Yard and Garden: March 24, 2017

Yard & Garden for blog, 2017

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for March 24, 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: Cole Thompson, Assistant Professor of Integrated Turfgrass Management at UNL

1. The first question of the year was a caller who had 2 peach trees that were three years old when they died last year. He cut the trees off and now there is suckers coming up from the ground where those trees were. Will these trees grow and produce peaches?

A. These trees will grow and will most likely produce fruit. However, they will not be a strong growth and the peaches produced may not be the variety that he originally planted. Many of our fruit trees are grafted to a hardier rootstock. If they die back or produce suckers, that growth will be the type of tree that the roots are not the type that the scion, or top part of the graft union, was. Also, because it is from a sucker, it is not going to grow as strong and upright as the main tree. He can try to keep them going but it would be best to plant new trees as well, if he has the space for both, he can keep both the suckers and new trees. If he only had room for a couple of trees, I would suggest starting the trees over from new trees.

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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.

2. This caller wanted to know what the difference is between Roundup and Roundup 365?

A. Roundup 365 contains a chemical called imazapic which gives the traditional glyphosate product more of a soil residual. The Roundup 365 is labeled only for use on and around hardscape areas such as patios, gravel paths, and driveways. The label claims that it lasts in the soil for up to 12 months, so it should not be used around trees, shrubs, or areas you plan to reseed. Regular Roundup can be used in an area around plants and where you plan to seed after the recommended wait time. You would need to be much more careful with the Roundup 365 because of the soil residual around other plants.

3. A caller has pussy willow branches that were brought indoors and placed in water to begin rooting. They have now developed roots. Can they be planted outdoors now?

A. Yes, as long as the roots have begun to form and the ground can be worked, it would be fine to plant them outdoors now.

4. When is the best time to reseed a Fescue lawn in Southeast Nebraska?

A. Fall is the best time to reseed a lawn, but it can also be done fairly effectively in the spring. It is harder in the spring due to the weeds that compete with the grass seedlings. If you plan to reseed in the spring, it is best to wait until late April to early May for that. If you seed earlier in April, increase the seeding rate to compensate for the loss due to the colder temperatures. When you seed, you can apply tenacity or a mesotrione product to the seedbed to help with weeds. Tenacity is safe for use at seeding. It is also a good idea to seed with a starter fertilizer to help get your seed started strong.

5. This caller has a birch that was cut down last fall. The remaining stump is oozing a lot of liquid right now. How do they kill the birch entirely to stop the liquid from oozing out of the stump.

A. Birch trees are one of the species of trees that tend to “Bleed” heavily in the spring if they are pruned. They have a high sap flow in the spring which will lead to the oozing of large amounts of sap through any open wounds. On a normal pruning cut to a tree with high sap flow, it is not harmful to the tree. This tree still has living roots and the wound from cutting it off is exposed so the sap still will flow through. This tree either needs to be treated with chemicals to kill it or the stump needs to be ground out to stop this sap flow and to be able to plant new plants in the area. You can drill new holes into the tree and apply 2,4-D to those holes to start to kill the tree. With chemicals, it will take a few years to fully kill the stump.

6. Can raspberries be transplanted now?

A. Yes, raspberries should be planted as early as the ground can be worked in the spring, so now would be fine. It is best if the soil was prepared last year by spraying all the weeds and incorporating organic matter. This will help to ensure you have a raspberry planting to last many years.

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7. A caller planted grass last fall and held the seed to the seedbed with a biodegradable plastic barrier designed for seeding turf. However, now the plastic is not breaking down and it is getting stuck in the lawnmower. Is there anything they can do to break it down quicker? It will disturb the lawn too much to try to pull it out now.

A. Pulling it out without disturbing the lawn would be the quickest, but if that is not safe to do without tearing up the lawn, that isn’t the best option. Try to water it down or hope for rain, the moisture may help to break it down faster than it sitting dry. This winter was quite dry which may have delayed the breaking down process.

8. This caller had a giant tree fall in his yard. He has removed most of the tree but about 5 feet of the trunk is still standing in the yard. What can he do with the stump?

A. It would be best to cut that trunk off at the ground level and grind the stump out so that you can replant either with turf or with a new tree. If you don’t want to grind it out now or replant, you can cut it down to the ground level and place soil over it to allow it to naturally break down under the soil.

9. A caller has been growing watermelons but they tend to wither and die early in the year. What is wrong and how can he improve his crop?

A. It sounds like this caller has squash vine borers that get into his vines in the summer months. Squash vine borer is a type of moth larvae that gets into the stem of the vines and blocks the movement of water and nutrients through the plant. They are very common in melons, squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins. To avoid the damage from this insect, use a spray or dust formulation of sevin or eight on the base of the plant regularly through the growing season starting in June. You can also use aluminum foil or a toilet paper tube around the base of the plant to act as a barrier between the plant and the female squash vine borer adult who is trying to lay her eggs on the plant.

10. This caller has 25 bur oak trees that were planted 4 feet apart with the idea that some would die to space them out further. Most did not die and are still planted too closely. Will they grow that close together or should some be removed?

A. Bur oaks grow quite large, but in a forested area they will grow fairly close together. They will grow this closely together, however it will shade out many of the branches and it will cause conditions that are conducive to diseases when trees don’t have the space to have good airflow. It would be best to remove some of the trees so that the trees left behind are given 20 feet or more between them. They are only 10-12 feet tall at this time so they would still be fine to be spaded out and transplanted to another location if you can find someone to spade them and someone to plant them somewhere else.

11. Is it too early to plant onions? Is it time to cut back mums that are left from last fall?

A. Late March to early April is the best time to plant onions. Wait to cut back perennials from last fall. The dead plant material will protect them from freezing temperatures for another week or two. The plant material can be removed in the beginning to the middle of April.

12. This caller has a yard with high dog traffic. What type of grass would be best to stay growing through the dog traffic?

A. High traffic lawns will decline. Increasing the fertility will improve growth in this area. Also, if you could limit the traffic patterns from time to time through the lawn, this would help as well. Kentucky Bluegrass will recover better in high traffic areas.

13. A caller has a bean field area that he is trying to turn back to a grass area. What type of grass would do good in this area for an non-irrigated recreational area on an acreage?

A. Buffalograss would be great for an acreage area. Once it becomes established it wouldn’t have to be irrigated much or mowed at all. It is a very low maintenance grass species that is native and you can choose many different newer varieties. UNL has good seed selections. Because this was a bean field it might be over-tilled so a roller may be necessary to firm the soil up before planting. Buffalograss is a warm season grass so it should be seeded May 1st.

14. The final caller of the day has an established cedar windbreak. Some of the trees were removed recently and there is a bare area in the nearby trees where they were shaded out from the removed trees. This area is only 7 feet from the house. What can be planted in place of these trees to help block the bare area in the windbreak?

A. Because this is so close to the house, don’t go with anything too big. A larger shrub may be a good choice such as a viburnum, serviceberry, some dogwoods or even some lilacs may help fill in. Some slender growing trees may also work, but full size trees may grow into the house.

Preparing Summer Gardens

Tilled gardenWe are almost past our frost-free date for 2014. We usually say we are safe to plant all our summer plants on or following Mother’s Day for the year, which is May 11th of this year. This way we are going to be past any fear of frost, in most years, which would injure or kill what we just planted. With that said, we need to make sure that all our gardens are prepared correctly and our plants are planted properly.

Vegetable gardens need to be tilled and the soil needs to be prepared for planting. The time to apply additional organic matter to our gardens would be while we are tilling it up for planting. Spring is the time that we can add compost to our vegetable gardens, don’t apply fresh manure to a garden unless it is done in the fall of the year to allow all the bacteria in the manure to break down. When adding compost to a garden, till through the garden a few times then add compost at a 1-2 inch layer to the soil surface and run the tiller through the garden an additional 2-3 times.

Tilling Garden

After the soil is prepared, and we have come to Mother’s Day weekend or later, you can plant your summer vegetables into that soil. Make sure you follow the spacing recommendations that are on the seeds or labels. If plants are grown too close together they will have a lower vegetable yield and they are more vulnerable to diseases in the environment. Be sure to water all newly planted vegetables and seeds in immediately after they are planted. Granular fertilizers can be applied to the soil when planting to help give the plants a jump-start. A general vegetable garden fertilizer of 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 works very well to help your plants grow well.

Another thing we can do with our gardens this time of year, is cleanup all of our annual and perennial beds and plant our container gardens. If you haven’t already done so, prune back all the dead material on perennials such as coneflowers, lilies, and ornamental grasses. This will allow the new material to grow up and look nice. If there are new perennials you want to plant in your garden, you can plant those now. You can also begin planting annual plants as needed to fill in your flower beds. If you haven’t pruned back roses or butterfly bushes, you can do that now too. Wait to prune back spring blooming shrubs such as forsythia, lilac, and spring blooming spireas until after they have bloomed for the year.

Container Gardens

Container Garden Ideas; Photo from: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07238.html

Container gardens can also be planted now. Follow these steps for a great container garden.

  • Choose your  container
    • Make sure it has a drainage hole, otherwise most anything can work for a container
  • Fill the container with a potting soil or soil-less mixture
  • If it is a large container, you can fill the bottom third with aluminum cans, plastic bottles, or gravel
  • Plant your container with annuals, perennials, herbs, succulents, or mixtures.
  • Keep your container plants well watered, as they tend to dry out quickly
  • For a visual display, try to plant the container with a thriller, a filler, and a spiller
    • The thriller could be something tall and eye-catching, such as spike grass
    • The spiller could be something that drapes over the side of the container, such as wave petunias
    • The filler could be whatever else you like to put in your container to fill the space, such as gerbera daisy

Tree Planting: Happy Arbor Day, April 25th

2013-05-09 10.12.49The last Friday in April is Arbor Day. This year that holiday falls on April 25th. In support of this holiday we should all go out and plant a tree or more than one if you desire, or support an organization that does plant trees if you have no need or space for extra trees in your yard.

When planting trees, utilize diversity. Diversity is planting many different types of trees in an area so that if any new disease or insect comes, it doesn’t wipe out all of our trees. The lack of diversity has been a problem recently with pine wilt in Nebraska. Entire windbreaks are being destroyed in a matter of a couple of years due to pine wilt. Just make sure that whatever tree you choose, is resistant to many of the common diseases we see in Nebraska such as Pine wilt.

Planting a tree correctly initially will ensure its success.  Here are the steps to planting a tree correctly:

  • Pick a good location
    • Plant your tree away from buildings and other plants
    • Allow it to grow into the location
  • Dig a hole that is 2-3 times wider than the root ball and only as deep as the root ball
  • Loosen up the sides of the hole
  • Before planting the tree, remove the burlap and wire basket
  • Be sure to also remove any tags, twine, or wire from the tree
  • Do not amend the soil that covers the root ball after it is placed into the hole
  • Plant the tree so that root flare is at the soil surface
  • Install a mulch ring around the tree
    • At least two to three feet out from the base of the tree
    • Only 2-3 inches deep
  • Staking a tree is not a mandatory practice, if you do have to stake the tree due to high winds, make sure that the tree has plenty of movement within the stakes
    • Also be sure that the staking material is removed after the first year to avoid the tree being damaged by the staking materials.
This is a very nicely installed mulch ring!

This is a very nicely installed mulch ring!

One problem that you might notice now in your landscape, after the winter, is deer damage to your trees and shrubs. Deer can do a lot of damage to a tree over the fall and winter months, especially to a smaller or younger tree. Many bucks will rub on trees later in the fall to remove the velvet from their antlers, which can leave a canker or open area on the tree. They can also do damage to our trees and shrubs when they feed on the buds, leaves, and stems of many different ornamental plants. These twigs are going to have a jagged or torn appearance to them due to the way the deer feed on the plants. Typically the damage from deer to a tree can heal, but it will be a location in the tree or shrub where diseases and insects can enter the plant.

My beautiful picture

If you notice deer damage to your plants, there is nothing you can do for the tree after the damage has already happened. However, depending on the severity, your tree will probably survive after being damaged by deer. You can help reduce the problem in the future by utilizing an electric fence around your property to keep deer out of your lawn, or by putting up a 4 foot tall fence around each tree in your landscape. Remember to protect any newly planted tree from deer when planting.

Preparing for Spring Gardening

Yes, I said ‘Spring Gardening’, it will be here before we know it.  Our seed catalogs have already started appearing!  We can now start to think about gardening outdoors in the nice warm spring weather.  Anything that helps us look toward warmer weather and away from below freezing temperatures, the snow and ice that comes with winter, is a welcomed experience.  It is at this time of year that we can begin to prepare for a summer full of beautiful blooms and delicious gardens.  It is a good time to plan for spring gardening so that by the time we are ready to start our seeds or plant outdoors, we will have everything we need already, especially if you are ordering any portion of your garden plants.

Site Assessment

Photo of a site assessment from the National Junior Horticulture Association

A good indoor activity to do in the late winter months of January and February would be to plan your gardens.

  • Decide where the garden will be located
  • Locate gardens in close proximity to a water supply
  • Locate gardens where it gets the proper amount of light for the vegetables or flowers you plan to grow in that location
  • Make sure there is enough space for all of the plants to grow and they can be spaced apart properly, according to the directions on the seed packet or plant container
    • Plants too close together, can have problems with diseases
    • Air movement through the plants causing them to stay wet, humid, and warm, is the perfect environment for a disease to grow.
  • Locate the garden where the soil has good organic matter, fertility, and a good level of pH so that the garden is not too acidic nor to basic.
    • If you are concerned about the condition of your soil, you can send a sample into the soil diagnostic clinic
    • For information regarding soil samples, please visit your local extension office

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Beyond the location of the garden, you need to decide what types of plants you are going to be planting in your garden.  For vegetable gardens, plant what you like to eat.  Look through your seed catalogs to see if there are some new or different varieties that you would like to try that have different coloration than what you are used to or varieties that grow larger fruits.  Along with the selection of different varieties, select varieties that are resistant to certain diseases.  The disease resistant varieties are great to have because you will still get a crop when the conditions are favorable for a disease to occur.  When selecting these seeds you need to make sure that you are selecting varieties that will survive in our climate.  This is usually given to you as a hardiness zone indication, in southeast Nebraska we are in zone 5b for hardiness, further north in Nebraska is in zone 5a, with portions of the panhandle area being in zone 4b, the dividing line between zones 5b and 5a in Nebraska is roughly Interstate 80.

2013 USDA Hardiness Zone Map

I know that we are all getting excited for spring and would like to begin our seedlings indoors sometime soon, but it is still a little bit early for that.  Seedlings should be started indoors 6-10 weeks prior to transplanting outdoors, which should occur no sooner than Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014.  Stay tuned in late February or early March for my blog to feature tips on starting your seeds indoors.  Now is the time to order your seed so it is here when you are ready to plant it.

Windbreaks

100_4164This is the time of the year when we begin to become tired of the cold weather and being stuck in our homes all the time.  However, we will be here for a while longer.  One thing you can do in the winter to help reduce your cabin fever and help you begin to realize spring will be here before we know it is plan a windbreak for spring planting.

There have been a lot of problems in our windbreaks recently.

  1. There has been a lot of death in Scotch & Austrian Pines due to Pine Wilt Disease
  2. There has been damage & death in many of our Blue Spruces and Colorado Blue Spruces due to the drought of 2012, spruces still are recommended in windbreaks
  3. Plant diversity hasn’t always been practiced properly in windbreaks

I bring up windbreaks because it is at this time of the year when you can begin to place your orders for trees from the Natural Resources District, NRD.  I am not sponsoring the NRD tree sales, however it is a good choice for trees, especially if you need a lot of trees.  The trees are sold as a very small tree and will take a few years to get to a good size, but when planting trees it is best to start smaller anyway.  The larger trees take a longer time to overcome the transplant shock than the smaller trees so the smaller trees will catch up, if not surpass, the growth of the larger ones within a few years.  Smaller trees are also typically much less costly than larger trees, so for a windbreak they are a good choice.  Nurseries and Garden Centers are also very good locations to purchase trees and will have a large selection of trees that are good for Nebraska environments.

Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy & Horticulture

Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy & Horticulture

The benefits of a windbreak include:

  • Heat energy savings of up to 40 percent for the home, according to the University of Missouri Extension
  • Serves as a snow barrier
  • Improves winter working conditions for outdoor winter chores on the acreage or property
  • Protects a garden in the summer from strong winds
  • Provides a wildlife habitat
  • Provides materials such as firewood, posts, nuts, fruits and decorative & craft items

I would recommend getting a tree tube or other protection for your trees, especially in a windbreak setting.  These trees are small and windbreaks are typically planted on acreage where there is a lot of wildlife around who like to feed on small trees.  The tree tubes will help protect these trees from deer and rabbit damage.  As the tree grows up, until it is it fairly good size, it will need protection from deer and rabbits, and a fence around the tree is the only effective method, but it needs to be 4 feet tall to protect from deer.

100_4162The NRD tree list is a fairly complete list with many good trees listed.  However, I would avoid Austrian Pines as they are susceptible to pine wilt and may not be a long-term tree for your windbreak.  One thing I always recommend for windbreaks is a row of cedars on the outside as they are a tough native tree.  Within the inside 2 or 3 rows, I would put a mixture of other conifer trees, such as firs, spruces, and other pines.  Deciduous trees, such as cottonwoods, different hickory trees, oaks, and maples can also be placed throughout the windbreak.  Diversity is the key any time to help save some of your windbreak trees left if another disease such as pine wilt comes through.  Do not plant your trees too close together as that can create an environment, as the trees grow, that allows for more disease and insect problems.  Conifer trees should be spaced 14-20 feet apart and deciduous trees should be spaced 16-24 feet apart for proper spacing.