Yard and Garden: April 28, 2017

Yard & Garden for blog, 2017

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 28, 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: Dick Campbell, Owner of Campbell’s Nursery in Lincoln, NE

1. The first caller of the day has a Lilac that has bloomed in the past, but it isn’t blooming much. It has never been a reliable blooming shrub. What is wrong with it and how can it be fixed?

A: This plant was bloomed a few times in the fall, which would cut off the blooms for the following spring. However, this isn’t the only problem because for the past couple of years they have been better at timing their pruning. A late frost could have hit the blooms causing problems with bloom, it may reduce the overall bloom amount. Also, this could be a nutrient issue. A good fertilizer, such as bone meal, could be incorporated into the soil surrounding the plant to help with the nutrient availability.

2. A caller has ribbon grass that has died out in the center. This dead center has continued to get larger over the years. What can be done about that?

A: This plant needs to be divided. Many perennial grasses will develop a dead center when it is time to dig them up and divide them. The spring is a good time to do this for grasses. Iris plants will do this as well, they are best divided and replanted in the fall.

3. This caller has a weeping Norway spruce that is bending over heavily. Should it be trained to keep it more upright?

A: This is a typical growth habit for a weeping Norway spruce. They bend over more than some of the other weeping varieties. It would be good to put a small stake along the trunk of the tree to support it for more upright growth.

This caller also wanted to know what the timing was for spraying apple trees for Cedar-Apple Rust?

A: Now would be a good time. When the galls on the cedar rust have come out to look like a slimy glob in the spring rains it is time to spray. Those galls have just begun to open up and release the spores. For more information on cedar-apple rust, see this NebGuide.

Photo of Cedar Apple Rust Gall photo courtesy of Mike Lewinski via Flickr Creative Commons License

4. A caller has a cherry tree that has a split going up it and now it has sawdust around it on the ground.

A: Often we see insects in our plants as a secondary problem. What you are dealing with here, is most likely carpenter ants. They have come into the split in the tree and are making a nest in the rotting heartwood. The carpenter ants are not doing any more damage to the tree than what is already done. They can be killed by using an insecticide dust in the tree crack, such as sevin. However, the more concerning issue is the crack in the tree. If the tree is very large it may be a hazard. Tree removal may be necessary. If the crack is not very deep, it could be a frost crack which would be less hazardous.

5. Can you grow English Walnuts in Nebraska?

A: Yes, they can be grown here, it is most likely you will have to plant them from a seed as there aren’t many grown as plants for sale. Check with the Nebraska Nutgrowers Association for more information and seed/plant sources.

6. This caller has a blue spruce that is not growing well. It was planted 17 years ago and hasn’t grown more than a couple of feet in this time. What is wrong and can it be fixed?

A: The tree could be battling with too much brome grass growing around it and competing for nutrients and water. It would be beneficial to kill the brome grass and to add a mulch ring of 2-3 feet out and 2-3 inches deep around the tree to help reduce competition. This also could be a root issue that there would be no fix for. Often times, our trees are planted too deeply or grown in a container too long causing the roots to circle the tree. Once the tree is planted, there is no way to fix these conditions and the damage may not be present in the tree for 10-15 years after it was planted. This could be the case with this tree. Try adding mulch and ensuring proper irrigation through the growing season and it may come out of it.

7. A caller has a redbud that is 8 years old. The branches are dying and there are holes in the trunk. It seems that only one branch is still alive on the tree. What can be done for the tree? Or should it be removed?

A: The holes could be from borers that can be treated, but are often a secondary pest. If only one branch is left alive on the tree, it may be time to replant.

8. This caller is planting a new garden in an area that was a cornfield until this year. What do they need to do to the soil to plant in it?

A: Because this has been used as a crop field, I would advise a soil test to see where all the levels of pH, organic matter, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium are at and to ensure vegetable crops will even grow in the soil that has been heavily planted for many years.

9. A caller is cleaning out dead and dying pine trees in a windbreak. Do the stumps need to be removed? What can be done to get it ready to replant?

A: If they are Junipers, or eastern red cedars, they can simply be cut off at ground level and they will not regrow. With some of our windbreak plants, they may need a stump treatment of 2,4-D or Roundup or a mix of the 2 products. If you are planning to plant a new windbreak where you removed these plants, it would be beneficial to grind out the stumps. If there is enough space, you can replant around the old stumps, just stay a few feet away from the stumps left behind if you don’t remove them.

10. What is the best care to give to seedling trees given to students for Arbor Day?

A: Grow the seedling in a pot for a year. When winter comes either plant the pot in the ground with heavy mulch or bring the container into the garage. Next spring, plant the seedling into the ground and protect it with fencing from rabbits and deer.

11. A caller wants to know how to control sandburs and where you can purchase milkweed plants?

A: Sandburs are controlled with crabgrass control products. As a preventer, using crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides will also prevent the germination of sandburs. If they have already germinated and are starting to come up, you can use a post-emergent herbicide for crabgrass such as quinclorac or Drive or Dimension. You should be able to find Milkweed plants at many local nurseries.

12. This caller has a white powdery substance on her peonies. What is it and what can be done for it? Also, she has a cherry tree that was severely damaged from deer, but now there are new suckers growing from the ground around it. Can those cherry tree suckers be grown into a new tree?

A: The white substance on the peonies would be powdery mildew. It is not very harmful to the plant. You can use a fungicide on it to control the spread of the disease. Also, make sure you cut off and remove the above ground growth that dies back in the fall to reduce the spores that overwinter for next year. The cherry suckers may not come up as the same species as you had planted and they may not be strong growing. Many of our fruit trees are grafted for a strong root system but desired traits from other trees. When suckers grow from the roots, you only get the type of tree that the main root system was and not the more desirable traits from the above ground portion of the plant. You can try it if you have room, but otherwise it would be best to start over from a new tree.

13. A caller put preen on his garden earlier this spring to stop the weeds. Now he is concerned if the plants he starts from seed this year will grow?

A: Unfortunately they will not grow where the preen is without extra care. You can either plant these plants from transplants or as seed in another location or in pots or you can till the bed to destroy the preen that is working as a barrier in the garden. Once you have gotten seeds to start growing in the garden, you can reapply the preen to reduce weeds later in the season.

14. A gentleman has holes around his house that are 1.5 inches in diameter and his tulip bulbs have been eaten off. What would cause these holes and how can the “critter” be managed?

A: This could be from either 13-lined ground squirrels or from voles. If it is voles, there would be runs in the lawn. Place a couple of snap-type mouse traps perpendicular to the runs in the lawn to manage the voles. If it is 13-lined ground squirrels, see this publication from UNL.

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Yard and Garden: April 24, 2015

Yard and Garden Green Logo

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 24, 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: Jeff Culbertson, Assistant Director of UNL Landscape Services

1. This caller wants to know why the water in her rain barrels is turning green and how to fix that problem?

A: The water should be used sooner from the rain barrels and not allowed to sit in it for very long periods of time. There is a great NebGuide on ‘Rainwater Harvesting with Rain Barrels‘. Algae can sometimes appear and can be reduced by:

  • Limit nutrient build-up in the barrel by reducing the amount of sediment and plant debris entering the barrel. These are sources of nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen that promote algae. Clean roof gutters at least annually. If hosing out the roof gutter, remove the rain barrel before cleaning. Consider installing gutter screens along with using screens/filters before the barrel inlet.
  • Clean the barrel at least once a year to remove sediment.
  • Use dark-colored, painted, or opaque barrels to limit light.
  • Place rain barrels in a shady location when possible.

2. This caller had a willow that is leafing out from the bottom without any growth at the top of the tree. Is this normal or what is wrong with the tree?

A: This could be due to dieback from the winter which is being seen throughout the landscape this year. It is still early in the season so the tree could come out of it, so give it time to see if it comes back. Scrape off some of the bark with your fingernail to see if underneath is brown or green. Green is healthy growing tissue, brown is not. If it seems to be dead later in the season, you can prune out some of the dead branches and the tree may still survive.

3. When is the best time to dig cedar trees from the pasture to transplant them into a windbreak?

A: Now would be a good time to do this. Make sure they are small trees and that they are protected from deer and rabbits in their new location. Keep them well watered.

4. What is a good rhubarb fertilizer?

A: 12-12-12 or 10-10-10 would be a good general fertilizer to use or manure in the fall.

5. This caller wanted to know if Ponderosa Pine was still a recommended tree due to the threat from Pine wilt?

A: Ponderosa Pine is only mildly affected by pine wilt. Very few ponderosa pines have been killed due to the disease. It is still on the list of trees from ReTree Nebraska. Watch these trees for tip and needle blight, 2 common needle diseases, that can be easily treated with fungicides.

6. A caller has 2 trees in her windbreak that were planted about 8 years prior to a storm that has caused them to lean now. It has been a couple of years since the storm, but the trees are still leaning. Can this lean be fixed?

A: They will grow straighter over time and eventually straighten up somewhat. If the lean is too much, they will not overcome that.

7. This caller has been gradually replacing a plum hedge with Lilacs. What can he do to prevent disease and insect problems in the lilacs?

A: After about 2-3 years of initial growth, begin annually removing the largest, woodiest stems from the lilac shrubs. This will help keep the shrubs with younger, better producing wood and it will help keep the borers and scale away from the plants. As for disease control, just be sure to space the lilacs properly. Most full sized lilacs will get 3-4 feet wide so space them about 4 feet apart to reduce the overlapping of the branches and leaves which can lead to more disease problems.

8. A caller has a large asparagus bed that wasn’t cleaned up last fall. What care can be done for the asparagus now and in the future?

A: It would be best to clean the asparagus up one time a year, either in the fall or late winter just before spring growth begins. To help reduce weeds after that, spray the weeds while they are green and the asparagus hasn’t emerged for the year yet in the spring. Fertilize the planting bed either in the spring with general purpose fertilizer or in the fall with manure or both times.

9. This caller has a rose bush on an old property and wants to know how to propagate it or transplant some of it to their home?

A: Remove and transplant any suckers on the plant will work on an older rose variety that wouldn’t have been grafted. Anytime now is a great time to transplant a rose bush.

10. This gentleman has French Dwarf Lilacs and he was told not to trim them out. Is this true?

A: These can be cut back or caned out annually to keep them smaller and to help them produce more flowers.

11. A caller had stumps from trees that were cut down last year. The stumps were treated with Tordon. Can he use the mulch they will make from the stumps in his landscape or would the Tordon still be in the wood chips?

A: Wood chips that were treated with Tordon could still have that pesticide residue in the wood chips. It should not be used around plants. Disclaimer: Tordon should NOT be used in a landscape setting, it is against label instructions. Always read and follow pesticide labels. Remember: The label is the Law.

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12. This gentleman had cedars with the tips of the branches turning brown this year. What is causing that and what should be done for it?

A: This could be winter kill as that is showing up in many juniper species this spring. It may also be Kabatina, a disease of junipers. The brown can be cut out of the trees at a branch crotch. The trees should live.

13. This caller was looking for a shade tree for her front yard that is fast growing, stays around 20 feet tall and possibly provides flowers or good color to the landscape.

A: Chanticleer or Cleveland Select Pear would be good for spring color. Crabapples can also grow to 20 feet tall and would provide a great deal of color and scent in the spring. Japanese Tree Lilac is another good choice for a smaller tree.

14. This caller is planting strawberries and raspberries. What kind of care would she need to provide them?

A: Here is a good guide from Sarah Browning on Summer Berries-Raspberry and Blackberry to guide you through the raspberries. Heritage is a good raspberry variety choice. This is a good guide from Lancaster County Extension on strawberry care called Growing Strawberries.

15. This caller has a pin oak tree that has iron deficiency. She has used the iron plugs on the trees but she is curious if there is another choice that will work better and for a longer period of time on the pin oaks?

A: This tree will continue to have problems once it starts to show signs from Iron Deficiency and it will eventually die from this nutrient problem. She can try to have a professional due trunk injections which will last longer each time, but this will have to be continued for the remainder of this trees life.

16. This caller wanted to know how to prepare cut lilac flowers to last longer indoors?

A: Cut the flowers before they have opened on the plant. Make a new cut on the stem and change the water daily. Use a preservative in the water. The preservative can be either a store bought product or make your own mixture by dissolving 4 heaping teaspoons of cane sugar and 2 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar in one quart of warm water.

17. This caller wanted to control the dandelions in his yard and not the clover. Can a chemical be used for this?

A: Using spot sprays of 2,4-D when the weather is calm and the temperatures are below 80 degrees Fahrenheit for the day of application and the 2 days following would help reduce damage to the clover. The other option would be to dig or hand pull the dandelions. The chemicals that would work for dandelion would also work to kill clover.

Happy Arbor Day! Plant a Tree!!

Image Courtesy of Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Image Courtesy of Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Spring is Here, Enjoy the Flowers!

Spring has officially begun. Things outside are beginning to turn green, some early season blooming plants are beginning to bloom, and the weather is warming up. Enjoy your spring weather and plants.

Daffodil Blooming

Daffodil Blooming

Daffodils are the bright yellow flowers that are just beginning to open up now. These are one of the two more commonly planted spring blooming bulbs, Tulips being the other. Both of these bulbs are planted in the fall, or in October, to bloom in the spring. They bloom in early spring, mid-spring, or late spring, depending on the variety. Once they have finished blooming for the year, leave all the foliage until it dies back in the fall. The foliage is still taking in sunlight to build sugars for the bulb to be able to bloom in the spring the following year.

Photo from: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org

Red Maple Flowers Photo from: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org

Red Maples are the silver barked trees with bright red small flowers on them now. These are some of the earliest blooming trees in our environment. I always think that the blooming of the red maples is a sign of spring. After the blooms fade, the tree will begin to grow leaves for the rest of the growing season to provide us with shade and beauty.

Crocus Blooming

Crocus Blooming

Crocus is one of the earliest blooming minor bulbs. Crocus blooms in March or early April with 2-3 inch flowers that range in color from white to purple to yellow and will close up on cloudy days and at night. Crocus has grasslike foliage that is very narrow and has a white stripe down the center. This plant will bloom before the foliage fully appears and then after only a few weeks, the whole plant is dormant again.

Flickr image courtesy of Richard Elzey per CC license

Forsythia Shrub Flickr image courtesy of Richard Elzey per CC license

Forsythia is the yellow flowering shrub that is blooming right now or are finishing up their blooming period for this year. Forsythia is another signal of spring coming. It is a large shrub that grows up to 8-10 feet tall and 10-12 feet wide. The small flowers are bell-shaped and are clustered along the branches of the plant. Forsythia grows fairly quickly and will need to be pruned, but pruning should be held off until after it blooms in the spring of the year. This is a shrub that will take to a rejuvenation pruning when it gets full of old, less productive and large canes. The rejuvenation pruning is when the entire shrub is cut off at about 6 inches above ground level. It will regrow back into a healthy, productive shrub.

Flickr image courtesy of Glenn Kraeck per CC license

Lilac Shrub Flickr image courtesy of Glenn Kraeck per CC license

Lilacs will soon begin to bloom with fragrant purple flowers. Lilac is one of my favorite spring scents, as the flowers are strongly, but sweetly, scented. This shrub will grow up to 20 feet tall, if you purchase the straight species. However, there are many dwarf varieties that do not grow so large. There are also new varieties that will rebloom to ensure a longer season of flower production for those of us who can’t get enough of the scent of the flowers. This shrub can be pruned after it blooms like the forsythia can.

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.