers (the tassel on the top) to the stigma of the female flower (the end of the silk sticking out of the cob). The process relies on lots of pollen being released into the air, since there is a good chance that a lot of it will miss the target. Corn pollen is usually heavy, therefore it doesn’t blow too far from the plant (unless there is lots of wind).
This is why you don’t get a good corn crop if you don’t have a big block of corn in the garden just one or two rows doesn’t drop enough pollen to pollinate all the flowers. When the silks don’t get pollinated, you’ll end up with incomplete cobs missing kernels. This can also happen if the corn is in bloom during a long period of rain the rain washes all of the pollen off before pollination can occur.
Most of the major allergen-producing plants are wind pollinators trees, grasses, ragweed. They all release copious amounts of pollen into the air hoping for it to land in the right place.
Some plants still rely on pollen getting moved from plant to plant or flower to flower, but they remove the chance involved with wind pollination. These plants have a stickier pollen that stays on the flower and waits for something to come along and move it a bee, a butterfly, a moth, a hummingbird, etc. These plants hold on to their pollen and have the more directed approach of getting a courier to make a direct delivery of their pollen between flowers.
Since these plants don’t leave the pollination to chance, they generally produce less pollen. Some good examples are fruit trees (apples, peaches, pears), sunflowers, squash, goldenrod and roses. Since they don’t release it into the air, they usually aren’t considered major allergens.
Still yet, some plants want to take no chance with their next generation. Self-pollinating plants don’t rely on pollen being spread to different flowers they take care of business themselves. These plants are perfectly fine without crossbreeding with other plants.
Sometimes, these plants are so dedicated to self-fertilization that they make it difficult for the pollen to leave the flower. Bean flowers have a lower lip that curves upward to protect the reproductive parts inside. Tomato flowers are nearly completely enclosed. You may see bees going from flower to flower, but their search for food is in vain they can’t get into the flower. Their buzzing does help dislodge the pollen inside the flower, but they don’t have access to spread it around. Producers that grow tomatoes in greenhouses where there is no wind to knock the pollen loose either buy boxes of bumblebees to release in the greenhouse, or use something like a vibrating toothbrush to help the flowers self-pollinate (no joke).
This is why you can plant two different tomatoes just a few feet apart and not have them crossbreed, but you would have to plant squash up to two miles apart (or protect the flowers) to guarantee that you get the same variety if you plan on saving seeds. This is why the most commonly saved seeds, at least in this area, are tomatoes and beans they are easy to guarantee that you won’t get something other than what you plant.
So if you learn anything from this article, check out how plants pollinate before you save their seeds, and take plenty of allergy meds with you if you go to South Dakota.
by Mary Beth Bennett, WVU Extension Agent, Berkeley County
It’s that time of year where peaches are in season so I thought something about peaches would be timely.
China is the native home of peaches with a wide range of wild peach types in the countryside. The peach was brought to the Mediterranean area from Iran (formerly called Persia), the scientific name for the peach “Prunus persica”. The peach was known in Greece by 300 BC and by the Romans shortly after 100 AD.
Early peaches were propagated by seed, the easiest way to transport the peach plant. Budded trees (so-called inoculated trees) became available in America around the time of the American Revolution. William Penn found peach trees in New England in 1682.
There are two major classes of peaches? They are the freestone and clingstone, describing the attachment of the flesh to the pit. The yellow, melting-flesh freestones are the most common type for the fresh market and home garden. The most popular of these are the ‘Haven’ series, including ‘Redhaven.’
Peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, and cherries all members of the Prunus genus, are closely related. They commonly are referred to as “stone fruits” because the seed is very large and hard. Although stone fruit crops can provide delicious fruit from June through September, most stone fruits are native to warmer climates of the world and therefore are very susceptible to injury from low winter temperatures. In addition, because they bloom early in the spring, the flowers frequently suffer damage from spring frosts.
Peaches and nectarines produce fruit on new wood, not on spurs, so a good harvest depends upon plenty of new growth. If trees are not pruned annually, the fruiting wood will grow further from the trunk and the ground every year, until the fruit is difficult to pick and the branches become so long that they can be broken easily by the wind or a heavy fruit load.
A peach is softer than apples, so it important to pick a peach using the sides of your fingers rather than the tips. If you use the tips of your finger to hold the peach, then you will put little dents in the peach. Using the sides of your fingers is more gentle and less likely to cause bruising. Grab the peach firmly and pull it straight off the branch.
West Virginia Peach Acreage and Production
West Virginia’s tree fruit acreage has been declining, but peach production has averaged 6,000 tons, since 1994. West Virginia’s peach production ranked 13th in the nation in 2007 with peach production located primarily in Berkeley, Hampshire, Jefferson and Morgan counties.
Loring is the most prevalent variety, followed by Redhaven and Cresthaven. The most prevalent other varieties were: Blake, Sunbrite, John Boy, Belair and Glohaven.
Basketball’s Invention thanks to a peach basket.
In December 1891, Canadian-born James Naismith, a physical education teacher at the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) training school in Springfield, Mass., took a soccer ball and a peach basket into the gym and invented basketball. In 1893, James Naismith replaced the peach basket with iron hoops and a hammock-style basket. Ten years later came the open-ended nets of today. Before that, you had to retrieve your ball from the basket every time you scored. The 10-foot height on the baskets came about because the first peach baskets were attached to the edge of an elevated running track that happened to be 10 feet off the floor.
Basketball, a game that started with a soccerball, a peach basket and 18 men in a YMCA gymnasium in Springfield, Mass., has grown into a game that more than 300 million people play worldwide and many more people enjoy watching.
Speaking of peaches
Buy fresh peaches from our local producers and farm markets. Locally grown tree ripened peaches taste really good and are good for you. Support our local farmers by buying their produce. We have three on farm markets around Berkeley County: Orr’s Farm Market, Butler’s Farm Market and Kitchen’s Farm Market as well as Taylor’s Farm Market in Inwood. Visit any of them for fresh picked produce.
by J.J. Barrett, WVU Extension Agent, Wood County
Howdy gardeners! As we approach the Fourth of July holiday, this marks the closing window of opportunity for planting warm season vegetables. No matter if you plant slicer cucumbers for salads or pickling varieties (everybody loves grandma’s homemade pickles), now is a great time to plant a late crop of cucumbers.
Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are a favorite here in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Cucumbers are easy to grow if you give them good soil, full sun and sufficient moisture. They are great in salads or pickled. Similar to other vine crops (called cucurbits) such as squash, melons, and pumpkins, cucumbers thrive in warm weather. Long taproots and branching surface roots enable cucumber plants to access soil moisture even in dry weather. Cucumbers are heavy nitrogen feeders and require fertile soil. They also need plenty of water so the soil moisture should be constantly monitored. They may develop a bitter taste in dry sites (or a delay in harvest).
Some varieties form long vines that may spread or be trellised; others are bush types that fit more easily into a small garden. Cucumber fruits are produced only when insects carry pollen to the female flower (they are monoecious, meaning the male and female flowers on the same plant are separate). Honeybees are essential for pollinating cucumbers. Be cautious of using insecticides, and only apply in late afternoon to minimize effects on bees.
Some suggested varieties for Mid-Ohio Valley gardens are Sweet Slice Burpless, Straight 8, Poinsett, Dasher II and Marketmore 80 for slicing cucumbers. Good pickling varieties are Boston Pickling, National Pickling and Regal. Bushmaster and Spacemaster are good for container gardening.
You can plant transplants, but I still recommend direct seeding cucumbers. Sow seeds about 1/2 inch deep. For vining types that will be allowed to spread out in the garden, seeds should be sown two inches apart. Allow about two or three feet of space between rows. After emergence, thin seedlings to stand 8 to 12 inches apart. The vines may also be trained to climb a three- to four-foot trellis, Cucumber plants will not climb the trellises satisfactorily by themselves. Training the main stem is required until it reaches and extends over the top wire. About 3 or 4 trips over the planting are required to complete the vine training. Trellising cucumbers also allows more air circulation to minimize infection by fungal diseases such as downy mildew.
Cucumbers should be ready for harvest in about 50 to 70 days depending on the variety. Pick as frequently as necessary to avoid oversized fruit. The more you pick, the more the vines will produce. Harvest when cucumbers are about 2 inches long up to any size before they begin to turn yellow. There are several insect pests you may encounter on your cucumbers. Squash vine borers attack and bore into the vines killing the plant. Squash bugs can feed on plant sap and injure young plants. Cucumber beetles can damage plants by eating leaves as well as stems and fruit.
A common problem is misshapen fruit, often due to low fertility or poor pollination. Good luck and happy gardening! A good fact sheet on growing cucumbers is Growing Cucumbers in the Home Garden http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=C1034.
Question of the Week:
The blooms on my knockout roses look stunted and twisted. What could be the problem?
_Answer: Your Knock Outs may have what is called Rose Rosette Disease (RRD), a virus originally thought to only infect the invasive species Multiflora Rose. Scientists have concluded that RDD also infects virtually all cultivated roses. Once plants contract the disease (they think a mite carries the virus from plant to plant), all parts of the plants are infectious. Pruners used on infected plants can spread the pathogen to non-infected plants. There are no pesticides available that will control the disease. The entire infected plant, including the roots, should be removed and destroyed. The virus does not survive in the soil, but it will survive in roots. _
by J.J. Barrett, WVU Extension Agent, Wood County
The middle of June means heat and thunderstorms are on their way for the Mid-Ohio Valley. Although it feels like summer is here, the official start of summer (the summer solstice) is Saturday, June 21. A fun and beautiful addition to any garden is to plant some sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). If you have children or grandchildren, plant different varieties of this plant (ornamental and oil seed producers) and watch them grow, some to heights of over ten feet!
A North America native, the sunflower comes in a variety of sizes, growing habits and colors. It was used by Native Americans, for food, dye and medicine, and extracted the oil for ceremonial body painting and pottery. The Hopi believe that when the sunflowers are numerous, it is a sign that there will be an abundant harvest. Actually, sunflowers are a major agricultural crop here in the United States and has many uses. Sunflower oil is considered a premium oil due to its light color and mild flavor and is sold in many birdseed mixes. Sunflower seeds are considered a healthy snack food and included in many trail mixes.
Depending on the variety, sunflowers will bloom about 55 to 75 days after planting (ornamentals) 60 days is a good average. Seed producing varieties may take up to 90 days. Sunflowers can be broadly divided into those grown for production of edible seeds and those grown as ornamentals and cut flowers. Ornamental and cut flower types, but you can grow the edible varieties for roasting for home use. Seed producing varieties have some interesting characteristics. The heads consist of 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers joined together by a receptacle base. The large petals around the edge of a head are actually individual ray flowers, which do not develop into seed. A well-known sunflower characteristic is that the flowering heads track the sun’s movement, a phenomenon known as heliotropism.
Sunflowers need full sun. Directly sow seeds in prepared rows in the garden or landscape beds. The most critical planting requirement is adequate moisture. Seeding depth should be 1 to 1.5 inches, and leave about 20-30 inches between rows. After sowing the seeds, keep the soil moist (water lightly every day if the weather is dry). The only situations likely to severely limit sunflower are poorly drained soils or soils that would prevent taproots from penetrating. Sunflowers can survive dry spells through its extensive tap root.
Sunflowers come in heights ranging from 1-8 feet and also come in a wide range of flower colors. There is a sunflower to match every gardener’s taste and purpose. Giant sunflowers like “Kong”, the multi branching “Italian White”, and the petite “Teddy Bear”, (a double producer with flowers full of petals with no central disk at all) are a few examples. Bright yellow will always be popular, but you can also choose from creamy white, bronze, mahogany, rusty red, burgundy and orange. Some types produce flowers with more than one color. The center disk of the sunflower also adds to the display and goes through color changes as the flower matures and seeds form.
Sunflowers grown for cut flowers generally produce numerous flowers on a more bushy plant than the types grown for seeds, which generally produce a single, large head. The multiple-flowering habit makes these types more colorful and helps them fit into traditional flowerbeds more appropriately.
If you want to grow sunflowers for the delicious, nutritious seeds, make sure you choose varieties bred for seed production, such as Mammoth Russian also known as Mammoth, Russian Giant and Gray Stripe. These tall-growing sunflowers produce a single enormous flower at the top of the plant. To grow a really big seed head, apply general-purpose fertilizer when the flower head begins to appear.
A couple of good Extension Fact Sheets are Sunflowers: An American Native from University of Missouri Extension http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G4290 and Sunflowers in Your Garden http://cestanislaus.ucanr.edu/files/111738.pdf.
Question of the Week: Why do my pepper plants grow large but not develop fruits? They are dark green and do not appear to be diseased.
A. Extreme heat can prevent fruit set in peppers. The most common problem is later in the season due hot, dry winds and warm nights (above 70°F). Some varieties are more susceptible than others. Pepper plants that have no developing fruit attached will normally maintain a greener, healthier appearance because all the nutrients are going into producing leaves and stems instead of fruit (what we want!). Over fertilization with nitrogen can cause problems also. Epsom salts may be helpful. Begin spraying when blooms first appear. For a foliar spray, dissolve 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt dissolved in a gallon of water.
- Consider a raised bed when planning your garden
- Heirloom Beans
- Garden Guru: When it comes to blooming, the difference is night and day
- Garden Guru: Parasitic plants suck life out of other plants
- Garden Guru: Plant now for fall vegetables' last hurrah
- Bennett Farm Page: Crape Myrtles
- Garden Guru: Working with different pollination
- Bennett Farm Page: Peaches
- The Backyard Gardener: Last Call for Cucumbers
- The Backyard Gardener: Sunflowers for the Garden