Fall Yard and Garden Issues

Fall will be here before we know it. Take the time to read this to help you through all of your horticulture and insect issues during the fall months.

Bare lawn in need of overseeding.
Bare lawn in need of overseeding.

For fall lawncare, September is a good month for overseeding, fertilizing, and aerating your lawn. If you have bare spots from the floods or have a thin lawn, you can overseed in the month of September, before the 15th will have better establishment before winter, Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue are the best choices for seed in Nebraska. Remember to fertilize with the holidays, and Labor Day and Halloween are coming up for our final two applications for this year. If your lawn has a deep thatch layer, over 1 inch, you may need to aerate your lawn, fall is a good time for aeration as well.

Weeds in a lawn

Weed control is better in the fall. Many of our perennial weeds and winter annuals will get much better control if they are treated in the fall. This year has been a great growing season for many of our lawn weeds, especially clover. Perennial weeds such as Dandelions, creeping Charlie or ground ivy, and clover, are best controlled in the fall with either 2,4-D or Triclopyr products. Remember to apply these chemicals on days when the temperatures are predicted to be at or below 80 degrees for 72 hours. This is the time of the year when these weeds are taking their nutrients back into their roots for next season’s growth, so they will take the herbicide with them to get a better kill. The winter annuals such as Henbit are just beginning their growth in the fall so it is best to treat them now rather than in the spring when they are almost done with their growing season.

It is finally getting close to the time of the year when we can begin cutting back our perennial plants. Once these plants die back in the fall, when their leaves turn brown, we can cut them back for the year. Peonies and Iris are two plants that should be cut back in the fall to avoid diseases spreading from this season to next since these plants tend to get leaf spot diseases annually. When you go to remove the spent leaves, you can also divide these plants and transplant them if you need them in a different location. Avoid pruning roses and butterfly bushes until the early spring to avoid problems with moisture getting into the hollow stems of these plants. If you have a shrub that blooms early in the spring, such as lilac, forsythia, weigela, some spireas, and some hydrangeas, wait to cut those back until after bloom next spring to avoid removing flower buds that are already on the shrub for next year.

Center photo by S. Cochran, Lancaster County Extension
Center photo by S. Cochran, Lancaster County Extension

Watch for fall invading insects in your home in the fall. This is the time of year when many insects will begin to invade our homes. As it begins to get cooler outside, insects move into our homes to stay warm. Many of the insects we see in the fall inside our homes include boxelder bugs, Asian multicolored ladybeetles, stinkbugs, spiders, millipedes, centipedes, and ants. These insects are mostly just a nuisance to us when they come into our homes. The best control for these would be to seal up all cracks where they can enter our homes and to use the insect barrier sprays around the home, especially around doors and windows.

2nd Annual Gage County Master Gardener Tour

2015-08-17 09.23.00

On Monday, August 17th, I took the Gage County Master Gardeners and some fun guests on our 2nd Annual Gage County Master Gardener Tour. It was a rainy day, but we still managed to have a great time and learn some things on the way. It is such a joy for me to get to work with these wonderful people all the time because they are so eager to learn about horticulture and they are so much fun to be around as well!

Stock Seed Farms
Stock Seed Farms

The first stop on the tour was to Stock Seed Farms in Murdock, Nebraska. This was neat to see how they work and how they develop, package, market, and ship out so many different types of wildflower and native grass seed throughout the entire country. It was interesting to hear how they harvest and sort the seeds from all of the “fluff” to get a good Pure Live Seed Number for their packaging so that people are getting mostly seed in their orders without other materials filling the weight. We got to see the equipment they used to sort the seeds and we got to see the enormous amount of seed they had in their facility. I was astonished at the enormous bags of clover seed that most of us are trying to rid from our lawns, but in a naturalized area of an acreage it is a great plant to have. They even had a bag of crabgrass seed that is used in the Southern parts of the United States for a forage plant for horses and other livestock. This was odd for us horticulturists who are working all spring and summer to keep it out of our lawns and gardens. The rain did disrupt our tour a little, as we were not able to go out and see the fields of wildflowers and native grasses, except what we saw from the shed or on the bus ride among the fields Stock Seed Farms owns. It was an enjoyable experience that many of us will never forget.

Lauritzen Gardens
Lauritzen Gardens

After lunch in Ashland, we ventured on to Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha. This was an awesome experience. We took the tram tour through the gardens so we were able to see all of the gardens with much less walking. We didn’t get to go through all of the individual gardens this route, but since it was raining, the tram tour was a good choice. The trams were covered so we didn’t get too wet. I enjoyed the Model Train Garden, the small bridges were very unique and well-made. The whole garden was very interesting and it could take an entire day to thoroughly get through it all. We definitely didn’t have enough time there, but it was still great to get to see some of it and see how many different types of plants available to Nebraska growers. The best part is that it is always growing as the tour discussed with us future plans for new gardens.

HOPE Gardens
HOPE Gardens

Finally, we were able to join up with the Douglas County Master Gardeners at their HOPE Gardens. The HOPE garden was started in 2003 by Nebraska Extension in partnership with Faithful Shepherd Presbyterian Church as a vegetable garden project to Help Omaha’s People Eat (H.O.P.E.). This garden provides fresh produce to the Heartland Hope Mission food pantry in Omaha. In 2014, the garden produced over 9,000 pounds of fresh produce that was donated to this city mission. It was a very interesting garden to tour. The Master Gardeners who work on this garden work very hard!! They start all the plants from seed in their homes and they planted a lot of crops! They have all types of different vegetables, fruits, and now a pollinator garden to help with pollination. Everyone needs fresh produce!

2015 MG Tour Rainbow Collage

The day was a huge success!! Great fun and we learned a lot. Plus, the day ended beautifully, after all the rain all day, we saw a full, double rainbow on the way home. I was able to catch a photo of it, but seeing it in person was much better. Thanks to all of the great Master Gardeners and guests for making this day fun! Hopefully we can find some great places to go next year, I know that the participants are already starting to come up with ideas for another trip next year.

What to do with my garden in the fall?

Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

August is here, which means fall will soon follow, and hopefully cooler temperatures. Many of us are just getting started in our garden harvest due to the rainy May and June we faced that led to later planting dates. Some of our vegetables can be harvested and frozen or canned and some need to be dried for winter storage. Here are some helpful tips for produce from your garden through the winter months.

Peppers, onions, and tomatoes can all be harvested when mature and frozen without having to blanch them, or use a hot-water bath for them. These vegetables can be cut into strips or dice, laid on a cookie sheet for initial freezing then placed into freezer bags for long-term freezer storage and used in recipes for cooked vegetables throughout the winter. Tomatoes and hot peppers can be frozen the same manner, but they can be frozen whole with just the stem removed. Many of our other vegetables, such as zucchini and green beans can be frozen, but need to be blanched prior to freezing.

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Many of our vegetables can also be stored, whole, fresh, for weeks to months in our homes after gardens have froze for the year. Carrots can be stored, unwashed, in a container of moist sand in 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit for 4-5 months. Turnips can be treated the same way as carrots for the winter.

Some of our vegetables need to be cured prior to bringing indoors for fresh storage. Onions need to cure for best results of long, indoor storage. Onions should dry in a single layer in the shade or well-ventilated garage or shed for 1-2 weeks or until the tops have completely dried and shriveled. After curing they can be stored for 1-8 months, they store longer in temperatures close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Potatoes also can be stored longer after curing. They should be cured at 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit for 1-2 weeks. After curing, they can be stored at 40-45 degrees for several months.

It is in the early part of the month of August that we can also begin to think about extending our growing season with a fall garden. Fall gardens are sometimes more productive than spring gardens, and that may be the case this year if your garden was prone to flooding this spring.

For a fall harvest, plant:

  • Beets August 1-10
  • Carrots August 1-15
  • Chinese cabbage August 1-20
  • Lettuce August 1-5
  • Mustard August 1-25
  • Radish August 1-20
  • Snap beans August 1-5
  • Spinach August 20- September 15
  • Swiss chard August 1-20
  • Turnips August 1-15
    • (from Backyard Farmer online calendar).

The first frost in Beatrice occurs on September 29, on average and is within a week either way for the surrounding counties. So the best way to determine when to plant a fall garden is to count backward from the first frost date and compare it to your harvest time listed on the package. For example, if your lettuce says that it takes 50 days to mature, planting on August 1 will give you mature lettuce by the end of September. This will ensure that you will have a harvest before the frost hits.