Harvesting from your Garden

Harvesting from garden

I love this time of the year, not because of the extreme heat, but because my garden is beginning to produce large quantities of vegetables for my family to enjoy in our meals and to preserve for the winter months. Sometimes it is hard to determine the best harvest time and use for the vegetables from a garden but here are a few tips to remember.

Tomatoes are a great choice for a vegetable garden. They can be preserved in so many ways to be enjoyed throughout the entire winter. The anticipation for our tomatoes to begin to ripen is difficult, but once they begin, they grow strong. This year we have had to wait a little longer than normal for our tomatoes to begin to produce. Due to the high heat in June, poor pollination occurred.

For harvesting tomatoes, it is best to wait until the tomato is firm and colored correctly for the particular variety you are growing. Make sure you know what you planted to know what color they should be. If the temperatures get too hot, they may soften if left on the vine until they are the correct color, when that occurs, it would be best to pick tomatoes early and allow them to ripen indoors.

Tomatoes stored in the refrigerator can only be stored fresh for 4-10 days. According to Alice Henneman, a Registered Dietician with Nebraska Extension, tomatoes can be frozen raw with or without the skins to be used in cooked recipes for months later. Tomatoes can also be processed into salsas, paste, sauce, and juice for storage and use later in the year in other forms.

2014-08-18 07.57.37

Salsa made from my garden

Zucchini is another great plant for your garden. Zucchini plants are easy to grow and will produce plenty of harvest for a family from only one or two plants. If you planted too many zucchini plants they are easy to store as well. Zucchini should be harvested when the fruit is young and tender and when your fingernail easily penetrates the rind. Most zucchini should be harvested when they are 1 ½ inches in diameter and 4 to 8 inches in length. Zucchini is easily missed and they are fast growing vegetables. If you have some zucchini harvest that is too large for grilling or slicing for other recipes or for freezing, you can use the large produce for baking. Remove the seeds and shred what is left for use in many baking activities like zucchini bread or muffins. Fresh zucchini can be stored in the fridge for 5-14 days.

Peppers should be harvested when they are firm and full sized. If it is a red, yellow, or orange variety, they need to be left on the plant for an additional 2-3 weeks for coloration to occur. Peppers can be frozen for consumption later in uncooked foods or in cooked foods. Fresh peppers can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks if handled properly.

Cucumbers should be harvested when they have grown to the size that is best for the use and the size determined by the variety. If you are using the cucumber for a sweet pickle or for baby dill pickles you would want the cucumbers to be 1 ½ to 2 inches long. If you are using them for regular dill pickles it is best to pick them at 3-4 inches in length. For fresh slicing cucumbers harvest when they are 7 to 9 inches long. It is best to harvest daily and harvest cucumbers before they get too large with large seeds inside. Cucumbers can be used fresh for 10-14 days.

The harvest information for this article came from the NebGuide: When to Harvest Fruits and Vegetables by Sarah Browning, Lancaster County Extension Educator. The freezing guidelines came from food.unl.edu

 

Yard and Garden: July 15, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for July 15, 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 Host: Julie Albrecht, Professor in Health and Nutrition Science

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: http://go.unl.edu/9b24 and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts.

1. The first caller of the day wanted to know how to control corn earworm in his sweet corn?

A. The best option would be for next year, because at this stage it is too late to control them if you are already harvesting. It would be best to choose a resistant variety so chemicals won’t be necessary. You can spray for the earworm, but it should only be done twice per season with carbaryl (Sevin) and it should be sprayed on the silks where the eggs are. There will not be much control this late in the season since the earworms are already there.

2. A caller has green beans that are blooming but they are not setting on. What would cause this?

A. This could be due to poor pollination due to low amount of insect activity in the high temperatures. If pollination doesn’t occur soon, you could hand pollinate the plants by using a q-tip to touch the pollen of male flowers and then touch the stigma of the female flowers. It could also be that the flowers present are all male flowers and then it will just take time for the female flowers to appear.

3. This caller noticed that they have a lot of grasshoppers in their flowers. What can they do to control them?

A. Any general insecticide will work on grasshoppers. Sevin, eight, tempo, malathion, etc will work on flowers. Also be sure to spray the ditches and roadsides where grasshoppers are common. If grasshoppers are in the vegetable garden only use chemicals labeled for use in the vegetable garden and watch the PHI for when you are able to harvest after applying chemicals.

4. A caller has acorn squash in his garden. Recently, one of the plants all of a sudden died, the leaves turned brown and it got wilty. He is watering all of the plants the same and only one plant looks like this. What would cause that?

A. This is probably due to squash vine borer. There is no way to fix the problem once it has gotten to the point of wilt and death. When you remove the plant, cut open the stalk to see the borer caterpillar. For the remaining plants use sevin, eight, or bifenthrin at the base of the plants to reduce the chances of those plants getting the borer as well. You can also wrap the base of the plant with aluminum foil or a toilet paper tube to protect it from borers laying eggs to bore into the plants.

squash vine borer damage

5. How long should you boil green beans when processing them and do they need to be cut to certain lengths when processing?

A. Green beans can be used whole or cut to any desired length. For processing, boil in a pressure canner at 11 pounds pressure for a dial gauge or 10 pounds pressure for a weighted gauge canner. They should be boiled for 20 minutes for pint jars and 25 minutes for quart jars. If you are blanching the green beans for freezing, they should be boiled for 3 minutes and then immediately placed in cold water prior to placing in freezer bags for freezer storage. For more information on processing foods, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation at: http://nchfp.uga.edu/

6. Why is it not safe to can in an oven?

A. The jars can explode and that can cause the glass on the door of the oven to explode as well. There are no recommendations regarding length of time to can in the oven because there is no way to determine how hot the center of the jar is. It is important to ensure that all of the contents of the jar get to the correct temperature for proper, safe canning practices.

7. A caller is growing tomatoes in feed barrels, the leaves are curled up. Is this due to a soil nutrient issue or what could be causing this, he waters every other day with a hose until the water runs out the drainage holes in the barrels?

A. This could be due to physiological leaf curl. This condition often appears as spring weather gives way to hot, dry summer conditions. Plants often put on large amounts of foliage growth in the spring and they don’t have enough roots to provide sufficient water to support the plant as the weather gets hotter and drier. Plants cope with this water issue by rolling their leaves. The older leaves are usually affected first. Leaves roll upward toward the center mid-vein, without any deformation or twisting. Plant leaves may recover and unroll if the stress is alleviated. Harvest yield is not affected.

8. This caller has heard an old saying that you should put your corn into a brown paper sack before putting it into the freezer for freezing corn on the cob. Is this true?

A. This wouldn’t do anything for the corn. Just make sure that you use a freezer bag for anything you freeze and that you only put it one layer deep until it has all frozen through to get it to freeze faster and help the shelf life of the product.

9. A caller wanted to know how to tell when peaches are ripe?

A. The red coloration is not a good sign for peaches now due to new peach varieties with a lot of red coloration in the skin color. It is best to just pick a few when they are getting close to being mature and try the flavor. You don’t want to pick the fruits before they are ripe as the sugar content will be low. When the base color has turned from green to full yellow they should be mature.

10. The final caller of the day has a tree that he transplanted from a construction site. When it was moved, the roots were slightly damaged and the top of the tree broke out. It lost all of its leaves when it was planted in the new location in late May, but now has new growth on the ends of the branches. Will this tree survive?

A. Give it time, the fact that there is growth on the ends of the branches is hopeful. The tree would have lost apical dominance when it lost the top of the tree. Use a wooden dowel and some masking tape to try to start a new leader. The root damage may not be evident on the tree for 10-15 years so you won’t know for a while if it will survive from the root damage. Keep watering the tree every other day for 20-30 minutes during this year and add a mulch ring that is 2-3 inches deep and 2-3 feet wide around the trunk of the tree.

 

Yard and Garden: July 8, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for July 8, 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 Host: Dr. Paul Read, Viticulture Specialist for Nebraska Extension with Guest Intern Vivian from China

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: http://go.unl.edu/9b24 and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts.

1. The first caller of the day wanted to know if they can prune the Cleveland Pear tree that has branches that are low and too tight to the trunk?

A. The best time for pruning a tree like this would be while it is dormant. For a situation like this where the caller is only removing a few branches to help with the growth of the branches and to reduce future problems with the tight branch arrangement it would be fine to remove them now. It would be better to remove branches like this before they break in a storm due to weak attachment to the trunk.

2. A caller has Anjou pear trees that were planted in 2013. Now the bark from the graft union up about 10-12 inches has the bark peeling and now has some black leaves. What would cause this?

A. This would be from sunscald. There is no way to fix sunscald once it occurs. Don’t paint the wound with anything, allow it to heal itself. The black leaves could be due to fireblight. You can cut 6-8 inches past the diseased portion of the limb to cut the fireblight off the tree. The black could also be anthracnose which is not damaging to the plant and there is no need to spray anything for anthracnose.

sunscald-bugwood

Sunscald Photo by William Jacobi, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

3. This caller has an oak tree that is dripping sap on the vehicles parked under it. What would cause this?

A. Aphids feeding on the leaves of trees will excrete honeydew that can drip on vehicles underneath the tree. Aphids are not very damaging and have a lot of predatory insects that feed on them. They can be sprayed with sevin or eight or another general insecticide, but they should fade out on their own with predator insects.

4. A caller has blue spruce trees that look dirty but the tips are still green. What would cause this?

A. This is most likely due to environmental stress from the heat and humidity. If the ends of the branches are still green, the tree will be fine. Make sure your tree has a mulch ring around it and that you keep it well watered in the heat of the summer.

5. This caller has a patch of lilies where a quarter of the patch has only grown to be about 6 inches tall for the past 2 years. The rest of the patch looks good, but this area doesn’t look healthy. Can these be improved?

A. This could be due to hardiness in some varieties that are only suitable for our environment for a couple of years. It also could be due to some bulb mites. It would be a good idea to dig up some of the bulbs to see if they have any damage on the bulbs.

6. A caller has a pine tree with a lot of sap on the branches and the grass in the lawn won’t green up. Why is this?

A. Woodpeckers or insects feeding on a pine tree can cause sap to leak from the wounds left behind. The insects can be controlled with bifenthrin or permethrin (eight). If it is woodpeckers, the damage is minimal and will not cause any problems to the tree. Check how much water the lawn is actually receiving by using catch cans during the water intervals normally followed. Lawns need 1 1/2 inches of water per week. If the water is fine, there are a lot of fungal diseases in the lawn, it could be one of those. Fungal diseases in the home lawn are usually sporadic and therefore don’t require fungicide applications.

7. This caller lives on an acreage surrounded by farmground. She is considering growing grapes on this large plot of land. Are grapes easy to grow and would grapes have a benefit to the wildlife in the area?

A. Grapes are a large commitment, especially if you plan to sell products from them. You can be successful with only a few plants for the family to use for grape production. A few good choices for this area would include Frotenac or Valiant. The first year the grapes would need extra care, but after that they would be more self-sustaining. Deer will feed on the foliage. If you decide to grow your grapes for commercial use, register  your acreage with the driftwatch website at  www.fieldwatch.com to help avoid problems from drift since grapes are very sensitive to drift damage.

8. A caller has strawberries that were planted and now have very small fruits and the plants are not making runners.

A. Everbearing strawberries are typically very small for fruit size. You might try planting some newer varieties that are June bearing to get larger fruits. Some good choices would include honeoye or albion or sparkle.

9. This caller has an ash tree that is 7 years old and the tree snapped off in the wind. There is mold in the trunk and it is suckering. What can be done to plant a new tree?

A. You can get a company to come in and grind out the stump or rent a stump grinder to do it yourself. The suckers that keep growing back will continue to for a few years, they can be cut out and treated with a roundup or 2,4-D product. You can plant a new tree within just a few feet of the old tree, since this wasn’t a very large tree yet.

10. A facebook photo came in with a odd structure that appeared by a tree. What is this?

A. This would be a stinkhorn fungus. They are not harmful to the plants growing in the area. There is not control other than mechanical removal of the fungus. Do not eat these as they are not edible, they would be a poisonous mushroom.

DSCN6327

Stinkhorn Fungus

11. The last caller of the day has tomatoes in a raised bed. When they ripen for harvest, the end of the tomato seems blighted. What would cause this?

A. This is blossom end rot. It is a calcium deficiency that develops in our plants in drought situations because calcium is only available to plants after it has been dissolved in water. There is no control for this, it should only last for a few weeks early in the growing season and then the plants should grow out of it.

Problems in the Garden

Now that summer is in full swing, our gardens should be growing well now. It is at this time of the year when we always tend to see many different diseases and environmental conditions on our vegetable garden plants.

blossom end rot zucchini

A zucchini developing with blossom end rot

One of the most common problems we see early in the growing season is blossom end rot. This is an environmental condition where the end of the fruit that is not attached to the plant begins to rot away. It starts as a flat, dry, sunken brown rot on the blossom end of the fruits. Gray mold can occur in this rotten spot of the fruit, as it progresses. Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency while producing fruit. In Nebraska, there is rarely a lack of calcium in the soil, but calcium needs to be dissolved in water to be absorbed into the plant, so, it often occurs in conditions of dry soil. Blossom end rot can occur in tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, or watermelons.

Drought stress, low daytime humidity, high temperatures, and rapid vine growth favor blossom end rot. Applying calcium to the soil or to the plant is not beneficial. It is best to just maintain consistently moist but not saturated soil. It will also help to use organic mulch near the base of plants to keep the soils moist. Often the first ripe fruits are affected and later produce is fine. Remove infected fruits at the beginning of the season and later ripening fruits should not be affected.

Scorch is another problem we often see in the summer months, especially when the temperatures range as high as it has been recently and rain is scarce. Currently scorch has been found on bean plants. When scorch appears on our plants the edges of the leaves will turn brown and papery. Wilting and leaf scorch can be reduced with regular watering during prolonged dry periods. Mulching around the base of plants will hold moisture in the soil.

Squash bugs and squash vine borer are seen in our gardens every year. With squash bugs, we will see yellow speckling on the leaves and feeding damage can appear on the fruits. You may also see rusty colored eggs on the underside of the leaves that can be removed and destroyed. With Squash Vine Borer, rapid death and wilting of the plants will occur, once they are found in our plants, there is no cure.. These pests feed on plants in the cucurbit family, which includes zucchini, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds, etc. Squash vine borer can be controlled by wrapping the stem of your plants with aluminum foil or a toilet paper or paper towel tube to stop the females from laying their eggs on your plants. Other controls include Carbaryl (Sevin), Permethrin (Eight), or bifenthrin (Bifen), or Bt for the squash vine borer. This will need to be reapplied every 10-14 days throughout the growing season. It is best to switch between at least two of these products to avoid resistance from developing. Always follow the label recommended rates and follow the pre-harvest interval listed on the label when harvesting fruits and vegetables after using chemicals. Spray the undersides of the leaves and the base of the plant thoroughly. All sprays should be done later in the evening to avoid damage to bees and other pollinators.

The information for this article came from Nebraska Extension’s Hort Update. This is a monthly news column covering seasonal information for Nebraska’s green industry professionals. It is produced monthly throughout the year by Nebraska Extension Educators from across the state. You can subscribe to this newsletter by going to hortupdate.unl.edu and selecting “subscribe” from the top tabs. You can also get there from the Gage County Horticulture Page from gage.unl.edu

Yard and Garden: July 1, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for July 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 Host: Bob Henrickson, Assistant Director of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

1. The first caller of the day wants to use weed fabric and white rocks around the foundation of his house. Is this a good idea?

A. This can be done, but as horticulturists, Bob and I are always for more greenspace and less rocks. The weed fabric will work for a short time but often weeds will germinate through or on top of the fabric and it is hard to remove or change after the fabric is in. A good option would be to plant shrubs and perennials in there to help hide the foundation to the siding. Wood chip mulches will help with weed control around the plants.

2. A caller has a problem with ground squirrels in their lawn.

A. a trap can be built to control ground squirrels. The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management has a good guide for 13-lined ground squirrels.

3. A caller has bees in their sand play area. What can be done about it?

A. The best control for this would be to cover the sandbox so the bees cannot burrow into the sand to build their nest. If this can’t be done, you can sprinkle a little sevin in the holes where the bees go to nest. This is not the best option if you have kids playing in the sand because the chemical would not be safe for that. Otherwise, spraying the sandbox with water or soapy water will deter and possibly kill the bees.

4. This caller has a bald cypress tree that had lacebugs last spring. This year it hasn’t leafed out on the branches, most of the leaves are on the trunk. What can be done for this tree?

A. Removal and replacement. When a tree only leafs out on the trunk there is some reason that the flow of water and nutrients is not going through the whole tree. This could be due to borers or some type of root issue. Even with trees that are 8 years old, they could have had a root injury or been planted too deeply or had a stem girdling root that is now causing death of the tree. There is no cure for this at this point in the trees life.

5. A caller has a new lawn that they are trying to rejuvenate. What would the process be?

A. They are watering 2 times a week with a sprinkler for a couple of hours at a time, this should be sufficient. Stick with what you have been doing and don’t abruptly reduce it. Fertilize with the holidays: Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Halloween. So at this point don’t fertilize until the fall. Fertilizing in hot weather can cause more stress or leaf burn. For weed control, use crabgrass pre-emergent in the spring with the Arbor Day fertilization and use 2,4-D in the fall.

6. What to do when planting a tree that is badly rootbound?

A. It is hard to fix a tree when the roots are already rootbound. Once they begin to grow in a circular pattern, they will continue to do that for life, and damage doesn’t always show up until the tree is 10-15 years old. It is best to look at the roots before purchasing to choose a smaller tree with healthy roots. Also, when you get it home, remove the excess topsoil from the top of the rootball to ensure that it gets planted at the correct depth.

7. An email question came in to ask what to do for stump removal where they cut down and removed some shrubs?

A. Keep cutting the suckers off as they regrow and mulch the area if you just want to be rid of the plants. If you want to replant into the area, you will have to remove the stumps by digging them out or using a stump grinder to grind them out. Do not use Tordon in this area as it is against label regulations and it will not speed up the process and it can kill other desirable plants.

8. A caller has a firethorn plant with spidermites that they see on the plant every year and it causes them to loose many leaves each year. What can be done for them?

A. A strong stream of water will often work for spidermites. If the population is too high you will have to use insecticidal soaps. If this is an annual occurrence you may want to remove these shrubs and replace them with something that isn’t so problematic in this area.

9. What do you do for sandburs?

A. Sandburs are an annual grass, so crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides in the spring will help reduce the population by stopping germination. At this point in the year you can use a post-emergent grass herbicide such as Drive. Keep the area mowed to reduce the seed production for next year.

10. A caller has honeysuckle that is now invasive through his yard. What can be done to eliminate the honeysuckle plants? Also, is hickory a good tree for Nebraska? Why don’t we see hickory trees planted more?

A. Continual cutting of the honeysuckle will eventually kill it. You may want to try to dig up the plant to help reduce the problem. You can also treat the stump with roundup and/or 2,4-D. Use 2,4-D products in the spring or fall, it is now too hot to use this product without possible damage to desirable plants. Hickory is a great tree for Nebraska, it is just underutilized. Good hickory tree choices for Nebraska include Shagbark Hickory, Bitternut, and King Nut. Shagbark Hickory was the Great Plants of the Great Plains Tree of the Year Selection in 2011.

 

Japanese Beetle, 7-16 Acreage

Japanese Beetle adult on the left and immature on the right. Photos by Jim Kalisch, UNL Entomology.

11. A walk-in listener brought in a green beetle to be identified.

A. This is a Japanese Beetle. It is identified by the green metallic color, gold elytra, and white spots along the sides of the abdomen. This is an invasive insect from Japan that feeds on over 300 species of trees and shrubs, it favors roses and plants in the rose family. It will cause a skeletonization of the leaves as the adult feeds. As immatures they are a white grub that feeds on the roots of our turf. Management of white grubs in the turf will reduce the population. As adults, they can be controlled with general insecticides such as sevin, eight, bifenthrin, malation, or others. Don’t use insecticides on the flowers or flower buds to help with pollinator populations.

12. The final question of the day was from an email asking what chemicals do you use for bagworms?

A. Bagworms can be controlled with Bt, spinosad, sevin, eight, malathion, or tempo. The treatments need to be completed before the bags are smaller than 1/2 inch in length. You can also remove bags as they are seen and throw them into a bucket of soapy water to kill them without pesticides if you can reach them all.