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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!

Lawn, Garden, Spring

Well, this weekend I mowed my yard for the first time this spring-hard to believe for March!  For two weeks I’ve been advising people to wait on fertilizing or applying crabgrass preventer on their lawns.  It’s hard for me not to stop my vehicle everytime I see someone using a lawn spreader right now and ask them to wait!  It’s too early to apply pre-emergent herbicides and fertilizer.  Wait another month (till at least April 20) before the first fertilizer of 1 lb/1000 sq. ft is applied.  At that same time, pre-emergence herbicides can also be applied.  Wait to overseed Kentucky bluegrass lawns till April 1 and Fescue lawns till April 15.  You can check out a calendar of recommendations for all things concerning your lawn at the following site:  When overseeding winter-killed areas, core aerate or power rake the lawn prior to overseeding to encourage seed to soil contact for better germination.  Also, don’t apply herbicides to areas where you have overseeded as this will affect the germination of new seedlings.

A timely meeting for lawn care has been scheduled and you can learn more by attending a Lawn Care for Home-Owners meeting Thursday, April 12 from 5:30-7:00 p.m.  There is no charge and light refreshments will be provided.  Learn about fertilizer labels and timing, calibrating your lawn spreader; irrigation timing for lawns; and calendars for lawn care maintenance.  Please RSVP to the Clay County Extension Office at (402) 762-3644 or

Garden:  It’s been hard for me to resist the temptation to remove the winter mulch I had on my perennials and flower beds but in the event of frost which still is a good possibility, it may be good to leave it on awhile longer if new growth has not occurred.  Kelly Feehan, UNL Extension Educator from Platte County advises if new growth is beginning to occur on your herbaceous perennials, to rake the leaves/mulch into a nearby pile.  This allows the new growth to get acclimated to sunlight but allows BYF 60th Year Logothe mulch to be raked back onto the growth in the event we end up with a cold snap.  

I know some people have planted peas and potatoes.  Check out the Vegetable Planting Guide that Gary Zoubek, UNL Extension Educator in York developed for suggested vegetable planting dates for our area:  Thursday, April 5th, Backyard Farmer returns for its 60th season on NET1 at 7:00 p.m.!  Also,  on Thursday, April 19th, we will have a workshop on Container Gardening Fun at the Clay County Fairgrounds from 5:30-7:00 p.m.  More information to come!  Please RSVP to or (402) 762-3644.

Beauty after the Snow Storm

Here are some pics I took during our snowstorm last Saturday and the beauty in it with the sun shining on Sunday.  While snow has started melting, cold temperatures are still keeping branches of trees and shrubs heavy.  If you can, carefully take a broom and knock off the snow on bushes and shrubs to help prevent branch breakage but don’t remove the snow from around the shrubs.  Elizabeth Killinger, UNL Extension Educator in Hall County and horticulture expert, speaks about winter tree care in this post.

Watering in Winter

Wow-what unbelievable weather we’ve had!  The warm, dry weather has been great for our cattle producers but hopefully we get some spring rains to recharge our soil profile for the crops and pastures.  Today feels more like winter!  

With the warm weather last weekend, I spent some time watering shrubs and evergreen trees since I planted several shrubs this fall and it’s been dry.  If feasible, it is fine to water during winter, particularly if you have fall-planted trees, shrubs, or perennials or evergreens in windy locations or along the south sides of homes.  If established plants were well watered during summer and fall, most should be fine since they are dormant and temperatures are cool. If we do not get much winter moisture, early spring watering will be important.

Kelly Feehan, UNL Extension Educator, says that some precautions are needed when watering during winter.  She says to only water when the soil is not frozen and when air temperatures are around 45 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Water early enough in the day for water to soak into the soil so it does not pool and freeze around plants overnight. Ice forming on or around plant crowns can cause damage. If you decide to water, keep in mind plants are dormant and not using much, if any, water so while it is a good idea to moisten the soil six to eight inches deep, heavy or frequent watering is not needed.

The roots of plants are not as hardy as the above ground portions. If there is an open winter with little snow cover and temperatures turn quite cold, roots can be killed by cold temperatures. Cracks in soil allow colder air to penetrate and increase this risk. Moist soils do not develop cracks and remain warmer than dry soils.  Ultimately, we’ll just have to see what the remainder of the winter and the spring will hold.

Protecting Shrubs/Trees from Rabbits

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!  As I looked into my backyard this weekend, I realized I needed to protect the new shrubs I planted from rabbit damage this winter.  Kelly Feehan, Extension Educator in Platte County shares some good information on how to do this.  She says trees are at particular risk when they are young and the bark is thin. Feeding by rabbits on tree trunks can girdle and kill a tree; or stress a tree and increase susceptibility to insect borers, disease and decay.  Ideally, place at least a two foot tall cylinder of one inch mesh poultry netting (chicken wire) or hardware cloth around tree trunks. A cylinder of black plastic drain tile, cut to length and slit down one side also works well.

Most multi-stemmed shrubs will survive having the majority of their stems removed. However, desirable bud, flower and/or fruit development may be harmed. While rabbits will nibble the tips of shrub stems growing through poultry netting or above snow, a two foot high cylinder still provides helpful protection. 

Taste and odor repellants are another method used on landscape trees and shrubs. They can be effective if rabbit populations are not too high and when rabbits have another source of food to turn to.  The effectiveness of any repellent will be reduced by time, wind and moisture. Repellants need to be reapplied according to label directions.

Taste repellents make plants less tasty for rabbits and are typically applied directly to plants. Examples are those containing capsaicin or hot pepper extract such as Get Away™ or Scoot™. Their effectiveness tends to be short-lived and requires reapplication.  Odor repellents keep rabbits away from an area by fear or foul smell. They are typically applied to soil in the perimeter area and/or on plant foliage to repel rabbits. Check the label for proper application rate, method and site before applying any repellent. Most cannot be used on plants used for human consumption.  A wide variety of active ingredients are used for odor repellants, including: ammonium or potassium salts of soaps (M-pede™; RoPel™), eggs (DeFence®), zinc dimethyldithiocarbamate (Earl May® Rabbit Scat), predator urine (Shake-Away™), or garlic (Sweeny’s® Deer & Rabbit Repellent ).  Naphthalene is another ingredient in commercial repellents (Dr. T’s™, Enoz Skat™) but the alternative chemical, paradichlorobenzene (found in many moth balls) is illegal for use outdoors. Some concern also exists over the safety of napthalene products. There are no toxicants (poisons) registered for rabbits in Nebraska. 

It is not recommended to provide an alternate source of food for rabbits to try and reduce damage to desirable plants. Providing other food, such as clover or alfalfa, may simply attract more rabbits and lead to increased damage.  Rabbit numbers may be reduced by removing brush piles and tall weeds, particularly those located near new windbreaks. Mow to remove vegetation within three to four feet of recently planted trees and shrubs.  Although rabbits eat most plants, especially when food is in short supply; a partial list of plants most often eaten by rabbits can be found in the Managing Rabbit Damage Nebguide available at local Extension offices or at

If a plant is killed by rabbit feeding, consider replacing it with a plant on this list. Keep this in mind though; rabbits do not read our lists!

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