What is horticulture? Horticulture is a part of agriculture that deals with garden crops. Typically, it includes fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants, and lawns. It also about all the things that can affect those plants such as insects, diseases, nutrition, and environmental issues.

I have been a horticulture specialist with MU Extension for 13 years. My background includes working with nut trees, Christmas trees, commercial vegetables, u-pick blueberries, orchard, vineyard, landscaping, golf course, and greenhouse/nursery. My favorite topic is pumpkins. I worked in commercial pumpkin production in high school and grew pumpkins for my FFA project. Then in graduate school, I did research on weed control options in pumpkins. I now raise over 200 different varieties of pumpkins, squash, and gourds as a hobby.

As you can see, there are many different facets to horticulture and the part I enjoy most about my job is getting to learn something new every day. I provide one-on-one consultations with homeowners and commercial growers to solve problems so plants continue to thrive. I can identify insects, weeds, diseases, and environmental issues that cause declines in plant health. I enjoy providing programs on a wide variety of horticulture topics from vegetables to fruits to landscapes to insects and diseases. Programs can include hand-on learning.

We have experienced an increased interest in gardening and home food production since the pandemic started. People have a renewed interesting in knowing where their food comes from and want to experience growing it in their own yard. Growing vegetables can be challenging for a beginner so here are a few of my favorite tips. For those with little space or difficult soils, many vegetables do well in containers including garden favorites of tomatoes, peppers, squash, lettuce, and many more. Just remember to have the appropriate size container for the plant, that the container needs drainage holes, and it will need to be watered regularly. For vegetable gardens planting in the ground, organic mulch provides many benefits. Benefits include retaining moisture, reducing weeds, adding organic matter to the soil, preventing erosion, keeping vegetables clean, and reducing disease problems. Watering at the base of the plant with a soaker hose can also help prevent diseases by keeping the foliage dry. Watering deeply once a week is a better practice than a little bit every day. Deep watering allows the water to move down through the soil profile and the plant roots follow it, so they can better withstand our crazy Missouri weather. Vegetables need 1.5 inches of water per week for optimal production. Soil testing is beneficial in providing a road map to know what fertilizer needs to be apply for plant health. These are just a few tips that can help a vegetable garden thrive.

If you have any gardening questions, feel free to contact Kate at kammlerk@missouri.edu or call the Dent County Extension office at 573-729-3196.