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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

#Crop Update

While every growing season is unique and there’s an element of risk involved, this year seems to take the cake.  

Drought conditions have affected much of Nebraska.  In our area in south-central Nebraska particularly in our southern tier of counties, we’re seeing brown pastures and alfalfa that stopped growing.  Wheat was harvested nearly a month early and yields range from 0-50 bu/acre depending on if it was hit by the hail storm Memorial Day weekend which totaled it out.

I’m unsure how many planting dates we currently have in Clay County!  The spring planting season went so well with corn and many beans being planted in April.  Soybeans planted in April that haven’t received hail are forming a nice canopy.  Corn that hasn’t received  hail should be tasseling by beginning of July.  One Clay Co. field planted in March was only 3 leaves from tasseling when I took this picture this week and looks great (it’s probably 2 leaves by now!).  Adding another picture from a farmer friend Bob Huttes near Sprague, NE showing his field currently tasseled out and love the smiley face barn 🙂

But then there’s the hail damaged fields.  The hail pattern has been fairly similar all year for this area of the State with some producers receiving four consecutive hail events on their fields.  Every week of May was spent helping our producers determine replant decisions, particularly for soybeans…leaving irrigated stands of 85K and dryland stands of 60-65K when beans were smaller before stem bruising was so severe later.  We would leave a stand one week and end up needed to replant after the hail hit again the following week.  Some farmers got through the first two hail storms but the Memorial Day weekend storm did them in.  I never saw hail like where ground zero of this storm occurred.  After replanting after that weekend, they received yet another hail storm last week with the wonderful, much needed deluge of rain we received in the county.  My heart hurts for these farmers yet for the most part they have good attitudes and are making the most of it.  That’s the way farming is…lots of risk, thus an abundance of faith and prayer is necessary too.  One farmer I talked to has had hail on his house seven times this year (including prior to planting).

Pivots have also been running like crazy prior to the rain last Thursday night where we received 3.30-4.40 inches in the county.  Installing watermark sensors for irrigation scheduling, we were able to show the farmers that there was truly moisture deeper in the soil profile and attempted to convince them to hold off.  It’s a hard thing to hold off on water when the neighbors are irrigating, but several farmers who didn’t irrigate told me they were able to let the rain soak in and their plants weren’t leaning after that rain because the ground wasn’t saturated prior to the rain event.  

Spring Miller Moths!

They’re everywhere!  Finding ways to get inside homes, lining the sides of houses, and swarming around lights at night.  TheMiller moths number one question last week from farmers, crop consultants, and home-owners was “what are the millers/moths flying around?”  They are mostly army cutworm moths that are on their annual migration from the south.  Usually they arrive in our area in May but everything this year seems to be about 2.5 weeks ahead of schedule.  They can stay in the area for 2-3 weeks or as long as 6 weeks if cool, wet conditions occur.  Hot, dry conditions will move them out of the area.  While a nuisance, they are mostly a pest in wheat and alfalfa-so farmers with these crops need to be scouting.  In alfalfa, we’re close enough to first cutting that I don’t anticipate needing an insecticide for it, but I do encourage you to watch regrowth for the second cutting as the larvae may be feeding by then.  Since we’re not cutting wheat, be scouting it to ensure larvae aren’t causing significant damage.  We may need to consider an insecticide treatment with fungicides this year in wheat when trying to protect the flag leaf.  Some have been concerned that these are black cutworm moths and have been applying ½ rates of insecticides during corn planting.  We don’t recommend this at UNL as these are army cutworm moths and don’t anticipate a problem to our corn crop from them.  We recommend scouting once corn has emerged as it’s a better integrated pest management (IPM) strategy and saves you money not to needlessly apply insecticides on broad acres when black cutworm problems are typically patchy within certain fields every year.

For homeowners, if you have shrubs or bushy plants around your homes, you may notice more of these millers as they reside in these types of areas.  There’s no chemical for controlling them.  Some things you can do are change your outside lights from white to yellow and keep outside lighting to a minimum.  Also caulking can help.  Ultimately, they’re a short term nuisance and more information about their life cycle and management from Dr. Bob Wright, UNL Extension Entomologist, can be found at our UNL CropWatch Web site.  

Weeds in #lawns & Management!

Happy April!  The weather sure has been interesting!  Since my last columns, UNL has come out with some altered recommendations for turf.  So letting you know that according to Zac Reicher, Professor of Turfgrass Science, he is recommending  an application at 50% of the high label rate rate of crabgrass control now in the form of dithiopyr and then plan on making a sequential application at 50% of the high label rate in early to mid-June with a dithiopyr product.  Crabgrass is already emerging and this product helps with grass that’s already emerged as well as controlling crabgrass pre-emerge.

Also information from Zac:  Preemergence herbicide applications for broadleaves can start anytime now and assuming typical weather, sequential applications should be planned for in June. Almost all of the current preemergence herbicides (dithiopyr, pendiamethalin, prodiamine) are available as fertilizer/herbicide combinations, but cool-season grasses need little nitrogen in the early spring regardless if it is in March this year or late April in most years. Therefore, it is important to use a herbicide/fertilizer combination with as little nitrogen as possible to avoid a large growth flush and maximize long-term health of the plant. The problem is finding a product with little or no N. If you find a selection of products, do some quick math and calculate which product delivers the lowest amount of N/1000 sq ft, preferably 0.50 to 0.75 lbs N/1000 sq ft. Additionally, slow release N will extend the window of N release and minimize the potential growth spike after application. Slow release sources include sulfur- or polymer-coated urea, urea formaldehyde, methylenediurea, dimethylenetriurea, or natural organic nitrogen. These are listed on the label as “slowly water soluble” or “water insoluble”. Pay special attention to N sources followed by an asterisk and be sure read and follow the entire label of any product you apply. With the unusual weather this year and the increased need for sequential applications, each application usually applies about 50 to 75% of that which would be applied when using a single application. Applying two applications at lower rates will also reduce the nitrogen applied in each application, which is beneficial at this time of year.  

The following sources explain more about the math calculations:

Update: Warm soils and forecast are revising recommendations for preemergence herbicides
Lawn Care Pro Series: Crabgrass and Other Summer Annual Grasses
Do it yourself: Choosing preemergence herbicides
Crabgrass Control in Homelawns

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!

Waiting on Spring Tasks

The warm weather is creating the temptation to get outside and garden! But patience is a virtue and it’s only March! Here are some great tips from Elizabeth Killinger, UNL Extension Educator in Hall County about waiting on spring tasks.

killingerscollection

The warm weather these past few days has gotten everyone ready to head outside and get their hands dirty.  Just because it feels like spring, doesn’t mean we have to finish all of our spring to-dos now.

It may be tempting to completely remove all of the leaves and mulch from around tender perennials, but don’t give in. Strawberries, roses, chrysanthemums, and other tender plants can be protected from the fluctuating winter temperatures with winter mulch.  If the mulch is removed too soon, new growth can form on the plant too early.  This new growth is susceptible to damage caused by cold temperatures.  Try and delay the removal of winter mulches as long as possible, but be sure it is removed before new growth begins.  If the warm temperatures have caused new plant growth, rake the mulch to the side, but don’t remove it completely.  If freezing temperatures are forecasted…

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