Spring Yard Clean Up

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Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Now that spring is officially here, we can really start to think about outdoor activities. Don’t get ahead of the weather though, that could cause more harm than good or cause us to have to do more work later. But now that spring is here, I thought I would help you with your to do list and when to do those things.

Lawncare

This is the time of the year when we start to see green in our lawns again. We begin to think it is time to fertilize, overseed, and use crabgrass control. Don’t get started on your lawn too early. It has been quite cold this winter and even this spring. If you get too ahead of the weather it can cause some plants to develop freeze damage or die. Overseeding can be done in April, but anytime by the end of April to the early part of May is still fine for overseeding. I would suggest waiting until at least the middle of April this year. According to Purdue University, the optimum air temperature for germination of Kentucky bluegrass seed is 59-86 degrees, for Tall fescue it is 68-86 degrees. So we can wait until it warms up more consistently before overseeding the lawn.

Fertilizer also can be left until later in the spring before it is applied. You can apply a fertilizer application as needed in mid to late April. Wait to see how the lawn greens up to determine if a spring application is necessary. If a lawn has a medium green hue in late April, skip the typical Arbor Day application in favor of one in late May to early June.

It’s also a good time to clean the lawn from winter debris. Branches and leaves may have fallen during the winter, now’s the time to rake these up and remove them before mowing begins. It’s also be a good idea to clean pet waste from your lawns. Pet waste tends to build up over winter and can become a pollutant in water when it runs off your lawn and into storm drains.

Crabgrass Control

fertilizer spreaderDon’t get started with crabgrass control too soon this spring. The soil temperatures are still in the low 40 degree range. Crabgrass preventer should not be applied until the soil temperature is consistently at 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if a few early warm days cause crabgrass to germinate, if these days are followed by freezing temperatures, any crabgrass that germinated will die from cold temperatures. If you apply crabgrass preventer too early in the spring, it will break down too early causing more crabgrass to germinate later in the year.

Spring vegetable gardens

Vegetable gardens can be worked in the spring as soon as the ground is dry and workable. Cool season crops such as peas, potatoes, carrots, raddish, kohlrabi, lettuce, and spinach can be planted now. Asparagus beds can be cleaned up now and new asparagus patches can be started. Make sure that the soil is dry before you work the garden or plant any vegetables. Planting into mud can compact the soil and disrupt the growth of plants.

Wait to plant warm season crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, and beans until Mother’s Day, or until after our average frost free date, which is the end of April for the Beatrice area.

Cleaning up perennials

If you didn’t clean your perennial beds last fall, wait until mid-April before you begin cleaning them this spring. Those plants have been protected from the plant debris from last year’s growth, removing that now would expose the crowns and could kill the plant if cold temperatures return. You can begin to refresh your mulch anytime now. Apply 2-3 inches of mulch around your flower beds to protect them from weed competition and to keep the roots at a uniform temperature with added moisture.

 

 

 

 

What is wrong with my lawn?

What's Wrong With My Lawn blog post

This year has been extremely humid and warm. We have seen a summer full of warm temperatures during the day that cool down in the nighttime to the dew point, which has been causing a high number of turf diseases. We are also now experiencing a great deal of crabgrass and other summer annual weeds in our lawns. These are things that decrease the overall appearance of our lawns but they are not long lasting this late in the summer.

Brown patch is a fungal turf disease showing up in our lawns right now. This disease often shows up in lawns that were overwatered or were fertilized heavily in the summer months as brown patches in an otherwise green lawn. Upon closer investigation, you may notice that the leaves may have long tan-colored spots that are surrounded by a dark brown margin. You can avoid this disease by avoiding over-irrigation and over-fertilization of the lawn.

Summer Patch at Christenson Field, P Hay
Summer Patch on a baseball Field, Photo by Paul Hay, Nebraska Extension Educator in Gage County.

Summer patch is also showing up in our lawns right now. This fungal disease also leaves brown patches in your lawn, but usually they are in a circular pattern with an area of green turfgrass in the center, like a frog-eye appearance. The leaves do not have a distinct marking on them but the roots will be brown. The best control for summer patch is to follow fertilization and watering requirements to reduce the stress to your lawn.

The diseases that we see in our lawns this time of the year are mostly environmental. You can help to reduce the incidence of these diseases if you take good care of your lawn. Keeping the lawn mowed at 2-3 inches high, correct fertility, and correct watering, will help keep your turf healthy and able to compete with these diseases. Fungicides can be used, but they need to be applied as a preventative and are not usually necessary in home lawns. Home lawns can tolerate a low level of damage without the need for fungicides. If this is a problem that is seen in the same location of your lawn year after year, you may need to use a fungicide, but that should be used in the spring or in the summer as the first signs begin to appear in your lawn. At this time of the year, fungicides will not fix the damage that is already seen in the lawn this year. So in the late summer and fall, fungicides are not recommended.

crabgrass, Joseph Berger, Bugwood
Photo of Crabgrass by Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

Crabgrass and other summer annual grasses are also becoming more problematic now. In addition to the maturation of plants that germinated earlier in summer, incidence has also increased from recent rains and warm weather that allowed more seed to germinate where a sufficient herbicide barrier is not still present, especially in full sun or thin turfgrass canopies. Control is not necessary this time of the year because the crabgrass present in your lawn now, will die with the first fall frost in a few weeks. It is the best environmentally and economically for you to use a pre-emergent herbicide next spring.

Lawn fertilization should occur with the holidays: Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween. Applications for Labor Day can be done anytime now. Apply 1 pound of Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet on your lawn. Once the temperatures cool down, you can begin using 2,4-D products to combat broadleaf weeds such as dandelions, clover, and henbit. The fall is the best time to treat for the perennial weeds so that the chemical is taken into the roots with the nutrients the weeds have in their leaves that they store in their roots over the winter months. For henbit, it is best to treat this in the fall as well to kill it before it sets seed next spring.

Flood Damaged Plants

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We have seen a lot of rain in the past couple of weeks. And, in many locations, we have seen a great deal of flooding. Long-term flooding can cause a great deal of damage to our landscapes and gardens, but thankfully we saw short-term flooding that many of our plants will be able to survive.

Lawns are very resilient in flooded areas. Many of our lawns are still quite wet from flooded conditions. 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 floods receded prior to 4 days, so the lawn should survive. We may see an increase in lawn diseases this summer due to the high amounts of rain and floodwater that affected them this spring.

Floods also could have damaged trees. Many trees that are planted near rivers and streams can withstand longer periods of flooding. However, when the floods move into our towns, it can cause problems to our other tree species. According to the University of Wisconsin Extension, most plants can tolerate a few days of flooding during the growing season. Certain tree and shrub species are going to be less tolerant of floods, but for the short time our floods lasted, our plants should be fine.

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Once the flooding recedes, make sure the roots don’t have more or less soil on them than before the floods. If more than 3 inches of soil or debris was added to the ground surrounding the tree, remove the excess to allow the plant roots to breathe. If water pushed soil off of tree roots, add soil back to those areas to ensure they are not more exposed than they were before the flooding.

Vegetable Gardens would be more of a concern for food safety reasons. The short period of time that they were underwater, should not affect their growth. Floodwaters are typically not very clean and they can carry bacteria and other debris with them as they move across the land. It is best not to eat any vegetable raw that was at any time under floodwaters. So the best recommendation for lettuce and spinach would be to discard the entire plant. Vegetables that were submerged by floodwater should be cooked to make them safe for consumption. The vegetables that may have been planted but are still too young to produce yet would be safe for consumption when they mature. The University of Wisconsin also suggests to increase safety of the vegetables that haven’t been under floodwater, cook them, or at least wash them well and peel them, if possible, before eating. Be careful to not allow any vegetables to fall onto the ground where they can come into contact with bacteria that could still be on the soil. A layer of mulch will help reduce this issue.

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Our plants should all survive fine from the few days of flooding that many of us saw. The only way to know for sure what damage occurred to our plants is to wait and see. These plants were put under a great deal of stress and therefore may be vulnerable to many disease and insect problems through this summer. Take extra care of them and watch for signs of problems to treat them early in the infestation.

Yard and Garden: April 17, 2015

Yard and Garden Green Logo

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 17, 2015. 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 31, 2015. 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, Professor of Horticulture, Viticulture Specialist

1. A Caller wanted to know if this was a good time to transplant rhubarb?

A: Now would be a fine time to transplant rhubarb. If you wanted to harvest from it yet this year, it would be best to wait until the fall to transplant it. Rhubarb should not be harvested from within the first 1-2 years after transplanting to allow the plant to build a good root system before harvesting begins. Make sure that rhubarb is planted in a well-drained location to avoid getting crown rot, a disease that will eventually kill the plant.

2. An email listener wanted identification and control strategies on her plant with purple flowers that is blooming now.

A: This is henbit, a winter annual that is flowering to complete its lifecycle. Because henbit is basically done growing for its lifecycle, it is best to leave it alone and let it die naturally in the next few weeks. The seeds are already in the soil for next year. Henbit is best controlled with a 2,4-D product in the fall. Mark the areas where henbit is found in your lawn this year and spray those areas in the fall. Management also can be achieved by overseeding turf into those areas where henbit is found or planting something else to compete with the henbit.

3. This caller wanted to know how to control clover

A: The best time to control clover would be in the fall with a couple of applications of a 2,4-D product. Applications of this product now can be useful, but will not eliminate the problem altogether. Be sure that when you apply 2,4-D to your landscape to not allow it to drift to any other broadleaf plant, including our trees, shrubs, and perennials. Also, only spray when the temperatures are below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. A gentleman has a lawn that has been neglected for a while that he is struggling to keep turf alive in a full-shade location with poor soil. What can he do to get the turf to live there? Also, in another area of full sun, would dwarf fescue be a good turfgrass choice?

A: Because it is poor soil that had subsoil put on top of the existing soil, it would be best to aerate and add organic matter to try to improve the soil conditions. Full shade is difficult to grow turf in, so it would be best to choose a full shade perennial or groundcover or somehow prune the trees to improve the sunlight for the turf. Dwarf fescue is not a good choice because the root systems are not as deep as the turf-type tall fescues or Kentucky bluegrass.

5. What would be the fruit tree spray schedules for cherry and apple trees?

A: Orchard fruit tree sprays can be applied to both of these types of trees on a 10-14 day interval, while avoiding the blooming period to avoid damage to the pollinators. There are guides to spray schedules from many Universities including one for homeowners from Missouri Extension

6. A caller wanted to know what are some good varieties for pear trees in Nebraska? Does he need multiple species for pollination? How does he mulch these trees?

A: Pear trees are not self-pollinated so you will need to plant 2 different varieties to get fruit. Some good choices for Nebraska would include Luscious, Harrow Delight, Harvest Queen, and Seckel. A mulch ring is necessary to help the tree survive, it should be only 2-3 inches deep.

7. This caller used crabgrass preventer with fertilizer in it a couple of weeks ago and wants to know when he should use his weed and feed? Also, what type of care would he need for shrub roses he just planted this spring?

A: It would be best to just use a 2,4-D product anytime now and wait until the end of May to do another application of straight fertilizer to get through the summer, since he already applied fertilizer with his crabgrass control. The best thing for the roses would be to ensure that they are kept well-watered but not overwatered.

8. A gentleman has Philodendrons and Crotons as houseplants that he has moved outside for the summer. Now the leaves on the Philodendrons are curling up, why is that? Also, what kind of care should be given to the Croton, is misting a good practice for them?

A: These plants are tropical plants that we can grow indoors in our homes. The nights are still too cool for those, which is why the Philodendrons may be having leaf rolling issues. If the weather is predicted to get to the low 40’s to 30’s for the overnight hours, it would be best to bring these plants indoors. The Crotons should be watered properly from the base of the plant to ensure survival. Misting plants leaves the leaves wet which can lead to diseases.

Houseplant
Philodendron picture by Soni Cochran, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

9. What can be done to control ants found in the kitchen?

A: Terro ant baits work the best with the odorous house ant. Also, seal up all cracks and crevices in the foundation and around doors and windows. Clean up plant debris outside the home near where ants are found inside the home to reduce locations where ants may be hiding outdoors.

10. A lady has blackberries that are overgrown. How can she clean them up?

A: Cut out the old stems that are existing and continue to do this at the end of every growing season.

11. This caller has a 30 year-old pear tree that has never produced fruit. She has one pear in her landscape. Why would it not produce fruit?

A: Pears are not self-pollinated. Plant another variety and it should begin to produce fruit.

12. When is the best time to prune a snowball bush?

A: This is a spring blooming shrub, so it is best to prune it immediately after it has finished blooming for the year.

13. This caller wanted to know how to control Dandelions in her yard?

A: 2,4-D products can be used now but will have the best efficacy in the fall. If applied now, ensure that the wind is not blowing and the temperatures are at or below 80 degrees Fahrenheit for the day of application and the 2 days following.

Photo by Nic Colgrove
Photo by Nic Colgrove

14. This caller has started tomatoes and peppers from seed indoors and they are now becoming tall and spindly. What would cause that and when can they be placed outdoors?

A: They will need more light to avoid becoming tall and spindly. Also, be sure to buy clean and sterile soils for seedling production to avoid problems with Damping Off, a disease common to seedlings. Summer crops can be planted outdoors in the beginning of May, typically Mother’s Day is a good date to plant summer vegetable gardens.