The weather report might show a spot of rain here and there, but that won't change the Palmer drought index, which this week rose to indicate Central Kentucky is experiencing a moderate drought.
Meteorologist Tom Priddy of the University of Kentucky Agricultural Weather Service said the lack of rain after already deteriorating conditions because of the hot, dry summer has about brought the growing season to an end.
If you have watered your garden diligently, perhaps there are some survivors, but for most of us, garden plants have crisped up and shriveled away, and many lawns have gone dormant.
Homeowners are advised to continue watering trees and shrubs, which are slower to show signs of stress but nonetheless need water to remain healthy. Next up is the possibility of frost, so keep an eye on forecasts to be ready to move tender perennials and tropicals inside.
Priddy offers a little hope because there might be some relief on the western horizon.
"There are cooler sea La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which usually result in a wetter than normal winter," he says. For more information, see NOAA.gov.
Wholly roses: Fall tips, spring sneak peek
It's time to allow rose growth to wind down and to prepare for the cooler season ahead. Stop trimming spent blooms, so new sprouts aren't encouraged. Instead, let rose hips form for a bit of winter color and as food for birds. Mulch over roots and graft unions to protect them from freezing.
This is also a great time to check out rose introductions and make plans for next year's acquisitions and spring planting.
One interesting choice is the 2011 Rose of the Year, Dick Clark, a color-shifting carmine, pink and light cream classic double grandiflora that was hybridized by Tom Carruth and Christian Bednard and introduced by Weeks Roses.
The mulitcolored petals of this 4-inch flower deepens with exposure to sunlight. Foliage is a vigorous and shiny dark green, and the fragrance is slightly spicy. Local rosarian Hattie Slone, who grew a trial of Dick Clark this summer, says this rounded bush rose did well in getting established during the hot, dry summer but required pruning for adequate air flow and a bit of black spot treatment.
Although not able to hold the classic rose show form for single buds, Dick Clark has the potential to be exhibited in a spray.
Rose producers have suffered in the shaky economy of recent years. Jackson & Perkins filed to reorganize in Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the spring, and International Garden Products, the parent company of Weeks Roses and the small conifer and Japanese maple supplier Iseli Nursery, filed Chapter 11 in early October.
Although both companies say customers will not be affected, it might be a good idea to place orders early for next spring.
USDA official coming to Kentucky conference
The 11th annual Kentucky Women in Agriculture conference will be Oct. 27 through 29 at the Grayson Conference Center in Grayson. Kathleen A. Merrigan, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will deliver the keynote address during the Oct. 28 dinner session.
In addition to overseeing day-to-day operations of the USDA's many programs, Merrigan manages the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food effort, which highlights the critical connection between farmers and consumers, supporting local and regional food systems that increase economic opportunity in rural America. Time magazine listed Merrigan as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2010.
Kentucky Women in Agriculture supports agricultural activities and advocacy, offering its members educational, communication and enrichment opportunities.
To register or learn more about the conference, go to Kywomeninag.com. The event is open to the public. Registration, which includes four meals and the organization's annual registration, is $75.
Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat By Temra Costa. Gibbs Smith. 224 pp. $15.99.
See Jane farm!
Here is a peek into the ways many women across the nation are influencing how we nurture ourselves and the earth. You'll find local food and sustainable agriculture systems described as Costa tells stories about the life and work of each woman farmer, chef or activist.
Topics and issues such as exploring native foodways, seasonal cooking, stewardship, community development and striking a work/life balance emerge from life histories, while "go to" references provide information about organizations and opportunities.
They grow 'em big
It's official: Out of 340 entries from Kentucky schools this year, our state winner of the national Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program for third-graders is Alexis Abagail Bolin of East Valley Elementary in West Liberty.
Students across the state grew giant heads of cabbage — some weighing more than 40 pounds — in hopes of winning the $1,000 scholarship Bonnie Plants sponsors. This year, more than 1.5 million students nationwide nurtured O.S. Cross oversize cabbage seedlings provided by the company. Teachers chose one student's cabbage to enter from each classroom, then state commissioners of agriculture held drawings to determine winners.
All of the students benefit from learning more about gardening.
"The Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program is our way of engaging children in the joy of gardening," said Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants. "Gardening provides children with a safe place to experience nature, discover the cycles of life and develop an understanding of our environment. It also exposes children, firsthand, to the benefits of growing nutritious food, and it's a great source of physical activity.
"The cabbage program, over the past 15 years, has proved to be an enriching hands-on experience that kids and teachers across America have embraced. Seeing students excited about learning and the art of gardening is what we strive for."
Want your school to get in on the fun? See the 2010 winners and learn more about the 2011 contest, and pick up some great gardening tips, at Bonnieplants.com.