Latest Dirt Newsletter

Summertime Blues

It is hard to believe it, but August is the beginning of the end of the growing season. However, it’s not over yet! August duties include intensified scouting as insect populations burgeon, so be sure to check your plants, especially the undersides of leaves. With the summer heat and humidity, be on the lookout for signs of disease such as early blight on tomatoes. Read below to learn about prevention and remediation of these diseases as well as information for the Kentucky State Fair! The State Fair starts August 18 and goes through August 28 with plenty of plant and animal exhibits to beat those summertime blues!

Tomato Trouble

A big red juicy tomato is the hallmark of a summer garden. However, that iconic image can be easily spoiled. The trouble with tomatoes is that their rosy hue can be effected by disease and occasionally growing conditions. Some of the common disorders are:

  1. Vivipary – Tomato seed inside fruit germinates. This is common in tomatoes. It could be due to cold storage. Fruit is safe to eat.
  2. Blossom Drop – Flowers drop before pollinated or fruit is set. When pollinators are present, this is caused by extended hot temperatures during the day and especially at night.
  3. Blossom End Rot - The bottom of fruit develops a brown leathery skin (tomato on the right in photo). This is due to a calcium deficiency during fruit development. Generally the problem is not insufficient soil calcium levels but rather inadequate soil moisture preventing calcium delivery to the plant. Consistent irrigation is the control.
  4. Cracking – This is due to rapid fruit growth. Cracks in the tomato may occur during periods of drought (or inadequate irrigation), followed by heavy rain. (see tomato on left in photo)

Click to find out detailed information on both physiological and disease problems on Solanaceous Crops in Kentucky.

The Perfect Lawn Starts With Weed Control!

Now is the time to get the weeds out of your lawn before seeding in September if you have a fescue or bluegrass lawn. Especially if you are fighting Bermuda grass. Bermuda has a root system that consists of rhizomes, making it difficult to kill. Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Round-Up) will control Bermuda, but a repeat application will be necessary for a complete kill. The second spray will need to be applied about 14 days after the first spray.

Glyphosate is a non-selective, systemic herbicide which means it is absorbed into plant tissue and kills a variety of plants in various plant families. Care should be used when applying herbicides so that desirable landscape plants and trees are not damaged.

Here’s a schedule of lawn weed control by weed type to help you plan your perfect lawn! 

Kentucky State Fair

From our agricultural roots to our state park system it seems that everything going on in Kentucky is represented at the fair. And from a “gardeners” point of view the fair is a delight. Here’s why:

  • First, the grounds keepers have installed huge hanging baskets with texture and multicolored foliage, with or without blooms they provide plenty of interest. The landscaping is beautiful; filled with plants that survive drought, pollution and the foot traffic of thousands (and that’s just outside!).
  • Second, Cloverville, the 4-H exhibition area (If you don’t know about 4-H, please call us!). Students from all over the state enter all kinds of plant material. From dish gardens to tomato plants and hay bales, the display reminds us that our children have an interest in the world around them.
  • Third, the Kentucky beekeepers. The beekeepers have an interactive educational area where you can see a working hive and learn about our key pollinators, without which we would have far less produce from our gardens and fruit trees.
  • Fourth, Floriculture Display. The best roses, orchids, tropical plants and cut flowers will grace the halls, showing how the floricultural community strives for perfection.
  • Fifth, the University of Kentucky and other institutions present the latest research in horticulture, agriculture, ecology, etc.
  • Sixth, Kentucky Parks. Visit them to learn more about the many hidden treasures and fun outdoor activities in our great state.
  • Seventh, and last, the vendors showcase. Come and see new equipment, plants, and gardening services available regionally. Ideas for our landscapes, gardens and interior plantscapes can be seen all through the fair.

These are just a few of the “gardening” highlights to see this year. The fair shows off Kentucky and we have a great state! 

July Issue

BEWARE the Invaders!

Mid-summer is a perfect time to get outside, have a picnic, work in the garden, and take advantage of the gorgeous sunshine. But, pesky invaders can make this time of year a lot less pleasurable. In this issue, we will look at the worst of these invaders and help you get back to enjoying your summer vacation!

What's Eating Me?

Many insects try to invade our space this time of year, causing concern with everything from itchy bites to serious disease. Exclusion through screening can help indoors, but what to do about outside?

Mosquitos are a major issue mainly because of the diseases they carry, not their itchy bite, though that can be bad enough. Other than reducing their breeding sites by eliminating standing water, what can we do? UK's Entomology Team recommends actions such as staying inside between 4 and 8 p.m., when the disease vector mosquitos are most active and/or use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellants and taking extra care to apply them around your wrists and ankles.

Ticks are also in season this time of year. They start emerging in the spring and can continue to be a problem through the fall. Like mosquitos, ticks are most concerning because of the diseases they may carry, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Another emerging tick-borne disease from the Lone Star Tick is Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI). This tick bite produces a rash similar to Lyme Disease, but this rash will often appear up to 7 days after the tick bite. The Centers for Disease Control has additional information on tick-borne diseases and recommended prevention.

Chiggers, the immature stage of certain mite species, most frequently occur in overgrown brushy or grassy areas, especially where small rodents are abundant. Also, they may congregrate in shady, humid areas near stream banks, under or around trees, or in berry thickets.

Protection and prevention: When going outdoors don't forget the insect repellant! This is a great way to continue to enjoy the outdoors while keeping you and your family safe from all the creepy crawlies. For personal use, DEET or picaridin (a relatively new alternative to DEET) is recommended. For use on clothing, permethrin-based (Permanone) can be used. Be sure than repellent you are using has been approved by the EPA. Remember: insect repellent is an insecticide, so please read all label instructions before using!

Weed Warning!

Weeds are seasonal invaders that can tax the most patient homeowner. There are grass-like weeds, broadleaf weeds, summer weeds, winter weeds and the list goes on. The first thing you need to do is identify the weed or at least identify if it is a grassy or broadleaf weed. Most herbicides control one or the other. Non-selective herbicides, such as glyphosate (active ingredient in Round-Up), kill many plants including desirable ones if not used carefully. Now is a great time to identify those weeds, so that by September you are weed free and ready to reseed your cool season grass lawns (fescue, bluegrass, and rye). Learn how to develop a lawn maintenance plan this fall for an awesome lawn! 

UK Turf YouTube channel

Critter Files!

Wildlife can also wreak havoc on our well-tended gardens. Squirrels steal seed from bird feeders, birds can damage fruit and trees, rabbits and raccoons raid our gardens and in many places deer can damage landscape plants. Unfortunately, there is not a single, easy solution that takes care of these problems, but our new Wildlife Management Specialist, Dr. Matt Springer, does have great list of publications on the best control method for any unwanted visitors from deer to skunks and anything in between!

June Issue:

We Are Going to EXTREMES This Issue!

Kentucky, and Jefferson County in particular, can experience incredibly varied conditions in the summer. We want you to stay on top of these issues so that your garden, home, and landscape don’t suffer from our extremes!

Extreme Weather: Lightning!

Thunderstorms can crop up at any time in Louisville during the summer. Isolated or in clusters, they can be dangerous and brutal. I wrote previously about lightning damage to trees, but, of course, it can be deadly to humans, too! Don’t take a chance with these powerful storms. Protect yourself, your family and pets. Plants and property can be replaced – you are unique!


We see lightning here, in the Ohio River Valley, so often that we can become desensitized to its violence. Please take a minute to check out the following links. As a community we can pull together and work to protect our families. Come on Louisville, let’s be PREPARED!

Lightning Safety

Did you know that lightning can strike the same spot twice?! For more hot facts and myth-busting information about lightning, check out The National Weather Service


How hot can lightning make the air?* (Answer at the bottom)


Extreme Heat: People

Personal safety for water and heat stress for you and your family is a serious issue! We all know to use sunscreen and stay hydrated, but summer safety is more than that. It’s the humidity that will get you. The Heat Index is how hot it FEELS when the relative humidity is combined with the air temperature. This combination can be lethal to anyone, but especially vulnerable populations such as the very young and the elderly. Know the signs of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke, so that you can keep everyone safe. Beat the heat with more cool tips from The National Weather Service.

Extreme Heat: Plants

Drought and heat stress have an effect on plants too. In addition to withering from dry conditions, plants can also sunburn if they are not kept properly hydrated. Here are a few tips to ease your garden and landscape throughout the summer.

*Mulch your garden and landscape plants.

Mulch reduces soil temperature and promotes good water infiltration and retention around your plants.

*Water plants in the morning

This practice conserves water (reduces your water bill) and helps minimize plant disease.

*Do not spray pesticides when temperatures are over 86°.

The chemicals can burn plant tissue.

*Some grasses go dormant when it is extremely hot.

Cool season grasses like bluegrass or fescue may tolerate the heat but may brown out in response to this extreme. Most of the lawns affected will recover with cooler temperatures and appropriate water.

*Tomato plants slow down production in extremely hot weather and water stress can set the stage for blossom end rot.

Extreme Abundance

One pleasant extreme is a bountiful harvest! Some plants just keep on giving. After you have used all the fresh veggies you can and given your friends and neighbors more produce than they want, what do you do next? We have some recipes and other ideas for you thanks to our Family and Consumer Scientists (FCS) here at Extension.

*Answer: Energy from lightning heats the air anywhere from 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit to up to 60,000 degrees Fahrenheit.