What Do You Need From A Plant?

Submitted by Faye Mahaffey

OSUE Brown County Master Gardener Volunteer

Emerging Daffodils

As the roller coaster Ohio weather treats us to 20-degree mornings and 55-degree afternoons and lots of rain, have you had a chance to walk around and make your list of changes in the landscape for next season? In an article in Ohio Gardener, Scott Beuerlein shares your 3 choices when making improvements in your yard:

1. Remove ugly things,

2. install pretty things,

3. Move pretty things around.

Beuerlein believes that removing ugly things might be the hardest choice. Gardeners loathe digging up and tossing living plants – even the ugliest ones! Don’t save it because it came from your old garden, or that it came from your favorite Aunt. If it’s ugly, it’s compost!

Installing pretty things usually involves shopping trips to your local nursery. Beuerlein recommends picking two or three of your best nurseries and trying to go to them regularly throughout the season. (I really like this tip, don’t you?)  This is the best way to find new things that will guarantee a full season of interest. Establish a relationship with the smartest person at each nursery and during each visit ask them what is currently exciting them the most. Work these new acquisitions into the places ugly plants once occupied.

Moving pretty plants around will have to wait until spring. Make a note on your list of what you would like to move and where. I still have some flags in my daylily bed to remind me that a few cultivars need divided.

What do you need from a plant?  In my garden, a plant needs to be low maintenance. I don’t like a “needy” plant.

A plant that joins my garden needs to be able to survive on its own. If it needs extra water, food, or protection, it won’t be on my list. Many gardeners buy a plant that comes with “must do” chores with good intentions, but who are we kidding? Do you really have time to attend to its needs?

Next a plant in my garden needs to be able to take weather extremes in stride. Every growing season we complain about the weather knowing that we have no way to control Mother Nature. Too wet, too dry, too hot, too cold – welcome to Ohio!

Lastly, we all need our gardens to make us look good. Come on, admit it. We want our plants to be attractive, but we can’t expect them to flower all the time! Gardeners need to be smart about what plants they choose to achieve a garden that has blooms all season long. Reading the plant labels carefully and doing some extra research will pay off in the end.

The research on raised beds for my vegetable garden has turned up a beautiful plan that has received the “husband approval”, which is very important since he will be the head carpenter on the project! The material list is being drawn up as I write this article. I will share more information in the coming weeks.

Have you been enjoying the fruits of your labor in the garden? We enjoyed some bread and butter pickles with some delicious cheese and the pot of chili was especially tasty thanks to the addition of the chili sauce (Ball Book).

After a walk in the woods over the weekend, I have pulled out the tree identification books. Identifying a tree by its bark is a challenge for me, how about you?


Learn More About Pollinators

Submitted by Faye Mahaffey

OSUE Brown County Master Gardener Volunteer

Interested in learning more about pollination and pollinators? Hopefully, by now, you realize just how important pollinators are to our existence. The act of “pollination” occurs when pollen grains are moved between two flowers of the same species by wind or animals. Successful “Pollination” results in the production of healthy fruit and fertile seeds, allowing plants to reproduce. Without pollinator visits to tomatoes and other fruit and vegetable plants in our gardens, we would have no produce!

Almost 90% of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators for fertilization, and about 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. Of those, 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats and other mammals such as mice. The rest are insects like beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies and moths.

Ohio State University Program Director for Honey Bee and Native Pollinator Education, Denise Ellsworth, will be visiting Clermont and Brown Counties for 2 days of pollinator education hosted by the Clermont and Brown County OSUE Master Gardener Volunteers, and the Brown County Beekeepers Association.

On March 12, 2019, you will have the opportunity to become certified as an Ohio Pollinator Advocate. Ohio Pollinator Advocates are certified, trained volunteers who spread the word about the importance of pollinators. Advocates complete at least 2 hours of training in pollination biology, Ohio bee identification, bee biology and habitat enhancement. Once certified, advocates agree to share their knowledge of why pollinators matter. This new training is sponsored by The Ohio State University Bee Lab. This training will take place at the Clermont County Fairgrounds, 4-H Hall, 1000 Locust Street, Owensville, Oh 45160 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The training is free and open to the public, but you will need to register by contacting the Clermont County Extension Office at 513-732-7070.

At 7:00 p.m. on March 12, 2019, the Brown County Beekeepers Association will host Denise Ellsworth as their speaker on Phenology for Beekeepers. Phenology is the study of recurring biological phenomena and their relationship to weather and climate. Participants will learn how to track bloom time of local plants using a web-based biological calendar, how native bees emerge in relation to phenology, and how to customize this calendar for bee-specific plants. This seminar will be held at Western Brown High School’s Community Room (back of the school) at 476 W. Main Street, Mt. Orab Oh 45154 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This program is free and open to the public and no registration is required.

On March 13, 2019, Denise Ellsworth will present the program, Gardening for Pollinators at the Brown County Fairgrounds, in the carpeted room at Rhonemus Hall, 325 West State Street, Georgetown, Oh 45121, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Gardeners play a vital role in the development and conservation of habitat that benefits pollinators, including bees, birds and butterflies. This session will focus on the practical steps gardeners can take to create or enhance habitat, including plant selection and simple design elements. This program is free and open to the public, no registration required.

As we start to make plans for our gardens and order seeds, we need to remember that how we design and what we plant can certainly make a difference in the existence of our pollinators!

We hope that you will mark your calendars and join us for 2 days of Pollinator Education.


February’s List for the Garden

Submitted by Faye Mahaffey

OSUE Brown County Master Gardener Volunteer

Rain, Snow, Ice, and Wind! Welcome to winter in Ohio! The last snowfall was so light and fluffy that moving the 4 inches of new snow could have been done with the leaf blower!

Saturday was Groundhog’s Day and the prediction is for an early spring! Groundhog Day comes from our agricultural past and marks the halfway point to the Spring Equinox. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac website, Groundhog Day always falls on February 2. Today, most people know about the legend of the groundhog: If he sees its shadow on this day, there will be more wintry weather; if it doesn’t, then Spring is right around the corner! How often has the groundhog really predicted the coming of Spring? According to researchers, the groundhog has accurately predicted the coming of Spring only 39% of the time.

If an early Spring is right around the corner, I had better finalize my raised bed plans, make my materials list, and order seeds!

It’s time to review our checklist of gardening tasks for February which include:

Whole Garden:

  • There’s still time to look through catalogs and place orders.
  • Thoroughly clean any flats or pots for seedlings.
  • Set aside a potting area for seed starting and gather the necessary equipment.
  • Sow those seeds that will need 10 to 12 weeks indoors before they can be transplanted outside.
  • Make sure your bluebird boxes are clean.
  • Continue looking for plant damage in your landscape.
  • Test seeds left over from last year for viability.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Prune off broken twigs and branches on shrubs.
  • Brush off excess snow to avoid breakage.
  • Force branches of spring-blooming shrubs and trees once buds have begun to swell (pussy willow, forsythia, apple, cherry).

Fruits and Vegetables:

  • Plan your vegetable seed-sowing strategy.
  • Begin sowing leek seeds indoors.
  • Prune fall-bearing raspberries in late February.

Well-known gardening author Margaret Roach (awaytogarden.com) writes in her February garden chores that we must not rush to start our seeds, but instead spend our time mapping out the vegetable garden. Make a list of what you want to grow and how much of each plant you want to grow.

Roach’s gardening mantra this year is “Be thoughtful, keep weeding” with the “thoughtful” part standing for “thoughtful organic gardening” as in thinking carefully before any action is taken. Many gardeners are guilty of spraying first before they have identified the problem or pest.

Roach also asks if polka-dots are dominating your garden – lots of “onesies” (a single plant of each kind, instead of an impactful group or drift of each variety). Last year she forced herself to divide plants and repeat sweeps elsewhere – rather than buy so many new “one-ofs”. She suggests making a list of the large clumps of perennials in your gardens and then dividing them. I guess this is the year I finally divide my daylilies.

Ready to think about your flower and vegetable gardens and the health of your soil?  Plan to attend the gardening seminar on Thursday, February 21 at the Mt. Orab campus of Southern State Community College from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in Room 208. James Morris, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator and Community Development Educator for Brown County OSU Extension, will talk about soils as well as soil testing. Remember that all seminars are free and open to the public. Please remember that in case of wintry weather, you should check SSCC’s website, www.sscc.edu, or call 937-444-7722, for any campus closures. If the campus is closed, the seminar will be canceled and rescheduled.

Are you ready to dig in the dirt? It won’t be long now!


Don’t Guess, Soil Test!

Submitted by Faye Mahaffey

OSUE Brown County Master Gardener Volunteer

How did your garden do this year?  Was your tomato yield down? Did your green beans do as well as you wanted? Maybe it’s time to do a soil test!

According to OSUE Fact Sheet HYG-1132, Soil testing is an excellent investment for garden, lawn, landscape plants, and commercial crops. It is a very inexpensive way of maintaining good plant health and maximum crop productivity. The standard soil test provides the status of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), pH, cation exchange capacity, lime requirement index, and base saturations. Additional tests are also available for iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), manganese (Mn), soluble salts, nitrates, and organic matter content. With a representative soil sample and an accurate test, sound fertilizer recommendations can help gardeners and growers improve plant quality and productivity, and save money, too!

The soil test takes the guesswork out of fertilization and is extremely cost effective. It not only eliminates the waste of money spent on unnecessary fertilizers but also eliminates over-usage of fertilizers, hence helping to protect the environment.

Soil samples can be taken in the spring or fall for established sites. For new sites, soil samples can be taken anytime when the soil is workable. Most people conduct their soil tests in the spring. However, autumn can also be a great time to take soil tests if one wants to avoid the spring rush and suspects a soil pH problem. Fall soil testing will allow you ample time to apply lime to raise the soil pH. Sulfur should be applied in the spring if the soil pH needs to be lowered.

A soil tests every two to three years is usually adequate. Sample more frequently if you desire a closer monitoring of the fertility levels, or if you grow plants that are known to be heavy feeders.

A soil sample is best taken with a soil probe or an auger. However, a spade, knife, or trowel can also be used to take thin slices or sections of soil. Soils should be collected in a clean plastic pail or box.

Gardeners, homeowners, landscapers, growers, farmers, and all other interested parties should contact their local OSU Extension office to find out the scope of services in each county, if they have questions about soil testing. See http://extension.osu.edu/counties.phpfor a list of OSU Extension offices, their contact information, and services that each office offers.

Interested in learning more about soils and soil testing? Mark your calendar and plan to attend our garden seminar on Thursday, February 21 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mt. Orab campus of Southern State Community College. James Morris, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator and Community Development Educator for Brown County OSU Extension, will talk about soils as well as soil testing. Remember that all seminars are free and open to the public and are held in Room 208. Please remember that in case of wintry weather, you should check SSCC’s website, www.sscc.edu, or call 937-444-7722, for any campus closures. If the campus is closed, the seminar will be canceled and rescheduled.

Dreaming about your garden? Ordering seeds? It’s time to think about the health of your soil!


Precision for Spring Planting


Brooke Beam, Ph.D.

Ohio State University Extension, Highland County

Agriculture and Natural Resources/Community Development Extension Educator

January 9, 2019


Dr. Ignacio Ciampitti, of the University of Nebraska, spoke at the Ohio State University Extension 2019 Precision University on Satellite Data and Agronomic Decisions.

As I write this column, the snow is falling outside. It is hard to believe that spring is right around the corner, but preparation for the 2019 crop season is in full swing. On Wednesday, January 9, 2019, I attended Ohio State University Extension’s Precision University: In-Season Decisions, at Beck’s Seed in London, Ohio. This program provided attendees with information about the latest technologies to incorporate into their farming operations in order to maximize efficiency and yields.

One tool to consider for the upcoming growing season is satellite imagery. Dr. Ignacio Ciampitti, from Kansas State University, spoke on the benefits of using satellite imagery for evaluating fields. Dr. Ciampitti said that satellites are not a replacement for drones (UAVs), but they do offer a wide variety of benefits. Due to the number of satellites, there are a variety of resolutions of images farmers can obtain of their fields to evaluate their farm management decisions. Some examples of satellites that generate these images include Modis, Landsat, Sentinel, and Rapid Eye. The Sentinel satellite currently provides the highest resolution for agricultural purposes.

Satellites offer the ability to “go back in time” with databases of images compiled over the course of years, stated Dr. Ciampitti.  Drones provide an image of the current situation, which for some field scouting situations is appropriate; however, in some cases, it may be better to study the field over time. Uses of satellite imagery for the agricultural industry include seasonal and temporal (across seasons) monitoring of crops, crop scouting, forecasting yields, site-specific management, and environmental factors, such as insects, said Dr. Ciampitti.

While we wait on spring, farmers can evaluate previous satellite images of their fields to identify areas of their fields that may need a special prescription. During the growing season, comparing satellite imagery from the mid-flowering stages to your yield monitor images will also provide analysis for future yield predictions.

Several satellite images are available for free, depending on what information you need to obtain from the image. For more information about technologies and information from the 2019 Precision University, contact the Highland County Extension Office at 937-393-1918.


Upcoming Events:

The next Beef Quality Assurance Training will be held at Union Stockyards on Tuesday, January 22, 2018, at 6:30 P.M. A meal will be served at 5:30 P.M. prior to the class. Please RSVP to the Highland County Extension Office at 937-393-1918.

Another Beef Quality Assurance Training will be held at United Producers Inc., at 2 P.M. on January 29, 2019. There will not be a meal included at this training. Please RSVP to the Highland County Extension Office at 927-393-1918.

The next Highland County Master Gardener Volunteer meeting will be held on Thursday, January 17, 2019, at 10 AM in the Large Meeting Room in the basement of 110 Governor Foraker Place, Hillsboro, OH.

On Tuesday, February 5, 2019, a live webinar of the 2019 Ohio Beef Cattle School will be held in the Large Meeting Room of 119 Governor Foraker Place, Hillsboro, OH. The program will begin at 7 P.M. The 2019 Ohio Beef Cattle School is free to attend, but RSVPs are required. The topic of the webinar is on the winter management of the cow herd to ensure a productive 2019. RSVP to the Highland County Extension Office at 937-393-1918 or via email to beam.49@osu.edu.

Fertilizer and Pesticide Recertifications:

February 19, 2019

Ponderosa Banquet Center, 545 S. High Street, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133

5:00 pm to 6:00 pm Fertilizer Recertification – Private and Commercial

6:30 pm Pesticide Recertification (Core, 1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6) Private Applicators Only

March 4, 2018

Ponderosa Banquet Center, 545 S. High Street, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133

10:00 am to 11:00 am Fertilizer Recertification – Private and Commercial

11:30 am Pesticide Recertification (Core, 1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6) Private Applicators Only

Registration details will come in the mail from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Registration for OSU Extension Pesticide and Fertilizer and your renewal application for ODA Pesticide/Fertilizer must both be completed. Meals will be included at each recertification training at Ponderosa.