Husker Hort

A Nebraska View of Horticulture


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Got Yellow Grass Instead of Bluegrass?

Off-colored Kentucky Bluegrass

Off-colored Kentucky Bluegrass

Timely rains this year may have kept many from running their irrigation systems, but they could have also done much more than that. Moisture has kept many lawns from going dormant and heavy rains are most likely the reason for many the weeds in the turf and in some cases, its yellow appearance. Continue reading

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Grubs- Turf’s Summer Problem

Different grubs side-by-side

Different grubs side-by-side

Happy Summer! June 21st marked the start of the summer season. Summer means a good time for cookouts, picnics, swimming, and grub control. Not exactly what you had in mind for summer fun? Knowing the pest and its habits can help keep you from spending all of your summer fun time dealing with grubs. Continue reading


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The War on Weeds

Dandelions

Dandelions

Spring has officially sprung. The crabapples and flowering pears are in full bloom. Tulips and daffodils are starting their flower show. Henbit and dandelions are looking gorgeous. Are the last two not quite the kinds of spring flowers you want in your landscape? If so, there are some things you can do. The key to knowing what to do when depends on the weed, but it all comes down to proper identification of the enemy and its life cycle. Continue reading


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Fall Turf Care

*This post was written BEFORE a majority of the state received snow 😉

Fall is good for more than just raking leaves and cooler nights. Fall is actually one of the better times of the year to improve your turf. Take advantage of these cooler temperatures and prepare your lawn for the coming spring.

The first question to ask yourself this fall is; can you see your turfgrass in the lawn? Heavy layers of leaves can do a few things to your lawn. If they are thick enough, leaves can smother the lawn and also create conditions that can be favorable to snow mold. Raking or mowing the leaves on a regular basis can help to prevent this heavy layer of leaves from forming and matting down on the turf before winter. If the leaves aren’t utilized in the compost pile or worked into the garden soil, they can simply be mowed over. Using the mulching blade on the lawn mower will chop up the leaves into smaller pieces that are able to filter down between the grass blades. This helps keep you from having to haul the leaves away and it also helps to add organic matter back into the soil. By removing or mulching the leaves on the lawn, you can ensure that your high quality winterizer fertilizer will be able to filter down to the soil where it can be used by the turfgrass, rather than sitting up on top of the leaf litter.

Good news. There is still time to control pesky perennial weeds. The ideal season to control perennial weeds like ground ivy, also known as Creeping Charlie, was between September 15th and the first frost, but there is still time. Research out of Purdue shows that herbicides that contain triclopyr, like Turflon, were effective on ground ivy and retained their effectiveness when applied later in the season regardless of the first frost. The study showed that broadleaf applications should be effective when made into the first week or two of November, but control might be not be seen until spring.

It may be time to rethink what you knew about winterizer fertilizer applications. Previously, recommendations were to apply nitrogen during early to mid-September and then make a heavy application of nitrogen fertilization at the end of the growing season (early to mid-November). Research has shown that nitrogen fertilizer uptake is not as efficiently used later into the fall. Fertilizer that isn’t taken up by the plant sits in the soil until the following spring or is leached out of the soil profile during winter. Avoid applying fertilizer too late into the fall. September fertilization is best to maximize recovery from summer stress and prepare for winter. For the last application of the season, apply it no later than the first week of November and aim to apply not more than 0.75 lb. of a fast release nitrogen source.

With a little time and effort now, your lawn can still look green and lush next spring and hopefully with a few less weeds too.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at https://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.


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Preparing Turf for Winter

Fall is good for more than just raking leaves and cooler nights.  Fall is actually one of the better times of the year to improve your turf.  Take advantage of these cooler temperatures and prepare your lawn for the coming spring.

The last fertilizer application of the year is often referred to as winterizer fertilizer.  This fertilizer application is more than just a tongue twister, it is important to prepare cool season turfgrasses for the following year.  Winterizer fertilizers are normally applied at the time of the last mowing, which is usually late October to early November.  The lawn isn’t growing ‘up’ at this time of the year, which will relocate the fertilizer to other parts of the plants, mainly the root system.  The remainder of the fertilizer will be stored in the crown and rhizomes of the turf and will be utilized next spring.

The type of nitrogen and make-up of the fertilizer can make a difference.  When you look at the fertilizer bag, there will be three numbers present.  These numbers indicate the ratio of the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the bag.  Nitrogen, the first number, is usually the nutrient that is most needed especially in the winter.  Ideally you would like to have at least half of the product to be a slow release nitrogen source, like sulfur coated urea.  Nitrogen should be applied at a rate of 1 to 1.5 pounds per 1,000 square feet.  The ratios on the bag should be similar to a 1-0-1 or 1-0-5.5, or some examples of typical numbers for winterizer fertilizers could be 21-0-20 or 19-2-13.  These ratios will provide close to an equal amount of potassium, the third number, along with the nitrogen.  Studies have shown that potassium aids the turf in tolerating stress.

Before you apply the fertilizer; can you see your turfgrass in lawn?  Heavy layers of leaves can do a few things to your lawn.  If they are thick enough, leaves can smother the lawn and also create conditions that can be favorable to snow mold.  Raking or mowing the leaves on a regular basis can help to prevent this heavy layer of leaves from forming and matting down on the turf before winter.  If the leaves aren’t utilized in the compost pile or worked into the garden soil, they can simply be mowed over.  Using the mulching blade on the lawn mower will chop up the leaves into smaller pieces that are able to filter down between the grass blades.  This helps keep you from having to haul the leaves away and it also helps to add organic matter back into the soil.  By removing or mulching the leaves on the lawn, you can ensure that your high quality winterizer fertilizer will be able to filter down to the soil where it can be used by the turfgrass, rather than sitting up on top of the leaf litter.

Good news. There is still time to control pesky perennial weeds.  The ideal season to control perennial weeds like ground ivy, also known as Creeping Charlie, was between September 15th and the first frost, but there is still time.  Research out of Purdue shows that herbicides that contain triclopyr, like Turflon, were effective on ground ivy and retained their effectiveness when applied later in the season regardless of the first frost.  The study showed that broadleaf applications should be effective when made into the first week or two of November, but control might be not be seen until spring.

With a little time and effort now, your lawn can still look green and lush next spring and hopefully with a few less weeds too.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at https://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.


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Turf’s Yellow Streak

Yellow turf Photo from turf.unl.edu

Yellow turf
Photo from turf.unl.edu

This year has been a bit more ‘normal’ compared to last year.  The timely rains have kept many from having to run their irrigation systems and saved many lawns from going dormant.  The question that is stumping many people this season is “What’s with all the yellow turf?”

Yellow colored Kentucky bluegrass has been spotted all around the region.   While we don’t know the exact cause of the yellow lawns, there are several factors that are known.  The symptoms appear to only be affecting some cultivars of Kentucky bluegrass.  It has not been seen in tall fescue or perennial ryegrass.  The symptoms mainly appear only on the upper, young leaves.  This discriminating coloration means that it probably isn’t a deficiency of nitrogen.  Nutrients like nitrogen are mobile in the plant; if one leaf is affected, they will all be affected.  Other nutrients like iron might be to blame as it isn’t as mobile in the plant, which can lead to spotty symptoms.  On the turf that has been examined, there isn’t a notable lesion or spot on the leaf, which rules out many diseases and fungal infections.

The weather we have had this season might be playing a role in the yellow streak.  The symptoms are most often seen in lawns that are mostly irrigated.  They also happen when the soil temperatures are at their seasonal highs during wet summers.  There can be some similar yellowing symptoms in the spring, but they are attributed to denitrification, or loss of nitrogen, in the soil.

What can a person do?  You will be happy to know that this sickly color only affects the visual appeal of the Kentucky bluegrass.  It doesn’t seem to have any long term impacts on the overall health of the plant.  No need to apply a fungicide, insecticide, or fertilizers with less than 0.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft.  Reducing irrigation for the short term should help with this coloration issue.  If you wanted to try to green up your turf, you could try a low rate application of iron.  This could give you back your green color, without the use of nitrogen fertilizer, which isn’t recommended in August.  Mowing could also remove a majority of the discolored younger foliage which is higher up in the canopy.

Some longer term solutions might need to be considered if this turns out to be an annual occurrence.  The main goal is going to include increasing drainage and reducing compaction.  Core aeration is one way to increase drainage to lawns that are compacted, on heavy clay, or have heavy traffic.  Another longer term option could include overseeding with a different cultivar of Kentucky bluegrass or possibly changing turfgrasses altogether.  To get the best of both worlds, you can try both aeration and overseeding.  Take advantage of the holes caused by core aeration and overseed at the same time.  The rule of thumb is that for each week grasses are seeded before Labor Day, development is speeded by two weeks.  The optimal window to seed cool-season turfgrasses is August 15 to September 15.  Thin stands of Kentucky bluegrass should be overseeded with improved cultivars at .75 to 1 pound of seed per 1,000 square foot.  If you are overseeding a tall fescue lawn, use a blend of improved turf-type tall fescue cultivars at a rate of 4 to 6 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet.  Ensure the seed has good seed to soil contact and irrigate frequently to for the best germination.

If your lawn has a yellow streak, don’t worry.  A little time and a lot of patience will yield a greener appearing lawn.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at https://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.


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Attack of the Killer Wasps

 

Cicada Killer Wasp

Cicada Killer Wasp

It sounds like a scene right out of an old horror movie.  Insects are taking over the world.  Hornets are so large they are big enough to carry people away and insects are taking over homes and businesses.  I have to admit I might be exaggerating a bit, but there are some insects that can be frightening to look at or in such large numbers it might feel as if they are trying to take over.  In reality they are just more buzz than sting.

Cicada killer wasps have a frightening name, but that is about all.  These wasps are by far the largest wasp species in Nebraska, up to two inches long.  Their black bodies have a yellow stripe color pattern that is similar to other wasps.  Cicada killers, like their name implies, hunt cicadas, sometimes known as locusts.  They listen for the cicadas to sing then attack and sting to paralyze them.  They carry the paralyzed cicadas to their underground burrows where the female cicada killer will lay her eggs on it.  When the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae feed on the cicada.

The nests of these insects are not always placed in the best location.  The cicada killers’ nests are in the ground, usually near sidewalks, driveways, retaining walls or other areas of exposed soil.  They can be identified by the half-inch wide entrance hole with fresh soil surrounding it.  If you get close to their nest, they will alert you.  These wasps are very docile and often will just fly around your or act like they are coming after you.  When a person walks by a cicada killer, the wasp may become disoriented.  It will circle around the person as a way to reestablish its position, they not attacking.  While they are a wasp, they rarely sting unless severely provoked.

While control is rarely needed, there are some things you can do to ease your mind.  Cultural methods can be used to detour these wasps from making their nests in particular locations.  Since they make their burrows in out of the way places, take steps to encourage dense lawns or place extra mulch around the flowerbeds and around shrubs to cover bare soils.  Insecticidal control can be used if the nests do become a problem.  Use an insecticide labeled for use on wasps and be sure to read and follow the label instruction.  Take caution when applying insecticides to wasp burrows.  Apply products in the cooler parts of the day, either early morning or later in the evening, when the insects will be in their burrow and not as aggressive.

They might not be taking over the world, but there is an insect that is invading homes right now.  The strawberry root weevil is a common home-invading insect that is black or dark brown and about 1/4 inch long.  They are often confused with a tick, but they have 6 legs instead of the 8 that ticks have.  The larvae feed on the roots of strawberries, evergreens, brambles, and grapes.  The adults, which are all female, emerge in summer and feed on the edges of foliage, giving a notched appearance.

The beginning in late July to early August the adult strawberry root weevils begin to migrate into homes.  Once inside the home, they don’t cause any damage and are just more of an annoyance than anything else.  They are attracted to moisture and will often be found in sinks, bathtubs, or other similar places.  Control inside the home is rarely required, in a few weeks the migration will be completed.  Once found inside they can be vacuumed or swept up.  While there are pesticides labeled for inside home use, they are rarely recommended.  To prevent entry into homes, now would be the time to apply a perimeter spray that contains bifenthrin, cypermethrin or cyfluthrin.

Insects might not be taking over the world, but there are times when larger than average wasps and armies of strawberry root weevils invading homes might make it feel as if they are.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at https://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.