What To Do With Leaves

You can hear it all over town:  folks raking leaves and putting them in bags to go to the Metro composting facility.  Yes, it’s good that they are being composted, but as Master Gardeners, wouldn’t it be better if we composted them in our own yards?  Or use them in ways that will help us avoid using pesticides that could be damaging the microbes in our soil?  For years, I have gathered leaves from all over my neighborhood and spread them all over my various garden plots in my native plant garden.  In addition to spreading leaves, I use them to cover cardboard when I am trying to get rid of invasive plants.

This year it’s euonymus; other years I’ve spread cardboard and leaves to get rid of Japanese Anemone, or start a few planting beds in the fall so it will be ready to plant when spring arrives.  At this time of year, leaves are free for the taking or raking.  Let’s be more specific:

    • To eliminate weeds or an invasive plant—instead of using Glysophate, which may damage soil microbes as well as bees, and damage water—cut the plants you want to eliminate to the ground with a string trimmer or mower. Spread 2 layers of cardboard or many layers of newspapers  over the area, and cover with leaves.  Water the area to keep the cardboard and leaves from blowing, and leave until spring.  Lift the cardboard and see if the offending plant is alive.  If it is, add another layer of cardboard or newspapers, plus more leaves or mulch, and leave for another season.  You may wish to put pots of annuals around the area throughout the season.  Usually, after another season, the weeds/invasive plants are gone after 1-2 seasons, and the soil is perfect for planting:  soft and pliable.  You don’t need to take up the cardboard—just plant through it.  Best of all, you’ve avoided pesticides and added free mulch.
    • To prepare a bed in the fall for next spring’s planting, use the method just described, adding cardboard/newspapers, plus leaves in the fall. Next spring, the soil will be perfect for planting, with no real digging.  The grass/weeds will be gone, and the soil looks beautiful.  Plant, mulch, and enjoy your new garden bed.
    • If you don’t need to kill weeds or create a new garden bed, start a compost pile/leaf pile back behind the garage. Dump leaves and grass clippings, water occasionally, and you have a free mulch.
    • If you really don’t want to deal with leaves, mow them with a mulching mower and be done with it.

Submitted by Master Gardener Phyllis Fitzgerald

The Sensory Garden at The Louisville Nature Center

The springs and summers at the Sensory Garden at LNC are always a busy time with many visitors enjoying its beauty and serenity.  There are neighbors who visit every day, out of town visitors on vacations, children on a field trip from schools coming by the bus loads, LNC Summer Camp attendees, mothers and dads with little ones in tow, all enjoying this beautiful space.

When the Master Gardeners and Master Gardener Interns volunteer here there is always a chance to interact with folks and answer the questions they may have. The MGs and MG Interns also have the opportunity to have educational programs for the kids and adults who are interested in learning something new. The unusual plants that we have always draw a lot of attention from the adults. We start several plants from seed each year.  Red Foliated Cotton, Irish Poet Tassel Flowers, Cardinal Basil, Elephant Ears Gigantea and the banana trees have always been favorites with the visitors. Children and parents alike enjoy doing LNC’s scavenger hunt in the SG. Sometimes they need a little help spotting one of the answers. The kids are always thrilled to see butterflies, tadpoles, lizards, and dragonflies in the garden.

The late summer, early fall, brings in a multitude of students and teachers. They are looking for that special leaf, or that flower that still has gorgeous bright colors, or the herb that has a fragrance enjoyed by all.  This garden is like an open book that draws you in to enjoy its many layers of beauty and wondrous creatures!

We don’t rest in the fall since there are still jobs that need to be done to put the garden down for its nice long nap.  The raised beds are cleaned out of all the veggies and annuals to help prevent diseases from rotting plants. The banana trees are cut back and mulched over to protect them from the freezing winter temperatures. The seeds on most of the plants are left for the overwintering birds in the garden.

This Sensory Garden is a learning place for all of us!  

Submitted by Janie Kanzler

In The Garden – Raising Chickens in Your Backyard/Home and Community Vegetable Gardening

Saturday, June 30, 2018  12 Noon to 3:00pm

7600 Tempsclair Road, Louisville 40220

Master Gardener Judy Buckler will share how to get started, as well as the day-to-day requirements, including growing vegetables in raised beds and community gardens.

Come see Judy’s fancy chickens and their chicken mansion. Then join her for a tour of the Community Gardens at Hunsinger Lane Baptist Church.
This is a Free program but please RSVP to Judy at jbuck@iglou.com or 502.491.7560

Gardenaganza! April 29, 2018

Arbor Day Tree Giveaway!


Louisville Nature Center – 3745 Illinois Ave

     Master Gardeners will distribute 1000 bare-root trees and will be available to provide information about the trees and help select the right tree for the right location. Varieties of trees available include:
White Dogwood
Loblolly Pine
Blue Spruce
Red Maple
Black Gum
Sugar Maple

Limit of 3 trees per family – come early for the best selection! 

Questions? Contact jcmgaevents@gmail.com


Happy Spring! Get Ready for the Hummingbirds!

Tax season is here! Even if you aren’t getting money back this year, tax day can still bring you joy.

This is the time of year that hummingbirds migrate north. Hummingbirds send out “scouts” to look for places where food is readily available and they are usually the first to arrive. If you’re wondering when the best time to put feeders out and attract scouts, let tax day, April 15th, be your reminder.

If you are interested in bringing hummingbirds to your yard, here are a few other tips, including an easy recipe for hummingbird food:

  • Hummingbirds have a great memory and will likely visit the same area from year to year.
  • Hummingbirds are territorial. Having multiple feeders in various locations can help to bring more of them to your yard.
  • Hummingbirds love red, so consider a red feeder or putting the feeder near some red plants such as cardinal flowers.
  • Rather than using the red hummingbird food sold in stores, try making the food yourself. It is simple to make and better for the hummingbirds. (See Recipe Below)
  • Consider hanging ant motes along with your feeders so that ants don’t get into the hummingbird food.
  • Hummingbird food can last about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Before adding it to the feeder, it should be closer to room temperature. Thus, if you are taking it directly from the refrigerator, it is advisable to let it warm up before pouring it into the feeders.
  • Hummingbird feeders should be changed every 3-5 days. The sunnier it is, the quicker the feeder should be changed so the food doesn’t spoil.

Hummingbird Food Recipe:

  • One cup sugar to 4 cups of water.
  • Bring the sugar and water to a boil for 2 minutes.
  • Let it cool before putting it away or putting it into a feeder.

Submitted by Master Gardener Allison Foster

The Ralph Archer Woodland Garden at Whitehall Estate Gardens

The Ralph Archer Woodland Garden at Whitehall has been a Master Gardener project for many years.  The garden contains the largest regional collection of ferns thanks to long time Master Gardener, Ralph Archer.
On Saturday, June 24, Carolyn Waters, who has a masters degree in environmental education, led two tours through the garden to show how the garden is habitat for flora, fauna, and environmental processes beyond ferns. Carolyn pointed out trees of various ages and sizes which provide layers attractive to birds. Carolyn, who lives on the property, has seen Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers, golden crowned kinglets, nuthatches, and many varieties of wrens in this garden.
She demonstrated forest succession by identifying trees that had come onto the property first after the site was cleared, and the trees that followed such as several species of oaks and hickories. In recent years, those trees were intentionally planted to speed up the evolution to a later succession woodland.
Carolyn explained how a naturalized garden like Whitehall’s woodland garden expands biodiversity, giving a home to both native and exotic, but not invasive plants.  Retention of dead trees, decaying logs, wood mulch, and duff gives habitat for both animals and plants.
Future plans include diversion and retention of storm runoff and a water feature which collects rain water that will slowly drain into a small bog already in existence.
During the tour, Whitehall’s new stone benches, collected from a local farm on the Ohio River, were used by the tour visitors and by one of Whitehall’s resident cats, Grady.
Visit Whitehall Gardens at 3110 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY

2017 Master Gardener Class – Info Sessions July 11th and 18th!


Interested in becoming a Master Gardener?

Information sessions for the 2017 Master Gardener class will be held on July 11th and July 18th at 6pm at the Louisville Grows Healthy House, 1641 Portland Ave. Louisville, KY 40203. Reserve your spot for the July 11 session at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jefferson-county-ky-master-gardener-class-info-session-tickets-35315661093  Reserve your spot for the July 18 session at:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jefferson-county-ky-master-gardener-class-info-session-tickets-35315919867

You must attend one of these informational sessions to pick-up all paperwork required for your class registration. All questions about classes, including up-to-date information about cost will be covered in these sessions.

Who teaches the Master Gardener program? What are the requirements?

The Master Gardener program is facilitated by the Jefferson County Extension Office and the Jefferson County Master Gardener Association. Most classes are taught by professors from UK and KSU, and by extension agents in surrounding counties. Certification requires participation in classes, passing a final exam, and completion of 30 volunteer hours in your first year as an intern. 15 volunteer hours are required annually after your first year to maintain your certification.

Master Gardeners is a service-focused organization. Participants in the class are required to volunteer for approved projects regularly. If you are not interested in community service then this program is not for you.

All interested participants must complete a background check (processed by UK) and all required paperwork to be considered for participation in the class. 30 seats are available in the Fall 2017 class.

When and where are the classes?

Classes and labs are on Tuesday evenings (6-8pm) and Saturday mornings (10am-12pm) beginning August 15th and ending October 21st. All classes will be held at the Louisville Grows Healthy House, 1641 Portland Ave. Louisville, KY 40203, except for an occasional lab or field trip.

What types of topics do the classes cover?

Classes incorporate a broad range of topics including entomology, beekeeping, aquaculture, tree pruning, composting, propagation, native plants, and many others.

Can children participate in the class?

Classes are for adults only and participants must be 18 years or older.

Insect Hotel at the Louisville Nature Center

We have bee action at the Louisville Nature Center Insect Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky!  The queen in the picture is laying eggs in her nest.

Other bees were in various stages of egg laying, depositing pollen and creating mud partitions.  I did not have a chance to see any of them outside of their logs so I was unable to make a positive ID by just peering at them down the dark hole with a flashlight.  With 4000 native bee species in North America, it would be difficult to even venture a guess without getting a good look.  These native bees were here long before settlers brought honey bees from Europe.

The gardens at the Louisville Nature Center provide pollen and nectar and the bees, messy little pollinators that they are, give back by cross-pollinating flower gardens, vegetable gardens, trees and orchards, both at LNC and in the surrounding community.

The hotel was established by a Boy Scout troop a few years ago and has successfully provided homes for insects and native bees.  Weather elements have caused some settling of the materials, so a renovation is in order.  This will occur in the Fall, while the “guests” are asleep.  My goal is to create as much native bee habitat as possible.

Insect Hotel

Queen Bee

Materials I am gathering for the rehab include: bark, pine needles, pine cones, and logs. I am currently cutting logs and drilling the preferred-sized holes for solitary bees to nest in. Add a few canes to the collection and I’ll be ready to update the hotel habitat.

Slabs of bark, pine cones & pine needles

Queen Bee nests in logs

Blue Orchard Mason Bees and Alfalfa Leafcutter Bees, among many others, are fascinating to watch and can be easily assisted by providing simple habitat. They are gentle bees and rarely sting (unless squished, of course). Did you know that you can harvest their cocoons, store them over winter, and then hatch them in the Spring? This is definitely on my “To Do” list!

Mason Bees plug their nests with mud

As I explore their world to learn more, I will be writing about the different types of bees, their nesting habits, cocoon harvesting and suggestions for providing homes and other necessary supplies, such as flowers and mud. Keep your eyes peeled for native bees and you will begin to see their diversity.

I welcome you to journey along with me as I gather and share information about these gentle, vital creatures. Happy bee watching!

Submitted by Master Gardener Tina Larimore

Gardening Educational Opportunities

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