Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
Extension Educator, Horticulture
August 31, 2011
Harvest pumpkins before the stems turn brown. The heat has really moved things along this year. You should leave at least two inched of stem attached to the pumpkin, and using pruning shears is a great way to harvest pumpkins or squash. Here are some additional tips for pumpkins, even though we are in early September:
August 31, 2011
Fall seems to be bearing down on us. The warm days and cooler nights definitely bring to mind the seasons are changing. This week's offering will cover many short topics with reminders, alerts, and the to-do list.
Lawn work can be in high gear. Reseeding or overseeding should be done this week. Use about two pounds of seed per 1000 square feet of lawn for overseeding and twice that for worked up areas. A blend of grasses with Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and red or chewings fescue is most common. The idea is to get the grass established before freezing weather, and remember bluegrass can take up to a month to germinate. The intrusive operations, such as dethatching and core aeration are also best done at this time. The extreme dry weather will cause dead spots in lawns, as it takes about a quarter of an inch of water every two weeks to keep roots and crowns alive.
The last half of September is an ideal time to apply broadleaf weed control for perennial weeds. This will affect young grass, so don't apply any chemicals at this time if you put down new seed. The rule of thumb is you need to mow new grass at least two times before applying broadleaf products. Combinations of 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba bought as a premix are most common and broad spectrum. Remember you can get vapor drift with dicamba if temperatures are over 85 degrees or so. It is best to wait later in the month with dicamba to preserve the neighbor's tomatoes. The very dry weather will make weeds less susceptible to herbicides, so hopefully conditions will improve in the next few weeks.
We are rapidly approaching the time to plant tulips, daffodils, and other spring-flowering bulbs. They should be fall planted before a killing frost. That date is usually about the second week in October in our area. Plant larger bulbs six to eight inches deep, and smaller ones three to four inches deep. Mix into the soil five tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and two cups of bone meal per 10 square feet of bed area. It is also time to dig summer flowering bulbs such as canna and dahlia as their foliage turns yellow. Store them on layers of sawdust or peat moss in a cool, dry place.
The nuisance pest population is really building up. There are the intrusive pests such as crickets, millipedes, and Asian ladybugs, and the outdoor pests such as syrphid flies, hornets, and mosquitoes. For the ones invading the home, try the foundation sprays of bifenthrin or permethrin to help reduce the number in the home. For the outdoor pests, use repellents containing DEET for mosquitoes. Proper sanitation will help with hornets, and the syrpid flies (which many call sweat bees) are actually beneficial insects eating scale crawlers and aphids.
August 31, 2011
The time of year has arrived to put that final push on to prepare your lawn for the upcoming winter months. What you do now will have a big impact on how your lawn will look next spring.
Keep mowing when the grass or weeds dictate mowing. The rule of thumb is to remove no more than a third of the leaf blade at any one time. This means that if your desired mowing height is 2 inches, you should be mowing when the grass gets 3 inches tall. With the recent dry, hot weather mowing frequency has slowed down greatly.
Seeding of grass should be accomplished by September 10. This is a tried and true date, but the end of the world won't come about if you are a week later. The goal is to give the seed
enough time to germinate and become established before bad weather arrives. Seed at the rate of four pounds of seed per 1000 square feet on bare spots, or half that rate on overseedings. Extremely large seeding jobs, such as farm home sites, may cut the rate down to a pound per square foot due to cost. It is recommended for most to use a blend of Kentucky bluegrass, a fine fescue (red or chewings), and perennial ryegrass. Everybody likes a good bluegrass turf, fine fescue thrives in shaded, dry conditions, and the perennial ryegrass will provide quick cover. It can take up to a month to get bluegrass seed germinated. Generally, the more you spend on seed, the newer varieties you are purchasing. This will also usually relate to the best disease resistance. Make sure it is a turf mixture, and not one for forages. There is some danger in seeding when soils are so dry, as a light rain might germinate seed, while there isn't sufficient moisture to sustain the new seedling plants.
If you have a compacted yard, or have a deep thatch layer, now is also an ideal time to dethatch or aerate. Thatch layers should not be over 1/2 inch deep for optimum growing conditions. When aerating, make sure you use a core type aerator. Removing thatch is a big job, and will produce a large quantity of material. Be prepared!
Fall fertilization is also a good practice. If you haven't fertilized in the last month, consider applying a fertilizer treatment now. Use about 8 pounds of 13?13?13 fertilizer per 1000 square feet of lawn. Try to avoid the high nitrogen fertilizers this late in the year. It's hard enough to keep up with the mowing as it is, and nitrogen promotes top growth. The even analysis fertilizers will also promote root growth, which is what we want going into the late fall and winter. A fertilization around the first of the month for each of September, October, and November will really thicken up lawns. This type of program will also help fill spots where crabgrass was, and will help crowd into areas where warm season grasses such as zoysia and nimblewill were.
Crabgrass and other annuals grass weeds can be seen about everywhere. They will die with the first frost, so treatment is not available or recommended in the fall. Make a note of where these grasses are, and an overseeding to thicken up the grasses you want there may help crowd out the annuals.
Last, but not least, is broadleaf weed control. Fall is a particularly good time to treat problem perrenial weeds since they are sending food down to the roots to overwinter. A spray
about the 3rd or 4th week of September (making sure to use the appropriate product) can do a world of good on the perennial weeds. Remember to be very careful with herbicides around perennial plants since they are also getting ready to overwinter.
August 31, 2011
While we normally look forward to the change of tree foliage in the fall, this year the premature leaf drop and discoloration may cause us to lose some of our fall enjoyment. The reasons for the leaf problems are many, and have been with us since early spring in many cases.
On oaks, particularly pin and red oaks, we could be experiencing some major problems such as oak wilt and bacterial leaf scorch. Other problems such as anthracnose (and other leaf spot fungi), oak tatters, and water damage are not to be overlooked, but usually don't signal the end of the tree is in sight. Oak wilt has been a non-event in our area, but the possibility does exist that it will rear its ugly head. It is very similar to verticillium wilt that we find in many of our shade trees and has a streaking of the sapwood as a tell-tale sign. There is no cure for oak wilt. Bacterial leaf scorch (BLS) is probably the main culprit in many rapidly declining oaks. The bacteria cause the ends and margins of the leaf to dry and turn brown. Some areas of the country have reported temporary results from antibiotic injections into the tree, but Midwest states have not reported any success. Essentially there is no cure for BLS in oaks, with tree death often coming within six or seven years of infection.
Amillaria root rot is another serious disease of oaks that has become more prominent. This is caused by a fungus that invades below ground. As is the case with many diseases, trees that are stressed by flooding, drought, or mechanical injury are predisposed to getting the disease. Mushrooms at the base of the tree, or shoestringlike structures growing just under the bark of the tree are symptoms of this disease. There is no real cure for this disease at the present time either.
The leaf spot fungi problems are less important, but may be prevented with protective fungicides applied to leaves throughout the spring and early summer. Figure on at least three applications about 14 days apart at a minimum. It is also important to get good coverage of all leaves. These diseases weaken the tree by allowing it to make less food for the year. Weakening for a year or two doesn't make much difference, but over a long period of time we can get other problems on the weakened tree.
These same fungi are affecting most of our good quality shade and fruit trees. Anthracnose is the major fungus for shade trees, apple scab is the culprit for apples and crabapples, and there are more specific fungi that affect ash and other trees. We'll have to live with what we have for this year, but a preventative program may be in order in future years. We have actually had outbreaks of the leaf spot fungus group each of the last 20 years. The little bit of weakening each year eventually catches up with us.
For now the adage of " keep trees in good growing condition" holds true. Water with an inch of water per week when Mother Nature doesn't provide it, and fertilize with a lawn rate (to provide a pound of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium per 1000 square feet) and that will go a long way in helping the tree overcome weakness.
August 31, 2011
It doesn't seem possible to think about fall, let alone a fall garden, after the past several weeks of heat and humidity. However, if you are interested in planting a fall garden, the time is upon us. Many of the commonly grown fall crops require about 50 days before harvest, and this group includes beets, kohlrabi, green beans, Swiss chard, turnips, and transplants of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. A few shorter time required crops are leaf lettuce and spinach at 40 days, and radishes at 25 days. An average date for our first killing frost in the fall is October 10. Back off of this date by the days required for maturity of your crop, add a week to get them germinated, and we are at the seeding date for many of the crops.
You should remove all the residues from former crops and weeds before planting. It is also a good idea to add some fertilizer, such as 12-12-12, at the rate of one to two pounds per 100 square feet. Then till to incorporate the fertilizer and remaining debris, as well as loosen up the soil. Late summer plantings often require some additional water, and sometimes a little shade to offset some of the hot soil temperatures we can encounter.
If you aren't into fall gardening, you might consider options to extend what you have growing now. Covering plants for the first expected frosts can add weeks to the season. The use of row covers, hotbeds, and coldframes is even more of a sure thing.
August 31, 2011
There are several items being asked about on a frequent basis, of course many asking the questions probably don't read this or they wouldn't be asking!
August 5, 2011
If you have been following a foundation spray program all year, keep it up. If you haven't been, it is probably time to start. The foundation spray program is your first line of defense against nuisance pests in the house. It cuts down on crickets, millipedes, spiders, ants, and many others that find their way inside.
To accomplish a foundation spray, you would select a material such as permethrin or bifenthrin to begin with. Then spray the foundation and the adjacent foot or two of soil or plant material with the spray mixture. Both these products are cleared on most types of plants. Foundation treatments should be applied every 7-15 days depending on the temperatures. The materials break down quicker in hot weather.
Foundation treatments won't prevent everything from getting in the house, and they certainly won't kill things already in the house. For insects already in the house, you have a few options. The first is mechanical control. This is fancy language for something like a flyswatter, shoe, vacuum cleaner, flypaper, or glue boards. The next is chemical control. This basically means aerosol cans inside the house. The most common ones are for flying insects or ants, although many of the flying insect killers now have permethrin in them and can last quite a while.
August 5, 2011
We are still experiencing a large number of beetles in the garden. This includes not only the Japanese beetles, but also the recently emerged Western corn rootworm beetles. These small black and yellow striped beetles are of concern around cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins since they can carry a wilt virus.
It is a good idea to treat your vining crops with Sevin, permethrin, or bifenthrin on a weekly basis. It is important concentrate on the new runners to help prevent damage from squash vine borers.
The numbers of Japanese beetles seem to be declining somewhat. Of course there are still plenty in many areas, but the population should continue to decline until the last of them are finished off by frost. As favored food sources are consumed, less likely plants may be attacked. This may mean a recheck of things around the landscape. I've recently seen them on marigolds, and seen some limited feeding on red maples. These plants are in the less preferred categories.
August 5, 2011
It has been a banner year for diseases in many plants. The lawns are starting to show some of the diseases as well. Conditions have been ideal for many of the fungi that cause up problems. Humidity makes an ideal environment for many diseases, but there are some that like drier conditions. Dollar spot, brown spot, and rust have been noted in area lawns.
There are treatments available for diseases in home lawns, but they can be rather expensive and time consuming. Treatments would be applied on a 7-14 day basis throughout the season. It isn't recommended for homeowners to treat diseases in the lawn. The recommendation is let nature take its course, and then do some reseeding if needed.
The disease needs a susceptible host, the right environment, and time to cause us problems. If you do some reseeding, use a newer variety with good disease resistance. This attacks the susceptible host part. Also, keep your turf growing well to prevent weakened grass plants from being more susceptible. The diseases will only be present during certain weather, and as the weather changes the diseases will go away.