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Vegetable Garden Tips and Tricks May 9, 2013
As we get closer to the average frost free date, it is time to be thinking about finally putting some plants in our vegetable gardens. To ensure a successful growing season and harvest, there are a couple of rules to follow.
Crop rotation is one good practice to follow. Rather than putting the crops in the same location every year, crop rotation moves the locations where different plant families are put in the garden. Moving the plant families around can help to reduce insect and disease damage which tends to increase when the host plant is continuously grown in the same location. A good crop rotation schedule should rotate the plant families around so they aren’t grown in the same location for about three to five years. The difficult part is knowing what vegetables are related. A quick ‘family tree’ will help you know which plants in the vegetable garden are related and to help with crop rotation.
- Fabaceae (Bean) family- pea; snap, cow, and fava bean
- Brassicaceae (Cabbage) family- cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, collards, kale, turnip, rutabaga, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, radish
- Cucurbitaceae (Cucumber) family- cucumber, summer squash, winter squash, cantaloupe, watermelon
- Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot) family- beet, Swiss chard, spinach
- Liliaceae (Lily) family- onion, garlic, leek, shallot, chive
- Apiaceae (Parsley) family- carrot, celery, celeriac, parsnip, fennel
- Solanaceae (Nightshade) family- tomato, eggplant, pepper, potato, tomatillo
Just how early can you plant in the garden? Some crops could have actually been planted over a month ago, but that doesn’t mean they were immune from the cold temperatures and snow. The best way to determine planting date is to check soil temperatures. Seeds have a minimum, maximum and optimum soil temperature at which they will germinate and seedling growth begins. If planted too early, when soil temperatures are cold, seed germination and seedling growth will be very slow leading to seeds rotting, damping off disease, or low vigor plants with lower yields. Know what minimum and optimum temperatures are needed for different vegetables and monitor soil temperatures to determine the best time to seed. Planting early does not guarantee an earlier harvest if soil temperatures are too cold for germination. If you don’t have a soil thermometer handy, there are some general timelines to follow:
• 60 days before average last spring frost date – collard, onion sets, garden pea, radish, spinach, turnip
• 50 days before average last spring frost date – swiss chard, leek, mustard, potato
• 40 days before average last spring frost date – beet, cabbage transplants, carrot, lettuce
• 30 days before average last spring frost date – broccoli, Brussel sprout, and cabbage transplants; Chinese cabbage
• 10 days before average last spring frost date – sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato transplants
• Average last spring frost date – bean, cucumber, eggplant transplants, muskmelon, pepper, pumpkin, summer squash
• 10 days after average last spring frost date – okra, watermelon
Before we know it, warm weather and spring-like temperatures will be here to stay. With a little bit of help, you can guarantee a healthy and productive vegetable garden.
For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at email@example.com, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at
, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.
Drought Stressed Trees April 23, 2013
The drought has wreaked havoc on the landscape. Some of the damage, like with turf, was seen fairly early into the drought. The extent of damage to trees and shrubs might not be fully realized until this spring.
Being observant of plant material can help determine if it was just dinged or the damage was more severe. Brown or discolored foliage doesn’t always mean the plants are on their way out or beyond the point of no return. In addition to drought, winter desiccation can also cause many evergreens to change colors. Evergreen trees and shrubs are constantly loosing moisture through their leaves during the winter. Winter desiccation happens when the root system isn’t able to absorb enough moisture to keep up with the amount lost by the leaves. It causes evergreens to have a brown or tan coloration at the ends of the needles. The damage usually occurs uniformly on the north or west sides of the tree or on the side that has a comprised root system. In most instances, supplemental water during the winter and spring can help to provide the much needed moisture and help to alleviate the symptoms.
Determining whether or not the branch or plant is alive is the next task. There are a couple of options that you can use to test whether or not the twigs of a plant are alive. Take one of the plants’ brown branches near the end and try to bend the twig. If the twig is still pliable and the buds are big, healthy, and green looking, the branch is still alive and moving nutrients throughout the plant. If the twigs snap off readily and the buds appear brown and shriveled, the twig may be dead. Lastly, you can scrape away the outer layer of bark on the twig to determine whether or not the branch is alive. A live branch will have a green cambium layer, which moves nutrients, underneath the bark while a dead branch will h
ave a brown layer. The last way to determine the fate of your plant is to wait until the leaves or new growth emerges. Once new growth or leaves have emerged, the branches without growth or those obviously dead can be pruned away.
Some plants will do well in Nebraska only for little while. It takes a really trying year to find out which plants in our landscape are not extremely well-adapted to our growing conditions. Some of the plants that have fallen victim to Nebraska growing conditions this past year were the Arborvitae and poorly placed yews, Taxus sp. Both plants can work in Nebraska and become tolerant to dry conditions once mature, if they are placed in locations where they would receive a little more shade. If these evergreen shrubs didn’t received enough moisture during the growing season, they will turn brown or tan. Once these evergreens turn ever-brown, they might not fully recove
Even hardy, drought tolerant plants suffered this last year. Burning bush, Euonymus alatus, and Colorado blue spruce, Picea pungens, are k
nown for being tolerant of a wide range of difficult conditions. Last year several met their match and surrendered to the drought. By mid to late-summer several burning bush had turned completely brown. By fall, several spruce either had brown needles, or in one instance, no needles at all. The drought stress for the spruce continued through the fall and winter months due to winter desiccation.
Making sure drought stressed plants have enough water this spring is going to be critical. In the absence of rain, supplemental water may be necessary. Aim to apply enough water to moisten the top 8 to 12 inches of the soil. Monitor the soil moisture and only water when the upper few inches of soil are dry. A 2 to 3 inch layer of much will help to conserve soil moisture as well.
For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at firstname.lastname@example.org, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at
, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu
Drought Stressed Turf April 8, 2013
The recent rains might have pushed the issue to the back of your mind, but it is still there staring us in the face; the drought. The drought has wreaked havoc on more than trees and shrubs in the landscape; turf also was affected. Don’t worry there is still time to get a lush, green lawn this growing season.
Due to last year’s drought, many lawns might not recover from damage they have received. Assessing the appearance and the amount of damage in your turf will pay off in the long run. If over 50 percent of your lawn is still in good condition and is of the grass species you desire, overseeding might be a good option to fill in those thin, damaged areas. If your lawn is less than 50 percent desirable living grass, renovation of the entire lawn might be in your future.
Seed selection can be tricky, but it is key for a healthy looking lawn. For our area, the two common cool season grasses planted are Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue. Try to select a high-quality seed blend of 3-4 different cultivars of the turfgrass. The multiple cultivars in the blend will allow for differences between the cultivars like disease resistance and coloration. You get what you pay for when it comes to turfgrass seed. Read the seed label and be wary of blends that contain coarse textured, pasture-like grasses. Also be on the lookout for annual or weedy grasses like annual bluegrass or annual ryegrass as well as other ‘weed seeds’.
Deciding between overseeding or renovating can make a difference in the amount of seed you apply. If you decide to overseed this spring, 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.
Preemergence herbicides are a good idea to keep annual weeds from becoming a problem. Crabgrass, the main target for early season preemergence herbicides, needs a minimum soil temperature of 50 to 55 degrees to germinate. Normally that soil temperature is reached the end of April or the beginning of May. For season long control of weeds, homeowners should aim to put down half the highest recommended application rate on the label when the temperatures are optimum, and the other half in June. One application now probably won’t last throughout the entire growing season. Be sure to water in the product after application to keep it from degrading in the sun. The three most common active ingredients in preemergence herbicides for established turf are dithiopyr, pendimethalin, or prodiamine.
The choices for preemergence herbicides in newly seeded turfgrass are more limited. One preemergence herbicide that can be used with newly seeded turf is Siduron, commonly sold as Tupersan. This product will control the annual weeds like foxtail or crabgrass, but still allow the new grass seed to germinate.
The drought might have been tough on your turf, but there is still time for that lush green lawn of your dreams.
Is that a weed? April 5, 2013
Spring has officially sprung. Weeds are other things that are beginning to spring up. The key to knowing what to do depends on the weed, but it all comes down to proper identification of the enemy and its life cycle.
Winter annual weeds bloom in the spring, produce seed, and die all before the temperatures get hot. One of the more common winter annual weeds is henbit. Henbit has scalloped leaves, a square stem, and little purple flowers at the tip of the stem. These weed seeds germinated last September or October. Henbit plants sat dormant throughout the winter just waiting for the right time to jump into flower and seed production. Post emergence, broadleaf weed, herbicides won’t do much good. Spraying might make you feel better, but it can cause the plant to produce and drop more seeds. If the area isn’t too large, these weeds can be hand-pulled. Increase the density of the lawn in thin areas by either overseeding or by changing cultural practices to promote grass growth. If herbicide control is selected, preemergence herbicides should be applied in early September to control winter annual weeds.
Summer annual weeds germinate in the spring, grow throughout the summer months, and produce seeds and die before winter. One of the most common summer annual weeds is crabgrass. Crabgrass is an annual grass that often fills into areas where the turfgrass is thin. Crabgrass preventers, or preemergence herbicides, will help to keep seeds from germinating. These products aren’t effective for plants that are already growing. Crabgrass needs a minimum soil temperature of 50 to 55 degrees to begin germination. Preemergence herbicides applied just prior to germination provide the longest period of control. If applied too early, some products are out of the soil profile before all of the weed seeds germinate. In most years, preemergence herbicides for crabgrass are applied between the end of April to early May. If they are applied much earlier, a second application might be needed in mid to late June to give complete weed control. Remember that these products need to be watered into the soil profile for best control.
Perennial weeds come back year after year. The common offenders include white clover and ground ivy, sometimes called creeping Charlie. Ground Ivy looks very similar to henbit, but the control methods are very different. Ground ivy also has scalloped leaves, a square stem, and purplish flowers, but the flowers are in the leaf axil, between the leaf and the stem, in comparison to henbit that flowers at the end of the stem. The best time to apply post emergence herbicides for perennial weeds is after a light frost in the fall with a combination herbicide that contains multiple active ingredients. These products will also work well to control other weeds like clover or dandelions in the lawn.
Positive identification is key to the control method. Applying a broadleaf herbicide to a perennial weed early in the season might damage the foliage, but the plant can regrow. Apply a post emergence herbicide late in the season to a summer annual weed, can cause them to die slightly before they normally would with a killing frost.