July 2011

Life Outside the City Limits

Collage of July Images

Benefit and Care of Pets Focus of New National Internet Resource
Dr. Lisa Karr-Lilienthal, UNL Extension Companion Animal Specialist

Companion CatThe most important job for many dogs and cats today comes quite naturally - they are companions and friends. To provide pet owners with unbiased research-based information, researchers and educators from America's land-grant universities have banded together to provide a new Web resource on companion animals. It's on eXtension.

According to the 2009-2010 survey of national pet owners conducted by the American Pet Products Association, 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet. The total number of pets owned includes 93.6 million cats and 77.5 million dogs. The new resource from Cooperative Extension covers more than dogs and cats. It also has information about birds, rabbits, rodents and even hermit crabs on animal care, reproduction and breeding, health, behavior and training, nutrition and human-animal interaction.

"There are few online sources about dogs and cats that can be considered truly unbiased. Commercial sites provide good information, but ultimately their goal is to sell while our goal is to provide timely educational information, said Lisa Karr-Lilienthal, assistant professor and companion animal specialist at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Pet owners have blogs or sites that may not have scientific information. With eXtension, you know the materials are provided by experts, many of whom have advanced degrees in companion animal nutrition, reproduction, veterinary medicine and behavior. Many of these experts are involved in the industry from showing and training to volunteering in humane societies and animal assisted therapy programs."

The companion animal site provides help for new and inexperienced pet owners, as well as experienced owners who need an answer to a specific question. The site includes educational videos, news, upcoming events, learning lessons and articles. There are also answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). If a question cannot be found in the FAQs, eXtension's "Ask an Expert" feature can be used for a quick response.

Living with pets has been linked to a variety of health benefits

Pets have positive effects on people's mental and physical health. Children who take care of dogs and cats increase their self-esteem, nurturance and empathy. Adults and the elderly depend on four-legged companions for social support. Dogs also provide a "peace of mind" with home and personal security.

  • Petting an animal causes the natural release of oxytocin and other neurochemicals that decrease blood pressure and heart rate as well as the body's stress response.
  • Exercising with a pet helps combat obesity, heart disease and depression. Pet owners have been shown to live longer after a heart attack than non-pet owners.
  • Pets reduce the need for medical services for many senior citizens.

Extension researchers and educators contributed to the new resource. To find out more about the experts (and often their pets), see http://www.extension.org/pages/Companion_Animal_Experts. You can also follow them on Facebook.

Girl With DogAbout eXtension

Companion animals is one of many Web communities on eXtension (pronounced E-extension), www.extension.org, a national project of the U.S. Cooperative Extension System. eXtension is an educational partnership of more than 70 land grant universities; the Web site is customized with links to local Cooperative Extension sites.

eXtension is an educational resource designed to help people acquire skills and knowledge to help them grow and empower them to improve their quality of life. eXtension takes the best university-based research and turns it into practical information people can use to solve today's problems and develop skills to build a better future.

Sources: Lisa Karr-Lilienthal, University of Nebraska, lkarr-lilienthal2@unl.edu
Amy Fischer, University of Illinois, afischer@illinois.edu
Writer: Lynette Spicer, Iowa State University, lynette.spicer@extension.org



This month's shows include managing fly pests on horses, ten ways you can tell you're in Africa, dealing with pine wilt, and containers for plants.

Are flies bugging your horses? Sara Ellicott, UNL Extension, has suggestions for managing fly problems. 


 Jan Hygnstrom, University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension, tells of similarities and ten differences between the farms of Namibia and Nebraska.


Amy Ziems, UNL Extension Plant Pathologist, describes causes and symptoms of Pine Wilt and what to do if your trees are infected.


Urban Trail Gardens owner Ron Harvey talks about a simple method to make your own lightweight containers for plants.

Protect Horses From Illness During Fair Season
By Dr. Kathleen Anderson, UNL Extension Horse Specialist

White HorseFollowing the recent concern about Equine Herpes virus, horse owners will want to take steps to protect their animals this summer when participating in horse shows.  One good resource is from the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association and Alberta Equestrian Federation.  It provides clear, easy to understand information on steps to take to protect horses at home or while showing.

Equine Biosecurity Principles and Best Practices,

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has also issued it's final report on the cases of EHV-1 that sparked horse owner concern earlier this year.  Several horses that competed in the National Cutting Horse Association Western National Championship in Ogden, Utah, on April 29-May 8, 2011, were diagnosed with EHV-1. Following that event, reports were received about affected horses from multiple States and Western Canada, with several fatalities. Weekly situation reports were provided by APHIS VS from May 19 through June 23, 2011. A total of 90 confirmed EHV-1 or EHM cases were reported in 10 States (AZ, DA, CO, ID, NM, NV, OK, OR, UT, and WA). The total confirmed cases and fatalities as of June 22, 2011 are shown in the report below.

Equine Herpes virus (EHV-1) Final Situation Report


Inspecting Homes for Structural Damage
By Dr. Shirley Niemeyer, UNL Extension Specialist

Image of Glooded Home

Image Source: FEMA.gov

Use great caution when entering a building damaged by high winds, flooding and tornados. Be sure that walls, ceiling, and roof are in place and that the structure rests firmly on its foundation. Look out for broken glass and downed power lines.

Before You Enter
Damage to homes may be obvious, but damage that is not clearly visible may cause problems as well. Make sure the building is not in danger of collapsing. Look for bulges, sways, leaning walls and sagging rooflines.

The roof is a very good indicator of the possible structural damage. From a distance, look at the ridge of the roof and determine whether it is straight. If the ridge sags either in the center or at the ends, the load-bearing walls may have shifted.

From the exterior, either visually or with a carpenter's level, check the walls to verify that they are vertical and straight.

Whether a home is on a slab on grade or a basement foundation, closely check where the structure meets its foundation. The building may have shifted on its foundation. Flooded wooden floors, if they do not buckle, will sometimes push walls outward at the base.

Check for cracks in masonry exteriors of the building. Look near the corners of the structures and under and around doors and windows.

If there are any indications of structural damage, call a structural engineer, architect or an experienced building contractor with expertise in structure damage. Even if you do not observe structural damage, it is advised to contact a professional to examine the house for damage that may not be easily visible.

Turn off or have professionals turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank, and let the home air to remove any escaping gas and odors. Turn off or have the utility company turn off the main electrical breaker until safe conditions are established. If the main disconnect is inside, contact the utility company for assistance. Enter cautiously. Do not smoke or use a flame as a light source. Even if the power is out in your neighborhood, disconnect the main switch, fuses or circuit breakers at your home, and disconnect all circuits. Follow safe procedures or have professionals disconnect the switch, breakers and circuits. Unplug all appliances that have been flooded.

House Structures
Check the roof for missing or damaged shingles and loose nails. Examine the roof for potential leaks that could indicate structural separation. This is more easily checked for on sunny days. Binoculars can be used to safely identify specific problem areas from the ground or from a second story window or dormer area.
Inspect the foundation to make sure that joints where the foundation and wall meet haven't separated. On stone or concrete foundations, check to see that plate bolts are not loose.

On The Inside
If you are sure the building is safe to enter and the utilities are off, inspect the interior of buildings for structural damage. If you are not sure, contact a professional structural engineer, architect, housing inspector or building contractor with expertise and experience in damaged structures.

Check for sagging ceilings; wet insulation and pockets of water that can cause ceilings or walls to fall. Using a good light, check the framing. Look for ridge separation, loose knee braces, and loose rafters where the rafters join the walls.

Damage to structures may not be obvious, but the damage could cause problems. Look for wood structural members that are cracked. Structural bracing may not be as secure as the original. If doors and windows do not open as they did prior to the storm, this may indicate the structure has shifted. In case of severe shifting, water lines, gas, lines, and electrical circuits may have been damaged.

Roof truss systems should be carefully inspected. In many cases, truss systems are constructed of 2 x 4s and metal fasteners and hurricane clips. Any crack or break in the truss with greatly affect the strength of the truss system.

If there are indicators of structural damage, contact a structural engineer, architect or skilled building contractor. A professional needs to further assess the building for its safety and determine the required repairs. These indicators should be pointed out to the insurance adjusters.

After the utility systems, equipment and appliances have been checked, repaired and tested again by professionals, you may be entering the home for the first time with utilities on. Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, a professional must turn it back on.

Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Do not step in water or damp areas to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker; call an electrician for advice. IF water is present, call an electrician or the utility company; do not try to turn off the power yourself.

Check for sewage and water line damage. If you think sewage lines are damaged, avoid using toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using tap water. Make sure your water is safe to drink before drinking it and using for foods.

Sources: Shirley Niemeyer, Extension Specialist, housing and environment, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, IANR,
Louisiana State University, Florida State University, and North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension


Be Safe When Cleaning Up Storm-Damaged Homes, Businesses
By Dr. Shirley Niemeyer, UNL Extension Specialist

Lincoln, NE- Nebraskans left with storm-damaged or flooded homes and businesses need to be cautious cleaning up the mess, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln specialist said.

Areas of the state have experienced flooding in the last few days including along the Missouri River, among other waterways.

Although it's important to clean up flood damage as soon as possible, several safety issues are key, said Shirley Niemeyer, housing and environment specialist in the university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

"It's important to use great caution when assessing and working on damaged structures," Niemeyer said.  It's also important for home and business owners to contact their insurance companies to determine the extent of coverage and what records, photos or examples are needed.

"Electrical safety is most important in floods," Niemeyer said. "Watch for electrical shorts and live wires. Also, make sure electrical service is disconnected and any outside gas lines are turned off before attempting to do any work in the house."

When it is safe to enter, an electrician should check wiring and appliances for safety before using electricity.

"Equipment and wiring that appears to be safe soon after flooding may fail prematurely and cause a fire or shock hazard," she said. "Replacement often is the best option."
It's also important to clean up household items to prevent mold and odors after water damage, she said.

When cleaning the home, wear protective clothing, hard sole shoes, rubber gloves and an N-95 or a HEPA air filter mask for extra protection against contamination and particles. Also, be sure exposed skin is washed frequently.

It's important to check the siding and roof for damage to keep further moisture out of the house, Niemeyer said.

"There are places that we don't think about where water may have gotten," Niemeyer said. "Crawl spaces, wall cavities and floor joist areas may need to be dried out, especially if there was extensive water damage.

 Image of mold in wall

Wall voids can create a good environment for mold growth.

Moisture Meter

Moisture meters can help determine the moisture content of wood and other materials.

Mold can start growing in 24 to 48 hours, especially next to anything cellulosic, such as paper or wood. To minimize mold and mildew, run a central air conditioner, dehumidifier or fans to accelerate the drying process when electricity is restored and after ensuring the electrical system in our home is safe to use. Make sure the electrical system is protected with ground fault circuit interrupters at the outlets, Niemeyer said.

Water-damaged furniture and household linens need immediate attention to prevent mold, mildew and odors. To begin the cleaning process, air dry all items outside in direct sun, if possible. Materials that could warp or fade should be dried in the shade.

As for materials such as floor coverings and furnishings, it's generally recommended to discard fibrous or porous materials, such as carpets, soft furniture, ceiling tile, and some insulations, as they are hard to completely clean. Hard, non-porous surfaces usually can be cleaned, Niemeyer said.

Success with cleaning carpets and rugs also depends on the extent and type of water damage.

"Clean water, including regular plumbing leaks or rain water through an open window, may be easier to deal with, while carpets and pads contaminated with sewage, flood water or runoff water should be discarded," Niemeyer said.

Carpets soaked with clean rainwater in a small area may be saved, she said. They should be steam-cleaned by a professional carpet cleaner skilled in flood-damaged carpets.

"If you must attempt to salvage carpet contaminated with clean rainwater yourself, discard the pad," she said. "Do not replace carpet and new padding until the flooring and floor joists are thoroughly dry."

To aid in drying, remove surface and subfloors and open up the floor joist area, Niemeyer said. Drying out subflooring, joists and wall cavities can take up to weeks or months. Moisture meters can help determine the moisture content of wood and other materials and to make decisions about when to replace wallboard (drywall) and flooring.

"Wall cavities often are overlooked and not thoroughly dried out, creating a good environment for mold growth," she said.

Moldings, baseboards, drywall and insulation also should be removed well above the apparent water line. Drywall and fibrous or porous insulation should be thrown away. In addition, moisture can seep into other materials. Allow the cavity to thoroughly dry several weeks to months before replacing any type of drywall or wall covering.

"This is critical for preventing mold growth," Niemeyer said. "Keep humidity levels between 30 % to 50 % RH."

"Keep a vigilant eye out for any signs of odors, moisture or mold growth and run a dehumidifier to control moisture levels," Niemeyer said.


A Message From the Groundwater Foundation
By Brian Reetz, Nebraska Groundwater Foundation

Image of Wildwood LakeLocated in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Groundwater Foundation (GWF) is a nonprofit organization that educates people and inspires action to ensure sustainable, clean groundwater for future generations. Like the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension, the GWF believes that education based on scientific data, presented in a user-friendly and positive manner leads to action. Therefore, it is our pleasure to share the following message from the GWF in this issue of Acreage Insights.

Groundwater is a vital resource to each of us - individuals, communities and our businesses. It's the water we drink, it grows our food and recharges rivers and lakes. It's so very important to do your part at your home with your private well and help keep it clean!

As you may know, groundwater is water found underground in cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock. These underground stores of water are called aquifers. Groundwater is critically important to daily living. Of all the Earth's water that is readily available for use by humans, 98 percent is groundwater and over half of the population relies on groundwater for drinking water, including nearly all of the country's rural residents.

Most people don't realize the impact they can have on groundwater. Anything poured or spilled onto the ground's surface can end up in the groundwater supply, even years later, and contaminated groundwater can ruin human and animal health, while overuse can lead to shortages in the water supply.

In that same manner it's important to keep your well maintained. Although there are no laws or regulations that require private well owners to test their well water annually, there are many good reasons to do so including:

  • Ensure a safe and reliable source of drinking water.
  • Identify existing problems which may or may not change the smell, or the taste of your water.
  • Track changes over time.
  • When loaning money to a property buyer, mortgage lenders often require that well water be tested for contaminants.

What can you do as an individual to maintain your private well and protect your drinking water?

  • Learn about the most common water quality problems affecting wells in your area. Consult your local health department or Natural Resources District for more information.
  • Store and mix fertilizers and pesticides on a surface that can't be penetrated and ensure any spillage cannot reach the area around your well.
  • Do not apply fertilizers and pesticides within 10 feet of your well to keep it from becoming contaminated.
  • Find out more about your well - when it was constructed, if it meets current standards, what kind of casing was used, etc.
  • Keep a record of information about your well. Update these records as information changes.
  • And, of course, regularly test your well water. Contact your local health department or the Nebraska Health and Human Services Drinking Water Program or UNL Extension to find out what tests should be done, request a test kit and answer your private well questions.

Every individual has a responsibility to protect groundwater, because every individual is impacted daily by the quality and quantity available.

To learn more about the GWF, visit www.groundwater.org.
For more information about GWF programs contact Brian Reetz at breetz@groundwater.org or call 402-434-2740.


A Pinch is Good - For Your Plants
By John Fech, UNL Extension Educator

Image of AstersEver wonder how those petunias, salvias, asters, mums or snapdragons you saw in the botanic garden got to be so full and bushy? Most likely, they were pinched. As people, we tend to avoid pinching. It hurts a bit. Plants, on the other hand, will benefit from a pinch.

When and how should you pinch? In general, when flowers reach about a foot to 18 inches in height, they can become a bit leggy, or stretchy. When this occurs, snip off a few inches from the top and the sides of the stems.

You can use a small hand pruners or your thumb and forefinger. If there are lots of plants to pinch, the pruners make it easier on the hand. Or, if the plants are on the woody side, such as with mums and taller salvias, then the pruners are called for. Most herbs and softer stemmed plants can simply be pinched with your hand.

Pinch in June, July and August. This will provide time for the plants to regrow new shoots from below the newly cut part of the stem. On the average, most plants will benefit from one or two pinchings per season. Even having extolled all of the benefits of pinching, many gardeners can't bring themselves to pinch. They just can't harm the plant - even though it will result in better looking plants in just a few weeks.


Growing Grass in the Shade
By John Fech, UNL Extension Educator

Image of Shaded LawnIn April and May, if water is plentiful, most lawns look great. One of the reasons why they start to look bad in summer is shade. Shade from trees. This is especially true of those lawns with pin oaks or silver maples in them. They produce a thick canopy of leaves, reducing the light penetration to the lawn underneath. What can you do to give the lawn a fighting chance?

First, grow a shade resistant grass species. Zoyisagrass, Buffalograss, most Kentucky bluegrass cultivars, and perennial ryegrass are best grown in full sun. When they don't receive at least 5 or 6 hours of full sunlight, they start to thin out. Instead, use tall fescue, fine fescues (creeping red, chewings, sheep and hard fescues) and shade adapted cultivars of bluegrass such as glade, sydsport, bensun and nuglade.

Second, thin the tree. This is a short term solution, but removal of lower limbs will raise the canopy and allow more light to be received by the lawn underneath. Look up into the crown of the tree as well, and consider removal of crossing limbs or broken/diseased limbs. When removing limbs high in the tree, hire a tree service. No need breaking your leg over a small area of thin turf.

Third, consider bagging the clippings under trees. Bagging removes decomposing clippings, and anything to remove a shading force will help. This process will also remove fallen leaves and sticks from the tree, which can be a smothering influence as well. The whole idea is to help new plants to fill in from additions of seed or from neighboring areas.

Finally, give up. Plant a shady groundcover instead. Lamium, barrenwort, ajuga, bishop's goutweed, lily of the valley, and english ivy are great alternatives. Who says you have to have turf everywhere?


Are You Mowing or Scalping Your Turf?
By Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Educator
The plentiful rain and cool temperatures that eastern Nebraska has received this spring and early summer have been ideal for the growth of cool season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue, resulting in lawns that are growing vigorously. It is important during this time of very active turf growth, and as we move into hotter, drier weather, to keep a few important management techniques in mind ensuring that your lawn will be beautiful and healthy throughout the challenging months of July and August.

Mowing Frequency
Grass that is growing quickly requires frequent mowing. Many homeowners develop the habit of mowing their lawn once a week during spring, summer and fall. This schedule is fine during periods of slower summer growth, however, it is often not frequent enough when grass is growing very fast. No more than one-third of the grass plant's height should be removed at one mowing.

For example, if a turf is normally mowed at a height of 3 inches, then it's time to mow when the canopy reaches a height of 4.5 inches. In this case, removing 1.5 inches is equal to one-third of the grass canopy's total height.

Generally, mowing is required twice per week in the spring, April through early June; once per week in the summer, mid-June through early September; and one and a half times per week in the fall.

Scalped Turf

Scalping of turfgrass along the steps and at the top of the slope may result in thinning of the turfgrass, and lead to additional weed problems.

However if, in our example above, the turf grew 2 or 2.5 inches in a week's time, than mowing at 3 inches would result in scalping. Scalping occurs when more than one-third of the turf's foliage is removed at one time, often exposing the stems of the grass plants, resulting in stress and even plant death.

Removal of 50% or more of the turf canopy at one mowing results in severe defoliation. At this point, existing root and rhizome growth stops, and the initiation of new tillers, roots and rhizomes stops. The plant's energy reserves are redirected to development of new leaf or shoot growth, at the expense of the root development. Development of a deep, healthy root system, which endows the grass with better disease and drought resistance in the hot, dry months of July and August, is the goal of all turf managers, and anything that slows root development should be avoided.
Bagging vs. Mulching
Ideally, mowing is done frequently enough that clippings can be left on the lawn. Clippings returned to the turf can contribute up to 1 lb. Nitrogen/1,000 sq.ft. over the course of a summer, and will not contribute to the development of thatch. However, if more than one-third of the grass height must be removed at one time, there will be a lot of clippings, so the clippings should be bagged and removed. Heavy clippings, if left on the lawn, will cause damage through light exclusion, resulting in yellowing and thinning of the turf. Heavy clippings left on the lawn can also encourage disease problems.

Clippings left on grass

Grass clippings that are too long and allowed to stay on the lawn may smother underlying grass plants.

If you must mow a lawn that has gotten too tall, if for instance you left on vacation for a few days, after returning raise the height of your mower to remove only one-third of the grasses' present height. Then after 2-3 days, mow again, lowering the height to your normal level.



Summer Vegetable Gardening
By Vaughn Hammond, UNL Extension Educator-Specialty Crops

Now that spring is officially over and we have moved into summer there is change taking place in the garden. The cool season crops are on their way out and it is time to plant warm season crops in their place. Lettuce and spinach are turning bitter and bolting, radishes are getting spongy and the peas are finished flowering and setting pods. Its time to cycle the cool season crops out of the garden and plant other crops adapted to the heat in their place.

Summer Crops
July is a great time to plant an additional crop of warm season vegetables such as beans, summer squash and cucumbers. This planting may be the second or even the third planting of some of these crops. Special care needs to taken during this time of year as the fragile sprouting seeds can easily be harmed by the hot dry conditions that July can offer. Keeping the seeds, newly sprouted seedlings and young plants well watered until they are established is very important in their development and maximizing their future yields.

Fall Crops
As the season proceeds into later summer the opportunity to expand the garden continues. This is a prime time to begin planting some of the crops that will mature during the cooler fall period of the year. You can again plant many of the vegetables that you planted in the spring. Several seedings of radishes can be made through August and into September. One or possibly two plantings of faster maturing varieties of lettuce can be made. Harvest of these crops can extend well into the fall especially if frost protection is provided

This is also the time of year that some of the best spinach of the year can be grown. Late summer planted spinach can be harvested in the fall by selectively removing individual leaves. Harvesting individual leaves rather than the whole plant will allow for the overwintering of the spinach plant with a little protection. Growth will resume in early spring giving you the first harvest of the new gardening year.

Other crops that can be planted in the late summer include root crops such as turnips, carrots and beets. These can be mulched and harvest late into the year also. Cole crops including broccoli, cauliflower, short season cabbage and kale can be planted late July through the first week in August for a fall harvest. Some of these cole crops are capable of withstanding temperatures near freezing for extended periods of time without protection.

Pest Control
Insects and disease can be a greater issue for summer planted crops. Population buildup of these two problems through the earlier part of the gardening year can be devastating to very young, susceptible plants. Practices that encourage strong, healthy growth will help the plant survive disease and insect issues. Planting resistant varieties and using other cultural practices such as watering early in the day to encourage quicker drying will help reduce disease incidence.

Summer planted vegetables can propel your garden to a new level of production. The summer garden allows for the extension of the gardening season well into fall and with some protection harvests can be extended up to and beyond Thanksgiving. The time to get ready for the summer garden is now so make your plans and get ready to plant.