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.

2015-06-25 10.19.56

*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.

2016-11-22 16.59.14.jpg

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.

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Yard and Garden: April 1, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 1, 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: Daryl Andersen and Kent Thompson from the Little Blue NRD

1. The first caller of the 2016 season has boxelder bugs in their home and need to know how to control them.

A. Boxelder bugs are not harmful to humans and will not populate within our homes. They enter in the fall and will emerge in the spring to leave our homes and go back outdoors. If found indoors, it is best to just vacuum them up or dispose of them in other manners. Barrier sprays around the home will not eliminate the problem, but they can reduce the numbers found in the home. Also, make sure that all cracks and crevices in your home are sealed up and that all screens on windows and doors don’t have any holes in them.

2. This caller has a very sandy lawn, what is the best turf for this area?

A. They may want to do a soil test to let them know for sure what they are dealing with. The best turfgrass selections for this area are Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue. You can either select a mixture of these two turfgrasses or find 100 percent of either of them. These grasses perform the best in our environment. It might be a good idea to add organic matter to the lawn area to help improve the soil. Aerate the lawn first then apply a thin layer of compost and rake or lightly till that into the top layer, then overseed the lawn. Now is a great time to overseed, apply light, frequent watering to keep the seed moist while it is germinating.

3. This caller has an old windbreak. They are looking to replant parts of it with red cedars in a multi-row windbreak. How many trees would they need, what is the spacing for these trees? What kind of preparation should they do to the site prior to planting?

A. The NRCS has specifications on tree spacing based on the species. For eastern red cedar, they recommend 12-15 feet between each tree for spacing. Based on that and the space she has in her windbreak, she can figure out how many trees she should plan to order from the NRD. This fall would be a good time to till up the area to prepare it for the trees to be planted next spring. Kent Thompson suggests preparing the soil for tree planting like they would prepare the area for a garden.

4. This caller has ladybugs in their home and wants to know how to get rid of them and where they are coming from?

A. Ladybugs are a predatory insect, meaning that they feed on other insects, such as aphids. They can be found outdoors on many different plant species based on their food sources. Ladybugs are one of the insects that move indoors during the fall and then leave the house in the spring to go back outdoors, so we often see them in the home in both seasons. They are not harmful to us when they come indoors. If found indoors, it is best to just vacuum them up or dispose of them in other manners. Barrier sprays around the home will not eliminate the problem, but they can reduce the numbers found in the home. Also, make sure that all cracks and crevices in your home are sealed up and that all screens on windows and doors don’t have any holes in them.

Termites

Photo of Termites from UNL Department of Entomology

5. Does wood mulch increase the likelihood of termites in our homes?

A. No, wood chip mulches are great to use for plant health. Termites will not survive in mulch if they are found in the trees being made into mulch due to the mulching process or because they dry out to quickly in mulches. However, it is best to not place mulch in locations where it is touching wood window frames or siding. According to Iowa State University, mulches increase the moisture in the soil which favors termite exploration, but any mulch will increase the moisture in the soil. So you can continue to use wood chip mulches because they are the best mulch for plants.

6. This caller wants to know if there are any regulations on rain barrels in the Fairbury area and if a rain barrel is a good option for watering?

A. There are currently no regulations against the use of a rain barrel in Nebraska. Rain barrels are a great option for watering, however it is recommended that this water not be used on vegetable gardens due to the contaminants in the water from the roof that may get into the plant parts we consume. It is a great way to save our fresh, clean water for other uses and to use rain water for watering the lawn, trees, shrubs, and flowers. Be sure to use the water in a timely fashion so that it doesn’t sit too long and attract mosquitoes, or use a screen over the entrance hole to keep insects out of the water.

7. A caller planted 3-4 feet tall blue spruces last year through the correctly recommended practices of planting a tree. He purchased the trees from a grower in Oregon. He watered as needed but avoided overwatering. The trees were checked for diseases with none found. What caused this death and how can he avoid it when he replants?

A. The sample of the trees showed that these trees suffered from environmental stress, which can be any number of problems. These trees are planted on a new site with no protection from wind and construction type of soil. The trees purchased for replanted should be purchased from a local source. A soil test could be done to see if there is any nutrients that should be added to the soil prior to planting for better health of the trees. Otherwise, this problem with environmental stress is common and hard to understand.

8. A caller has a sewer smell to his water, does he need new pipes?

A. Call the plumber or the city to have them look at it. It may be a situation where new pipes are needed, but we can’t tell for sure.

9. This caller has a problem with wild oats growing in their lawn, what can be done to eliminate this weed?

A. Glyphosate products, such as roundup, would be the only thing approved for use in the lawn. Then he will have to overseed. As long as the wild oats are up and growing now, he could go in and spray them and wait a week then overseed the area to bring grass back in and keep the wild oats out.

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Galls on a tree branch

10. A person brought in a tree with odd, round structures on the branches. What are they and can they be controlled?

A. These are galls. Galls are produced by insects and are generally not harmful to trees. if they get high in populations, like they often do on bur oak trees, they can reduce the vigor and growth of the trees. It is very difficult to effectively treat them with insecticides. Cultural controls, such as cleaning up all debris and pruning out and destroying affected areas would be the best control.

11. This caller has fruit trees that are suckering or producing growth from the base of the trunk where it comes out of the ground. What can they do about these suckers?

A. Suckers can be removed from any tree any time throughout the growing season, and should be removed so they don’t get too large and take too much water and nutrients from the main plant. Don’t spray these or use any stump treatment on them after you cut them off or you can damage or even kill the main plant.

12. A caller has a red oak that is slower to leaf out but by May it is usually leafed out well with large, nicely colored leaves throughout the entire tree. Is this a concern that it is slow to leaf out?

A. If the tree does eventually come out and leaf with full-sized leaves throughout the entire canopy and the leaves have good color, it is not a concern. Some trees are just a little later to leaf out than others to avoid highs and lows of spring weather. As long as the tree does come out by summer with leaves the way they should grow and throughout the canopy, it is in good health.

crabgrass, Joseph Berger, Bugwood

Crabgrass Photo By: Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

13. This caller wanted to know when to fertilize with crabgrass control and when to overseed their lawn?

A. Crabgrass control and overseeding should not be applied at the same time as the crabgrass pre-emergence will also prevent the germination of our turfgrass seed. Overseeding can be done in the month of April, it is better to get it down from April 1-15 but can be done as late as the end of April. Once overseeding is completed, no chemicals should be applied until 3 mowings have been done on the new grass seed. Fertilization should be applied around Arbor Day. Crabgrass control needs to be applied when the soil temperatures have reached 55 degrees Fahrenheit because crabgrass germinates at 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. As of April 1, Beatrice soil temperatures were at 47.6 degrees Fahrenheit, so we are still 1-2 weeks away from applying crabgrass control.

14. A caller has a soft water system that was installed and goes through the outside water faucet. Will this hurt plants that are watered by this softened water?

A. This water contains a higher level of sodium after it goes through the softener because the water softener exchanges calcium and magnesium for sodium. This sodium can replace potassium in plants and disrupt the functions in the plants, causing it to die, according to Illinois Extension. So, due to the high sodium content, softened water is not recommended to be used on household plants, lawns, or gardens. It might be a good idea for this caller to try out a rain barrel for watering their lawn and garden areas.

15. The final caller of the day has a pear tree that is 7-8 years old and has very low blooming. What is causing that?

A. Many pear trees need to be cross pollinated from a different species or variety of pear tree to produce fruit. It would be helpful to plant another type of pear tree in your landscape to help pollinate the tree. Also, remember to not spray chemicals on the tree while the tree is in bloom to avoid damaging any pollinator insects.

Correct Timing for Spring Yardwork

Lilac- Glenn Kraeck, Flickr

Flickr image courtesy of Glenn Kraeck per CC license

It has been exceptionally warm so far this year. We haven’t had a lot of snow events yet and the weather has already hit the 70’s on multiple occasions. However, it is still too early to go out and do too much to your gardens, we could still face rather cold temperatures and possibly even snowy conditions yet this spring. So, I wanted to take the time to go over when the best time for garden preparations should begin.

2014-03-04 11.18.22Vegetable gardens are always a favorite of mine in the spring and summer for delicious homegrown crops. Potatoes and Peas can be planted in late March to early April. Other cool season crops should be planted in early to mid-April. We can start seeds for transplants for summer crops at this time. Begin seedlings 10 weeks prior to transplanting for slow growing plants such as broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage. Allow for 6-7 weeks of growth for new seedlings prior to transplanting for plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. And you only need to plant those fast growing species such as cucumbers, squash, and the melons 2-3 weeks in advance of transplanting. Remember, transplanting should occur no sooner than mother’s day, which is May 8th this year.

Turf can be overseeded or reseeded from the end of March through the beginning of April. We still need to wait until then to overseed, because with this early warm weather it may cause some to germinate and cold night temperatures could kill those young plants. 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 as a warm season grass choice. Mixes are fine 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. Crabgrass preventer should not be applied until later April when the soil temperatures have warmed up. Don’t use crabgrass preventer on newly seeded lawns until you have mowed 3 times on the newly seeded grass.

Wait to uncover your perennials this spring. The mulch applied around the perennials in the winter is not meant to keep the plants warm, it is meant to keep the plants at a uniform temperature throughout the growing season. If you leave the mulch on in these warm days, this will help to keep your plants cold, and therefore, help them maintain their dormancy. The same goes with roses that were placed under rose cones in the fall. Leave those cones on as long as you can.

apples-A. Henneman flickr

Flickr image courtesy of Alice Henneman per CC license

We may have plants that break dormancy early with all of these warm temperatures. This may cause some dieback on the branches or stems and most likely these plants will survive. The bigger problem will be with plants that fruit such as strawberries or fruit trees. If these plants break dormancy and start to bud their buds may be damaged by a freeze event and then the plants will not produce fruit. Fruit trees cannot be discouraged from this occurrence, which is why we often have problems with low or no fruit on peaches and apricots with a late freeze event.

 

Yard and Garden: May 8, 2015

Yard and Garden Green Logo

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for May 8, 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: Graham Herbst, Community Forester with the Nebraska Forest Service

1. This caller has pampas grass growing in her yard that last winter had problems with winterkill. What would be a good alternative ornamental grass she could plant?

A: Pampas grass had a lot of problems with winterkill last spring due to the dry, cold, windy winter conditions we faced in the winter of 2013-2014. Pampas grass is on the edge of its hardiness zone in Nebraska, but there are many other options for native grasses here. Maidenhair grass, or Miscanthus, is a great choice for a large native grass and it has many varieties to choose many different qualities. Big Bluestem and Little bluestem are great native choices, as well as switchgrass, sideoats grama, and many more. Ornamental grasses give us winter interest and habitat and food for wildlife during the winter months.

2. A caller had a sewer that was dug out and filled with soil. She then seeded new turfgrass on the area that has come up and is growing well. This spring the area sunk back down 6 inches. What can she do to level this area out?

A: You can remove the grass from that area, gathering 4-6 inches of soil and roots with it. Add soil to bring that back up to level with the surrounding lawn, and replace the grass piece back on top. Keep this grass well-watered until it becomes established, it will act like a piece of sod. The other option would be to back fill the location with soil and reseed the area with turf seed.

3. A caller has orange odd-looking structures hanging off of her cedar trees. What is this? Will it harm the tree?

Winter gall of Cedar-apple rust.

Winter gall of Cedar-apple rust.

A: These would be the galls from a disease called cedar-apple rust. This disease requires 2 hosts to complete its lifecycle, a cedar and an apple or something else in the Malus family such as a pear or crabapple. This disease overwinters on cedar trees as a hard, brown, odd-shaped structure on the branches and with spring rains they open up to look like orange, gelatinous, galls that are reminiscent of an orange octopus. This is when the spores are spreading to the apple trees. This disease causes no real damage to cedar trees, but on apple trees it causes lesions on the apples and leaf spots. Here is a NebGuide on Cedar-Apple Rust.

4. This caller has 3 apple trees and this winter one of them has not bloomed nor leafed out. Is the tree dead?

A: Check the tree for living tissue by scraping the bark off to expose green or brown tissue underneath. If it is green, it is still alive, if it is brown it is dead. Also check the branches for flexibility, if they bend they are still alive if the break they are dead. Give the tree a few more weeks to see if it comes out of it later this spring.

5. This caller has moles in their yard. How can they be controlled?

A: Moles can be controlled with traps. These traps will euthanize the mole in the hole to be left behind after control has been achieved. These have the best effect if the mound is pushed down 2-3 times prior to placing the trap in the hole, this will show if the tunnel is an active one before the trap is placed in it. Here is a guide from the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management on Mole Control.

6. This caller has voles in their yard. How can they be controlled?

A: Voles are controlled with snap traps that we typically use for mice. Place 2 traps in the run from the voles, or the area where the grass is damaged. Place the traps perpendicular to the runs and place them facing in different directions in the run. So, for a vole run that goes North to South, place one trap facing east and one facing west. Here is a guide from the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management on Vole Control.

7. This gentleman had used Scotts liquid turf builder on his lawn and it is not working to green up the lawn or to reduce the weeds found in his lawn. He also has a zoysiagrass lawn that is not growing as well in some portions of his lawn as it has in the past. What would be causing these problems and how can he improve these?

A: Broadleaf weeds are best controlled in the fall so it is best to apply a broadleaf weed killer, such as 2,4-D, 2 times in the fall, such as September 30 and October 15. Even in the spring, some control can be achieved, but they will require more than one application as they are tough weeds to kill. The zoysiagrass may have experienced some winterkill so it might be wise to take plugs from the area of the lawn where it is growing well and move them into areas of the lawn where it is not growing so well.

8. This caller has ash trees that are getting oval-shaped holes in them and ants on the trunk of the tree. Did the ants do this to the tree? How can it be managed?

A: These ants are probably carpenter ants. Carpenter ants do not harm your trees, they will just burrow into wood that has already begun to decay for some other reason. Carpenter ants on a tree do not require treatment. The holes are most likely due to native borers of the ash tree, such as red-headed ash tree borers or ash-lilac borer. These borers can be controlled with a trunk spray with chemicals such as sevin or eight or apply a soil drench with an imidacloprid product around the base of the trunk. This doesn’t sound like it is Emerald Ash Borer because the holes from EAB are D-shaped, not rounded or oval.

9. This caller has an ash tree and wants to know when he should treat it? He has heard that it takes up to 5 years for the systemic insecticides to move throughout the tree into the canopy, if this is true should he treat now.

A: Systemic insecticides take only a couple of weeks to move throughout the entire tree and they only last for 1 or 2 years depending on which chemical is used. It is best to wait until Emerald Ash Borer gets within 15 miles of the tree before treatment begins because treatments are costly, damaging to the tree, and not necessary until the borer gets closer. Trunk injections wound the tree and after repeated years of treatments it causes a great deal of stress to the tree, so there is no need to treat and harm the tree prior to when it is necessary.

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 Lawncare

2011-10-27 10.05.27Each year in the spring, we tend to get very excited to be able to get back outside and work in our lawns and gardens. However, this is still fairly early in the year to do much work in our yards. This article was written to prepare you for when the best time is to begin lawncare activities in the spring.

Overseeding our lawns can take place between April 1 and April 30 for the cool season turfgrasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue. If you are planting a new warm season lawn or are adding plugs to thicken it up, you should wait until late May through June to do that. The warm season grasses would be either Buffalograss or Zoysiagrass. These would be the four best turfgrasses to use in our lawns in Southeast Nebraska.

When purchasing grass seed, watch for the following important statements on the seed bag:

  • Purchase weed free seed, 0.3% or less weed seed in the package
  • No noxious weeds found in the seed mixture
  • Avoid purchasing lawn seed that is advertised in the Sunday newspaper, as those are not usually good seed choices and are not suited well for our area
  • Avoid purchasing lawn seed that contains annual ryegrass as that is more of a weed species

The best seed choices are either:

  • 100% of turf-type tall fescue
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Buffalograss
  • A mixture of tall fescue and bluegrass

Mowing your lawn should begin as your lawn begins to grow again. We should mow our lawns to a height of at least 2” for Kentucky bluegrass and 2.5-3” for tall fescue. So, you can wait until the lawn gets to at least 3 inches before beginning the mowing routine in the spring. Remember, only mow off 1/3 of the grass each time that you mow. The lawn clippings may be left on the lawn or bagged and removed from the lawn, at your own discretion. If you return the clippings back to the turf, it will add up to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet over the course of the growing season. This can account to one fertilizer application for your lawn over the growing season.  Below is a picture of the 3 types of lawn mowers you can purchase.

Mower Collage

As for the fertilization, this should also wait until later in the spring. It is recommended to add 1.0 pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet between April 20th and May 10th. This fertilization should be done with a slow release fertilizer of your choosing. Fertilization of Kentucky bluegrass can be applied 4 more times throughout the growing season. To make this easier to remember, fertilizer treatments should be done on Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween. As for tall fescue lawns, these only need to be fertilized two times a year, in the early spring and late fall. We should avoid fertilization during the hot summer months to avoid possibly burning the grass blades. The spring fertilization can be done in combination with a pre-emergent herbicide that will combat crabgrass, foxtail, sandburs and goosegrass. Do not use crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides if you have overseeded in the spring until you have mowed your new seedlings at least 3 times. Dandelion and other winter annual weeds can be treated in combination with the Labor Day fertilizer treatment for best control.

Fertilizer Spreader, Photo from Acreage.unl.edu

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.