Yard and Garden: April 14, 2017

Yard & Garden for blog, 2017

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 7, 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: George Pinkerton, Director of Landscape Maintenance at Downtown Lincoln

1. The first question came from a caller wondering what the timing is for crabgrass preventer?

A: Typically we go with mid-to late April for application of crabgrass preventer. Crabgrass germinates when soil temperatures reach 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. In most of the Southeast Nebraska area, we have just recently hit that. Anytime in the next couple of weeks would be fine to apply your crabgrass preventer. It might be best for control to apply a split application this year. For a split application, apply half of the recommended rate now and the other half of the recommended rate 8-10 weeks later. The split application will give you a longer season of control for crabgrass and other annual grassy weeds.

2. A caller was wondering about their gladiolus bulbs. They have had problems with thrips insects in the past and they had heard they should soak their bulbs in lysol to control them. Is this a good method of control or is there something better?

A: As it turns out, you can soak the corms in a solution of lysol water prior to storage of the corms over the winter months, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. You can also dust the corms with a sevin dust prior to storage in the late fall, store them with mothballs, or store them at colder temperatures such as 35-40 degrees F as well. If you are looking for control at this time, it would be best to spray the plants as you see the streaking damage beginning from the thrips feeding in the spring and summer months. You can use any general insecticide for this.

3. This caller has a sugar maple that was hit with hail 5 years ago and now has a great deal of damage to the trunk of the tree. They have sprayed the trunk with a sealant and used a wrap. Will the tree survive or should it be removed now?

A: At this point, I would observe the tree to watch for signs of death occurring through the tree. The damage that is there cannot be fixed now that it has occurred. If you don’t like the look of the damage you can remove and replace the tree or you can wait until it starts to dieback. It is hard to say how long the tree will live now that the damage has occurred.

2012-05-25 12.04.38

Bare lawn in need of overseeding.

4. A caller wants to reseed. What seed should he use?

A: For a new seeding, use a turf-type tall fescue or a Kentucky bluegrass. Use either 100% of either of these types or use a 50% mix of the two. For more information, see this article from the UNL Turfgrass Department on Choosing Grass Seed.

5. A caller has a section in fairly high shade that died out last year. Why and can it be reseeded?

A: In locations of very high shade turf doesn’t always do well. The caller said this had been growing there for 25 years so it could have been a fluke that the lawn died out last year. You can reseed now with regular turf or you can use a shady groundcover such as a carex species.

6. When is the time to transplant coreopsis to a location with more sun?

A: Now would be a great time. Mid April through mid-late May is a great time to transplant perennials.

7. This caller has some large pin oaks that need to be pruned to make it easier to mow underneath the tree. Is it too late now to do that?

A: Yes, it would be better to wait until late fall to prune the oaks now. Oak trees are susceptible to oak wilt which is spread by a beetle in the summer months. It is best to avoid pruning them at this time of the year to reduce the incidence of disease.

8. What kind of tree would be a good choice for shade production in a backyard?

A: Any of the oak species, shagbark hickory, sycamore, Linden, Kentucky coffeetree, Black locust, thornless honeylocust, hackberry, and many others.

Curly Dock, Steve Dewey, Utah State Univ, Bugwood

Photo of Curly Dock from Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.org

9. A caller wants to know what to do for management of curly dock?

A: 2,4-D or Trimec can be used this time of year or use a mixture of 2,4-D and Roundup.

10. What do you do for thistles growing throughout a yard?

A: 2,4-D or Trimec, but these products are best used in the late fall or before flowering. Thistles are a biennial so if you can dig up the plants as a rosette in the first year of growth they will die.

11. This caller has cherry trees that are suckering. Can one of the suckers be dug up now to start another plant?

A: Yes, it can be done now, but fall would be a better time of the year for this. If it needs to be done, it can be done now. However, depending on the type of sucker growth, the new plants may not be the same as the original plant or they may have weak growth.

12. An email from a listener asked what is wrong with his pin oak that has leaves that are curled up like they were hit with a spray? He wondered if they were too close to the windbreak that is 20 feet away? Is there a certain distance you want to stay away from your windbreak when planting other trees?

A: You do need to give your trees space to grow, but pin oaks are often planted as a third, interior row to a windbreak. The spacing between rows would be 15-20 feet, so the proximity to the windbreak would not be a problem in this instance. Most of the time if a tree is lightly hit with spray drift from a pesticide, it will not show in the tree every year unless it is hit every year. In this case, I would ask for a picture or sample to help with further diagnosis.

13. When is the best time to transplant peonies? Why isn’t the rhubarb up yet?

A: Fall is the best time to transplant peonies. If necessary for construction or moving purposes, it can be done yet this spring. Plant them at the same depth at their new location. As for the rhubarb, give it a few more weeks to see if it comes up before giving up on it. If it is in a location that is more exposed to cold winds the soil may have not warmed up enough yet this spring.

14. This caller wants to know what type of fertilizer to use in a garden?

A: A low grade, balanced fertilizer is best for a garden, like a 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 with slow release fertilizer is best.

15. The final caller of the day wanted to know if now was the time to fertilize pecans?

A: Many of the trees in our environment have sufficient nutrients for growth and so fertilization on these pecan trees may not be necessary. If you are concerned with the growth of the tree, take a soil test to see where the fertility levels are. If it is growing fine, don’t fertilize it because our trees and other plants can be over-fertilized which can cause injury or even death.

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.

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.

Yard and Garden: April 15, 2016

Yard & Garden for blogThis is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 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: Jeff Culbertson, UNL Landscape Services

1. The first caller of the day has asparagus that she planted last Spring. What needs to be done with the plant now?

A. Light harvest can be done the second growing season and then full harvesting can begin the third season. Mulch it now to keep weeds down, herbicide sprays are not able to be safely used too close to growing asparagus. Cut the plants back in the fall after they have grown well all season. Fertilizer can be applied now or in the fall.

2. How do you control moles in the lawn? How do you control grubs in the lawn?

A. For mole control, see this guide from the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management: http://icwdm.org/handbook/mammals/mam_d51.pdf Make sure that you have found an active run area before implementing any traps by stomping the mounds down for a couple of days prior to setting the trap. For grub control, the best option is to apply a product containing Imidacloprid around the third week of June.

3. This caller from the Southern part of the United States said that it is difficult to grow asparagus in the south. Is this due to the lack of dormancy in the south compared to what we have in Nebraska?

A. Yes, asparagus would need to have a rest period that occurs during our winter in Nebraska. However, the roots are also prone to root rot problems, so it might be that your soil could be too high of clay that isn’t allowing the asparagus roots to dry out enough.

4. Another caller has Iris that they have sprayed with Sevin for iris borers that are always a problem. Is this the best product and when should she be applying it? Also, she applied lime to the plants and now they are a lime green color instead of the deep green they are supposed to be. What is causing this discoloration?

A. Lime is used for acidic soils to raise the pH. In Nebraska, most of our soils are heavy clay and therefore already have a high pH. The addition of the lime to the soils in this case is causing chlorosis on these iris plants. It will work through over time, but for a couple of years the iris may look a little tired. The Iris borers have not shown up yet, but a treatment with an imidacloprid, permethrin, or bifenthrin soon or just as the larvae come out would be ideal for control.

5. This caller is wondering what the timing is for fertilizer with crabgrass pre-emergent herbicide? He is also wondering how to control bindweed in bromegrass?

A. Anytime in the next week or 2 would be ideal for fertilizer and crabgrass pre-emergent use this year. The soil temperatures are at 54.9 degrees Fahrenheit for the 7 day average. Crabgrass will germinate at temperatures between 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can begin applying your control methods anytime now until the end of the month for best control. The bindweed can be controlled with trimec  if used 2-3 times per summer. Keep the bindweed mowed to prevent flowering from occurring to reduce the amount of seed left in the grass.

6. A caller has cedar trees that were recently pruned from the bottom up. What would be a good grass to grow under these trees?

A. A fescue grass would grow well in this shady environment. Also, a nice groundcover such as purple leaf wintercreeper would be a good alternative to grass to reduce mowing under the tree and to grow better in the shade of the tree.

7. This caller from Hickman has a cherry tree. Every year they mow off many “little trees” that grow up and around the cherry tree. Is there anything else to do to reduce the occurrence of these trees?

A. Suckering occurs with many different tree species. These suckers may be growing off of the roots of the main tree so chemicals should not be used or else you may end up killing the desired tree as well. Cutting them off or mowing over them before they grow too large would be the best options for control.

8. This caller has fruit trees. He is wondering if a product called “fruit tree drench” for insects would be ok?

A. Not knowing the active ingredients in this product makes it hard to answer the question. Systemic insecticides are not usually safe for use in plants that are edible because a systemic insecticide will move throughout the entire plant, including into the edible parts. It is suggested to do more research on the safety of the product or to move to a spray type of insecticide that is not systemic to reduce the health hazards that may be a problem with systemic insecticides.

9. Another caller has an apple tree that is 7-8 years old. The last 3 years it has produced nice apples but they are rotten inside. Now there are not many apples that are not rotten on the inside. What can be done for this?

A. Sanitation is going to be key for controlling this disease, known as black rot of apples. A orchard fruit tree spray program can be used to minimize the damage as well. Pruning may need to be done to remove any branches that are dead or diseased.

10. A caller wanted to start a new strawberry patch. How far should the plants be spaced in the garden and what should be done to the soil for improvements?

A. Till in compost and topsoil for increased organic matter and reducing compaction in the soil. Space the plants 1 foot apart.

11. This caller has a maple tree that is not budding out and has not yet lost the leaves from last spring. Will it survive?

A. Some maples, such as the sugar maples, have not yet leafed out for this spring. Use the fingernail test to scratch the bark lightly on smaller branches to see if there is green underneath the bark. Green under the bark means the tree is still alive and waiting to come out of winter dormancy, brown under the bark means it died over the winter.

12. A caller wants to know about the “spray on grass”. Will it work for overseeding?

A. Should work ok, but check with the types of grass seed included in these cans. Many of these mixes have perennial rye which doesn’t last long in Nebraska environments. Also, check for the amount of weed seed found in the mixture.

13. Is it too late to thin Iris plants?

A. The best time to transplant and divide iris plants is in the fall. Use a garden fork to lift them from the ground. Look for borer holes, and then replant them making sure to not plant them too deeply.

14. What is the best advice for improving soils for growing watermelons?

A. Lighter soils are best for growing watermelons. Add compost to improve the fertility.

15. A gentleman has cherry trees, apricot trees, and peach trees. What type of mulch should be applied to help keep the trees watered?

A. Organic mulches should be used, such as the wood chips. They need to be applied at a uniform depth of 2-3 inches in a ring around the trees that is at least 2-3 feet wide around the tree. Water the trees for about 45 minutes every 10-14 days, more may be necessary during the hot, dry periods of the summer. Use a soil probe or long screwdriver to see if the trees need water. Push the probe into the soil up to 12-18 inches deep, if there is resistance any time while pushing into the ground, the trees need water.

grape hyacinth, ricky layson photography, bugwood

Grape Hyacinth photo from Ricky Layson, Ricky Layson Photography, Bugwood.org via Creative Commons License.

16. A caller has grape hyacinth growing in her lawn. What can be done for management?

A. Mow it off. This is a short lived annual plant that is close to the end of its lifetime for this year. There is no need to use chemicals to control this plant.

Spring Lawncare

Spring Lawncare, blog post

April is finally here, which means spring should be bringing in warmer weather. April is a good time to get out and start working in the lawn and garden to prepare our yards. To help ensure that you have the best lawn on the block, here are few tips to improve your lawn this spring.

April is a great time to overseed your lawn. If you had some spots that were flooded out last spring, now is a great time to get some new seed planted. The beginning part of April is best for seeding lawns, but it can be done until the end of the month. Frequent, light irrigation is necessary to keep newly seeded lawns moist. It may be necessary to water twice a day to keep it from drying out and dying. Straw mulch can be applied to keep the seedbed moist, but it is not necessary and can bring problems with weed seed that is often a contaminant of straw. Do not apply any pesticides to newly seeded lawn until you have completed 2-3 mowings. Also, do not try to overseed right before or right after applying crabgrass preventer as this chemical will prevent the germination of your desired grasses as well.

We often face difficulties with weeds in our lawns. The key to weed management is to keep your lawn healthy to avoid weed infestations and to identify the weed before chemical controls are used. Many of our herbicides are specific to either a grass weed or a broadleaf weed and won’t work on the other weed type. Also, you need to know the weed to know the lifecycle for when the best time is to manage that weed with a chemical. As I stated in my previous news column, henbit is a winter annual and should only be chemically controlled in the lawn in the fall, the spring is too late.

crabgrass, Joseph Berger, Bugwood

Crabgrass Photo By: Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

Crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides need to be applied before crabgrass germinates, which is when the soil temperature is 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. This typically occurs toward the end of April. Applying this chemical too soon may cause the chemical to stop working earlier in the season when crabgrass may still be germinating. In this case an additional application may be necessary later in the spring, so it is best to wait until the correct time to only have to apply this one time per season. Broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, clover, and ground ivy should be controlled in the fall for best control but can be managed in the spring with 2,4-D products.

Fertilizing turf can be done up to 4 times per growing season. Apply fertilizers at a rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet for each application. A good trick for remembering when to apply fertilizers is to fertilize with the holidays: Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween.

Mower Collage

We are now getting to the time of year when we will have to start mowing our lawns. Prepare your lawn mower for the season before you start mowing. Start by sharpening the blades. Dull mowing blades can cause tearing to occur on the grass blades rather than a smooth cut. These tears can lead to more insect and disease problems. Change the oil in your lawn mower, if you didn’t do that in the fall. Check your spark plugs and tire pressure. Finally, make sure you clean under the deck for any grass that may still be stuck under there from last season. You can start mowing as soon as the grass starts growing. Remember to mow at a height of 2.5-3.5 inches and only cut off 1/3 of the grass blade each time you mow.

Henbit in the lawn

Henbit flower from canva

This time of the year is always fun. It is starting to warm up and we can begin to emerge from our winter hibernation indoors. However, with the movement outdoors come the calls to my office. People venture outdoors and begin to notice plants growing that were not intentionally planted. One of the most common nuisance plants that seems to plant itself in your beautiful lawn and is noticed early in the spring is Henbit.

Henbit is a plant in the mint family and therefore it has square stems. It grows to a height of 16 inches and has dark green leaves that are scalloped along the edges and arranged oppositely along the stem. The leaves are clasping below the flower cluster. It has a purple colored, tubular flower. This is a plant that spreads by seed but can quickly invade turf areas and invade into a flower or vegetable garden. Henbit is the plant that is often seen in masses of purple in fields very early in the spring.

Henbit in field from Purdue

Cornfields full of purple henbit (Purdue Agriculture photo/John Obermeyer)

Henbit is a winter annual plant, which means that it germinates in the fall or winter. It then grows for a period of time in the early winter, goes dormant in the very cold periods and resumes growth early in the spring to flower and produce seed. After flowering, it will die, because it has set seed for new plants for next fall and spring.

People typically only notice henbit in their lawns in the spring when it is flowering. However, the best time for management is in the fall when it is first germinating. If you use chemicals to control henbit in a lawn, it is best to do prior to flowering and seed production. In the spring, when most people see henbit, there is no need for chemical controls because the plant has already set seed for next year’s crop and the plants seen are on their way to death anyway.

Management can be successful without chemicals. Henbit is a plant that does well in the areas where our turf does not. It grows well in compacted soils, typically along the edges of sidewalks and driveways where it can easily outcompete our turf for the space. It also grows well where there is good soil moisture and shade. Because of this, it is easily managed by encouraging a dense, vigorous turf or to change the landscape by utilizing other plants besides turf or applying mulch in areas where turf struggles and henbit grows well. Henbit can also be hand-pulled for quick removal, this is the preferred method of control in the spring. If chemicals are necessary and desired for management of Henbit, they should be applied in the fall. Products that contain 2,4-D have the best control for Henbit.

henbit, steve dewey, Utah State Univ, Bugwood

Photo by: Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.com

Henbit is often confused with Creeping Charlie, or Ground Ivy, because they are in the same family of plants and they both have similar flowers. Henbit is a winter annual, while Creeping Charlie is a perennial, so henbit will flower well before Creeping Charlie does in the spring. Also, Creeping Charlie tends to have more blue flowers while Henbit has more purple-lavender flowers. Henbit has clasping leaves below the flower cluster, while Creeping Charlie does not. Be sure you know which plant you are dealing with to achieve the best control.

Spring Preparations for Lawn and Garden

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We have finally reached March, and the beginning of spring is right around the corner. We don’t want to get out and do too many things in our yards and gardens too early in the year, but there are some things to bring you out of cabin fever. Here is a listing of our usually spring activities and when the best time to do them would be.

We can now begin to start our seeds indoors for transplants into our gardens later in the spring. Remember, we want to wait until Mother’s Day to plant most of our vegetables outside, unless they are cool season crops. You should start things like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and head lettuce indoors about 10 weeks prior to transplanting outside. Other plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants can be started indoors 6-7 weeks in advance of planting outdoors. Vegetables such as watermelons, cantaloupe, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, and beans should be planted from seed directly into the garden in May. Peas and other cool season vegetables can be planted in the middle to the end of March. The saying is that you can plant your peas and potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, or some say Good Friday. Either day would be fine to plant your peas and potatoes from the middle to the end of March.

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Roses can also be pruned back at this time of the year. The best time to prune roses is February to March or in early spring. When you prune your roses, start by removing all the dead, diseased, or damaged branches.   If it is a dead or diseased branch, cut back at least one inch below the dead area and above a live bud. If there are no live buds, cut the entire cane out. After that, you should prune up to one-third of the older branches and canes.

Other types of shrubs can be pruned next month, in April. Things such as honeysuckle, ninebark, barberry, and burning bush should be pruned in the early spring. To prune these types of shrubs, we should cut out the older canes and ones that are dead. As with roses, we need to make sure that we are only cutting out one third of the plant. If it is a plant that blooms in the spring, such as forsythia, lilac and spring-blooming spirea, we should wait to prune it until just after it has flowered.

Turf can be overseeded or reseeded from the end of March through the beginning of April. Be sure that you are buying certified weed free seed. The best grass choices for eastern Nebraska are either 100% tall fescue, 90% tall fescue with 10% Kentucky bluegrass, 100% Kentucky bluegrass, or 100% buffalograss. Mixes are alright to use in Nebraska, but you want to make sure it is a good mix. If you purchase a mix, avoid any that contain annual bluegrass, ‘Linn’ perennial ryegrass, or ‘Kenblue’ Kentucky bluegrass. After you have mowed one time on the new seed, you can then put your crabgrass pre-emergent herbicide down to control crabgrass for the year. Wait to use 2,4-D products on your newly seeded lawn areas until after you have mowed at least three times on the new turf.

 

Spring Lawncare

2011-10-27 10.05.27Each year in the spring, we tend to get very excited to be able to get back outside and work in our lawns and gardens. However, this is still fairly early in the year to do much work in our yards. This article was written to prepare you for when the best time is to begin lawncare activities in the spring.

Overseeding our lawns can take place between April 1 and April 30 for the cool season turfgrasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue. If you are planting a new warm season lawn or are adding plugs to thicken it up, you should wait until late May through June to do that. The warm season grasses would be either Buffalograss or Zoysiagrass. These would be the four best turfgrasses to use in our lawns in Southeast Nebraska.

When purchasing grass seed, watch for the following important statements on the seed bag:

  • Purchase weed free seed, 0.3% or less weed seed in the package
  • No noxious weeds found in the seed mixture
  • Avoid purchasing lawn seed that is advertised in the Sunday newspaper, as those are not usually good seed choices and are not suited well for our area
  • Avoid purchasing lawn seed that contains annual ryegrass as that is more of a weed species

The best seed choices are either:

  • 100% of turf-type tall fescue
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Buffalograss
  • A mixture of tall fescue and bluegrass

Mowing your lawn should begin as your lawn begins to grow again. We should mow our lawns to a height of at least 2” for Kentucky bluegrass and 2.5-3” for tall fescue. So, you can wait until the lawn gets to at least 3 inches before beginning the mowing routine in the spring. Remember, only mow off 1/3 of the grass each time that you mow. The lawn clippings may be left on the lawn or bagged and removed from the lawn, at your own discretion. If you return the clippings back to the turf, it will add up to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet over the course of the growing season. This can account to one fertilizer application for your lawn over the growing season.  Below is a picture of the 3 types of lawn mowers you can purchase.

Mower Collage

As for the fertilization, this should also wait until later in the spring. It is recommended to add 1.0 pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet between April 20th and May 10th. This fertilization should be done with a slow release fertilizer of your choosing. Fertilization of Kentucky bluegrass can be applied 4 more times throughout the growing season. To make this easier to remember, fertilizer treatments should be done on Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween. As for tall fescue lawns, these only need to be fertilized two times a year, in the early spring and late fall. We should avoid fertilization during the hot summer months to avoid possibly burning the grass blades. The spring fertilization can be done in combination with a pre-emergent herbicide that will combat crabgrass, foxtail, sandburs and goosegrass. Do not use crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides if you have overseeded in the spring until you have mowed your new seedlings at least 3 times. Dandelion and other winter annual weeds can be treated in combination with the Labor Day fertilizer treatment for best control.

Fertilizer Spreader, Photo from Acreage.unl.edu