A Tour of Southeast Nebraska Horticulture with Master Gardeners

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

Stop #1 at Kimmel Orchard in Nebraska City

Stop #1 at Kimmel Orchard in Nebraska City

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

Stop #2 Lewis and Clark Missouri River Basin Visitors Center

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

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

brownville arboretum collage

Stop #3 at Governor Furnas Arboretum in Brownville


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

Stop #4 at Schillingbridge winery and microbrewery in Pawnee City

Stop #4 at Schillingbridge winery and microbrewery in Pawnee City

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

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


Fall is here, get your plants ready for winter!

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

Photo by V. Jedlicka, Lancaster County Extension

Photo by V. Jedlicka, Lancaster County Extension

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


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

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

Tilled garden

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

Fall Invading Insects

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

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

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

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


Boxelder Bug

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


Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle

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

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

brown_recluse1-Dept of Ento

Brown Recluse Spider

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

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

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