Winter Storm Damage

2014-11-15 10.12.15

With winter coming on strong now, there is the possibility of getting snow any time. We need to know what to do with our landscapes in the event of a large snowstorm.

When heavy snow comes through, it can cause our trees and shrubs to bend down out of their normal form. Many people want to knock the snow off of the trees because they think it is better to get it off of the plant, however it is really better to leave it alone. The snow and ice will eventually melt off of the plants and they will spring back up to their normal form after a while. You can lightly brush snow off of the tree with a broom, if desired.

If the tree becomes covered with ice, this can be more harmful to the plant. If you try to break ice off of a tree or shrub, it can break the branches or crack them, leaving them vulnerable to other problems. Again, the ice will eventually melt off of the tree or shrub and it will be fine.

snow damaged tree-andy rubacky flickr

Flickr image courtesy of Andy Rubacky per CC license

If, at some time during the winter, too much snow or ice comes in and breaks the branches of your tree, care can be done to help with that. The best management practice for helping a tree that has broken branches due to snow and ice would be to go out and trim those branches to make them a clean cut rather than a jagged cut. It is the same thing you would do if they get broken in a storm in the summer. Neither time is the best time to prune a tree or shrub, but it is better to clean up the cut when it happens. Prune out those broken branches to make a “good pruning cut”.

If the tree gets damaged too badly, it may be time to call for additional help from a trained professional. If the damage is high up in the tree or on large branches, you may want to hire a Certified Arborist or licensed tree-pruning company. Also, there may be a time when the damage is too bad, and you may have to think about replacement trees. According to Oregon State University Extension service, the things to think about on whether or not to remove a tree include,

  • How healthy was the tree prior to damage?
  • Are the major limbs broken?
  • Has the tree lost its leader or main upward growing branch?
  • Did the tree lose more than 50 percent of its crown or branches and leaves?
  • How big are the wounds?
  • Are there remaining branches that can form new structure?
  • Is the tree in the most suitable location?

These questions can help lead you to your answer on replacing the tree or not. If it seems the tree already had damage or growing problems, it lost too much of its canopy or very large branches, or it isn’t growing in the best location, then maybe it’s time to move on to a different tree.

Hopefully, we don’t have too many large snowstorms this year that we don’t have to deal with this. I just wanted you all to be prepared for this if it does happen. That way you will know what to do for your tree and what are the best steps to ensure that your trees and shrubs live through yet another tough Nebraska winter.


Winter Preparations for your Lawn

Flickr image courtesy of Jennifer C. per CC license

Flickr image courtesy of Jennifer C. per CC license

We are getting to that point of the year where we will have to hang up our shovels, rakes, and pruners. It is almost the time where we can no longer do much yard work for the year. However, there are still a few things we can do quickly before the temperatures get too cold or the snow starts to pile up.

Winter mulch can be applied now, or within a few weeks when temperatures are consistently dropping down to the twenties each night. Winter mulch is the heavier layer of mulch we apply to plants like chrysanthemums and strawberries to keep them from having temperature fluxes in the soil they are planted in. Any plant that may be prone to frost heaving, the plant being pushed up out of the soil by a constant freeze and thaw condition. Plants that were just planted this fall could also benefit from winter mulching. This mulch can be up to twelve inches deep, which is much deeper than we usually advise but is needed for winter protection. It is better to use coarse wood chips, straw, or leaves for winter mulch rather than grass. Remember to pull the mulch out about six inches away from the trunks of trees and other woody shrubs to prevent damage from wildlife, such as voles, during the winter months.

As we prepare for Christmas, we need to remember to care for our live trees throughout the season. Be sure to keep live trees watered throughout the holiday season. If they don’t have water they will dry out quickly and not look as fresh and beautiful. Christmas trees should be placed in your home away from fireplaces, air ducts, and televisions to avoid the heat from these locations. According to the National Fire Protection Association, less than 0.001% of all real Christmas trees have been involved in a fire. A real tree is a great addition to all Christmas decorations, and with proper care, it can last through the season and look and smell nice the entire time.

Another obstacle we might face in the winter that can be harmful to our landscapes would be deicers. Too much salt placed on trees, shrubs, and other perennials can cause severe damage to these plants. Typical plant symptoms of salt damage include desiccation (drying out), stunting, dieback, and leaf margin and tip damage that looks as though the leaves were burned by a chemical.

Bag of Deicer

*Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended of those not mentioned and no endorsement by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension is implied for those mentioned.

To avoid damage from the deicers to the concrete:

  • Remove the salt as soon as you can
    • Deicers are meant to make shoveling easier, not to completely melt away the snow and ice
    • As soon as the salt melts through the ice and snow enough that it can be removed
  • When removing the snow, do it in a manner that protects the landscape plants growing in the yard
  • Do not pile the snow onto trees, shrubs, or flower gardens
    • If it has to be piled onto your landscape, move the salt onto the grass and try to do it in a manner that makes it more uniform on the grass surface
  • If too much salt continually gets piled up on the grass in one location, the turf can be harmed

Where do insects go in the winter?

Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy & Horticulture

Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy & Horticulture

With winter on its way and a few freezes behind us, it leaves us thankful that the mosquitos and other insects have finally quit bugging us for the winter months. But, where do insects go in the winter? Do they all just die? How do they always come right back to my yard, garden, and home next spring? Some insects head south for the winter, others overwinter in the garden, some spend the winter in cracks and crevices outside, and others come indoors to join us in a heated home for the winter.

Many of our ‘snowbirds’ or insects that move south for the winter are the lepidopterans, the insect order that contains butterflies, skippers, and moths. Some of the snowbirds include armyworm, corn earworm (also known as tomato fruitworm) and striped and spotted cucumber beetles. Since these insects do not overwinter in the garden, sanitation is not considered a control method for them.

Many insects overwinter in the garden so cleaning up and destroying plant debris can reduce their numbers. Reducing the population of insect pests limits the amount of damage they cause and provides more control options. Insects that overwinter on plant debris in the garden include cabbageworm, cabbage loopers, and squash bugs. The cabbage caterpillars overwinter as pupae inside cocoons attached to plant debris, usually the host plant. Squash bugs spend the winter as adults hiding in plant debris. This is why it is a best management practice to clean up the garden in the fall and not leave the plants in the garden to harbor insects over the winter months. Some insects will even spend the winter on weeds near the garden. Fall sanitation not only includes cleaning up or tilling under vegetable debris in the garden, but control of nearby weeds as well.

Squash bug-NH-pic monkey

Some of the insects that overwinter in the garden do so in the soil. These insects would include the adults of Colorado potato beetles, the eggs of grasshoppers, and the pupae of squash vine borers and onion maggots. Fall tillage of soil reduces these insects by exposing the insects to colder temperatures. Removing plant debris removes an insulating layer that also protects insects from extreme temperatures.

squash vine borer damage

When cleaning up plant debris, the general recommendation is to not add insect infested plants, diseased plant debris, or weed seeds to home compost piles. Most plant diseases and weed seeds, as well as some insects, are destroyed during composting when temperatures in the pile center reach 140° to 150°F. However, in many home compost piles, it is difficult to mix materials thoroughly enough to bring all waste to the center where it will be exposed to these temperatures.

It is often asked if insecticides applied to bare soil in fall will kill overwintering insects. The answer is not very often, if at all. Overwintering insects are often in the pupal or egg stage where they are protected from insecticides. Applying insecticides to the soil to try and control overwintering insects is not a responsible or effective use of a pesticide.

Many other insects come into our homes during the winter months to avoid freezing temperatures outside. Boxelder bugs, multicolored Asian ladybeetles, and stink bugs move inside in the fall and then leave in the spring. These insects survive the winter in our homes and other buildings. These insects can find places to survive outdoors under leaf litter and in other plant debris, but they are much more comfortable in our homes, as we are. They do not do any damage in our homes and should be vacuumed up or smashed when they are found in our homes.

Center photo by S. Cochran, Lancaster County Extension

Center photo by S. Cochran, Lancaster County Extension

This article comes from an article written by Kelly Feehan, Extension Educator in Platte County, Nebraska.


Insects in Firewood

Flickr image courtesy of Shay Sowden per CC license

Flickr image courtesy of Shay Sowden per CC license

With the changing of the seasons, we look to the imminent future that lies ahead of us, winter. When the winter winds start blowing, we start preparing our woodpiles for winter stoves to heat our homes throughout the long cold winter. When we do start our piles, we need to decide where to pile it for easiest and quickest access to the home. We also need to take into consideration the insect pests that may lie inside those logs of wood.

There are many different insects that may be overwintering in the wood and some others that are using it as a food supply during the winter months. Insects that may be found in the wood you pile for your wood stoves include:

  • Bark beetles
  • Termites
  • Carpenter ants
  • Wood boring beetles
  • Many more

These insects may not be active due to the cold winter temperatures, but once inside may become active again. Typically, insects in firewood will only be a nuisance pest in your home because they cannot survive in your home.


Termite Colony

Termites would be the most intimidating insect from this list. If you feel, at any time, that you may have termites in your home, or you just are curious, you can call a pest control company to do an inspection. If they find termites in your home, you have a couple of choices of how to control the termites. You can use either bait stations, these can be above ground or in the ground, or you can use a barrier spray. Either of these methods of control have their place; it really depends on the situation. Allow your chemical control company to help you decide which to use.

A couple of tips to remember when making your woodpile for the winter are to not stack your woodpile directly on the ground and only bring in wood as needed. The first tip to avoiding bringing insects into your home with firewood would be to not stack your woodpile directly on the ground. This is an important reminder for any time of the year. This tip is to avoid termite damage. Termites can get into, and feed on, any wood that comes into direct contact with the soil. If you pile wood up against your house with the pile starting directly on the ground, termites can sense the wood pile and work their way through the wood to your home.

Firewood pile

Flickr image courtesy of Steven Severinghaus per CC license

You also should only bring inside the wood that you will be using right away to avoid insects getting into your home and flying around.   Wood boring insects will not come out of the wood and begin feeding on your furniture or any other wood material, but they will be moving around in your home, if you let the wood warm up too much. Wood that remains at a temperature of less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit will keep any insects inside of it at a dormant stage, meaning that they will be overwintering with no real action from the insect. If you bring too much wood into your home at a time, the wood will warm up and the insect could emerge from the wood and move around your home. If you bring only a few pieces of wood into your home at a time, you will be placing it into the fire before the insect is able to emerge and it will die in the fire.

Having a fireplace is a wonderful way to warm up and to save money on the heating bills in the winter time. Just make sure to stack it in a manner that avoids insect entry into our homes.



fall landscape

In the fall we have a lot of leaves to remove from our lawns. It is not a good practice to leave the fallen leaves on the lawn as it can lead to snow mold if we get a lot of snow that sits on top of the leaves on the lawn. We can mow over the leaves to help reduce that problem, but if you want to get rid of your leaves in another manner, a compost pile is a good way to reuse these leaves and grass clippings.

A compost pile is a good way to recycle fallen leaves and spent garden plants at the end of the season. You can put many types of organic materials into a compost pile and then use that in the spring to amend your garden soil and help with fertility for your plants. Composting is a good way to save money by avoiding purchasing other organic matter to use in your garden and avoiding payments for removal of your yard wastes.

Many materials can be put into a compost pile. Some of these items include:

  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Straw
  • Non-woody plant trimmings
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Sawdust
  • Remains of garden plants
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Hay
  • Cornstalks
  • Chopped corncobs
  • Wood ashes

Certain things cannot be placed in a compost pile because they do not or cannot break down in a compost pile or they may draw the attention of wildlife which can cause many other problems.  Do NOT compost:

  • Any plant materials that were diseased, or infested with insects or weeds as those things may not die in a compost pile
  • Grass clippings that have been treated with pesticides
  • Pet feces
  • Meat products
  • Fatty foods
  • Whole eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Peanut butter

Compost Pile; Photo from Cornell University

Compost piles can be made as just a pile in the yard or it can be placed in a holding unit or a turning bin or even just in a trashcan. The pile should be at least 3 feet long, wide, and tall and it needs to be no taller than 5 feet. The pile should be moist, but not too wet. A good recommendation for this is that it should be comparable to a wrung-out sponge.

The compost pile should be started in layers to help with decomposition.

  1. 4-6 inches of chopped brush or coarse material to help with air circulation
  2. 3-4 inches of damp, low carbon, organic material such as grass clippings
  3. 4-6 inches of high carbon, damp, organic material such as leaves or garden waste
  4. 1 inch of soil or finished compost
  5. Optional layer of 2-3 inches of manure for nitrogen content

After the initial building of the compost pile and that material has begun to decompose, the process is fairly simple. You need to turn the materials often enough to keep the temperature between 110-114 degrees Fahrenheit and to make sure that all parts of the pile eventually end up in the middle to get hot enough to break down. You also need to ensure that the moisture content is correct throughout the process. Additional water may be needed to keep the pile going. As you turn the pile, you can add other items from your garden or your kitchen.

Your compost is ready to use when it has an earthy odor, when it cools off, and when it is dark and crumbly. At this time, it can be tilled into your garden to help reduce compaction and to add nutrients back into the soil.

Finished compost-UFlorida

Finished Compost; Photo by Robert Trawick, University of Florida Extension




Emerald Ash Borer

I had the wonderful opportunity to travel on a professional development opportunity to Colorado last week. I traveled with horticulture and entomology colleagues from across the state to Colorado Springs, Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins to study how they deal with an almost constant drought and to see the damage from Emerald Ash Borer.

Xeric Gardens in Colorado Springs, CO.

Xeric Gardens in Colorado Springs, CO.

I had a blast at the Denver Botanic Gardens and learned some great information regarding Xeric gardens, or water conserving gardens. I also saw some great new plants to try in the annual and perennial trial gardens at Colorado State University, but my favorite part of this professional development trip was visiting with the Extension faculty from Colorado State University about Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens

Boulder, Colorado is the first and only county to have found EAB in Colorado. We were informed of the steps that Boulder County and the Colorado State Department of Agriculture took to help reduce the spread of this invasive insect into other counties and towns in Colorado. We were then taken to a site with massive damage from EAB to see what this insect does to the trees. It was good for me to see it live for myself to know what to look for in Nebraska.

Photo by Leah Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, - See more at:

Photo by Leah Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station,

As of today, Emerald Ash Borer has not been found in Nebraska, but we should be on the lookout for it as it has been found in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. EAB is a small, metallic green, wood-boring insect that is invasive. It came to the United States via wood-packing materials from China and was first discovered in Michigan in 2002. Because EAB is an invasive insect, it has no natural predators to keep the population in check.

Emerald Ash Borer attacks healthy and stressed true ash trees, it does not attack mountain ash which is not a true ash species. EAB larvae feed on the inner bark of the ash trees, which causes a disruption of the flow of water and nutrients throughout the tree. If you have an ash tree that exhibits any of these signs, please let me know so we can check it out to ensure EAB does not get into or go unnoticed in Nebraska.

EAB Damage Collage

The damage from EAB can show up in your ash tree as

  • Top dieback
  • Sprouting at the base of the tree
  • Increased woodpecker damage
  • Larval galleries under the bark of the tree
  • 1/8 inch D-shaped exit hole
  • Bark cracks
  • Reduced size of the leaves still on the tree

Insecticide treatments are available for Emerald Ash Borer but are not recommended until the insect has been confirmed within 15 miles of your trees. The insecticides used can be applied either via a soil drench or trunk injection. Trunk injections are only to be done by trained professionals. Insecticide treatment efficacy depends on the size of the tree, the insecticide used and how it is applied, and the damage the tree has already acquired. If it is a high value ash tree, treatments can be effective, but are not feasible on a large quantity of trees.




A Tour of Southeast Nebraska Horticulture with Master Gardeners

MG Tour-group picOn Saturday, September 6, 2014 I took an energetic group of Master Gardeners on a Horticultural tour through Southeast Nebraska. We were even joined by current and past Extension faculty Paul Hay, Larry Germer, and Sondra Germer. This was a fun and educational experience that I am glad I got to share with this wonderful group of Master Gardeners from Gage, Saline, Jefferson, and Lancaster County.

Stop #1 at Kimmel Orchard in Nebraska City

Stop #1 at Kimmel Orchard in Nebraska City

We started out the day at Kimmel Orchard in Nebraska City. We met with Vaughn Hammond, an Extension Educator based out of the orchard, who told us the history of the Kimmel Orchard and the unique relationship that exists between the Kimmel Foundation and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Vaughn took us on a hayrack ride through the entire orchard teaching us about the types of fruits they grow and what they have to do to care for all the different types of tree fruits. We were then able to browse the gift shop to purchase apples, cider, and the infamous apple donuts. I purchased apples to make some delicious cinnamon applesauce, Yum!

Stop #2 Lewis and Clark Missouri River Basin Visitors Center

Stop #2 at Lewis and Clark Missouri River Basin Visitors Center in Nebraska City

After lunch in Nebraska City, we moved on to the Lewis and Clark Missouri River Basin Visitors Center. This was a fun place for us to just be on our own to tour the many hiking trails that led to the Missouri River Overlook and to the Earth Lodge that was re-created to look like homes of the Plains Indian. I sure got my exercise here, as the trail to the Missouri River Overlook took a long, steep hill back up to the bus.

brownville arboretum collage

Stop #3 at Governor Furnas Arboretum in Brownville


Next, we traveled onto Brownville, for the Governor Furnas Arboretum. We received a tour of the grounds by the groundskeeper who told us all about the process of establishing this arboretum in the first place and how they had the aid of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and Kim Todd, UNL Professor in Horticulture. This was a nice place to tour as they had used some under-utilized trees that we don’t see as often in our communities.

Stop #4 at Schillingbridge winery and microbrewery in Pawnee City

Stop #4 at Schillingbridge winery and microbrewery in Pawnee City

We finished the day with a relaxing supper at Schillingbridge winery and microbrewery. This was a good experience for us to see all of the grape vines. We were able to discuss the vineyard with owner Sharon Schilling and she described to us the troubles that come with running a vineyard and winery. This year the grapes have been subject to a dry winter, late frost, and hail that has led to a reduced crop.

We all had a great time on this trip and are looking for ideas for another tour next year. After all the fun and learning, though, we were ready to get home and enjoy our apples and cider as well as relaxing on the sofa.

Fall is here, get your plants ready for winter!

Fall weather is upon us again. We can see the end of summer gardening coming to a close. With that, we can get out in our gardens and take care of many different activities to prepare our lawns and gardens for the winter months.

Photo by V. Jedlicka, Lancaster County Extension

Photo by V. Jedlicka, Lancaster County Extension

Summer bulbs can bring a great deal of color and interest to our gardens, however, they do need to be dug up and stored indoors over the winter. Summer bulbs should be dug up prior to the first hard freeze in the fall. These bulbs should be cured before they are stored by leaving them in the sun for a few weeks. After they have cured, place them in peat moss or similar substance in a well-ventilated, cool area for the winter months. Check periodically through the winter if more peat moss is needed.


Houseplants also should be brought back inside this time of the year to avoid injury due to the nighttime cold temperatures. Before bringing houseplants indoors, you may want to treat them with a general insecticide such as sevin or eight to ensure you do not bring any unwanted insect guests into your home.

Cut back iris and peony plants as soon as the leaves start to turn brown in the fall. Remove all of the foliage above ground and discard it to reduce the spread of diseases such as botrytis and leaf blight that we often see on these plants. Wait until early spring to cut back roses and butterfly bushes due to the hollow stem. Pruning these plants back in the spring will help with their survival as during the winter moisture can get into the cut, hollow stems and freeze and thaw, thereby cracking the crown and killing the plant. You can also cut back other perennials such as coneflowers, dianthus, and many others that die back to the ground each year. This will help to clean up your garden area preparing it for new growth next spring.

Tilled garden

With the end of the vegetable gardening season coming to an end, be sure to clean your garden space before winter as well. If a frost is predicted, be sure to check out your garden before that occurs. Get all of the produce out of the garden before the frost occurs or within the next day or two following the frost so that it can still be enjoyed fresh, frozen, or canned. After the plants are finished for the season, be sure to clean all of the plants out of the garden and either compost them or throw them into your trash. If they had any diseases on them, it is best to not compost them to ensure the disease spores do not get into your compost. You can also take the time this fall to till your garden up as preparation for next spring. If you till your garden in the fall, be sure to put some type of mulch on the soil to prevent wind erosion through the winter. Organic mulches, such as grass clippings, make a good mulch to use for this because it can then be tilled back into the garden in the spring adding organic matter to the soil.

Fall Invading Insects

Photo by Eric Berg, Associate Forester for the Nebraska Forest Service

Photo by Eric Berg, Associate Forester for the Nebraska Forest Service

Fall is my favorite season of the year. The weather is much more enjoyable, the trees turn fantastic colors, and football begins again. With all the fun of fall, however, comes the not so enjoyable entry of insects into our homes.

Most people see the same insect pests in their homes each year. The majority of household pests that we tend to see most often in the fall invading our homes for warmth and food are boxelder bugs, Asian multicolored ladybeetles, and spiders. None of these really warrant any control by a pesticide, they are fairly easy to control and do not do any real damage to your homes or to you.


Boxelder Bug

Boxelder bugs, or Democrats as some people call them, are a common nuisance pest to enter homes in the fall and they are often seen leaving the home in the spring. These are the insects that are black with a reddish-orange X on their backs. They are a type of a true bug that is found feeding on many trees but they prefer boxelders, ash, and maples.


Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle

Multicolored Asian  lady beetles are a nuisance pest as well, that we often see in the fall. These are the ladybugs that we find in our homes in the fall. These ladybugs can bite and it can cause pain, but they don’t cause any medical issues. The biggest problem with these lady beetles is that they get in the house and are found all over your home. They are just trying to find a place to hide out for the winter.

Spiders are common in our homes throughout the year, but tend to be found more during the fall and winter. The most common spider that people bring into my office to be identified is the wolf spider. Wolf spiders include one of the largest species of spiders found in Nebraska. They are quite hairy and often times will have 2 white or lighter brown colored stripes down the back of the spider. There are some wolf spiders that can be the size of a half dollar or more, legs and all. These spiders are not poisonous, but they can bite. Most often, a wolf spider will not bite us, but if they do the reaction is mild.

brown_recluse1-Dept of Ento

Brown Recluse Spider

Brown recluse spiders are becoming more common in southeastern Nebraska. These spiders are about the size of a quarter, legs and all. They are a brown color with a darker brown fiddle shape on their back. They can cause a bad reaction in some people, not all people are as sensitive to the bites as others. If you have brown recluse spiders in your home or office, just take the time to look around things that have been stored before you move them. Most of the time, if a person gets bit it is because they accidentally trap the spider between themselves and either an article of clothing or a box. The best way to ensure you do not get bitten is to shake out items when you take them out of storage and watch where you put your hands when you pull boxes out of storage.

Household invading insects and spiders, generally, will not cause any damage to your homes or yourself. The only problems with these insects being in your homes is that they can come in swarms and they have an “ick” factor as most people do not enjoy insects, especially in their homes. The best control for these insects include:

  • Sticky traps around the home
  • Step-on or smash any you see
  • Vacuum or flush any found
  • Seal up all cracks and crevices on your home and door and window screens
  • Indoor/Outdoor barrier sprays can help reduce the population of some home invading insects and spiders
  • Do NOT spray a population of insects found in a wall void, this can lead to a secondary insect population that comes in your home to help decompose those dead insects left in the wall void


Fall Lawncare

fall landscapeAs we draw closer to fall, we can start to prepare our lawns for winter. I wanted to take time, this week, to cover all of those items on your fall lawncare “to do” list.

It is now time to reseed your lawns for the fall. This is best done in the late summer or early fall, anytime between August 15 and September 15 of the year. The rule of thumb is that that for each week grasses are seeded before Labor Day, maturation is speeded by two weeks. If you reseed after September 15 you will probably have some success, but not as much. The seed that you put out on the ground may sprout and some might even overwinter, but much of it may die from winterkill because the root systems will not be fully developed. If you are a homeowner who wants to sod an area of your lawn, you can do that until they can no longer cut it from the fields. Do remember to keep newly seeded or sodded areas watered throughout the fall and in the spring.

Bare lawn in need of overseeding.

Bare lawn in need of overseeding.

Good turfgrass choices for Southeast Nebraska include Turf-type tall fescue or Kentucky Bluegrass.   Using seed that is 100 percent of either of these or a mix of the two types would be great choices for Nebraska. You can buy mixes of turfgrass seed, but avoid mixes that contain annual ryegrass, ‘Linn’ perennial ryegrass, or ‘Kenblue’ Kentucky Bluegrass. Make sure that the grass you buy contains less than 0.3 percent weed seed and no noxious weed seeds. We can also use Buffalograss in our lawns for a warm season grass, but warm season grasses should be plugged in June and July.

As for fertilizer applications, the fall fertilization is the most important fertilizer application for a lawn. Two applications in the fall are recommended for Kentucky bluegrass and only one is recommended for tall fescue, but one application for either species is better than none. The timing for fall fertilizer applications is Labor Day and Halloween if you do two applications and Halloween if you do only one application.

The fall is the best time to control broadleaf perennial weeds such as dandelion and clover. You can add a broadleaf herbicide to your lawn fertilizer to get a two-for-one application. It is often sold in stores as a combined product. The best herbicide choices for homeowners would be anything that contains 2,4-D or a triclopyr product for clover and ground ivy or creeping Charlie.

Photo by Nic Colgrove

Photo by Nic Colgrove

If you need to aerate your lawns, now is a good time to do that. You can still aerate your lawns into November if you don’t get around to it until then. Aeration is best done in the spring or the fall of the year, but it is not necessary to do it every year, if you don’t want to. Aeration is done to break up a heavy thatch layer in the grass and to reduce the compaction of the soil. The thatch layer is the layer of dead organic matter in between the grass blades and the soil line. Leaving the clippings on the lawn does not increase the thatch layer, in fact it can actually give you enough nitrogen to replace one fertilizer treatment for the year. If your thatch layer is more than one half of an inch, you may want to aerate your lawn, if it is less than that, you may decide that it is not necessary to aerate this year.