Short Rows

Strawberry

Title: Pick a Peck of Pectin

It’s summer, which means fruits galore and jams bubbling on the stove. Ever wonder what makes them gel? Pectin in the fruit reacts with added sugar and forms insoluble fibers. The mesh-like fibers hold liquid like a sponge and form a gel. The more pectin, the thicker the gel. Sandra Bastin, chair of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, says slightly under-ripe fruit contains more pectin than fruit that’s too ripe, so at least one-fourth of the fruit in a recipe should not have reached its peak. Commercial pectin is sometimes added to fruit to sustain a stable gel.

Read more about canning and making jams


illustration of soil underground

Factors Figure In

Successful farmers know their soil. They know not all soils are equal, and their individual properties are important factors in efficient nutrient management for crops. Different soils have different drainage properties, which can directly affect recommendations for nitrogen fertilizer. And some soils naturally contain higher levels of potassium and phosphorus, so crops may not require a supplemental fertilizer at all. Your local extension office can help with soil tests.

Read more about nutrient management




image of butterfly

Lilliput Love


Butterflies are particular, it seems. Given their choice of four common zinnia cultivars, twice as many butterflies visited ‘Lilliput’ than any of the others, in a study conducted by college entomologists Ken Yeargan and Sarah Colvin. And not only were the numbers of visiting butterflies greater, but more overall species visited ‘Lilliput’—27 to be precise. ‘Lilliput’ is an heirloom zinnia dating from the 1870s, but the seeds are still available today.

Read more about butterflies and zinnias




Living Green


In the winter, we can keep the thermostat low by throwing on an extra sweater or blanket, but there’s only so much we can legally take off when summer heats up. Air conditioners start to blow away our savings and good intentions. Ashley Osborne, of UK’s Environmental and Natural Resource Issues Task Force, says don’t despair. Living green in the summer is still possible. Reduce heat by closing curtains on south- and west-facing windows during the day. And a ceiling fan creates a bit of a wind chill effect causing a room to feel up to 4 degrees cooler.

Read more about living green




image of sunglasses

Title: Sun Safe

Nothing feels better than basking in the warmth of the summer sun. It’s the ultraviolet rays that warm our skin, but it’s also those rays that can damage it too. Nearly half of all cancers diagnosed in this country are skin cancers. So take steps to take care, says Kim Henken, Family and Consumer Sciences. Limit the time spent in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., use sunscreen, seek shade, dress in light-colored, firmly woven clothing that will block the rays, and wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Read more about staying safe in the sun