Shorter days mean slower growth

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 23, 2007

I hope everyone is taking advantage of these long beautiful afternoons we have been having, in the upcoming weeks you will begin noticing shorter hours of daylight and time spent gardening in the afternoons will be reduced significantly with the upcoming time change. These will have some minor affects to both your gardening schedule and plant growth.

Q. How will shorter days affect plant growth?

As the amount of light decreases over the next several months, your plants will begin to notice the change. Leaf color change and a general slow down in growth are just a few of the ways plants will respond to the shorter days. If you have houseplants many of these will go into a slow-growth period. For this reason you won’t need to fertilize your plants as often. Also take note of the amount of light that comes into your house during the coming months; make sure your plants continue to receive the light they need to survive. Although houseplants are slowing their growth, be sure to periodically check their moisture level so that they don’t dry out.

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Q. What are some good healthy plants for my garden?

What natural plants aren’t healthy? Almost anything you plant in your garden has positive benefits from a health standpoint. I discussed the need for Vitamin C a few weeks ago and what fruits and vegetables are high in that vitamin. Mississippi State University also recommends you consider a healthy portion of collard greens from a healthy, nutritious standpoint. Collard greens keep getting pushed by various dietary groups as the food to eat for antioxidants. The National Cancer Institute list collards as one of the best sources for lutein and beta-carotene. Now the sulforphanes produced when you eat them is being investigated as a cancer prevention compound. Just one more reason to produce this easy to grow, freeze tolerant vegetable in your garden. Young, tender collard leaves can be cooked and used like spinach in all those fancy “Florentine” dishes. Try it before you serve it to company, however.

Q. How much forage will I need for winter storage for livestock and horses?

Being in the horse and livestock area myself, I can assure you this is an important topic that hurts a lot of people each year. You have two primary ways of providing winter forage for cattle and horses, hay or grass. If you plan on feeding hay this winter you need to start storing and finding it now while producers are cutting and baling it. If you wait until winter months to find hay you can sometimes expect to pay higher cost and have more difficulty finding quality hay. A good hay is based on five factors; maturity, smell (aroma), texture, color, tenderness. Remember, horses are sensitive grazers and require higher quality hay than cattle. Cattle are ruminants that have the ability to digest lower quality hay and with their unique digestive system still have maximum utilization.

Based on your resources you may also want to consider planting a winter grass such as rye grass for forage needs. This will increase your forage availability and reduce you hay needs as well. Rye grass does require maintenances, field preparation, soil analysis, planting, fertilizing and possible insect problems are some of the demands. However, a well maintained winter forage system is directly related to a positive impact on your animals health and future profits.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service.

He can be reached at 601-445-8202.