Life Outside the City Limits

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Managing a Large Acreage Landscape

By Karma Larsen, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

Image of an acreage houseManaging an urban landscape can be enough of a challenge for many homeowners. When the landscape is several times larger, even the smallest decisions have broader consequences. Will plantings be visually "lost" in such a large space? Is there time to maintain it?

Planning and planting trees is often one of the first considerations since other plantings will be affected by them. Windbreaks or shelterbelts are usually planted early on... both to define the landscape and to shelter buildings and gardens from wind, heat and cold. Extensive caging and fencing may be necessary to protect trees (particularly young trees) from deer, rabbits and other wildlife.

Since turf is one of the most time-consuming aspects of most landscapes, many acreage owners keep mowed areas to a minimum, avoid high-maintenance bluegrass turf and plant fescue, buffalograss, prairie grasses or groundcovers.
One way many acreage owners scale back is by limiting managed areas to smaller spaces directly around buildings or to areas highly visible from the buildings or pathways.  For plantings to have any impact, a dozen or more of any particular plant may need to be planted rather than just a few. Plants that are hardy and drought-tolerant are crucial in places where watering can range from difficult to impossible.

Here are some ideas for keeping your landscape manageable:

  • Think about views and function, and concentrate efforts where they can make the most difference. Since entrance areas are not always obvious in a country setting, you may want to highlight building entries and important paths.
  • Use windbreaks for shelter from wind, cold, heat, unwanted views and as wildlife habitat. Keep southwest exposure open to provide cooling summer breezes and plant deciduous trees to the south for summer shade and winter sunlight. Layer the landscape for interest, wind movement and diversity.
  • Understand drainage patterns BEFORE you begin and, if they're problematic, change grade as needed.
  • Protect young trees from wildlife damage with cages or fencing.
  • Group plants according to maintenance needs—moisture, sunlight, wind and the need for mowing or other large equipment.
  • Limit turf to high traffic areas.
  • Ornamental and prairie grasses are low-maintenance and provide year-round interest but they can be a fire hazard if planted too close to buildings.
  • To attract wildlife, plant thickets of wild plum, chokecherry, elderberry, etc.

Recommended Reading:
Landscape guides on management, sustainability, water use, groundcovers, shade trees, Nebraska Forest Service Pinterest
Landscape Sustainability, University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension 
Perennials in Water-Wise Landscapes, University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension

Nebraska Statewide Arboretum is a nonprofit that works toward sustainable home and community landscapes through initiatives in education, public gardens and the environment. Plant and landscape resources at http://arboretum.unl.edu.

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Saving Seeds
By Kelly Feehan, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of mature lettuce flowers & seeds
Mature lettuce flowers and seeds.

Gardeners sometimes wonder if the seeds of flowers and vegetables can be saved for later planting. With some plants, seed saving works well. With other plants, the seed is usually not worth saving.

To Save or Not To Save
Seeds to avoid saving are those from hybrid plants and open pollinated plants that can cross pollinate. Hybrids are developed by crossing two parent plants to obtain specific characteristics of each. Hybrids are great plants but their seed can be sterile or not reproduce true to the parent plant so the next generation is different from the parent plant.

Many garden plants are open pollinated by insects and wind. When these plants can and do cross pollinate with other plants within the family, seed genetics is changed. Cross pollination does not affect the current year's crop except with sweet corn. However, if you save and plant such seed you may end up with a cross between a zucchini and an acorn squash. Cross pollination between flowers is not as great of an issue because we are not dealing with an edible plant.

Vegetables that can cross with some other plants within their family include squash, cucumbers, melons, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, chard, spinach, beets, radish, parsley, onion and basil. When dealing with these crops, the best way to reproduce a plant similar to the parent is to isolate plants by distance, which if often impractical in small home gardens.

Some seeds can transmit certain diseases. A disease that infected a crop at the end of the growing season may do little damage to that crop. However, if the seed is saved and planted the following year, the disease may severely injure or even kill the new plants.

Seeds you can save are heirloom varieties and standard varieties from plants that self pollinate or do not cross pollinate with plants from their own family. Beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers are good examples for vegetables. Heirloom varieties are usually easy to save. After all, they became an heirloom because the seed was passed down from generation to generation.

Harvesting Seed
When saving seed, harvest from the best plants. Choose disease-free plants with qualities you like. Always harvest mature seed. For example, cucumber seeds saved from a fruit that is in the eating stage will not be mature and will not germinate if saved and planted.

The fruit, which is the part of any plant that holds the seed, must be fully mature for the seed saved from it to be viable. However, leaving mature fruits or flowers on plants to set seed and become mature can reduce a plant's vigor and discourage further fruit or flower production. If you plan to save seed from a plant, wait until near the end of the season to do so.

With flowers, seeds are usually mature after the flowers are faded and drying. Plants with pods, like beans, are ready when the pods are brown and dry. When seeds are ripe they usually turn from white to cream colored or light brown to dark brown. Collect the fruits when most of the seed is ripe. Do not wait for everything to mature or you may lose most of the seed to birds or animals.

Seeds must be stored dry. Place them in a glass jar or envelope and label all containers with the seed type and date. Place the containers in the freezer for two days to kill pests. Then store the seed in a cool dry location such as a refrigerator produce drawer. If seeds mold in storage, they were not dried sufficiently before storage. Most seed should be used within three years.

Source: Barb Larsen, University of Illinois Extension

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Fall Tree Planting
By Justin Evertson, Nebraska Forest Service

Image of ironwood tree.
Ironwood, Ostrya virginiana. Image from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.

Fall is a good time of year for a lot of reasons. The kids are back in school, the summer heat is waning, leaves are changing colors, crops are being harvested, football is on the tube and candy corn becomes one of the food groups. Fall is also a great time of year to plant trees. In fact it's a favorite time of year for many tree planters. That's not to say that fall is better than spring, but it definitely has its advantages.   

One of the best reasons for fall planting is that the stress on both a newly planted tree and the person planting it are greatly reduced since neither will be a slave to water.  Two primary factors are at play here. First, trees are heading toward dormancy or significantly slowing their metabolism in the fall, which greatly reduces their water needs for the next several months.  Second, although a fall-planted tree may be going dormant, its root system is still actively growing and can even grow well into winter if the soil temperature stays warm enough. This allows the roots to become better integrated into the native soil over the cold months, thus reducing its supplemental watering needs the following spring and summer.  

Trees planted in the spring or summer, on the other hand, are actively growing and moving lots of water throughout their canopies. Because their new roots have not yet grown out into the native soil, they can dry out quickly, necessitating fairly frequent watering. This is especially true for trees grown in containers. Just a few days of neglect can result in a dead tree when the weather turns hot and dry.  

Another important benefit of fall planting is that root systems can be more readily examined for potential defects. Kinked, circling and stem-girdling roots are quite common with some nursery stock—defects which should be corrected at planting time if at all possible. In the cooler air of fall, a root system can be completely exposed for examination with less fear of desiccation and transplant shock. Finding the top of the root system also better ensures that the tree will be planted at the proper depth. Planting too deep is still a significant problem for many new trees.  

One caveat to fall planting concerns evergreens. Whereas deciduous trees can be planted when it is quite cold, even well into winter as long as the ground is workable, evergreens tend to do better when planted in late summer or early fall, when there is still some growing season left to aid their establishment.   

So now that we know fall is a great time for planting, what should be planted? With dozens of species and cultivars to choose from, that is not an easy answer. But here are a few unsung types that deserve some attention:  

  • Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). That's right, I said black cherry! This native forest-edge species doesn't get much love, but it's a winner. It's relatively fast growing, has nice spring flowers and good fall color and it has tasty fruits that attract a variety of songbirds. The tree also provides habitat to a menagerie of important butterflies and insects. It grows up to 45' high and 30' wide and is not at all finicky like many of the flowering cherries that get more press but do nothing to aid biodiversity.  
  • American Elm (Ulmus americana). Thanks to modern breeding efforts, the American elm can be planted without fear of Dutch elm disease that killed most of our stately American elms in the 1960s and ‘70s. Give this tree plenty of room as it can grow 70' high and just as wide. Look for improved cultivars such as ‘Jefferson', ‘New Harmony' or ‘Princeton'.   
  • Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is known for its tan and gray mottled bark that can become ghostly white with age. Growing up to 90' high, sycamore is tough and adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions, performing well in low, wet areas as well as along streets.   
  • Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana) is native to the oak/hickory forests of eastern Nebraska, where it is typically found in the understory of taller trees. Although it prefers shade, it does just fine in full sun. It's known for its tough "ironwood" and hops-like fruit that alludes to another common name: hophornbeam. The tree is medium in size growing to 30' high and 20' wide, often with multiple trunks.  

Planting a tree is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your neighbors and it's a great thing to do each fall. More resources at ReTree Nebraska

The Nebraska Forest Service strives to enrich lives by protecting, restoring and utilizing Nebraska's tree and forest resources.

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An Acreage Alternative - Coturnix Quail
By Brett Kreifels, UNL Extension 4-H Assistant

Image of cooked quail.
Photo Courtesy of forthegourmet.com.

Chickens, ducks, and geese aren't the only birds well suited for acreages. Other species of poultry do very well under similar conditions and, like the mentioned birds, can provide you with meat and eggs. Coturnix quail, pronounced "kuh-tur-niks," is an excellent bird for acreage owners who might be limited on space and desire a small bird that provides both eggs and meat in a fraction of the time a chicken takes to produce eggs.

Why Coturnix Quail?
Coturnix quail are an excellent alternative to traditional poultry because they are small and easy to care for. The average weight for these quail is about 5 oz. or 1/3 of a pound. They reach this weight at about 7 to 9 weeks of age. At this point, they can be kept for egg production or harvested for meat. All of this can be accomplished using minimal space, housing, and feed. Like a good laying hen chicken, female coturnix quail are capable of laying 250-300 eggs annually.

Common Varieties of Coturnix Quail
Coturnix quail are labeled as game birds but many state governments do not have regulations regarding the keeping, breeding, and selling of these birds. Rules are in place to sell eggs and meat commercially. You can choose from a number of varieties of Coturnix Quail. Many are excellent at both laying eggs and producing meat. Some of the most common types of coturnix include:

Image of Pharaoh Coturnix Quail
Pharaoh Coturnix Quail. Photo Courtesy of The Oriental Bird Club.
Image of Texas A&M Quail
Texas A&M Quail. Photo Courtesy of windchyme.com.
Image of jumbo brown quail
Jumbo Brown Quail. Photo Courtesy of backyardchickens.com.

Caring for Coturnix Quail

Coturnix quail are easy to care for and require only simple housing and management. For adults, a simple rabbit hutch will suffice; allow the manure to drop through the floor to eliminate fecal contamination with eggs or cause disease. Provide your quail with a resting area that also serves as shelter from the wind, rain, and sun.

Commercial-type or colony housing also is available so you can keep more quail in a relatively small area. This type of housing is handy when you need to raise larger populations of quail for meat or egg purposes. A barn, shed, or garage is ideal. Birds can be raised in pens or on the floor.

No matter the housing style, do not overcrowd the birds as this may lead to cannibalism and other health problems. Providing 1 sq. foot per three birds is adequate. Have plenty of feeder space to ensure all quail eat properly, further avoiding nutritional deficiencies or other health problems. 

Feeding Coturnix Quail
Coturnix quail are classified as game birds and thus require a higher protein feed than that needed by chickens or ducks. Quail require feed containing 24 to 30% protein from hatch to 6 weeks of age. From there, feed them lower protein diets with protein levels between 18 and 20%. For meat-producing birds, it is best to keep them on higher protein feed until slaughter. Quail destined for egg production must be fed a diet lower in protein but higher in calcium. A requirement of 2.5-3% dietary calcium is desired to maintain shell integrity.

Feeding for meat production is quite simple and the conversion of feed to muscle gain is roughly 2 to 1, which is extremely efficient. Quail have small beaks and cannot consume even crumbled feeds very well. This is especially true for newly hatched quail. Grind feed to the consistency of cornmeal. Larger quail will consume crumbled feeds readily. Pelleted feed also may be consumed if the pellet is small enough.

Image of Coturnix quail eggs.
Coturnix quail eggs. Photo Courtesy of commons.wikepedia.org.
Image of chart comparing nutritional value of quail and chicken eggs.
Photo Courtesy of Vick Olouch, Be Smart, Be Proud.

Meat or Eggs?
Coturnix quail are great alternatives to chickens or other domestic fowl in that they are a smaller-bodied bird, not needing as much space as other fowl. That means you can raise more in a confined area than other types of poultry. Hens start laying eggs at only 6 weeks of age, whereas laying hen chicks take from 4.5 to 6 months to begin laying. Coturnix quail females are laying machines, capable of producing 250-300 eggs per year.

Even though these quail are small-bodied, they're all muscle. Like broiler chickens, coturnix quail are ready for harvesting at around 7-9 weeks of age. Some varieties, like the Texas A&M and Jumbo, are better suited for meat production as they're larger-bodied birds, obtaining a final weight of 13-15 oz. The dressing percentage on these quail is quite high at around 70- 75%, allowing most of the carcass to be used.

Sources for Quail

Fortunately, obtaining coturnix quail is fairly easy. Hatcheries often will sell baby quail through the mail or websites such as Ebay® will have quail eggs available to buy that you can hatch yourself. Ebay® does not sell live birds. Live bird auctions also may be a source for adult quail, chicks, or eggs. Your local extension office might be able to put you in touch with breeders of quail in your area. 

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Nebraska Sheep & Goat Producers - Starter Flock Mentoring Program

Image of sheepImage of goatThe Starter Flock Program, sponsored by the NE Sheep and Goat Producers is designed to assist and encourage up to five new producers to get started in the sheep or goat business.  There are a lot of opportunities in the sheep and goat industry currently: including small flocks, where produce may be sold in local farmers markets, to large herds or flocks that can fit in the commercial industry. 

Sheep or goats are also popular as they can be established with economical facilities and equipment, and often use available resources that are not utilized by other animals. 

A small amount of financial assistance is available in the Starter Program, but perhaps more importantly current producers in your area have volunteered to be of assistance in helping new producers get started.  They have experience and will be more than willing to help out in any way possible.

Criteria
Sheep: $400.00 given to recipient towards the purchase of 4 females.  In 3 years the recipient will return to the association fair market value of 2 lambs weighing 120 pounds.  Value to be determined by USDA weekly weighted average for the first week in November.

Goats: $400.00 given to recipient towards the purchase of 4 females.  In 3 years the recipient will return to the association fair market value of 2 kids weighing 75 pounds.  Value to be determined by highest market price in the month of November at a livestock auction market that is a member of the association.

End of Production Year Report: The recipient will submit to the association a report at the end of the production year. This report should include product ion information such as: number of ewes exposed, number of lambs born, weaned, raised to market weight, as well as number of lambs sold and kept for replacements.  Also the report should include the reason for any mortality that may have occurred as well as all contacts with the mentor.
Breeding Services: If needed or desired the assistance in locating and arranging suitable stud services may be available through the mentor program.

Mentor Contacts: For the first 6 weeks of the 3-year program the mentor will contact the recipient weekly.  For the remainder of the program the recipient will contact the mentor monthly or more often as needed if the situation requires additional contact. 

Facilities and Management: The recipient is expected to provide adequate facilities to maintain the comfort and safety of the animals.  The recipient is also expected to provide proper nutrition and management practices to maintain the well being of the animals.  The recipient is also required to obtain official USDA scrapie tags for their animals which are available free of charge from USDA.  Tags may be obtained by calling 866-873-2824 to register for a premise ID and scrapie tags.

Deadline for Applications: September 30th.

Contact: Nebraska Sheep & Goat Producers
Charlene Hawkins, Administrative Assistant
PO Box 722
Wood Lake, NE 69221
Phone: (402) 967-3012

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Fall Management Tips for Smooth Brome
By Steve Tonn, UNL Extension Livestock Educator

Image of horse in smooth brome pasture
Horse in smooth brome pasture. Image by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Extension Project Manager.

Since brome is a cool season grass, it has the ability to provide us with fall production.  As a "rule of thumb", brome will provide 70 to 75 percent of its annual production in the spring and 25 to 30 percent in the fall with proper management.  While this fall production is not enough to make haying an economical option, it does provide good grazing during the late fall and early winter.  If there is adequate moisture and cooling temperatures in September, the fall grazing can be from mid September to mid November.

Stocking rates are just as important for fall grazing as in the spring.  Since there will only be about 1000 pounds of forage produced per acre, we need to calculate the stocking rate so that no more than 500 pounds per acre will be grazed.  A horse on an all grass diet will consume about 1.5 to 2 percent of its body weight per day.  This example would be that a 1100 pound horse should be allowed at least 2 acres for 40- 50 days of fall grazing.

Fertilization with nitrogen is needed to maximize fall production.  The yield potential will determine the amount of nitrogen that is needed.  25 to 30 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre is the amount that is normally applied in late August or early September.  An example of calculating "actual" nitrogen is: One source of nitrogen is urea, which is 46% nitrogen.  This means that you need to apply about 65 pounds of product per acre to provide 30 pounds of nitrogen per acre.

Phosphorus is an important nutrient for root development and plant health of the brome.  The only way to determine the phosphorus level of the field and to determine the amount to put on is with a soil test.  The soil sample should represent the top 4 inch layer of the field.  Your local County Extension Office can provide advice on taking a soil sample.  Phosphorus is removed from the field when we remove brome at about 12 pounds per ton of forage removed.  This means that to maintain an adequate level, we should be adding about 25 pounds per year.  If nitrogen is being applied for fall production, the phosphorus should be applied at the same time. 

Potassium is important but is usually not needed because our soils tend to be high in potassium. 

The pH will be analyzed in the soil test.  While brome is not extremely sensitive to pH level, a top dress of 2000 ecc should be considered if the pH level is below 5.6.

Brome is a very good forage but it does require good management for optimum production and utilization.

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Cutleaf & Common Teasel Designated Noxious Weeds in Lancaster County
By Brent Meyer, Lancaster County Weed Superitendant

Image of common teasel rosette
Common teasel rosette. Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.org.
Image of common teasel flower.
Common Teasel Flower. Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.org.

Greg Ibach, Director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture recently approved the designation of cutleaf and common teasel as noxious weeds in Lancaster County. The Nebraska Noxious Weed Control Act allows individual counties to designate local invasive weed problems to their own county list, without being added to Nebraska's statewide list.

After holding public hearings, gathering information and testimony, Lancaster County Weed Control proceeded with the process to add both teasels to our noxious weed list. Lancaster County is the first county in Nebraska to add cutleaf and common teasel.

The following is information gathered to help us to make the determination to add common & cutleaf teasel.

  • Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) is the most economical way to attack invasive weeds. Getting after the problem early is the most economical way to control invasives. The longer we wait, the more expensive it will become to eradicate.
  • Currently only 10 counties in Nebraska are reporting teasel. This makes it the perfect time to attack this problem early before it gets widespread.
  • Nine states have already declared one or both teasels as noxious - Missouri and Colorado being the closest.
  • Nebraska Game & Parks has reported working on controlling teasel for years without having much success at eradication.
  • Lancaster County currently has less than 100 acres with most of them being small and easy to control.
  • Teasel will crowd out all other native and desirable vegetation; reduce forage, wildlife habitat, and species diversity. It is a very prolific seed producer, which results in rapid expansion of existing infestations.
  • Teasel is not eaten by livestock and has no forage value. Livestock will avoid areas because of the plants spiny stems, leaves and seedheads.
Image of cutleaf teasel rosette.
Cutleaf Teasel Rosette. Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org.
Image of cutleaf teasel flower.
Cutleaf Teasel Flower. Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org.
Image of cutleaf teasel leaf.
Cutleaf teasel leaf. Bruce Ackley, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org.

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The Mice Are Coming
by Stephen Vantassel, UNL Project Manager for Wildlife Damage Management, and Scott Hygnstrom, UNL Wildlife Ecology Specialist

Image of steel wool, gloves.
Xcluder is a coarse stainless steel wool interwoven with poly fibers. This eco-friendly material creates a protective barrier against rodents and insects without using harmful chemicals or pesticides. This special blend of poly fibers and stainless steel mesh "springs back," expanding to fit securely in place after it has been compressed to fit small holes and crevices. The result is an impenetrable, abrasive barrier that prevents rodents and insects from entering.

Early fall is a great time to harden your homes and outbuildings against mice seeking winter shelter. Mouse burrowing through insulation can raise heating costs. Their feces and urine contaminates food stuffs and structural materials. If those issues are not scary enough, the gnawing of mice can result in electrical shorts and in some cases, electrical fires.

Fortunately, excluding mice now can save a lot of money and time later. If rodents cannot access a structure then they cannot cause any damage. Though exclusion has the highest initial cost in terms of time and materials, those costs will seem inexpensive given the benefits accrue year after year.

Strategy #1. Seal cracks and crevices
Carefully inspect structures for cracks and crevices a ¼-inch in size or larger. Use sealants to secure gaps up to a ½-half-inch in diameter. For larger openings, such as gaps around pipes, use copper Stuf-fit or Xcluder™ mesh to fill the gap and follow up with a sealant appropriate for the surface.

Strategy #2. Screen passive air vents
Quarter-inch hardware cloth is ideal, but galvanized ½-inch mesh is effective also. Be sure, however, that screens will not restrict airflow excessively.

Strategy #3. Establish a weed-free zone
Pour ½-inch crushed gravel to a depth of 3 inches to create 12- to 24-inch apron around the structure. The crushed gravel removes ground cover needed by rodents to hide from predators as well as hinders burrowing.

Strategy #4. Cut back the plants
Sometimes rodents use trees, bushes, and other tall plants to gain access to structures. Ideally, tree branches should not be within 6 feet of the structure and shrubs should grow no higher than 4 feet of the roof's edge. In addition, mow tall grass to reduce cover and food availability for mice.

Conclusion
For long-term management of commensal rodents, exclusion is the gold standard. Even if you are unable to implement all the strategies, we strongly suggest following as many as you can afford. Just keep at it, since what you can't do this year, can be done in the next.

For additional tips on the control of mice read
Controlling House Mice, University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension
Bait Stations for Controlling Rats and Mice, University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension
Rodent-proof Construction-Structural, University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension

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Watch Out for Fall Invading Insects
By Nicole Stoner, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of Asian Ladybugs
Asian Ladybugs. Image from UNL Department of Entomology.

Fall is my favorite season of the year.  The weather is much more enjoyable, the trees turn fantastic colors, and football begins again.  With all the fun of fall, however, comes the not so enjoyable entry of insects into our homes.

Most people see the same insect pests in their homes each year.  The majority of household pests that we tend to see most often in the fall invading our homes for warmth and food are boxelder bugs, Asian multicolored ladybeetles, and spiders.  None of these really warrant any control by a pesticide, they are fairly easy to control and do not do any real damage to your homes or to you.

Boxelder bugs, or Democrats as some people call them, are a common nuisance pest to enter homes in the fall and they are often seen leaving the home in the spring.  These are the insects that are black with a reddish-orange X on their backs.  They are a type of a true bug that is found feeding on many trees but they prefer boxelders, ash, and maples.  Boxelder bugs will not cause any damage to your homes and they do not bite.  The only problem with these insects being in your homes is that they can come in swarms.  The best control for these insects is to keep them out of the house in the first place.  This can be done by filling in any holes or cracks in your foundation or home and sealing up the windows and doors so they cannot get in to your house in the first place.  If they do find their way into your home, the best control for them is to vacuum them up and release them outside.

Asian multicolored ladybeetles are a nuisance pest as well, that we often see in the fall.  These are those ladybugs that come into your home in the fall, in swarms.  They fly around and hide out all over your house.  These ladybugs can bite and it does cause pain, but they don't cause any medical issues.  The biggest problem with these ladybeetles is that they get in the house and are everywhere.  They are just trying to find a place to hide out for the winter.  The best control for Asian multicolored ladybeetles, would be the same as with the boxelder bugs, use a vacuum to get them out of the house.

The most common spider that people bring into my office to be identified is the wolf spider.  These are one of the largest species of spiders that we will find in Nebraska.  They are quite hairy and often times will have 2 white or lighter brown colored stripes down the back of the spider.  There are some wolf spiders that can be the size of a half dollar or more, legs and all.  These spiders are not poisonous, but they can bite.  Most often, a wolf spider will not bite us, but if they do the reaction is mild. 

Brown recluse spiders are becoming more common in southeastern Nebraska.  These spiders are about the size of a quarter, legs and all.  They are a brown color with a darker brown fiddle shape on their back.  They can cause a bad reaction in some people, not all people are as sensitive to the bites as others.  If you have brown recluse spiders in your home or office, just take the time to look around things that have been stored before you move them.  Most of the time, if a person gets bit it is because they accidentally trap the spider between themselves and either an article of clothing or a box.  The best way to ensure you do not get bitten is to shake out items when you take them out of storage and watch where you put your hands when you pull boxes out of storage. 

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Being Savy About Food Safety
By Lisa Franzen-Castle, Extension Nutrition Specialist

Foodborne illness, sometimes called food poisoning, is a costly yet preventable public health issue. Each year, about 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bacteria, viruses and tiny parasites are organisms you can't see, smell, or taste and can contaminate food and cause illness. September is Food Safety Education Month, a great time to check out tips on how to keep food safe by following these four simple steps of clean, separate, cook, and chill. 

Tips for being savvy about food safety:

  • Clean: Wash hands and surfaces. Wash hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, after using the bathroom, and changing diapers. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before going onto the next. Try using paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces. If using cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of the washing machine. Rinse raw produce under cool running water. If needed, use a small vegetable brush to remove surface dirt.
     
  • Separate: Don't cross contaminate. Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery cart and fridge. Use a different cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Wash hands, cutting boards, dishes, and utensils with hot, soapy water after handling raw foods. Use separate plates for raw and cooked foods.
     
  • Cook: Cook food to proper temperatures. Cook roasts and steaks to a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit (F) with a 3-minute rest time. All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Cook ground meat to at least 160 degrees F. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness; use a food thermometer to check internal temperatures. Cook fish to 145 degrees F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork. Make sure there are no cold spots in food when cooking in a microwave. Cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking. Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers to 165 degrees F.
     
  • Chill: Refrigerate promptly. Set your refrigerator temperature no higher than 40 degrees F and freezer at 0 degrees F. Check temperatures occasionally with an appliance thermometer. Don't let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when temperatures are above 90 degrees F). Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.

Additional Resources & Links:

  • UNL Food: Food Safety. Check out information and resources on safe food storage, safe food preparation and handling at home, foodborne illness, and educational materials.
  • Test your Summer Food Safety Savvy. Avoid spoiling your summer fun with a foodborne illness. Take this quiz and check your summer food safety savvy! 
  • Keeping Kids Safe. Web sessions for child care providers including handouts and information on food allergies, infant feeding and food safety, and safe food for safe kids. 
Sources:

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Lead in Drinking Water Part I: Sources, Health Effects, and Testing
By Sharon Skipton, UNL Extension Water Quality Educator

Image of newborn infants.
Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning.

Lead rarely occurs naturally in drinking water. Most lead contamination takes place at some point in the water delivery system. This occurs as a result of corrosion, the reaction between the drinking water and lead that was used in the water delivery system.

The characteristics of water vary greatly depending on the source of the water. Some water is naturally more corrosive. Several factors cause water to be corrosive, including low pH (pH less than 8.0), high temperature, low total dissolved solids (TDS) content, and high amounts of dissolved oxygen or carbon dioxide. Generally, naturally soft water is more corrosive than hard water because it is more acidic and has low TDS. Treating naturally hard water with an ion exchange water softening unit, reverse osmosis unit, or distillation unit may change the water chemistry enough to have an effect on the water's ability to dissolve lead.

Lead in drinking water from plumbing or a fixture is most often a problem in either very old or very new homes and buildings. However, any home or building may be susceptible.

Through the early 1900s it was common to use lead pipes for interior plumbing. Lead piping is most likely found in homes built before 1930. Copper piping replaced lead piping, but lead-based solder was used to join copper piping. Lead-based solder probably was used in any home built before 1988. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a public drinking water rule in 1991 that emphasized eliminating lead from components of the water delivery system.

Today, brass materials are used in nearly 100 percent of all residential water distribution systems. Many household faucets, plumbing fittings, check valves and well pumps are manufactured with brass parts. Brass contains some lead to make casting easier and the machining process more efficient. As of January 2014, federal regulations allow no more than 0.25 percent lead content of brass plumbing components labeled "lead free." "Lead free" brass components manufactured before that date could have as much as 8.0 percent lead content.

Some private wells may have submersible pumps containing brass or bronze capable of leaching lead. Some well screens also may contain lead or were installed with a "lead packing collar."

Often, hard water minerals deposit on the interior of plumbing. These deposits form a mineral scale lining, such as calcium carbonate, inside pipes and fittings, which protects against lead contamination. It may take up to five years for an effective mineral scale lining to form. Treating naturally hard water with an ion exchange water softening unit, reverse osmosis unit, or distillation unit can either prevent or dissolve the scale, eliminating its possible protective effect.

Image of young children
Lead in drinking water is not the predominant source of lead poisoning, but it can increase total lead exposure, particularly the exposure of infants who drink baby formulas and juices mixed with water.

Potential Health Effects
Lead has no known benefits to humans. Lead is a cumulative poison, meaning it accumulates in the body until it reaches toxic levels. It can be absorbed through the digestive tract and lungs, and is carried by blood throughout the body. The severity of the effects of lead poisoning varies, depending on the concentration of lead in the body. Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning. An amount of lead that would have little effect on an adult can greatly affect a child. Also, growing children more rapidly absorb any lead consumed. Lead in drinking water is not the predominant source of lead poisoning, but it can increase total lead exposure, particularly the exposure of infants who drink baby formulas and juices mixed with water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all children be tested for lead with a blood test. Consult your physician for information on the health effects of lead poisoning.

Testing Private Water Supplies
Although private water supplies are not subject to any regulations concerning lead contamination, you may want to have your water supply tested. This is especially true if a problem is suspected or if children or pregnant women consume the drinking water.

Tests to determine the presence of lead in drinking water should be done by a laboratory approved for lead testing. The Nebraska DHHS approves laboratories to conduct tests for drinking water supplies. An approved laboratory might not be approved to test for all potential drinking water contaminants. Rather, approval must be obtained for each specific contaminant. This approval means that recognized, standard tests and quality control procedures are used. See Drinking Water: Certified Testing Laboratories in Nebraska (G1614) for a list.

Laboratories not specifically approved to test for lead may use the same equipment and procedures as approved laboratories. Such laboratories may provide accurate analysis, but there is no independent information about the laboratory's ability to obtain reliable results.

Test kits and dip strips are available for do-it-yourself lead testing outside of a laboratory environment. These kits can be difficult to use due to the need for color matching, and may not provide accurate and reliable lead measurement. A lead test conducted by an approved water testing lab probably will provide more accurate and reliable results.

To determine if lead is present in your private drinking water supply and to determine the possible source of the contamination, water must be collected using specific sampling procedures. Carefully follow all directions provided by the laboratory and use the provided containers when collecting water samples.

In general, water that comes in contact with lead in the plumbing will continue to dissolve lead over time. For this reason, the highest lead concentration in drinking water will result from water that has sat motionless in the plumbing system, in contact with lead-containing components, for an extended period of time (e.g., several hours or overnight). To evaluate the household's highest lead concentration, collect a sample of the water that has sat motionless in the plumbing system, in contact with suspected lead-containing components for six or more hours. This is sometimes called a "first-draw" sample.

The length of time the tap should be run prior to collecting the water sample will depend on where the suspected lead-containing components are located in relation to the tap being used. Collect the very first water drawn if suspected lead-containing components are close to the tap. Collect water drawn after the tap was run for a few seconds to a minute or two if suspected lead-containing components are present in the water delivery system farther away from the tap (e.g., in pipes, well pumps, etc.). Try to time the water collection process to obtain a sample representative of the highest contamination. If it is not known if or where lead-containing components might be located, collect the first water drawn. If there is a great concern, collect multiple samples from the tap that span a time frame from first water drawn to water that takes a few minutes to pass through the system.

Continued in next month's article on test results and management options.

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Wanted:  Craft and Hobby Entrepreneur's in Nebraska
By Anita Hall, UNL Extension Educator

Image of homemade soap
Homemade soap. Image by Becky Wetherington, flickr.com.

Holiday shopping will soon be happening in Nebraska.  Much of this will occur in week-end craft and hobby shows across the state.  The majority of the items are made by local crafters working from their home.

Anita Hall, UNL Extension Educator is coordinating educational opportunities for this growing segment of entrepreneurs.   The initial task is to develop a list serve to receive educational emails related to the business of marketing and selling crafts and hobbies.

If you are a self-employed Nebraskan involved in the craft and hobby business and would like to be a part of this listserve, please email your contact information to:  Anita Hall, UNL Extension Educator.

Please be assured that this list serve is for educational use only by UNL Extension and will not be shared.

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Overwintering Temperennials
By Kelly Feehan, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of coleus plant
Coleus is a non-hardy perennial plant that can be overwintered or propagated through stem cuttings.

Garden plants being killed by fall frost is part of nature's life cycle; at least for some plants. Gardeners overwinter plants as a hobby or to save money when buying plants in spring. They may wish to save a unique plant or one with sentimental value. Plants like geraniums, coleus, impatiens and asparagus fern can be wintered indoors and replanted next spring.

Which Plants Can be Overwintered?
Most gardeners know perennial plants have roots or underground structures, such as bulbs, that live from year to year; while annual plants complete their life cycle from seed to seed production in one season and then die. True annuals cannot be wintered indoors, but some nonhardy perennials can. We grow nonhardy perennials but treat them like annuals allowing them to be killed by fall frost. If you have the interest, time, and space you might want to overwinter temperennials.

"Temperennials" is a term used to describe nonhardy perennials that can be wintered indoors. Plants that gardeners traditionally save are pelargoniums (geraniums), coleus, impatiens and begonias. A few others to try and overwinter include asparagus fern, lantanas, Abutilon or flowering maple, fiber-optic grass and spider plants.

Overwintering Methods
Methods for overwintering temperennials range from saving the entire plant to taking cuttings for growing new plants. The key is to bring temperennials indoors or take cuttings before plants are damaged by cold temperatures. The rule of thumb is to do this before night temperatures are consistently dropping below 50 degrees F.

Bring your plant indoors. To overwinter a plant, dig it up and pot it into a well drained potting mix in a container with drainage holes. Some pruning of the roots and stems may be needed to reduce the plant to a manageable size. Before bringing the plant indoors, hose the foliage with water to dislodge insects. After bringing the plant indoors, isolate it from other plants and watch it closely for signs of insects. You may want to apply an insecticide to the plant and soil a couple of times in the first month to kill soil dwelling insects or larvae. Follow label directions.

Once indoors, do not expect temperennials to be beautiful winter houseplants. Provide the plant with good light and moisture, but expect leaves to yellow and drop and stems to become leggy. The goal is to keep the plant alive over winter to replant it outdoors in spring, where it will rejuvenate.

Some temperennials can be allowed to go dormant by gradually decreasing water. Once dormant, they need to be stored in their containers in a cool, moist environment similar to a root cellar. If they are in a dry environment, lightly moisten the soil a few times during winter.

Cuttings. The second method for overwintering temperennials is to take cuttings to grow new plants. Tip cuttings are most successful. With a sharp knife or clippers, clip a three to four inch long cutting just below a node, the point where a leaf attaches to the stem, as this is where roots will form. Remove the lower leaves and insert one to two inches of the stem end into a soilless potting mix. Keep the mix moist to encourage rooting. Dipping the cutting into rooting hormone prior to inserting it into the potting mix is optional.

Once the cuttings have rooted, pot them into slightly larger containers with drainage holes. Over winter, care for them as you would a houseplant; providing good light, moisture and a well drained potting mix.

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Fall Lawn Care
By Nicole Stoner, UNL Extension Horticulture Educators

Image of dandelions
Fall is the best time to control perennial weeds like dandelions.

As we draw closer to fall, we can start to prepare our lawns for winter.  Let's look at all those items on your fall lawncare "to do" list.

Overseeding
It is now time to reseed your lawns for the fall.  This is best done in the late summer or early fall, anytime between August 15 and September 15.  The rule of thumb is that that for each week grasses are seeded before Labor Day, maturation is speeded by two weeks.  If you reseed after September 15 you will probably have some success, but not as much.  The seed that you put out on the ground may sprout and some might even overwinter, but much of it may die from winterkill because the root systems will not be fully developed. 

If you want to sod an area of your lawn, it can be done until sod can no longer be cut from the fields.  Do remember to keep newly seeded or sodded areas watered throughout fall and into spring.

Good turfgrass choices for southeast Nebraska include turf-type tall fescue or Kentucky Bluegrass.   Using seed that is 100 percent of either of these or a mix of the two types would be great choices for Nebraska. You can buy mixes of turfgrass seeds, but avoid mixes that contain annual ryegrass, ‘Linn' perennial ryegrass, or ‘Kenblue' Kentucky Bluegrass.  Make sure that the grass you buy contains less than 0.3 percent weed seed and no noxious weed seeds.

We can also use buffalograss in our lawns for a warm season grass, but warm season grasses should be plugged in June and July.

Fertilizer Applications
As for fertilizer applications, the fall fertilization is the most important fertilizer application for a lawn.  Two applications in the fall are recommended for Kentucky bluegrass and only one is recommended for tall fescue, but one application for either species is better than none.  The timing for fall fertilizer applications is Labor Day and Halloween if you do two applications and Halloween if you do only one application.

Weed Control
The fall is the best time to control broadleaf perennial weeds such as dandelion and clover.  You can add a broadleaf herbicide to your lawn fertilizer to get a two-for-one application.  It is often sold in stores as a combined product.  The best herbicide choices for homeowners would be anything that contains 2,4-D or a triclopyr product for clover and ground ivy or creeping Charlie.

Aeration
If your lawn needs aeration, now is a good time.  You can still aerate your lawns into November if you don't get around to it until then.  Aeration is best done in the spring or the fall of the year, but it is not necessary to do it every year. Aeration is done to break up a heavy thatch layer in the grass and to reduce the compaction of the soil.  The thatch layer is the layer of dead organic matter in between the grass blades and the soil line.  Leaving the clippings on the lawn does not increase the thatch layer, in fact it can actually give you enough nitrogen to replace one fertilizer treatment for the year.  If your thatch layer is more than one half of an inch, you may want to aerate your lawn, if it is less than that, you may decide that it is not necessary to aerate this year.

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