This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 1, 2016. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 5, 2016. It can also be found on 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 Hosts: Daryl Andersen and Kent Thompson from the Little Blue NRD
1. The first caller of the 2016 season has boxelder bugs in their home and need to know how to control them.
A. Boxelder bugs are not harmful to humans and will not populate within our homes. They enter in the fall and will emerge in the spring to leave our homes and go back outdoors. If found indoors, it is best to just vacuum them up or dispose of them in other manners. Barrier sprays around the home will not eliminate the problem, but they can reduce the numbers found in the home. Also, make sure that all cracks and crevices in your home are sealed up and that all screens on windows and doors don’t have any holes in them.
2. This caller has a very sandy lawn, what is the best turf for this area?
A. They may want to do a soil test to let them know for sure what they are dealing with. The best turfgrass selections for this area are Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue. You can either select a mixture of these two turfgrasses or find 100 percent of either of them. These grasses perform the best in our environment. It might be a good idea to add organic matter to the lawn area to help improve the soil. Aerate the lawn first then apply a thin layer of compost and rake or lightly till that into the top layer, then overseed the lawn. Now is a great time to overseed, apply light, frequent watering to keep the seed moist while it is germinating.
3. This caller has an old windbreak. They are looking to replant parts of it with red cedars in a multi-row windbreak. How many trees would they need, what is the spacing for these trees? What kind of preparation should they do to the site prior to planting?
A. The NRCS has specifications on tree spacing based on the species. For eastern red cedar, they recommend 12-15 feet between each tree for spacing. Based on that and the space she has in her windbreak, she can figure out how many trees she should plan to order from the NRD. This fall would be a good time to till up the area to prepare it for the trees to be planted next spring. Kent Thompson suggests preparing the soil for tree planting like they would prepare the area for a garden.
4. This caller has ladybugs in their home and wants to know how to get rid of them and where they are coming from?
A. Ladybugs are a predatory insect, meaning that they feed on other insects, such as aphids. They can be found outdoors on many different plant species based on their food sources. Ladybugs are one of the insects that move indoors during the fall and then leave the house in the spring to go back outdoors, so we often see them in the home in both seasons. They are not harmful to us when they come indoors. If found indoors, it is best to just vacuum them up or dispose of them in other manners. Barrier sprays around the home will not eliminate the problem, but they can reduce the numbers found in the home. Also, make sure that all cracks and crevices in your home are sealed up and that all screens on windows and doors don’t have any holes in them.
5. Does wood mulch increase the likelihood of termites in our homes?
A. No, wood chip mulches are great to use for plant health. Termites will not survive in mulch if they are found in the trees being made into mulch due to the mulching process or because they dry out to quickly in mulches. However, it is best to not place mulch in locations where it is touching wood window frames or siding. According to Iowa State University, mulches increase the moisture in the soil which favors termite exploration, but any mulch will increase the moisture in the soil. So you can continue to use wood chip mulches because they are the best mulch for plants.
6. This caller wants to know if there are any regulations on rain barrels in the Fairbury area and if a rain barrel is a good option for watering?
A. There are currently no regulations against the use of a rain barrel in Nebraska. Rain barrels are a great option for watering, however it is recommended that this water not be used on vegetable gardens due to the contaminants in the water from the roof that may get into the plant parts we consume. It is a great way to save our fresh, clean water for other uses and to use rain water for watering the lawn, trees, shrubs, and flowers. Be sure to use the water in a timely fashion so that it doesn’t sit too long and attract mosquitoes, or use a screen over the entrance hole to keep insects out of the water.
7. A caller planted 3-4 feet tall blue spruces last year through the correctly recommended practices of planting a tree. He purchased the trees from a grower in Oregon. He watered as needed but avoided overwatering. The trees were checked for diseases with none found. What caused this death and how can he avoid it when he replants?
A. The sample of the trees showed that these trees suffered from environmental stress, which can be any number of problems. These trees are planted on a new site with no protection from wind and construction type of soil. The trees purchased for replanted should be purchased from a local source. A soil test could be done to see if there is any nutrients that should be added to the soil prior to planting for better health of the trees. Otherwise, this problem with environmental stress is common and hard to understand.
8. A caller has a sewer smell to his water, does he need new pipes?
A. Call the plumber or the city to have them look at it. It may be a situation where new pipes are needed, but we can’t tell for sure.
9. This caller has a problem with wild oats growing in their lawn, what can be done to eliminate this weed?
A. Glyphosate products, such as roundup, would be the only thing approved for use in the lawn. Then he will have to overseed. As long as the wild oats are up and growing now, he could go in and spray them and wait a week then overseed the area to bring grass back in and keep the wild oats out.
10. A person brought in a tree with odd, round structures on the branches. What are they and can they be controlled?
A. These are galls. Galls are produced by insects and are generally not harmful to trees. if they get high in populations, like they often do on bur oak trees, they can reduce the vigor and growth of the trees. It is very difficult to effectively treat them with insecticides. Cultural controls, such as cleaning up all debris and pruning out and destroying affected areas would be the best control.
11. This caller has fruit trees that are suckering or producing growth from the base of the trunk where it comes out of the ground. What can they do about these suckers?
A. Suckers can be removed from any tree any time throughout the growing season, and should be removed so they don’t get too large and take too much water and nutrients from the main plant. Don’t spray these or use any stump treatment on them after you cut them off or you can damage or even kill the main plant.
12. A caller has a red oak that is slower to leaf out but by May it is usually leafed out well with large, nicely colored leaves throughout the entire tree. Is this a concern that it is slow to leaf out?
A. If the tree does eventually come out and leaf with full-sized leaves throughout the entire canopy and the leaves have good color, it is not a concern. Some trees are just a little later to leaf out than others to avoid highs and lows of spring weather. As long as the tree does come out by summer with leaves the way they should grow and throughout the canopy, it is in good health.
13. This caller wanted to know when to fertilize with crabgrass control and when to overseed their lawn?
A. Crabgrass control and overseeding should not be applied at the same time as the crabgrass pre-emergence will also prevent the germination of our turfgrass seed. Overseeding can be done in the month of April, it is better to get it down from April 1-15 but can be done as late as the end of April. Once overseeding is completed, no chemicals should be applied until 3 mowings have been done on the new grass seed. Fertilization should be applied around Arbor Day. Crabgrass control needs to be applied when the soil temperatures have reached 55 degrees Fahrenheit because crabgrass germinates at 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. As of April 1, Beatrice soil temperatures were at 47.6 degrees Fahrenheit, so we are still 1-2 weeks away from applying crabgrass control.
14. A caller has a soft water system that was installed and goes through the outside water faucet. Will this hurt plants that are watered by this softened water?
A. This water contains a higher level of sodium after it goes through the softener because the water softener exchanges calcium and magnesium for sodium. This sodium can replace potassium in plants and disrupt the functions in the plants, causing it to die, according to Illinois Extension. So, due to the high sodium content, softened water is not recommended to be used on household plants, lawns, or gardens. It might be a good idea for this caller to try out a rain barrel for watering their lawn and garden areas.
15. The final caller of the day has a pear tree that is 7-8 years old and has very low blooming. What is causing that?
A. Many pear trees need to be cross pollinated from a different species or variety of pear tree to produce fruit. It would be helpful to plant another type of pear tree in your landscape to help pollinate the tree. Also, remember to not spray chemicals on the tree while the tree is in bloom to avoid damaging any pollinator insects.