Yard and Garden: May 22, 2015

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This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for May 15, 2015. 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 31, 2015. 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 Korus, Diagnostician for the UNL Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab

1. A caller with a river birch that is 5-6 years old was planted with 3 trunks and now it has 5 trunks. Should those be removed or will it harm the tree?

A: River birch trees are commonly grown as a multi-trunked tree. If additional trunks appear, they can be left on or cut off with no problems for the tree, as long as they don’t grow too large before they are removed. If the trunks to be removed have grown to be 1/3 of the tree or more or the trunks are 1/2 the size or larger than the main trunk, you would not want to remove these as that would be removing too much of the tree in one growing season and can cause more problems to the tree than benefits. If they are not in the way, I would suggest leaving all 5 trunks.

2. A gentleman wanted to know how and when to prune blackberries and raspberries. He has raspberries that have died from the top downward on some branches with green growth at the base of the plant. What should he do about this?

A: The top dieback would likely be due to water stress or winterkill which occurs during the winter months when we see little moisture. As for general pruning, there is a great guide from the University of Missouri Extension to describe the many practices of pruning brambles, Pruning Raspberries, Blackberries, Gooseberries, Currants, and Elderberries.

3. This caller has amaryllis bulbs that were growing great and now the leaves are starting to turn yellow. What is the cause of this and how can she stop it from happening?

A: This plant is likely in need of a fertilizer treatment. They should receive regular fertilization with a houseplant fertilizer. Also make sure that the plant isn’t sitting in water. Amaryllis plants should be watered when the top two inches of soil are dry to the touch.

4. This caller has Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’ that she had trimmed last fall. Now one of them is only greening up at the bottom of the plant, why is this?

A: This plant is suffering from winterkill. As long as the bottom is greening up, the plant should be fine. Those dead branches can be removed back to green growth or back to the ground if there is no green on the branch at all. Remember to keep plants watered on the warm days when we face a dry winter like we did last year.

5. This caller was curious about rhubarb. How long in the year do you harvest rhubarb in the year or can you continue to harvest all year long? When should they be transplanted? What do you do when seed stalks appear on the plant?

A: You can harvest the plant until the plant begins to produce slender stalks. After that the plant needs to be left alone to replenish the sugars and nutrients to continue growing and produce next year. The stalks can be cut off or they can be pulled off. When the seed stalks appear on the plants, they should be removed. The production of seed stalks takes energy from the plant to make the seeds rather than leaving it to produce leaves and the stalks. Transplanting rhubarb is best done in the spring of the year. Avoid harvesting for the first growing season after transplanting and only do light harvest in the second season. By the third season, harvest can resume as normal. This is to allow the plant to get a good root system developed before loosing much of its leaf area.

6. This caller has a pin oak tree that is 45 years old. He added a mulch ring to the tree recently and wanted to know if rock mulch or wood chip mulch is better for the tree?

A: Any mulch is better than no mulch. Wood chip mulches keep the roots cooler and hold in more moisture than the rock mulches, but the rock mulches will not blow away or need to be replenished each year like the wood chip mulches. Either way keep the mulch only 2-3 inches deep.

7. This caller wanted to know how far apart to plant her asparagus? She planted hers 1.5 feet apart, is this too far apart?

A: Asparagus should be about 6-8 inches deep and 12-18 inches apart. There isn’t a problem with planting it too far apart, the problem would occur if they are planted too close together. Plants not spaced correctly can lead to disease problems.

Flood Damaged Plants

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We have seen a lot of rain in the past couple of weeks. And, in many locations, we have seen a great deal of flooding. Long-term flooding can cause a great deal of damage to our landscapes and gardens, but thankfully we saw short-term flooding that many of our plants will be able to survive.

Lawns are very resilient in flooded areas. Many of our lawns are still quite wet from flooded conditions. It is best to stay off of wet lawns to avoid compacting the soil. Wait until it has dried out before mowing, driving equipment over, walking excessively over, and cleaning up the debris that may be on the lawn. Turfgrass can survive 4-6 days submerged, according to Missouri Extension. Most of our floods receded prior to 4 days, so the lawn should survive. We may see an increase in lawn diseases this summer due to the high amounts of rain and floodwater that affected them this spring.

Floods also could have damaged trees. Many trees that are planted near rivers and streams can withstand longer periods of flooding. However, when the floods move into our towns, it can cause problems to our other tree species. According to the University of Wisconsin Extension, most plants can tolerate a few days of flooding during the growing season. Certain tree and shrub species are going to be less tolerant of floods, but for the short time our floods lasted, our plants should be fine.

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Once the flooding recedes, make sure the roots don’t have more or less soil on them than before the floods. If more than 3 inches of soil or debris was added to the ground surrounding the tree, remove the excess to allow the plant roots to breathe. If water pushed soil off of tree roots, add soil back to those areas to ensure they are not more exposed than they were before the flooding.

Vegetable Gardens would be more of a concern for food safety reasons. The short period of time that they were underwater, should not affect their growth. Floodwaters are typically not very clean and they can carry bacteria and other debris with them as they move across the land. It is best not to eat any vegetable raw that was at any time under floodwaters. So the best recommendation for lettuce and spinach would be to discard the entire plant. Vegetables that were submerged by floodwater should be cooked to make them safe for consumption. The vegetables that may have been planted but are still too young to produce yet would be safe for consumption when they mature. The University of Wisconsin also suggests to increase safety of the vegetables that haven’t been under floodwater, cook them, or at least wash them well and peel them, if possible, before eating. Be careful to not allow any vegetables to fall onto the ground where they can come into contact with bacteria that could still be on the soil. A layer of mulch will help reduce this issue.

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Our plants should all survive fine from the few days of flooding that many of us saw. The only way to know for sure what damage occurred to our plants is to wait and see. These plants were put under a great deal of stress and therefore may be vulnerable to many disease and insect problems through this summer. Take extra care of them and watch for signs of problems to treat them early in the infestation.

Yard and Garden: May 8, 2015

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This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for May 8, 2015. 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 31, 2015. 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: Graham Herbst, Community Forester with the Nebraska Forest Service

1. This caller has pampas grass growing in her yard that last winter had problems with winterkill. What would be a good alternative ornamental grass she could plant?

A: Pampas grass had a lot of problems with winterkill last spring due to the dry, cold, windy winter conditions we faced in the winter of 2013-2014. Pampas grass is on the edge of its hardiness zone in Nebraska, but there are many other options for native grasses here. Maidenhair grass, or Miscanthus, is a great choice for a large native grass and it has many varieties to choose many different qualities. Big Bluestem and Little bluestem are great native choices, as well as switchgrass, sideoats grama, and many more. Ornamental grasses give us winter interest and habitat and food for wildlife during the winter months.

2. A caller had a sewer that was dug out and filled with soil. She then seeded new turfgrass on the area that has come up and is growing well. This spring the area sunk back down 6 inches. What can she do to level this area out?

A: You can remove the grass from that area, gathering 4-6 inches of soil and roots with it. Add soil to bring that back up to level with the surrounding lawn, and replace the grass piece back on top. Keep this grass well-watered until it becomes established, it will act like a piece of sod. The other option would be to back fill the location with soil and reseed the area with turf seed.

3. A caller has orange odd-looking structures hanging off of her cedar trees. What is this? Will it harm the tree?

Winter gall of Cedar-apple rust.

Winter gall of Cedar-apple rust.

A: These would be the galls from a disease called cedar-apple rust. This disease requires 2 hosts to complete its lifecycle, a cedar and an apple or something else in the Malus family such as a pear or crabapple. This disease overwinters on cedar trees as a hard, brown, odd-shaped structure on the branches and with spring rains they open up to look like orange, gelatinous, galls that are reminiscent of an orange octopus. This is when the spores are spreading to the apple trees. This disease causes no real damage to cedar trees, but on apple trees it causes lesions on the apples and leaf spots. Here is a NebGuide on Cedar-Apple Rust.

4. This caller has 3 apple trees and this winter one of them has not bloomed nor leafed out. Is the tree dead?

A: Check the tree for living tissue by scraping the bark off to expose green or brown tissue underneath. If it is green, it is still alive, if it is brown it is dead. Also check the branches for flexibility, if they bend they are still alive if the break they are dead. Give the tree a few more weeks to see if it comes out of it later this spring.

5. This caller has moles in their yard. How can they be controlled?

A: Moles can be controlled with traps. These traps will euthanize the mole in the hole to be left behind after control has been achieved. These have the best effect if the mound is pushed down 2-3 times prior to placing the trap in the hole, this will show if the tunnel is an active one before the trap is placed in it. Here is a guide from the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management on Mole Control.

6. This caller has voles in their yard. How can they be controlled?

A: Voles are controlled with snap traps that we typically use for mice. Place 2 traps in the run from the voles, or the area where the grass is damaged. Place the traps perpendicular to the runs and place them facing in different directions in the run. So, for a vole run that goes North to South, place one trap facing east and one facing west. Here is a guide from the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management on Vole Control.

7. This gentleman had used Scotts liquid turf builder on his lawn and it is not working to green up the lawn or to reduce the weeds found in his lawn. He also has a zoysiagrass lawn that is not growing as well in some portions of his lawn as it has in the past. What would be causing these problems and how can he improve these?

A: Broadleaf weeds are best controlled in the fall so it is best to apply a broadleaf weed killer, such as 2,4-D, 2 times in the fall, such as September 30 and October 15. Even in the spring, some control can be achieved, but they will require more than one application as they are tough weeds to kill. The zoysiagrass may have experienced some winterkill so it might be wise to take plugs from the area of the lawn where it is growing well and move them into areas of the lawn where it is not growing so well.

8. This caller has ash trees that are getting oval-shaped holes in them and ants on the trunk of the tree. Did the ants do this to the tree? How can it be managed?

A: These ants are probably carpenter ants. Carpenter ants do not harm your trees, they will just burrow into wood that has already begun to decay for some other reason. Carpenter ants on a tree do not require treatment. The holes are most likely due to native borers of the ash tree, such as red-headed ash tree borers or ash-lilac borer. These borers can be controlled with a trunk spray with chemicals such as sevin or eight or apply a soil drench with an imidacloprid product around the base of the trunk. This doesn’t sound like it is Emerald Ash Borer because the holes from EAB are D-shaped, not rounded or oval.

9. This caller has an ash tree and wants to know when he should treat it? He has heard that it takes up to 5 years for the systemic insecticides to move throughout the tree into the canopy, if this is true should he treat now.

A: Systemic insecticides take only a couple of weeks to move throughout the entire tree and they only last for 1 or 2 years depending on which chemical is used. It is best to wait until Emerald Ash Borer gets within 15 miles of the tree before treatment begins because treatments are costly, damaging to the tree, and not necessary until the borer gets closer. Trunk injections wound the tree and after repeated years of treatments it causes a great deal of stress to the tree, so there is no need to treat and harm the tree prior to when it is necessary.

Emerald Ash Borer

Photo by Leah Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Bugwood.org - See more at: http://www.insectimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5473689#sthash.6HVDSdAf.dpuf

Photo by Leah Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Bugwood.org – See more at: http://www.insectimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5473689#sthash.6HVDSdAf.dpuf

An invasive insect pest continues to move closer and closer to Nebraska, Emerald Ash Borer. Emerald Ash Borer, EAB, has not been found in Nebraska. The closest locations to Nebraska would be the Kansas City area, which is 60 miles from the southeast corner of Nebraska, and the Creston Iowa area, which is 80 miles from the Bellevue area of Nebraska.

Emerald Ash Borer is a wood boring insect that is ½ inch long and is a metallic green color with bronze underneath the wings. The problem with Emerald Ash Borer is that it bores into healthy ash trees. We have many native borer species, but they feed on stressed or dying trees, that is what makes EAB so much worse than normal borers and it is why it is destroying so many trees.

EAB is an insect that was first found in the United States in 2002, when it was found killing ash trees in southeast Michigan. Currently, Emerald Ash Borer has been found in 25 states including Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado, but it has not been found in Nebraska.

Ash Seeds and Leaves Flickr image courtesy of Evelyn Fitzgerald per CC license

Ash Seeds and Leaves Flickr image courtesy of Evelyn Fitzgerald per CC license

Emerald Ash Borer feeds only on true ash trees, which means that mountain ash is not attacked because it is in a different family and is not a true ash tree. Ash trees have opposite, compound leaves with 5-11 leaflets. They have paddle-shaped seeds that stay on the tree through the fall and into the winter months. EAB has also recently been found on Fringe Tree, which is a tree in the same family as ash, but is not very common in Nebraska.

The signs of EAB infestation include suckering at the base of an ash tree, decline in the tree from the top of the canopy downward through the tree, 1/8 inch D-shaped exit holes along the trunk and branches, increased woodpecker damage, S-shaped Serpentine galleries underneath the bark of the tree. If you notice any of these symptoms in your ash tree, you should contact your local Nebraska Extension Educator.

EAB Damage Collage

Emerald Ash Borer treatments are not recommended until the insect is found within 15 miles of the tree’s location. There are chemical treatments that are effective against EAB. Homeowners can use a soil application, but this is most effective on trees less than 15 inches in trunk diameter. If the tree is larger, professional tree care companies can use a trunk injection. Wait until the insect is found within 15 miles before any treatment is done because the injections wound the tree and we want to wait as long as we can before we begin wounding our trees. A homeowner should also decide if the tree is in good health and a good location before beginning treatments. Planting ash trees at this time is not recommended.

At this time, the only thing we can do to help with the ever-expanding problem is to not move firewood or wood products. Buy wood locally when camping and leave unburned firewood at the campsite when you leave.

Yard and Garden: April 24, 2015

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This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 24, 2015. 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 31, 2015. 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: Jeff Culbertson, Assistant Director of UNL Landscape Services

1. This caller wants to know why the water in her rain barrels is turning green and how to fix that problem?

A: The water should be used sooner from the rain barrels and not allowed to sit in it for very long periods of time. There is a great NebGuide on ‘Rainwater Harvesting with Rain Barrels‘. Algae can sometimes appear and can be reduced by:

  • Limit nutrient build-up in the barrel by reducing the amount of sediment and plant debris entering the barrel. These are sources of nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen that promote algae. Clean roof gutters at least annually. If hosing out the roof gutter, remove the rain barrel before cleaning. Consider installing gutter screens along with using screens/filters before the barrel inlet.
  • Clean the barrel at least once a year to remove sediment.
  • Use dark-colored, painted, or opaque barrels to limit light.
  • Place rain barrels in a shady location when possible.

2. This caller had a willow that is leafing out from the bottom without any growth at the top of the tree. Is this normal or what is wrong with the tree?

A: This could be due to dieback from the winter which is being seen throughout the landscape this year. It is still early in the season so the tree could come out of it, so give it time to see if it comes back. Scrape off some of the bark with your fingernail to see if underneath is brown or green. Green is healthy growing tissue, brown is not. If it seems to be dead later in the season, you can prune out some of the dead branches and the tree may still survive.

3. When is the best time to dig cedar trees from the pasture to transplant them into a windbreak?

A: Now would be a good time to do this. Make sure they are small trees and that they are protected from deer and rabbits in their new location. Keep them well watered.

4. What is a good rhubarb fertilizer?

A: 12-12-12 or 10-10-10 would be a good general fertilizer to use or manure in the fall.

5. This caller wanted to know if Ponderosa Pine was still a recommended tree due to the threat from Pine wilt?

A: Ponderosa Pine is only mildly affected by pine wilt. Very few ponderosa pines have been killed due to the disease. It is still on the list of trees from ReTree Nebraska. Watch these trees for tip and needle blight, 2 common needle diseases, that can be easily treated with fungicides.

6. A caller has 2 trees in her windbreak that were planted about 8 years prior to a storm that has caused them to lean now. It has been a couple of years since the storm, but the trees are still leaning. Can this lean be fixed?

A: They will grow straighter over time and eventually straighten up somewhat. If the lean is too much, they will not overcome that.

7. This caller has been gradually replacing a plum hedge with Lilacs. What can he do to prevent disease and insect problems in the lilacs?

A: After about 2-3 years of initial growth, begin annually removing the largest, woodiest stems from the lilac shrubs. This will help keep the shrubs with younger, better producing wood and it will help keep the borers and scale away from the plants. As for disease control, just be sure to space the lilacs properly. Most full sized lilacs will get 3-4 feet wide so space them about 4 feet apart to reduce the overlapping of the branches and leaves which can lead to more disease problems.

8. A caller has a large asparagus bed that wasn’t cleaned up last fall. What care can be done for the asparagus now and in the future?

A: It would be best to clean the asparagus up one time a year, either in the fall or late winter just before spring growth begins. To help reduce weeds after that, spray the weeds while they are green and the asparagus hasn’t emerged for the year yet in the spring. Fertilize the planting bed either in the spring with general purpose fertilizer or in the fall with manure or both times.

9. This caller has a rose bush on an old property and wants to know how to propagate it or transplant some of it to their home?

A: Remove and transplant any suckers on the plant will work on an older rose variety that wouldn’t have been grafted. Anytime now is a great time to transplant a rose bush.

10. This gentleman has French Dwarf Lilacs and he was told not to trim them out. Is this true?

A: These can be cut back or caned out annually to keep them smaller and to help them produce more flowers.

11. A caller had stumps from trees that were cut down last year. The stumps were treated with Tordon. Can he use the mulch they will make from the stumps in his landscape or would the Tordon still be in the wood chips?

A: Wood chips that were treated with Tordon could still have that pesticide residue in the wood chips. It should not be used around plants. Disclaimer: Tordon should NOT be used in a landscape setting, it is against label instructions. Always read and follow pesticide labels. Remember: The label is the Law.

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12. This gentleman had cedars with the tips of the branches turning brown this year. What is causing that and what should be done for it?

A: This could be winter kill as that is showing up in many juniper species this spring. It may also be Kabatina, a disease of junipers. The brown can be cut out of the trees at a branch crotch. The trees should live.

13. This caller was looking for a shade tree for her front yard that is fast growing, stays around 20 feet tall and possibly provides flowers or good color to the landscape.

A: Chanticleer or Cleveland Select Pear would be good for spring color. Crabapples can also grow to 20 feet tall and would provide a great deal of color and scent in the spring. Japanese Tree Lilac is another good choice for a smaller tree.

14. This caller is planting strawberries and raspberries. What kind of care would she need to provide them?

A: Here is a good guide from Sarah Browning on Summer Berries-Raspberry and Blackberry to guide you through the raspberries. Heritage is a good raspberry variety choice. This is a good guide from Lancaster County Extension on strawberry care called Growing Strawberries.

15. This caller has a pin oak tree that has iron deficiency. She has used the iron plugs on the trees but she is curious if there is another choice that will work better and for a longer period of time on the pin oaks?

A: This tree will continue to have problems once it starts to show signs from Iron Deficiency and it will eventually die from this nutrient problem. She can try to have a professional due trunk injections which will last longer each time, but this will have to be continued for the remainder of this trees life.

16. This caller wanted to know how to prepare cut lilac flowers to last longer indoors?

A: Cut the flowers before they have opened on the plant. Make a new cut on the stem and change the water daily. Use a preservative in the water. The preservative can be either a store bought product or make your own mixture by dissolving 4 heaping teaspoons of cane sugar and 2 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar in one quart of warm water.

17. This caller wanted to control the dandelions in his yard and not the clover. Can a chemical be used for this?

A: Using spot sprays of 2,4-D when the weather is calm and the temperatures are below 80 degrees Fahrenheit for the day of application and the 2 days following would help reduce damage to the clover. The other option would be to dig or hand pull the dandelions. The chemicals that would work for dandelion would also work to kill clover.

Happy Arbor Day! Plant a Tree!!

Image Courtesy of Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Image Courtesy of Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Yard and Garden: April 17, 2015

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This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 17, 2015. 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 31, 2015. 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: Dr. Paul Read, Professor of Horticulture, Viticulture Specialist

1. A Caller wanted to know if this was a good time to transplant rhubarb?

A: Now would be a fine time to transplant rhubarb. If you wanted to harvest from it yet this year, it would be best to wait until the fall to transplant it. Rhubarb should not be harvested from within the first 1-2 years after transplanting to allow the plant to build a good root system before harvesting begins. Make sure that rhubarb is planted in a well-drained location to avoid getting crown rot, a disease that will eventually kill the plant.

2. An email listener wanted identification and control strategies on her plant with purple flowers that is blooming now.

A: This is henbit, a winter annual that is flowering to complete its lifecycle. Because henbit is basically done growing for its lifecycle, it is best to leave it alone and let it die naturally in the next few weeks. The seeds are already in the soil for next year. Henbit is best controlled with a 2,4-D product in the fall. Mark the areas where henbit is found in your lawn this year and spray those areas in the fall. Management also can be achieved by overseeding turf into those areas where henbit is found or planting something else to compete with the henbit.

3. This caller wanted to know how to control clover

A: The best time to control clover would be in the fall with a couple of applications of a 2,4-D product. Applications of this product now can be useful, but will not eliminate the problem altogether. Be sure that when you apply 2,4-D to your landscape to not allow it to drift to any other broadleaf plant, including our trees, shrubs, and perennials. Also, only spray when the temperatures are below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. A gentleman has a lawn that has been neglected for a while that he is struggling to keep turf alive in a full-shade location with poor soil. What can he do to get the turf to live there? Also, in another area of full sun, would dwarf fescue be a good turfgrass choice?

A: Because it is poor soil that had subsoil put on top of the existing soil, it would be best to aerate and add organic matter to try to improve the soil conditions. Full shade is difficult to grow turf in, so it would be best to choose a full shade perennial or groundcover or somehow prune the trees to improve the sunlight for the turf. Dwarf fescue is not a good choice because the root systems are not as deep as the turf-type tall fescues or Kentucky bluegrass.

5. What would be the fruit tree spray schedules for cherry and apple trees?

A: Orchard fruit tree sprays can be applied to both of these types of trees on a 10-14 day interval, while avoiding the blooming period to avoid damage to the pollinators. There are guides to spray schedules from many Universities including one for homeowners from Missouri Extension

6. A caller wanted to know what are some good varieties for pear trees in Nebraska? Does he need multiple species for pollination? How does he mulch these trees?

A: Pear trees are not self-pollinated so you will need to plant 2 different varieties to get fruit. Some good choices for Nebraska would include Luscious, Harrow Delight, Harvest Queen, and Seckel. A mulch ring is necessary to help the tree survive, it should be only 2-3 inches deep.

7. This caller used crabgrass preventer with fertilizer in it a couple of weeks ago and wants to know when he should use his weed and feed? Also, what type of care would he need for shrub roses he just planted this spring?

A: It would be best to just use a 2,4-D product anytime now and wait until the end of May to do another application of straight fertilizer to get through the summer, since he already applied fertilizer with his crabgrass control. The best thing for the roses would be to ensure that they are kept well-watered but not overwatered.

8. A gentleman has Philodendrons and Crotons as houseplants that he has moved outside for the summer. Now the leaves on the Philodendrons are curling up, why is that? Also, what kind of care should be given to the Croton, is misting a good practice for them?

A: These plants are tropical plants that we can grow indoors in our homes. The nights are still too cool for those, which is why the Philodendrons may be having leaf rolling issues. If the weather is predicted to get to the low 40’s to 30’s for the overnight hours, it would be best to bring these plants indoors. The Crotons should be watered properly from the base of the plant to ensure survival. Misting plants leaves the leaves wet which can lead to diseases.

Houseplant

Philodendron picture by Soni Cochran, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

9. What can be done to control ants found in the kitchen?

A: Terro ant baits work the best with the odorous house ant. Also, seal up all cracks and crevices in the foundation and around doors and windows. Clean up plant debris outside the home near where ants are found inside the home to reduce locations where ants may be hiding outdoors.

10. A lady has blackberries that are overgrown. How can she clean them up?

A: Cut out the old stems that are existing and continue to do this at the end of every growing season.

11. This caller has a 30 year-old pear tree that has never produced fruit. She has one pear in her landscape. Why would it not produce fruit?

A: Pears are not self-pollinated. Plant another variety and it should begin to produce fruit.

12. When is the best time to prune a snowball bush?

A: This is a spring blooming shrub, so it is best to prune it immediately after it has finished blooming for the year.

13. This caller wanted to know how to control Dandelions in her yard?

A: 2,4-D products can be used now but will have the best efficacy in the fall. If applied now, ensure that the wind is not blowing and the temperatures are at or below 80 degrees Fahrenheit for the day of application and the 2 days following.

Photo by Nic Colgrove

Photo by Nic Colgrove

14. This caller has started tomatoes and peppers from seed indoors and they are now becoming tall and spindly. What would cause that and when can they be placed outdoors?

A: They will need more light to avoid becoming tall and spindly. Also, be sure to buy clean and sterile soils for seedling production to avoid problems with Damping Off, a disease common to seedlings. Summer crops can be planted outdoors in the beginning of May, typically Mother’s Day is a good date to plant summer vegetable gardens.

Arbor Day, Plant a Tree

2014-10-06 15.27.18

Arbor Day is April 24, 2015. To show support for Arbor Day, we should all go out and plant at least one tree. If you don’t have room for one in your yard, trees can be donated to parks and schools or you can go to the Arbor Day Foundation and donate a tree to be planted in one of our Nation’s forests. Nebraska didn’t always have as many trees in it as it does today, so take some time on Arbor Day to plant a tree to ensure that we have trees for years to come.

Deciding what tree to plant is half of the battle when planting a tree. There are so many great tree selections that will grow very well in our Nebraska Environment. ReTree Nebraska is an affiliate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that focuses on “raising public awareness of the value of trees and reverse the decline and improve the sustainability of community trees and forests”. ReTree has been working on a list of great trees for Nebraska, each year adding more trees to that list. The list for 2015 includes Hackberry, Sycamore, Baldcypress, Catalpa, Kentucky Coffeetree, Elm Hybrids, Hackberry, Sugar and Bigtooth Maple, Chinkapin Oak, Bur Oak, English Oak, Shantung Maple, Miyabe Maple, Gambel Oak, Tree Lilac, Concolor Fir, Black Hills Spruce, and Ponderosa Pine. Any of these would be great choices for your yard, but diversity is the key when planting trees. The 2 trees added to the list for 2015 were Hackberry and Sycamore.

Image Courtesy of Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Hackberry Tree Image Courtesy of Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Hackberry is a great tree for Nebraska because it is regionally native and adapted to our ever-changing Nebraska environment. The leaves have an uneven base and typically are found with a gall on the leaves due to the Hackberry psyllid. These galls are not harmful to the tree, they are just an aesthetic nuisance. It is a great tree for pollinators as well.

Image Courtesy of Richard Webb, Self-employed horticulurist, Bugwood.org

Sycamore Bark Image Courtesy of Richard Webb, Self-employed horticulurist, Bugwood.org

Sycamore is another great tree. Sycamore trees grow very large, up to 100 feet tall with a massive trunk. The leaves on a sycamore tree are tri-lobed and are 4-10 inches long and slightly wider than they are long. Sycamore trees have unique camouflage bark that opens up to a white base.

Another very important factor that you need to keep in mind when planting trees, would include how to plant a tree correctly to ensure healthy growth. First of all, remove all of the burlap and any other materials from the root ball before planting. Be sure to also remove any tags, twine, or wire from the tree. Remember to remove all the grass and weeds that are within the area you will be planting the tree. Dig a hole that is 2-3 times wider and no deeper than the root ball and loosen up the sides of the hole. Plant the tree so that root flare is at the soil surface. Do not amend the soil that is in the hole, backfill with the existing soil. Make sure that the entire root ball is covered with soil to avoid drying out. Add a mulch ring at least two to three feet out from the base of the tree and only 2-3 inches deep.

Staking a tree is not a mandatory practice. If you do have to stake the tree due to high winds, make sure that the tree has plenty of movement to allow it to build stronger roots. Also be sure that the staking material is removed after the first year to avoid the tree being damaged by the staking materials.

Yard and Garden: April 10, 2015

Yard and Garden Green Logo

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 10, 2015. 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 31, 2015. 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: Dick Campbell from Campbell’s Nursery in Lincoln, NE

1. The first caller wanted to know when to trim trees?

A: This depends on the type of tree to be trimmed. Oaks should not be pruned from April 1 through mid July to avoid susceptibility to Oak Wilt, a deadly disease that affects oak trees. Maples and birches will bleed sap excessively if pruned right not. This bleeding is not damaging to the tree, but it can be messy. Otherwise, it is good practice to prune deciduous trees during the dormant season so you can see through the trees to any crossing branches and air flow through the canopy.

2. This caller has a peach tree that produces too well. He wanted to know how to make the tree produce less fruit?

A: Fruit thinning should occur on fruit trees to help avoid branches breaking later in the season if they get too heavy due to fruit. The fruit on any fruit tree should be spaced 6-10 inches apart, leaving only one fruit on the branch every 6-10 inches. This will give you nice sized fruits that will not weigh down the branches.

3. A gentleman has ash trees that are loosing bark off the trunk. What would be causing this and how can it be fixed?

A: This could be caused by frost cracking. Frost cracks occur due to rapid temperature changes during the winter months. There is no cure for a frost crack and they may never heal over. Some trees may be able to close this wound, but if not it is an area where decay can enter the tree, as well as insects and diseases.

4. This caller uses ammonium sulfate on their lawn. Can this harm his lawn?

A: This can be harmful to the lawn, if the fertilizer is not spread uniformly throughout the lawn. If it gets concentrated too high in one are of the lawn, a burn can occur on the turfgrass. Otherwise, it will work fine as a quick release fertilizer.

5. Another caller has a steep slope in full sun in his lawn. What is a good perennial groundcover to use that does not have to be mowed?

A: Buffalograss is a good low management, perennial groundcover for full sun that wouldn’t have to be mowed. There are a lot of new varieties to choose from including, the newest from UNL, Sundancer Buffalograss that is darker green, has a denser canopy, and establishes faster. For more information on buffalograss care, see these UNL NebGuides: Establishing Buffalograss Turf in Nebraska and Management of Buffalograss Turf in Nebraska 

6. This caller had old Lilac bushes used as a hedge. She had cleaned them up and noticed there was a lot of dead branches and some new growth of branches. What should she do to clean them up and get them growing nicely again?

A: Prune out the dead canes, leave as much of the new, healthy growth as possible this year. Over the next few years, she can prune more of the larger, older canes out to bring it back to healthy growth. Don’t use a rejuvenation pruning with these lilacs because the older they are the harder it is for them to come back from such a drastic pruning. Watch out for borers and use systemic insecticides if holes are found at the base of the shrubs.

7. This caller had locust trees in the roadside. What should she do to get rid of them?

A: Cut the trees down and do a stump treatment with herbicides labeled for use on trees in a roadside.

8. A caller wanted to know what to do when planting new strawberry bushes and if they can be planted in containers? He also wanted to know what to do with shrub roses that grew taller than they should have, how much can he prune off of those roses?

A: Plant the strawberries to where the crown of the plant is just at the soil surface. Plant them 1 foot apart within the row and space the rows 4 feet apart. After planting you can use a pre-emergent herbicide on them to reduce weeds. Yes, they can be planted in a container, but that container will need to be protected through the winter months to get the strawberries to overwinter. As for the roses, you can cut those back to 6-8 inches tall rather than just taking a few inches off of the top. This will give you new growth that will produce more flowers throughout the entire shrub rather than some flowers just on the ends and sides.

 9. This caller had bagworms on his blue spruce in the past. He has now noticed that the top few feet of the spruce has died. Is this due to the bagworms? How can this be fixed?

A: This would be from a fungal disease called canker that is very common to spruce trees. From the point of the canker and anything above it, the tree will die and sap will flow from that canker location. There is no cure for canker, but the infected area of the tree can be removed to a location below the canker. It may regrow a new leader, but it may also continue to grow with a flat top. Bagworms can be treated with Bt, carbaryl, permethrin, or malathion around the third week of June or when the bagworms are immature and crawling around on the tree.

10. A caller wanted to know when to prune shrub roses? She also has a weeping white birch, when should this be fertilized?

A: Shrub roses can be pruned now. The weeping white birch should be fertilized just before they start to send sap up throughout the tree, which will begin soon. Watch all birch trees for borers, as this is a common pest in birches. Systemic insecticides, such as those containing imidacloprid, can be applied in the spring to help with borers in the tree.

11. This caller had apple trees that are 15 years old. When should they be sprayed for insects and diseases and what should they be sprayed with?

A: Orchard fruit tree sprays can be applied to all fruit trees. These have an insecticide and a fungicide to help with many problems that fruit trees face in Nebraska. This product should be applied at petal fall and every 10-14 days following. Be careful to not use insecticides on fruit trees while the flowers are blooming so no harm comes to the pollinators helping fruit development.

12. A gentleman wanted to know how to control Star of Bethlehem?

A: Spray with a combination product, such as Trimec. September 1st would be the prime time to do this so that the chemical will be taken into the bulb when the plant is taking nutrients into the bulb to help it get growing the following spring.

Yard and Garden: April 3, 2015

Yard and Garden Green Logo

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 3, 2015. 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 31, 2015. 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: Mark Harrell from the Nebraska Forest Service

1. Caller had grown tomatoes in the past that were growing in his basement and they were not growing well, what can he do to improve the growing conditions?

A: Increase the light intensity on the plants. Use one warm and one cool bulb in a utility light and keep that light 6 inches from the plants as they grow and keep the light on them for 14-16 hours per day. Also try to increase fertilizer use by applying it to the plants according to label directions. With new seedlings, use only at a half strength for the first few days after a plant has germinated.

2. Caller had Honeyberry Bushes that were growing for 3 years and they didn’t seem to have grown very much over these years, what might be causing this lack in growth? They are planted where the soil was brought in to build a building on.

A: It seems like the soil may be constricting root growth and then in turn would be restricting above-ground growth. It might be best to try to replant these in a location with less compacted soil.

3. A caller has a Euonymus shrub that is growing along the east side of her home had a growth along the stems that is furry or hairy, what might this growth be?

photo

Euonymus sarcoxie plant with aerial roots photo from caller.

A: It seems that this is a species of Euonymus, called Euonymus sarcoxie, which is a variety that vines. This furry appearance is actually aerial roots that is normal for this and many vining species of plants.

4. A walk-in client wanted to know what they can do for preparing their garden to reduce the number of squash bugs that attack their zucchini plants in the summer?

A: Cleaning up the garden space in the fall will reduce the overwintering site for these insects to help reduce the number the following year. For this spring, it will be best to look for the rusty colored eggs on the underside of the leaves of your zucchini, cucumber, and pumpkin plants and remove those leaves and throw them into a bucket of soapy water. Also, use chemicals through the growing season. Carbaryl, Permethrin, and Bifenthrin can be used throughout the growing season, alternating between all of these chemcials. Read and follow all label instructions and be sure to watch the post-harvest interval (PHI) to know when you can harvest after applying these chemicals.

5. A caller wanted to know when the best time to spray for borers on oak trees would be?

A: The best time to treat for oak borers would be the end of May to the beginning of June and it should be repeated 2 weeks after the first application.

6. A caller wanted to know what would be the best control for weeds in an asparagus plot?

A: Mulch is a very good control for weeds in asparagus gardens. There is also a preen that can be used on vegetable gardens. Glyphosate products, such as roundup, can be used very early in the spring before asparagus starts to grow and late in the fall after the asparagus plants have been snapped off to a level below the soil line. Sarah Browning has a great article on many weed management tactics for asparagus at: http://lancaster.unl.edu/hort/articles/2011/AsparagusWeeds.shtml

7. A caller wanted to know when the best time for fruit tree pruning would be and when to start spraying the orchard fruit tree sprays?

A: Fruit tree pruning is best done in February and March of the year. You should start spraying the fruit tree sprays as the buds begin to swell and on a 10-14 day schedule for the remainder of the growing season. Do not spray the trees during the period when they are blooming and being pollinated or you may kill or harm the bees and other pollinators needed for the fruits to show up.

8. A caller was starting seedlings indoors and the leaves were beginning to turn yellow. Why are they turning yellow and what can be done to improve this situation?

A: Be sure to fertilize these seedlings regularly with a water soluble fertilizer, according to the instructions on the label. Make sure to keep the lights 6 inches from the plants as they grow and keep the light on them for 14-16 hours per day.

9. A caller had a tree that was cut down last year and has many ants throughout the tree stump, even still after the tree has been cut down. Why is this and what can she do to reduce the ants?

A: These are probably carpenter ants that tunnel through decaying or rotting wood. They were not causing any harm to the tree and they are not a concern for nearby plants. If control is desired, sprinkle Carbaryl dust on the stump of the tree.

10. This caller had 2 questions. She had an arborvitae that rapidly went from green to brown and dead. What would cause this? She also had some junipers that turned completely brown from the bottom up but the inside was still green. What would cause this?

A: The arborvitae most likely is having problems due to dry conditions and possibly winterkill. Make sure this tree has a good mulch ring, only 2-3 inches deep, and keep the soil around it moist, but not wet. The junipers also appear to have environmental problems that have caused this issue. There was a rapid drop in temperatures last fall and a warm and dry winter which could cause problems to this plant and many evergreens.

11. A caller had zoysia grass in her yard that has been declining over the years and is not as dominant in her yard now as it used to. How can she fix this problem?

A: She can try to plug her yard with more zoysia grass to get it established again in those other areas where the cool season grasses and other weeds have come in. She would need to do weed control in those areas before trying the plugging and during the establishment period of the zoysia grass to reduce competition. The plugs should be placed 6-12 inches apart and it should be done in the late spring to early summer to allow for best establishment.

12. This caller is looking to move a rose bush to save it from an area planned to be transitioned into a vegetable garden. What is the best way to do this?

A: This can still be done yet this spring. He can prune it prior to moving it so it is more of a manageable size. Take as much of the rootball as is possible. Keep the shrub well watered at its new location and don’t plant it any deeper than what it is growing at now.

13. A caller wanted to know when the best time to plant potatoes would be?

A: Anytime now would be a good time to plant potatoes. Plant potatoes when the soil temperatures are around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

14. A caller wanted to know when the best time to prune a smokebush would be?

A: Late winter is the best time to prune a smokebush.

Spring is Here, Enjoy the Flowers!

Spring has officially begun. Things outside are beginning to turn green, some early season blooming plants are beginning to bloom, and the weather is warming up. Enjoy your spring weather and plants.

Daffodil Blooming

Daffodil Blooming

Daffodils are the bright yellow flowers that are just beginning to open up now. These are one of the two more commonly planted spring blooming bulbs, Tulips being the other. Both of these bulbs are planted in the fall, or in October, to bloom in the spring. They bloom in early spring, mid-spring, or late spring, depending on the variety. Once they have finished blooming for the year, leave all the foliage until it dies back in the fall. The foliage is still taking in sunlight to build sugars for the bulb to be able to bloom in the spring the following year.

Photo from: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org

Red Maple Flowers Photo from: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org

Red Maples are the silver barked trees with bright red small flowers on them now. These are some of the earliest blooming trees in our environment. I always think that the blooming of the red maples is a sign of spring. After the blooms fade, the tree will begin to grow leaves for the rest of the growing season to provide us with shade and beauty.

Crocus Blooming

Crocus Blooming

Crocus is one of the earliest blooming minor bulbs. Crocus blooms in March or early April with 2-3 inch flowers that range in color from white to purple to yellow and will close up on cloudy days and at night. Crocus has grasslike foliage that is very narrow and has a white stripe down the center. This plant will bloom before the foliage fully appears and then after only a few weeks, the whole plant is dormant again.

Flickr image courtesy of Richard Elzey per CC license

Forsythia Shrub Flickr image courtesy of Richard Elzey per CC license

Forsythia is the yellow flowering shrub that is blooming right now or are finishing up their blooming period for this year. Forsythia is another signal of spring coming. It is a large shrub that grows up to 8-10 feet tall and 10-12 feet wide. The small flowers are bell-shaped and are clustered along the branches of the plant. Forsythia grows fairly quickly and will need to be pruned, but pruning should be held off until after it blooms in the spring of the year. This is a shrub that will take to a rejuvenation pruning when it gets full of old, less productive and large canes. The rejuvenation pruning is when the entire shrub is cut off at about 6 inches above ground level. It will regrow back into a healthy, productive shrub.

Flickr image courtesy of Glenn Kraeck per CC license

Lilac Shrub Flickr image courtesy of Glenn Kraeck per CC license

Lilacs will soon begin to bloom with fragrant purple flowers. Lilac is one of my favorite spring scents, as the flowers are strongly, but sweetly, scented. This shrub will grow up to 20 feet tall, if you purchase the straight species. However, there are many dwarf varieties that do not grow so large. There are also new varieties that will rebloom to ensure a longer season of flower production for those of us who can’t get enough of the scent of the flowers. This shrub can be pruned after it blooms like the forsythia can.