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.

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Yard and Garden: April 8, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 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 Hosts: John Fech and Jonathan Larson, Nebraska Extension Educators for Douglas/Sarpy Extension

1. This caller has rye grass that is turning yellowish-brown after it was already greened up this spring. What is causing this brown coloration?

A. Take a look at the roots of the turf in these brown areas, see if they have dried out. Also, rye grass is more susceptible to winterkill than tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass is and with these inconsistent temperatures and fluctuations we have been seeing this year, there is more chance that this turf was damaged from the winter conditions. Overseed the lawn now with a better suited turfgrass for Nebraska and delay crabgrass control until Memorial Day.

2. A caller has seed potatoes that he will be planting. How long should the sprout be on those potatoes?

A. This is not an issue, there is no need to worry about the length of the sprout. The issue with planting potatoes is to make sure that there is at least 1-2 eyes on each potato you plant.

3. Would it work to put a patio heater near a pear tree to protect it from damage from the freeze that is predicted for tonight?

A. This would not be feasible to keep the entire tree warm enough to protect it from a freeze occurrence. There is also a fire hazard issue I would be concerned with. For trees that are already blooming, there is really no way to stop the damage to the fruit formation that will come from freezing temperatures overnight.

4. This caller planted his potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, as the old saying goes. However, they still have not emerged this spring. Is this a concern?

A. This year, St. Patrick’s Day may have been too early. The soils are still quite cold and wet which may cause concern for these potatoes. We would suggest digging up one of the potatoes to see if it is still viable or if it has started to rot in the ground.

5. The previous caller also asked whether a barrier spray with sevin around the garden might help reduce cucumber beetles in the garden?

A. This could work to catch some of the overwintering insects as they move into the garden. It may help to reduce the overall population in the garden.

6. A caller was wondering about the fate of their perennials and flowering shrubs with this freeze warning for tonight, mainly peonies, iris, and daylilies?

A. These plants are more adapted to Nebraska climates so they should be fine. This weather may cause them to lose some buds or cause some black coloration to the blossoms or leaves, but for the most part these will survive. If it is a concern for you, you may want to cover these plants with a sheet or blanket overnight tonight, but remove this during the day.

7. This caller has grass that is green but has large patches of yellow or straw coloration throughout the yard. What is causing this and how can it be fixed?

A. This sounds like a warm-season, grassy weed called nimblewill. This should be controlled in your lawn as it will take over. It can be sprayed with a glyphosate product, such as roundup, and then overseeded. This would need to be done in the fall so that you can spray the nimblewill when it is green and the fall is a good time to overseed. You can also purchase a product called Tenacity to control the nimblewill and harm the grass. Or you can call a lawncare company to control it for you.

8. A caller has apple trees near a cedar tree windbreak. Last year, the apple trees got rust disease. How can this be controlled? Should the cedar trees be removed?

A. Don’t cut down the cedar trees. The spores for cedar-apple rust can spread up to 2 miles and in Nebraska it is very difficult to get that far away from a cedar tree. It would be best to start with newer varieties of the apple trees that are resistant to cedar-apple rust. You can also spray your trees for cedar-apple rust. There is a very good Nebguide on Cedar Apple rust from Amy (Ziems) Timmerman found at: http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g1907.pdf

Twig Girdler Insect

Damage from Twig Girdler

9. This caller has 2 Linden trees in his front yard. With the windy days lately, many small twigs have blown out of the trees and it looks like an insect cut the branch off. What is causing this and what can he do about it?

A. This would be a small insect called a twig girdler. They will chew around the branches and make it fall off from a smooth cut. There is no insecticide necessary for this insect, it is best to just collect the branches and dispose of them.

2016-04-08 11.03.23

Greenbriar plant

10. A walk-in client was wanting an identification on a very thorny, green stemmed plant they have found growing up their trees and throughout their property.

A. This is a plant called greenbriar. It can be cut off repeatedly or in areas that are not in flower or vegetable gardens a brush killer product can be used.

11. A gentleman has a 5 year old azalea plant that isn’t blooming, what can he do to improve the blooms?

A. This is a plant that is inconsistent in our environment, we are on the edge of their growing zone. They also like more acidic soils and more protection than what we can often give them. It would be best to move it to a location of morning sun and afternoon shade. You can also add some fertilizer for acid loving plants, similar to what would be applied to blueberries or hydrangeas to give them a blue flower.

12. This caller has a black walnut trees in an old windbreak. Can they grow pampas grass or trumpet vines in close proximity to these black walnuts without detrimental effects?

A. Grasses are not usually affected by the juglone that is produced by the black walnut trees to deter other plants from growing near them. This juglone is produced to naturally reduce competition from the black walnuts with other plants. Trumpet vine should be tolerant because they are a tough plant.

 

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.

Spring Preparations for Lawn and Garden

2013-05-09 10.17.11

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.

2014-03-04 11.18.22

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.

 

Winter Plant Care

DSCN5869In the winter months, many people start to really hate the snow and everything associated with it.  I am one of the few who love snow and all of its beauty.  I know it is cold and difficult to drive in, but it is a beautiful addition to our otherwise drab winter landscapes.  The problem with snow is that it can cause some very problematic conditions to our landscapes for the spring.  So here are a few tips to keep your landscapes in the best possible health through the snowy winter conditions, and remember spring will be here before we know it.

In the frost of early fall and throughout snow covered and frost covered lawns in the winter, we need to remember to keep off our turf as much as possible in the winter months.  Avoiding traffic on frozen or frosted turf in the fall and winter will help your lawn look better in the spring.  Pedestrian or vehicle traffic on the lawn in the winter can cause aesthetic damage that shows up in the spring.  Many times we might see tire tracks or even footprints in an otherwise green spring lawn.  Turf will overcome these problems, but not until later in the spring.DSCN5873

With deicers applied to the roads, sidewalks, or driveways:

  • Do not apply the deicer and then shovel it onto the lawn or nearby plants
  • Deicers can accumulate in the soil or on the leaf surfaces of many of our plants and cause damage in the spring to our plants
  • Deicer damage shows up as water stress on our plants in the spring
  • If salt damage typically occurs to plants near the street or sidewalk, cover them with burlap or canvas to protect themDSCN5874

For care of our trees and shrubs when snow accumulates on them:

  • Let snow and ice melt naturally
  • Don’t knock the ice & snow off to avoid breaking branches & causing further damage
  • If you need to get large amounts of snow off trees, carefully brush it off with a broom
  • If branches are drooping due to heavy snow, they will pop back into their natural shape in the spring

As for the perennials in your landscape, make sure they have mulch around them throughout the winter.  With the winter and snow, come the north winter winds.  Sometimes, this snow can be quite strong and it may blow the mulch away from our perennial plants.  Mulch is necessary in the winter, not to keep the roots warm, but to keep them a steady temperature.  It also helps the plants avoid frost heaving, where the freezing and thawing of the ground heaves the plant out of the ground.  Winter mulch should be two to four inches deep.

Be sure to take the time to ensure that your plants are continuing to receive the best possible care throughout the winter months to ensure their survival to next spring.  Remember, if we have a warmer day and we have not been seeing much snow cover, you may want to go out and water your trees and shrubs.  If you can’t get to all of your trees and shrubs, at least give the younger or newly planted trees a drink.  You can also start to get out your plant catalogs and decide what you may want to add or change in your landscape.  Plan now for early spring planting.  With care our landscape will look amazing next spring.