Yard & Garden: June 5, 2020

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for June 5, 2020. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through July 31, 2020. 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: No guest host due to COVID-19 and social distancing

1. The first caller of the show would like to know when the proper time is to spray for bagworms?

A. After they have hatched, which is different every year, based on temperatures. It is typically around the middle of June. This week, the UNL Entomology department reported that bagworms have hatched in the Lincoln and Omaha area so if they haven’t hatched in Southeast Nebraska yet, they likely will in a week or so. We should be in the spray window for the next few weeks.

2. A caller has large trees in her yard that are shedding large amounts of leaves recently. What is causing this? Will the tree be ok?

A. This could be from a variety of factors. In some cases, the trees may have put on a large flush of leaves this spring. With the extreme heat and humidity recently, they dropped the extra leaves. They could also be leaves that have a minor leaf spot disease that has caused a large amount to drop off. Either way, the trees are still in good health with a full canopy of leaves and should be fine for future growth.

3. When can a large hosta be divided?

A. At this point for the year, it would be best to wait until next spring. It is now hot and windy so it would be very hard for the plant to tolerate being divided and replanted. Hostas are best divided in the spring before hot weather but after they have emerged well.

4. This caller has potato plants growing and now the edges of the leaves are curling up and turning brown. What is wrong with them?

A. The caller is watering his potatoes correctly, but does not use mulch. This could be one of two fungal diseases brown leaf spot or early leaf blight. Fungicides such as mancozeb or chlorothalonil can be used to control this, but the wet weather recently is likely the reason it is showing up. Mulching the plants will also help so that the spores don’t splash from the soil back up to the leaves of the plant. Be sure to clean up the garden at the end of the year and rotate the potatoes around to different areas of the garden each year.

2019-06-07 10.05.02
Herbicide injury on Tomato

5. A caller has tomatoes that the top leaves are tight and deformed. What is causing this and do they need to be replanted?

A. This is likely from herbicide drift, it is hard to say for sure without seeing the plants, but it sounds most like herbicide drift. This has started to become a problem again this year due to the change in weather. As we warm up, we see more problems with 2,4-D and dicamba products that turn to a gas and move to non-target plants. Tomatoes are very sensitive to drift from 2,4-D or Dicamba products. They should grow out of the damage, however because we don’t know exactly what product hit these tomatoes there is no way to know for sure when the product will be out of the tomatoes. I can’t say when or if these tomato plants will be safe for consumption this year.

6. This caller grew cucumber plants last year and the vines took over her small garden. Can she cut them back to keep them away from her other plants?

A. Yes, the vines can be cut to reduce the growth slightly. I wouldn’t cut too much off because that can reduce the yields. It might be better for her to use a bush cucumber in future years that will not spread as far. She can also try using a trellis to have the cucumbers grow up rather than out.

7. A caller has sapling trees growing up in her chain link fence. What can she do to kill them?

A. These should be cut off and treated with a stump treatment, painting a herbicide on the freshly cut stump. Roundup would be the best to use in this heat and around other plants. She asked about using a brush killer and this can be used, but shouldn’t be used too close to desired plants. Always read and follow the label when using pesticides

8. This caller was curious if bagworms would run their natural course and if he would be able to quit spraying his trees eventually?

A. Unfortunately, bagworms are here to stay. They will never fully go away. Bagworms, like all insects, go through peaks and valleys in their population and right now we are nearing the peak. This means we have very high populations that are doing damage to our plants. When the bagworm population drops, you may be able to discontinue spraying for a few years if the population isn’t large in your trees. For now, you will want to spray with the high populations.

9. What are the orange things on the cedars and what plants will they damage?

A. These are the galls of cedar-apple rust. This disease needs 2 hosts to complete its lifecycle. The galls are hard, gray/brown structures on the cedar trees over the winter. In the spring, when it rains, these galls open up to allow the spores to move to the apple trees. When the galls open up they are orange structures that resemble an octopus due to all the telial horns around the gall. The disease causes no problems to the cedar trees, but will cause lesions on the leaves and fruits of apple trees. If you have a susceptible apple tree, now is the time to spray with a fungicide to prevent the disease from affecting your tree. For more information, view this NebGuide.

10. Is there any reason to spray fruit trees this year since the blossoms all froze and no fruit will develop?

A. It wouldn’t be necessary, if you want to take a year off of spraying. The trees will still develop some damage on the leaves, but it shouldn’t kill the tree. For fruit trees in Nebraska, you can either spray throughout the entire summer to combat all the problems or you can not spray and have some problems. If there will be no fruit, it wouldn’t be necessary to spray the tree.

11. A caller has an old rose that bloomed but now the leaves look to be drying up. What is wrong with it?

A. It is hard to tell for sure without seeing the plant. There are a few different fungal diseases that could be affecting the roses now after all the rain we have seen recently. It may also be that the plants were shocked by the sudden onset of hot, humid, windy environmental conditions after the cool spring. They could also have damage from rose slugs, which are out right now. He also said they are surrounded by brome grass which could be causing competition issues. Most of these problems will fade on their own. If it is a fungal disease, there are rose specific fungicides that can be used. Rose slugs are minor problems and will go away as fast as they appeared, without chemicals.

12. The final question of the day was a caller who had planted a butterfly milkweed. overnight it was pulled out of the ground so he replanted it and it was again uprooted the next night. What is causing this? It is only on the new butterfly milkweed plant.

A. I assume this is damage from a squirrel or other type of wildlife. The best defense against wildlife damage would be to put a fence around the plants being damaged. There would be nothing else that would be very effective, or proven to work through research, in this case.


Yard & Garden: May 1, 2020

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for May 1, 2020. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through July 31, 2020. 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: No guest host due to COVID-19 and social distancing

1. The first caller of the day has a plant that comes up in his grass, he calls it onion weed. They have tried 2,4-D products but it is still alive and keeps coming back and spreading. What is it and how can it be controlled?

A. This is likely wild garlic or wild onion due to the onion/garlic smell of the leaves when you break them. They are very difficult to control in the lawn. Multiple application of post-emergence herbicides such as Roundup or 2,4-D products. If using the roundup you will need to reseed the area as roundup will kill all plants, including the turf. You can also dig them up as you see the patches appear. It is best to mow just prior to spraying but not mow for a couple of weeks after spraying.

2. This caller has something that is boring holes in his yard. There are a bunch of holes in the yard that are 1 inch in diameter with very fine soil around the holes. What would cause this?

A. There are a few options for this. He wasn’t sure how deep the holes went but didn’t see any runs in the lawn around the holes. Without a few images of the damage it is too difficult to give a definitive answer.

3. Is it too late to start spraying peach trees for insect and disease damage?

A. To have a peach tree on a spray schedule with an Orchard Home Fruit Tree spray, it is best to start when the buds begin to open up and show pink behind the sepals. Then, you would spray every 10-14 days through the growing season except during the bloom period. This will help with insects and diseases. If you didn’t get started before the bloom, you can start now that the tree has finished blooming.

4. A caller has hostas that have grown very large and thick. Can they be divided?

A. Yes, now would be a good time to dig them up and divide them. They can be divided in half, thirds, or quarters depending on the size of the plant. After they have been divided, replant them, make sure to space them out correctly. Keep them well-watered once replanted because they will have a limited root system.

5. This caller is curious about catchweed bedstraw and what to do about it.

A. This weed is found throughout our landscapes. It is a winter annual weed like henbit. It can be pulled very easily because it has a very shallow root system. You can also spray it with a 2,4-D product or Roundup.

6. A caller is wanting to plant tulips in his landscape under a tree. Would this be a good location for them and do you need a lot to get good coverage under the tree?

A. Yes, tulips will grow well under trees but you do have to plant a lot to get a good effect from them. They should be planted in the fall, such as early October.

7. What can be done about moles in the yard?

A. Trapping can be used on moles. It is most effective using a Harpoon type trap and if you prepare the area prior to setting the trap. Find an active run by stomping it down a few times before setting the trap. If the run continues to pop back up, set the trap there the third or fourth time you stomp the run down. This should ensure get the mole. For more information view this NebGuide.

8. This caller has 2,4-D that froze in the container. How can he get rid of that?

A. If you can find a pesticide disposal location, that would be best. However, if you cannot find one, the best way to dispose of pesticide is to apply it to a labeled site (specific plant, animal, or structure) for which the product is registered. Always double check the product label to be certain that the site is listed and that the maximum application rate will not be exceeded.

9. The final caller of the day wanted to know how to get pampass grass to spread. Can it be pruned a certain way to encourage spreading?

A. No, you can’t prune it any way to encourage spreading, it will just take time. Over time it will grow larger to fill an area better or you can divide the plants to spread them out farther, but nothing else will be effective for spreading.

*Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by Nebraska Extension or bias against those not mentioned.

Protect Plants from Winter Problems

Now that November is here, we can begin to prepare our plants for the winter conditions. Some of those preparations are to get plants ready for cold weather and some are to protect them from wildlife.

My beautiful picture

Wildlife Damage

During the winter months we can see plant damage from deer, rabbits, and voles. Deer can chew off the ends of small twigs and bucks can rub their antlers on the trunk of smaller trees. Rabbits can also chew on smaller plants, sometimes chewing small plants off at ground level. Rabbits and voles can also gnaw on the thin bark of our young trees to feed on the green, inner bark areas. There is no cure once it happens, so it is best to protect our plants prior to damage.

Rabbit Protection, Lancaster Co. Ext
Rabbit Protection Fence, Photo from Lancaster County Extension

Exclusion is the best defense but is sometimes a difficult task. There are fences that can be utilized but they need to be at least 8 feet tall for deer damage. Rabbits can be managed with a fence that is 2 feet tall. Voles can be controlled by removing tall grass and weeds from around the trunk of trees and by avoiding mulch layers deeper than three inches around trees. Placing hardware cloth around tree trunks will also prevent vole feeding. The commercial spray repellants available for deer or rabbits are not very effective and would need to be reapplied often.

Winter Mulch

Winter mulch can be applied now, or within a few weeks when temperatures are consistently dropping down to the twenties each night. Winter mulch is the heavier layer of mulch we apply to herbaceous perennial plants and strawberries to keep them from having temperature fluxes throughout the winter. Any plant that may be prone to frost heaving, the plant being pushed up out of the soil by a constant freeze and thaw condition, or plants that were just planted this fall could also benefit from winter mulching. This mulch can be up to four inches deep, which is deeper than we usually advise but is needed for winter protection. It is better to use coarse wood chips or leaves for winter mulch rather than grass.

Winter Watering

Winter watering is essential in dry winter years. Winter desiccation commonly occurs on evergreen types of trees and shrubs. All trees are still transpiring, or losing water, throughout the winter months, evergreen trees are transpiring at a higher rate than deciduous trees. Winter desiccation occurs when the amount of water lost is greater than the amount of water the evergreen takes in throughout the winter months. The damage from winter desiccation is brown needles out on the ends of branches. However, the damage from winter desiccation will not usually show up in our trees until early spring, so they will stay green through the winter. Drought effects can damage deciduous trees as well. Especially newly planted deciduous trees. All of our trees may need to be watered throughout the winter months if natural precipitation or snow cover is absent.

Winter watering should occur during the day on days when the temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above and is only necessary 1-2 times per month until spring. It is a good idea to test for soil moisture with a long screwdriver or soil probe prior to watering to determine if watering is necessary. If the screwdriver goes into the soil easily up to 18 inches, watering is not necessary. However, if pushing the screwdriver into the soil is very difficult, watering would be necessary.

Tips for Fall Plant Protections

Protect plants for winter, blog

Fall has officially arrived. There have already been frost advisories for the western part of the state, so it won’t be long until frosts occur here. It is at this time that you need to think about care for your plants to protect them through the winter. Here is a ‘To Do’ list to prepare your lawn and garden for winter.

Care of newly planted trees should be considered. If it is a thin barked tree, add a tree wrap to protect it from sunscald. Sunscald is a condition that occurs during the winter with the rapid cool down at night of the cells in the trunk of the tree. The warm up can occur in the winter on warmer days but when night comes, those cells freeze and burst, causing damage to the trunk. Tree wraps will help protect young trees from this condition, but only leave the wrap on during the winter months and allow the trunk to be opened up during the summer to avoid damage from insects and disease.

tree wrapping
Tree Wrap

Young trees would also benefit from a fence around the tree to protect it from damage from rabbits and voles during the winter months. During the winter, these critters chew on the bark of our trees which causes wounds and, in some cases, girdles the tree leading to eventual death. A 2-foot high fence of chicken wire will be sufficient to protect your tree from both of these animals. Make sure the fence is dug into the ground a couple of inches so the voles can’t get under it.

Winter mulch can be applied when temperatures are consistently dropping down to the twenties each night. Winter mulch is the heavier layer of mulch we apply to plants like chrysanthemums and strawberries to keep them from having temperature fluxes in the soil they are planted in. Any plant that may be prone to frost heaving, the plant being pushed up out of the soil by a constant freeze and thaw condition. Plants that were just planted this fall could also benefit from winter mulching. This mulch can be up to twelve inches deep, which is much deeper than we usually advise but is needed for winter protection. It is better to use coarse wood chips, straw, or leaves for winter mulch rather than grass. Be sure to level the mulch back down to 2-3 inches in the spring.

Clean up all spent leaves of annual and perennial plants. Remove the dead plant material and compost it or dispose of it. If there was a problem with a disease or insect problem in the plant this summer, it would be best to dispose of it to reduce the problem with that insect or disease next year. Be sure to wait until the plants have turned brown in the fall before removing this plant material to allow them all the time available to build and store up sugars for next spring.

Now is the time to dig up your summer bulbs to prepare them for winter storage. Plants such as gladiolus, cannas, begonias, caladium, elephant ear and dahlia need to be dug up in the fall and stored indoors over the winter. They need to be dug up prior to a hard frost, or shortly after the first frost. Once the bulbs are removed from the ground, they need to be cleaned off, removing the leaves as you clean, and cure or dry them for 2-3 weeks. Then place the bulbs in crates or boxes, allowing for air flow. Store them throughout the winter in a cool, dark location such as a basement. Check the bulbs periodically through the winter to ensure no bulbs are starting to rot or mold.  If any do start to rot or mold, discard them immediately.