killingerscollection

This is a collection about horticulture.

Variety, cultivar, hybrid, heirloom… what do all of these terms mean? April 7, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Killinger @ 8:00 am

Decisions, decisions. Red or yellow? Determinate or indeterminate tomatoes? Hybrids, varieties, or heirloom plants? The answer you get depends on what you want to do with the plant.

There are many choices when it comes to what you put into your garden. The vegetables you select for the garden are there because you or someone in the family likes them, but they should have specific characteristics that make it valuable to have them there in the first place. You should look beyond the bottom dollar price and make your decisions based upon several characteristics.

Variety, cultivar, hybrid, heirloom… what do all of these terms mean? The terms variety and cultivar are often mistakenly used interchangeably. Variety is a naturally occurring variation of individual plants within a species. The distinguishing characteristics are reproducible in offspring. One common example is the thornless honeylocust, Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermus. It is a naturally occurring thornless honeylocust. Cultivar comes from the term ‘cultivated variety.’ These plants are selected through specific hybridization, plant selection, or mutation, to achieve specific characteristics or traits. An example of a cultivar is Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ or Husker Red penstemon. ‘Husker Red’ was a particular selection of penstemon that was picked for its red foliage and white blooms. Hybrids are crosses between two species or distinct parent lines and can be developed from a series of crosses between parents. Seeds saved from hybrids usually don’t ‘come true from seed’ meaning seeds saved and planted from hybrids won’t yield the exact same fruit as the year before. One of my favorite tomatoes, ‘Sungold,’ is an example of a hybrid. These plants were specifically bred for their size, color, crack and disease resistance. Lastly there are the heirlooms. These plants are varieties that are the result of natural selection that has been in cultivation for 50 years or more.   Seeds saved from heirloom varieties will ‘come true from seed’ and you will have the same plant as the previous year. One of the more popular heirloom tomatoes is the Brandywine. Often these plants may have the best flavor, but they often lack the disease resistance that the hybrids offer.

Why do hybrids often cost more than varieties? The major reason for the price difference between hybrids and standard varieties all comes down to time. The higher price is related to the amount of time that it takes to produce new hybrids. The carefully selected parent plants must be cross-pollinated by hand to produce offspring with the desirable characteristics. Then the seeds from those crosses have to be grown out and the plants have to then be evaluated to ensure that the resulting plants have the right combination of characteristics. The breeder then has to produce enough seeds to sell to meet the demand. Open-pollinated varieties are planted in a field and then Mother Nature does the work moving the pollen around. The fruits are then harvested and the seeds are collected.

Your expectations of the plants can help you decide which type of plant to select. Gardeners who want to harvest seeds from this years’ garden to plant next year, might want to stick with open pollinated varieties or heirlooms. Hybrids offer improved disease resistance and are more adapted to environmental stresses. If you buy fresh seed every year and you want the most productive, least problem prone garden, hybrids are probably the way to go.

With a little background information, hopefully your decisions just got a little easier.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at http://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.

 

Winterkill on Turf April 4, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Killinger @ 8:00 am

We may have loved the fact that this winter we didn’t have to scoop much snow, but your turf isn’t quite so happy. The open winter may have wreaked havoc on lawn, greenspaces, athletic fields, and golf courses in the area. Find how what to be on the lookout for and how you can help to ensure a healthy green lawn this upcoming season.

In a ‘normal’ winter the turf is usually protected from the extreme conditions. Snow cover helps to not only provide much needed moisture to the thirsty turf, but it also helps to blanket and protect turf from the biting winter winds. This winter, there wasn’t much snow to protect turf and there were definitely the harsh winds.

The lack of snow cover can be a contributing factor to winterkill in turf. Winterkill is a general term that is used to define turf loss during the winter. Winterkill can be caused by a combination of factors including crown hydration, desiccation, low temperatures, ice sheets and snow mold. UNL Turfgrass Specialists were prepared to educate about winterkill, but they weren’t prepared for the extent of damage that they are seeing.

There are a few factors that can play a role in the degree of the damage in the lawn. Low mown turf, like those on golf course greens, tend to be more susceptible to winterkill. Turf that was seeded last fall, had heavy traffic over the winter, and locations exposed to winter winds are also affected by winter damage or winterkill.

Winterkill on turf throws a wrench in all of my previous preemergence herbicide recommendations. Normally, I would recommend dual applications of preemergence herbicide for the most effective control of crabgrass and other weedy grasses in the lawn. The first application is usually applied any time after March 1 with the second application in early June.

This year, wait to apply preemergence applications until after the turf has greened-up. There is no rush to apply the preemergence herbicides now. Make sure that there isn’t any winterkill on your turf before you apply preemergence herbicides. Applications of preemergence herbicides applied as late as mid-April to early May are still effective for our area.

There is one major reason for holding off on applying preemergence herbicides. These products can limit your options when it comes to a lush green lawn yet this spring. If a preemergence herbicide has been applied to the turf prior to overseeding, it can keep the turf seeds from germinating along with the weedy grass seeds.

If your lawn has suffered this winter or been killed by winterkill, there is still time to overseed yet this spring. Overseeding or renovating lawns can help to fill in a sparsely growing lawn or one suffering from winterkill. If you decide to overseed, there are a few rules to follow. Kentucky bluegrass can be overseeded throughout the month of April at a rate of .75 to 1 pound of seed per 1,000 square feet. Tall fescue lawns that have been thinned can be overseeded at a rate of 4 to 6 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet starting April 15 through June 15th. If renovation of the entire lawn is chosen, use the full seeding rate. Kentucky bluegrass’s full rate is 3 to 4 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet. Tall fescue seeding rate is 4 to 6 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet.

Waiting to apply preemergence herbicides may be tough to do, but it can save you a headache in the long run.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at http://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.

 

Raskly Rabbits and Lil’ Stinkers March 10, 2014

Filed under: Wildlife — Elizabeth Killinger @ 4:38 pm
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This year’s temperatures so far have been a rollercoaster.  In a matter of a week we went from higher than average temperatures to subzero temperatures.  That type of temperature fluctuation is not only hard on us; it is also hard on our landscapes.  Take advantage of the warm weather while its here and be on the lookout for a few potential problems in the landscape.  Remember that gardeners aren’t the only ones that are ready for spring.

While the snow was on the ground, pesky critters were at work.  Rabbits have been hard at work munching on your landscape plants during the winter.  Rabbits will feed on pencil sized branches and will leave a clean 45 degree angle cut.  They can also strip the bark from around the base of trees and shrubs as high as 3 feet tall.  Cottontails may be cute, but if there is heavy enough feeding, they can cause some serious damage.  Fencing the plants that are the most commonly munched by rabbits will keep them from becoming lunch.  Be sure to bury the fence at least 1 foot in the ground and have it stand at least 2 feet tall.

Voles are a little harder to spot in the winter.  Voles are small creatures that look like a short-tailed mouse.  They make runways between the turf and the snow cover that are about 1-2 inches wide.  Once the snow is melted it looks like a tiny maze of runways zigzagging between plant material.  In the areas of the runways, the turf will be nipped off close to the crown of the plant.  Normally, the turf will repair itself in the spring and the damage isn’t permanent.  If the feeding is excessive, the turf can be over seeded in those areas.  Voles can also eat away at the green inner bark of trees and shrubs just like rabbits.  If the feeding damage is great enough, it can kill young trees and shrubs.  If severe damage is noticed, allow the wound to remain open to the elements and breathe.  Avoid covering the damaged areas with tree wraps or wound dressings and paints.  Voles also steal bulbs from the ground and eat them.  If your prized tulip doesn’t come up this spring, blame the voles.

What’s black with white stripes and is a stinker?  You guessed it, the skunk.  The well-known smell is enough to warn any passerby of its presence.  Skunks are active from dusk until dawn and feed on a wide range of insects.  Skunks can cause damage to turf while digging for their next meal.  Since they don’t feed on landscape plants, why do you need to know about skunks now?  We are in the prime mating season of the skunk.  Males will travel up to 5 miles in search of females, many times over our lovely highways.  Females will have a litter of 4-6 pups which are with mom until the fall.

Some critters have been busy this winter munching and snacking.  Check your landscape plants to see if there is any damage left behind from these critters and try to steer clear of our little smelly friends, the mating season will soon be over.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at http://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.

 

Plant Choices: All-America Selections February 24, 2014

Filed under: Garden — Elizabeth Killinger @ 6:25 pm
Tags: , ,

Spring fever has gotten the best of all of us.  The warm weather has our appetites wet for the coming spring.  Seed and plant catalogues have started piling up on excited gardener’s tables everywhere.  How do you know which of the plants out there are really good for our area and which ones are duds?

Arabesque™ Red F1 Penstemon  Photo courtesy All America Selections

Arabesque™ Red F1 Penstemon
Photo courtesy All America Selections

One organization was founded to truly help make the difficult selection decision easier.  All America Selections (AAS) is a non-profit organization that tests new plant varieties across the nation and lets home gardeners know which new cultivars are truly improved.  They test new, unsold cultivars then pick out the truly outstanding plants.  The first AAS winners in 1932 were announced a year later, after the results were tabulated from the first trial.  Today the winning plants must still follow a strict set of criteria, but they are available for sale the year they are announced as the AAS winners.

What exactly does an AAS judge look for?  They are looking for improved qualities like earliness to harvest, disease and pest tolerance, novel colors and flower forms, yield, and overall performance, just to name a few.  In order to even be considered by judges, the entry needs to have at least two significant improved qualities in the last ten years.  Some of the more recognizable AAS winners of the past include ‘Derby’ Snap beans, ‘Big Beef’ and ‘Celebrity’ Tomatoes, ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss Chard, ‘Summer Pastels’ Yarrow, and ‘Purple Majesty’ Millet.

This year AAS announced 10 new selections for gardeners nationally and four new selections for the Heartland Region for 2014.  The regional winners’ designation is a new offering for 2014 selections.  There are three categories for AAS winners; bedding plants, flowers, and vegetables.

African Sunset F1 Petunia Photo courtesy All America Selections

African Sunset F1 Petunia
Photo courtesy All America Selections

The bedding plant selections are ‘Sparkle White’ guara, ‘Florific Sweet Orange’ New Guinea Impatiens, ‘NuMex Easter’ ornamental pepper, ‘Akila Daisy White’ osteospermum, and ‘African Sunset’ petunia were selected as national award winners and ‘Arabesque Red’ penstemon was the regional winner.  ‘Sparkle White’ is a graceful plant in containers or landscape beds that has an exceptionally long bloom period.  ‘NuMex Easter’ pepper was selected for its compact size and the range of fruit colors that resemble Easter eggs.  ‘Akila Daisy White’ is a unique pale centered osteospermum that has a controlled, branching habit.  ‘Arabesque Red’ is the first ever penstemon award winner in more than 80 years.  It also is a season-long, repeat bloomer with blooms that are almost an inch across.

The flower selection winner is ‘Serenta Pink’ angelonia.  This angelonia is a deep pink flower and is said to be very drought and heat tolerant.

Mascotte Bean Photo courtesy All America Selections

Mascotte Bean
Photo courtesy All America Selections

Seven plants were selected for AAS vegetable winners; ‘Mascotte’ green bean, ‘Mama Mia Giallo’ pepper, ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ tomato, and ‘Fantastico’ tomato were selected as national winners.  ‘Mascotte’ is a great dwarf French bean that is adapted for window boxes and container gardens.  ‘Mama Mia Giallo’ has large yields of uniform shaped, long tapered, gold/yellow fruit.  “Chef’s Choice Orange’ is an heirloom-type, indeterminate, orange, hybrid tomato.  ‘Fantastico’ tomato is a very flavorful unique determinate bush tomato.  Each plant produces up to 12 pounds of fruit.  ‘Pick A Bushel’ cucumber, ‘Mountain Merit’ tomato, and ‘Rivoli’ radish were selected for regional winners. ‘Pick A Bushel’ was selected due to its early fruit set and prolific production on a bush type cucumber that only spreads 24”.  ‘Rivoli’ yields uniform, round root 1 ½” in diameter.  ‘Mountain Merit’ is a disease resistant cultivar that offers medium to large, round, red tomatoes.

All America Selections have done all of the dirty work for you.  They have tried and tested many cultivars to help the home gardener select the newest plant material for the garden.  Visit http://www.all-americaselections.org/winners/index.cfm to find out more about AAS and previous award winners.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at http://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.

 

Snow, Ice, and Everything Nice! January 13, 2014

Filed under: Turf — Elizabeth Killinger @ 8:00 am
Tags: , ,
Damage caused by Paper Boy Photo Zac Reicher

Damage caused by Paper Boy
Photo Zac Reicher

Winter can be a beautiful time of the year.  The gracefully falling snow or frost on the plants in the morning sun can be an attractive sight to some.  To others, it just means more work outside.  Regardless of how you feel, these winter conditions should remind everyone to think about their turf this winter.  That’s right, I said turf.  While the frost and snow are pretty, there are some steps that you can take now to ensure a beautiful looking lawn come spring.

Frost can do more than cause you to scrape your windshield.  Walking or driving across frozen turf may seem safe enough, but it can actually cause damage to the lawn which will be visible come spring.  When the grass blades freeze, they become brittle.  There are many theories as to how the frost damages the living turf tissues, but the most common belief is that the ice crystals damage the plants’ cells when they are forced into the leaf by the weight of a foot or wheel.  Early morning dog walkers, newspaper deliverers, golfers, or joggers can do significant cosmetic damage on frosted turf.  If done repeatedly, this could mean reseeding the area come spring.

It is fairly easy to spot the depressed footprints in the frosted turf, but once the frost melts the damage has a little different appearance.  The damage to the frozen turf first appears as a blackening of the leaves which gradually turns to a brown or tan color.  There is some good news though.  In the spring, turf suffering from damage due to foot traffic while frozen will normally recover after two to four mowings.

Snow may mean more work for some people, but it can be beneficial to turf.  A blanket of snow across the turf can help to protect it from the harsh winter winds and help to insulate it from the freezing temperatures.  On the other hand, snow can also cause damage to lawns.  Heavy piles of snow and deicers are often the culprits.  When scooping, avoid heaving piles of snow on the turf.  Snow that has fallen naturally isn’t as dense and compacted as shoveled snow can be.  If possible, try to disperse the snow and avoid the tall heavy piles.

Building a snowman is another fun snow-time activity that could also have an effect on your turf.  The densely packed balls of snow melt slower than the rest of the snow on the ground.  After a warm spell just Frosty remains.  These remnants of a fun afternoon could also cause damage due to the weight of the heavily compacted snow and the slower melting of the large snowballs.  To avoid Frosty’s revenge, break up the snowballs left by the snowman as the temperatures warm up and the surrounding snow begins to melts.

Take precautions now with these winter-time activities to keep you lawns looking their best this coming spring.

Upcoming Programs:

Extension Master Gardener Program- Two training sessions will be held at the UNL Extension in Hall County meeting rooms in Grand Island.  Session 1: Tuesday evenings, February 11 through March 25, 6:00 to 9:00 PM.  Session 2: March 17, 19, 21, 24, 26, and 28 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Please contact Elizabeth Killinger, 308-385-5088, with any questions about the program.  Registrations are due prior to January 17 with the session you are interested in attending.  More information, updated schedules, and an application can be found at http://hall.unl.edu

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at http://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.

 

2013 in review January 8, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Killinger @ 5:29 pm

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

Make Live Christmas Trees for the Birds December 29, 2013

Filed under: Trees,Wildlife — Elizabeth Killinger @ 8:00 am
Tags: ,
Scotch Pine- image from the Nebraska Christmas Tree Growers Association website

Scotch Pine- image from the Nebraska Christmas Tree Growers Association website

Live Christmas trees add an unmistakable ambiance to the holidays.  Now that the holidays are over, the time has come to let your tree perform a different task.  Get good use out of your live Christmas tree for a while longer.  Feeding birds has become a very popular pastime that can be done year round.  There are three things to remember for bird feeding success: location, providing the correct feed and feeder for the bird you want to attract, and maintaining a constant availability.

There are a few steps you should take with your Christmas tree before you stick it outdoors for the birds.  Remove all decorations, lights, and try to remove as much of the tinsel, if not all, if possible.  The best location for the tree once outdoors is on the south or east side of the house.  This will provide shelter from the harsh north and west winter winds.  Be sure the tree is secure in its new location by setting the stump in the ground or bucket of damp sand and by attaching the top with twine to nearby buildings or trees.

Christmas trees can create a wonderful backyard habitat.  The tree can provide shelter for the birds by protecting them from the wind and predators.  It can also act as a feed station. For a fun winter project, make your own bird feeders.  Popcorn, cranberry, and raisin strings are not only festive, but they also help to feed the birds.  Popcorn will attract cardinals and finches, while cranberries and raisins attract cedar waxwings and any overwintering robins.  Apples, oranges, leftover bread, and pine cones covered with peanut butter and rolled in birdseed also make great feeders.

The saying that works with real estate also works for bird feeders– location, location, location.  Most birds prefer to feed when they are protected from the strong winds and where they can have areas with protective cover and perching sites.  Trees and shrubs nearby offer excellent perching sites while evergreens provide great cover for birds to hide.

The types of feeders and the feed you offer will determine the types of birds that you will have visiting.  Birds tend to be pretty picky with the type of feed and feeder that they prefer.  Goldfinches are easy to attract if you use niger thistle seed in a clear tube-type feeder.  Woodpeckers and nuthatches are fond of suet.  Suet is a combination of animal fat, seeds, and other ingredients that attracts insect eating birds.  It offers a quick source of energy for birds.  Suet feeders are usually a plastic-coated wire cage.  There are a wide variety of feeder types available at most home and garden centers or you can make your own.  Pick a feeder that you enjoy looking at, is easy to fill, fits the type of bird you want to attract, and fits within your price range.

In winter birds rely on you and what you have to offer.  Once you decide to start feeding the birds, it should be done consistently.  Feeding the birds in the winter makes them reliant on you for part of their diet.  Forgetting to feed the birds during a severe cold period or storm could mean that they could starve to death before they find another food source.

When your live Christmas tree has fed all the neighborhood birds be sure to take it to your local recycling areas where it can be made into habitat or useful mulch.  Grand Island had three locations; ACE Hardware at the west end of the parking lot, the north side Skagway south parking lot, and the Conestoga Mall just north of Red Lobster.  Trees can be dropped off at these locations until January 5th and will be chipped into mulch.

Upcoming Programs:

Extension Master Gardener Program- Two training sessions will be held at the UNL Extension in Hall County meeting rooms in Grand Island.  Session 1: Tuesday evenings, February 11 through March 25, 6:00 to 9:00 PM.  Session 2: March 17, 19, 21, 24, 26, and 28 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Please contact Elizabeth Killinger, 308-385-5088, with any questions about the program.  Registrations are due prior to January 7 with the session you are interested in attending.  More information, updated schedules, and an application can be found at http://hall.unl.edu

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at http://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.

 

 

 
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