Flood Recovery

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Photo of breached Levee in 2019 Flooding along the Missouri River, Photo by John Wilson, Nebraska Extension Educator

Many parts of Nebraska have faced flooding issues recently that have done a great deal of damage to homes and properties. Flooding has also caused damage to our landscapes and garden spaces.

Trees in the floods

Floods can do a lot of damage to our trees, depending on the length of time the trees were under water. According to the University of Wisconsin Extension, most plants can tolerate a few days of flooding during the growing season. Now that flood waters have or are receding take time to look at your tree and assess the damage.

When assessing the damage to your tree, make sure the roots remain at the same level in the soil and remove debris from around the tree roots. Hire an arborist to remove broken branches and check the stability of any leaning tree. If the tree is now leaning toward a building or other damaging location, have the tree removed. Do not fertilize your trees for at least a year to avoid further damage or disruption to re-establishing roots.

Garden space in the floods

Vegetable Gardens would be a concern due to food safety reasons. Floodwaters are not clean and they can carry bacteria and other harmful debris and pollutants with them as they move across the land. Fortunately, the floods came through before our gardens were planted, but there is still a concern with the soils and what crops we will plant. Spring garden crops and crops with edible parts coming into contact with previously flooded soils would be the most concerning.

According to John Porter, Urban Ag Program Coordinator for Nebraska Extension:

The recommendation depends on whether or not the crop comes in contact with the soil.  For crops that do not have direct contact with the soil, such as tomatoes, peppers, beans, etc. the waiting period between flooding and harvest should be at least 90 days. For crops that do have direct contact with the soil, such as lettuce and leafy greens, squash/pumpkins, and root crops such as potatoes and carrots the waiting period should be at least 120 days.  If the crops that don’t typically make contact with the soil are allowed to make contact, like tomatoes that aren’t staked, the 120 day recommendation should be followed.

Food safety concerns wouldn’t be present to gardens that were not affected by the floods. We can still plant our gardens into the soil during the 90 or 120 day waiting period, but any mature harvest should be discarded until after that waiting period for food safety. This means that we should opt out of spring gardening in areas where the floods impacted our vegetable garden spaces. Most of our summer crops would be fine, but you may want to use a trellis for cucumbers and use container gardening for things like zucchini to be on the safe side.

Turf in the floods

Lawns are resilient in flooded areas. 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 localized flooding receded quickly, so the lawn should survive. Also, because the flooding happened during the dormant period for the turf, the injury will be less than if it occurred during the warmer growing season. In areas that are still under water, when the floods do recede soil work, clean-up, and overseeding will be necessary. We may also see an increase in lawn diseases this summer due to the high amounts of rain and floodwater that affected them this spring. View this Turf iNfo on Turf Recovery after Historic Flooding for more information.

For more Flood Resources, visit: flood.unl.edu

 

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Asparagus!

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Spring officially began last week. That doesn’t mean we should get overly excited and go clean up our beds just yet, this winter has been long and cold so don’t get too ready for spring. However, Asparagus will soon be emerging from past years plantings and new plantings can soon be started.

Planting

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that will come back every year providing you with more spears without having to plant it every year. Asparagus is planted as crowns in the spring as soon as the soil is dry and can be worked. This year we may have to wait a little longer before planting to give the soil time to dry out after all this snow and rain. Once planted, it is best to wait to harvest from the plant until the third year of growth. Light harvest can be done in the second year, but not all of the spears and not for a long period of time. Asparagus can be planted from seeds, but it will add one more year to the establishment period before harvest is initiated. It is best to give the roots time to become fully established before you begin harvesting. This allows the plant to grow better for a longer life.

Weed Control

Weeds are one of the most common problems for gardeners who grow asparagus. For years, many gardeners used the salt water from making ice cream around the asparagus. Asparagus is a salt tolerant plant and will survive if salt is placed around it and the weeds would die. However, asparagus will not thrive in a high salt condition and the salt can build up and cause asparagus to die over time. Also the salt content in the soil can create a crust which blocks water absorption into the plants which causes drought stress. It is not a recommended practice for weed control.

The better option for weed control in asparagus would be to use mulch around the plants. Any type of organic mulch will work for weed control around the asparagus including grass clippings, wood chips, straw, or hay. This organic mulch will keep the weeds down as well as hold onto moisture and add nutrients back into the soil as the mulch breaks down. Frequent, light shallow cultivation can be done early in the spring will help with weeds as well. Also, use preen that is labeled for use around the asparagus with the mulch to help with annual weeds.

Another tactic is to use a glyphosate product over the bed after the last harvest of the year. As long as the spears have all been cut off at the end of the growing portion of the season and there is no foliage or any green growth above the ground, the glyphosate will not harm the asparagus. Spray the glyphosate over the bed in the late spring when harvest is complete for the year. This will control the perennial weeds as well as the annuals. The spears will then grow back and not be harmed by the glyphosate. Follow up with preen and mulch to keep the weeds out.

Harvesting

Harvesting can be completed by cutting or snapping spears off of the plant as they emerge and grow to 5-8 inches in length. Either method of harvest is fine, I prefer to snap the spears to avoid spreading any disease problems with a knife that just harvested a diseased plant. Snapping is typically preferred by home gardeners. Harvest for 6-8 weeks or until the majority of the spears are less than 3/8 inches in diameter. When all the spears get spindly, the plant is running out of energy for production and harvest should be concluded to allow the plant to rebuild its resources for next year.

Understanding the Garden Catalog

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*Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended of those not mentioned and no endorsement by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension is implied for those mentioned.

In the snowy winter we have seen this year, it is easy to become quite anxious for spring and the garden planting season. The seed catalogs are coming in almost daily still, which can help us plan for our gardens. However, some of the things listed in the catalogs are not always explained. Hopefully, this will help you with your garden planning.

Determinate vs Indeterminate

Tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables to grow. They are taste so much better straight from my garden, they can be canned and stored in many different ways, and they are fairly easy to care for.

Tomatoes are available as Determinate or Indeterminate growth habit. Determinate tomatoes will grow to a specific size and produce only a certain amount of tomatoes through the season. While indeterminate tomatoes will continue to grow and produce until the frost kills them in the fall. Both types of tomatoes have their place.

Determinate tomatoes are better suited for container gardens or smaller gardens where it is not desirable for them to grow too large. Indeterminate tomatoes are great for gardeners who love to can, freeze, and eat a lot of tomatoes fresh. I prefer to use determinate varieties for the cherry or grape type of tomatoes so the plants don’t get so large and because I only use those for fresh eating. I use indeterminate tomatoes for my large, slicing tomatoes to use for salsa. Choose what works for you, but keep in mind the size and production differences between the two.

Heirloom

Heirloom varieties are also a point of confusion. Heirloom tomatoes are those that have been passed down for many generations. The seed can be saved and replanted from year to year because they are not hybrid plants. Heirloom tomatoes are often chosen because they have better taste than the modern hybrids, but they can have more problems with diseases and insects. Many gardeners choose hybrids now to combat disease issues that always plague tomatoes. Heirloom and hybrid tomatoes are both great choices, it just helps to know what you are purchasing when you buy the seed.

Other Seed Packet Considerations

The seed packet or description in the seed catalog can give you a lot more important information about the plants or seeds you are purchasing. Days to maturity is important so you purchase plants that will produce before the end of the growing season. Many of the tomato varieties are listed for 60 – 80 days to maturity, which means it will be 2-3 months after you plant them until they will begin to produce fruit. One variety, Fourth of July hybrid tomato, ripens after only 49 days. I planted this variety one year and it did start producing shortly after Independence day which I enjoyed so I could start eating my tomatoes that much earlier in the season.

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Space plants correctly from the beginning of the season

Also, be sure to pay close attention to the spacing listed on the seed packet or plant labels. It may seem odd to give such a small plant so much space in early May, but you will be happy you did later in the growing season. If plants are too close together, they may face more problems with diseases because they won’t have good airflow. Also, if you space your plants out more, mulching around the plants is much easier and garden access for harvest will be much easier.

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Correctly spaced plants allow for easier harvest and can be mulched between plants

Finally, don’t get too excited that you start your plants too soon. In southeast Nebraska, I suggest waiting until early May before you plant your garden. I like to use Mother’s Day as a good calendar date for planting vegetable gardens. Wait until after our frost free date, which averages April 24th but can be later. If you are planning to start your seeds indoors, you can start those in March. Don’t start too soon or your plants could get too leggy.

Planning Your Garden

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*Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended of those not mentioned and no endorsement by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension is implied for those mentioned.

In January the seed catalogs begin to arrive in the mail. Each of these catalogs is a promise that spring will come again. In all the cold, snowy weather, I like the excitement of planning my garden for this year. When you are planning your garden, keep in mind things like sunlight, location, and water availability. Planning is important for the vegetable garden as well as for flowers, trees, and shrubs.

Planning a Vegetable Garden

It is always hard not to get overwhelmed with all the fun, new plants available to us. But when planning your garden, look at the location available first. If you are planning for a vegetable garden, you need to have at least 5 hours of sunlight per day but 8-10 hours per day is ideal for vegetables, preferably more sunlight in the afternoon. If you don’t have the correct sunlight, look for shade loving plants. The garden should be in a location that is fairly level and has good soil for best growth of the plants. Be sure to plant your garden near a water source to ensure the plants get watered sufficiently through the growing season.

Also, be sure to have the proper spacing allowed for your garden plants. We tend to plant vegetable plants too close together because they are small when we plant them. Remember to space them according to the label directions. If plants are too close together it can lead to more disease and insect problems when they grow too large and overlap one another.

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Black Walnuts Photo courtesy of Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

Black Walnut Trees

Another important aspect of your garden to keep in mind, would be to keep your garden at least 50 feet away from Black Walnut trees. Black Walnut trees produce juglone, which is a type of plant produced toxin that works as a weed barrier around the tree. Juglone will hinder growth and sometimes kill many different types of plants. Tomatoes are very susceptible to juglone. There are also a lot of other trees, shrubs, and perennials that are susceptible to the juglone. If you are planting near a black walnut tree, be sure to check if your plant choices are tolerant of the juglone. If you are unsure about a nearby tree, bring a sample of the tree to your local Extension Office for identification and they can help you determine which plants will do well planted near your black walnut tree.

Mulch

Mulch is a necessity for your garden. Whether it is a vegetable garden, a perennial bed, or trees or shrubs, mulch is vital to help keep weeds down and to retain moisture around plants. Mulch can be either wood chips, straw, grass clippings, or another form of organic mulch. Inorganic mulches are not the best option due to the fact that it is very hot around the roots of plants and does not retain moisture. Make sure that your mulch layer is not too deep, keep it around 2-3 inches deep and keep it uniform around the tree, avoid mulch volcanoes.

Plant Size

Make sure you always read the growing requirements and full size of the plant before planting it in your landscape. It is most economical to plant things that fit in the space in your landscape, rather than pruning or removing it later. Often times, trying to keep a plant in a space that is too small for it will lead to death and costly removal fees. So it is best to start with a plant that will grow no larger than the space available to have a long-lasting plant for that area of your landscape.

Have fun when searching through your garden catalogs and find something fun and interesting to try. The 2019 Pantone Color of the Year is Coral, try to use that in your garden this year. Check out the All-American Selections for new varieties that have been tested in real garden settings, many of them were tested in Omaha and Lincoln with help from Nebraska Extension.

Pumpkins, Spiders, and Mums

Halloween Pumpkins

Now that October is here, we begin to get prepared for Halloween, a day which I personally enjoy. Pumpkins, spiders, and fall flowers are all part of this festival. So, I won’t miss the chance to help you with your holiday decorations and traditions.

Pumpkins

2017-10-28 19.10.50Pumpkins can be used for so many things including carving, decoration, pies, and many other food products. If planted later in the summer growing season, your pumpkins should just be maturing, or have matured within the last couple of weeks. If you are unsure, pumpkins are mature when the rind is hard and can resist penetration from a fingernail.

Pumpkins do need to be harvested prior to a hard frost. They can be ok out on the vine for a light frost, but a hard frost will damage the pumpkin and can damage storage potential and more likely cause the pumpkins to rot. They should be cut off the vine. Do not cut the vine too close to the pumpkin, this can also cause the pumpkin to decay sooner.

If you didn’t grow the pumpkin yourself, check over the pumpkins you are purchasing. Look for good rind with no puncture wounds. Ensure that the pumpkin has a bit of stem attached to the top and choose the correct pumpkin for the use you have in mind for it. Pie pumpkins are best for baking while jack-o-lantern types will be better for carving and for decorations.

Spiders

Wolf Spider, UNL ENTO

Wolf Spider photo by Jim Kalisch, UNL Entomology

Spiders always come to mind at Halloween as a decoration and because they become a problem inside our homes with the cool fall weather. The most common spider that people bring into my office to be identified is the wolf spider. These are one of the largest species of spiders that we will find 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 usually similar to a large mosquito bite.

Spiders are actually beneficial, but not often desired. They feed on other insects and pests that can move into our homes. The best way to control a spider population indoors is through habitat modification, meaning to seal up all cracks and crevices in your home foundation and around windows and doors to ensure that the spiders don’t move into your home. You can also use the indoor/outdoor barrier sprays to spray around the foundation of your home and around the windows and doors to reduce spider populations inside your home. Also, sticky traps are a great way to manage spider populations indoors. 

Mums

orange mum, pixabay

Mums are not the scary holiday tradition that spiders and pumpkins are, but they are a common decoration for the fall, including Halloween. Garden mums grow up to 18 inches tall and 30 inches wide and grow into a clump. The flowers are 2-3 inches across and can be found in many colors including white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, coral, and deep burgundy red depending on the variety. Mums need to be pinched back in the early summer to help keep the plants to a compact and uniform size and shape and to help flowering. Pinching should be done 2-3 times in June. It should begin when the plants are 5-6 inches high and it should be discontinued around the 4th of July.

Many gardeners struggle with maintaining their mum plants over the winter due to repeated freezing and thawing cycles through the growing season as well as wet, heavy soil or lack or snow cover. Longevity of the plants can be enhanced by planting them in a location that is more protected from north winds, discontinuing fertilization by the end of July to reduce new growth at the end of the season, adding several inches of mulch to the soil around the plants through the winter months, and cutting the plants back in the spring rather than in the fall.

Problems in our Gardens

Vegetable garden 1

Growing my own produce in my backyard is one of my favorite things of summer! Vegetable gardens are great exercise, give you an excuse to eat healthier, and are very enjoyable but they can be a lot of work as well. There are always problems in our vegetable gardens, usually they are temporary or easily fixed.

Production Issues

The weather this year has not been favorable to our plants. We have been facing aborting flowers of our plants due to heat and low pollination. Now, even though our plants are producing, the tomatoes are not ripening up. The hot weather contributes to this as well. When temperatures are consistently as hot as they have been lately, tomatoes may develop but they don’t turn red. According to Purdue University, the pigments responsible for the red color in our tomatoes are not produced when the temperatures exceed 85 degrees. So, when we see long stretches of very hot weather, our tomatoes will not ripen. Be patient, they will ripen eventually when the very hot temperatures recede.

Blossom end rot is also starting to show up in our gardens. Blossom end rot is when the blossom end (the end not attached to the plant) begins to rot. This is due to uneven watering, which is seen quite often in the early part of the growing season where we see stretches of drought surrounded by 2-3 inch rains. Again, this should fade through the season as the plants grow through it. You can still eat the other end of the tomato and discard the rotted end or give your plants time, the next harvest should be better.

Cracks may also start to appear in our tomatoes due to the weather. With uneven watering comes cracks in our developing fruits. Our fruits can grow rapidly due to rapid intake of water which can build up pressure in developing tomatoes. Cracks typically appear on the top of the tomato, often in rings, and are not harmful to us if we eat them. Check for insects that may have gotten into the cracks of our fruits before eating.

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Grass clippings are applied as mulch around zucchini and cucumbers

Using Mulch

Mulch is a great way to combat these issues. Many of our problems in our gardens stem from uneven watering or plants that got too hot and dry to deal with the stresses of the environment. Mulch can keep moisture around the plants and keep the roots cooler to help with these issues as well as reduce competition from weeds. Grass clippings make a great mulch. If the grass has been treated with any herbicides this season, look at the label to know if or when it can be used as a mulch. Grass clippings break down quickly so they should be reapplied often. Straw is also a great mulch for the garden and it wouldn’t need to be reapplied as often. These types of mulch can then be tilled into your garden at the end of the season or before next season to add nutrients back into your soil.

squash vine borer damagePests

Squash bugs and squash vine borer are seen in our gardens every year. Squash bugs cause yellow speckling on the leaves and feeding damage on the fruits. You may also see rusty colored eggs on the underside of the leaves that can be removed and destroyed. Squash Vine Borer causes rapid death and wilting of the plants. 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 to stop the females from laying their eggs on your plants. Other controls include Carbaryl (Sevin), Permethrin (Eight), or bifenthrin (Bifen). This will need to be reapplied often through 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.

Poor Pollination

Poor Pollination, Blog post

Summer is a great time of the year. Our flowers are blooming and our gardens are growing. However, sometimes we have disappointments in the garden such as when our vegetable crops don’t produce viable fruits for us to eat. There are many reasons for that, but most of them we cannot help with. Just be patient and they will work themselves out.

Zucchini, squash, and cucumbers have been known to produce fruits that develop into only a small fruit that then falls off the plant. The reason for this is due to poor pollination. The plants in the cucurbit family have separate male and female flowers. This time of the year, only the male plants are present in the plants. To have a fully pollinated fruit that will develop to maturity, the plant needs the female flower to provide the fruit itself, but it needs to be pollinated by the male flower. A female flower is easily identified because you will see a small forming fruit behind the flower. Often times, people see the flowers on the plant and then get discouraged because a fruit doesn’t form, but both types of flowers are necessary to get fruits.

Poor pollination can also be caused due to lack of pollinators. Bees and other insects are necessary in cucurbits to ensure that the pollen is moved from the male flowers to the female flowers. Some years the weather isn’t desirable to the pollinators or we have a low number of pollinators present, which will lead to poor pollination causing the small fruits to drop off before fully developing. This year it has been quite rainy which leads to less pollination because bees don’t like to fly in the rain. Be careful when spraying for squash bugs and squash vine borers to help reduce injury to pollinating insects.

blossom end rot zucchini

Blossom End Rot on Zucchini

Blossom end rot is another reason that small fruits may not fully develop and then fall of your plants. Blossom end rot is an environmental problem that affects many of the plants in our garden including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, and watermelons. This is actually a calcium deficiency within our plants. Calcium is often found in adequate quantities in Nebraska soils, however, it cannot be moved throughout the soil and into the plant without even moisture. So, the problem isn’t due to lack of calcium, it is due to uneven moisture in the soils. In Nebraska, especially in the beginning stages of plant development, moisture is typically uneven due to heavy rains in between dry spells. Using calcium on your plants will not help this issue. Give the plants time and they should begin to develop normal fruits with no blossom end rot on them later in the season. Typically, we only see blossom end rot for the first couple of harvests in a season. You can still eat the fruits that develop with blossom end rot, you would just need to cut the rotten portion of the fruit off.

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Squash bugs on a Zucchini

Squash bugs and squash vine borer are coming to take over our gardens soon. This is the time of year to watch out for these problematic, common insects found affecting our cucumbers, zucchini, and the other cucurbits. Pay attention to your garden to help prevent damage. You can scout for the eggs of the squash bug. You will notice a group of tiny, copper colored eggs gathered near the intersection of the veins on the underside of the leaves. Remove and destroy the eggs as you find them to reduce the population. For squash vine borer, wrap the base of the plant in aluminum foil to stop the females from laying the eggs on your plant. You can use insecticides for both of these, just be careful to do it in the evening when the bees aren’t flying and don’t spray the flowers with insecticides to help with pollination.

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.

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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

 

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.

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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

Time to Plant Vegetable Gardens

 

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My mom, Karen, and my niece, Mya.

Mother’s Day is coming and is a great time to honor our mothers. I get my interest in horticulture from my mother and so I like to buy her plants for mother’s day gifts. It is not only a holiday for our wonderful moms, but also a great time to get out and start planting our gardens.

Mother’s day is a great date to remember for good timing for planting warm season vegetables outdoors because we have to wait to plant these frost sensitive crops until after the last spring frost has occurred. Warm season crops include: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, garden beans, corn, watermelons, cantaloupe, squash, okra, and sweet potatoes.

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When purchasing plants, be sure to look at the root system. The roots are very important to a plant, it is what is used to absorb water and nutrients for growth and production. Pull the plant out of the container it is sold in and look at the root system. If there are a lot of roots along the outside edge of the soil ball for that particular plant, it may be rootbound. When a plant is rootbound, the roots become entangled because the plant has gotten too large for the container it is growing in. Rootbound plants should not be your first choice for planting because these plants often continue to grow with encircling roots and can cause damage and even death in the plants. If a rootbound plant is purchased, be sure to thoroughly break up the root ball to help the plant grow correctly for better health.

Make sure that the garden is located to get at least 6 hours of sunlight per day, but 8-10 hours of sunlight is best. Make sure that it is planted on level ground to ensure uniform watering. Mulch is necessary to a garden for moisture retention and weed reduction for less competition. Good mulches include wood chips, lawn clippings, and newspaper. Vegetable gardens need 1-inch of water per week. The best option for watering is a soaker hose or drip irrigation to reduce the spread of diseases from splashing water.

Vegetable gardens can be planted in containers or in raised beds. Containers that can be used include shoes, pallets, boxes, ceramic containers, whiskey barrels, tires, and cow tanks, in addition to containers bought at a garden center. Just make sure that your container has a drainage hole in the bottom. Container gardening is a great option for people with disabilities that restrict them from traditional gardening or for those living in apartments or rental properties where they have no lawn to dig up to plant into.

Raised beds are another alternative to traditional gardening for those with disabilities or those with poor soils. Raised beds are gardens built up higher than their surrounding soil level. Raised beds can be made without an enclosure as a berm or with an enclosure using items such as landscape timbers or old railroad ties, as long as creosote does not still ooze from them. Raised beds can typically be much larger than a container garden, but should be only as wide as your reach to the center for weeding purposes. This type of gardening would be a good choice for those facing problems with toxicity from black walnut trees.

Veggies collage

However you garden, just enjoy it and plant the crops that you and your family favor most for meals. If you have extra you can always take it to a local farmer’s market to make a few dollars on your extra produce. Gardening is a fun way to grow your own vegetables, to get some exercise and to enjoy nature all at the same time. This is a fun activity for kids of all ages.