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Edible Landscaping

Edible landscaping

There’s been increased interest in growing vegetables, flowers, and herbs together. Learn more about this in our Edible Landscaping workshop on May 8th at the Clay County Fairgrounds in Clay Center! Please RSVP by May 5th and hope to see you there!!!

Central Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Program

Interested in plants and gardening? Check out this information about the Master Gardening Program from Elizabeth Killinger, UNL Extension Educator!

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New blog posted at http://huskerhort.wordpress.com/ about The Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Program

NEMasterGardener-logo-m-sqDo you enjoy plants and gardening?  Looking to learn more and hone your skills but don’t know where to go?  The Master Gardener program will educate you on many aspects of horticulture, allow you to test your knowledge and skills, all while serving your local community.

The Nebraska Extension Master Gardener program is a horticulture related volunteer training program based in many counties throughout the state.  It has been part of University of Nebraska- Lincoln (UNL) Extension since 1976.  Master Gardener volunteers are trained by UNL Extension faculty and staff. They contribute time as volunteers working with their local Extension office to provide horticulture-related information to their community. Participants are required to complete 40 hours of training and 40 hours of volunteer service during the initial year of their involvement in the program. Master Gardener volunteers retain their…

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National 4-H Week!

UNL Extension Office in Clay County Wearing 4-H t-shirts during National 4-H Week.

Did you know that more than 6 million young people across the United States are celebrating National 4-H Week October 6-13, 2013?!  Research has proven that participation in 4-H has a significant positive impact on young people. Recent findings from the Tufts University 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development indicate that, when compared to their peers, young people in 4-H are:

1)      Nearly 4 times more likely to contribute to their communities
2)      Two times more likely to pursue healthy behaviors
3)      Two times more likely to engage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs in the out-of-school time.

4-H is the largest youth development organization in the world!  It’s a community of seven million young people across the globe learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills.  In the U.S., 4-H programs are implemented by the 109 land grant universities and the Cooperative Extension System through their 3,100 local Extension offices across the country. Overseas, 4-H programs operate throughout more than 50 countries.

To learn more about 4-H locally, contact our office at 402-762-3644 or on our webpage.  We would like to visit with you about the program and how you and your youth could become involved!  We’re always looking for potential volunteers and program ideas.  You can also learn more about 4-H at the State and National levels.

Challenge-Wear a 4-H Shirt and Post it on Facebook or Twitter:

When to Post: October 6 to 12, 2013.  Post your pictures then check back to “like” your favorite photos!  Official voting ends October 13th at midnight.
How to Enter: Post your picture via:
1)  Facebook: post to the event titled: 2013 Wear A 4-H Shirt
2)  Twitter: use hash tag #weara4Hshirt

Be sure to tag your photo with your category entry!  The picture categories:

1)      Most People in One Photo
2)      Nebraska Landscapes
3)      Fun and Food

The best picture from each category will receive a prize!

Gardening in Drought

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 jrees2@unl.edu to let us know you’re coming so we can plan for the meal.  See you then!gardening in drought

Grubs in Lawns!

The past week walking along the sidewalk to my office in the courthouse, I noticed the lawn browning and just thought “it must be late summer patch or brown patch”.  One day the custodian came into my office saying, “You’ve got to see this!”.

So we went outside and sure enough, we could roll the turf back like a carpet and there were up to 10 grubs in a small patch the size of a dinner plate in several areas of the lawn!  We definitely had a grub problem but no fear as it can be resolved.

If you are seeing brown patches in your turf right now, see if you can roll the turf back like a carpet.  If it comes easily with no attached roots, it very well may be a grub problem.  See if you can view any grubs present; you may have to dig in the soil a little.

What you can do:

Grubs can be controlled this time of year with Trichlorfon (Dylox)  and carbaryl (Sevin).  Please read and follow label directions.  Watering the products in will increase efficacy and help grass roots begin to re-establish.  

If you had a large patch affected and you’re concerned about it coming back, you can always power-rake to remove the dead material and overseed to re-establish grass in that area.

For more information on different types of grubs, please see the following Blog post by my colleague Elizabeth Killinger.

Tomato Troubles!

Here’s a good post from Elizabeth Killinger, UNL Extension Educator, regarding all the tomato troubles we are currently seeing in the garden. You can also check out the following YouTube video by Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Educator.

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Vegetable gardening has become more and more popular.  It is a way to relax, if you consider pulling weeds relaxing, and is also a way to grow your own groceries.  Tomatoes are grown in over 86 percent of gardens in the United States.  There are many common diseases and problems that can plague tomatoes in the home garden.  With a little help you can keep your tomatoes in tip top shape.

Early blight is a common tomato disease.  It is caused by a soil-borne fungus.  Rain water, or overhead irrigation, can cause the soil and fungi to splash onto the lower leaves of the plant.  The infection starts as leaf spots on the lower leaves then causes yellowing then eventually causes the stems to turn brown.  The infection works its way up the plant causing the foliage to die.

There are ways to help prevent the spread of this fungal…

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The Season for #ag & #horticulture Questions!

This past week was a blur of calls, questions, and visits to homes and fields but it was a great week and flew by staying very busy!  I’ll touch on a few of the common questions I’ve received this week.

Trees:  Some trees such as willows, hackberries, tops of maple trees, ash, and black walnut are just taking time leafing out.  Some trees leafed out once already and dropped leaves.  Things that may have caused this were the sudden flux of temperatures from very warm to cool and the strong winds we received.  Some trees have also unfortunately had herbicide drift damage that caused leaves to drop.  On those trees, watch for new buds as nearly every situation I’ve looked at thus far have new buds forming after about a week-10 days.  With all these situations, give the trees a few weeks to leaf out again and if they’re still not doing it, feel free to give me a call.  Trees are interesting plants as sometimes environmental impacts that happened 3-5 years ago will show up that much later-and sometimes environmental impacts show up right away!

Disease/Insect issues:  This year has been a strange year all around but with our warm winter, I was concerned about an increase in diseases and insects.  Thus far, we’re experiencing increases in both-so hang on-it may be a long growing season!  Our high humidity, warm temps, and heavy dews have created perfect conditions for fungal diseases on our trees, ornamental plants, lawns (I’m currently fighting a bad case of powdery mildew-as a plant pathologist it is kind of pretty but I don’t like what it’s doing to my lawn!), and in our wheat and alfalfa crops and some pasture grasses.  Fungicides may help in some of these situations, increasing airflow can also help as can more resistant varieties or hoping the weather will change.  In the case of most ornamentals, we don’t usually recommend doing anything.  The same goes for insects as insecticides can help in some situations.  I’ve received several calls this past week of people afraid they had herbicide drift damage.  While there were a few cases of that, many of the cases were actually fungal leaf spots on leaves.  There are various fungicides and insecticide products available from home/garden centers, etc.  Be sure to read and follow all label directions and only apply the product on places the label specifies it can be applied.

Crops Update: Later this week we may have a better idea on the extent of storm damage and if some fields will need to be replanted after the storms from last week.  Dr. Bob Nielsen from Purdue University reported that most agronomists believe young corn can survive up to about four days of ponding if temperatures are relatively cool (mid-60’s F or cooler); fewer days if temperatures are warm (mid-70’s F or warmer).  Soil oxygen is depleted within about 48 hours of saturation and we know soil oxygen is important for the root system and all the plant’s life functions.   So we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Have also had a few calls regarding rye cover crops.  When rye is killed out and decomposing, it releases toxins that can affect the germination of other cereal crops such as corn if it’s going to be planted into that rye cover crop.  Thus we recommend at UNL that the producer kill the rye and then wait at least two weeks to prevent any major damage to the crop.  I realize at this point with the rains to get in and kill that crop on top of waiting an additional two weeks, we’re getting close to the end of the month and will most likely be looking at reduced yields…and depending on maturity, you may need to consider different seed if you end up having to plant in June.  If you have specific questions about this, please let me know and we can talk through some situations.

Stripe rust and powdery mildew have been obliterating mid-lower canopies of many wheat fields.  I’ve received several calls on why wheat canopies are yellow-that’s the main reason but other factors such as the dry spell prior to these rains and/or deficiencies in nitrogen/sulfur or some viruses may also have been factors.  Wheat in Nuckolls County last week was beginning to flower.  Fungicides such as Prosaro, Folicur, or Proline are labeled for up to 50% flowering and cannot be applied after that.  Remember the wheat head begins pollination in the middle-so if you’re seeing little yellow anthers at the top or bottom of that head, you’re towards the end of flowering.  All those products have a 30 day pre-harvest interval-which has been the other main question-are we going to be harvesting in a month?  I do believe we’ll be harvesting a month earlier than normal just because pretty much everything in wheat development is about a month ahead of schedule.  I still feel the 30 day window for the fungicide application is worth it with the large amount of disease pressure we’ve seen. Wheat in Clay Co.  and north still may have time for a fungicide application; those products mentioned above will help prevent Fusarium Head Blight (scab) as well as kill the fungi causing disease already present on your leaves.  A list of all fungicide products, pre-harvest restrictions, and rates can be found here. Also check out my previous blog post with video on scouting for wheat diseases.  

The other major disease appearing in wheat is barley yellow dwarf virus.  This is a virus vectored by bird cherry oat aphids which we were seeing earlier this year.  Unfortunately, this disease causes the flag leaves to turn bright yellow-purple causing yield loss (at least 80% of the yield comes from the flag leaf) as there’s nothing you can do once the virus manifests itself in those leaves.  If you have a large incidence of barley yellow dwarf in your fields, you may wish to reconsider spraying a fungicide as the fungicide won’t kill the virus; however, it will help kill the fungi on the remainder of your leaves and potentially help protect some yield from the two leaves below the flag leaf.

Evergreen Tree Diseases

Somehow April flew by without me reminding you to apply fungicide sprays to Austrian and Ponderosa pines that have had problems with Sphaeropsis tip blight in the past.  I’ve also received several scotch pine samples in the office to diagnose for pine wilt nematode.  While there is no cure for pine wilt, I recommend to take a 6” long, 1-2” diameter sample of a dead branch to your local Extension office for diagnosis before cutting down the tree.  Pine wilt affects Austrian (long needles groups of 2) and Scotch pines (short needles in groups of 2) as they are non-native trees while the nematode is native.  Since ponderosa pines (long needles in groups of 2 and 3) are native to Nebraska, they don’t seem to be affected by pine wilt nematode.   

Pine wilt is caused by beetles carrying pine wood nematodes vomiting them into the water-carrying vessels of the tree (xylem).  The tree senses the nematodes and essentially blocks water to those branches.  Often you will observe a branch then perhaps a side of the tree and eventually complete death of the tree within 6-9 months.  While I have diagnosed many samples of pine wilt, more often when I visit homeowners the tree problems are due to fungal diseases which occur on the needles.  If you look closely at your needles and observe dark bands or rings on them followed by death of the needle either direction from the band, the tree problem is most likely due to a fungal needle blight like dothistroma in Austrian and Ponderosa pines or brown spot in Scotch pines.  They can all be prevented by spraying a fungicide containing copper sulfate in the spring. 

With everything about 3 weeks early this year, now is the time to spray Ponderosa and Austrian pines for needle blight and spruce trees that have had problems with needle cast or shoot blight where the new growth has died in the past.  In early June spray for needle blight problems in Scotch pine and cercospora blight on cedars.  If you have a windbreak of combinations of these trees and don’t want to spray twice, I recommend at least spraying in early June to catch all of them.   Increasing air flow by cutting out some trees is another way to reduce fungal diseases on your trees.   

Also watch trees for bagworms as you may be able to tank mix a fungicide/insecticide application in early June if needed.  We would recommend picking the bags off trees and burning them, but that’s just not feasible in windbreak situations.  To know when to spray, take a few of the bags off the tree, place them into a plastic ziplock bag, and place outside on the south side of your house.  When the larvae emerge from the bags, check your trees to see if larvae can also be observed on them.  Pyrethroid insecticides are recommended for managing bagworms because they cause an irritation that makes the larvae leave the bags and allow them to be exposed to the pesticide.  

Great brochure! Evergreen Diseases 

Lawn Care

I really appreciated Gary Zoubek presenting at our lawn care workshop last Thursday!  I also appreciated all the questions and good discussion; hopefully everyone walked away learning at least one new idea or tip!

One common question was what to do with areas that were killed out by summer patch last summer.  Summer patch is a fungal disease that is favored by applying nitrogen too early in the spring, by a compromised root system by too wet of soils in the spring, by stress from summer heat, and irrigating in the evenings.  Last year I was receiving calls from all over the County regarding this disease.  Eventually affected areas can refill, but in many cases, that just didn’t happen.  Preventive fungicides right now are recommended to help prevent the fungus from causing damage to your lawn again this summer.  

So besides a preventive fungicide what can you do?  The best time to reseed is actually in the fall.  One option is to keep these areas weed-free including of crabgrass so that doesn’t overtake these areas.  Reseed with a disease resistant variety in the fall following the recommendations in this extension circular

Your other option is to reseed/overseed right now with a disease resistant variety knowing that you may fight crabgrass this first year.  Overseeding and reseeding are recommended to occur from now through May 1 for Kentucky bluegrass and from now to early June for tall fescue.  You can determine the correct timing of all lawn practices by visiting the turf calendar Web site.  Simply choose whether you have Kentucky bluegrass or fescue.  Click on a lawn practice and scroll the circle on the calendar area to the current month to find the recommendation for that time.

Some other tips regarding lawn care:  sharpening lawn mower blades is key to not shredding the grass which can invite pathogens that cause disease; mulch lawn clippings as often as possible as they contain nitrogen that can be released back into the soil; use a fertilizer product with the highest amount of  a slow release nitrogen as possible (check fine print on the fertilizer bag); and sweep or use a leaf blower to send all clippings and granular pesticides back onto the lawn as leaving them on the sidewalk allows for them to be washed into the gutters and eventually lakes and streams.  Right now, a silvery colored fungus called powdery mildew is visible in places in lawns that are shady or have minimal air movement.  We don’t typically recommend a fungicide as this disease is more aesthetic than harmful.  

Here’s wishing you a nice lawn this summer!  Also a reminder of our free Container Gardening workshop to be held April 19th from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at the Clay County Fairgrounds.  Elizabeth Killinger, UNL Extension Educator, will be presenting on container gardening for vegetables and flowers, creating a few container gardens for door prizes, and provide creative ideas for container gardening.  Please RSVP at 402-762-3644 so we can have a meal count, hope to see you there, and invite your friends!

April 1 Flowers-No Fooling!

April 1st, while typically a day of pranks and jokes, has one obvious truth.  Spring has arrived in full force with flowering plants at least 2-3 weeks earlier than normal.  I couldn’t believe that my lilacs, which typically bloom around mid-May were blooming for the first time today!  I planted many of the bulbs and shrubs last fall and have been rewarded with beauty, color, and lovely smells via God’s creation this spring; enjoy the pics!

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