Spring Questions


John Wilson

John Wilson

 

With alternating warm and cool temperatures one didn’t know what to do. It seems that spring may finally be here to stay. Along with the arrival of spring comes a variety of seasonal questions. I’ll try to answer a few of those here.

FIRST, there is nothing you can put around your house to repel snakes. Moth balls don’t work! Human hair doesn’t work! Ultrasonic devices don’t work! The only way to keep snakes out of an area is to build a snake-proof fence around the area you don’t want snakes. This may not be practical or eye-pleasing in the landscape. The more practical method is to discourage snakes by making an area less inviting to them.

Snakes like areas where they feel secure and protected. Eliminate those areas and you will discourage, but not necessarily eliminate, snakes. Rake up leaves that might have blown in and use a weed-eater on tall grass that you can’t quite get with the mower along the foundation. Pick up stacks of boards  and move any firewood that you didn’t use away from your home.

SECOND, if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to put crabgrass preventer on your lawn. (I put mine on early this week!)  This will only kill germinating seeds so it won’t control weeds that have already emerged. These products will also kill germinating grass seed so do not apply it to areas where you reseeded or overseeded your lawn.

If you had a lot of problems with crabgrass or spurge in your lawn last year, make a second application around the first of July. The treatment now can be a combination with a lawn fertilizer, especially if you haven’t fertilized your lawn yet this spring. However, an application in mid-summer should not include fertilizer.

THIRD, insect pests, such as ants, lady beetles and clover mites, are making their spring appearances in homes. Last fall these insects made it part way in… in cracks in the foundation or under siding… and spent the winter there in a protected area. Once it warmed up this spring, they made their way inside rather finding their way back out.

Once inside, vacuum up insects or use an aerosol insect killer. The better solution is to find the cracks or crevices where they are getting in and seal it with caulking so they can’t get in next year. Not only will this keep insects out, but this should also help with your heating bill.

FOURTH, some evergreens have needles that recently are turning brown, starting at the tips and working back to the base of the needle. This condition is called winter desication, also known as winter scorch or winter burn. The injury actually occurred last winter, but is just showing up now. It is not caused by an insect or disease, so there is nothing to spray to treat it.

Keep these plants well watered through the summer and next fall before the ground freezes. Adding an organic mulch like wood chips helps hold moisture in the soil. Light injury will be hidden when the plant puts on its new growth later this spring. Heavy injury may kill some branches or the entire plant. If in doubt, wait to see what the plant looks like after new growth has developed, then decide whether its coming out of the injury or whether to prune out branches or remove the entire plant.

FINALLY, any rhubarb that has come up and gets hit by a late frost is still safe to eat. There is a garden legend… that’s kind of like an urban legend, only it just pertains to the garden… that if rhubarb is frosted it becomes poisonous. There is a toxic compound in rhubarb leaves, so the leaves should never be eaten, but this compound doesn’t move into the stalks if the plant is frosted.

Fake IRS Scam Sweeping the Nation


A fast moving phone scam called the largest of its kind is targeting taxpayers across the country. Victims have reported threats of arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license.

What makes this timely scam so tricky? The scammers impersonate Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents and demand payment for taxes owed, and often:
know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number;
make caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling;
send follow-up bogus IRS emails to support their scam; and
call a second time claiming to be the police or Department of Motor Vehicles, and caller ID again supports their claim.

The IRS usually contacts people by mail not by phone about unpaid taxes.
The IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer, nor will they involve law enforcement or immigration agencies.

WHAT TO DO:
If you or a family member receives one of these calls, your best bet is to hang up. But if you do get into a conversation, do not give anyone money or credit card information over the phone and don’t trust callers who use threats or insults to bully you.

Mary Loftis

Mary Loftis

NEXT STEPS:
Report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

If you owe or think you owe federal taxes, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 to verify information. For more information, visit http://www.irs.gov.

Please help spread the word about this tax season scam by sharing this information with your friends and family.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft or fraud, contact the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Center at 1-800-646-2283.

Mary Loftis,
Extension Assistant
UNL Extension – Burt County
111 North 13th Street, Suite 6
Tekamah, NE 68061
Phone: (402) 374-2929
Fax: (402) 374-2930
Internet: mloftis2@unl.edu

Spring Lawn Care


 

By John Wilson

Extension Educator

Despite some of the advertisements you may have seen or heard recently, the best advice I can give you now is to slow down on lawn care, especially fertilization and crabgrass control. For cool season turfgrasses like bluegrass and tall fescue, lawn care in late March and April should include hand raking to remove debris, edging, mowing, core aeration, power raking and seeding, overseeding or sodding.
For the season’s first mowing, mow lawns at a height of about two and one-half inches. It is not necessary or recommended to “mow as low as the mower will go”. This can scalp turfgrass and result in root loss or slowed root growth.
Core aerate with a machine that pulls out soil plugs to relieve soil compaction and encourage root growth. This is one of the most important practices we can do for lawns. If possible, core aerate once a year. Homeowners tend to power rake often, but core aeration should be done more often than power raking.
Power rake if the true thatch layer exceeds one-half inch. You can measure true thatch by cutting a plug out of the lawn. True thatch is the reddish brown mat found between the soil and the base of grass blades. It is made up of dead roots, rhizomes, and stems.

John Wilson

John Wilson

A small amount of thatch, up to one-half inch, is beneficial. It protects the plant crown from temperature extremes and traffic. Too much thatch can lead to root growth in the thatch layer making it more susceptible to drought damage; and fertilizers are tied up in thatch and become less available to roots.
True thatch is most common on highly maintained lawns. It builds up whether grass clippings are caught during mowing or left on the lawn. Core aeration will slow the build-up of thatch; but once the true thatch layer exceeds one-half inch power raking is needed to remove it.
Seeding, overseeding, and sodding cool season grasses can take place throughout the month of April. The sooner these can be planted the better to allow time for establishment before the heat of summer. Ideally, soil temperatures should be at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit for grass seed to germinate. Seed will germinate quicker at soil temperatures around 45 to 50 degrees F.
Delay fertilization until late April. Research has shown early spring fertilization, when soil temperatures are still cold, leads to an increase in diseases, such as summer patch; increased heat stress due to a less vigorous root system and possible loss of nitrogen due to leaching or run-off.
Delay applying preemergence herbicides for crabgrass control. These products kill the seedling as the seed germinates and begins growth. They are only effective when the seed is germinating. Crabgrass is a warm season grass and optimum soil temperatures for germination are 60 degrees, so most crabgrass germinates from mid May through June. So delay preemergence applications until the first of May so they are full strength when crabgrass is germinating.
For more information on spring lawn care, contact your local UNL Extension office.

Protecting Stored Grain


By John Wilson

Extension Educator

It seems like when we flip the calendar over to March, we expect some warmer temperatures. But it looks like the weatherman may have put our springlike weather on hold for a week. While warmer temperatures will be a welcome relief, it also will reveal some problems that started last fall, but were postponed by the colder winter weather.

Spring can be a challenge for folks with grain in storage on the farm in a normal year, but the weather last fall during harvest was anything but normal. Poor drying conditions forced many farmers to put grain in storage at unusually high moisture levels. The grain was held over the winter by cooling it to slow losses. But as air temperatures and grain warm, the chance for grain spoilage increase dramatically.

John Wilson

John Wilson

Periods of warm weather will warm grain near the bin walls, particularly on the south and west sides of the bin, while grain on the north side and near the center of the bin remain cooler. This uneven warming will cause moisture movement within the grain and condensation in the cooler parts of the grain mass.

If the temperature of the grain is below freezing, moisture will freeze between the kernels, forming a block of frozen grain. When you aerate the bin, air will move around, rather than through, these areas. When that grain eventually thaws, it creates a moist area in the grain and increases the likelihood of spoilage.

So how do you avoid this problem when you can’t control the weather? Every couple of weeks you should check the grain temperature with a probe thermometer. Check the temperature of the grain around the bin walls and also near the center of the bin. If there is more than a 10 degree difference between any of the readings, turn on the fans to push a temperature front through the grain to equalize the temperature.

As you gradually warm the grain this spring, try to keep the grain temperature within about 10 degrees of the average outside temperature. Whenever you run the fans, use this as a time to monitor grain conditions. Have someone else turn on the fans while you are positioned by a roof vent or opening in the roof.

If that first blast of air coming out the vents is musty, more humid, or warmer than the outside air, this indicates a problem developing in your grain. You need to run the fans continuously to reduce the problem, monitor this bin more frequently, and then use or sell this grain as soon as possible.

One important safety consideration. Before entering a bin, be sure you have a safety harness or rope connected to yourself and have someone outside the bin that can pull you to safety if you should break through a crusted area. Last fall’s less than ideal drying conditions increase the potential for grain bridging and forming air pockets below the surface. If you break through the bridge, it is likely you will not be able to get out on your own.

For more information on managing stored grain, contact your local UNL Extension office.

Control Diabetes


If you have diabetes, it is important that you learn to control it for life! Diabetes is a serious problem, but research shows that controlling diabetes makes a huge difference. Keep your blood sugar close to normal and you reduce your chances of serious health problems such as blindness, kidney failure and amputations.

 

University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension invites you and your family members to participate in a new and exciting diabetes education program. The series of programs is being offered via the two-way interactive distance education facilities. Participants will learn about current issues related to diabetes from educators with over 20 years of team-teaching experience. These sessions are designed to supplement the education that you receive from your local diabetes education team and are not a substitute for diabetes classes through your local health care providers.

 

March 10, is the first of three programs in the “Control Your Diabetes for Life” series. Based on recent research on the strong tie with diabetes increasing the risk of kidney disease we will focus on self-management of diabetes. Topics that will be addressed during the two hour program include: What’s New in Diabetes Care; Kidney Disease: Protect Your Kidney – Action Steps to Health; and Ways to Cut Food Costs. There will also be a question and answer period. Participants will sample a new recipe for a diabetic appropriate food. Team-teaching the program will be Stacie Petersen, B.S.N. and Certified Diabetes Educator; and Deborah Willcox, R.D. LMNT; of Franciscan Care Services in West Point and Debra Schroeder, Extension Educator in Cuming County.

 

The program on March 10 will be held a the Tekamah-Herman High School in the Distance Learning Classroom beginning at 7:00 p.m. Please pre-register by March 7, with the UNL Extension Office in Burt County at 402-374-2929 to ensure adequate availability of handouts. School Food Service staff may earn two hours of continuing education credit for attending this session. This program is a joint effort of UNL Extension, Franciscan Care Services of West Point, Educational Service Unit #2 and Tekamah-Herman High School.

 

 

Mary Loftis,

Extension Assistant
UNL Extension – Burt County
111 North 13th Street, Suite 6
Tekamah, NE 68061
Phone: (402) 374-2929

Fax: (402) 374-2930

Internet: mloftis2@unl.edu

Mary Loftis

Mary Loftis

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