June 2015

Life Outside the City Limits

Flood Resources
By Ashley Mueller, Nebraska Extension Educator & Disaster Education Coordinator

Image of May 2015 flooding on the Big Blue River.
Image of May 2015 flooding on the Big Blue River. Photo by Vicki Jedlicka, Nebraska Extension.

In May, we saw flooding in southeast portions of the state, which was the result of heavy rains from a series of severe weather events. We also saw flooding along Platte River in western and central portions of the state.

Nebraska Extension's flood website is an excellent go-to resource for anyone dealing with the aftermath of a flooding event. Information on a variety of topics is available, and it's useful for those living outside city limits.

Property. Topics include homes and buildings, septic systems, wells and drinking water, gardens and landscapes, livestock and pets, clothing and textiles, and more. Additional resources are available from various Extension services.

Emotional and Financial Impact. Topics include children and families, family financial toolkit, and small business recovery. Additional resources are available from various Extension services.

Image of flood.unl.edu logoHealth and Hazards. Topics include mosquitoes and other insects, displaced wildlife, and food safety. Additional resources are available from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Extension Disaster Education Network.

Crops & Cropland. Topics include agricultural buildings, pesticide storage, and stored grain. Resources include eXtension and various Extension services.

Saturated Soil Risk. Information that covers risk to private well water and septic system failure.

For questions about specific issues in your area, contact your local Nebraska Extension office. If you use social media, be sure to find Nebraska Extension - Disasters and Ashley Mueller for the latest information on floods and other disasters.

Facebook: Nebraska Extension - Disasters 
Pinterest: Nebraska Extension - Disasters 
Twitter: @NEExtDisasters 



How To Handle Your Backyard Eggs - Backyard eggs can be kept safe and edible with a few practices and cleaning and storage techniques. Andy Larson, Iowa State University Extentsion small farms specialist and Homegrown Lifestyle coordinator, talks about raising backyard chickens, including what you need, what you need to do, and all about getting started.

Canning & Freezing Safely and Successfully: A Quiz - Whether you are a newbie or veteran canner, this video quiz will make sure that you are using the most current and up-to-date information available this canning season.

Controlling Algae and Weeds in a Ponds - Nebraska Extension Water Quality Educator Tadd Barrow talks about the best methods of controlling algae and weeds in a home pond. 

Runoff from Heavy Rain Can Contaminate Some Private Wells
By Sharon Skipton, Nebraska Extension Water Quality Educator

We've had some heavy rain events this spring and the storm season is not over.  Runoff after a heavy downpour can put some private drinking water wells at risk of contamination. Surface water runoff can carry pollutants, including bacteria.  Wells at greatest risk of contamination from surface water runoff include:

  • Wells located in well pits.
  • Dug wells or any wells that do not have a watertight casing.
  • Wells that do not have watertight caps.
  • Wells that lack a grout seal in the annular space.
  • Wells that were submerged with surface water runoff.

If you think your private drinking water well has been impacted by runoff inundation, do not use the water for cooking, drinking, or brushing teeth until laboratory analysis confirms it is safe. Contact a certified testing laboratory and tell them you want to have your private water supply tested for bacteria. They will provide a test kit with detailed instructions. See our Nebraska Extension publication Certified Water Testing Laboratories in Nebraska for information on certified laboratories.

If the well water has been contaminated, contact a certified well contractor to inspect the well and clean out any debris or sediment that entered the well.  The licensed contractor can then disinfect the well with shock chlorination and flush the well system.  When this process has been completed, have the water tested again for bacteria.  Don't use the water from your well until the laboratory has informed you that it is free of bacterial contamination. It may be necessary to repeat the disinfection and testing process several times before the well is free of contamination. 


Emerald Ash Borer
By Nicole Stoner, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of Emerald Ash Borer
Adult Emerald Ash Borer beetle. Leah Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Bugwood.org

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a wood boring insect that is ½ inch long and is a metallic green color with bronze underneath the wings.  The problem with Emerald Ash Borer is that it bores into healthy ash trees.  We have many native borer species, but they feed on stressed or dying trees, that is what makes EAB so much worse than normal borers and it is why it is destroying so many trees.

EAB is an insect that was first found in the United States in 2002, when it was found killing ash trees in southeast Michigan. Currently, Emerald Ash Borer has been found in 25 states including Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado, but it has not been found in Nebraska. The closest locations to Nebraska would be the Kansas City area, which is 60 miles from the southeast corner of Nebraska, and the Creston Iowa area, which is 80 miles from the Bellevue area of Nebraska.

Emerald Ash Borer feeds only on true ash trees, which means that mountain ash is not attacked because it is in a different family and is not a true ash tree. Ash trees have opposite, compound leaves with 5-11 leaflets. They have paddle-shaped seeds that stay on the tree through the fall and into the winter months. EAB has also recently been found on Fringe Tree, which is a tree in the same family as ash, but is not very common in Nebraska.

Image of Emerald Ash borer tunneling. Emerald Ash borer tunneling. Eric R. Day, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Bugwood.org

What to Look For
The signs of EAB infestation include suckering at the base of an ash tree, decline in the tree from the top of the canopy downward through the tree, 1/8 inch D-shaped exit holes along the trunk and branches, increased woodpecker damage, S-shaped Serpentine galleries underneath the bark of the tree.  If you notice any of these symptoms in your ash tree, you should contact your local Nebraska Extension Educator.

EAB Management
EAB treatments are not recommended until the insect is found within 15 miles of your location. There are chemical treatments that are effective against EAB. Homeowners can use a soil application, but this is most effective on trees less than 15 inches in trunk diameter. If the tree is larger, professional tree care companies can use a trunk injection. Wait until the insect is found within 15 miles before any treatment is done because the injections wound the tree and we want to wait as long as we can before we begin wounding our trees. A homeowner should also decide if the tree is in good health and a good location before beginning treatments. Planting ash trees now is not recommended.

Don't Move Firewood!
At this time, the only thing we can do to help with the ever-expanding problem is to not move firewood or wood products.  Buy wood locally when camping and leave unburned firewood at the campsite when you leave.

Nebraska Forest Service Resources
Additional information is available from the Nebraska Forest Service


The Body Language of Trees
By Eric Berg, Nebraska Forest Service

Image of twisted branch growth due to reaction wood formation.
"Twisted" branch growth due to the development of tension wood, specialized growth providing additional support for the branch, caused by mechanical stress causing the cambium to be more active in one area of the branch than another. 

Trees are the tallest freestanding living organisms in the world. They can live longer and grow more massive than any other living thing known on the earth. The nature of the life of the tree is to grow up as fast and as straight as its neighbors and, in so doing, capture the most sunlight possible to produce food via photosynthesis. Unlike us, an injured tree cannot simply pick up and move to more favorable growing conditions. It must adapt and survive the conditions it faces, and seal over any wounding that might have occurred from ice, wind, disease, equipment damage, etc.

Many of us assume that as trees get larger and more massive they are more tolerant of environmental extremes and mismanagement. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Typically the larger the tree gets, the more energy, space and resources are required to maintain its structural and biological integrity and the more predisposed it is to damage from weather, insects, disease and improper management. It is an annual and delicate balance to grow larger and continue to maintain root, stem and canopy structure in the environment of the Great Plains, which is continually throwing curve balls of drought, high winds, wet snows and ice storms. Toss in impacts of insects and disease and improper management-typically people with good intentions doing the wrong things-and trees naturally begin to show signs of wear and tear.

A Tree's Response to Damage
Over the eons trees have "learned" to adapt to injury and wounds. Whether it is a broken branch following ice storm or lawn mower damage at the base of the tree, various microorganisms begin to infect and invade the newly exposed wood. The tree responds to the attack by building internal structural and chemical walls which slow and often stop the spread of infection and decay. This reaction is called compartmentalization and it varies according to the species or type of tree. Generally the slower-growing a tree, the better it is able to seal off wounds and potential decay. Oaks, for example, tend to grow more slowly than cottonwood trees but they are much more adept at stopping the spread of decay.

Trees have also adapted highly effective methods to maintain their canopy against the constant forces of gravity, wind, snow, etc. Tree trunks, stems and branches are constantly twisting, turning and bending. Throughout its life the tree responds to these stresses by adding more wood to weak areas, such as the underside of a branch, or creating compression and tension wood to help distribute the loading forces throughout the canopy.

Sometimes this adaptation is not enough to support the tree and branches break and fail during storm events. Trees respond to injuries such as broken branches by forming "woundwood," fast-growing callus tissue that forms around the edge of the wound. It will later be replaced with much stronger layers of woundwood tissue that seal over the initial injury and strengthen the overall structure of the tree itself.

Few of these naturally-occurring biological reactions are visible to casual observation since they typically occur over the course of many years. But each tree and its structure have a unique story to tell of past injury, reaction and eventual recovery. Take the time to observe and study your trees and appreciate that every branch, bark ridge and oddly shaped stem is a purposeful reaction of the tree slowly responding to the world and environment around it. You can support the health and vigor of your trees by minimizing wounding and having your trees structurally pruned to maintain a strong and sound canopy for generations to come.

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


Image of Korean spice viburnum flowers.
Korean spice viburnum flowers. Image by John Fech, Nebraska Extension.

Planting Shrubs
By John Fech, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

Early summer is good time to get some shrubs going in the landscape.  Your annual flowers should be in and blooming by now, and the lawn isn't requiring massive care at this point - just regular watering for both.  So, look around and see where you could use a few shrubs.  Perhaps one or two died over the winter, or Junior backed over one with the car trying to impress his girlfriend.  Whatever the reason, now is a good time for new plantings or replacements.

First, consider the site.  Shade and sun is an important consideration.  Look for overhanging trees, and nearby screening.  Your house is an often forgotten source of shade. 

Next, consider the outstanding features of shrubs. Think back to the fall of 2014, and the wonderful colors that viburnums, chokeberry, cotoneaster, burning bush, and sand cherry provided.  Shrubs for winter color and texture include holly, red twig dogwood, Euonymous, boxwood, Oregon hollygrape, and rhododendron.  Of course, don't overlook bloomers such as rose of Sharon, meyer lilac, clove currant, arrowwood, and beauty bush.

When planting, spend some time digging the hole, making it wide but not deep.  When planting perennials, compost is a good soil addition, but not with shrubs or trees.  It is likely that the root system of a shrub will need to grow far beyond the planting hole to sustain it, and the compost will encourage the roots to stay in the original planting hole. 

So, dig a $500 hole for a $50 shrub.  Water it thoroughly after planting and apply a 2-3 inch mulch layer of wood chips.


Flowers for Arrangements
By Felicia Benes, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

Image of wildflower bouquet. What better way to decorate than with an arrangement made from your own perennials, woody cut florals and ornamental grasses?  A rose bouquet or bundle of peonies is the standard but let's be resourceful and make an arrangement that is unique and that we can gather from our own yard whenever we want.

Woody cut florals are one way to give yourself that option. Woody florals are shrubs or trees with colorful or unusual shaped stems, buds, flowers, berries or bark collected for use in arrangements, where they can add remarkable color, texture and form.

Ornamental grasses can add neutral colors and a variety of different textures to arrangements. Cut in the fall, they add fall color to arrangements.  When ornamental grasses are dried, they can look completely different than fresh, and they can last for years.

It's worthwhile to grow ornamental grasses, woody flowering shrubs and perennial flowering plants in your landscape.  They're a lovely and inexpensive way to brighten up the landscape outdoors, and they also can be pruned and used for arrangements inside.  Depending on how much pruning you will be doing, you might want to consider having a cutting garden that is somewhat hidden in the landscape.  This way you can cut as much as you want from the plants without worrying how your landscape looks. Ornamental grasses don't need to be hidden because they need to be cut back each year anyway.

Try growing plants that aren't grown by all of your neighbors. Add some diversity and create a trend, experiment with new plants whenever the opportunity arises.  Plant choices can be made strategically to provide interest throughout the year; which means arrangements can be cut through most of the year. Below are some plants that work well in cut arrangements.

Woody cut florals for twigs, flowers or berries

Plants can grow higher than 5 feet:

  • Forsythia, Forsythia x intermedia
  • Winterberry, Ilex verticillata
  • American cranberrybush, Viburnum opulus
  • Red chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia
  • Dragon's claw willow, Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa'
  • Red twig dogwood, Cornus sericea 'Farrow'

Plants growing less than 5 feet high

  • Blue mist spirea, Caryopteris sp.

For seed pods

  • Blue false indigo, Baptisia australis
  • Poppy, Papaver orientale
  • Mexican hat coneflower, Ratibida pinnata
  • Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata or A. tuberosa

Fresh cut florals

  • Western sunflower, Helianthus occidentalis
  • Fireworks goldenrod, Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'
  • Blazing star, Liatris sp.
  • Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
  • Feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium
  • Asiatic and Oriental lilies, such as Lilium 'Stargazer'

Ornamental Grasses

  • Ravenna grass, Saccharum ravennae
  • Korean feather reed grass, Calamagrostis brachytricha
  • Little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium
  • Sand lovegrass, Eragrostis trichodes
  • Indiangrass, Sorghastrum nutans
  • Canada wildrye, Elymus canadensis

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.


Pasture Management
By Monte Stauffer, Nebraska Extension Educator

Image of calves in pastureEastern Nebraska has been receiving good rains so far and pastures are looking good but proper management must be done to get optimum production.  Following are items to consider to get the most benefit from grazing livestock.

  1. Have the correct species of grass that produces maximum production, is palatable to the livestock, and available at the time of year when needed.  Some grasses are most productive in May while others put on the most growth in June and July.
  2. Fertilize at the proper time and use the proper amount for best results. This depends on production potential of the ground and the moisture situation.
  3. Control weeds that compete with desirable grasses by applying the proper herbicide at the right time.  Different plants germinate at different time of the year.  Weeds are more sensitive to herbicides when they are in the vegetative stage rather in the reproductive stage.
  4. Rotate livestock across different pastures so grasses have a chance to rest and restore their root and leaf reserves before being grazed again.  Horses are the worst at doing spot grazing but all animals are guilty of this habit.
  5. Don't overgraze to protect your established grass.  Once you have a stand established, you don't want to lose it.


After-Harvest Care of Asparagus
By Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of asparagus stemsAsparagus can grow and thrive in a vegetable garden for many years, if it receives good care following harvest. 

Towards the end of June stop harvesting, allowing the asparagus fronds to grow throughout the remainder of the season.  This top growth manufactures carbohydrates and sugars that will be stored in the fleshy roots and crowns.  The plant will draw upon this reserve for next year's crop.  The size of next year's crop is directly related to the growth of this summer's foliage.

Each year after the final harvest, fertilize your asparagus planting.  If your soil tests high in phosphorus, use a low phosphorus fertilizer such as 32-3-10 or 25-3-12, or a no-phosphorus fertilizer such as 30-0-10 or 24-0-15.  The same is true for potassium.  If your soil tests high, no additional potassium is needed.

Apply 50 lbs. Nitrogen per acre by sidedressing the rows and lightly tilling it in. The equivalent amount for smaller plantings is: 

  • 1.2 lbs. N/1,000 sq.ft.
  • .12 lb. N/100 sq.ft.

Well-rotted manure can be used in place of commercial fertilizer.  Apply approximately 50 lbs. /100 sq.ft.

Image of asparagus plant.
Asparagus in garden. Image by Rasbak. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Weed Control
Controlling weeds in an asparagus planting can be difficult, but it is a necessary step toward maintaining a high-yielding planting. Asparagus is a poor competitor with weeds, however, there are several techniques that can be used to control problem weeds.

If planted correctly, asparagus crowns are located approximately 6-8 inches deep in the soil, but plants grow each year enlarging in both width and height; meaning that an asparagus crown can expand upward in the soil profile over time. It's important to keep this depth in mind as we discuss various methods of control.

Mechanical Control. In small plantings, hoe or hand pull weeds. In larger plantings very shallow tilling, about 3-4" deep, between rows helps minimize weeds.

Cultural Control. Use 3-4 inches of mulch in conjunction with hoeing or tilling.  Organic mulch, such as wood chips, grass clippings, compost or clean straw, prevents germination of new weeds, minimizes soil temperature fluctuations in summer and helps preserve soil moisture.

Herbicides. A preemergent hercide should have been applied in late April to kill germinating seeds of summer annual weeds, like crabgrass, spurge and oxalis. In late June, apply a second preemergence herbicide to prevent germination of additional summer annual weeds. Reapply every 4-6 weeks at labeled rates throughout the summer, but be careful not to apply it to areas where you will be planting additional seeded crops.

One product, which has the added benefit of being organic, is corn gluten meal and can be found in Preen Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer, as well as other products. Corn gluten meal is a by-product of corn processing and contains 10% nitrogen, along with its pre-emergent properties.

When using herbicide, always read and follow the label directions for personal protective equipment and application rates.  Pay special attention to the pre-harvest interval, or the amount of time you must wait after a pesticide application before harvesting again.

Do not use salt! An old recommendation for asparagus weed control involved the application of salt, by pouring the salty water from an ice cream maker on the asparagus patch. This provided some weed control because asparagus is deep-rooted and has a higher sodium tolerance than some common weeds. However, salt quickly destroys soil structure, resulting in poor water penetration in the soil. 

High levels of salt will eventually kill the asparagus, too, or move out into nearby sections of your vegetable garden and kill other less salt tolerant vegetables. So if you make homemade ice cream on July 4th, don't pour the salt water on your asparagus patch. 

In Fall...
Allow asparagus stems to stand over winter to catch and hold snow. The snow will help prevent drastic temperature fluctuations, as well as provide additional moisture as it melts.  Remove the dead tops early in spring before new growth starts.