Yard and Garden: July 28, 2017

Yard & Garden for blog, 2017

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for July 28, 2017. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and this will be the final episode from the show for 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: Kevin Christiansen and Evan Alderman, Agribusiness Instructors from Southeast Community College in Beatrice

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: http://go.unl.edu/44qr and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts. This Survey will Close on August 18th.

1.The first caller of the day wants to know if they can still treat for bagworms that were missed with the first application?

A. If the bag is less than 1 inch in length, insecticide applications will still be effective. However, if the bags are larger than 1 inch in length, the insecticides will not work very well. Because this tree has already been sprayed this year and still has bags, I would remind everyone to ensure that they spray efficiently and according to the label, leaving areas untreated can lead to more resistance if those bagworms contacted a small concentration of the chemicals that didn’t kill them.

2. This caller called to ask me what was the best insecticide to spray for bagworms, since I left that out on the first call?

A. Tempo or Bt would be most effective. Bt is the safer alternative because it won’t harm a lot of pollinators as it just targets insects in the Lepidopteran family of insects which includes butterflies, skippers, and moths.

3. A caller has a redbud tree that blew over in a storm this spring. The roots of this tree have begun to grow some suckers. Can one of those suckers be cared for to grow into another redbud tree?

A. Yes, the suckers can be trained into a new tree. It would help the growth of the one you choose to grow if you leave the other suckers for a while as well. All of the suckers will provide energy and food to the roots, so leaving extras for a while will help. Once the main stem gets growing, you can remove the others to push the one upright.

This caller also wanted to know if he can prune his magnolia tree so he can mow under it?

A. As long as the branches are not more than half the size of the trunk and as long as you aren’t removing more than a quarter of the overall canopy the branches may be removed. The best time to prune a magnolia tree is just after it blooms in the spring, pruning now will cut off flower buds that have already developed for next spring. If the branches that would need to be removed for mowing are too large, it might be wise to change the turf to shade perennials such as carex, bleeding hearts, hostas, coral bells, jack in the pulpit, jacobs ladder, Helleborus or Lenten Rose and many other great shade plants.

4. When is the correct time to prune a burning bush?

A. Late fall after the leaves fall off would be best. It is always easier to see the branches and where problem areas are if you prune in the dormant season. Also, it will allow the plant to quickly seal up the wounds in the spring flush of growth. It is not advised to prune now because pruning woody plants after the beginning of August until when they are dormant can hurt the plant. This may cause the plant to push new growth that would be more sensitive to cool temperatures causing more dieback in the plant.

5. A caller wants to know how do you know when Butternut and Acorn squash are mature?

A. These are both winter squash varieties so the fingernail test will work just as it does with a pumpkin. When you think the winter squash is mature, push your fingernail into the rind of the fruits. If your fingernail pokes through the rind, the squash is not mature, if your fingernail does not puncture the rind, it is a mature fruit. Winter squash should have a hard rind.

6. This caller wants to know how to control windmill grass in his lawn?

A. For perennial grassy weeds such as windmill grass, there are two options for managment, either use a Glyphosate product, such as roundup, on the weed and then reseed or use a product containing Mesotrione product, such as Tenacity, on the weed and not harm the grass. The tenacity is more expensive but will not kill your grass so there will be no need to overseed.

This caller also wanted to know what would be digging up his grass?

A. This is likely due to either skunks or racoons digging the grass trying to get to grubs living in the soil. See the following NebGuides to learn how to manage these animals: Raccoons and Skunks Also, if this is due to grubs, apply a grub control next June to reduce the grub population in your lawn.

7. A caller has tomato hornworms in her garden. How can they be controlled? She also wanted to know what grubs come from and how to control them?

A. Sevin will work to control hornworms. However, the population is not usually terrible and the hornworms can be removed by hand and thrown into a bucket of soapy water for control. Grubs are the immature form of Japanese beetles, May/June Beetles, Masked Chaffer for the majority of species in Nebraska. They can be controlled in June with a grub control like the Merit products that contain Imidacloprid.

8. This caller has a 1.5 foot tall tri-colored beech that was planted in full sun this spring. About a month ago, the leaves turned brown. The caller is watering it 2-3 gallons of water every other day. What is wrong with the Beech tree?

A. Beech trees like to be in a more protected location, so this tree may be getting too much sun and too much heat. Because it is such a small tree, there is still time to replant the tree in a more protected and slightly shadier environment. Also, this small of a tree would not need this much water. When replanting it, keep it watered every other day with only about 1 gallon of water each time. After a few weeks in it’s permanent location, you can water with 1-2 gallons of water once a week and continue to back off on days between each watering as the tree grows larger. Remember, this small of a tree will not have a very large root system and it is as easy to overwater a tree as it is to underwater one.

9. How do you control moles in the lawn?

A. Moles are best controlled with a Harpoon trap that can be purchased at most hardware stores. For management tips, see this NebGuide on Moles

10. This caller has a hibiscus tree with a braided trunk that she thought would grow to zone 4, is this hibiscus going to be able to survive in Nebraska winters?

A. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that this is a hardy hibiscus that will survive winters in Nebraska. There is a hardy hibiscus that will survive our winters outdoors and those are suited up to zone 4, there is also a tropical hibiscus that is sold here as an indoor plant and will not survive our winter conditions outdoors. I would say that the tropical hibiscus would be the type purchased with a braided trunk. It can survive indoors during the winter months, so she can dig it up and put it into a pot to bring indoors for the winter.

2014-05-29 11.32.16

Clover in a lawn

This caller also wanted to know how to control clover?

A. Clover should be managed in the fall of the year. It will take multiple applications over multiple years to fully control clover in the lawn. Use 2,4-D or triclopyr products in the fall. It is best to apply these products around September 30th and again around the middle to the end of October.

The final question from this caller was if she should cut back her Virginia creeper plant that is turning brown?

A. Leave it alone and allow the plant to come out of the browning on its own. This is a common problem with Virginia creeper that is not terribly damaging to the plant.

11. How do you control anthracnose in tomato plants?

A. A copper fungicide can be used in a vegetable garden if necessary. However, often with home vegetable gardens it isn’t worth the time and money to spray our vegetable crops as the diseases usually only last for a short time and then fade when the temperatures change a little. However, it seems for this caller that the disease is a problem every year. For more information on controlling the disease and how to manage your vegetable gardens to avoid disease problems, visit this Nebguide on Leaf and Fruit Diseases of Tomatoes.

12. A caller has carpenter bees digging holes in her shed and wants to know how to control them?

A. Carpenter bees are a beneficial insect, except when they are burrowing into the wood framing of buildings reducing their structural integrity. They are best controlled with a dust formulation of sevin. Leave the dust in the holes a few days and then the holes can be filled in with a wood putty. For more information, see this guide from Lancaster County Extension on Carpenter Bees.

13. The final caller of the day wants to know how to control ragweed?

A. At this point, the plant is growing too strong to be killed with a herbicide. The best time to treat is in the spring before the plants have grown too large. At that time, they can be treated with 2,4-D. Now, the best control would be to dig or chop out the plants.

Yard and Garden: July 14, 2017

Yard & Garden for blog, 2017

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for July 14, 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: Steve Karloff, District Forester from the Nebraska Forest Service

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: http://go.unl.edu/44qr and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts.

1.The first caller of the day has overgrown Forsythia and Yellow Dogwood plants. What can be done for pruning to reduce the unproductive plant materials and when can it be done?

A. Because these plants are overgrown, it would be most beneficial to do a rejuvenation cutting on them. A rejuvenation cutting is when you prune a shrub back to about 6-8 inches from ground level and remove the majority of the top growth. This will get rid of all the old, unproductive wood to bring in all new, younger wood that will be more productive to leaf out better throughout the entire shrub, will lead to more flowering, and will be healthier and free of insects and diseases that were problematic on the shrub. It is best to prune forsythia immediately after they flowered, but it could be done in the fall. Remember with a rejuvenation cutting that the plants will not flower for at least 2 years following the heavy pruning.

2. A caller has blue spruce trees planted in an area near a lake. Some of the spruces are 60 years old and some are 15 years old, all are dying from the bottom up. What is wrong with these trees?

A. Too much moisture can cause blue spruces to die from the bottom up, since they are planted close to a lake, they may be getting too much watering. When replacing the trees, choose a species more adapted to wet locations such as white pine, cedars, or bald cypress.

3. This caller has a green apple tree that was planted before he moved in and the apples are falling so they are ripe. The apples are not juicy and are quite porous and pithy. What is wrong with the apples?

A. After discussions on this with Paul Hay, this is just the variety of apple that is growing there. This is an apple that is used more for processing to be used in pies and sauces and not for fresh eating.

4. A caller has rabbits that are eating her hostas and lilies. What can be done to control them?

A. The only effective management for rabbits in a garden is to put up a fence that is at least 2 feet high.

5. This caller has a bur oak that was planted in the spring. The old leaves on the tree are turning brown but the new growth is green and healthy looking.

A. Be careful to not overwater a tree, especially with newly planted trees. These young trees have a small root system and do not need to be watered as heavily as an older, established tree. It is beneficial to allow the roots to dry out a little between waterings.

6. A caller has white pines that were planted too close to the driveway and now the branches hit cars when they come to park in the drive. Can the branches be trimmed back so they don’t hit cars and when can that be done?

A. Yes, these branches can be removed. Take the branch all the way back to the trunk so that they don’t regrow causing pruning to be necessary every couple of years. You can prune evergreens most any time of the year.

7. This caller has a bur oak that was planted last fall. It didn’t come out of dormancy this spring and has not grown. However, there are suckers coming up at the base of the tree, can the main tree be pruned out and the suckers allowed to grow into a new tree?

A. Yes, remove the main tree and allow one of the larger more upright suckers to grow into a new tree. However, sucker growth is not always as strong as the tree itself, so it may not perform how the tree was supposed to.

8. Can lilacs be pruned now?

A. No, it is best to prune lilacs within a couple of weeks after they are done blooming. Lilacs produce their flower buds in the summer and fall of the year before they bloom, so pruning now would cut off the flower buds for next spring. To ensure flowering for next year, wait until after it blooms next year and then prune it back at that time.

9. A caller has cypress trees that were planted 5 years ago. One of the 2 trees is in great condition with good color. However, the other one is smaller and yellow in color. The trees are only a few feet apart. What is wrong with it and can it be fixed?

A. The yellow and shorter tree may have just been a bad tree out of the gate. Sometimes our trees develop a problem in a nursery or from the seed source and never really overcome that. Also, with Bald Cypress trees, it is hard for them to overcome iron chlorosis. When these trees get iron chlorosis, they become stressed and no matter how many trunk injections, which also harm the tree, they never come out of the chlorosis. At this point, it would be best to remove and replace the bad tree.

 

Summer Patch at Christenson Field, P Hay

Photo of Summer Patch from Paul C. Hay, Nebraska Extension Educator

10. This caller is having problems with their lawn. He fertilized it in May but now it has brown patches throughout. How much water does a lawn need and how can he improve his lawn?

A. Our lawns need 1-1.5 inches of water per week on average to stay green and out of dormancy. The patches could be the lawn going dormant or they could be from a fungal disease. There are a lot of summer fungal diseases such as brown patch, summer patch, and dollar spot. They are common in the hot and humid days in late summer but as soon as that weather fades, the brown spots will turn green again. For more information on these diseases, see this TurfiNfo from UNL.

11. A caller has Bradford pears that have branches coming out 1.5 feet above the ground, should those be removed or will they move up as the tree grows? The trees also have suckers, what should be done about that?

A. If these low branches are in the way for mowing and you don’t like how low they are, they should be removed. Remember not to remove more than 1/4 of the tree in one season, so you may have to remove one this year and another next year. Those branches will always be at that level, though, so if they are in your way they need to be removed. As for suckers, cut those off at ground level and don’t treat them with anything or the spray will kill the tree as well.

12. This caller has pumpkins in his garden that are wilted during the day but at night they look fine. What is wrong with the plants?

A. If a plant looks better in the evening or in the morning but is wilted during the hot part of the day, it is heat or water stress. Make sure your plants are properly watered through this hot and humid couple of weeks of the summer.

13. A caller has tomato plants with leaves that are drying up from the bottom of the plant. The tomatoes are also rotten on one end of the fruit. What is causing these two problems?

A. Ensure that the plants are being properly watered. Vegetable gardens need 1-1.5 inches of water per week. Hand watering at the base of the plant every night is not sufficient for the root system. The plant could also be exhibiting early blight which is common right now. Remove the infected leaves, the disease will fade soon. The rotten side of the fruit is blossom end rot. This is a calcium deficiency in the plant caused by uneven watering making the calcium unavailable to the plant. Adding calcium to the soil will not help the problem, just make sure your plants are well watered and mulched in. Blossom end rot will fade soon. You can eat the good side of the fruit and dispose of the rotten end.

14. This caller has round berries on the plants of her potatoes. What are these?

A. These are the fruits of a potato plant. We typically do not see the fruits because we are growing the plants for the tubers produced underground and we harvest before the fruits appear. Remove the fruits so the plant can build the tubers.

15. A caller has roses that have uniformly round holes on the edges of the leaves and brown spots. He sprayed with rose spray and it is not working. What is wrong with the plants and how can he fix it?

A. This is likely damage caused by the leafcutter bee which is a pollinator and beneficial insect. There is no need to control this insect. Here is a great article from Jonathan Larson, Nebraska Extension Entomologist, on Leafcutter Bees.

16. How do you control puncturevine in a lawn?

A. Use a 2,4-D product in the pre-bloom stage. Management will not be achieved this time of year because the plant is large and will be difficult to kill. Also, don’t use 2,4-D products in the heat and humidity of the summer or the product may move to non-target plants causing damage.

17. How do you control moss in a pond?

A. Copper sulfate crystals can be used for control. For more information on pond management, visit the Lakes, Ponds, and Streams section of the water.unl.edu website.

18. A caller has apple trees that get insects in the fruit every year. When and what should they be spraying for that?

A. It would be best to get on a spray schedule, spraying with an orchard fruit tree spray every 10-14 days throughout the growing season. For more information visit the Local Food Production page within the food.unl.edu website for spray guides.

19. The last caller of the day has vines with milkweed type pods growing in his fenceline. What can be done to control it?

A. The plant sounds like honeyvine milkweed. At this point of the year, pull it or spray it with roundup. In the spring or fall, 2,4-D could be used, but not now due to the heat and humidity.

 

Poor Pollination

Poor Pollination, Blog post

Summer is a great time of the year. Our flowers are blooming and our gardens are growing. However, sometimes we have disappointments in the garden such as when our vegetable crops don’t produce viable fruits for us to eat. There are many reasons for that, but most of them we cannot help with. Just be patient and they will work themselves out.

Zucchini, squash, and cucumbers have been known to produce fruits that develop into only a small fruit that then falls off the plant. The reason for this is due to poor pollination. The plants in the cucurbit family have separate male and female flowers. This time of the year, only the male plants are present in the plants. To have a fully pollinated fruit that will develop to maturity, the plant needs the female flower to provide the fruit itself, but it needs to be pollinated by the male flower. A female flower is easily identified because you will see a small forming fruit behind the flower. Often times, people see the flowers on the plant and then get discouraged because a fruit doesn’t form, but both types of flowers are necessary to get fruits.

Poor pollination can also be caused due to lack of pollinators. Bees and other insects are necessary in cucurbits to ensure that the pollen is moved from the male flowers to the female flowers. Some years the weather isn’t desirable to the pollinators or we have a low number of pollinators present, which will lead to poor pollination causing the small fruits to drop off before fully developing. This year it has been quite rainy which leads to less pollination because bees don’t like to fly in the rain. Be careful when spraying for squash bugs and squash vine borers to help reduce injury to pollinating insects.

blossom end rot zucchini

Blossom End Rot on Zucchini

Blossom end rot is another reason that small fruits may not fully develop and then fall of your plants. Blossom end rot is an environmental problem that affects many of the plants in our garden including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, and watermelons. This is actually a calcium deficiency within our plants. Calcium is often found in adequate quantities in Nebraska soils, however, it cannot be moved throughout the soil and into the plant without even moisture. So, the problem isn’t due to lack of calcium, it is due to uneven moisture in the soils. In Nebraska, especially in the beginning stages of plant development, moisture is typically uneven due to heavy rains in between dry spells. Using calcium on your plants will not help this issue. Give the plants time and they should begin to develop normal fruits with no blossom end rot on them later in the season. Typically, we only see blossom end rot for the first couple of harvests in a season. You can still eat the fruits that develop with blossom end rot, you would just need to cut the rotten portion of the fruit off.

2015-09-22 18.45.39

Squash bugs on a Zucchini

Squash bugs and squash vine borer are coming to take over our gardens soon. This is the time of year to watch out for these problematic, common insects found affecting our cucumbers, zucchini, and the other cucurbits. Pay attention to your garden to help prevent damage. You can scout for the eggs of the squash bug. You will notice a group of tiny, copper colored eggs gathered near the intersection of the veins on the underside of the leaves. Remove and destroy the eggs as you find them to reduce the population. For squash vine borer, wrap the base of the plant in aluminum foil to stop the females from laying the eggs on your plant. You can use insecticides for both of these, just be careful to do it in the evening when the bees aren’t flying and don’t spray the flowers with insecticides to help with pollination.

Yard and Garden: June 2, 2017

Yard & Garden for blog, 2017

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for June 2, 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: Graham Herbst, Community Forester from the Nebraska Forest Service

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: http://go.unl.edu/44qr and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts.

1. The first caller of the day has a Hen and Chicks plant that has grass growing in it. What can be done to remove the grass? She also has spiders in her lawn, what can she do to control them?

A. Grass-B-Gon is a product that contains the active ingredient Fluazifop. This is a grass herbicide. This product or any others containing Fluazifop can be sprayed directly over broadleaf plants with no damage to the desired plant. The spiders are not an issue outside in the lawn, in fact, they are beneficial. Spiders in the lawn are feeding on insects, many of which cause problems to our plants or bother us. Outside, spiders are beneficial. To keep them from coming indoors, home barrier sprays or tempo can be used around the foundation of the house to keep spiders and insects outside. If there is a fear of spiders, the tempo could be used where the spiders are seen.

2. A caller has a mock orange that has not bloomed for the past few years and now this year it finally is blooming some. Should it be removed? Why hasn’t it been blooming?

A. This could be due to a maturity issue. Many of our woody plants need to become established and get to a certain age before they will begin blooming. It could also be due to pruning time. Mock Orange bushes need to be pruned right after they finish blooming because they bloom on last years growth, or old wood. If they are pruned in the fall or early spring, the blooms would be cut off.

3. When is the proper time to spray for bagworms on blue spruce trees?

A.Spray when the bags are small to get the best control. It is best to spray after the bags emerge in the late spring to early summer but before the bags get longer than 1 inch in length. Mark a branch with a bag on it now and keep checking it to determine when the bags have emerged.

4. A caller has 6 table grape plants that had grapes set on. Now the grapes are dropping off and 70% are gone from the plants. What has caused these plants to loose all of the grapes?

A. This could be due to frost damage. Here is a guide from Oregon State University to describe the many factors that can hinder fruit development in grapes.

Forsythia-Richard Elzey, Flickr

Forsythia, Flickr image courtesy of Richard Elzey per CC license

5. Is it too late to prune forsythia this year?

A. It is too late to prune and not cut off any blooms for next year. Spring blooming shrubs should be pruned shortly after they finish blooming for the year. Forsythias bloomed in March this year, so it would already be starting the formation of flower blooms for next year, pruning them now would cut those buds off. If the intent is to just prune a few branches just a little, it wouldn’t impact the overall blooming of the shrub, but pruning too heavily will lead to little or no development of flowers.

6. A caller wondered where they could go to find the wrap around water bags for trees?

A. Local nurseries should carry them or there are many online locations where you can order them. These bags are beneficial to help keep the root ball moist to help get new trees established.

7. Can Grass-B-Gon be used in strawberries or phlox and will preen reduce the number of runners grown off of strawberry plants?

A. Grass-B-Gon is not labeled for use in fruit bearing tree crops and vines. So, it cannot be used in strawberry plants. It would be good to use for grasses growing in phlox and not cause any harm to the phlox. Preen stops the germination of seed to reduce weeds grown from seed in the garden, so it will not harm runners which are growing off an existing plant, not from seed. Check to make sure the preen you are using is labeled for use in strawberries, the general preen is not for use in vegetable gardens.

8. How do you transplant a wild rose?

A. First, make sure it is on your property. Then, just make sure you dig up as much of the rootball as possible and replant it right away. You could also try taking a cutting from one of the branches and dipping it into rooting hormone and placing it into a pot of gravel to get roots to grow. Once roots develop, you can plant the rose.

9. A caller wants to build a privacy border with shrubs. Would Burning bush work for this or are there other options to choose from?

A. Burning bush would be a great privacy wall with good fall color. Other shrub choices would include serviceberry or any of the viburnums. You could plant it now, just make sure the plants get plenty of water with it being this hot and the roots being minimized due to transplanting.

10. This caller has tomato plants that when they planted it they saw grubs and wireworms in the soil around it. Should they treat for this and if so, what should be used?

A. Grubs are not controlled effectively around vegetable gardens because the chemicals with the best control are not labeled for use in the vegetable garden. However, there is a fairly high threshold of grubs and wireworms in the garden before damage is too high. A few grubs or wireworms throughout an entire garden will not cause any real damage. The plants they are most problematic on would be the root crops such as potatoes.

11. This caller had 2 questions: Her asparagus has been planted in this location for 30 years and is quite spindly, why is that? Her peonies are done blooming now, can she deadhead the spent flowers?

A. The asparagus is regularly fertilized so the small spears could be due to heavy harvest or it could be getting old or too crowded. It would be time this year to stop harvesting to allow the plants to recover and make sure to stop sooner next year. Once peonies and iris plants have completed their blooming period, the flowers can be cut off and composted. Leave the leaf material on the plant to build sugars to help with the flowering next spring.

12. How do you control weeds in asparagus?

A. Hand pulling and mulch would be the best options for weed control. When the plant is done in the fall and the leafy material is all removed below the ground level, the existing weeds can be sprayed with Roundup as long as no green material from the asparagus is above ground or showing. Here is a good explanation from Backyard Farmer of why we don’t use salt on asparagus for weeds and how to effectively control weeds with Roundup.

Carpenter Bee, J. Kalisch

Carpenter Bee photo from Jim Kalisch, UNL Entomology

13. A caller has carpenter bees digging holes into the roof of a patio. What can be done about this?

A. You can plug those holes with caulk or putty or use a sevin dust in the holes. For more information on Carpenter Bees, see this article from Retired Extension Educator, Barb Ogg

14. This caller has puncture vine in the lawn. What can be used to control it?

A. 2,4-D is a good way to control it in the the spring before it blooms.

15. A caller has peonies that need to be transplanted. Can they also be divided when they are transplanted?

A. Yes, they can be cut into a few pieces when they are transplanted this fall. Just make sure that each section you cut off the plant has 3-5 eyes which are more like pink noses or knobs on the roots of the plant. Peonies are best transplanted and divided in September or October.

Yard and Garden: April 28, 2017

Yard & Garden for blog, 2017

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 28, 2017. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through July 28, 2017. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Host: Dick Campbell, Owner of Campbell’s Nursery in Lincoln, NE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Can you grow English Walnuts in Nebraska?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvesting from your Garden

Harvesting from garden

I love this time of the year, not because of the extreme heat, but because my garden is beginning to produce large quantities of vegetables for my family to enjoy in our meals and to preserve for the winter months. Sometimes it is hard to determine the best harvest time and use for the vegetables from a garden but here are a few tips to remember.

Tomatoes are a great choice for a vegetable garden. They can be preserved in so many ways to be enjoyed throughout the entire winter. The anticipation for our tomatoes to begin to ripen is difficult, but once they begin, they grow strong. This year we have had to wait a little longer than normal for our tomatoes to begin to produce. Due to the high heat in June, poor pollination occurred.

For harvesting tomatoes, it is best to wait until the tomato is firm and colored correctly for the particular variety you are growing. Make sure you know what you planted to know what color they should be. If the temperatures get too hot, they may soften if left on the vine until they are the correct color, when that occurs, it would be best to pick tomatoes early and allow them to ripen indoors.

Tomatoes stored in the refrigerator can only be stored fresh for 4-10 days. According to Alice Henneman, a Registered Dietician with Nebraska Extension, tomatoes can be frozen raw with or without the skins to be used in cooked recipes for months later. Tomatoes can also be processed into salsas, paste, sauce, and juice for storage and use later in the year in other forms.

2014-08-18 07.57.37

Salsa made from my garden

Zucchini is another great plant for your garden. Zucchini plants are easy to grow and will produce plenty of harvest for a family from only one or two plants. If you planted too many zucchini plants they are easy to store as well. Zucchini should be harvested when the fruit is young and tender and when your fingernail easily penetrates the rind. Most zucchini should be harvested when they are 1 ½ inches in diameter and 4 to 8 inches in length. Zucchini is easily missed and they are fast growing vegetables. If you have some zucchini harvest that is too large for grilling or slicing for other recipes or for freezing, you can use the large produce for baking. Remove the seeds and shred what is left for use in many baking activities like zucchini bread or muffins. Fresh zucchini can be stored in the fridge for 5-14 days.

Peppers should be harvested when they are firm and full sized. If it is a red, yellow, or orange variety, they need to be left on the plant for an additional 2-3 weeks for coloration to occur. Peppers can be frozen for consumption later in uncooked foods or in cooked foods. Fresh peppers can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks if handled properly.

Cucumbers should be harvested when they have grown to the size that is best for the use and the size determined by the variety. If you are using the cucumber for a sweet pickle or for baby dill pickles you would want the cucumbers to be 1 ½ to 2 inches long. If you are using them for regular dill pickles it is best to pick them at 3-4 inches in length. For fresh slicing cucumbers harvest when they are 7 to 9 inches long. It is best to harvest daily and harvest cucumbers before they get too large with large seeds inside. Cucumbers can be used fresh for 10-14 days.

The harvest information for this article came from the NebGuide: When to Harvest Fruits and Vegetables by Sarah Browning, Lancaster County Extension Educator. The freezing guidelines came from food.unl.edu

 

Yard and Garden: June 17, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for June 17, 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: Connie Fisk, Cass County Extension

1. The first caller of the day transplanted pear and maple trees in December. Recently, these trees turned brown and lost their leaves. What would cause this?

A. This year the weather has been ever-changing. The drastic change from wet and rainy to hot and dry has been hard on many of our plants. It sounds like these plants need watered. Water on a slow trickle about one time per week for 45 minutes-1 hour and make sure the trees have a mulch ring that is at least 2-3 feet out from the base of the tree and only about 2-3 inches deep.

2. This caller has a locust tree that he topped and wanted to use the removed branches to make a trellis for his vegetable garden. Now, the branches are sitting in a pile and sawdust has developed around them. What is this and is it concerning for his vegetable garden?

A. This would be either carpenter ants working on the decaying material of the branches or it could be another type of insect that is emerging from the branch that was developing in the branch over the winter months. This will not cause any problems to your vegetable garden.

*Note: It is not recommended to top a tree due to the weak, unproductive branches that will emerge from the tree.

3. A caller has scotch moss that she purchased for her fairy garden. She purchased it one month ago and has not had time to plant it into the fairy garden. Now, part of it has turned brown in the center of the plant. What can she do to fix this?

A. It should be planted into a garden or the fairy garden as soon as possible to ensure it gets room to grow. Also, this could be due to watering issues. She can prune out the dead growth and the rest should be fine if it gets planted.

4. This caller has 2 Northstar dwarf cherry trees that were planted this spring. One is fine but the other has not leaved out this spring. Will it survive?

A. No, it will probably not live at this point. It won’t hurt anything to leave it in for this growing season to see if it comes out of it, but it is late in the season for no growth to be on the tree. Water it early in the morning to try to help it come out of possible late dormancy.

5. A caller has apple trees that were planted last year. They are 6-7 feet tall. One tree is beginning to bend over from the top, the leaves are green with some yellow leaves throughout. What would cause this?

A. This could be due to fireblight. This is a bacterial diseases that can cause dead leaves and the end of the infected branches will bend over like a shepherds hook. Prune out the infected area by cutting back into the healthy area 8-12 inches past where the scorched area appears. Clean pruners in a bleach water solution between each cut to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Do not compost infected branches.

6. A caller has a 30 foot tall blue spruce that they would like to trim off some of the bottom branches. Is this an ok practice?

A. Yes, that can be done. The branches removed will not regrow and underneath the weeds and grasses will need to be controlled. It would be best to then use mulch and/or a groundcover under the tree to help with weeds and mowing around it.

7. This caller has a peach tree that split down the middle of the trunk. Can it be saved?

A. No, any assistance will be just to help the tree limp along until death. It would be best to replace the tree at this point. Once the tree splits it is then open to disease and insect issues with no way to remedy it for long-term management.

8. A caller has maple trees that are 5 years old and now the trunks look like the bark is peeling off and you can see the inside. This damage is on the South and West sides of the tree. What is it from?

A. This would be sunscald, also called southwest disease because the damage occurs on the south and west sides of the tree. Sunscald occurs in thin barked trees during the winter when the cells of the tree rapidly freeze and thaw on warm winter days. Now that the damage has occurred there is no control for it. For new, thin barked trees, they should be wrapped during the winter months for the first few years of their lives. The damage is minimal and won’t kill the tree.

9. This caller has hollyhocks that the lower leaves are drying up and falling off of the plant. What would cause that? Also, there are mums blooming now. Can she cut them back?

A. This sounds like a fungal leaf disease due to the wet spring. Remove the leaves and destroy them. Mums can be pinched back throughout the summer months to keep them at a good size and to help with blooms in the fall. They can be pinched back until the 4th of July.

10. A caller wanted to know what causes blue-green algae in a lake?

A. It is a combination of environment, low water levels, and nutrients found in the lake. For more information visit: http://water.unl.edu/lakes/toxicalgae-faqs

11. This caller lost 2 peach trees and a plum to borers. Is it common? Did the tree have borers when it was purchased? Can others be saved?

A. Borers are common in peach trees. They can be treated. For information on treating these borers, visit the spray guides section on https://food.unl.edu/local-food-production

12. An email question came through with an algae problem in a birdbath. What can be done to control this algae?

A. This birdbath needs to be cleaned more often and scrubbed out to remove algae growing on the bottom of the birdbath. For more information visit: http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/waterbirds.shtml

13. A caller has a leaf tree that has developed peaches every year except for the past 2 years. What would be causing this?

A. A late frost has occurred the past 2 growing seasons which would cause a decrease if not an entire loss of the peaches that had begun before this frost occurred. There has also been low pollination the past couple of years due to wet spring during the pollination period.

14. This caller has a established silver maples that are suckering. Can this be sprayed with anything to stop the suckers from forming?

A. Unfortunately, no chemicals can be used on suckers because this growth is coming from the roots of the main tree. Chemicals used on the suckers will kill the entire tree. The best defense for suckers is to continually prune them out.

15. A caller has apples that tend to get worms and spots on the fruits. What can be done to help with these problems?

A. For backyard trees it might be best to just tolerate occasional insect and disease pests. If the problems are minimal, it is much less work to just cut out the bad spots for home use. You can use insecticides, just follow the regulations on the spray guides found at: https://food.unl.edu/local-food-production Sanitation is also important, remove and destroy all fruits off the tree and off the ground and leaves around the tree in the fall to destroy overwintering locations for these pests.

puffball

Puffballs are identified by their solid structure throughout the fruiting body, which is typically spherical in shape. (Photo from NebGuide Mushrooms, Fairy Rings, and Other Nuisance Fungi in the Landscape courtesy of R. Mulrooney, University of Delaware)

16. The final caller of the day has a fungus in the lawn that is like a ball on top of the ground that when pushed on releases many spores. What would this be?

A. This would be a puffball. A type of mushroom. There is no control for them, it is best to just remove the puffball structures as you see them and destroy them.

Time to Plant Vegetable Gardens

 

3124

My mom, Karen, and my niece, Mya.

Mother’s Day is coming and is a great time to honor our mothers. I get my interest in horticulture from my mother and so I like to buy her plants for mother’s day gifts. It is not only a holiday for our wonderful moms, but also a great time to get out and start planting our gardens.

Mother’s day is a great date to remember for good timing for planting warm season vegetables outdoors because we have to wait to plant these frost sensitive crops until after the last spring frost has occurred. Warm season crops include: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, garden beans, corn, watermelons, cantaloupe, squash, okra, and sweet potatoes.

2014-03-04 11.18.22

When purchasing plants, be sure to look at the root system. The roots are very important to a plant, it is what is used to absorb water and nutrients for growth and production. Pull the plant out of the container it is sold in and look at the root system. If there are a lot of roots along the outside edge of the soil ball for that particular plant, it may be rootbound. When a plant is rootbound, the roots become entangled because the plant has gotten too large for the container it is growing in. Rootbound plants should not be your first choice for planting because these plants often continue to grow with encircling roots and can cause damage and even death in the plants. If a rootbound plant is purchased, be sure to thoroughly break up the root ball to help the plant grow correctly for better health.

Make sure that the garden is located to get at least 6 hours of sunlight per day, but 8-10 hours of sunlight is best. Make sure that it is planted on level ground to ensure uniform watering. Mulch is necessary to a garden for moisture retention and weed reduction for less competition. Good mulches include wood chips, lawn clippings, and newspaper. Vegetable gardens need 1-inch of water per week. The best option for watering is a soaker hose or drip irrigation to reduce the spread of diseases from splashing water.

Vegetable gardens can be planted in containers or in raised beds. Containers that can be used include shoes, pallets, boxes, ceramic containers, whiskey barrels, tires, and cow tanks, in addition to containers bought at a garden center. Just make sure that your container has a drainage hole in the bottom. Container gardening is a great option for people with disabilities that restrict them from traditional gardening or for those living in apartments or rental properties where they have no lawn to dig up to plant into.

Raised beds are another alternative to traditional gardening for those with disabilities or those with poor soils. Raised beds are gardens built up higher than their surrounding soil level. Raised beds can be made without an enclosure as a berm or with an enclosure using items such as landscape timbers or old railroad ties, as long as creosote does not still ooze from them. Raised beds can typically be much larger than a container garden, but should be only as wide as your reach to the center for weeding purposes. This type of gardening would be a good choice for those facing problems with toxicity from black walnut trees.

Veggies collage

However you garden, just enjoy it and plant the crops that you and your family favor most for meals. If you have extra you can always take it to a local farmer’s market to make a few dollars on your extra produce. Gardening is a fun way to grow your own vegetables, to get some exercise and to enjoy nature all at the same time. This is a fun activity for kids of all ages.

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.

 

Fall is here, get your plants ready for winter!

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

Photo by V. Jedlicka, Lancaster County Extension

Photo by V. Jedlicka, Lancaster County Extension

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

Houseplant

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

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

Tilled garden

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