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

 

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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.

Fall Gardening

Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

With school beginning again soon, fall will be here before we know it. There are a few things that we can start doing to prepare for the winter or to prepare our fall vegetable gardens. It is good that we can finally see the temperatures starting to go down from those terribly hot and humid days so we can get back outside again, comfortably.

Fall vegetable gardens can be planted soon. Most of our fall vegetables should be planted within the first week or two of August to ensure a good fall harvest before the frost takes the plants out. Those plants that you may have planted in the early spring to get to maturity before it got too hot are the things that are usually planted in the fall. For a fall harvest, plant these crops (from Backyard Farmer online calendar at byf.unl.edu):

  • Beets August 1-10
  • Carrots August 1-15
  • Chinese cabbage August 1-20
  • Lettuce August 1-5
  • Mustard August 1-25
  • Radish August 1-20
  • Snap beans August 1-5
  • Spinach August 20- September 15
  • Swiss chard August 1-20
  • Turnips August 1-15 (from Backyard Farmer online calendar)

The first frost in Beatrice, Nebraska occurs on September 29, on average and is within a week either way for the surrounding counties. So the best way to determine when to plant a fall garden is to count backward from the first frost date and compare it to your harvest time listed on the package. For example, if your lettuce says that it takes 50 days to mature, planting on August 1 will give you mature lettuce by the end of September. This will ensure that you will have a harvest before the frost hits.

If you want to extend your growing season even longer, you can build a cold frame. A cold frame is a miniature greenhouse or a box built over your garden. Cold frames are built with a light-admitting lid, such as glass or plastic film, that helps hold in the heat on the plants growing inside. A cold frame is an inexpensive way to extend your growing season because they can be built at home with only a few supplies. It also keeps the air and soil temperature around the plants up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding environment.

Photo from Iowa State University Extension

Cold Frame Photo from Iowa State University Extension

Another thing that you can do in the fall is to prepare your vegetable garden for spring. If you are done in your garden and your plants have died due to frost or you are just tired of eating all of those cucumbers, you can clean up your garden in preparation for next year. Removing all of the dead plants will help to reduce the diseases and insects that may use them as an overwintering habitat. Also, after removing those plants you may want to till up your ground to get it ready for next spring. This is also a great time to add any compost or manure to your ground if you need to add some nutrients for better plants next year. After tilling it up, you should put some type of mulch on the bare soil to keep it from eroding or blowing off in the wind, grass clippings are a cheap, easy mulch to use.

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