Fall Color

Shagbark hickory, flickr, Nicholas A. Tonelli

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

Fall is a wonderful time of the year, especially when the trees have a good display of colors.

There is a reason why our trees turn so pretty in the fall and why they are green the rest of the year. The color in our trees, during any part of the year, is due to four different pigments that are present in the leaves: chlorophyll, carotene, tannin and anthocyanin. During the spring and summer, chlorophyll is the primary pigment in leaves. It is constantly being generated by the trees as it is easily broken down by bright sunlight. When this compound is being produced in the spring and summer, it is the most prevalent and that is why we see the green in the leaves.

As the nights gets cooler and the days get shorter, the tree produces a membrane between the branches and the leaves, causing them to no longer receive any chlorophyll that the tree might still be producing. This membrane also leads to the eventual shedding of the leaves in the fall. At this time, the other pigments are allowed to show up in the leaves.

Carotene is the pigment that is responsible for yellow and orange colored leaves. Carotene is always in the leaves, as it aids in the capture of sunlight for photosynthesis, but it is at a lower amount than chlorophyll so the green color shows up as the predominant pigment.

Tannins are our least favorite pigment color; they make the brown colored leaves. Tannins are always present in leaves but are not shown until the chlorophyll and carotene are gone from the leaves. These often accumulate in the dead portions of the leaves, which is why dead areas of our leaves turn brown in color.

Anthocyanin is the pigment that is responsible for pink, red, and purple leaves. This pigment is usually not present in the leaves until the fall. Some trees have red or purple colored leaves during the entire growing season because they have higher amounts of anthocyanins than chlorophyll throughout the whole growing season. Other trees don’t produce any anthocyanins and those are the trees that turn yellow, orange, or brown during the fall. Those trees and shrubs that turn red in the fall form anthocyanins when the concentration of sugar in the leaf increases. Low temperatures and bright sunshine destroys chlorophyll and when the temperatures stay above freezing during this time, anthocyanins are produced.

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Burning Bush with great Red fall color

So, what causes our trees to turn bright and colorful in the fall and why are some years better than others? The brightest fall colors are produced when dry, sunny days are followed by cool, dry nights. The dry, sunny days are needed to break-down the chlorophyll in the leaves allowing the other pigments to be dominant in the leaves. The cool, dry nights are also necessary for fall color because trees need to avoid freezing temperatures which can injure or kill the leaves causing them to stop producing much sugar at all. The sugar content is what increases the amount of the anthocyanin, or red pigment. The yellow and brown will be present, but the red is necessary as well.

You don’t have to travel far to get amazing fall colors from the trees. There are many places right here in Nebraska to go for a wonderful fall color display in the trees. Indian Cave State Park in the far Southeast portion of the state, Ponca State Park in Northeast Nebraska, the Nebraska National Forests, and even your own backyard are great locations to find fall tree displays. Look around, they are not that hard to find, just as long as we have dry, sunny days followed by cool, dry nights and minimal frost until later in the season we will have a beautiful display of trees in the fall.

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Pumpkins!

Halloween Pumpkins

October is a great month. From harvest to football and cooler weather to…Pumpkins!

Pumpkins are great for eating and for decorating homes for Halloween and Thanksgiving. People seem to go crazy for all of the different edible pumpkin ideas. I even use products to make my house smell like pumpkins. The pumpkin industry is huge in the United States. In 2015, every person in the United States consumed an average of 3.1 pounds of pumpkin. This was even lower than the typical average of 5 pounds per year, but in 2015 we had a pumpkin shortage due to poor weather events, making it more difficult to find pumpkin food products in stores.

Pumpkins are a member of the cucurbit family of plants. They are in the same family as cucumbers, squash, watermelons, cantaloupe, zucchini, and, their cousin for decorations, the gourd. They can be grown throughout the majority of the United States. For mass production, the majority of our pumpkin comes from Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. Illinois grows around 90-95% of the processed pumpkins for the Libby corporation located in their own state. Libby is the company that makes the majority of the canned pumpkin products found in stores.

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Pumpkins are easily grown, but need a lot of space to grow well. They need full sunlight and a lot of water because pumpkins are 90% water. Vining pumpkins need 50-100 square feet of space per hill. Allow 5-6 feet between hills. It is hard to keep the correct spacing when planting little seeds, but the plants will fill in fast. If they are planted too closely together, they can get diseases from the humidity during the summer months amongst all of the large leaves. Pumpkins can be planted when tomatoes can, as long as it is after the last frost of the spring. However, if planted too early, you will have pumpkins for Halloween in August, so it is best to wait until mid-June to plant your pumpkins. You know when your pumpkins are ready to harvest when they have turned color and resist a fingernail when it is gently pushed against the rind of the pumpkin.

Saving seeds from pumpkins can be done easily when carving, however the next year your pumpkins may look different. Plants can cross pollinate with other plants within the same species. Pumpkins, zucchini, gourds, and some types of winter squash all share the same plant species, Cucurbita pepo. These plants could then cross-pollinate among each other and cause a unique type of pumpkin to grow. However, the cross-pollination will only change the plants that are grown from saving seeds. So, if you save seed or throw old pumpkins into a garden patch and don’t disrupt them too much next spring, you will get plants to grow, but the pumpkins you grow will not look the same as what you had this year. Cross-pollination does not affect the current seasons produce.

There are a lot of different pumpkin varieties to choose from, each having their own niche in the pumpkin market. The most common one this time of year is the Jack-o-Lantern type pumpkin which is medium sized and good for carving. It is best to not use the Jack-o-Lantern type for cooking, they don’t have the best flavor and texture. For cooking and baking use the pie pumpkin, a smaller type with creamier flesh and better flavor, which are not ideal for carving. There are many other choices including Fairytale pumpkins which are squattier, heavier, and light orange colored. Mini pumpkins are fun for easy decorating indoors and out and can be found in many colors including traditional orange and white. Giant pumpkins are grown for competitions and festivals and are specially grown. A regular Jack-o-Lantern type can get large, but for the extraordinarily large, choose seed for giant pumpkins. There are pink pumpkins, striped pumpkins, blue pumpkins, warty pumpkins, and even gourds that like to help accent your Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations. This information came from John Porter, Urban Agriculture Program Coordinator at Nebraska Extension.

Dandelion Control Should be Done Now

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Photo by Nic Colgrove

Weeds in the lawn will drive us crazy through the whole summer, but don’t forget about them yet. Fall is the best time to treat for broadleaf weeds, even though we don’t notice them as much now because they are done blooming for the year.

Perennial broadleaf weeds including dandelions, creeping Charlie or ground ivy, and clover are best controlled in the fall once the weeds have begun their preparations for winter. In the fall months, these perennial weeds will move sugars that they use for energy from the above ground portions of the plant down into the roots to store them for next spring. If they are sprayed during this phase of their lifecycle, they are more likely to take that herbicide down into the roots and kill the plants rather than just burn the tops off.

The cooler temperatures in the fall are better for turf and ornamental plants due to a reduction in volatilization. In the warm summer days, the herbicides we typically use on broadleaf weeds can turn into a gas and move to non-target plants, causing damage and in some cases even death. With the cooler temperatures, this is not a big concern because the common chemicals we use, such as 2,4-D and Dicamba, do not volatilize at temperatures below 80 degrees. Wind drift is still a concern, so always be sure to apply herbicides on days with little to no wind.

The fall is not the time to worry about or treat for summer annual weeds such as crabgrass. Those plants that are still alive will die with the first frost and the seed will not germinate until next spring when the weather warms back up again. However, you can treat now for winter annual weeds such as henbit, speedwell, and little barley. Once they have germinated this fall you can use a 2,4-D product, which can be achieved with a late October and into early November application for dandelions.

Remember, all of these chemical controls are pesticides and therefore need to be carefully considered and applied according to the label. Any material used to maintain a landscape, including fertilizer, sand, or pesticides, can end up in the storm sewer and lead to pollution of lakes, rivers, and streams. In the same manner, even our grass clippings and leaves can pollute our water supply. There are ways to manage our landscapes while reducing water pollution. The following will help when managing our lawns this fall:

  1. Any fertilizers, pesticides, and grass clippings should be swept back onto the landscape. Using a leaf blower will work as well. The idea is to keep these items on the greenscape rather than on the hardscape that leads easily to the storm sewer. Raking up leaves in the fall will also help reduce the amount of leaf debris that ends up in the water.
  2. Check your sprayers before using to ensure they are properly calibrated and the nozzles are not clogged.
  3. Compacted soils and thin turf do not allow fertilizers and pesticides to infiltrate the soil surface. Aerate and add organic matter to improve the composition of the soil to ensure these products do not run off of hard, compacted soils. Reseed bare areas of the lawn to catch lawn products.
  4. Thatch layers in the lawn can become a natural barrier to prevent infiltration. Aerate the lawn to reduce the thatch layer to allow lawn products to infiltrate their intended areas.

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Tips for Fall Plant Protections

Protect plants for winter, blog

Fall has officially arrived. There have already been frost advisories for the western part of the state, so it won’t be long until frosts occur here. It is at this time that you need to think about care for your plants to protect them through the winter. Here is a ‘To Do’ list to prepare your lawn and garden for winter.

Care of newly planted trees should be considered. If it is a thin barked tree, add a tree wrap to protect it from sunscald. Sunscald is a condition that occurs during the winter with the rapid cool down at night of the cells in the trunk of the tree. The warm up can occur in the winter on warmer days but when night comes, those cells freeze and burst, causing damage to the trunk. Tree wraps will help protect young trees from this condition, but only leave the wrap on during the winter months and allow the trunk to be opened up during the summer to avoid damage from insects and disease.

tree wrapping

Tree Wrap

Young trees would also benefit from a fence around the tree to protect it from damage from rabbits and voles during the winter months. During the winter, these critters chew on the bark of our trees which causes wounds and, in some cases, girdles the tree leading to eventual death. A 2-foot high fence of chicken wire will be sufficient to protect your tree from both of these animals. Make sure the fence is dug into the ground a couple of inches so the voles can’t get under it.

Winter mulch can be applied 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. Be sure to level the mulch back down to 2-3 inches in the spring.

Clean up all spent leaves of annual and perennial plants. Remove the dead plant material and compost it or dispose of it. If there was a problem with a disease or insect problem in the plant this summer, it would be best to dispose of it to reduce the problem with that insect or disease next year. Be sure to wait until the plants have turned brown in the fall before removing this plant material to allow them all the time available to build and store up sugars for next spring.

Now is the time to dig up your summer bulbs to prepare them for winter storage. Plants such as gladiolus, cannas, begonias, caladium, elephant ear and dahlia need to be dug up in the fall and stored indoors over the winter. They need to be dug up prior to a hard frost, or shortly after the first frost. Once the bulbs are removed from the ground, they need to be cleaned off, removing the leaves as you clean, and cure or dry them for 2-3 weeks. Then place the bulbs in crates or boxes, allowing for air flow. Store them throughout the winter in a cool, dark location such as a basement. Check the bulbs periodically through the winter to ensure no bulbs are starting to rot or mold.  If any do start to rot or mold, discard them immediately.

Aerating a lawn…

Lawn Aeration Blog

September is the beginning of our fall lawncare season. Overseeding or reseeding lawns can be done throughout the month and at the beginning of the month we can fertilize our lawns. Toward the end of the month, fall weed control can begin, but not until our temperatures cool off more. One of the other lawn activities that may be considered is lawn aeration.

Compacted soils can inhibit the growth of your grass. When a soil is compacted, the soil particles are packed too tightly together to allow oxygen and water to pass through the soil. This can lead to shallow roots for the grass plants and in turn, can lead to less drought tolerance. Compacted soils can also lead to more thatch build up on the soil surface.

Thatch is the accumulation of dead grass stems that don’t become decomposed. In compacted soils, earthworm activity decreases, as does the activity of other decomposing organisms. The reduction in decomposing organisms leads to the build-up of thatch which can cause problems with the growth of the lawn. Lawns with a high thatch layer can begin to die because the thatch layer repels water keeping it away from the roots of the grass plants.

One of the best ways to reduce thatch and alleviate soil compaction would be to aerate the lawn. Many people interchange the terms “power raking” and “core aerating” when it comes to lawn aeration. However, these are 2 very different activities. Power raking is a more intense form of reducing the thatch layer on the lawn. It is only recommended when a thatch layer is more than ½ inch because at that point it would be necessary to renovate a lawn rather than just to core aerate.

Aeration equipment

Core Aeration Equipment, Photo from John Fech, Nebraska Extension Educator

Core aeration is the method of aerating your lawn most recommended. This is the method where a machine is driven over the lawn while it pulls out many small, core soil samples throughout the lawn. These cores are laid over the top of the lawn but help by leaving holes in the soil surface for water and air to move in and they will fill back in. Core aeration will also sever the roots of the grass plants which stimulates the plants to grow new shoots to fill in the holes.

It is best to aerate a lawn in the spring or in the fall. This time of year is best because the plants can recover before winter or summer conditions that are sometimes difficult on our plants. It is also a good time of year to aerate due to the fact that the soil has more moisture in it than in the other dry months of the year. It is not recommended to aerate a lawn when it is too dry or too wet because it is more difficult to get the tines into the soil which can damage the plants more. It is not necessary to aerate your lawn every year, or sometimes at all. If your thatch layer starts to build up, you drive on the lawn a lot causing more compaction, or if the lawn begins to look thin, aeration can be done. At most, it would only be recommended to aerate a lawn every 3-5 years.

Where to plant a tree this fall…

Tree Siting Blog Article

It’s hard to believe that September is here already! With that, brings tree planting season. Fall is a great time to plant tree.

When planting your trees, remember to pay close attention to where you plant it to ensure that the tree can have a long, happy life in this new location. Often when we plant a tree, it is hard to visualize the full size of a tree, but remember, that small tree will grow into a much larger version. Plant the tree where it can spread its branches and live happily for many years to come.

When planting a new tree, think about what is all around the tree. Consider overhead powerlines, underground utilities, current buildings, any future construction that is planned, sidewalks, and the mature size of the tree.

When planting a tree, call the Digger’s Hotline at 811 to ensure there are no underground utilities near the location of tree planting. Remember, that the tree roots will grow, it would be best to give your tree plenty of space to grow without becoming too close to the powerlines to avoid future problems with the roots and the lines. If the utility company has to come in at any time to put in new lines this can damage the tree as well. Calling the Digger’s Hotline will also help so you don’t run into underground utility lines while you are planting. Never assume that the utility lines are deeper than you plan to dig.

Also, look at the above ground structures when you plant a new tree. Plant large trees at least 20 feet from a building to avoid damage to the building as the plant grows. Often, trees damage roofs, windows, and siding when the branches of the tree run into the building. If the tree won’t fit beside your home in the location you have picked, pick a different tree or a different planting location.

trees in powerlines

Trees growing in powerlines, Photos from John Fech, Nebraska Extension

Pay close attention to the location of power lines when planting a new tree. Plant your trees 25 feet away from overhead power lines to avoid damage to the lines or to help the crews of our electrical companies from having to send a crew out to prune the trees in the lines. This doesn’t help them to have to do this pruning all the time and it is a detriment to the overall quality of the tree to have a “V” cut through the middle of the canopy to allow for the powerlines. Smaller, understory trees should be used under powerlines to help the men and women who work for our electric company.

Once you have completed this evaluation of the landscape, you can determine the size of the tree that can be planted and from that, you can decide what tree you would like to plant. Don’t forget to look around your yard and the yards of all of your neighbors. Don’t plant a Maple if everyone else on the street has one in their front yard, pick something else. There are a lot of great trees that do very well in Nebraska environments but are not used enough such as Shagbark Hickory, Sweetgum, Pawpaw, and even a Linden.

This information came from the Nebraska Forest Service.

Butterflies…Everywhere

Butterflies blog

As a nature-loving person, with major interests in plants and bugs, I love going outside in the warmer months of the year to enjoy all the plant and insect life outdoors. One of my favorite things to view would be the butterflies. I love the unique coloration patterns and flying abilities of butterflies. This year there is a bit of an increase in population of one particular butterfly, the painted lady butterfly.

The painted lady butterfly is a pinkish-orange butterfly with black blotches on the wings. The forewings have a white-spotted, black tip. This butterfly has a wingspan of 2-2.25 inches. They are often confused with monarch butterflies but painted ladies are more pinkish in color, not striped, and are smaller than the monarch.

Painted lady, Whitney Cranshaw, CSU, Bugwood

Painted Lady Butterfly, Photo courtesy of Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Painted lady butterflies are being seen this year in quite large numbers. Many of the callers are just curious as to why there are so many butterflies on the gravel roads or if these butterflies will do any damage to their plants. Some callers are just curious why the populations seem so large this year. These are all great questions as this year, the population is quite a bit higher than other years.

Painted ladies are one of the butterflies in the nation that migrate through Nebraska every year from the south and they do not overwinter here. This year there is an abundance of painted ladies in the south. The high population has built over many years of ideal conditions for the development of painted lady butterflies in the south. The weather has been less harsh and there is an abundance of host plants there, as well, to help increase the population. This higher population coupled with the wind currents this year have led to a very high population moving through Nebraska late this summer.

Painted Lady underside, N. Stoner

Underside of a painted lady butterfly

As a butterfly, the painted lady is a pollinator insect and therefore is beneficial to have around. So, the butterflies will not damage our plants they will in fact help us. However, as a caterpillar, they do feed on some of our crops. It seems there is an abundance of host plants for them this year so it looks like we could face one to two more generations of the painted lady butterflies in Nebraska this year before the frost occurs. The butterflies we are seeing now are laying eggs on different plants, including soybeans, that will emerge into caterpillars. When that happens, those caterpillars could feed on the leaves of soybeans as well as our vegetable garden crops. However, it is NOT recommended to apply pesticides to control adult painted lady butterflies, instead just watch in your fields and gardens and treat the caterpillars if necessary.

So, the abundance of these butterflies is a good thing for our pollinated plants. Remember only a couple of years ago we had a very high population of the periodical cicada, it is just another reason that nature is so unique and so enjoyable. All insects go through periods of increase and decline in their populations, it is mostly dependent on environmental conditions as well as food and host plant availability. Enjoy the butterflies while they are here, we don’t usually get to see so many all at once.

Yard and Garden: July 28, 2017

Yard & Garden for blog, 2017

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for July 28, 2017. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and this will be the final episode from the show for 2017. It can also be found on kutt995.com 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: Kevin Christiansen and Evan Alderman, Agribusiness Instructors from Southeast Community College in Beatrice

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: http://go.unl.edu/44qr and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts. This Survey will Close on August 18th.

1.The first caller of the day wants to know if they can still treat for bagworms that were missed with the first application?

A. If the bag is less than 1 inch in length, insecticide applications will still be effective. However, if the bags are larger than 1 inch in length, the insecticides will not work very well. Because this tree has already been sprayed this year and still has bags, I would remind everyone to ensure that they spray efficiently and according to the label, leaving areas untreated can lead to more resistance if those bagworms contacted a small concentration of the chemicals that didn’t kill them.

2. This caller called to ask me what was the best insecticide to spray for bagworms, since I left that out on the first call?

A. Tempo or Bt would be most effective. Bt is the safer alternative because it won’t harm a lot of pollinators as it just targets insects in the Lepidopteran family of insects which includes butterflies, skippers, and moths.

3. A caller has a redbud tree that blew over in a storm this spring. The roots of this tree have begun to grow some suckers. Can one of those suckers be cared for to grow into another redbud tree?

A. Yes, the suckers can be trained into a new tree. It would help the growth of the one you choose to grow if you leave the other suckers for a while as well. All of the suckers will provide energy and food to the roots, so leaving extras for a while will help. Once the main stem gets growing, you can remove the others to push the one upright.

This caller also wanted to know if he can prune his magnolia tree so he can mow under it?

A. As long as the branches are not more than half the size of the trunk and as long as you aren’t removing more than a quarter of the overall canopy the branches may be removed. The best time to prune a magnolia tree is just after it blooms in the spring, pruning now will cut off flower buds that have already developed for next spring. If the branches that would need to be removed for mowing are too large, it might be wise to change the turf to shade perennials such as carex, bleeding hearts, hostas, coral bells, jack in the pulpit, jacobs ladder, Helleborus or Lenten Rose and many other great shade plants.

4. When is the correct time to prune a burning bush?

A. Late fall after the leaves fall off would be best. It is always easier to see the branches and where problem areas are if you prune in the dormant season. Also, it will allow the plant to quickly seal up the wounds in the spring flush of growth. It is not advised to prune now because pruning woody plants after the beginning of August until when they are dormant can hurt the plant. This may cause the plant to push new growth that would be more sensitive to cool temperatures causing more dieback in the plant.

5. A caller wants to know how do you know when Butternut and Acorn squash are mature?

A. These are both winter squash varieties so the fingernail test will work just as it does with a pumpkin. When you think the winter squash is mature, push your fingernail into the rind of the fruits. If your fingernail pokes through the rind, the squash is not mature, if your fingernail does not puncture the rind, it is a mature fruit. Winter squash should have a hard rind.

6. This caller wants to know how to control windmill grass in his lawn?

A. For perennial grassy weeds such as windmill grass, there are two options for managment, either use a Glyphosate product, such as roundup, on the weed and then reseed or use a product containing Mesotrione product, such as Tenacity, on the weed and not harm the grass. The tenacity is more expensive but will not kill your grass so there will be no need to overseed.

This caller also wanted to know what would be digging up his grass?

A. This is likely due to either skunks or racoons digging the grass trying to get to grubs living in the soil. See the following NebGuides to learn how to manage these animals: Raccoons and Skunks Also, if this is due to grubs, apply a grub control next June to reduce the grub population in your lawn.

7. A caller has tomato hornworms in her garden. How can they be controlled? She also wanted to know what grubs come from and how to control them?

A. Sevin will work to control hornworms. However, the population is not usually terrible and the hornworms can be removed by hand and thrown into a bucket of soapy water for control. Grubs are the immature form of Japanese beetles, May/June Beetles, Masked Chaffer for the majority of species in Nebraska. They can be controlled in June with a grub control like the Merit products that contain Imidacloprid.

8. This caller has a 1.5 foot tall tri-colored beech that was planted in full sun this spring. About a month ago, the leaves turned brown. The caller is watering it 2-3 gallons of water every other day. What is wrong with the Beech tree?

A. Beech trees like to be in a more protected location, so this tree may be getting too much sun and too much heat. Because it is such a small tree, there is still time to replant the tree in a more protected and slightly shadier environment. Also, this small of a tree would not need this much water. When replanting it, keep it watered every other day with only about 1 gallon of water each time. After a few weeks in it’s permanent location, you can water with 1-2 gallons of water once a week and continue to back off on days between each watering as the tree grows larger. Remember, this small of a tree will not have a very large root system and it is as easy to overwater a tree as it is to underwater one.

9. How do you control moles in the lawn?

A. Moles are best controlled with a Harpoon trap that can be purchased at most hardware stores. For management tips, see this NebGuide on Moles

10. This caller has a hibiscus tree with a braided trunk that she thought would grow to zone 4, is this hibiscus going to be able to survive in Nebraska winters?

A. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that this is a hardy hibiscus that will survive winters in Nebraska. There is a hardy hibiscus that will survive our winters outdoors and those are suited up to zone 4, there is also a tropical hibiscus that is sold here as an indoor plant and will not survive our winter conditions outdoors. I would say that the tropical hibiscus would be the type purchased with a braided trunk. It can survive indoors during the winter months, so she can dig it up and put it into a pot to bring indoors for the winter.

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Clover in a lawn

This caller also wanted to know how to control clover?

A. Clover should be managed in the fall of the year. It will take multiple applications over multiple years to fully control clover in the lawn. Use 2,4-D or triclopyr products in the fall. It is best to apply these products around September 30th and again around the middle to the end of October.

The final question from this caller was if she should cut back her Virginia creeper plant that is turning brown?

A. Leave it alone and allow the plant to come out of the browning on its own. This is a common problem with Virginia creeper that is not terribly damaging to the plant.

11. How do you control anthracnose in tomato plants?

A. A copper fungicide can be used in a vegetable garden if necessary. However, often with home vegetable gardens it isn’t worth the time and money to spray our vegetable crops as the diseases usually only last for a short time and then fade when the temperatures change a little. However, it seems for this caller that the disease is a problem every year. For more information on controlling the disease and how to manage your vegetable gardens to avoid disease problems, visit this Nebguide on Leaf and Fruit Diseases of Tomatoes.

12. A caller has carpenter bees digging holes in her shed and wants to know how to control them?

A. Carpenter bees are a beneficial insect, except when they are burrowing into the wood framing of buildings reducing their structural integrity. They are best controlled with a dust formulation of sevin. Leave the dust in the holes a few days and then the holes can be filled in with a wood putty. For more information, see this guide from Lancaster County Extension on Carpenter Bees.

13. The final caller of the day wants to know how to control ragweed?

A. At this point, the plant is growing too strong to be killed with a herbicide. The best time to treat is in the spring before the plants have grown too large. At that time, they can be treated with 2,4-D. Now, the best control would be to dig or chop out the plants.

Fungi in the Landscape

Tree with Conks 3

Everyone loves a nice-looking landscape. However, sometimes unique structures appear in our landscape for seemingly no reason. Fungi can form in the lawn or on our plants. Sometimes these fungal structures look very unappealing, but that may be the only problem. However, there are times when these structures can be a sign of more problems with our plants.

Trees often develop different types of fungi on them. Some fungi develop as a green or whitish mold-like formation on the bark of the tree. This is not damaging to the tree. However, there are fungal formations on trees that can a sign of more damage to the tree. Conks or shelf fungi can form on the branches and trunks of our trees and look like shelves growing out of the tree. When you see a conk, you are seeing the outward formation of interior decay in the tree. Conks are indicators that your tree needs to be removed in the near future because the tree is decaying on the inside and therefore not as sturdy as it once was. If you have a tree with conks and would like to know if it should be removed, have a Certified Arborist inspect the tree.

Puffballs and mushrooms are commonly found in lawns. Both of these structures are fungal formations growing off of some type of decaying organic matter within the soil. They have no roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds like plants do. They have no chlorophyll which is why they are not green and why they cannot produce their own food. Mushrooms found in a lawn are most likely not edible. If you are not sure about a mushroom, do NOT eat it. There are a lot of poisonous mushrooms found that can cause severe illness and even death, it is best to avoid eating if you are not 100% sure of the mushroom.

Puffballs are the large round structures that have no stalk to hold them up off the ground. When they mature or are struck by a raindrop or kicked, the puffball opens up to spread the spores to new areas. Puffballs are common in the late summer to early fall. Mushrooms are the formations found in your lawns and gardens that do have a stalk to hold them up off the ground. Mushrooms look like an umbrella and are often found where a tree is or was recently removed as they live on the roots of the tree or the decaying roots of the dead trunk. Mushrooms are found in moist environments such as during rainy spring months or in an irrigated lawn.

Dog vomit fungus

Dog Vomit Fungus on landscape mulch

We also see many types of slime molds in the landscape. Slime molds typically show up on mulch in our gardens and can take on many different appearances. One of the best named slime molds would be the dog-vomit fungus which looks just as the name implies. There are also yellow, gray, white, off-white, orange, and brick red slime molds. All slime molds are aesthetic issues and cause no problems to your plants. If they bother you, they can be sprayed off the mulch with a strong spray of water.

DSCN6327

Stinkhorn fungus in a landscape

Stinkhorns are another type of fungus we may find growing in the mulch around our flowers. Stinkhorns are small, pink stalks sticking up out of the ground with a brown, slimy cap similar to the cap on a mushroom. Stinkhorns are so named because of the unpleasant odor they can have. This is another type of fungus that causes no harm to the plants and doesn’t need to be removed.

For fungi in the landscape, there is no method of control other than hand-removal. They are either not harmful to our plants or they are just showing us the demise of the plant that is already happening.

Yard and Garden: July 21, 2017

Yard & Garden for blog, 2017

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for July 21, 2017. 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 July 28, 2017. It can also be found on kutt995.com 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: Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Educator in Lancaster County

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: http://go.unl.edu/44qr and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts.

1.The first caller of the day wants to know how soon they should spray for fleas outside for an upcoming camping outing?

A. Sprays for fleas will last a couple of weeks, so it would be most beneficial to spray a week ahead of the event. Using a product containing permethrin or bifenthrin would be the best control.

2. A caller has hydrangeas that are healthy looking and green but they are not blooming, why is this?

A. This could be due to a few different factors. It could be that the plant is just slow to bloom this year due to environmental factors. Give the plant time to see if it does bloom. If the lawn surrounding the plant is highly fertilized, it may be that some of the fertilizer got into the rootzone of the hydrangea plants. Lawn fertilizers are high in Nitrogen and will cause the plant to grow nice, large, green leaves without putting any energy into producing flowers. If this is the case, make sure that you stay back away from the hydrangea next year when fertilizing the lawn. Finally, this could also be due to the plants being crowded and needing to be divided to allow the plants room to develop fully and produce flowers.

3. This caller has lilac shrubs that had not bloomed for the past few years but now this year it did finally bloom. What would cause that and how can she ensure that they bloom every year?

A. The fact that they bloomed again this year is hopeful. If lilacs are pruned at the wrong time of the year, such as in the fall or early spring, the buds will be cut off when this is done. However, the caller said she has not been pruning them at all. This could be due to the lilacs getting overgrown and having old, unproductive wood in the shrubs. It might be best to try to do a rejuvenation cutting to start all of the branches off new again. With a rejuvenation cutting, the entire plant is cut off about 6-8 inches above ground level removing all diseased, dead, and weak wood from the plant.

4. When do you divide lilac shrubs?

A. This is a woody shrub and we don’t typically divide woody shrubs due to the way that they grow. However, you can dig up the suckers that grow off the main plant and pull them out and plant them in a new location. The best time to do this replanting would be in later September when the temperatures have cooled off.

5. A caller has mum plants that have leaves that are shriveling up and turning yellow. There is only a couple of the plants on each side of her house out of a large group of mums that are not as full and not doing as well as the others. She hand-waters every day.

A. Watering daily could lead to a root rot. The roots need time to dry out between waterings. If it is a root rot, there is nothing that can be done to fix the damage already done and the plants will likely die.

6. This caller has a Rose of Sharon that is not blooming. It is planted in a location with minimal sunlight, would it be in too much shade?

A. Yes, Rose of Sharon bushes need full sunlight and will not bloom if in too much shade. This fall would be a great time to move it to a location with full sun.

7. A caller has cucumber plants with brown spots on the leaves. What would cause this and how can she avoid it killing her plant quickly like it did last year?

A. This could be a fungal disease common in cucumbers this year such as anthracnose or alternaria. Fungicides are not usually recommended in home vegetable gardens because they are typically not necessary or worth the time and money. However, if this disease quickly killed your plants last year, you could spray them with a liquid copper fungicide to keep the disease from spreading this year and killing your plants again. If they died quickly, it could also be from squash vine borer or squash bugs which can kill a plant almost overnight. Spray with a general insecticide for these insects such as sevin, eight, or bifenthrin. Wait the proper amount of days after spraying chemicals before harvesting vegetables. This time will be on the label as the PHI, or post-harvest interval.

8. This caller has a cherry tree that has a white fungus growing out of the trunk of the tree. There are no leaves on the branches in the middle of the tree and it hasn’t produced any fruit this year. What is wrong with the tree?

A. This is a shelf fungi, also called conks, appearing on the tree. Shelf fungi are the outward appearance of interior decay within the tree. When shelf fungi appear on the tree, the tree is dying and should be removed.

9. A caller has a burning bush that is growing up against the deck and some of the branches are dying in the center of the bush. Can it be pruned to remove the dead wood and to cut it back so it doesn’t block the deck? If so, when can it be pruned?

A. You can remove dead branches anytime, healthy branches should be pruned back in the late fall to late winter. The branches may be dying out due to scale insects which can get on the branches and reduce the vigor in the branches they are living on. If you find scale insect, use a systemic insecticide such as one containing imidacloprid in the early spring.

 

Dog vomit fungus

Dog Vomit Fungus

10. This caller remulched their garden this spring with a wood chip mulch. Now there is a cream colored substance on the mulch that looks like cat vomit, but they have no cats. What is this?

A. This is dog vomit fungus. It is a fungal structure much like a mushroom or puffball. It is not harmful to the plants or the mulch. It can be found on mulch because it lives on decaying organic matter such as the woodchips. It is nothing to be worried about and if you don’t like the way it looks, you can wash it off with the jet setting on your hose end sprayer.

11. A caller has a prairie area where he is trying to grow a mix of wildflowers and native grasses. However, Marestail is growing in among the desirable plants. How can he control the broadleaf weeds and not kill his desired broadleaves and grasses?

A. Once the grasses and wildflowers thicken up in the prairie, they will push out the weeds, but establishment is the hardest part. Mowing this year will help to thicken up the plants growing there and will stop seed production in the marestail which is an annual weed.

12. This caller is also starting a prairie area. He has had a 2 acre pasture of alfalfa that he now wants to change over to native grasses. What is the best method of doing this?

A. The native grasses are mostly warm season grasses, so they are best planted in the end of May to the beginning of June. Dormant seeding could be done in late November, but you need to prepare the area this fall before a dormant seeding is done. To prepare the soil, kill the existing plants this fall and clean up and aerate the soil prior to planting. You can drill the seeds in when the time comes as well.

13. A caller has an area where soil was added and leveled off. How do they overseed the area that has been overtaken by weeds at this point?

A. Spray the area with roundup to kill the weeds. You can spray now and again shortly before seeding the area. Then overseed in September with a Kentucky bluegrass or Turf-type tall fescue. Once you overseed, use a rake to get the seed to contact the soil and keep it well watered.

14. This caller has an oak tree that is not fully leafed out, the top is bare and the lower leaves are smaller. What is wrong with the tree?

A. This could be due to herbicide drift since many neighboring trees look similar. If so, there is nothing to do to fix herbicide drift once it has been done, just make sure the tree is being watered and that it is mulched in. This could also be due to the fact that the tree isn’t getting enough deep water if it is just being watered by the turf irriagation. Make sure that once every 10-14 days a slow, long irrigation is done around the tree. Trees need water down to 12-18 inches deep, lawn irrigation only waters the top 4-6 inches of the soil.

15. A caller has 2 large Norway pines. How can he get grass to grow under the trees?

A. Unfortunately, grass will not grow in heavy shade under a large tree. It would be best to try a groundcover, sedge plants, or shade perennial plants. We often continue to battle grass problems and overseeding in heavy shade, but the reason the grass won’t grow is because it is not meant to be grown in shade. In these situations it is best to find other plants that are more suited to the shade or just mulch around the tree to stop weeds from growing around the tree.

16. The last caller of the day has dwarf lilacs that are quite large. How tall are they supposed to grow?

A. Dwarf lilacs, such as the Miss Kim variety, will still grow up to 6 feet tall if left unmanaged. This is still much smaller than the full sized-lilacs which grow up to 15 feet tall. You can continually prune these lilacs in the spring after they finish blooming to keep them to a smaller size. Prune within the couple of weeks after blooming so you don’t cut any flower buds off.