Life Outside the City Limits
Planting a Home Strawberry Bed
By Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator
Strawberries are a popular, dependable fruit for home production. Three types of strawberries are grown in Nebraska: June bearing, everbearing and day neutral strawberries.
Which Strawberry to Plant?
June-bearing strawberries produce a single crop during late May and June. Plants come into full production the year after planting, and generally out-yield everbearing types. For most gardeners, June-bearing cultivars produce the largest fruit and greatest overall yield. Early fruiting cultivars include Earliglow and Early Red; mid-season Chandler, Honeoye, Jewel, Surecrop, Dunlap, Red Chief, Guardian; late season Robinson, Sparkle, Bounty.
Everbearing strawberries produce two crops- one in June, the second in late summer. High temperatures and moisture stress, along with mismanagement of the planting, greatly reduce the yield and quality of the fall strawberry crop for everbearing plants. In general, everbearing plants perform better in western Nebraska with its cooler night temperatures. Everbearing cultivars include Ogallala, Ft. Laramie.
Few people grow day neutral strawberries. Although day neutral plants have the potential to produce fruit throughout the entire growing season, they stop flower bud initiation when temperatures are above 85°F. Cultivars include Tristar and Tribute.
Generally, 25 plants of an early and 25 plants of a late June-bearing strawberry cultivar will provide sufficient berries for a family of four for dessert use, preserves and freezing.
Should I Buy Plants or Get Them From Friends?
Purchase good quality, vigorous, virus-free plant material from a reputable nursery. It generally is not advisable to transplant strawberries out of an old bed because disease problems can easily be introduced into the new planting.
Choosing and Preparing Your Site
Several important factors must be considered when choosing a location for your new strawberry planting.
- Choose a location with full sun and sandy loam, well-drained soil with a pH between 6 and 6.5 and an organic matter content around 2%. Strawberries will tolerate heavier soils, but not constantly wet roots. It is advisable to begin a soil-building program of organic matter incorporation the season before planting. A green manure crop can be grown and tilled in, or organic matter such as manure or compost can be added at a rate of 50 to 75 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
- Avoid planting strawberries in a site that previously has been planted with tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant, or back into a site in which strawberries have been grown in the last two years.
- Select an area that has few weed problems and take measures to eliminate the existing perennial weeds by using nonselective herbicides such as Roundup the season before planting strawberries. Because of the perennial nature of strawberry plants, there are few herbicides that selectively can control perennial weeds in a planting without injuring the strawberries. Cultivate areas that have been in grass sod the fall before planting strawberries.
- Avoid low lying areas in which cold air settles, creating frost pockets; the likelihood of frost injury is greater there. Because strawberries begin blooming in early spring and are subject to frost injury, be careful to select a site that has good air movement. A slope facing south warms up faster in the spring, stimulates earlier flowering, and increases the danger of frost injury. A north-facing slope that delays blooming until after the seasonal danger of frost has passed may be to your advantage.
- Irrigation is necessary during most seasons to produce good yields of strawberries, so select a site that has a good water source.
- Thoroughly incorporate 10 to 15 pounds of a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 per 1,000 square feet before planting.
Strawberry Bed Planting Systems
There are two main systems for training strawberry plantings, and your decision on which system to use will determine the spacing between rows, and between plants within the rows.
The matted row system, suited for June-bearing cultivars, is most commonly used by home gardeners. Set the plants 18 to 24 inches apart within the row and space the rows 36 to 48 inches apart. The plants are allowed to spread and fill an 18- to 24-inch wide mat.
The hill system for strawberry planting requires more intensive labor, but is the best system to use with everbearing and day-neutral cultivars, although it can also be used with the June-bearing types. Individual plants are set 18 inches apart within the row. Rows are spaced 18 inches apart with every third row left unplanted to serve as a walkway. All runners are removed as they develop, making the original plant the only one allowed to grow.
Before planting, remove all but two or three well-developed leaves per plant. Clip off any flower clusters that are visible to save the labor of removing them later in the field. Spread out the roots when planting and place the plant at a depth so that only the base of the crown is covered by the soil. If the crown is too high, the roots will be exposed and quickly will dry out. If the crown is too deep, it easily can be covered with soil and smothered. Gently firm the soil around the plant to prevent injury to the crown or tearing of the roots, and to avoid soil compaction.
Water Conservation in the Shower
Have you ever wondered how much water you use every time you take a shower? It’s worth thinking about. If you have a private drinking water well, you rely on groundwater for household water. Nebraska’s groundwater comes from natural underground layers of sand and gravel that contain water. Groundwater is a renewable resource, replenished mostly by precipitation. However, groundwater resources are not limitless, and groundwater levels can decline when use exceeds recharge. Efficient water use is important in order to maintain groundwater levels.
So, how much water do you use when you shower?
Older showerheads might use as much as 6 to 8 gallons of water per minute (gpm). A study by the American Water Works Association found that, on the average, we take eight-minute showers. If you take an eight-minute shower using one of those showerheads, you will use 48 to 64 gallons of water. A longer 15-minute shower that some of us like will result in 90 to 120 gallons being used, while a shorter shower will result in less water being used.
Regulatory standards enacted about 20 years ago required showerheads made as of 1994 to use no more than 2.5 gpm. That 8 minute shower will use only 20 gallons, and the 15-minute shower will use just over 37 gallons with one of these fixtures. The newer showerhead could save as much as 44 gallons per 8-minute shower, or over 16,000 gallons of water in a year if you shower every day.
The most water-efficient showerheads carry the WaterSense® label. Products with the label are generally 20 percent more water-efficient than similar products on the market. Showerheads with the WaterSense® label must use no more than 2.0 gpm resulting in 16 gallons for an 8-minute shower or 30 gallons for a 15-minute shower.
Luxury shower systems, with multiple showerheads and nozzles became popular during the past few years. These shower systems can use 8, 10, or even 12 gpm. Showering for 8 minutes in one of these “human car washes” can use a lot of water. More recently, many manufacturers modified these shower systems so that only one part of the system can be operated at a time. This gives users lots of options for water delivery, while allowing only 2.5 gpm to be delivered at any given time.
Reducing Water Use
Regardless of the showerhead model you have, you can save water by taking shorter showers. You also can save water by shutting off the water flow while soaping-up or shampooing. Some showerheads have a quick shut-off lever that allows you to turn the water on and off without adjusting the water temperature.
The benefits of reducing water use in a shower include energy conservation and associated energy costs. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that domestic water heating accounts for between 15 and 25 percent of the energy consumed in homes, with showering/bathing often being a major component. Becoming more water-efficient in the shower becomes a win-win-win. It will conserve water, consume less energy, and reduce energy bills.
One additional benefit is that it will reduce the load on your septic system. Conserving water to reduce the amount of wastewater that needs to be treated and distributing water flow to the septic tank over an extended period of time will extend the life of a system.
Controlling Musk Thistle
By Monte Stauffer, Nebraska Extension Livestock Educator
Many acreages have Musk thistle in their pastures or unused areas. Most livestock will not eat this plant and it competes vigorously with desirable grasses. This warm spring weather and recent moisture has created an ideal growing conditions for it. Don’t forget, this is the best time to control musk thistles.
If you had musk thistles last year, you will probably have it again this year. And the current short rosette growth form is the ideal stage for controlling these plants this spring. That means spray herbicides soon, while your musk thistle plants still are in the rosette form, then very few plants will send up flowering stalks for hand digging later.
Several herbicides are effective and recommended for musk thistle control. Current favorites are called Milestone and GrazonNext, which basically is a mixture of Milestone and 2,4-D. Both Milestone and GrazonNext also will help control other weeds that usually appear later in the season.
Other herbicides also can control musk thistles, like Chaparral, Cimarron, Overdrive, and Curtail. A tank mix of dicamba and 2,4-D also works well. No matter which weed killer you use, though, be sure to read and follow label instructions, and be especially sure to spray on time.
All these herbicides will work for you this spring if you spray soon, before musk thistle bolt and send up their flowering stalks. After flowering, the shovel is about the only method remaining to control thistles this year.
Managing Small Acreage Pastures
By Steve Tonn, Nebraska Extension Livestock Educator
Maintaining the health of small acreage pastures can be challenging. Weed control, fertilization, grazing management, and grass species are all factors that can influence the health of pastures.
Proper grazing management is the key to healthy pastures, producing greener and more forageable pastures. Pasture management reduces weeds by maintaining healthy forage vegetation, enabling the roots of desired forbs, grasses and shrubs to out-compete the weeds.
- Grazing Intervals - This simple technique involves allowing grass time to regrow between grazing intervals, and avoiding overgrazing. Animals seek out the most palatable forage in a pasture. If allowed to continuously graze an area, livestock will re-graze and re-graze the most palatable and succulent regrowth rather than eating more mature plants. Eventually, the most valued grasses disappear and undesirable weeds flourish. Continuous grazing is hard on plants, using up their root reserves and slowing their recovery.
- Grazing Time of Year - The time of year pastures are grazed also has a long-term impact. Grazing too early in the spring can reduce the yield potential of your pasture and is the most common pasture management mistake. Allow grass to grow in spring before grazing livestock. The most active period of grass growth varies depending on the grass species and grasses have different height requirements prior to the start of grazing. Allow smooth brome and orchardgrass to grow to a height of 6 to 8 inches before grazing is started.
- Amount of Forage Removed - Livestock should not remove more than 50 percent of the available forage. Simply put, if your animals eat more than 50 percent of the grass that was there prior to grazing, remove them and allow the pasture to rest approximately 30 days or until the grass regrows to the original height.
- Rotational Grazing - Dividing the pasture into three or four smaller units or paddocks makes it convenient to practice rotational grazing. Livestock are left in a paddock until the grass has been grazed to the proper height (generally 3-4 inches), then moved to another paddock and so on. While animals graze one unit, other units rest and recuperate. If subdividing pastures is not practical, then the animals should be kept in a dry lot, corral or sacrifice area and fed supplemental feed until the grass has regrown to a height of 6 to 8 inches and can be grazed again.
- Dry Lot Feeding - Many acreages and small farms have pastures less than 10 acres. These small pastures are too small to be a significant source of feed for grazing animals but can provide a place for brief periods of exercise. A dry lot, corral, or sacrifice area is needed when pastures cannot be a significant source of feed for animals.
Many pastures become severely infested with weeds due to continuous grazing overgrazing. Using rotational grazing helps to avoid weed problems.
Walking your pastures is an important key to keeping weed problems under control. This is the best way to catch weed problems before they become serious. Weeds should be hoed, pulled, or cut before they set seed and spread.
Mowing can be another option for weed control in pastures. Mowing on an interval that allows weeds to re-grow between mowing will eventually kill or reduce the number of some weeds.
Spraying weeds with chemical may also be needed at times. Proper identification of the weeds is the first step in controlling them. Best control is obtained when the weed plants are small.
In general, pastures are more productive with proper fertilization. Smooth brome will respond to proper fertilization. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient. Adequate phosphorus is also important. Take a soil sample for testing to identify which nutrients to apply and how much.
Seven Tips for Better Pasture Management
Here are some simple management practices to remember for healthier grass:
- Learn about the dominant grasses, forbs, and shrubs in your pasture. Determine if the plants are warm season or cool season. Cool season grasses grow in the spring and fall, while warm grasses grow best in the heat of the summer.
- Graze for short periods of time and allow long re-growth periods where the grass has time to recover with no grazing stress. Designate a small sacrifice area or corral to keep animals while grasses are recovering.
- Allow grass to reach the proper height before grazing. This will enable your grass to build strong roots for vigorous photosynthesis and growth.
- Know when to remove your animals from an area. A rule of thumb is Take Half Leave Half. Never allow the grass to be grazed below a protective height.
- If you have limited acres of pasture, always supplemental feed before putting animals on pasture. This will reduce the amount of pasture plants eaten.
- Walk you pasture to monitor grass growth. Be flexible. Temperature and precipitation will vary from year to year, as will grass recovery time.
- Develop a grazing plan.
Sources: Colorado State University Extension Fact Sheets 6.112, 1.627
Why Didn't My Doe Have Kids This Year?
By Randy Saner, Nebraska Extension Livestok Educator
Goats are normally healthy animals but they can get diseases, especially reproductive diseases which cause 2 to 5% in losses per year. Diseases causing abortions in goats are zoonotic meaning they can be transmitted to humans. Gloves, protective clothing and boots should be worn. After handling aborted materials or afterbirth and carefully wash your hands. Pregnant women or sick people should not assist with kidding or handling aborted materials.
Common diseases causing abortion are: Chlamydiosis, Toxoplasmosis, and Q-fever. Brucellosis and Bovine Viral Diarrhea can also cause abortions. Other reproductive diseases that could be a problem is Leptospirosis and Campylobacter. These diseases can be prevented by vaccination of the breeding stock 30 to 60 days before the breeding season.
Treatment, prevention and control would include:
- Isolate aborting does from the herd for 3 to 4 weeks
- Burn or bury aborted materials
- Protect feed and water sources from contamination
- Treat with a tetracycline under advice from veterinarian which includes having a client-patient relationship and may help reduce abortions by 50%. Always follow veterinarian dosage recommendations and milk and meat withdrawal information.
Recently we were having abortions in the area with several producer herds. They started on a vaccination program for Chlamydia and haven’t had problems with abortions since starting the program for this disease. Birds will carry Chlamydiosis from farm to farm or it can be introduced by purchasing infected stock.
The best way to know what disease is causing abortions is to take a fresh sample of the placenta, fetus and a blood sample to your local vet for testing. For more information contact Randy Saner, (308) 532-2683.
June Turf Tips
By John Fech, Nebraska Extension Educator - Horticulture
June is a good month for fertilization for cool season and/or warm season turfs. In early summer, slow release formulations are best. Cool season turfs such as tall fescue, perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass benefit greatly from 0.75 lbs of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. while 0.25 to 0.5 is appropriate for warm season grasses. For more information on how to calculate how much fertilizer product to put in the spreader, go to http://water.unl.edu/landscapewater/soils.
Looking into the products themselves, they can generally be grouped into quick release – water soluble, high N content, high potential for burn, rapid response; need light, frequent applications to minimize excess growth and burn and slow release – lower potential to cause burns, can be applied at higher N rates, require fewer applications, provide a longer lasting release of N, less prone to leaching losses. In many cases a 50/50 mix is desirable.
Sharpening the mower blade is one of those “oh, do I have to?” activities that many property owners would rather avoid; however, it’s one of the most important. In terms of mowing efficiency and preventing diseases, regular sharpening is a must. So, how often should it be done? Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? Daily? Generally, it’s helpful to shoot for the moon and hope to get over the fence; try for monthly and if it’s done every 2, then most of the benefits will be reaped. Sharpening mower blades is just like dealing with dress shirts; buy 2 blades, take one to the small engine shop for sharpening and use the other one.
In order to prevent moisture stress in turf, it’s wise to get head of the need rather than play catch-up. Some keys are uniformity of application, knowing the depth of the roots, uniformity of infiltration, early morning (4-10 a.m.) to reduce wind distortion, evaporative losses, and disease incidence.
Overall: keep roots moist; water to the bottom of the roots…plus an inch more. More is lost; less is not enough for the root depth.
For success, it’s critical to be able to answer the question, “How moist is the soil”? It may be more difficult than you think, in that it must be investigated, as it can’t be determined by looking from above. Instead, either use a soil probe, dig a hole with a sod spade or check with a screwdriver. The observations that can be made using these tools will be very helpful. As well, it’s important to acknowledge that root zones are not the same is all parts of the landscape. The soils near the foundation of the home are likely to be quite different from those under a shade tree and the middle of the lawn.
If you are fortunate to have an automatic sprinkler system in the landscape, treat it like a valuable tool, not a “set it and forget it” device. As with most tools, or anything mechanical for that matter, all systems have inherent flaws. In order to minimize the inaccuracies, follow this 6 step protocol:
- Turn it on and watch it run
- Fix obvious flaws; fix the biggest flaw first
- Measure output with tuna cans and a ruler
- Replace parts/make adjustments
- Re-measure output with tuna cans ruler
- Trim – reduce runtime a little
Review an expanded version of this step by step procedure on water.unl.edu.
Emerald Ash Borer and Camels
In my 38-year Extension career, I never remember talking so long about a pest that wasn’t even here! I’m sure part of the reason is that emerald ash borers (EAB) are so devastating to ash trees. Since its arrival, EAB has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees.
EAB was first discovered in the United States in 2002 near Detroit in southeastern Michigan. I attended a conference in Michigan in the summer of 2007 and saw the devastation first hand. By then, EAB had spread through most of Michigan’s lower peninsula as well as into the upper peninsula, Ontario (Canada), neighboring states, and to an isolated outbreak in Maryland. The Maryland area was over 300 miles away from the closest confirmed case of EAB at that time.
These Beetles Are Great Travelers
The Maryland outbreak is significant because it shows how EAB can move over long distances. On its own, the adult EAB is not a strong flyer, according to the USDA Forest Service, and most will move less than two miles a year. (About 1% of the mated females may disperse up to 12 miles.) With help from humans, however, it is a great traveler. It has been known to travel large distances, migrating in firewood or nursery stock from infected areas.
Currently, the closest confirmed infestation to Nebraska is in Union County, Iowa, about 80 miles east of Plattsmouth on Highway 34. Other infestations have been confirmed in the St. Joseph, MO, the Kansas City area as well as in Boulder, Colorado.
Our current recommendation is to not start treating for EAB until its presence has been confirmed within a 15-mile radius of your ash trees. Thus, at this time, we would not recommend treating any ash tree in Nebraska for EAB.
EAB and Camels?
I’m sure many of you thought I’d completely lost my mind (and you might have a point) when you saw a reference to camels in this column’s title. Let me explain.
Last summer I was visiting with an older gentleman who lived near Pierce. When he found out what I did for a living he was quick to ask what I knew about emerald ash borer. I explained that it will almost certainly get here – someday, but I would not recommend treating for this pest until it has been confirmed within 15 miles of his home.
He told me he recently went to a large chain nursery and asked them about EAB. They told him he needed to start treating his ash trees immediately and sold him a treatment costing several hundred dollars.
I asked him if he knew that same product would be 100% effective on preventing camel damage to his ash trees. He glared at me and snapped back that he wasn’t worried about camel damage, he didn’t have any camels. Before I could respond, his glare turned to a big grin and all he said was, “I get it!” He also mentioned that he would be returning any unused product. When I counted my many blessings that night, I included that I would NOT be the person at the nursery accepting the product he returned.
EAB adults are small, metallic green beetles. They are about 1/2 inch long and 1/16 inch wide. Several other green insects are easy to mistake for EAB, but you can distinguish EAB based on body shape. If you look at EABs from above, their body is shaped like the head of an ax, blunt and flat across the head and tapered toward the tail. One other unique characteristic is that when their wings are spread like they are flying, the top of their body which is normally hidden by their wings is reddish in color.
Adult EABs emerge in late May to late June, leaving a “D-shaped” hole in the trunk. Females lay eggs about two weeks after they emerge and these eggs hatch in one to two weeks. The tiny larvae bore through the bark and into the cambium, the area between the bark and the wood, where nutrient levels are high.
EAB Damage vs. Treatment Damage
EAB larvae injure ash trees by feeding under the bark where they damage the conductive tissue or “plumbing” of the tree, disrupting the flow of moisture and nutrients. The larvae eventually form a pupa and the new generation of adults emerge the following May or June to begin the cycle again.
Understandably, homeowners are concerned about losing their ash trees to the EAB. However, it is important to not begin insecticide treatment too early as premature treatments can have negative consequences. Treatment involves drilling holes around the trunk through the bark and into the cambium to inject a systemic insecticide. Research has shown that healthy trees can be injected seven to 10 times before trunks become so damaged that trees begin to decline.
The drilled hole also opens the trunk to insect pests and decay fungi. Drilling may break through the internal barriers in the trunk the tree is using to wall off internal decay, causing decay to spread. Also, the insecticide itself can cause internal damage. This is why treating ash trees for EAB is not, and will not, be recommended for trees until it has been found within 15 miles of a tree’s location... or if you are concerned your ash trees might be overrun by camels.
Laundering Clothing After Applying Pesticides
Pesticide-contaminated clothing needs to be treated differently than the rest of the family laundry.
“Pesticides pose a potential health risk, even for the person handling and washing pesticide-contaminated clothing,” said Clyde Ogg, pesticide safety extension educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Since most pesticide exposure occurs through the skin, a good laundering routine helps keep the family safe. It begins by reviewing the pesticide label.
“The label is a legal document that determines whether the clothing can be washed and if so, how,” Ogg said. For example, for clothing not heavily contaminated, the label may direct using strong detergents, hot water and a long wash cycle. Other laundry tips include:
- Discard garments drenched or heavily contaminated with pesticides, including shoes and boots.
- When handling contaminated clothing, wear a long-sleeved shirt and gloves (similar to those used by the pesticide applicator) to minimize skin exposure to pesticides.
- While outdoors, shake, sweep or dust off contaminated clothing with compressed air. Empty cuffs and pockets where residues may collect.
- Wash clothing as soon as possible. Washing efficiency is significantly less for clothing laundered 24 hours or more after being contaminated. If clothing is not washed immediately, store separately outside the home in a designated area, inside a plastic garbage bag or container dedicated to this purpose.
- Launder pesticide-contaminated clothing separately from the other family wash.
Laundry Room Tips to Wash Pesticide-contaminated Clothing:
- Check the manufacturer’s directions for your particular washing machine to achieve best results.
- Pre-rinse, presoak or pretreat clothing.
- Use hot water and the maximum recommended amount of heavy-duty (extra strength) liquid detergent.
- Use the highest water level and the longest wash cycle – at least 20 minutes. Wash clothing two or three times if heavily soiled; discard clothing if it is heavily contaminated.
- Load washer to no more than 50 percent to 75 percent of clothing capacity for best results.
- Use a high-speed spin to further remove moisture and contaminants from clothing.
- When wash is complete, run one additional empty cycle without clothing, using detergent and hot water, before using the machine for family laundry.
- Dry clothes outside if practical. Sunlight can further break down any residues left in the fabric, and prevents any residues from getting in the clothes dryer.
- Note that bleach, ammonia and fabric softeners do not consistently help remove pesticides from clothing.
- If using a commercial laundering firm or laundromat, notify or check with management if you plan to have them clean your contaminated clothing.
Newer Laundering Developments Yet to be Tested
Significant changes have occurred in pesticide toxicity and formulation, detergents, washing machines and clothing finishes since research was conducted on laundering pesticide-contaminated clothing in the 1980s and early 1990s, said Clyde Ogg, pesticide safety extension educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
For example, today’s detergent manufacturers sell encapsulated, highly concentrated detergents in water-dissolvable pods. While pods have not been evaluated for efficacy in removing pesticides from contaminated clothing, following the proper laundering procedures should clean clothing that is lightly or moderately contaminated with pesticides.
“Breathable” or synthetic fabrics have not been tested with these recommendations; check with the manufacturer of these products for cleaning recommendations.
While front- or top-loading machines without agitators are becoming more common, comparisons have not been made regarding their relative efficiency in removing pesticides from clothing.
Source: PS1779, “Laundering Pesticide-Contaminated Work Clothes,” a regional publication by North Dakota State University Extension. Clyde Ogg, pesticide safety extension educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was a contributing author.