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Photographing the Landscape, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
Winter may not be gardening weather, but armed with a camera and a little bit of time the rewards for photographers can result in a harvest just as tangible. 

Photographing the Landscape

By Eric Berg, Nebraska Forest Service

      One of the wonderful things about taking photographs is that it forces us to stop, look at the details and hopefully pay more attention to the world around us. Typically we tend to rush from one place to another without even noticing the details of our ever-changing landscapes. Taking photos demands time and intentionality, it causes us to slow down, gets us outdoors and helps us experience and truly see and capture the beauty and detail of our landscapes.

With digital cameras, the process is far easier and less costly than it used to be. We can take hundreds of photos at one time, with little to no expense, and revisit them later to select the best ones. So the process doesn’t require the expense and purposeful, time-consuming effort it did when darkrooms and costly film were part of the process. While technological advances have limited the need for careful intentionality, they have opened up a broad range of opportunities for even the most amateur of photographers.

What makes a good photo? That question can be as subjective as our personal preferences. But the best photos elicit strong emotional reactions—sadness, surprise, anger or pleasure. Often they contain an element of mystery, with the photo framed in a way that hints at something but doesn’t give the whole story. They leave the viewer wanting more or give the viewer just enough information to fill in the gaps with their own life experiences.

In terms of placement and focus, the old rule of thirds from photography courses still applies. The most interesting elements in a photo tend to be the most compelling when they are slightly off-center and not in the absolute center of the photo.

Good lighting is essential—whether it’s from the back, from the front or captured during that period of “sweet light” which naturally occurs right before or after sunrise or sundown.

Landscapes are constantly changing and one of the advantages of taking photos is to make us more aware of the amazing amount of change that occurs from one month or week or even moment to another. Lighting, temperature, moisture and the resulting frost, dew and color intensity can be significantly different from one hour of the day to another. But these small changes can be visually compelling and will reward anyone patient enough to notice and capture their impact.

It may not be gardening weather but, armed with a camera and a little bit of time, the rewards for photographers can result in a harvest just as tangible.

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

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Starting A New Planting Bed

By Kendall Weyers, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

Starting A New Planting Bed, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
Spring fever can make us bite off more than we can handle after the high wears off, so keep the size manageable. 

In Nebraska it doesn’t take much warm weather to infect us with spring fever, especially if you are a gardener. For many of us, good weather opens the floodgates of energy and optimism for spring projects and the coming growing season.

One project that might be on your to-do list is starting a new, or expanding an existing, perennial planting bed. This is a project with a highly variable degree of difficulty depending on many factors, such as timing, preferred method, size, existing plants and soil conditions.

A quick note on soil: good soil is crucial to the success of most plants. Any soil can be improved over time, especially by adding organic matter such as compost. Whether your soil is compacted clay, sand or in between, adding organic matter improves the soil structure and biology (earthworms, microrganisms, etc.), resulting in higher availability of air, water and nutrients. To limit compaction, it’s best to limit foot traffic and not work it when wet.

Before getting started, future headaches can be avoided by doing some careful, realistic planning. Spring fever can make us bite off more than we can handle after the high wears off, so keep the size manageable. Also make sure the location is suitable, with no utility conflicts and appropriate conditions, especially light, for the intended plants.

The first step is to remove or kill any existing plants, particularly if it’s turfgrass. Using a layering system (or sheet mulching) is the easiest, but takes a few months for best results. This method starts by laying down heavy cardboard or several layers of newspaper to block out light and kill the plant material beneath, while still allowing air and water movement to benefit the soil organisms and speed the breakdown of organic matter.

To hold the first layer in place, keep it moist and add a few inches of organic matter such as compost, leaves or wood chips. Given enough time, the original plants will die and the plants, cardboard or newspaper and added organic matter will break down and loosen and enrich the soil. This method also prevents weed seeds from germinating. The bed is now ready to plant right through the layers.

If there isn’t time to wait on the layering system, existing plants can be dug out and the top couple inches of sod removed. For larger areas, a rented sodcutter might be the better choice. The cut sod can be reused elsewhere in the lawn or composted. If the existing soil is good, you should be ready to plant. If the soil is compacted or low in nutrients and organic matter, it may need to be broken up, either by hand digging or rototilling. Ideally the soil is turned over to a depth of 8-12 inches and ample amounts of organic material are added. Turning the soil will bring weed seeds to the surface, so a good layer of mulch and regular weeding will be necessary to keep the new bed looking good and help new plants thrive.

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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Sedges for Home Landscapes Are Not Weeds

By Kelly Feehan, Nebraska Extension Educator - Horticulture

Sedges for Home Landscapes are Not Weeds, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
Gray's sedge, Carex grayi.

Some of the newest ornamental grasses on the market are not grasses at all, they are sedges. When we hear the word sedge we might think of weeds or water and not ornamental plants.

Weeds might come to mind because of yellow nutsedge (Cyperus spp.). This difficult to control weed is often found in lawns and gardens. However, sedges sold for planting in gardens and landscapes are of the Carex spp.

Water might come to mind because sedges commonly grow in riparian (water edge) areas. Some gardeners assume these plants are sold for water gardens, but this is not true. A few sedges are even proving to be drought tolerant, helping gardeners conserve water.

Garden sedges, or Carex, are sold and used as ornamental grasses. Most are lower growing than true grasses, so if you are looking for a one to three foot tall plant instead of a three to eight foot tall plant, consider Carex.

Unlike true ornamental grasses, most Carex are grown for their foliage. While they do flower, few have ornamental seed heads like the plumes of true grasses. Like many grasses, sedges are low maintenance plants needing little care once established.

The most common Carex sold include gray sedge, Carex grayii; palm sedge, C. muskingumensis; brown fox sedge, C. vulpinoides; and Ice Dance sedge; C. morrowii ‘Ice Dance’.

The GreatPlants for the Great Plains ornamental grass of 2015 was gray sedge. The goal of the GreatPlants program is to bring superior ornamental landscape plants into gardens to meet the challenging growing conditions of the Great Plains.

Gray sedge was selected for its ability to tolerate wet soils, but also fairly dry conditions once established. It grows two to three feet tall and one to two feet wide. It has semi-evergreen foliage and persistent spiky seed heads that provide winter interest.

Since Carex will tolerate short periods of standing water, and some tolerate dry conditions once established, they have become popular for growing in the bottoms of rain gardens.

Rain gardens are bowl-shaped gardens with a low berm on three sides.  These gardens are located where they will catch and soak in rainwater, such as from a roof downspout.

Rain gardens make the best use of rainfall when we receive it. They help conserve water and reduce stormwater runoff from a property. Less runoff means fewer pollutants are washing into streams, rivers and lakes during storm events.

A correctly designed and installed rain garden might have standing water for up to 48 hours after a rainfall. However, these gardens can be dry for long periods in between rainfall and therefore drought tolerant plants are needed.

These wet conditions followed by dry conditions have made sedges popular rain garden plants. Whether you have a rain garden or not, consider planting Carex to add plant diversity to your landscape.

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Nutritional Goal Setting

By Laura DeWitt, Nebraska Extension Assistant- SNAP-Ed

Nutritional Goal Setting, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
"Eat more vegetables" isn't a measurable goal, but "Fill 1/4 of my plate with vegetables at each meal" is!

As we ring in a New Year, many of us will resolve to eat healthier.

This fresh start of the New Year often motivates us to make changes to our lifestyle for improved health and wellness.  However, motivation can come and go.  For a change to occur and to stick requires a commitment.  Commitment is the state of being dedicated to an action or cause.  When considering a change, I like to stop and ask myself: On a scale of 1-10, how dedicated am I to making the change I have in mind?  If you rate yourself at a 9 or a 10 you will be able to fully devote time and effort towards being successful in making a change.

Goal setting sets us on course to make the desired change.  SMART is an acronym to help us remember what to keep in mind while setting goals.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

SMART goals help us to focus on a particular behavior, track our progress and increase our chances of success.

Let’s revisit a popular New Year’s resolution, “to eat healthier.”  Would this be considered a SMART goal?  Well, no.  It’s vague!  If I told someone to eat healthier, they’d probably ask me:  Eat healthier how?  When?  To make a goal like this SMART, I’ve got to think about what specifically I want to do, how much or how often.

Choosemyplate.gov is a good place to start if you need specific ideas on healthy eating.  For example, MyPlate reminds us to make half our plate fruits and vegetables.  Most days I fall short here, and I’d like to change that.  My one-year-old daughter eats meals with us now, and she sees what I do.  I want to be a good example for her, plus I want my entire family to be healthy.  I rate myself a 9 in commitment to this change.

So, to make the goal Specific and Measurable I will:  Serve at least one type of vegetable at dinner each day of the week and personally fill at least ¼ of my plate with vegetables each time.

Then I ask myself two things:

  1. Can I do this with some effort?  Yes, it will require some planning, but it can be done.  So, it’s Attainable.
  2. Do I want to do this?  Yes, I really do!  So, it’s Relevant.

Then, I can decide how much time I’ll give myself to work on the change.  One week’s time works well for many goals.  After the week is up, I will then review how I did on the goal.  This Time-Bound quality helps make my goal SMART.  I will set a start and end date for the goal (this coming Monday and the following Sunday) and put it on my calendar.  Scheduling it in shows that it is important to follow-through, and helps me remember to do it.

On Sunday, I’ll ask myself and my family what went well and what didn’t.  Together we can find solutions to what prevented us from being successful, or brainstorm ways to keep going, like selecting a new recipe that everyone can agree on. Below you’ll find a recipe that we love at our house, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples.

I might change, add to, or start a new goal depending on what is accomplished the first time through.  In order to turn a new behavior into a habit, research says that we may need more than 21 days.  So give yourself time to incorporate the change into your life and keep it going for a while before taking on a new change.  So I may focus on making ¼ of my plate vegetables for several weeks before I set a new SMART goal to make half my plate vegetables and fruits.

Once you’ve set your own SMART goal:

  • Write it down
  • Tell someone – support is essential to stay accountable and motivated.

To maintain motivation and commitment as you work on your goal, you might also think about the reason you want to make this change in the first place.  Who or what is most important to you?  My family’s health, especially my daughter’s, is very important to me.  Visualize your reason(s) when the going gets tough, or carry a photo to look at when you need a reminder.
Here are some more tips:

  • Put up prompts such as a note on the fridge that reminds you – “eat your veggies!”, post your goal in a noticeable place, and use technology to track your choices.
  • Be mindful of your choices. Then own your decisions.
  • Try to view slip-ups without criticism. They are a given.  Identify the circumstances that led to the choice you don’t want to repeat, and make a plan to do something different next time.
  • If you consistently do not meet your SMART goals, revisit your commitment and adjust what you will do next time based on your readiness.

The journey of lifestyle change is made of the sum of our everyday choices.  In the New Year, set SMART goals to help guide you.  And resolve to re-commit to yourself time and again to make those changes last. Sending you encouragement and wishing you a happy and healthy 2016!

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Source: The Cook’s Helper 2nd Edition
4 servings

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 Fuji apple or other baking apple
  • 1/2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 T. maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  2. Wash and peel sweet potatoes. Cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise.  Slice the sweet potato halves creating ½-inch thick pieces.
  3. Wash and core the apple. Cut into bite-sized chunks.
Roast Sweet Potatoes and Apples, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
  1. In a 2-quart baking dish, add the sweet potatoes and apple. Drizzle vegetable oil over the mixture stirring to coat.
Roast Sweet Potatoes and Apples, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
  1. Bake for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from oven and stir mixture. Bake 10 minutes longer, or until tender.
  3. Stir again. Stick a fork into a piece of potato.  If it is still hard, stir and return to oven.  Check every 5 minutes until tender.
  4. When the potatoes are tender, place mixture in a serving dish. Drizzle with maple syrup and stir.
Roast Sweet Potatoes and Apples, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 140, Total Fat 2 g (3% DV), Saturated Fat 0 g (0% DV), Cholesterol 0 mg (0% DV), Sodium 5 mg (0% DV), Total Carbohydrate 29 g (10% DV), Dietary Fiber 3 g (11% DV), Sugars 7 g, Protein 2 g, Vitamin A 290%, Vitamin C 15%, Calcium 4%, Iron 4%.

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Drinking Water - Iron and Manganese

An article from http://extension.org reviewed and presented with minor edits by Nebraska Extension Educator Sharon Skipton and Nebraska Extension Specialist Bruce Dvorak

Drinking Water - Iron and Manganese, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
Deposits of iron and manganese can build up in pipelines, reducing water pressure. Image from the Environmental Protection Agency.  

Sources of iron and manganese in drinking water
Iron and manganese are the 4th and 13th most common metallic elements found in the Earth’s crust, respectively. Water percolating through soil and rock can dissolve minerals containing iron and manganese and hold them in solution in varying amounts, depending on other water properties, such as pH, oxygen levels, salinity, and the presence or absence of other chemicals in solution. Iron pipe corrosion may be a source of iron in drinking water.

In aquifers, where oxygen content is low, reduced forms of dissolved iron and manganese predominate in clear and colorless forms. When water from aquifers containing iron and manganese is exposed to air, these elements are oxidized (combine with oxygen) to less water soluble forms. Upon oxidation, colored forms of iron and manganese become visible in water. In the case of iron, white, then yellow and finally red-brown solid particles form that settle out of the water. Iron oxide particles may not settle out and can impart the water with a red tint. Oxidized forms of manganese usually remain in water, giving it a black tint. These abrupt changes in the chemical forms of iron and manganese are responsible for the staining properties of aquifer waters containing high concentrations of these elements. Iron will cause reddish-brown staining of laundry, porcelain, dishes, utensils and even glassware. Manganese causes a brownish-black stain. Soaps and detergents do not remove these stains, and use of chlorine bleach intensifies the stains. In rare occasions, the addition of laundry bleach to manganese-rich water may turn the water purple due to the formation of permanganate ions.

Deposits of iron and manganese can build up in pipelines, pressure tanks, water heaters and water softeners. This reduces the available quantity and pressure of the water supply.

Iron and manganese can affect the flavor and color of food and water. They may react with tannins in coffee, tea and some alcoholic beverages to produce a black sludge, which affects both taste and appearance.

A problem that frequently results from iron or manganese in water is iron or manganese bacteria. These non-pathogenic (non-health threatening) bacteria feed on iron and manganese in water, forming red-brown (iron) or black-brown (manganese) slime, often detected in toilet tanks, and can clog water systems. In addition, a "foul" odor can be produced.

Potential health effects of iron and manganese in drinking water
Iron and manganese in drinking water are not considered health hazards. In addition, iron and manganese bacteria are not known to present a health risk.

Testing drinking water for iron and manganese
The quality of water supplied by public water systems is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) Iron and manganese are both classified under the Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level standards, which are based on aesthetic factors such as color and staining properties of water rather than health effects. The standard in public drinking water is 0.3 milligrams per liter (mg/l) for iron, sometimes expressed as 0.3 parts per million (ppm), and 0.05 mg/l (ppm) for manganese. Secondary standards are guidelines and are not enforced.

If you want to know the concentration of dissolved iron and/or manganese in a private water supply you will need to have the water tested. If foul odor (not a rotten egg smell) and a red or black slime layer are found in places like the toilet bowl or reservoir, you might also request to have water tested for iron and manganese bacteria.

Tests to determine the presence of iron or manganese, and of iron and manganese bacteria, in drinking water should be done by a certified laboratory.

Options for iron and manganese in drinking water
If excessive iron or manganese is present in your private water supply, you might consider an alternative source for drinking water, or water treatment. It may be possible to obtain a satisfactory alternate water supply by drilling a new well in a different location or at a different depth in the same or different aquifer.

Several methods of removing iron and manganese from water are available. The most appropriate method depends on many factors, including the concentration and form of iron/manganese in the water, if iron or manganese bacteria are present, and how much water you need to treat. Point-of-use (POU) devices such as reverse osmosis and distillation can remove dissolved iron and manganese. However, these treatment systems are not generally recommended. Since excess iron and manganese are aesthetic problems that affect all potential uses of the water they are most often removed from all water entering the home using Point-of-entry (POE) treatment devices. The four most commonly applied methods for treating water containing dissolved iron and manganese, are ion exchange water softeners, oxidizing filters, aeration followed by filtration, and chemical oxidation followed by filtration.

The most common approach to control iron and manganese bacteria is shock chlorination. It is almost impossible to kill all the iron and manganese bacteria in a system. In most cases, they will grow back eventually and the shock chlorination procedure will most likely need to be repeated from time to time. If bacteria regrowth is rapid, repeated shock chlorination becomes time consuming. Continuous application of low levels of chlorine may be more effective. Because chlorine changes dissolved iron into oxidized iron that will precipitate, a filter may be needed to remove oxidized iron if continuous chlorination is used to control iron bacteria.

For more information, see the Nebraska Extension NebGuide “Drinking Water: Iron and Manganese.”

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So Many Seed Catalogs, So Little Time, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
How do you decide what to order from garden catalogs? Follow these tips to pick winners for your gardens this summer. 

So Many Seed Catalogs, So Little Time (and Space)

By John Fech, Nebraska Extension Educator - Horticulture

Many gardeners receive several seed catalogs each winter; others actively search online sources for the latest and greatest veggies, fruits, flowers and woody plants.  These resources can present frustration in that cold weather perusal can cause severe cases of cabin fever from the temptations therein.  How can one make up their minds over what to buy?  The following hints are good helpers in the endeavor of conscientious buying, the art of knowing what is reasonable and prudent, rather than that which can be afforded or have space for.

So Many Seed Catalogs, So Little Time, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
Well-tested cultivars, such as those associated with All-America Selections and Proven Winners may be worthy of consideration.  
  • Inventory the seed and stored bulbs/tubers/roots that are already on hand.  Most garden seed will germinate well a second or even a third year, with the exception of onion, corn and parsnips.  If you’re curious, a simple germination test can be conducted, using 10 seeds in moist paper toweling in a freezer bag.
  • Make a list of the flowers and veggies that you want to grow, much as you would if you were going grocery shopping.  It’s also a good idea to ask other family members for their input.  There’s no sense in growing radishes if no one likes to eat them!  Another resource may be your existing landscape plan, or the one from the previous acreage owner.
  • After the research has been conducted, it’s time to consult the catalogs.  Working from the shopping list, make notes on the cultivars and number of seeds per packet, as well as the price per packet.  If possible, double check with local garden stores as a comparison source before placing an order.
  • Cultivars of a specific vegetable or flower offer unique characteristics.  It’s always fun to try new plants, but if it won’t grow in your area of the state, it’s not a wise purchase.  The catalog description should indicate the preferences for a specific cultivar for shade, heat, length of growing season, size, shape and pest tolerance.  As well, well-tested cultivars such as those associated with the All-America Selections and Proven Winners may be worthy of additional consideration.
  • Look closely at the pictures.  This is a good way to investigate what may be missing from the catalog description.  A picture is with 1,000 words!
  • Try not to faint after you’ve made up your final list and added up the cost.  Next, cross off everything that you’re just lukewarm about or really don’t have room for.  Many acreage gardeners want to “grow it all”.  This last step serves as a decent reality check.

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Dormant Lawn Seeding

By Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Educator - Horticulture

Dormant Lawn Seeding, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
With dormant seeding, grass seed stays in place and dormant until weather conditions are right for germination. 

Traditionally, we think of seeding lawns in either spring (April-May) or fall (August-September). Of these two planting times, fall is the most successful. With a fall seeding, there's less weed pressure than in spring, and late summer weather is less problematic (think rainy) during the soil preparation phase.  Plus, the extended period of cool weather, usually with good rainfall, that occurs from September through late November is ideal for growth of cool season turfgrasses.   

But increasingly, turf specialists are recommending a new option - dormant seeding. With this method, the area is prepared in fall but the seed is not distributed until after the growing season has ended. Seed remains in place, but does not begin to grow until soil temperatures are warm enough for germination in mid-April.

Dormant seeding has several benefits.  First, soil preparation can be done at your leisure during dry fall conditions. There’s no rush to get the work done in a short window of time in spring between frozen soil and wet soil. Dormant seeded turf grows well and fills in during cool spring weather, preventing much of the potential invasion by weeds. Finally, plants have more time to develop vigor and hardiness before hot summer conditions arrive, making them more able to tolerate summer stresses.  

Soil Preparation Creates a Good Seedbed
The actual process of seedbed preparation is the same as other times of the year, but dormant seeding is most effective when soil preparation, such as core aeration, power-raking, tilling, or some other form of cultivation is done in fall. Simply broadcasting seed and allowing it to work into the soil naturally through frost-heaving might be effective; but having soil preparation done first to improve seed-soil contact is important for successful dormant-seeding.

Prepare small areas by hand raking to remove excess dead top growth and loosen the soil surface. The best technique for preparing larger areas is aerating. Aeration opens up the soil and provides a good surface for seed germination. Seeds that fall into the aeration holes will germinate and grow well; there is no need to topdress or fill in the holes before seeding.

Power raking can also be used to prepare the site, but is more damaging to existing turf. The only benefit to power raking over aeration is it can help reduce excess thatch if more than a ½” thatch layer is present. If power raking is used, go over the turf lightly only deep enough to penetrate the top ¼” of soil.

Seeding
Once seedbed preparation is done, dormant seeding can take place from mid-December through mid-February. Ideally soil temperatures should be 40° degrees F or below to ensure seeds will not germinate. Since the seed needs to have good soil contact, don’t apply seed over snow. Dormant seeding should be done no later than March 15th.

The seeding rate for new, bare lawn areas is as follows: Kentucky bluegrass 2-3 lbs. per 1,000 sq.ft. and tall fescue 6-8 lbs. per 1,000 sq.ft.

The amount of seed applied when overseeding into a thin lawn is usually half the amount used for a new seeding. Kentucky bluegrass should be applied at 1-2 lbs. per 1,000 sq.ft. and tall fescue at 3-4 lbs. of seed per 1,000 sq.ft. When working with small amounts of seed, mix sawdust, dry sand or any other suitable material with the seed to aid in obtaining uniform coverage.

Fertilization and Weed Control
Applying a pre-emergent herbicide for weed control can be done with new seedings, but use only the pre-emergent herbicide Siduron, commonly sold as Tupersan. This herbicide will provide good control of annual grassy weeds like crabgrass and foxtail, yet still allow the grass seed to germinate.

Apply pre-emergent herbicide between mid-April and the first week of May. Several days of soil temperatures 55°degrees F or above are required for crabgrass and foxtail seeds to germinate. Be sure the pre-emergent herbicide is in place before that time. Monitor your local soil temperature at Nebraska Extension’s Hort Update, http://hortupdate.unl.edu.

For new seedings, use the lower recommended rate and repeat the application one month later.

Pre-emergent herbicide is usually combined with a starter fertilizer for new seedings.  A combination application made between mid-April and the first week of May is a good way to provide fertility and control weeds at the same time. 

Watering
Don’t rely solely on spring rain for germination of your new seeding. Begin watering the seeds 2-4 times per day in late April to ensure good germination. Base your watering schedule on weather conditions and how fast the soil dries. Water frequently enough to keep the top ½-1 inch of soil moist, but avoid over-watering and saturating the area.

Watch Winter Weather Conditions
One risk involved with dormant seeding is warm winter and early spring temperatures. If conditions cause seed to germinate and are followed by a cold period, seedlings may be killed. Continuous snow cover provides the best protection for seeds.

Monitor seeded areas in mid-spring for the need to do additional overseeding, but give the seeds plenty of time to germinate.

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Winter is a Great Time to Inspect for Noxious Weeds, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
Phragmites seedheads make plants easy to spot, even in winter. 

Winter is a Great Time to Inspect for Noxious Weeds

By Brent Meyer, Lancaster County Weed Superitendent

While you might have put your sprayer and chemical away for the winter, don’t pass up a great opportunity to inspect your property for phragmites, knotweed and teasel.  Believe it or not, some noxious weeds are actually easier to spot in the winter months than during the growing season.

Phragmites happens to be one of Nebraska’s noxious weeds that our office inspects all winter long, simply because it’s easier to spot.  While a lot of other plants break down and fall over, phragmites will drop its leaves, but keep its seedhead intact and stand tall all winter long – almost begging you to find it.  Phragmites typically likes to grow in wetland areas as well as along creeks and drainages. This makes it hard to see during the growing season due to competing vegetation and tree canopy.  However, during the winter, the trees lose their leaves, and the cattails and other vegetation that tend to grow in the same area breakdown, leaving the phragmites standing all by itself.

Winter is a Great Time to Inspect for Noxious Weeds, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
Dead teasel stems will stand for a couple years, and with their unique seedhead, it makes them easy to spot. 

Teasel and Knotweeds are also easy to identify during the winter.  Dead teasel stems will stand for a couple years, and with their unique seedhead, it makes them easy to spot.  Knotweed stems remain standing for a couple years, and turn a deep brownish purple, which really makes them stand out since most plants turn a light brown color once they freeze.

Although easy to spot, you won’t want to treat these plants during the winter months. When you find new locations make sure to mark them on a map or GPS the location on your smart phone or tablet. This will make it easier to find and treat during the next growing season.

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Watch for Colic in Your Horse

By Monte Stauffer, Nebraska Extension Educator - Livestock

Watch for Colic in Your Horse, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
Horses can colic anytime during the year, but the incidence of problems goes up in winter. 

   Horses are kept on many acreages and colic is something to watch for in the Winter.  Horses can colic anytime during the year but the incidence goes up this time of year.  Colic means pain in the digestive system and it can be caused by several things.  Close observation may help you avoid serious problems.

Plenty of hay or roughage should be fed year round.  Besides the nutrients it provides, it also keeps the intestinal activity continuing and gives heat off as it is digested.   Horses often drink less water in cooler weather.  They don’t have the urge to drink especially if the water is cold or partially frozen.  You can provide salt in their grain ration or feed free choice to keep horses drinking better.

Horses usually get less exercise during the winter because we don’t work with them as much.  Be sure horses have some daily exercise whether you just lead them or let them have time to move around in an open lot.

Many times we do chores quick when the weather is brisk and don’t observe problems when they first start.  Watch each horse for any abnormal activity.  Early colic symptoms include less consumption of feed and less activity.  As the problems get more severe, horse tend to isolate themselves from other horses, lay down more, and look at their belly and flanks.  Severe symptoms may include sweating, pawing, standing stretched, biting at their flanks, rolling or attempting to roll.

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Bake for Family Fun!, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
February is Bake for Family Fun month!

Bake For Family Fun!

By Lisa Franzen-Castle, Nebraska Extension Educator - Nutrition

Baking is an inexpensive family activity that provides opportunities for families to share baking traditions, recipes and family heritage that can be handed down through each generation. February is Bake for Family Fun Month, and the Home Baking Association encourages families to spend time together in the kitchen. Below are some tips on how to get started.

Baking tips from the Home Baking Association:

  • Do some prep work. Prep by reading and trying the recipe first. Add 20 to 30 minutes to explain, show and guide beginners and 15 minutes for intermediates or experienced bakers. Divide it into two sessions if needed or pre-measure or prepare some steps beforehand.
  • Keep it clean. Remember to wash hands and countertops before starting and cleaning up after you’re done. Provide separate towels for hands and dishes and frequently wash pot holders. Aprons or large T-shirts are great for keeping clothes clean during the baking process.
  • Take it one step at a time. Read the recipe, gather ingredients, and make sure nothing was left out. When short on time, or working with beginning or young bakers, prepare some steps ahead or do some steps one day and complete the mixing or baking the next.
  • Use the right tools. Pour liquids (water, oil, milk, honey, corn syrup) in a clear liquid measuring cup placed on the countertop. Read amount at eye level. Use standard dry measures for dry ingredients (flours, sugar, cocoa, brown sugar, cornmeal). Use measuring spoons for small amounts less than ¼ cup.
  • Do a safe kitchen checklist. Turn handles of pans toward the center of the stove so sleeves or people passing by won’t catch on them and spill. Keep cupboard doors and drawers closed unless in use. Always use only dry hot pads or oven mitts because heat goes through damp mitts. When stirring or checking for doneness, tilt the lid away from you so steam is released away from your face.
  • Oven ins and outs. Before preheating, make sure the oven racks are in the right place for the pans and recipe. Preheat the oven as the recipe directs—allow 10 minutes. Place pans in the oven so they do not touch each other or the oven sides. Do not place pans on racks directly below or above another pan. Keep clean, dry oven mitts or pads close by.
  • Baking can be a learning experience. Children and adults learn a lot together in the kitchen. The results of cooking or baking together contributes to stronger relationships at home and in groups and children learn time management, team skills, following directions, and problem solving.

Enjoy foods from your own kitchen. It’s quick, easy, and economical. Use these recipes to get started from the Recipe Central website, or the cooking with youth recipes at Recipes for Cooking With Kids.

Bake for Family Fun!, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights February 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-feb-2016
Baking can be a learning experience. Children and adults learn a lot together in the kitchen. 

Additional Resources & Links:

  • Cooks Tools for the Kitchen. Having the right tools can make cooking easier and more fun! However, you don't need every tool in the store. Before you buy that next piece of kitchen equipment, check these tips.
  • Cook it Quick’s Cooking Tips & Techniques. Covers topics and provides links for using the oven or stovetop, freezing make ahead foods, meat, poultry and egg basics, and techniques for rice, beans, fruit and vegetables.
  • Ingredient Substitutions. Often for lack of an ingre­dient, a recipe is ruined or an extra trip to the store is required. Sometimes, you need to buy a large container of an ingredient for just a teaspoon or two needed in a recipe. To the rescue: ingredient substitutions!
  • UNL Extension Calendar – National Food Days, Weeks, and Months for February.
  • Reducing the Size of Recipes. Many recipes can be cut in half or thirds. Here are some guidelines to help you adapt a larger recipe to a smaller one.
  • Bite When the Temperature is Right Participant's Guide, HEF587. Using food thermometers is the only way to ensure that food is fully cooked and safe to eat. This lesson explains how to choose the correct thermometer for your needs.

Sources:

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