by Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension
May has been cool so far. We should not have any temperatures lower than 50 at night according to the latest weather forecast for our region.
So that means it is time to plant tomatoes, our favorite warm season crop! Tomatoes are a versatile and nutritious vegetable and an important ingredient in so many of the dishes we like to prepare. Tomatoes are originally from South America. They were first domesticated and cultivated as a crop in Mexico and Central America so they prefer warm climates. They grow well in our hot summers and produce until late fall.
While not trouble-free, following some basic tomato tips will help you have a good chance at success:
Plant in full sun. Tomatoes need 8-10 hours of sun to produce a good harvest.
Choose well-drained soil.
Mulch around the plants by mid-June. Mulching with compost, dry grass clippings, or straw keeps the soil moist and soil temperatures moderated during summer heat.
Mulch keeps the soil from splashing onto the plant leaves, which helps prevent fungal diseases.
Apply a maintenance fertilizer when soil is prepared and before planting tomato transplants. Work it into the soil to the depth of about 6 inches. A fertilizer with less nitrogen is best for tomatoes.
Plant tomato transplants deeper than they were growing in the pots or plastic trays.
Plant tomatoes at least 2 to 3 feet apart. Good air circulation between plants helps prevent diseases.
If we do not get at least 1 inch of rain per week, supplemental irrigation is needed. Water tomatoes deeply, about once a week, around the root zone of the plant. Less frequent and deep watering is better than shallow frequent watering.
Indeterminate tomatoes will keep growing and producing tomatoes until they are killed by a fall freeze.
Determinate tomatoes grow about 3-5 feet tall and stop growing after producing a crop.
Studies show that tomatoes grown on stakes, in cages, or on trellises produce more high-quality tomatoes than tomatoes left to trail on the ground.
Give one or two side dressings of fertilizer at one-month intervals after you notice green tomatoes, about 1/3 of mature size, on the plants.
Watch for tomato hornworms and other insect pests that can damage the plants and fruit. Gardeners have a wide range of methods for insect pest control, from hand picking of pests, strong sprays of water, organic pesticides, to synthetic pesticides. Be sure to read and follow label directions for any pesticides you use.
Here is a link to a MU Extension guide sheet on growing tomatoes which will give you more information for tomato crop success-https://extension2.missouri.edu/catalog/product/view/id/4591/
Mid-May to early June is also a great time to plant other warm season crops such as sweet peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, and sweet potatoes. Contact Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension, 816-482-5850 or 816-252-5051, email@example.com if you have more questions about tomatoes or other vegetable crops. Join MU Extension Field Horticulture Specialists for free Home Horticulture Town Halls on Wednesdays, 11:00am to 12noon, via Zoom- https://extension2.missouri.edu/events/home-horticulture-town-hall. Hear the latest information on a wide range of gardening topics and get answers to many gardening questions. Have a good time gardening!
Image courtesy University of MO Extension
by Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension—Jackson County
It has been a wild spring so far with temperatures all over the place, from freezing to hot. Snow, rain, wind, we have experienced it all. Despite these extremes, I hope you are able to get outside and start gardening during the stay at home precautions and enjoy the spring activities in your yard and garden.
Contact University of Missouri Extension in Jackson County, if you have any questions about plants, insects, or any garden related activities. We are glad to help! Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, firstname.lastname@example.org, University of Missouri Extension- Jackson County, 816-252-5051.
Apples, crabapples and hawthorns susceptible to rust disease should have protective fungicidal sprays applied beginning when these trees bloom.
Pinch azaleas and rhododendron blossoms as they fade. Double flowered azaleas need no pinching.
If spring rains have been sparse, begin irrigating, especially plants growing in full sun.
Fertilize azaleas after bloom. Use a formulation which has an acid reaction.
Canker worms (inch worms) rarely cause permanent damage to ornamentals. Use Bt if control is deemed necessary.
Don't remove spring bulb foliage prematurely or next year's flower production will decline.
Continue monitoring pines, especially Scotch and mugo, for sawfly activity on new shoots.
Begin planting gladiolus bulbs as the ground warms. Continue at 2-week intervals.
Plant hardy water lilies in tubs or garden pools.
Scale crawlers are active now. Infested pines and euonymus should be treated at this time.
Plant summer bulbs such as caladiums, dahlias, cannas and elephant ears.
Begin planting warm-season annuals.
Begin fertilizing annuals. Continue at regular intervals.
Trees with a history of borer problems should receive their first spray now. Repeat twice at 3-week intervals.
Pinch back mums to promote bushy growth.
Keep bluegrass cut at 1.5 to 2.5 inch height. Mow tall fescue at 2 to 4 inch height.
Mow zoysia lawns at 1.5 inch height. Remove no more than one-half inch at each mowing.
Apply post-emergence broadleaf weed controls now if needed.
Zoysia lawns may be fertilized now. Apply no more than 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet.
Watch for sod webworms emerging now.
Place cutworm collars around young transplants. Collars are easily made from cardboard strips.
Growing lettuce under screening materials will slow bolting and extend harvests into hot weather.
Slugs will hide during the daytime beneath a board placed over damp ground. Check each morning and destroy any slugs that have gathered on the underside of the board.
Plant dill to use when making pickles.
Keep asparagus harvested for continued spear production. Control asparagus beetles as needed.
Begin planting sweet corn as soon as white oak leaves are as big as squirrel ears.
Isolate sweet, super sweet and popcorn varieties of corn to prevent crossing.
Thin plantings of carrots and beets to avoid overcrowding.
Control caterpillars on broccoli and cabbage plants by handpicking or use biological sprays such as B.t.
Set out tomato plants as soils warm.
Place a stake by seeds of squash and cucumbers when planting in hills to locate the root zone watering site after the vines have run.
Remove rhubarb seed stalks as they appear.
Watch for striped and spotted cucumber beetles now. Both may spread wilt and mosaic diseases to squash and cucumber plants.
Set out peppers and eggplants after soils have warmed. Plant sweet potatoes now and into early June.
Make new sowings of warm-season vegetables after harvesting early crops.
Mulch blueberries with pine needles or sawdust.
Don't spray any fruits while in bloom. Refer to local MU Extension publications for fruit spray schedule. Fruit Tree Spray Schedule for the Homeowner- https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6010
Birds eat many insect pests. Attract them to your garden by providing good nesting habitats.
Herbs planted in average soils need no extra fertilizer. Too much may reduce flavor and pungency at harvest.
Take houseplants outdoors when nights will remain above 50 degrees. Most prefer only direct morning sun.
Watch for fireflies on warm nights. Both adults and larvae are important predators. Collecting may reduce this benefit.
Gardening Calendar supplied by the staff of the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening located at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri. (www.GardeningHelp.org)
Missouri Department of Conservation
To the uninitiated, a morel does not have the most appetizing appearance. Its brain-like form looks like something out of a campy horror movie, and a morel’s neutral, earthy color doesn’t command much attention. From about late March to early May, however, foraging for these small mushrooms is serious business—a business so serious that many folks refuse to reveal their morel spots even to their closest friends and family.
The question many people ask this time of year is, “How can I find morels?” Well, morels are finicky fungal organisms. The underground portion of the fungus only produces mushrooms in some years—mostly based on soil temperature and moisture availability (but other factors play a role, too). Ultimately, most of what we know about finding morels is anecdotal and widely variable, but here are a few tips to help you narrow down good places to look for morels:
Morels commonly appear after warm, moist spring weather with daytime temperatures in the low 70s and nighttime temperatures in the 50s.
South and west facing slopes are good sites to look for morels early in the season, with north and east slopes being better for later-season morel hunting.
Morels tend to favor tree species such as elms, ashes, cottonwoods, and even domesticated apples. Look around recently dead trees but beware of falling branches.
Areas disturbed by flooding, fire, or logging often produce loads of morels.
Morels peak when lilacs bloom.
Most public lands in Missouri allow the collecting of mushrooms for personal use, but always check the regulations before you collect to be sure.
Remember, these are just general guidelines – morels have been found growing in all sorts of locations and conditions.
Before setting off into the forest, make sure you know how to correctly identify morels. Misidentifying and consuming toxic mushrooms can cause anything from mild stomach issues to organ failure or even death! There are several mushroom species in Missouri, including the big red false morel, which are considered toxic and not recommended for consumption. Consult with field guides or a professional mycologist to be completely confident in species identification before consuming any mushrooms.
Browse MDC’s mushroom field guide for photos of the more common and noticeable fungal species in Missouri.
Morels are often associated with ash trees, dying elms, and apple trees, although they are found elsewhere as well.
Photo credit: MDC Staff
Adapted from information from the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening located at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri.(www.GardeningHelp.org). Additional information provided by Cathy Bylinowski.
There is so much do in the garden in April. It can be overwhelming. Prioritizing projects in your yard or garden that are most important to you is one way to organize spring tasks. Do not forget to enjoy the sheer beauty of the green beginning of spring.
COVID 19 changed our lives this year, but gardening can help provide healthy exercise, stress relief, and nutritious food. Observe preventative measures to protect yourself, your family, and friends from COVID 19. Here is a helpful link to more information- https://extension2.missouri.edu/covid-19-resources-public
Contact Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, email@example.com, University of Missouri- Jackson County for more information on vegetable gardening, landscaping, native plants, and other horticulture topics. Enjoy spring!
When buying bedding plants, choose sturdy transplants that have not begun to flower. When crabapples are in bloom, it is time to plant hardy annuals such as violas outdoors.
Winter mulches should be removed from roses. Complete pruning promptly. Remove only dead wood from climbers at this time. Cultivate lightly, working in some compost or other organic matter.
Fertilize established roses once new growth is 2 inches long. Use a balanced formulation. Begin spraying to control black spot disease. Examine shrubs for winter injury. Prune all dead and weakened wood.
Groundcovers can be mowed to remove winter burn and tidy plants up. Raise mowers to their highest settings. Fertilize and water to encourage rapid regrowth.
Shrubs and trees best planted or transplanted in spring, rather than fall, include butterfly bush, dogwood, rose of Sharon, black gum (Nyssa), red bud, magnolia, tulip poplar, birch, ginkgo, hawthorn and most oaks.
Break off rims from peat pots when transplanting seedlings; otherwise, they can act as a wick to draw moisture away from the roots.
Evergreen and deciduous hedges may be sheared. Prune the top narrower than the base so sunlight will reach the lower limbs.
Easter lilies past blooming can be planted outdoors. Set the bulbs 2 to 3 inches deeper than they grew in the pot. Mulch well if frost occurs.
Enjoy, but do not disturb the many wildflowers blooming in woodlands throughout Missouri. Look for flowering dogwoods and redbuds in bloom. Oaks, hickories, and maples bloom.
Mow cool season grasses at recommended heights. For complete details, refer to University Extension Guide #6705, Cool Season Grasses. Top-dress low spots and finish over seeding thin or bare patches.
Finish transplanting broccoli, cabbage, and other cole crops into the garden. High phosphorous fertilizers help get transplants off to a quick start.
Plants started indoors should be hardened off outdoors in a protected place or cold frame before being transplanted into the garden.
Finish sowing seeds of all cool-season vegetables not yet planted. Make succession sowings of these crops for a steady supply.
Asparagus and rhubarb harvests begin. Remove flower stalks from rhubarb plants, if they develop.
Keep your hoe sharp. Do not allow weeds to get an early start in your garden! Thin crowded seedlings from early plantings of cool season crops such as beets, carrots, lettuce, and radish.
A rain gauge on a post near the vegetable garden keeps track of precipitation so you know when to water. Most crops need about 1 inch of rain per week between April and September.
If you want blemish-free fruits applications of insecticides and fungicides will be needed. Consult University Extension Guide Sheet #G6010, Home Fruit Spray Schedule for more information Plant bare-root or potted fruit trees as soon as the soil can be worked.
Protect bees and other pollinating insects. Do not spray insecticides on fruit trees that are blooming.
Orange, jelly-like galls on cedar trees spread rust diseases to apples, crabapples and hawthorns. Begin sprays for fire-blight susceptible apples and pears using an agricultural streptomycin. Spider mites and codling moths become active on apples.
Miscellaneous Natural Events
Honeybees are swarming. If you see a swarm in an inconvenient place, notify a local beekeeper organization to find a new home for these beneficial insects.
Hummingbirds return from their winter home in Central America.
by Dr. David Trinklein, University of Missouri Division of Plant Sciences and Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension
One of the joys of gardening is to try something new each year. Most vegetable gardens center on the gardener's favorites. Yet it can be both interesting and educational to try less common, unique vegetables to test your gardening skills and expand your culinary horizons.
Arugula- Gardeners who want greens quickly may select a few plants which normally can be harvested about six weeks after seeding. These include arugula, also known as roquette or garden rocket. Arugula grows best in the cool weather of spring and fall. Leaves of arugula add a spicy, pepper-like taste to salads and is prized for its health benefits as well as its unique taste. High in dietary fiber, arugula also is a good source of antioxidants and glucosinolates, which have been shown to reduce the risk of developing certain forms of cancer.
Malabar spinach, or basella, produces shiny green leaves somewhat similar in appearance to spinach. Unlike spinach, it is very heat tolerant and can provide salad greens throughout the summer. It is a vigorous climbing vine that may achieve a height of six feet when allowed to grow on a trellis. Plants can be started from seeds indoors, but should not be planted outdoors until the soil has warmed and the danger of frost has past. Its taste has been likened to that of mild Swiss chard.
Romanesco- One of the more interesting vegetables in appearance, Romanesco appears to be a cauliflower altered by aliens. Its inflorescence is chartreuse green in color and "self-similar" in morphology. The latter refers to the whole having the same shape as its parts. Closely related to broccoli and cauliflower, its buds (or curds) are comprised of smaller buds arranged in a logarithmic spiral. Like other members of the cabbage family, it prefers cool growing conditions and has a flavor described as delicate and nutty.
Roselle- A vegetable that might be making a reappearance in the U.S is roselle. Also known as the Florida cranberry, the fleshy sepals make a bright purple-red colored drink called Jamaica in many Latin American Market and restaurants. Farmers and gardeners from Burma and other countries in Southeast and Central Asia use the fleshy leaves of roselle as a cooked green similar to spinach, but with a tasty sour taste.
Other unusual vegetables have been around for a long time but, because of changes in availability or consumer preference, they disappear only to return later. Two examples are Black Aztec corn and French horticultural bean. Black Aztec corn can be eaten as corn on the cob when immature. However, when the kernels mature, they turn a deep blue-black color. This type of corn was prized by the Aztecs for making corn meal and is gaining popularity.
French horticultural beans are semi-vining in growth habit, but usually are grown as a bush. The pods are splashed with red and yellow flecks. The beans themselves are speckled with white and red, making them very colorful. French horticultural beans usually are consumed as young, immature beans shelled from the pod. They also can be used as dry beans and are said to have a nut-like flavor.
While scanning seed companies who advertise on the internet or checking seed racks in stores, you are sure to find other unique vegetables that you might be tempted to try. Spaghetti squash, banana melon, ground cherry and many types of Oriental vegetables are being planted more and more. While gardeners should not ignore their old favorites, giving new vegetables a try can be rewarding and create new flavors for you and your family.
Get your cool season vegetable gardens started this month. Plant onions, lettuce, potatoes, cabbage, kale, and other cool season crops. It is also time to get ready for warm season crops. If you want to start tomato, eggplant, or peppers seeds on your own in a greenhouse or under lights, it is time to do that now.
Contact Jackson County University of Missouri Extension in Blue Springs, MO for more information on spring gardening and landscaping- 816-252-5051, firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Michele Warmund, University of Missouri, Division of Plant Sciences, modified and submitted by Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, MU Extension- Jackson County, MO
Although industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) is considered a new crop in Missouri, it is actually an ancient crop, which was harvested in China 8500 years ago.
Fiber hemp was introduced to western Asia and Egypt, and then into Europe between 1000 and 2000 BCE. Hemp was imported into North America in 1606. Missouri was a major producer of fiber hemp from 1840 to 1860 due to the demand for sailcloth and rope.
Hemp was primarily grown in Kentucky until World War I. However, the Marijuana Tax Act ended fiber hemp production in 1938, except for a brief production period from 1942 to 1945 when 400,000 acres produced fiber for cloth and cordage.
Industrial hemp could again be an important alternative crop for Missouri farmers. It is the job of University of Missouri as a state research university to determine the best way to do that. Research will focus on both ideal growing conditions and potential economic impact.
Industrial Hemp is not Marijuana.
Although the plant used to grow industrial hemp is the same plant as used to grow marijuana, they are different varieties, which means they have extensive botanical differences – the main difference being that industrial hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC. It cannot be used as a recreational drug.
Hemp is one of the oldest sources of textile fiber. The bast fibers in the phloem of the stem tissue ("bark") range from 0.2 to 1.6 inches long, while the stem core fibers, known as hurds, are shorter.
Textiles made with bast fiber are strong and durable, with high tensile and wet strength. Thus, bast fibers were used extensively for rope, nets, canvas, sailcloth, and oakum for caulking on ships. Fiber hemp was also valued for upholstery, bags, sacks, and tarpaulins during this time. Today, hemp is used in materials for clothing and footwear.
During the 1800's, paper was made primarily from hemp and flax. Later, the development of cheap wood pulping methods for paper production was more economical than processing hemp and flax fibers. Today, specialty hemp paper products made from bast fibers include art papers, tea bags, bank notes, and technical filters.
Presently, hemp fiber is incorporated into plastic composites for molded car parts in Europe. Henry Ford used hemp and soybean to make durable car parts, such as trunk doors, in the 1940's. In car parts with fiber hemp, there is no splintering in accidents.
It provides favorable mechanical and acoustical properties. Hemp composites may have other uses in the manufacturing of bicycles, airplanes, and other vehicles for lightweight parts, padding, or sound insulation.
Fiber hemp is used in building construction products for thermal insulation, fiberboard, and in cement and plaster to enhance the strength of building materials.
For fiberboard, the short hurd fibers are used in composite wood products. The addition of hemp fibers into concrete also reduces shrinkage and cracking.
Hemp hurds can also be chemically combined with other products to strengthen foundations, walls, floors and ceilings of structures, or to make tile-like products.
Outdoor products made from hemp fibers, such as hemp fiber netting or blankets, can prevent soil erosion and stabilize new plantings. Horticultural uses for hemp fiber include biodegradable pots and biodegradable twine or supports for plants and trees in landscapes, orchards, and vineyards, replacing plastic ties.
Hemp hurds are also useful for animal bedding and pet litter.
Hulled hemp seed and cold-pressed hempseed oil can be used for specialty food products, beverages, nutraceuticals, and cosmetics in North America. Due to the nutty flavor of hemp seeds, they are included in some food products.
As with any "new" crop, there are pitfalls for producers, including growing challenges, potential for overproduction, new laws, and a lack of secure markets.
For consumers, fiber hemp offers alternative products. Currently, market expansion of non-food hemp products is limited by crop availability and high costs associated with fiber extraction and manufacturing processes. However, with innovative solutions, technical challenges can be overcome.