Year-end is a time for waxing philosophical, being thankful, assessing the ups and downs of the year and so forth. We were spared the devastating heat of the past two seasons, something for which we can all be grateful. Customers who experienced severe damage during those seasons had the opportunity to re-establish a healthy stand of turf. More customers are opting for aeration twice a year. Still others are recognizing the benefits of more frequent overseeding.
We have increasingly better information about all things turf because of the work conducted by UNL’s Department of Agronomy, the Department of Entomology and the statewide system of Extension Offices. As lawn care professionals, we could not ask for a more supportive group of people with whom to work as we continue to look for ways to improve our profession and the service we offer you.
Our last round of fertilizer began October 24. It’s not too cold, we have even applied it in the snow. We do plan to finish by Thanksgiving. We sometimes get pushback on this last application. We can only tell you that it is a valuable tool in getting your lawn off to a good start next spring. The bulk of the nitrogen for the year goes down in the fall. You do not want to skimp now.
There are some steps you can take to prepare your tree to deal with the harsh winter conditions that we experience here in Nebraska.
Water: Watering through the fall months is always a good idea, but it is particularly important if we have experienced drought conditions during the summer months. The tree’s root system is still active and will take up water well into winter, so making sure water is available is vital to the health of the tree. It is also a good idea to water several times over the winter months, as long as the soil and air temperatures are above freezing. Visit our blog for more information about watering trees in the winter and checking soil temperatures in your area.
Fertilize: The tree’s root system is still very active during the winter and will be using and storing nutrients that it takes up from the soil. A fall deep root fertilizer application benefits the tree by making sure it has the necessary nutrients to get through the winter and to be ready to put on new growth in the spring.
Tree Wrap: Extreme temperatures or hungry bunnies and squirrels can cause permanent damage to the tree’s trunk during the winter months. Extreme fluctuations between day and night time temperatures can cause frost cracks on the trunk of the tree. If we have temperatures below freezing at night followed by a sunny, mild day, the bark can split when the sun heats up the south and/or west side of the tree. This can cause the bark to expand too quickly. The wound caused by frost cracks can make the tree susceptible to disease or insect infestation.
Bunnies and squirrels like to snack on tree bark during the winter when food is sparse. They particularly like younger trees and trees with softer bark like Crabapple trees.
Using tree wrap can protect the tree from harmful temperature fluctuations and animal damage.
Mulch: Mulch will act as a blanket for the tree’s root system. It will protect the root system from extreme cold temperatures. It will also help to keep moisture in the soil. Typically, 2-3” will do the trick. However, do not add mulch right up against the trunk as it is important to keep good airflow around the base of the tree to avoid rotting.
Our arborists are available year-round, so please continue to submit your questions to Ask the Arborist!
There are a few important issues to consider when choosing a tree to plant.
What will be the mature size of the tree?
are looking to plant a tree near the foundation of your house, choose a tree with an appropriate smaller mature size. You could also choose a tree with an upright, columnar growth habit, such as a columnar white pine.
All too often we see a tree that looked great close to the house when it was first planted but over the years grew too large for the site and had to have major limbs removed or even needed to be cut down. If you
Are there any obstructions above the tree?
While you are considering size, don’t forget to look up! If there are power lines above your planting site, you will need to either choose a different planting site, or choose a tree that will not interfere with the power lines when it reaches its mature height.
What is the condition of the planting site?
Site conditions include the amount of sunlight that the tree will be exposed to, the moisture level of the soil, and if the site is protected from or exposed to extreme Midwest elements. For example, a Japanese maple tree will do much better in a protected shady location as opposed to a site that is exposed to harsh winter winds and hot summer sun.
What purpose will the tree serve?
Are you looking for a large tree to provide your house with afternoon shade or are you looking for a small tree to add ornamental value to your landscape? Many trees will offer more than one benefit. A large evergreen tree, for example, can provide a windbreak that protects a house from strong winter winds while providing shelter and nesting sites to birds like chickadees, cardinals, and finches.
Many homeowners are looking for a fast growing shade tree so that they can enjoy the energy saving benefits as quickly as possible. It is important to keep in mind that fast growing trees tend to have softer wood than the slower growing trees and will not be as long lived as the hardwood trees. So, if you are looking for a tree that will provide shade for many years to come, you may be better off with a hard wood tree such as an oak as opposed to a soft wood tree like a birch.
Fall is a great time for planting trees! If you are interested in seeing how a tree will look when it has matured, the OPPD Arboretum has many examples of trees that do well in Nebraska. If you would like more information about selecting the right tree for your property, please contact us!
I've been told my trees have fall webworm. Does this mean I will lose my tree?
The damage done by the fall webworm looks much more devastating than it actually is. The webbing in the tree usually appears in late July or early August. The webbing starts at the ends of the branches and expands toward the trunk of the tree. Small black caterpillars are found devouring the foliage in and around the web. This activity leaves the tree looking very unsightly but not permanently damaged. In extreme cases, an entire tree may be defoliated. A healthy tree can withstand a fall webworm infestation for several consecutive years without suffering any major effects. A tree that has already been stressed or weakened by another pest may require action.
Generally speaking, fall webworms will favor fruit trees and ornamentals such as crabapple and pear trees. If the webbing is within reach, simply remove it with a stick, broom, etc. The areas of the tree that have been defoliated should leaf out with the rest of the tree next spring.
Tent caterpillar and Gypsy moth caterpillar are two types of pests that are very similar to fall webworm, but they are active beginning in the spring and will continue through the fall. Webbing usually begins in the forks of branches and expands toward the ends of the branches. These caterpillars can produce several generations during one season and should be removed when first noticed.
If the webbing is out of reach or the tree is heavily infested, chemical control may be required. As always, we invite you to contact one of our licensed arborists for any tree care concerns you may have.
In the last third of the growing season, it is important to focus on what keeps a healthy lawn healthy and what can improve a lawn challenged by climate and/or disease.
The first thing we encourage is vigilance. At this time of year, there is a tendency to tire of the turf care practices of mowing, watering, and so forth. It is a long season, and the enthusiasm of spring gives way to the fatigue of the hot days toward the end of summer. People spend less time outside. Consequently, they do not pay attention to changes in their turf, missing opportunities to ward off problems or improve a lawn’s situation.
Insect damage, particularly grub damage, typically shows up about the first week of September in our experience. We have confidence in the preventive products we use; but if there is a weak area of the lawn, even a grub population below treatment levels can cause some damage. If you see suspicious areas in your yard, we are happy to check them out for you and provide whatever treatment may be necessary. We encourage you not to pull back sod if you have damage. With treatment and some intense irrigation, we have seen smaller damaged areas come back nicely.
If heat or disease has thinned out parts of the lawn, the window for overseeding or restorative work closes by mid-September. Even if you believe your turf to be healthy, aerate. Aeration-twice a year-is important in keeping the turf healthy. Continue to mow at highest setting throughout the growing season which can extend well into November.
As a reminder, the very helpful website we frequently quote is http://turf.unl.edu/. You can sign up to receive every posting or browse specific topics. Turf info and Backyard Farmer are two great resources for all Nebraskans.
Have you found yourself watering the streets or your driveway? Do you have an irrigation system that is out of date or waters in the middle of a down pour? According to the Irrigation Association (IA), “using an automated irrigation system is one of the best ways to keep your lawn and landscape beautiful and healthy, while minimizing water waste.” IA offers some strategies to water more efficiently, saving both water and money:
Consider “smart” controls, such as a rain sensor, that will adjust water based on rainfall. Hire a contractor, who is licensed and insured to be sure the system is installed correctly. Installing a high quality system now and maintaining it will minimize the total lifetime cost of the system. Occasionally, water utilities will actually offer rebates for water-efficient products, such as the MUD rain sensor rebate. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not only echoes the IA’s recommendations regarding “smart” controls, but also recommends drip irrigation for landscape beds. Drip irrigation waters at a lower volume and goes directly to the plant root, minimizing wasted water due to wind, runoff, and evaporation.
If you already have an irrigation system, zones should be set to water for the particular needs of that area based on the sun and shade exposure, slope of the yard, and type of sprinkler head. Water only when needed as overwatering will lead to poor roots, weeds, disease, and fungus. According to the IA, “Watering during the heat of the day may cause losses of up to 30 percent due to evaporation.” They also recommend watering in the morning when the sun and winds are low as well as when the temperatures are cooler. Sound familiar? That’s because in previous newsletters and blogs we’ve shared similar recommendations from the UNL Turfgrass Science Program. Also remember to winterize! Winterizing will push water out of the system that could freeze, causing costly damage.
When planning a landscape, the IA suggests choosing plants that thrive in the climate you are in and have lower water requirements, planting them in groups with other plants with similar watering needs, and planting them according to their sun and shade exposure requirements. It is also recommended to mulch around plants and trees as it reduces evaporation, moderates temperatures, increases water retention and controls weeds.
Did you notice how some of these suggestions seem to deal more with turf care and landscape design than an actual irrigation system? A well maintained turf and landscape as well as irrigation efficiency involve all of the components working together.
Chuck Monico, President of CM’s, is 1 of only 5 people in Nebraska to be a Certified Irrigation Contractor, Irrigation Association Member, and an EPA Irrigation Partner! Contact CM's to install an irrigation system or maintain or renovate your existing system.
Smart Irrigation Month
It seems like “For Sale” signs are popping up all over town. How quickly those signs turn to “Sold” can vary drastically. This is where CM’s can help! According to The Appraisal Institute (AI), a global association of real estate appraisers, changes in landscaping can effect the price of the home and how long it is on the market.
The Appraisal Institute specifically lists fire pits, patios, and outdoor lighting as potential additions to value. Both AI and the National Association of Realtors suggest that a well-maintained lawn, trees, bushes, and flowers also are key components of creating curb appeal. Whether you are planning to sell in the near or distant future we can help you to take steps to improve your curb appeal and enjoy your outdoor living space.
CM’s can expand or renovate your existing patio and add features such as a seat wall or fire
pit. These items create more space and your patio becomes an extension of your home’s living space.
CM’s provides a 6-step fertilizer program that can improve the health and density of your lawn and address weeds. We will also be able to make recommendations for aerating, seeding, and power raking as needed for your lawn. CM’s offers many best practice tips for mowing and watering in our newsletter, blog, and through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Office as well.
Looking for a quick spruce up to create a wow affect? CM’s can add flower beds, a fresh layer of mulch, or prune and maintain your existing flower beds. Remember, house hunters also look at houses at night. Landscape lighting is an easy and quick way to illuminate your home and accentuate your landscape. Now that’s a bright idea!
After a slow start, spring may actually be here. Because of the seasonally below average temperatures, turf has been slow to grow. Our schedule, a week late based on what we had planned, will actually reflect a more typical year now that some sense of normal spring weather is occurring. Our second round of pre-emergent will begin during the week of May 6, and we will be spraying any weeds that have sprouted.
- It is not too late to aerate. This a recurring theme. Twice a year will improve the overall condition of your turf.
- Overseeding should be completed soon to ensure sufficient time to develop grass plants healthy enough to withstand the summer temperatures especially given what we have experienced the last two summers in the Omaha area. For turf that is dead, we can put a plan in place to address the problem in the late summer
- It might be beneficial to take a leaf rake to smaller areas of that do not appear to be responding. A gentle raking along with aeration may stimulate some re-growth if any of the root zone survived
Wait as long as possible to provide supplemental irrigation. We have had more than adequate spring rain to carry most turf for some time. Turf provides more than enough hints when supplemental irrigation is needed.
We are indebted to the University of Nebraska for its ongoing support of optimal turf care practices and the turf care profession.
Has nature’s recent precipitation had you singing in the rain… or perhaps the snow? After the challenges the turf endured last year, the rain definitely calls for celebration—we understand if you’re not ready to sing and dance over the snow! According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Turfgrass Science Program, Sarpy and Douglas counties are still considered to be in “severe” drought as of April 30, 2013. While the rain we received is an excellent start to the spring, it is important to begin proper turf care practices now in order to help our lawns recover from the previous year and to prepare our lawns for the possibility of another year of low rainfall.
To help our turf tolerate continued stress due to drought, UNL offers the following suggestions:
- Mow at the same height all year long, and at the highest setting— 3” or more.
- Mow frequently so no more than 1/3 of the blade is removed during one mowing.
- Return clippings to lawn rather than bagging the grass in order for turf to retain nutrients and moisture.
- Aerate at least once, if not twice, a year to reduce soil compaction.
- Check sprinkler heads to ensure they are accurately and efficiently spraying the lawn rather than the street.
- Water deeply and infrequently.
- The best time to water is the morning when there is little wind and lower temperatures.
- Install a rain sensor to prevent your sprinkler system from watering during or after heavy rains.
Remember that precipitation per week is the combined amount of Mother Nature’s rain plus anything you add to it. Excessive watering will only waste water and promote unhealthy growing conditions in a variety of ways.
The University of Nebraska is a tremendous resource for proper turf care practices. We encourage you to read the full articles. Please visit:
For a new tree, the only tree pruning that should be done the first year would be to remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. After the tree has been planted in the ground for one year, you can begin to prune the tree to improve structure and aesthetics. This may need to be done each year until the tree has a strong, balanced structure. Training young trees optimizes structural stability in the mature tree. By pruning a tree when it is young, you can avoid problems such as co-dominant stems, weak branch attachments, and crossing branches. This can greatly reduce the maintenance costs associated with correcting these structural defects in the future.
For a mature tree, how often you need to prune will depend on the history of the tree. If it has been well maintained through the years, the only pruning that may need to be done would be to remove any dead, damaged, or diseased limbs. If the tree was not properly trained when it was young, it may have problems such as splitting branch attachments, branches that are too low, or other structural defects. Typically, removing more than 25% of a tree’s leaf area during one growing season should be avoided. The tree may need to be pruned once every few years until it has good structure and aesthetics.
As always, we recommend consulting a licensed arborist before pruning.