What a beautiful weekend! It was a welcome change from the winds we received last weekend and early week. The high winds early in the week created difficult situations from many perspectives-soil loss, visibility, accidents, and drying out the seed bed.
Great to see several on-farm research plots going in and to have some new cooperators this year! I also started a very small soybean planting date demo at the York County Fairgrounds on April 24. A farmer on Twitter was encouraging other farmers to try planting a few seeds every week for yourselves in a garden plot and count the nodes and pods. Thought it was a great idea and will have it signed at County Fair regarding soil temps for first 48 hours and nodes. Thanks to Jed Erickson from Pioneer for the seed!
Rain events on May 1-2 allowed for some soil moisture recharge in the first and second feet in some locations. Unfortunately, the rainfall was still fairly spotty. We could really use rain overall for getting moisture back into drying seedbeds, activating herbicides, and settling dust. Pivots are running in some fields because of these factors. I provided an update on the locations I’m monitoring regarding soil moisture as of 5/3/18 on my blog at http://jenreesources.com. The farmers were interested in continuing this monitoring throughout the growing season this year, so will continue sharing as often as I can.
Wheat: Wheat’s joined in the area and ranges in height depending on soil moisture. For the past few weeks we’ve been noticing yellowing leaves. Some of that may have been due to cold temperatures. I was also seeing powdery mildew within the canopy of several fields I looked at. No rust has been observed yet in Nebraska fields. I also noticed tan spot in wheat on wheat fields. One concern was the cool weather has allowed for bird cherry oat aphids in area wheat. My concern is that they can vector barley yellow dwarf virus which is one we see when the flag leaf emerges. According to K-State, there’s not strong developed thresholds. They’re recommending if 20 or more aphids are observed per tiller with lady beetles observed on fewer than 10% of tillers, spraying may be justified.
Lawn and Garden Information: With this year’s cool spring, crabgrass preventers can still be applied the first few weeks of May. Germination begins with soil temperatures around 55F but prefers warmer soil temps. UNL Lawn calendars for Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue, and Buffalograss and all UNL lawn resources can be found at https://turf.unl.edu/turf-fact-sheets-nebguides. Mowing heights should be maintained at 3-3.5″ for the entire year. We also recommend just mulching clippings back into the lawn to allow for nutrient recycling. If you like to use mulch for your gardens, it’s important to read pesticide labels on products applied to your lawn. Some labels say it is not safe to use the clippings as mulch. Others say to wait at least three mowings before using the clippings as mulch.
Garden centers have been busy with the warmer weather and some have asked about temperatures for hardening off transplants. Kelly Feehan, Extension Educator in Platte County shares, “May is planting time for most annual flower and vegetable transplants. To avoid transplant shock and stressing young plants, wait for soils to warm up and take time to harden off transplants. Soils are colder than average this year so waiting to plant will be beneficial. And then, plants moved directly from a warm, moist greenhouse to windy and cooler outdoor conditions will be stressed by transplant shock. This can negatively affect plant growth, flowering, and vegetable production. Harden off transplants by placing them outdoors, in a protected location, for at least a few days before transplanting outdoors. Another way to harden transplants is to plant them in the garden, then place a cardboard tent or wooden shingle around them for a few days to protect them from full exposure to wind and sun. Planting young transplants on an overcast, calm day or during the evening also reduces transplant shock.” Specifically when it comes to tomatoes, it’s best to wait till mid-May otherwise “gardeners who plant earlier need to be prepared to protect tomato plants with a floating row cover or light sheet if cold threatens. To help tomato transplants establish quickly, begin with small, stocky, dark green plants rather than tall, spindly ones. Smaller plants form new roots quickly and establish faster than overgrown transplants. Do not plant too deep or lay tomato stems sideways. Although roots will form on stems below ground, this uses energy better used for establishment. Use a transplant starter solution after transplanting tomatoes to be sure roots are moist and nutrients are readily available in cool soils. Wait until plants are growing well before mulching or mulch will keep soils from warming and may slow tomato growth.”
As I set here writing, we went from wearing t-shirts yesterday to receiving freezing rain and sleet today! The precipitation is much welcomed and it’s nice to see spring bulbs coming up and the grass turning green! But we’re unfortunately not out of the woods yet regarding this drought, and may not be for some time.
This Thursday, April 11, Elizabeth Killinger, UNL Extension Educator in Hall County, will be talking to us about gardening during drought. Come enjoy an evening of learning about drought-tolerant plants and ideas for your landscape! The evening begins with a light supper at 5:30 p.m. and we plan to be finished around 7:00 p.m. There will be no charge for this workshop, so please come and invite your friends and your youth who enjoy gardening as well!
Also, if you would like to bring some plants for exchange, you are welcome to do so and share with others! Please call the Clay County Extension Office at (402) 762-3644 or Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you’re coming so we can plan for the meal. See you then!