Do I really need to rake?

fall landscape

November means fall is in full swing. The leaves of our trees begin to turn color and then fall to the ground making the ground colorful and giving it that characteristic “crunch” when you walk on the lawn. Why do some trees take so long to drop their leaves in the fall? And why do some hold onto the leaves throughout the entire winter? Finally, what do you do with the leaves when they fall to the ground?

Leaves fall to the ground in the fall to remove living material for the winter months. During the winter evergreen trees continue to transpire which can sometimes cause winter desiccation and browning on the needles if they lose more water than they take in. Deciduous trees lose their leaves to reduce the amount of living material necessary to support during the winter months and to reduce winter desiccation.

Each tree differs on how fast they lose their leaves. This is dependent on both the genetics of the tree and the environmental conditions they have faced this year. Two trees of the same species can lose their leaves at different times of the year based on the environment that is specifically surrounding that tree, or the microclimate. The environmental factors that affect when trees lose their leaves include prolonged drought, disease and insect pests, sunlight exposure, day length, colder air temperatures, frost timing, winds, soil, and water differences, according to Ted Griess, UNL Extension Horticulture Assistant. On years with extraordinarily hot and dry summers, the leaves tend to turn to fall color and drop off the tree much earlier than years of normal or cooler and wetter conditions throughout the summer.

Some trees, especially pin oak trees, hold onto their dead leaves throughout the entire winter and don’t lose the leaves produced this year until new leaves begin next spring. There is nothing wrong with this, it is a natural occurrence for some tree species.

Shagbark hickory, flickr, Nicholas A. Tonelli

Photo of Shagbark Hickory courtesy of Nicholas A. Tonelli, via Flickr creative commons license

Now that the leaves are falling, what do we do with them? It is not good for the lawn to leave the fallen leaves on the turf for the winter months. The leaves that fall can become matted on the grass and suffocate the lawn underneath. So, it is important to remove leaves from the lawn in the fall. This can be done with a rake or with a lawnmower. You can use the lawnmower to break up the leaves so that they go down into the turf and won’t suffocate it. You can also use the lawn mower to bag up all of the leaves as they fall. Mulching the leaves into the lawn will not add a thatch layer to your lawn. The leaves break down quickly and will not be a problem. Either way you do it, with a rake or a lawnmower, make sure that you get the leaves off of the lawn before winter.

After you have finished mowing the last time for the season, and have mowed up all your tree leaves, you should prepare your lawn mower for winter. Clean up the lawn mower and be sure to get all the grass off the blades and off of the underside of the deck. It may also be a good idea to sharpen the blades before you put it away for the winter so you don’t have to do that in the spring before you get started mowing.

Fall is a time for Apples and Garlic

Fall is a great time of the year. It can be bittersweet, though, because it often signals the end of our growing season. The good thing is that this is also the time of the year to go pick apples. It is apple month, for tips and recipes on apples, visit the Nebraska Extension October food calendar.

Each different variety of apple differs for their harvest time. To determine the harvest time for the apple, knowing the variety will help you. In fall, a common question from gardeners with a favorite apple or pear tree is for identification of the cultivar from the color and shape of the fruit. This almost impossible to do, in fact, it’s really only realistic to give a general idea of possible cultivars. So, if you don’t know the variety, you can look at the color, flavor, and texture of the apple.

apples-A. Henneman flickr

Flickr image courtesy of Alice Henneman per CC license

To know a mature apple, look at the “ground color”, which is the color of an apple’s skin disregarding any areas of red. You can also try one to ensure that it is the correct sweetness and make sure it is firm and not overripe and soft. Overripe apples will detach from the tree more easily than those that are at the correct stage of ripeness. If the apple is too ripe, it will break down in storage more quickly than those that are at the peak of their maturity.

For storage it is best to pick apples when they are still hard but mature. Place the apples in a box or crate with a smooth lining so that staples don’t puncture or injure the apple. These boxes or crates should be lined with plastic or foil to retain humidity around the apples. Remove bruised and large apples that will break down more quickly than the rest of the apples. Apples produce ethylene gas, even after they are removed from the tree, which speeds up the ripening process in fruits. A damaged apple will produce more ethylene than other apples. Apples should be stored in the fridge or other location where they are kept at temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, an apple stored too warm will ripen faster.

Fall is also a great time to plant garlic. I love Italian food, so therefore I am a huge fan of fresh garlic. Garlic is best planted from mid-September through mid-October, one month before the soil freezes. The bulbs planted in the fall will root and begin to sprout before going dormant for the winter. Next spring, these bulbs will continue to grow until harvest in the summer months.


Flickr image courtesy of Olga Filonenko per CC license.

To grow garlic, plant small cloves for each plant you want. The clove is obtained from the division of the large bulb. Planting larger cloves will lead to larger bulbs for harvest next year. Wait until just before you begin planting to divide the bulb into the individual cloves. Plant the cloves 3-5 inches apart, 1-2 inches deep with the point upward in the soil. If you are planting multiple rows, the rows need to be 18-30 inches apart. Before completing your gardening tasks this fall, remember to mulch the planted garlic with 8-12 inches of straw after the soil freezes.

The apple information from this article came from an article written by Mary Jane Frogge, Extension Associate from Lancaster County Extension. The garlic information from this article came from the e-Hort Update at which is a newsletter you can sign up for to get more horticulture information throughout the year.

Pirate Bugs are Everywhere!

Fall is a great time of year, the weather is cooler, the trees are turning brilliant fall colors, and we can enjoy being outdoors. However, sometimes that enjoyment is smashed when insect invaders join our outdoor gatherings. The minute pirate bug is one that shows up this time of the year.


Minute Pirate Bug photo courtesy of Kim Riggs, Richardson County Extension

Minute pirate bugs are the tiny, black insects that seem to fall out of the trees in the fall and bite us. The bug, which is a true bug, is 1/8 inch in length and black with white and black wings. The appearance of this bug is very similar to a chinch bug. The wings have an “X” on them which is typical for insects that are true bugs.

Minute pirate bugs are present throughout the summer but they are out in fields, woodlands, and gardens. During the summer they are feeding on other insects. They are actually a beneficial insect. Pirate bugs are predatory insects that feed on many insects that cause harm to our plants, such as thrips, aphids, mites, and small caterpillars as well as the eggs of other insects.

Most people wouldn’t notice these pirate bugs if they didn’t land on us and bite us. Pirate bugs bite with a pain that doesn’t seem possible from such a tiny insect. However, some people may not notice the sting at all because the reaction to the bite can differ from no reaction at all to having the area swell up like a mosquito bite. But, in the fall, these insects move into the areas where people are more often outside and they begin to bite us. When they bite us, they insert their piercing-sucking mouthpart into our skin, which can be painful. However, the good thing is that they do NOT feed on blood, inject a venom or transmit diseases.

Because of the painful reaction that most of us receive from this pest, we want to do something to control them, however, control is not practical. Minute pirate bugs are a temporary pest, they are beneficial insects, and most of our solutions would not harm them so there is no reason to try to control them with an insecticide. Using a bug spray will not deter them either because they are not attracted to us by carbon dioxide like most other blood-feeding insects such as mosquitos. So, the best control for these pests would be to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts and dark colored clothing or to wait patiently for cooler weather when they will no longer be a problem.


Photo of Ground Beetle courtesy of Daniel R. Suiter, University of Georgia,

And just as a reminder, this is the time of the year when our insect invaders start to move into our homes. Many of the insects and other arthropods that we see every year are things like boxelder bugs, Asian multicolored ladybeetles, ground beetles, centipedes, millipedes, and spiders. All of these do not pose any physical harm to us, spiders can bite but it is rare and usually does not cause much harm. The best controls for these critters would be to use a home barrier spray, sticky traps and to vacuum them up as you see them. These insects and others are moving into our homes with the cooler temperatures to keep warm during the winter.

Fall…Plant a Tree, Clean up the Garden


Fall is a great time of the year. The heat and humidity has finally been reduced and we can enjoy going back outdoors again. It is a great time of the year for planting to get things in the ground before it freezes and we can start doing other chores in our landscape to keep it looking beautiful throughout the winter months.

Fall is a great time to plant a new tree in your landscape to add fall interest to your yard. When choosing a tree and location in your yard, the first thing to consider is overhead and underground utilities, future construction sites, and the mature size of the plant.  Large trees should be planted a minimum of 15 to 20 feet away from buildings and a minimum of 20 to 25 feet from overhead power lines.  Purchasing a three to six foot tree usually saves money, gets the tree started faster and will outgrow more expensive, larger alternatives.

Health and longevity of the tree starts with good planting practices. First, remove the tree from the container and remove all wraps and ropes around the rootball, including the burlap. Next, shake off the excess soil and find the main rootball. The area where the lateral roots begin should be just below the soil surface. After you have determined the actual size of the rootball, dig a hole twice as wide and only as deep as the roots. Backfill into the hole with the soil that was removed when digging the hole to avoid creating a wall that roots cannot penetrate from one soil type to another. Add a mulch ring to all trees. The ring should be 2-3 inches deep and at least 2-3 feet wide around the tree. The tree can be staked if in a windswept location but the staking equipment should only be left on for one growing season.

With the threat of Emerald Ash borer now in Nebraska, this fall would be a good time to plant a tree as a replacement for an ash in your yard. With Emerald Ash Borer still only in the Omaha area, this portion of Southeast Nebraska doesn’t need to do anything for treatments or removal of ash trees yet. Treatments should not be done until Emerald Ash Borer is found within 15 miles of your tree. However, if you have decided that your ash tree is not in the condition to treat or you don’t want to spend the money to treat it annually, a replacement tree is the next best option. If you start a new tree nearby now, by the time EAB gets here and we have to remove trees, you will already have one started with a good amount of shade provided.

pruning tools-K. Todd

Pruning Tools Photo courtesy of Kim Todd, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

Fall is also a great time to get out and clean up our landscape beds. Replenish the mulch around the plants and remove the leaves of herbaceous perennials once they have turned brown in the fall. It is vital to wait until those leaves turn brown in the fall because while they are still green, they are still taking nutrients back into the roots of the plant that will help kick start the plant early in the spring. Wait until spring to cut back roses and butterfly bushes. These plants have a hollow stem and can have more winter dieback if they are pruned in the fall. Don’t prune any spring flowering shrub in the fall or you will be pruning off the flower buds for next spring. Wait until the trees are dormant before pruning them in the fall. If pruned too early, new growth can occur which will be more vulnerable to dieback in freezing temperatures.

What is wrong with my lawn?

What's Wrong With My Lawn blog post

This year has been extremely humid and warm. We have seen a summer full of warm temperatures during the day that cool down in the nighttime to the dew point, which has been causing a high number of turf diseases. We are also now experiencing a great deal of crabgrass and other summer annual weeds in our lawns. These are things that decrease the overall appearance of our lawns but they are not long lasting this late in the summer.

Brown patch is a fungal turf disease showing up in our lawns right now. This disease often shows up in lawns that were overwatered or were fertilized heavily in the summer months as brown patches in an otherwise green lawn. Upon closer investigation, you may notice that the leaves may have long tan-colored spots that are surrounded by a dark brown margin. You can avoid this disease by avoiding over-irrigation and over-fertilization of the lawn.

Summer Patch at Christenson Field, P Hay

Summer Patch on a baseball Field, Photo by Paul Hay, Nebraska Extension Educator in Gage County.

Summer patch is also showing up in our lawns right now. This fungal disease also leaves brown patches in your lawn, but usually they are in a circular pattern with an area of green turfgrass in the center, like a frog-eye appearance. The leaves do not have a distinct marking on them but the roots will be brown. The best control for summer patch is to follow fertilization and watering requirements to reduce the stress to your lawn.

The diseases that we see in our lawns this time of the year are mostly environmental. You can help to reduce the incidence of these diseases if you take good care of your lawn. Keeping the lawn mowed at 2-3 inches high, correct fertility, and correct watering, will help keep your turf healthy and able to compete with these diseases. Fungicides can be used, but they need to be applied as a preventative and are not usually necessary in home lawns. Home lawns can tolerate a low level of damage without the need for fungicides. If this is a problem that is seen in the same location of your lawn year after year, you may need to use a fungicide, but that should be used in the spring or in the summer as the first signs begin to appear in your lawn. At this time of the year, fungicides will not fix the damage that is already seen in the lawn this year. So in the late summer and fall, fungicides are not recommended.

crabgrass, Joseph Berger, Bugwood

Photo of Crabgrass by Joseph Berger,

Crabgrass and other summer annual grasses are also becoming more problematic now. In addition to the maturation of plants that germinated earlier in summer, incidence has also increased from recent rains and warm weather that allowed more seed to germinate where a sufficient herbicide barrier is not still present, especially in full sun or thin turfgrass canopies. Control is not necessary this time of the year because the crabgrass present in your lawn now, will die with the first fall frost in a few weeks. It is the best environmentally and economically for you to use a pre-emergent herbicide next spring.

Lawn fertilization should occur with the holidays: Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween. Applications for Labor Day can be done anytime now. Apply 1 pound of Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet on your lawn. Once the temperatures cool down, you can begin using 2,4-D products to combat broadleaf weeds such as dandelions, clover, and henbit. The fall is the best time to treat for the perennial weeds so that the chemical is taken into the roots with the nutrients the weeds have in their leaves that they store in their roots over the winter months. For henbit, it is best to treat this in the fall as well to kill it before it sets seed next spring.

Planting for Fall Color

Planting for Fall Color

Fall will soon be here, with it comes cooler weather, football, and the changing of color of many of our plants. For fall, there are a few plants that I always look to for a great show of color, this is a short list but there are many more plants for fall color.

Fall color is one of the reasons we all enjoy the season. The leaves turn from green to red, yellow, or orange in the fall due to the pigments present in the leaves. During the spring and summer months, green chlorophyll is the dominant pigment in leaves and this hides the other pigments from view. In the fall, the production of chlorophyll slows down and eventually stops altogether to allow the other pigments to show up in our leaves. The different conditions we see each fall affects the how much and how vivid the colors are in the fall, which is why some years we have better fall color than others. Clear days, cool nights, and dry conditions in the fall promote high quality fall color, according to Iowa State University.

Garden mums or Chrysanthemums are wonderful for fall color. They bloom in August and September in colors such as purple, pink, orange, yellow, white, coral, and deep burgundy or red. They need to be pinched back 2-3 times in June until Independence Day to ensure that they bloom properly in the fall. Some mums have low winter hardiness due to repeated freezing and thawing throughout our winters. If this occurs, add extra mulch around the plants before winter, cut the plants back in the spring rather than in the fall, and discontinue fertilization by the end of July.

Shagbark hickory, flickr, Nicholas A. Tonelli

Shagbark Hickory photo from Nicholas A. Tonelli via Flickr Creative Commons License

Shagbark Hickory is one of my favorite trees that are underutilized in Nebraska. In the fall this tree turns a brilliant golden-yellow color to help enrich your fall landscape color. The shaggy bark appearance that the older trees grow into is another unique characteristic of this tree. This is a native plant to the region so it will withstand the constantly changing weather that is typical of Nebraska. Also, because it is a hickory tree, it produces a tasty, edible nut that is similar to hickory nuts, making it a great tree choice for nut production and for wildlife.

Burning Bush- 4

Burning Bush in Fall Color

Burning Bush is a terrific large shrub choice for most any landscape. This is a type of shrub that can grow up to 20 feet tall, but there is a compact version that grows up to 10 feet tall. It has a deep glossy green leaf throughout the spring and summer but in the fall it turns a bright red color or pink in shady locations. One problem with Burning Bush, however, is that it is a plant that is susceptible to scale insect. Scale can be controlled when in the crawler stage, typically in the early spring, with an insecticidal soap or Horticulture oil.

There are also a lot of great oak trees that can be planted for great fall color. Red and white oaks turn red in the fall. Bur Oaks turn a yellow color in the fall. Shumard oak is another great oak tree that has reliable red fall color. Oak trees are a great tree choice for Nebraska and their fall color just makes them that much better. They are well adapted for most of the conditions we face in Nebraska and can typically withstand drought conditions fairly well. Plus, their acorns are a huge draw for wildlife for those who enjoy to view deer, squirrels, and other wildlife.


Grasshopper via Mark Robinson,Flickr

Photo of a Grasshopper from Mark Robinson via Flickr Creative Commons License

This year has been quite warm and fairly dry. We have been lucky to have received the rain that we did see come through in July after such a dry June. However, that warm, dry weather has lead to an increase in grasshopper populations this year. These grasshoppers have been a large problem in our lawns and gardens.

Grasshoppers can be a problem in grassy areas and in our gardens. They will feed on flowers and some vegetables such as lettuce, beans, and sweet corn under normal situations. However, in situations where the population is high, like this year, they can be found feeding on nearly all vegetables and in some cases even trees and shrubs. They can even be found eating paper, paint, and window screens. On our plants, you will notice a high number of grasshoppers as well as the chewed appearance of the leaves, fruits, and flowers of many of our plants.

Grasshoppers are often reduced in population due to the environment during their developmental period of life. If we have cool, wet weather right after they hatch from their eggs, typically in early to mid-May, this will help reduce the populations. The nymphs are vulnerable to death due to starvation in the early development of their lives. In most years, we face a fairly wet, cool May that helps reduce the population of grasshoppers, but this year that did not happen, so our populations are high.

Grasshoppers can be managed fairly well. There are some good cultural and mechanical practices that can help as well as some use of chemicals in other locations.

Keeping overgrown grassy areas mowed and/or tilled will help reduce the sites where grasshoppers prefer to lay their eggs, therefore helping to reduce the population. It may also help to leave some of the border areas of a large yard, especially in an acreage setting, unmowed so that the grasshoppers will stay in the unmowed areas of the lawn and not move as quickly into the lawn and garden areas. You may also plant some trap crops, such as zinnias or other flowers in these border areas to attract grasshoppers to these plants instead of your lawn or garden.

For chemical control, it is best to treat grasshoppers when they are young. Once grasshoppers become full grown adults, they have a decreased susceptibility to insecticides and they are larger which also makes them harder to control with insecticides. With all insects, management is much more effective if insecticides are applied at a younger age for the insects to be controlled.

illinois bundleflower

Look for areas along the roadsides for spraying where eggs are deposited.

When applying insecticides for grasshoppers, first concentrate the sprays on the roadsides and ditches where grasshoppers lay their eggs to get them when they first emerge from the eggs. Then you can focus on the lawn and garden areas. In the vegetable garden, be sure to use insecticides that are labeled for use in the vegetable garden such as sevin or eight and follow the PHI. The PHI is the amount of days to wait to harvest after spraying has been done. Most any general insecticide can be used in locations not in the vegetable garden including sevin, eight, or malathion, just make sure the label has grasshoppers and the area to be treated on it and it will work.

The information for this article came from the NebGuide: A Guide to Grasshopper Control in Yards and Gardens by Gary Hein Extension Entomologist, John Campbell Extension Entomologist, & Ron Seymour Extension Educator.

Yard and Garden: August 5, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for August 5, 2016. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 5, 2016. It can also be found on for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Host: Graham Herbst, Community Forester Specialist with the Nebraska Forest Service

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts.

1. The first question of the day was a walk-in client wondering what the weird structures in his yard were?

A. These would be fungal formations. The one that popped open is a puffball and the other is a type of mushroom. Neither of these are edible, they are both poisonous. They will develop in a yard from decaying roots of old or removed trees. They can be removed manually if you would like or they will go away on their own.

2016-08-05 10.14.05

Puffball on the left, Mushroom on the right

2. A caller has a small tree that is leaning that looks like a palm tree, what is it and why is it leaning?

A. After visiting the home after the show, it was determined that the tree was a sumac. It is leaning because that is the growth habit of a sumac. They tend to form a colony and lean every direction for sunlight.

3. A caller has a zucchini plant that just all of a sudden started dying off. Is this plant just done for the year or can something else be wrong with it?

A. This is probably due to squash vine borer. There is no way to fix the problem once it has gotten to the point of wilt and death. When you remove the plant, cut open the stalk to see the borer caterpillar. For the remaining plants use sevin, eight, or bifenthrin at the base of the plants to reduce the chances of those plants getting the borer as well. You can also wrap the base of the plant with aluminum foil or a toilet paper tube to protect it from borers laying eggs to bore into the plants.

4. A caller has cedar trees that have pine cone structures all over them that are killing the trees. What are these and how can they be controlled?

A. Those would be bagworms. At this time of the year it is too late to control them as their feeding has greatly reduced and possibly stopped for the year. Once they are in their bag the sprays cannot penetrate the bags to get to them so there is no need to spray now. Pick off and destroy all the bags you can get to and next spring watch for them sooner to spray at the correct time of the year.



5. With bagworms, will sevin work for spraying them?

A. Yes. Sevin, eight, bifenthrin, tempo, malathion, or bT are all good insecticides to use when the bagworms are actively feeding.

6. A caller has wild cucumber growing on trees. How can this be controlled?

A. This weed has shallow roots and will pull out easily. You can treat with a herbicide, but not as a spray because that would harm or even kill the tree it is growing on. You can paint roundup on the leaves to help control it.

7. This caller has a mature maple tree that has mushrooms growing in the center of it. Can it survive?

A. It is best to manage the trees shape throughout the life of the tree to help it from having to have large branches removed. At this point there is no way to fix the hole and decay that have already begun. If the tree is in a location that it will not hit structures or people it can be left up longer, but it would be best to have a certified arborist come take a look at it to determine if the tree is safe to stand or needs to be removed.

8. A caller has a tree that the roots were exposed during work on the house nearby and then the roots were covered back up. Now, there are a lot of tree suckers coming up throughout the lawn. Can Tordon be used to control these?

A. Tordon is not labeled for use in a landscape setting. Also, using any type of insecticide on the suckers could harm or even kill the main tree. Since these suckers are all growing in the lawn, it would be best to just continually mow them off. The suckers appeared because the tree was stressed from the construction around the roots. Sucker stop can be used to slow the growth of the suckers but not completely eliminate them.

9. An email question was asked how to control locusts that are taking over a pasture?

A. Grazon is a good choice for pastures as a full foliage treatment during June. You can cut the stump and do a basal treatment anytime. Another choice would include Dicamba or a Trimec product that contains dicamba.

10. Another email question came in with a cottonwood tree that has brown tips on the leaves and lots of ants on the tree. Are the ants causing the problem? Can this be controlled?

A. The brown tips could be from sunscald which is due to the heat and drought we have faced lately. Aphids are probably also present on the tree which would bring the ants in to feed on their honeydew excretions. The ants are not harmful to the tree. The aphids are not causing much of a problem. Control measures are not necessary. Mulch the tree and water it to help with sunscald.

11. A caller from Iowa has hostas that were variegated in the leaves for the past 20+ years and now the leaves are solid green. What is causing this?

A. This is called reversion. The plant is a hybrid or cultivar that has reverted back to the original plant or parent plant with solid green leaves. It will not turn back into the variegated form.

12. A caller wanted to know why windbreaks and trees along creeks are being removed?

A. Sometimes the trees get old and start to become a hazard after they die. It also allows for more farming areas. These windbreaks are beneficial to wildlife, insects, and soil microbes and to help reduce water pollution from pesticide and fertilizer runoff.

13. The last caller of the 2016 season wanted to know when to transplant clematis, iris, peony, spirea, and general perennials?

A. all of these can be transplanted in the fall. Wait until mid to late September before doing this to get through the hot, dry weather. Could be done in the spring with some of these as well, but fall would be great.

Thanks for all of the great questions on the show and for reading the blog posts! I look forward to another great season of Yard and Garden Live in 2017!! Keep reading my blog for other great updates on keeping your yards and gardens “Green and Growing”!

Harvesting from your Garden

Harvesting from garden

I love this time of the year, not because of the extreme heat, but because my garden is beginning to produce large quantities of vegetables for my family to enjoy in our meals and to preserve for the winter months. Sometimes it is hard to determine the best harvest time and use for the vegetables from a garden but here are a few tips to remember.

Tomatoes are a great choice for a vegetable garden. They can be preserved in so many ways to be enjoyed throughout the entire winter. The anticipation for our tomatoes to begin to ripen is difficult, but once they begin, they grow strong. This year we have had to wait a little longer than normal for our tomatoes to begin to produce. Due to the high heat in June, poor pollination occurred.

For harvesting tomatoes, it is best to wait until the tomato is firm and colored correctly for the particular variety you are growing. Make sure you know what you planted to know what color they should be. If the temperatures get too hot, they may soften if left on the vine until they are the correct color, when that occurs, it would be best to pick tomatoes early and allow them to ripen indoors.

Tomatoes stored in the refrigerator can only be stored fresh for 4-10 days. According to Alice Henneman, a Registered Dietician with Nebraska Extension, tomatoes can be frozen raw with or without the skins to be used in cooked recipes for months later. Tomatoes can also be processed into salsas, paste, sauce, and juice for storage and use later in the year in other forms.

2014-08-18 07.57.37

Salsa made from my garden

Zucchini is another great plant for your garden. Zucchini plants are easy to grow and will produce plenty of harvest for a family from only one or two plants. If you planted too many zucchini plants they are easy to store as well. Zucchini should be harvested when the fruit is young and tender and when your fingernail easily penetrates the rind. Most zucchini should be harvested when they are 1 ½ inches in diameter and 4 to 8 inches in length. Zucchini is easily missed and they are fast growing vegetables. If you have some zucchini harvest that is too large for grilling or slicing for other recipes or for freezing, you can use the large produce for baking. Remove the seeds and shred what is left for use in many baking activities like zucchini bread or muffins. Fresh zucchini can be stored in the fridge for 5-14 days.

Peppers should be harvested when they are firm and full sized. If it is a red, yellow, or orange variety, they need to be left on the plant for an additional 2-3 weeks for coloration to occur. Peppers can be frozen for consumption later in uncooked foods or in cooked foods. Fresh peppers can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks if handled properly.

Cucumbers should be harvested when they have grown to the size that is best for the use and the size determined by the variety. If you are using the cucumber for a sweet pickle or for baby dill pickles you would want the cucumbers to be 1 ½ to 2 inches long. If you are using them for regular dill pickles it is best to pick them at 3-4 inches in length. For fresh slicing cucumbers harvest when they are 7 to 9 inches long. It is best to harvest daily and harvest cucumbers before they get too large with large seeds inside. Cucumbers can be used fresh for 10-14 days.

The harvest information for this article came from the NebGuide: When to Harvest Fruits and Vegetables by Sarah Browning, Lancaster County Extension Educator. The freezing guidelines came from


Yard and Garden: July 15, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for July 15, 2016. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 5, 2016. It can also be found on for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Host: Julie Albrecht, Professor in Health and Nutrition Science

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts.

1. The first caller of the day wanted to know how to control corn earworm in his sweet corn?

A. The best option would be for next year, because at this stage it is too late to control them if you are already harvesting. It would be best to choose a resistant variety so chemicals won’t be necessary. You can spray for the earworm, but it should only be done twice per season with carbaryl (Sevin) and it should be sprayed on the silks where the eggs are. There will not be much control this late in the season since the earworms are already there.

2. A caller has green beans that are blooming but they are not setting on. What would cause this?

A. This could be due to poor pollination due to low amount of insect activity in the high temperatures. If pollination doesn’t occur soon, you could hand pollinate the plants by using a q-tip to touch the pollen of male flowers and then touch the stigma of the female flowers. It could also be that the flowers present are all male flowers and then it will just take time for the female flowers to appear.

3. This caller noticed that they have a lot of grasshoppers in their flowers. What can they do to control them?

A. Any general insecticide will work on grasshoppers. Sevin, eight, tempo, malathion, etc will work on flowers. Also be sure to spray the ditches and roadsides where grasshoppers are common. If grasshoppers are in the vegetable garden only use chemicals labeled for use in the vegetable garden and watch the PHI for when you are able to harvest after applying chemicals.

4. A caller has acorn squash in his garden. Recently, one of the plants all of a sudden died, the leaves turned brown and it got wilty. He is watering all of the plants the same and only one plant looks like this. What would cause that?

A. This is probably due to squash vine borer. There is no way to fix the problem once it has gotten to the point of wilt and death. When you remove the plant, cut open the stalk to see the borer caterpillar. For the remaining plants use sevin, eight, or bifenthrin at the base of the plants to reduce the chances of those plants getting the borer as well. You can also wrap the base of the plant with aluminum foil or a toilet paper tube to protect it from borers laying eggs to bore into the plants.

squash vine borer damage

5. How long should you boil green beans when processing them and do they need to be cut to certain lengths when processing?

A. Green beans can be used whole or cut to any desired length. For processing, boil in a pressure canner at 11 pounds pressure for a dial gauge or 10 pounds pressure for a weighted gauge canner. They should be boiled for 20 minutes for pint jars and 25 minutes for quart jars. If you are blanching the green beans for freezing, they should be boiled for 3 minutes and then immediately placed in cold water prior to placing in freezer bags for freezer storage. For more information on processing foods, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation at:

6. Why is it not safe to can in an oven?

A. The jars can explode and that can cause the glass on the door of the oven to explode as well. There are no recommendations regarding length of time to can in the oven because there is no way to determine how hot the center of the jar is. It is important to ensure that all of the contents of the jar get to the correct temperature for proper, safe canning practices.

7. A caller is growing tomatoes in feed barrels, the leaves are curled up. Is this due to a soil nutrient issue or what could be causing this, he waters every other day with a hose until the water runs out the drainage holes in the barrels?

A. This could be due to physiological leaf curl. This condition often appears as spring weather gives way to hot, dry summer conditions. Plants often put on large amounts of foliage growth in the spring and they don’t have enough roots to provide sufficient water to support the plant as the weather gets hotter and drier. Plants cope with this water issue by rolling their leaves. The older leaves are usually affected first. Leaves roll upward toward the center mid-vein, without any deformation or twisting. Plant leaves may recover and unroll if the stress is alleviated. Harvest yield is not affected.

8. This caller has heard an old saying that you should put your corn into a brown paper sack before putting it into the freezer for freezing corn on the cob. Is this true?

A. This wouldn’t do anything for the corn. Just make sure that you use a freezer bag for anything you freeze and that you only put it one layer deep until it has all frozen through to get it to freeze faster and help the shelf life of the product.

9. A caller wanted to know how to tell when peaches are ripe?

A. The red coloration is not a good sign for peaches now due to new peach varieties with a lot of red coloration in the skin color. It is best to just pick a few when they are getting close to being mature and try the flavor. You don’t want to pick the fruits before they are ripe as the sugar content will be low. When the base color has turned from green to full yellow they should be mature.

10. The final caller of the day has a tree that he transplanted from a construction site. When it was moved, the roots were slightly damaged and the top of the tree broke out. It lost all of its leaves when it was planted in the new location in late May, but now has new growth on the ends of the branches. Will this tree survive?

A. Give it time, the fact that there is growth on the ends of the branches is hopeful. The tree would have lost apical dominance when it lost the top of the tree. Use a wooden dowel and some masking tape to try to start a new leader. The root damage may not be evident on the tree for 10-15 years so you won’t know for a while if it will survive from the root damage. Keep watering the tree every other day for 20-30 minutes during this year and add a mulch ring that is 2-3 inches deep and 2-3 feet wide around the trunk of the tree.