What Happened to My Potatoes?!

We tried potatoes for the first time last year with some leftover seed potatoes a friend had given us and thought it would be worth a shot. They did pretty well, even though they were small and we had enough to keep up with, having potatoes a couple nights a week. This year, we had big plans. We got more seed potatoes and had plans of needing a root cellar and were wondering, just what would we do with all the potatoes!? Well, we won’t have any trouble and I’m glad we didn’t start construction on the root cellar just yet.


We thought we were waiting until the right time to harvest. The vines had just bloomed and started to die. Once the plant blooms, the energy is being devoted to the production of the flower and it is unlikely that any more energy will be diverted to growing potatoes. Unfortunately, this did not occur until after the week of the non-stop rains we had. Potatoes, like most other vegetables do well with consistent watering, meaning a consistent amount of rain each week, not consistently raining for a week, as we experienced! However, we know there is nothing we can do to control mother nature and we obviously didn’t have our potato bed prepared correctly as it must have needed much more drainage.


When we started digging the potatoes up, we had many smaller sized potatoes that were nice and firm, but unfortunately, our best-sized potatoes had rotted in the ground before we had a chance to dig them up. We also noticed that even the smaller potatoes were covered with what looked like white bumps all over. The white bumps are actually called lenticels. Lenticels are special pores in the plant tissue that allow oxygen exchange with the outside world, allowing the potatoes to “breathe.” The large amount of moisture we have been receiving caused the lenticels to swell and therefore become visible. They may also appear in humid storage environments and as long as there are no other signs of problems of things like fungal or bacterial disease, the potatoes remain safe to eat.


However, the presence of the lenticels tells us a lot about the quality of our soil. We obviously received an above average amount of moisture recently and even well draining soil would be wet, but we must work to increase the drainage of our potato area in the future. It also may be that we need to do an above ground bed or plant the potatoes in large containers


Good luck to any fellow potato growers and if you have some of the same problems we had and need more suggestions for increasing drainage to your garden, please call the office, stop in or email pye.13@osu.edu


Hay Moisture Levels

We have had a very wet June this year and baling hay has been a tough thing for most farmers in the state.  Moisture levels have a direct effect on hay quality.  What I have found to be a consistent number in the literature is 20% moisture maximum.  To be more specific:

  1. Small squares to be 20% or less,
  2. Large round, 18% or less and
  3. Large squares, 16%

Hay baled at 20% moisture or higher has a high probability of developing mold, which will decrease the quality of hay by decreasing both protein and total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC) AKA energy!  The mold will also make the hay less palatable to livestock and could potentially be toxic, especially for horses.  Even hay baled between 15%-20% moisture will experience what is known as “sweating”.  Sweating, in regard to hay bales, refers to microbial respiration, which will create heat and result in dry matter (DM) loss.  A good rule of thumb is that you should expect a 1% DM loss per 1% decrease of moisture after baling.  As an example, hay baled at 20% moisture that is stored and dried down to 12%; will result in 8% DM loss.

Understandably, this month has been a double edged sword in regards to losing quality by not baling, or losing quality by baling with moisture levels that are too high.  Therefore, my recommendation to ensure adequate livestock nutrition this winter is to have a forage analysis done on the hay baled this year.  Once you have those results, develop a corresponding supplemental feed program, if necessary, based on the nutritional requirements of your livestock.  Remember that grains are doing exceptionally well this year, so far.  This could possibly result in reasonable grain prices for the winter months…

Morgan County Garden Tour Planned for July 19

The Morgan County Master Gardeners will be hosting a summer garden tour in the McConnelsville vicinity on July 19, 2015. Cost is $5.00 with the tours beginning at 1:00 PM Sunday afternoon. Five local gardens will be featured, including the home and gardens of Galen Finley. Additional tour stops are scheduled at the Community Gardens near Morgan Junior High School at South Riverside Road and the Presbyterian Church will host a quilt show and feature landscape plantings around the church. An assortment of plants will be available for the public at the Button House on Main Street. Master Gardeners will be at each of the sites to answer questions or to assist attendees. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the OSU Extension Office located in the Riecker Building or at any of the tour stops the day of the tour.  The complete listing of tour stops and descriptions will be available soon. Contact the OSU Extension office at 740-962-4854 if you have questions.

Poisonous Plants

Whether it is in the pasture or in your back yard it’s that time of year again where poisonous plants are around and can cause trouble if not properly identified. Some of the most common poisonous plants that affect us in our backyard and surrounding areas are poison ivy, oak and sumac. All contain urushiol, which is a plant oil that can cause a severe skin rash. However, identification of these plants can be difficult as they might be confused with other non-poisonous species.

Poison ivy grows in shady or sunny locations and may be either a woody shrub or a vine that can climb up to 150 feet tall! All parts of the plant, including the roots contain urushiol at all times of the year, even when bare of leaves in the winter. Leaf forms are variable among plants and even among leaves on the same plant however; the leaves always consist of three leaflets. Leaflets can be 2-6 inches long and may be toothed or have smooth edges. The stem that is attached to the terminal leaflet is longer than the stems attaching the other two. Fruit of the poison ivy is always in clusters on slender stems between the leaves and woody twigs. They are round and grooved with a white, waxy coating and are attractive to birds and are an important food source for deer. A common poison ivy look-alike is Virginia creeper. It is also a trailing vine but it has 5 divide palmate leaflets. It also has blue-black berries.

Poison oak is a low growing shrub that can be about 3 feet tall. It is located in dry, sunny locations and not usually in heavy shade. Poison oak displays lobed leaves, which give it the appearance of an oak leaf. The leaves are generally about 6 inches long and the middle leaflet is alike lobed on both margins and the two lateral leaflets are often irregularly lobed.

Poison sumac leaves consist of 7-13 leaflets arranged in pairs with a single leaflet at the end. Leaflets are elongated, oval and have smooth margins. The sumac plant also has reddish stems.

There are numerous other plants, trees and shrubs that can be poisonous to humans and livestock as well. If you spot something that you aren’t familiar with, please feel free to bring it to the office for identification. However, if you are having a reaction, please seek the advice of your doctor.

Poison Ivy                               Poison Oak                                 Poison Sumac

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Protecting Berries From Birds

Birds can cause serious damage to fruit crops, including blueberries, blackberries, grapes, raspberries, and strawberries. Robins, starlings, finches, orioles, and cedar waxwings have been observed feeding in ripening fruit crops throughout the Midwest. Bird damage patterns can vary from year to year and can be localized, depending on the source. Birds can fly 10-15 miles from a resting site to feed. It can be difficult to stop birds from feeding once they start. They can establish their home territory in late April and May and remain until the crop ripens. Fruit crops near resting areas, wooded lots, and ponds are most vulnerable. Birds generally feed approximately 30 minutes before sunrise and generally conclude feeding about 30 minutes after sunset. In the home fruit plantings, bird netting, either plastic or rope (known as tobacco netting), can be highly effective in bird damage control. It is important to completely cover the plants so that the bird will not be able to reach the berries from underneath netting. Well placed nets can offer nearly 100% protection.

Common Tomato Plant Problems

Each summer I receive many phone calls from home gardeners who have problems with tomato plants. The four items listed on the following pages are ones I often see. Pictures and descriptions of three blights are listed on the first page and one physiological disorder is listed on the second page. Fungicides are listed that can help control these problem blights if applied at the proper time and measures to reduce blossom end rot are explained.

Click here for a detailed description of common diseases and disorders: Tomato Diseases

Put up hay at right moisture

As I was writing this article Monday afternoon, it was just starting to sprinkle. I have only had around .3” of rain in three weeks. My pasture fields and lawn was starting to go dormant. I hope we finally received some rain. While we hadn’t received much rain, farmers have been challenged to get up hay because of the cloudy conditions. I had a call last week on when is hay ready to bale? Uncle Ermil taught me the “feel” test over 40 years ago and it has served me well, but there is really a science behind it. If you are making small square bales, the moisture content needs to be 20% or less; for round bales, 18% or less; and for large square bales, 16% or less.

What happens if we bale hay and the moisture content is too high? Bad things. If lucky, maybe the hay will only mold, but if it is too moist and starts heating, it could catch fire. If the hay heats to 100-120o, it will be fine; if it goes above that, monitor daily. Once it gets to 140o, consider tearing down the stack. At 150-160o, call the fire department, and once it gets to 160o, there will be smoldering pockets and hot spots, and gases will ignite hay when exposed to air (source: Washington State University Extension, Steve Fransen and Ned Zaugg). This has been a challenging few weeks trying to get up hay, let’s not making it worse by putting up hay too wet and burning things up.

Bird Flu

Agriculture is a very dynamic and inter-woven industry mainly due to the fact that it deals with plant and animal life across many different environments.  This is something farmers have to deal with on day to day bases.  At times however, there are major events that can cause major impacts.  One such impact that has caused a major concern in the poultry industry is the avian influenza.  The avian influenza, also known as the bird flu, is a flu virus that has been killing birds at a rapid rate all over the country since December 2014.  The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza strain H5 (HPAV H5) is believed to be spreading to various poultry operations all over the country by contact with infected wild birds.  The strain is easily spread from bird species and is highly lethal.  To date, over forty five million birds have been euthanized to prevent the further spread of the disease. (USDA, 2015) This strain is not pathogenic to people but sick birds (or any animal) should never be consumed.

For a list of bio security protocols please see the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) link:


Sick birds or unusual bird deaths should also be immediately reported to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Health at 1-614-728-6220 or through USDA APHIS’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

To Cut or Not To Cut? – Chris Penrose

That is the question many farmers have been facing the past week. As I mentioned last week, we need sunshine to cure hay. If hay is made before it is dry enough, it can mold or even catch fire. If farmers wait to cut hay, quality goes down. If they cut hay and it gets rained on, it may be okay if it does not lie on the ground too long. If it rains and it is a week or more before it dries out, it will start to mold and rot, then it is lost. Many years we have a period like this and it is not good. We need rain and we need sunshine. It seems we should get one or the other, but lately, we have received neither. So the question many faced on Sunday was to cut or not to cut hay? Which is right and which is wrong? Hopefully by the time you read this, farmers will know the answer and hopefully, they were right.