Controlling Mosquitoes

by Lee Townsend

Controlling mosquitoes is challenging to say the least. You may even think you are fighting a never-ending battle. With mosquito-borne diseases, like the Zika virus, becoming more prevalent, it’s even more important to know how to take control of these pests around your home environment. Learning to do a few simple things could help protect you from more than the itchiness of a mosquito bite.

All mosquitoes need standing water to develop through their larval stages and that doesn’t necessarily mean a lake or pond. It also includes bird baths, kiddie pools and even discarded soda pop cans. The key to controlling them around your home is to stop them from breeding in the first place.

Some things you can do include:

  • Drain and remove trash, bottles and any debris that holds water.
  • Recycle any unused containers that could collect water, especially old tires.
  • Change water weekly in bird baths, wading pools, watering troughs and animal bowls.
  • Fill in holes, depressions and puddles in your yard.
  • Make sure your culverts and ditches are draining properly.
  • Check and clean out clogged gutters to ensure drainage.
  • Keep ornamental ponds stocked with fish.
  • Fix leaky hoses and faucets.
  • Drain water from flowerpots and garden containers.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, buckets and other items that collect water.
  • Adjust tarps covering woodpiles, boats and grills to remove standing water.
  • Encourage natural enemies of mosquitoes, such as warblers, swallows, martins and other insect feeding birds.

It’s a good idea to start these practices early in the season. Just because the mosquitoes aren’t biting yet, doesn’t mean that they’re not developing.

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Growing Hydrangeas in Kentucky

by Michael Boice and Lauren State

Primarily known as a source of summer color flowering June through August — long after most shrubs have finished. Hydrangeas’ interesting bark and flower heads can also provide winter texture when left untrimmed until spring. Four species are commonly used in Kentucky landscape plantings.

Big Leaf Hydrangea is the most widely used hydrangea species. Its large flowers range from white to pink to blue. While white cultivars remain white, pink or blue cultivar color is determined by soil pH and availability of aluminum. A soil pH range between 5.0 to 5.5 will generally produce the blue flowers, and a pH of 6 and above inspires pink flowers. Most cultivars of this species bloom on the previous season’s wood. If temperatures drop too low, the flowers for the next season will be lost. New selections like “Endless Summer” bloom on current season’s growth, providing blooms even if flower buds are killed by late spring frosts.

Smooth Hydrangea is popular for its large, white blooms from June to September every year on new growth. Removing the flowers as they turn brown will encourage a second flush of flowers in August. Part shade is best in locations where the weather is generally hot and dry. This hydrangea grows three to five feet tall, making it a possible choice in smaller landscape spaces. There are several good cultivar selections, but the most popular is “Annabelle.”

Panicle Hydrangea is one of the larger shrubs growing six to ten feet tall and six to ten feet wide depending on the cultivar. This plant will grow best in full sun. Enjoy the white to purplish-pink flowers from June to September. Blooms can be pruned when they turn brown or during the winter. One popular selection of this species is “Limelight” with large, light green flowers that mature to white.

Oak Leaf Hydrangea, native to the southeastern United States, is known for its large, oak leaf-shaped foliage, and is a popular landscape choice for areas with part shade. The white to purplish-pink flowers are four to twelve inches long with three- to four-inch wide panicles. The flowers are abundant and fragrant. In the fall, the foliage turns to shades of red, orange-brown, and purple, adding additional color to the landscape.

Bearded Iris

by Lori Bowling

The bearded irises are a common old-fashioned flower found in many gardens and landscapes throughout Kentucky. They are very easy to grow perennials that do best in full sun and well drained soils.

There are several classifications of the bearded iris from miniature dwarf, standard dwarf, intermediate and tall. The tall varieties are the largest group having thousands belonging to it.

While they are easy to grow, they still can have a few problems if not cared for properly. The iris borer larvae can invade the rhizome by tunneling through it allowing for bacteria to enter. This bacteria usually will result in bacterial soft rot, a very pungent smelling disease.

To prevent bacterial soft rot, it is important to use an insecticidal spray of Sevin or Malathion in the spring when the plants are about 3” tall and repeat spray weekly for 2 weeks.

Sanitation is also key to keeping this disease under control. Foliage should be cleaned up in the fall to prevent laying of eggs by the adult iris borer moth for the next year. It is also important to note that the iris prefers to be grown in a bed without mulch covering it, so it would be very beneficial to use a pre-emergent weed control regularly.

To help keep the iris rhizomes healthy it is important to remove declining blooms to keep seed from forming. If seed is allowed to form then the rhizome will have less production of stored food that can decrease the bloom production the following year.

Irises should be fertilized yearly in the spring when the foliage starts to grow. A general rule of thumb is to fertilize with a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 at a rate of 1-2 pounds per 100 sq.ft. This spring fertilization is the only one needed to help have a healthy rhizome.

Spring blooming irises can be divided in August/September if they are getting to thick in the area you have them.

If you are an iris enthusiast check your area to see if there is a local iris society or a Master Gardener group that may have a member that is into raising irises to get some varieties you may not have – if they are willing to share their rhizomes. Also, many Master Gardener groups and local garden clubs sponsor spring and fall plant exchanges so you may want to check those out to see if there are any irises at these events to add to your garden collection.