This is a collection about horticulture.

My Seed Starting Project March 25, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Killinger @ 4:26 pm

Starting SeedsDon’t let the idea of starting your own transplants scare you off. Starting your own transplants can be a rewarding experience as long as you follow a few simple rules and have the proper equipment. The first step is deciding what you want to plant in your garden. Once the vegetables have been selected, figure out what needs to be started indoors and what can be direct seeded, planting the seeds directly in the garden soil. Beans, beets, cucumber, pumpkin, squash, melons, peas, lettuce and greens are ideal vegetables for direct seeding. Vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, eggplant, pepper, and tomato do best when placed outdoors as transplants rather than direct seeding.

1Next sort the vegetables into cool season and warm season crops. Cool season crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kohlrabi, can handle cooler spring temperatures, along with an occasional light frost, and can be planted in the garden earlier in the year compared to warm season crops. Eggplant, pepper, and tomato are warm season crops and shouldn’t be planted in the garden until after the threat of cold temperatures and frost has passed, usually around Mother’s Day.

Once you have your vegetables sorted into warm season and cool season crops, it’s time to break out the calendar. Cool season crops can be planted in the garden as early as April 1st and as late as May 10th. In order to have vegetable transplants ready to plant in the garden around April 1, they are going to require to be started indoors 6-8 weeks prior to that. Count backward from April 1, which means cool season transplants would need to be planted indoors around February 17th. Warm season crops will also take about 6-8 weeks to get to the proper size, but they shouldn’t be planted into the garden until around May 10. Again counting backward 6-8 weeks from May 10, the warm season crops should be started indoors around March 22nd. Keep in mind these are just guidelines. Technically warm season crops can be planted in the garden earlier, but you have to remember we live in Nebraska and there isn’t any guarantee for a ‘normal’ spring. If you want to roll the dice and plant in the garden earlier, plan accordingly with planting the transplants earlier, but be prepared for Nebraska’s weather.

There are a number of containers that are commercially available for starting plants indoors. From plastic trays, to plastic cell packs, to peat pots, or compressed peat pellets, the key is finding the one that works best for you and your budget. It might take a little experimenting, but there is an option out there for everyone. Once you have selected the container, the next decision is to select the proper soil or planting media. The media has to have good drainage and remain soft so the 2seedlings can sprout. Garden soil does not work well for starting seeds. It is often too heavy and doesn’t drain well enough for new little seeds and it can crust over, making it difficult for seedlings to sprout. A soil-less mix or potting media will work in most instances. Vermiculite is also a common seed starting media.

Now comes the fun part, the planting. After the container has been filled with media, add the seeds. If you are using cell packs, 1-3 seeds per cell will ensure at least one will sprout. If you are using a tray, make sure to leave room between seeds so you can easily pull out the seedlings to transplant into a larger container. Cover the seeds with a sprinkling of fine potting mix or vermiculite and water thoroughly with a fine sprinkle or mist. If the container comes with a plastic cover, place that on now. If your container doesn’t, you can use cling wrap to keep the humidity high for the seedlings, just make sure that the seedlings don’t stay too wet.

5Planting the seeds is the easy part, once they emerge is when the work begins. The care that the seedlings require depends on how they are planted. If you planted several seeds directly into the cell packs or larger pots, now is the time to thin the number of seedlings in each cell. It is best if you clip or cut the weaker seedlings out of the cell packs instead of pulling. By cutting the weakest seedlings off at ground level, you are ensuring that the root mass of the strongest seedling remains intact and undisturbed. If you planted into a seedling flat or planted seeds into one container, then the seedlings will need to be transplanted. Pick another larger container that you want to put the transplants into and fill with potting media, not garden soil. Select the healthiest looking seedlings and carefully remove them from the flat and place into the new container. Make sure that the newly planted seedling is well watered. Take extra care not to pinch the stem as this can damage the water movement vessels in the stem and cause seedling damage.

4One of the most important needs of seedlings is light. A sunny window or providing supplemental artificial light will help to ensure the plants grow quickly. Plants that are receiving enough light will remain compact and the leaves will be a nice dark green color. Plants that are a light green color or have a long internode or are stretching over toward the window are signaling that they need more light. If you are using artificial light, try to keep the light as close as one inch away from the plants. One inch might not seem far enough away, but the florescent lights don’t produce that much heat to damage the plants as long as they are not touching the light bulb. As the plants grow taller, keep moving the light farther away from the growing plants to make sure they aren’t touching the bulb.

How you water newly planted vegetable seedlings is also very important. There is a fine line between keeping the seedlings just moist enough, but not overly wet. Until the seeds germinate, or sprout, the top of the soil surface needs to remain moist enough that the seedlings can break through the soil surface. Once the seedlings sprout, the amount of water can be cut back to watering when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Damping off is a common infection that occurs in seedlings that are growing in a cool moist environment. It is commonly caused by fungi and causes the seedling to rot off just below the soil 6line. Pay close attention to the seedlings and check for issues on a regular basis.

Plan ahead, provide the proper environment, and be on the lookout for potential problems, before long the transplant crops you start now will be ready to be placed in the garden.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at, 308-385-5088, her blog at, HuskerHort on Facebook and Twitter, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website:


Pruning Storm Damaged Trees February 11, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Killinger @ 4:13 pm
Tags: ,
A Snow Covered Branch.  Photo courtesy

A Snow Covered Branch. Photo courtesy

The recent storms have dumped a load of snow across Nebraska, but the warm temperatures have been welcomed with open arms. Take advantage of the warm temperatures to scout for potential issues in your landscape.

Heavy snow and ice build-up on plants can cause some problems. Enough build up can lead to limb breakage or even splits on limbs and trunks. Ideally, allow the ice and snow to melt naturally from the limbs. If the snow is weighing down the tree or the limbs, gently brush off the snow. Do not hit a branch to knock off the snow or ice, it can cause more damage to the plants.

Eventually it is unavoidable somewhere along the line there will be some storm damage to trees. The Nebraska Forest Service has a few tips for homeowners who are caring for storm damaged trees:

  • Safety at all times. Use caution around trees during and after extreme weather. Falling limbs and debris may be hazards long after the storm has passed.
  • Inspect the trees for splits or cracks in the trunk. This might indicate a structural problem with the tree. If you think a tree has sustained structural damage, contact an arborist.
  • Never climb a damaged tree to remove limbs or attempt clean up a tree that is leaning.
  • Be wary of individuals who go door-to-door to get your business, use a local reputable service.
  • Pass on offers to top your tree. Topping harms the tree and increases the likelihood of structural problems and the trees recovery time after a storm.
  • Wait for ice and snow to melt off of trees before pruning.
  • Check the whole tree before pruning. First remove any dead, diseased, or broken branches that can easily be reached from the ground.

If more than 50% of the tree’s branches need to be removed due to storm damage, consult an arborist and consider removing the tree.

Be sure to have the correct information from a reputable source. If you are dealing with large trees or trees with significant storm damage contact a certified arborist. Don’t know who is a certified arborist in the area? You can go to several locations to find a list of certified arborists. You can look at the Nebraska Arborist Association or the International Society of Arboriculture’s webpages. Both offer a ‘find arborists’ searches for lists of certified arborists in your area.

If you are able to do the pruning yourself, get all of the facts to make sure you are not only pruning properly, but also safely. Winter is one of the best times of year to prune deciduous trees. It can also be one of the most potentially detrimental seasons to trees as well as a hazardous one for homeowners who do their own pruning.   Getting all of the correct facts and asking for help can mean a safe season for all. The Nebraska Forest Service has multiple publications that deal with all tree related topics, even pruning storm damaged trees. This information can be found at

Deciduous trees drop their leaves in the fall, which gives us a couple of reason why we prune them in winter. The branching structure is more easily seen in winter because of the lack of leaves on the trees. When trees have leaves, they are making food. This food is transported throughout the tree as sap. In winter, the tree has no leaves, therefore it is not making food and there is minimal sap flow. If the tree is pruned in spring, late March or early April, the sap is already flowing throughout the tree. The cut surfaces ooze or bleed sap, which attracts insects and other wildlife. This can increase the potential for disease infestations as well as the potential for the tree not healing as fast as it would in the winter months.

Take advantage of the warm weather and do a little scouting in your landscape. With the proper care and maintenance, winter storms don’t have to spell disaster for your trees.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at, 308-385-5088, her blog at, HuskerHort on Facebook and Twitter, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website:


Windbreaks January 29, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Killinger @ 8:04 pm

Please follow my new blog to get my most recent blog posts.

Snow is more than just white fluffy stuff. It give great exercise to those who scoop it, acts as a buffer between the frigid temperatures and plant material, and it can also show how windbreaks work and tests their effectiveness. Who would have known that snow was so useful?

Windbreaks are a way to slow wind and the snow it carries. They can reduce the effort spent on snow management, which means the possibility of less work for you. Most windbreaks are designed with one of two main objectives in mind: to spread the snow across a large area or to dump it in a relatively small area. The objective of the windbreak determines its design. Those that distribute the snow over a large area, like field windbreaks, are tall and are relatively porous. This allows the snow to be spread out over the field and allow for a more even distribution of moisture. Windbreaks that have multiple rows and are planted close together are designed to slow the wind and dump the snow in a designated area.

If you want to control blowing winds and to confine snow, consider a living snow fence. These types of “snow fences” you only have to install once, compared to every year with the traditional slat style or plastic snow fences. The benefits of living snow fences include a greater snow capacity, less maintenance once they are established, a longer life span, a wide range of benefits like wildlife habitat, and not to mention the aesthetic value. In major storms, the vertical slat snow fences can reach their snow storing capacity quickly. According to the Nebraska Forest Service, a three-row mature living snow fence with a height of 20 feet will store over 16 times more snow than a single-row slat-fence with a height of 3-4 feet.

There are a few rules to follow when thinking of installing a planting to control snow and wind. The living snow fence is most effective when it is placed perpendicular to the prevailing winter winds. These usually come from the Northwest in Nebraska. There should be plenty of room on the leeward side, back side, of the windbreak for drifts. Location of corners and roads also plays a role in the location of the windbreak. Trees should be planted no closer than 200 feet from corners or intersections to allow for traffic visibility and sight lines for vehicles.

The plant material that you use is also important in windbreak design. The species will vary depending on the climate, soil type, windbreak objectives, and most importantly the space that is available for the mature plant. When choosing plant material, remember the growing conditions and available space. Species diversity is key with windbreak design. Windbreaks that are made up of one or two species are more susceptible to being wiped out by insects or diseases if an infestation occurs. Diverse windbreaks are still functional if an infestation occurs within one or two species.

Windbreaks, like most things, also have a useful lifespan. If your windbreak is mature, between 30-50 years old, it might be time to rejuvenate. Your local Natural Resource District, NRD, might be the place to turn. They offer low-cost seedling trees for planting farm or livestock windbreaks, wildlife habitat, living snow fences, or other plantings. For more information about the NRD Conservation Tree Program contact your local NRD office.

It may be time to rethink your feelings about snow. Instead of thinking of it as a burden, try to think of it as a blessing, especially when it melts.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website:


Keeping Evergreens Ever Green December 31, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Killinger @ 3:52 pm
Tags: , , , ,
Winter desiccation injury on Dwarf Alberta Spruce.

Winter desiccation injury on Dwarf Alberta Spruce.

Good-bye to 2014 and hello 2015. It’s been an exciting year. Above average moisture this spring and summer had most of our trees full with leaves and fruit and our gardens bursting with produce. With this year coming to an end, do you know what it takes to make sure your evergreen trees and shrubs stay in good spirits into the New Year?

Winter is often an overlooked season when it comes to watering in the landscape. Plants may be dormant during the winter, but they still loose water through their stems, crowns, and in the case of evergreens, their leaves. Desiccation injury happens when the plants can’t replace the water that is lost during the winter. The cause is often dry or frozen soils where the water isn’t available for uptake by the plant. High winds, dry air, warm temperatures, and reflected heat from buildings can all play a factor in the amount of water lost by plants.

Not all plants are susceptible to winter desiccation. Common symptoms of desiccation include brown, damaged foliage on one side of the plant. Damaged foliage is often found on the south side due to reflected heat or the northwest side caused by wind exposure. This often results in plants having areas of yellowish/tan colored leaves that are the most noticeable come spring. Woody evergreen plants with shallow root systems are usually the hardest hit. Spruce, fir, pine, arborvitae, yew, Oregon grape-holly (Mahonia), holly, and boxwood are some of the more common evergreen plants that would benefit from supplemental winter irrigation during extended dry seasons

Providing supplemental irrigation during the winter months can help sensitive plants make it through the winter a little less stressed and with less winter desiccation injury. Young trees, shrubs, and all evergreens can be irrigated as long as the soils are dry, not completely frozen, and the air temperatures are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Want to apply supplemental water, but short on time? Focus on those trees that are growing in sunny, exposed locations, focusing on the south side of the tree first. Apply water using a slow running sprinkler or a trickling hose. Root feeders or other deep watering devices often do not water thoroughly enough and can place the water below the root zone of the tree. Aim to get the top 8-12 inches of the soil moist and apply the water slowly enough to let it soak in and not run off. Be sure to allow enough time for the water to soak in and avoid freezing around the plants’ stem or crown when the temperatures drop overnight. If we remain dry this winter, one or two deep irrigations per month might be needed.

Antitranspirants are another method that can be used to prevent desiccation. Antitranspirants, like Wilt-pruf, form thin films on the foliage and can minimize the water that is lost by the plants. They are commonly used on evergreen conifers and broadleaf evergreens that are growing in stressful sites in the winter. Select the right product for the plant species you are applying it to, there can be some toxicity issues, and ALWAYS read and follow all label instructions. Most products should be applied every six weeks starting in mid to late November through mid to late February. Apply enough of the product that the plant is thoroughly covered, but not so much that they become sticky or the needles become stuck together. To keep the product from ruining your favorite sprayer, be sure to have some warm soapy water nearby to clean the sprayers out immediately following the application.

It’s time to ring in the New Year with happier, healthier evergreens.

Upcoming Programs:

Extension Master Gardener- Two training sessions will be held at the Nebraska Extension in Hall County meeting rooms in Grand Island. Session 1: Tuesday evenings, February 3 through March 10, 6:00 to 9:00 PM. Session 2: March 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, and 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please contact Elizabeth Killinger, 308-385-5088, prior to January 9 with which Extension Master Gardener training session you are interested in attending. More information, updated schedules, and a brochure can be found at

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website:

PDF version: 12-28-14 winter evergreen care


Don’t Eat That! Holiday Plant Edition December 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth Killinger @ 8:55 pm

The holiday season is upon us. The cookies are baked, the decorations are up, and the holiday plants are blooming with all of their glory. Some of our favorite holiday plants have a potentially dangerous side and can do more than just add color to our homes.


Mistletoe photo courtesy

According to the Nebraska Regional Poison Center, plants were one of the top ten non-drug substances for human exposure in 2013. Do you think you know which of your holiday plants are safe and which ones are dangerous?

Amaryllis is near the top of the list for forgotten poisonous holiday plants. These plants are one of the more poisonous plants that are brought in during the holiday season. Amaryllis are often sold during the holiday season as a large bulb. Once these bulbs are watered, they produce long strap like leaves and a flower stalk containing brightly-colored, trumpet shaped flowers. The toxic chemical that these plants contain is called Lycorine. The most toxic part of these plants is the bulb. The other parts of the plants can also be toxic if they are eaten in large quantities.

Kissing under the mistletoe sounds like an innocent- enough holiday ritual. Try researching the many meanings of this holiday tradition just for fun. Real mistletoe is a common holiday plants that is sold dried in small packages to be hung in homes. The plant has green leaves and white berries and is a parasite-like plant that feeds off of other trees. With some species, eating a few of the berries would produce mild gastroenteritis, acute diarrhea and vomiting. Want to rethink kissing under a poisonous, parasitic plant?



Another holiday plant gets a bad reputation for being extremely poisonous, the poinsettia. According to research, they are not considered poisonous. According to the POISINDEX, the primary resource used by most poison control centers, a 50 pound child would have to eat more than 1.25 pounds of colored poinsettia bracts, about 500 to 600, to exceed the experimental dose. That is not to say that there wouldn’t be some stomach upset or vomiting if some were eaten.

Looking for some completely safe holiday plants? The Christmas cactus and kalanchoe are two plants that are deemed non-poisonous by the Nebraska Regional Poison Center. The Christmas cactus has flat, fleshy stems that resemble leaf-like pads which are joined to one another in a chain-like pattern. The flowers are usually held at the tips of the stems or in the ‘leaf’ axils and are usually pink to red. The kalanchoe has semi-fleshy leaves and flowers that are held in umbels above the leaves. The flowers come in a wide range of colors including yellow, orange, red, and pink to name a few.

Regardless of the plant, resist the urge to eat them and just admire the perfect holiday plant this season.

Upcoming Programs:

Extension Master Gardener- Two training sessions will be held at the Nebraska Extension in Hall County meeting rooms in Grand Island. Session 1: Tuesday evenings, February 3 through March 10, 6:00 to 9:00 PM. Session 2: March 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, and 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please contact Elizabeth Killinger, 308-385-5088, prior to January 9 with which Extension Master Gardener training session you are interested in attended. More information, updated schedules, and a brochure can be found at

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website:


Fall Turf Care November 17, 2014

Filed under: Turf — Elizabeth Killinger @ 5:21 pm

Please follow my other blog post :D

**This post was written before a majority of the state received snow.

Fall is good for more than just raking leaves and cooler nights. Fall is actually one of the better times of the year to improve your turf. Take advantage of these cooler temperatures and prepare your lawn for the coming spring.

The first question to ask yourself this fall is; can you see your turfgrass in the lawn? Heavy layers of leaves can do a few things to your lawn. If they are thick enough, leaves can smother the lawn and also create conditions that can be favorable to snow mold. Raking or mowing the leaves on a regular basis can help to prevent this heavy layer of leaves from forming and matting down on the turf before winter. If the leaves aren’t utilized in the compost pile or worked into the garden soil, they can simply be mowed over. Using the mulching blade on the lawn mower will chop up the leaves into smaller pieces that are able to filter down between the grass blades. This helps keep you from having to haul the leaves away and it also helps to add organic matter back into the soil. By removing or mulching the leaves on the lawn, you can ensure that your high quality winterizer fertilizer will be able to filter down to the soil where it can be used by the turfgrass, rather than sitting up on top of the leaf litter.

Good news. There is still time to control pesky perennial weeds. The ideal season to control perennial weeds like ground ivy, also known as Creeping Charlie, was between September 15th and the first frost, but there is still time. Research out of Purdue shows that herbicides that contain triclopyr, like Turflon, were effective on ground ivy and retained their effectiveness when applied later in the season regardless of the first frost. The study showed that broadleaf applications should be effective when made into the first week or two of November, but control might be not be seen until spring.

It may be time to rethink what you knew about winterizer fertilizer applications. Previously, recommendations were to apply nitrogen during early to mid-September and then make a heavy application of nitrogen fertilization at the end of the growing season (early to mid-November). Research has shown that nitrogen fertilizer uptake is not as efficiently used later into the fall. Fertilizer that isn’t taken up by the plant sits in the soil until the following spring or is leached out of the soil profile during winter. Avoid applying fertilizer too late into the fall. September fertilization is best to maximize recovery from summer stress and prepare for winter. For the last application of the season, apply it no later than the first week of November and aim to apply not more than 0.75 lb. of a fast release nitrogen source.

With a little time and effort now, your lawn can still look green and lush next spring and hopefully with a few less weeds too.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website:


Bothersome Boxelder Bugs November 3, 2014

Filed under: Insects — Elizabeth Killinger @ 4:25 pm
Tags: , , ,
Boxelder bugs gathered together on a home's foundation.

Boxelder bugs gathered together on a home’s foundation.

Daylight Savings time is ending and it is time to ‘fall back’ once again. Fall brings about cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and boxelder bugs by the millions. Find out what you can do to help keep these pests from invading your home.

Depending on where you grew up, the boxelder bug can have many names. Some of the more common ones include; maple bug, democrat bug, populist bug, and politician bug. Regardless of what you call them, they are annoying to say the least. The boxelder bug gets one of its common names from its primary host plant, the female boxelder tree. They can also be found on ash, and maple, and occasionally feeding on strawberries, grasses and other plants. The adults are ½ inch long red with black coloration under their wings. This time of the year they begin to cover the south and west sides of homes and try to make entry inside any way possible.

The cycle all begins in the spring. After emerging from overwintering sites, the adult females lay eggs onto the host plants. The bright red nymphs (see the photo), immature bugs, hatch from the eggs in about 2 weeks and begin to feed on plant sap until mid-summer when they mature into adults. The adults lay eggs for a second generation of boxelder bugs. After the second generation matures, the adults seek out warm overwinter sites, to start the cycle over the following spring.

Homeowners become more familiar with these insects in the fall. When looking for overwintering sites, boxelder bugs often find their way into buildings and homes through small cracks and crevices. Once inside the home they are more of a nuisance than anything else. They do not bite, damage food or any items in the home, or reproduce, but they can stain curtains or walls, especially when squished.

Trying to control these insects can feel like a losing battle. While it may be tempting to remove the boxelder trees from the premises, it won’t control all of your problems. The adults are good flyers and can still invade homes from considerable distances from the host plants. The plants are rarely injured seriously enough to justify insecticidal control, but using an insecticide spray on the nymphs can reduce the number that reaches maturity. The most commonly used control method is to use an integrated approach of sealing cracks and crevices and to use a perimeter spray around the exterior foundation and thresholds of the home.

Once they are inside the home, the vacuum cleaner will be the best technique for control. To keep from having to dump or change the vacuum cleaner bag after every use, place a knee high panty hose or trouser sock over the end of the hose before you put on the attachment end. This ‘trap’ collects the insects so they don’t have to go all the way through the vacuum and helps to keep your machine from smelling like boxelder bugs and multi-colored Asian lady beetles every time you turn it on.

Just like the boxelder bugs it’s time to start preparing for winter and get ready to emerge in the spring to start all over again.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website:



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.