Yard and Garden: July 14, 2017

Yard & Garden for blog, 2017

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for July 14, 2017. 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 July 28, 2017. 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: Steve Karloff, District Forester from the Nebraska Forest Service

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: http://go.unl.edu/44qr and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts.

1.The first caller of the day has overgrown Forsythia and Yellow Dogwood plants. What can be done for pruning to reduce the unproductive plant materials and when can it be done?

A. Because these plants are overgrown, it would be most beneficial to do a rejuvenation cutting on them. A rejuvenation cutting is when you prune a shrub back to about 6-8 inches from ground level and remove the majority of the top growth. This will get rid of all the old, unproductive wood to bring in all new, younger wood that will be more productive to leaf out better throughout the entire shrub, will lead to more flowering, and will be healthier and free of insects and diseases that were problematic on the shrub. It is best to prune forsythia immediately after they flowered, but it could be done in the fall. Remember with a rejuvenation cutting that the plants will not flower for at least 2 years following the heavy pruning.

2. A caller has blue spruce trees planted in an area near a lake. Some of the spruces are 60 years old and some are 15 years old, all are dying from the bottom up. What is wrong with these trees?

A. Too much moisture can cause blue spruces to die from the bottom up, since they are planted close to a lake, they may be getting too much watering. When replacing the trees, choose a species more adapted to wet locations such as white pine, cedars, or bald cypress.

3. This caller has a green apple tree that was planted before he moved in and the apples are falling so they are ripe. The apples are not juicy and are quite porous and pithy. What is wrong with the apples?

A. After discussions on this with Paul Hay, this is just the variety of apple that is growing there. This is an apple that is used more for processing to be used in pies and sauces and not for fresh eating.

4. A caller has rabbits that are eating her hostas and lilies. What can be done to control them?

A. The only effective management for rabbits in a garden is to put up a fence that is at least 2 feet high.

5. This caller has a bur oak that was planted in the spring. The old leaves on the tree are turning brown but the new growth is green and healthy looking.

A. Be careful to not overwater a tree, especially with newly planted trees. These young trees have a small root system and do not need to be watered as heavily as an older, established tree. It is beneficial to allow the roots to dry out a little between waterings.

6. A caller has white pines that were planted too close to the driveway and now the branches hit cars when they come to park in the drive. Can the branches be trimmed back so they don’t hit cars and when can that be done?

A. Yes, these branches can be removed. Take the branch all the way back to the trunk so that they don’t regrow causing pruning to be necessary every couple of years. You can prune evergreens most any time of the year.

7. This caller has a bur oak that was planted last fall. It didn’t come out of dormancy this spring and has not grown. However, there are suckers coming up at the base of the tree, can the main tree be pruned out and the suckers allowed to grow into a new tree?

A. Yes, remove the main tree and allow one of the larger more upright suckers to grow into a new tree. However, sucker growth is not always as strong as the tree itself, so it may not perform how the tree was supposed to.

8. Can lilacs be pruned now?

A. No, it is best to prune lilacs within a couple of weeks after they are done blooming. Lilacs produce their flower buds in the summer and fall of the year before they bloom, so pruning now would cut off the flower buds for next spring. To ensure flowering for next year, wait until after it blooms next year and then prune it back at that time.

9. A caller has cypress trees that were planted 5 years ago. One of the 2 trees is in great condition with good color. However, the other one is smaller and yellow in color. The trees are only a few feet apart. What is wrong with it and can it be fixed?

A. The yellow and shorter tree may have just been a bad tree out of the gate. Sometimes our trees develop a problem in a nursery or from the seed source and never really overcome that. Also, with Bald Cypress trees, it is hard for them to overcome iron chlorosis. When these trees get iron chlorosis, they become stressed and no matter how many trunk injections, which also harm the tree, they never come out of the chlorosis. At this point, it would be best to remove and replace the bad tree.

 

Summer Patch at Christenson Field, P Hay

Photo of Summer Patch from Paul C. Hay, Nebraska Extension Educator

10. This caller is having problems with their lawn. He fertilized it in May but now it has brown patches throughout. How much water does a lawn need and how can he improve his lawn?

A. Our lawns need 1-1.5 inches of water per week on average to stay green and out of dormancy. The patches could be the lawn going dormant or they could be from a fungal disease. There are a lot of summer fungal diseases such as brown patch, summer patch, and dollar spot. They are common in the hot and humid days in late summer but as soon as that weather fades, the brown spots will turn green again. For more information on these diseases, see this TurfiNfo from UNL.

11. A caller has Bradford pears that have branches coming out 1.5 feet above the ground, should those be removed or will they move up as the tree grows? The trees also have suckers, what should be done about that?

A. If these low branches are in the way for mowing and you don’t like how low they are, they should be removed. Remember not to remove more than 1/4 of the tree in one season, so you may have to remove one this year and another next year. Those branches will always be at that level, though, so if they are in your way they need to be removed. As for suckers, cut those off at ground level and don’t treat them with anything or the spray will kill the tree as well.

12. This caller has pumpkins in his garden that are wilted during the day but at night they look fine. What is wrong with the plants?

A. If a plant looks better in the evening or in the morning but is wilted during the hot part of the day, it is heat or water stress. Make sure your plants are properly watered through this hot and humid couple of weeks of the summer.

13. A caller has tomato plants with leaves that are drying up from the bottom of the plant. The tomatoes are also rotten on one end of the fruit. What is causing these two problems?

A. Ensure that the plants are being properly watered. Vegetable gardens need 1-1.5 inches of water per week. Hand watering at the base of the plant every night is not sufficient for the root system. The plant could also be exhibiting early blight which is common right now. Remove the infected leaves, the disease will fade soon. The rotten side of the fruit is blossom end rot. This is a calcium deficiency in the plant caused by uneven watering making the calcium unavailable to the plant. Adding calcium to the soil will not help the problem, just make sure your plants are well watered and mulched in. Blossom end rot will fade soon. You can eat the good side of the fruit and dispose of the rotten end.

14. This caller has round berries on the plants of her potatoes. What are these?

A. These are the fruits of a potato plant. We typically do not see the fruits because we are growing the plants for the tubers produced underground and we harvest before the fruits appear. Remove the fruits so the plant can build the tubers.

15. A caller has roses that have uniformly round holes on the edges of the leaves and brown spots. He sprayed with rose spray and it is not working. What is wrong with the plants and how can he fix it?

A. This is likely damage caused by the leafcutter bee which is a pollinator and beneficial insect. There is no need to control this insect. Here is a great article from Jonathan Larson, Nebraska Extension Entomologist, on Leafcutter Bees.

16. How do you control puncturevine in a lawn?

A. Use a 2,4-D product in the pre-bloom stage. Management will not be achieved this time of year because the plant is large and will be difficult to kill. Also, don’t use 2,4-D products in the heat and humidity of the summer or the product may move to non-target plants causing damage.

17. How do you control moss in a pond?

A. Copper sulfate crystals can be used for control. For more information on pond management, visit the Lakes, Ponds, and Streams section of the water.unl.edu website.

18. A caller has apple trees that get insects in the fruit every year. When and what should they be spraying for that?

A. It would be best to get on a spray schedule, spraying with an orchard fruit tree spray every 10-14 days throughout the growing season. For more information visit the Local Food Production page within the food.unl.edu website for spray guides.

19. The last caller of the day has vines with milkweed type pods growing in his fenceline. What can be done to control it?

A. The plant sounds like honeyvine milkweed. At this point of the year, pull it or spray it with roundup. In the spring or fall, 2,4-D could be used, but not now due to the heat and humidity.

 

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Fall is a time for Apples and Garlic

Fall is a great time of the year. It can be bittersweet, though, because it often signals the end of our growing season. The good thing is that this is also the time of the year to go pick apples. It is apple month, for tips and recipes on apples, visit the Nebraska Extension October food calendar.

Each different variety of apple differs for their harvest time. To determine the harvest time for the apple, knowing the variety will help you. In fall, a common question from gardeners with a favorite apple or pear tree is for identification of the cultivar from the color and shape of the fruit. This almost impossible to do, in fact, it’s really only realistic to give a general idea of possible cultivars. So, if you don’t know the variety, you can look at the color, flavor, and texture of the apple.

apples-A. Henneman flickr

Flickr image courtesy of Alice Henneman per CC license

To know a mature apple, look at the “ground color”, which is the color of an apple’s skin disregarding any areas of red. You can also try one to ensure that it is the correct sweetness and make sure it is firm and not overripe and soft. Overripe apples will detach from the tree more easily than those that are at the correct stage of ripeness. If the apple is too ripe, it will break down in storage more quickly than those that are at the peak of their maturity.

For storage it is best to pick apples when they are still hard but mature. Place the apples in a box or crate with a smooth lining so that staples don’t puncture or injure the apple. These boxes or crates should be lined with plastic or foil to retain humidity around the apples. Remove bruised and large apples that will break down more quickly than the rest of the apples. Apples produce ethylene gas, even after they are removed from the tree, which speeds up the ripening process in fruits. A damaged apple will produce more ethylene than other apples. Apples should be stored in the fridge or other location where they are kept at temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, an apple stored too warm will ripen faster.

Fall is also a great time to plant garlic. I love Italian food, so therefore I am a huge fan of fresh garlic. Garlic is best planted from mid-September through mid-October, one month before the soil freezes. The bulbs planted in the fall will root and begin to sprout before going dormant for the winter. Next spring, these bulbs will continue to grow until harvest in the summer months.

garlic-olga-filonenko-flickr

Flickr image courtesy of Olga Filonenko per CC license.

To grow garlic, plant small cloves for each plant you want. The clove is obtained from the division of the large bulb. Planting larger cloves will lead to larger bulbs for harvest next year. Wait until just before you begin planting to divide the bulb into the individual cloves. Plant the cloves 3-5 inches apart, 1-2 inches deep with the point upward in the soil. If you are planting multiple rows, the rows need to be 18-30 inches apart. Before completing your gardening tasks this fall, remember to mulch the planted garlic with 8-12 inches of straw after the soil freezes.

The apple information from this article came from an article written by Mary Jane Frogge, Extension Associate from Lancaster County Extension. The garlic information from this article came from the e-Hort Update at hortupdate.unl.edu which is a newsletter you can sign up for to get more horticulture information throughout the year.

Yard and Garden: June 17, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for June 17, 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: Connie Fisk, Cass County Extension

1. The first caller of the day transplanted pear and maple trees in December. Recently, these trees turned brown and lost their leaves. What would cause this?

A. This year the weather has been ever-changing. The drastic change from wet and rainy to hot and dry has been hard on many of our plants. It sounds like these plants need watered. Water on a slow trickle about one time per week for 45 minutes-1 hour and make sure the trees have a mulch ring that is at least 2-3 feet out from the base of the tree and only about 2-3 inches deep.

2. This caller has a locust tree that he topped and wanted to use the removed branches to make a trellis for his vegetable garden. Now, the branches are sitting in a pile and sawdust has developed around them. What is this and is it concerning for his vegetable garden?

A. This would be either carpenter ants working on the decaying material of the branches or it could be another type of insect that is emerging from the branch that was developing in the branch over the winter months. This will not cause any problems to your vegetable garden.

*Note: It is not recommended to top a tree due to the weak, unproductive branches that will emerge from the tree.

3. A caller has scotch moss that she purchased for her fairy garden. She purchased it one month ago and has not had time to plant it into the fairy garden. Now, part of it has turned brown in the center of the plant. What can she do to fix this?

A. It should be planted into a garden or the fairy garden as soon as possible to ensure it gets room to grow. Also, this could be due to watering issues. She can prune out the dead growth and the rest should be fine if it gets planted.

4. This caller has 2 Northstar dwarf cherry trees that were planted this spring. One is fine but the other has not leaved out this spring. Will it survive?

A. No, it will probably not live at this point. It won’t hurt anything to leave it in for this growing season to see if it comes out of it, but it is late in the season for no growth to be on the tree. Water it early in the morning to try to help it come out of possible late dormancy.

5. A caller has apple trees that were planted last year. They are 6-7 feet tall. One tree is beginning to bend over from the top, the leaves are green with some yellow leaves throughout. What would cause this?

A. This could be due to fireblight. This is a bacterial diseases that can cause dead leaves and the end of the infected branches will bend over like a shepherds hook. Prune out the infected area by cutting back into the healthy area 8-12 inches past where the scorched area appears. Clean pruners in a bleach water solution between each cut to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Do not compost infected branches.

6. A caller has a 30 foot tall blue spruce that they would like to trim off some of the bottom branches. Is this an ok practice?

A. Yes, that can be done. The branches removed will not regrow and underneath the weeds and grasses will need to be controlled. It would be best to then use mulch and/or a groundcover under the tree to help with weeds and mowing around it.

7. This caller has a peach tree that split down the middle of the trunk. Can it be saved?

A. No, any assistance will be just to help the tree limp along until death. It would be best to replace the tree at this point. Once the tree splits it is then open to disease and insect issues with no way to remedy it for long-term management.

8. A caller has maple trees that are 5 years old and now the trunks look like the bark is peeling off and you can see the inside. This damage is on the South and West sides of the tree. What is it from?

A. This would be sunscald, also called southwest disease because the damage occurs on the south and west sides of the tree. Sunscald occurs in thin barked trees during the winter when the cells of the tree rapidly freeze and thaw on warm winter days. Now that the damage has occurred there is no control for it. For new, thin barked trees, they should be wrapped during the winter months for the first few years of their lives. The damage is minimal and won’t kill the tree.

9. This caller has hollyhocks that the lower leaves are drying up and falling off of the plant. What would cause that? Also, there are mums blooming now. Can she cut them back?

A. This sounds like a fungal leaf disease due to the wet spring. Remove the leaves and destroy them. Mums can be pinched back throughout the summer months to keep them at a good size and to help with blooms in the fall. They can be pinched back until the 4th of July.

10. A caller wanted to know what causes blue-green algae in a lake?

A. It is a combination of environment, low water levels, and nutrients found in the lake. For more information visit: http://water.unl.edu/lakes/toxicalgae-faqs

11. This caller lost 2 peach trees and a plum to borers. Is it common? Did the tree have borers when it was purchased? Can others be saved?

A. Borers are common in peach trees. They can be treated. For information on treating these borers, visit the spray guides section on https://food.unl.edu/local-food-production

12. An email question came through with an algae problem in a birdbath. What can be done to control this algae?

A. This birdbath needs to be cleaned more often and scrubbed out to remove algae growing on the bottom of the birdbath. For more information visit: http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/waterbirds.shtml

13. A caller has a leaf tree that has developed peaches every year except for the past 2 years. What would be causing this?

A. A late frost has occurred the past 2 growing seasons which would cause a decrease if not an entire loss of the peaches that had begun before this frost occurred. There has also been low pollination the past couple of years due to wet spring during the pollination period.

14. This caller has a established silver maples that are suckering. Can this be sprayed with anything to stop the suckers from forming?

A. Unfortunately, no chemicals can be used on suckers because this growth is coming from the roots of the main tree. Chemicals used on the suckers will kill the entire tree. The best defense for suckers is to continually prune them out.

15. A caller has apples that tend to get worms and spots on the fruits. What can be done to help with these problems?

A. For backyard trees it might be best to just tolerate occasional insect and disease pests. If the problems are minimal, it is much less work to just cut out the bad spots for home use. You can use insecticides, just follow the regulations on the spray guides found at: https://food.unl.edu/local-food-production Sanitation is also important, remove and destroy all fruits off the tree and off the ground and leaves around the tree in the fall to destroy overwintering locations for these pests.

puffball

Puffballs are identified by their solid structure throughout the fruiting body, which is typically spherical in shape. (Photo from NebGuide Mushrooms, Fairy Rings, and Other Nuisance Fungi in the Landscape courtesy of R. Mulrooney, University of Delaware)

16. The final caller of the day has a fungus in the lawn that is like a ball on top of the ground that when pushed on releases many spores. What would this be?

A. This would be a puffball. A type of mushroom. There is no control for them, it is best to just remove the puffball structures as you see them and destroy them.

Yard and Garden: May 27, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for May 27, 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: Dick Campbell, Owner of Campbell’s Nursery in Lincoln

1. The first question of the day came via email. A listener wanted to know how to control clover in their lawn?

A. Clover is best managed in the fall months when it is pulling nutrients from the leaves into the roots, it will take the chemical into the roots as well. Products with triclopyr work best, but 2,4-D will work as well. Make 2-3 applications in September and October for best control.

Mallow, Phil Westra, Co State Univ, Bugwood

Common Mallow photo by Phil Westra, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

2. A walk-in question was for identification of a weed.

A. This weed is mallow. It is a difficult weed that will move throughout our gardens. It can be controlled with a careful application of Glyphosate (Roundup). Be careful not to spray any other plants with the glyphosate product.

3. A caller wanted to know when she can transplant daylilies and Iris?

A. The daylily could be transplanted now. It would be best to move these in the spring or in the fall, but daylilies are a tough plant and would be fine if moved now as long as they are kept well watered when it is hot because the root system isn’t developed at the new location yet. Iris would be best if transplanted in the fall.

4. A caller has earthworms making his lawn uneven. What can be done to control those?  This caller also wanted to know if he can water houseplants with water that goes through a water softener?

A. Earthworms are very beneficial to our soils as they reduce compaction and add organic matter back to our soils. The damage from them is only seen for a couple of weeks in the spring with rains. If you can deal with it for a short time, it is best to avoid treating for them. If you have to treat, Sevin insecticide does have some management capabilities for your lawn. As for watering the houseplants with water from a water softener, it is best to use water prior to the softener due to the increase of salts in the water.

5. This caller wants to know how far away from the house a shade plant should be planted? She also wants to know how she can manage grass in Iris’?

A. Spacing the tree from the house depends on the tree chosen and what the full size of that tree is. For many of the oak or maple shade trees, it is best to go 25-35 feet or farther from the house to ensure no problems develop as the tree grows. The grass in the Iris bed can be controlled with Grass-B-Gon.

6. A caller has a cherry tree that the top broke off but it is still attached to the main trunk. Can it be saved?

A. There is no way to re-attach a broken off branch. This branch will have to be removed. Because this is the only branch that is still producing leaves and cherries, the tree should be removed and replaced.

7. A caller has 2 rhubarb patches that were damaged badly by hail. The leaves look terrible. Should those leaves be removed or left on the plant?

A. If there are new leaves growing below the damaged leaves, the damaged leaves can be removed. However, if those damaged leaves are all that is alive on the plant right now, they should be left on the plant until new leaves begin to grow so that the plant can still grow and build nutrients for next spring.

8. A sample was brought in of a trumpet vine with many little insect all over the stem, leaves, and flowers. The plant has been sprayed with Sevin with no control. What can be done for this trumpet vine?

A. Sevin is not an effective method of control for aphids. In high populations you can use Eight or Malathion. Aphids are not very damaging to our plants and they are fairly short lived. Given time, predatory insects will move onto the aphids to control them without chemicals.

9. This caller was looking into planting apple trees and found there is a disease called cedar-apple rust. Is this a concerning disease here and what should be done to avoid problems with it?

A. Yes, cedar-apple rust is a damaging problem for apple trees. The spores can spread up to 2 miles, so it is best to plant a resistant apple tree cultivar. It is also good to look for cultivars that are resistant to apple scab. For choosing your cultivar, here is a publication from Purdue that lists common apple tree varieties and their disease susceptibility: Disease Susceptibility of Common Apple Cultivars

10. A sample was brought in of a tulip tree with leaves that are puckered and rolled downward. What would be the problem with this tree?

A. This tree has aphids on the underside of the leaves that are sucking the juices out of the leaves. Aphids are not terribly damaging to our plants and are fairly short lived. In high populations you can use Eight or Malathion.

11. Is there a dry granular weed killer for the lawn? When is the time to move gooseberries, iris, peonies, and rhubarb?

A. Fertilome is a good dry, granular weed killer. This is best applied early in the morning so it will stick to the leaf blades with the morning dew. Gooseberries should be moved after dormancy. Iris and peonies should be moved in the fall, typically in September when the tops begin to turn yellow. The rhubarb should be moved after they are dormant in the fall or early spring.

12. This caller has asparagus that has been planted in this location for many years and is now dying out. She fertilizes 2-3 times per year with a general fertilizer. What is causing this problem and can it be fixed? She also wants to know if she can use canning salt or Epsom salt in her garden? And, finally, she wants to know what to do for the aphids on her honeysuckle?

A. Asparagus will die out due to age. It would be beneficial to dig it up this fall after it goes dormant and divide the plants to replant as individual clumps. When replanting, sprinkle some bone meal in the hole to help with fertility. As for using epsom salt in the garden, this is not necessary. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate which is in good supply in Nebraska soils. If nutrients are necessary in your garden, it is best to use a general purpose fertilizer. Canning salt can harm your plants and damage the soil. It is not a recommended practice to use any type of salt in your garden. As for the honeysuckle aphids, those should be controlled with Eight or Malathion. The aphids on honeysuckle can cause witches broom to the plant so they should be controlled.

13. Do raspberries and blackberries need to be grown on a trellis?

A. Yes, a trellis or an espalier would be a good way to grow them. Here is a good guide to growing raspberries and blackberries from Missouri Extension

14. Can red and black raspberries be planted together?

A. Don’t plant them within 20 feet of each other or they will cross pollinate and the fruits will not taste as good.

15. A caller has rhubarb that is shooting up stalks with seeds on them. What should be done with those?

A. Those seed stalks should be removed. Cut the stalk off at the ground. If left the plant will put energy into producing seed that should be stored for leaf and stalk production.

16. The last caller of the day has a mandevilla plant that is growing outdoors in a pot with a trellis. The leaves are now turning yellow and black. What is causing this and how can it be managed?

A. This is a moisture issue. The heavy rains this year are causing a leaf fungus to occur. A rose and flower systemic containing a fungicide can be applied to the plant to help reduce the disease.