Yard and Garden: June 8, 2018

Y&G Blog Photo, 2018

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for June 8, 2018. 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 3, 2018. 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: Donnie Engelhardt, Assistant Water Resources Director, Little Blue NRD

1.The first caller of the show heard of a chemical that can be used to treat bindweed that started with a Q. What is that product?

A. Quinclorac is the active ingredient in a product called Drive. It is effective at controlling bindweed. However, this product is only labeled for use in lawns and cannot be legally or safely used in landscape beds or vegetable gardens.

He also is having a problem with his peach tree, it didn’t leaf out on the one side. The damage is also seen in some hydrangeas planted nearby. What is causing this?

A. This could be due to herbicide damage. If multiple types of plants in different families, genus’, and species are all affected the same it is often due to herbicide drift. There is nothing that can be done now to fix the problem, leave them to see if they grow out of the damage.

This first caller’s final question is that he has 3 pear trees that he ordered from a mail order catalog and one has not leafed out still. Is it dead?

A. This one that died could have dried out during transport. I would assume by now it would have leafed out if it was still alive. Scrape the bark off some of the smaller branches, if they are green there is still life in the tree, if it is brown, the tree is dead. Also, if the branches bend rather than break they are still alive.

2. A caller is looking to plant some new trees for shade, preferably something fast growing. When should they buy and plant these new trees?

A. Purchase your plant material when you are ready to plant. If the plant has to sit in the pot longer, it can lead to more problems with it drying out. The best times to plant a tree would be either in the spring or fall. At this point, it would be best to wait until fall, like September – later October. Planting now would be difficult to keep the tree watered through the heat/drought of the summer. Fast growth is not always the best option. Fast growing trees are not as strong as the slower growing trees and tend to break more in storms. Slower growing trees can actually put on quite a bit of growth in a few short years if they are kept with a 2-3 inch mulch ring and kept well watered. For good tree choices, view this guide from the Nebraska Forest Service.

3. This caller has Iris’ that have finished blooming, can they be cut back now? They also have some mums that died over the winter, why is that?

A. Once Iris’ and peonies’ have finished blooming for the year, the flower stalk can be cut off at the ground level. However, the leaves need to be left there to build energy in the roots for next spring. Some mums are just not as hardy as believed. Many gardeners struggle with maintaining their mum plants over the winter due to repeated freezing and thawing cycles through the growing season as well as wet, heavy soil or lack or snow cover. Longevity of the plants can be enhanced by planting them in a location that is more protected from north winds, discontinuing fertilization by the end of July to reduce new growth at the end of the season, adding several inches of mulch to the soil around the plants through the winter months, and cutting the plants back in the spring rather than in the fall.

4. Should the blooms of small tomato plants be pinched off?

A. Removing those blossoms until the plants get a little more growth on them will help the plants develop more roots and more shoot growth before pushing so much energy into producing the fruits. Wait until they get a little bigger before allowing those flowers to develop into fruits.

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Redbud Tree

5. A caller has a redbud tree that was planted last year and has not leafed out yet this year. It is, however, producing suckers at the base of the tree. Can those suckers be grown into a new tree? Also, how should trees be fertilized?

A. This could be a winterkill issue. Be sure to purchase redbuds from a local source. Often box stores purchase redbud trees from a Southern source and send them to all stores in the United States. If a tree was started further south than where it will be planted, it will not adjust well to the change in climate from the south to here. The sucker will grow into a new tree. Redbuds will do better with this than some. Often the suckers from a tree may not be as strong as the main tree and will not do as well, but with a redbud it should be fine. Fertilizer is rarely needed for trees in Southeast Nebraska. I would especially avoid fertilizer on a stressed tree, such as this redbud. Fertilizing a stressed tree will lead to further stress.

6. When is the best time to prune suckers from the maple trees and when is the best time to prune the lower branches from a spruce tree so the mower can fit below it?

A. Anytime is a good time to prune suckers from a tree. It is best to just continually prune them off as they form. If you leave them, they take energy from the tree. You can prune spruce trees most anytime of the year. However, if you are just looking to prune them so you can mow under the tree, if you leave them the tree will provide it’s own mulch and the grass will not grow under the high shade of the tree.

7. This caller wants to know what to do with peonies now and if ants are needed for the flowers to open on a peony?

A. At this point with a peony, cut off the stalks of the flowers and leave the leaves there. The leaves should be left to grow and produce energy for the plant so it can come out and flower early next spring. Leaves of peony plants can be removed in the fall when they turn brown and die back naturally. No, ants are not necessary for the buds of peony flowers to open. That is just a myth because ants are commonly found on the flowers, but they just like the sweet nectar.

8. A caller planted mums last year, they looked great through the season. This year only 2 came back. What is wrong with them?

A. Some mums are just not as hardy as believed and they often die due to winterkill. Many gardeners struggle with maintaining their mum plants over the winter due to repeated freezing and thawing cycles through the growing season as well as wet, heavy soil or lack or snow cover. Longevity of the plants can be enhanced by planting them in a location that is more protected from north winds, discontinuing fertilization by the end of July to reduce new growth at the end of the season, adding several inches of mulch to the soil around the plants through the winter months, and cutting the plants back in the spring rather than in the fall.

9. The last caller of the day has peppers planted in a mineral tub that are looking wilted. They are green and growing well but have droopy leaves. What is wrong with them?

A. Through discussion, it was noted that these peppers are planted in a container with soil from the backyard, not potting soil. It would be best to use a soil mix rather than soil from the ground. Potting soil has more nutrients available and is more porous for better plant growth. Adding fertilizer to his plants may help.

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Yard and Garden: May 20, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for May 20, 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: Natalia Bjorklund, Dodge County Extension Educator

1. The first caller of the day has a problem getting grass to grow where he removed an asparagus patch. What can he do to get his grass to grow?

A. This is a situation where it could be a few things attributing to the problem. He was keeping the seedbed watered, by watering it 3 times a day for about 10 minutes each time he watered. Watering is important for seedlings, they need to be kept moist, so short, frequent waterings are necessary. This area could be compacted from years of asparagus growth, so it might be beneficial to till the area up prior to planting. The other issue he is facing this year is that it has been quite cool this spring. Mixing the cool temperatures with the moisture, it might be too cold for germination. It is suggested to try again with new seed after tilling the soil up and a soil test may be necessary after that to ensure the soil is ok after so many years with asparagus on it.

2. A caller has a newly planted red maple tree with holes in the leaves. They do have black spots on the leaves as well. The new growth seems to not be affected like the original leaves. What would be the problem? Is this an insect issue?

A. This could be a leaf spot fungus with black spots on the leaves that have died out. When a leaf spot occurs on tree leaves, often the dead area will fall out of the leaf. Leaf spots are not very damaging to our plants. Since the new growth seems ok, it shouldn’t be treated and the tree will grow out of it and be fine.

3. A gentleman has evergreen trees that have brown tips on the branches. Is this being seen in other locations?

A. This is probably just an environmental problem on the branches that should fade in time. It is being seen in other trees, especially in white pines which are facing problems with winterkill, a common issue where the tips of needles on white pines turn brown after strong winter winds. It is not a concerning issue.

4. This caller wants to know how to control weeds growing around her containers that she is growing tomatoes and strawberries in? Can any chemicals be used that close to these crops?

A. Tomato plants are especially sensitive to chemical drift especially from 2,4-D which is a common herbicide used for lawn weeds. To be safest and not have problems from the 2,4-D being that close to the tomatoes and strawberries, mechanical control would be the safest option. mulching around the containers will help to keep the weeds from coming back.

5. A caller has blackberry leaves that are turning orange and then back to green. What would be causing this?

A. This sounds like the plant is having an issue with rust. The rust covered leaves then are falling off and new, uninfected leaves, are reappearing. Remove all infected leaves as soon as you notice the fungal spores. Rust will not kill the plant, it may show up on the berries slightly. Chemical controls are not necessary for a home gardener.

6. A gentleman planted fescue grass seed this spring and it seems to be a thin stand. Should it be overseeded? Will it fill in?

A. Fescue does not tiller out like bluegrass does. So it should be overseeded to help fill in the gaps in the turf.

7. What chemical can you use for tree stumps to help keep them from growing back?

A. 2,4-D is a good option to apply to a newly cut stump or drill into the stump and pour it into the holes. It can be mixed with Roundup to help as well. Do not use Tordon in a landscape setting as this would be a direct violation of the law.

8. This caller transplanted peonies a few years ago and they haven’t bloomed since they were moved. What is wrong with them?

A. If peonies are planted or transplanted too deeply in the soil they will not bloom. Dig the plants up and reposition them higher in the soil profile. It can be done now or in the fall, the fall would be the preferred time of the year.

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

9. An email listener wanted to know if fertilizer changes composition over time?

A. Yes, it can break down and become less effective. If fertilizers are stored where they freeze and thaw continually or get moisture into them, they will not work as well as they originally did.

10. A caller has a windbreak that is dying. What are some good tree choices to replace the windbreak with?

A. Cedars, black hills spruce, Colorado blue spruce, Douglas fir, concolor fir, white pine, ponderosa pine, or Jack pine would all be good replacements. Make your windbreak out of a diverse selection of these trees. Don’t go with a windbreak of one tree species.

11. This caller has a peace lily that the leaves turn brown and then die back. It continues to go through this process. It has been repotted but is still exhibiting the damage. What is it and how can it be improved?

A. This could be due to overfertilization or too much salt content in the water. Try using distilled water for a while. It will flush out the salt content from previous water over time. Eliminate the use of any fertilization. It is a common problem in peace lily plants and they should be fine.

12. What chemicals can be used for bagworms and when should they be sprayed?

A. Bagworms are typically active in the third week of June and this would be the best time for spraying. The emergence of the bagworms is weather dependent and it can range from the middle of May to late July. Average years it is the third week of June for the timing of sprays. It is best to just watch your tree and spray when the new bags are 1/2-1 inch in length. You can treat them with general insecticides such as Sevin, Eight, Bt, or Tempo.

fern leaf peony, Lee Ruk Flickr

Photo of fern leaf peony from Lee Ruk via Flickr Creative Commons License

13. The last caller of the day wants to find a fern leaf peony. It seems to be hard to find. Where could she find this plant to purchase?

A. It should be fairly easy to find at a local nursery. Many of the box stores probably will not have this unique and interesting plant.

Fall is here, get your plants ready for winter!

Fall weather is upon us again. We can see the end of summer gardening coming to a close. With that, we can get out in our gardens and take care of many different activities to prepare our lawns and gardens for the winter months.

Photo by V. Jedlicka, Lancaster County Extension

Photo by V. Jedlicka, Lancaster County Extension

Summer bulbs can bring a great deal of color and interest to our gardens, however, they do need to be dug up and stored indoors over the winter. Summer bulbs should be dug up prior to the first hard freeze in the fall. These bulbs should be cured before they are stored by leaving them in the sun for a few weeks. After they have cured, place them in peat moss or similar substance in a well-ventilated, cool area for the winter months. Check periodically through the winter if more peat moss is needed.

Houseplant

Houseplants also should be brought back inside this time of the year to avoid injury due to the nighttime cold temperatures. Before bringing houseplants indoors, you may want to treat them with a general insecticide such as sevin or eight to ensure you do not bring any unwanted insect guests into your home.

Cut back iris and peony plants as soon as the leaves start to turn brown in the fall. Remove all of the foliage above ground and discard it to reduce the spread of diseases such as botrytis and leaf blight that we often see on these plants. Wait until early spring to cut back roses and butterfly bushes due to the hollow stem. Pruning these plants back in the spring will help with their survival as during the winter moisture can get into the cut, hollow stems and freeze and thaw, thereby cracking the crown and killing the plant. You can also cut back other perennials such as coneflowers, dianthus, and many others that die back to the ground each year. This will help to clean up your garden area preparing it for new growth next spring.

Tilled garden

With the end of the vegetable gardening season coming to an end, be sure to clean your garden space before winter as well. If a frost is predicted, be sure to check out your garden before that occurs. Get all of the produce out of the garden before the frost occurs or within the next day or two following the frost so that it can still be enjoyed fresh, frozen, or canned. After the plants are finished for the season, be sure to clean all of the plants out of the garden and either compost them or throw them into your trash. If they had any diseases on them, it is best to not compost them to ensure the disease spores do not get into your compost. You can also take the time this fall to till your garden up as preparation for next spring. If you till your garden in the fall, be sure to put some type of mulch on the soil to prevent wind erosion through the winter. Organic mulches, such as grass clippings, make a good mulch to use for this because it can then be tilled back into the garden in the spring adding organic matter to the soil.