WINTER GARDENING TIPS

Don’t have a garden but want to start one this spring? Then get started this winter! Go ahead and plan and plot where your garden will be. Winter is not an off-season for avid Kentucky gardeners. Which tasks you undertake depends on your answer to the question: to grow or not to grow?  The key to growing in the winter is to only concentrate on plants hardy enough to withstand cold temperatures – forget about tomatoes and corn until late spring.

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MAINTENANCE IS THE KEY TO MIDSUMMER GARDENING

By this time of year, you should be seeing some returns on your efforts at vegetable gardening. Now is the time to be vigilant and keep diseases and pests at bay.  One of my big bugaboos, especially for my vegetable plants such as cucumber, squash and melon, is powdery mildew. This is a fungus that infects many plants, from different types of roses to the aforementioned vegetables. It looks exactly as it sounds, the leaves of your plants become covered with a powdery fungus that eventually kills off the plant if left unattended.

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There are many kinds of mulch you can apply, from newspaper to straw to grass clippings. Each has advantages and disadvantages, so you may want to experiment. Through the years, I’ve found a combination of newspaper and cypress mulch has worked well for me. Just cover the ground around the plants with sheets of newspaper, then cover the papers with the mulch. The weeds that do manage to come through are easy to spot and pull up. Again, you may want to do some online research about mulching your vegetable garden to find what might be best for you.


Whatever you do, don’t take your vegetable garden for granted. Ideally, you should walk it every day and check for problems, be it disease, a need for water, pests or weeds, and remedy the situation quickly. After all, you’ve very likely put quite a bit of work into your garden, so why not make sure it’s the best it can be throughout the growing season?

By this time of year, you should be seeing some returns on your efforts at vegetable gardening. Now is the time to be vigilant and keep diseases and pests at bay.


One of my big bugaboos, especially for my vegetable plants such as cucumber, squash and melon, is powdery mildew. This is a fungus that infects many plants, from different types of roses to the aforementioned vegetables. It looks exactly as it sounds, the leaves of your plants become covered with a powdery fungus that eventually kills off the plant if left unattended.


If you’re fortunate enough to have dodged this killer thus far, you may want to take some precautions. There are some fungicides on the market you can apply to your plants, but one thing that has worked best for me is mixing a tablespoon of baking soda with a gallon of water, adding a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid and applying the mixture to the vulnerable plants once a week.


If you go the fungicide route, be sure to read the label first to make sure the product is safe to use on your plants. Follow directions carefully. If your plants are already infected, cut off the infected leaves and dispose of them far from your garden.

MAINTENANCE IS THE KEY TO MIDSUMMER GARDENING

Another way to avoid powdery mildew is to water in the morning so the moisture has a chance to evaporate and lessen the opportunity for the disease to take hold.


If animal pests are eating your plants, another good home remedy to try is mixing a tablespoon of hot sauce with a gallon of water, adding a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid and applying it to your plants weekly.


Insects are a whole other problem. I find insecticidal soap sprayed regularly on my plants fights a host of bug problems and is far more gentle than using insecticides. Companion plantings can also help keep insects at bay. For instance, planting basil around your tomatoes helps keep bugs away, and marigolds are known to repel many insects in the garden. An online search will help you find the companion plants to keep bugs away from the specific vegetables you’re trying to grow.


When it comes to weeds, I’m a great believer in mulch. Placed around your vegetable plants, mulch will not only keep the weeds down but it also helps keep moisture in the soil so you don’t have to water as often.

FRANK KOURT

Frank Kourt is a Staff Writer for Living Well 60+ Magazine

more articles by Frank Kourt