Archived John Wilson Columns

John Wilson's 2017 Columns/Articles


January 5, 2017 

Don’t Let Firewood “Bug” You!

One of my projects last weekend, actually one of my wife’s projects for me, was to split and stack some firewood closer to the house so it will be more accessible. This made me think of a common call I get each winter...  Read more.


January 12, 2017

Preventing Winter Injury in the Landscape

The other night, for some unexplained reason, I got online and checked one of the weather websites that offers a 90 day forecast. Now I don’t put much more faith in a 90 day forecast than I do in the plan someone wants to sell me to help win the next lottery.  Read more.

January 19, 2017

Check Stored Grain after Warm Winter Weather

The warm temperatures we had last week will create the potential for grain to go out of condition in bins. When we have warm temperatures, grain nearest the bin walls, especially on the south and west sides of the bin, warms up more than grain in the middle of the bin.  Read more.

January 26, 2017

Watching... and COUNTING... Birds!

            Now I’m not complaining about the weather, but the open winter we’ve had most of the time hasn’t been great for birdwatching. They don’t seem to come to our feeders when the weather is nice.  Read more.


February 2, 2017

Great Plants for Great Plains

Selecting a different plant than what everyone else has can be challenging but rewarding. It can be challenging because nurseries and garden centers, being good business people, tend to carry what customers ask for.  Read more.

February 13, 2015
Dormant Oil Sprays

Dormant oil sprays are applied to plants during mid to late winter to control specific insects, usually scales. Now is the time to inspect plants and prepare to apply dormant oils if scale insects are found. 
Read more.

February 20, 2015
Emerald Ash Borer

The emerald ash borer (EAB) is an insect that's been in the news for over 10 years. It has the potential to be devastating to ash trees when it gets to Nebraska... but the key word here is WHEN! Emerald ash borer has not yet been found in Nebraska. The nearest it has been confirmed is in Iowa, about 80 miles east of Plattsmouth, Nebraska.  Read more.

February 27, 2015
Using Mulch In Your Landscape

The more I work around my yard and garden, the more I'm convinced that mulching trees, shrubs and ornamental beds is the most important thing I do in my landscape throughout the year. That's why I have a pile of wood chip mulch at my place right now that is taller than I am... Read more.


March 6, 2015
Spring Landscape Projects

Even though it's still covered with ice, the Canada geese have been checking out the nesting boxes on my pond. This is usually a good indication that, if not here, spring is just around the corner. Warmer days this weekend will gave you an opportunity to get outside and do some things in the yard. Read more.

March 13, 2015
Home Invasions Common

Last Saturday, while she was at work, I tried to earn a few points with my wife by addressing a perennial problem at our home. She has this vile hatred of multicolored Asian lady beetles. I wouldn't want to say for sure, but I think it has something to do with the time one flew into her coffee cup and she found it the hard way. It took me forever to get the coffee stains out of our carpet!  Read more.

March 20, 2015
Checking Stored Grain

Record highs last week and very comfortable weather predicted for the near future has many farmers thinking about preparing to plant their 2015 crop. While warmer temperatures are a welcome relief, they also pose some problems for last year's crop.  Read more.

March 30, 2015
Severe Weather Week

Last week, March 23-27, was Nebraska Severe Weather Awareness Week. I think it is interesting that we have a whole week designated as Severe Weather Awareness Week, but only one day in November designated as Winter Weather Awareness Day. Some of you may have heard sirens last week, testing that system for informing people of impending inclement weather.  Read more.


April 3, 2015
Control Noxious Weeds This Spring

I'm going to talk about noxious weeds a little bit early, as recent rains and warm temperatures may move up the time to control them this year. If you are not ready, you can miss the window when you can most effectively control noxious weeds... in the spring.  Read more.

April 10, 2015
Apply Crabgrass Preventors Now

Usually we start talking about crabgrass preventers now, but are telling people to wait several weeks before applying them. The warm weather and dry conditions -  until about a week ago - have warmed soils faster than normal this spring.  Read more.

April 17, 2015
April Showers

The old saying goes, "April showers, bring May flowers" but do you know what a May flower brings? Keep reading to find the answer! Read more.

April 24, 2015
Belated Happy Arbor Day

I don't know where the time went, but Arbor Day really snuck up on me this year. It shouldn't have, because with the help of fourth graders from Tekamah and Herman, we planted four new trees at the football field parking lot north of Tekamah last week. Read more.


May 1, 2015
Setting Out Tomatoes Early

Gardeners often try to get a jump on the season, and bragging rights for producing the first home grown tomato, by planting tomatoes as early as possible. Though this can be successful, there are certain precautions that should be observed, especially this year with the cooler than normal spring. Read more.

May 8, 2015

Last week a friend of mine and I went out in search of morel mushrooms. We found a few, but I think we found almost as many ticks! Ticks are close relatives of mites and spiders and pass through four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, nymph and adult. All stages except the egg are blood-sucking parasites that can also carry diseases. Read more.

May 15, 2015
Scout Fields Now for Greater Profits at Harvest

During the growing season, it isn't unusual for unexpected problems to take a toll on yields. So it's important to begin scouting fields for weeds, insects and diseases early in the season. Some things you may be able to correct now, while others may be things to note for next growing season. Read more.

May 22, 2015
Minimize Menacing Mosquitoes

Many people considered Memorial Day weekend as the official beginning of the outdoor summer season with barbecues, boating, fishing and ball games... Read more.

May 29, 2015
Spring Lawn Care

For the first time in a long time, it feels like spring is here. Hopefully it won't go directly into summer. Here are a few suggestions you can use around your lawn and garden now that will cut down on problems later in the year when we're feeling the full impact of the summer heat. Read more.


June 6, 2015
Nutsedge in Lawns

As if I haven't had to mow my lawn often enough this year, every three days or get out the bagger... which I don't like to do. When I mowed my lawn last week, I noticed a few clumps of lighter yellow grass that were a couple inches taller than the surrounding turf. Immediately I knew what I was up against. Read more.

June 12, 2015
Brown Spots in Lawns

The warm humid conditions we're experiencing can promote diseases such as dollar spot and brown patch. If brown patches appear in your lawn, diagnose the problem before applying a pesticide. Disease and insect pests can build up resistance to pesticides, especially if they are overused. Pesticides are also chemicals we should not put into the environment unless they are needed. Read more.


July 2, 2015
Multitudes of Mosquitoes!

Once upon a time I saw a quote that stated, "Nothing was made in vain, but the mosquito came near it!" I talked about mosquitos back in May, when they first started to appear. That was before our monsoon season. In May they were annoying.  Read more.

July 9, 2015
Scout Corn Fields NOW for Northern Corn Leaf Blight

I'm seeing and hearing more reports of northern corn leaf blight (NCLB) this year. While far from an epidemic, enough fields are showing at least a few lesions that it would be a good idea for farmers to get out and see what is happening in their fields, then plan their management accordingly.  Read more.

July 20, 2015
Soybean Aphid Scouting and Management

Soybean aphids have been found in recent field surveys in northeast Nebraska. I checked a few local fields and found an occasional plant with a few (less than 10) aphids/plant. These numbers are extremely low, which is typical for this time of year, but it does signal it's time to start scouting.  Read more.

July 24, 2015
Scout for Soybean Aphids AND SCN!

Last week I was scouting fields for soybean aphids and made an unintended discovery. As I pulled up soybean plants to examine the undersides of the leaves for soybean aphids, I had the roots of the plants literally right under my nose.  Read more.



September 4, 2015
Don't "Over-Care" for Landscape Trees

This summer appeared to be hard on trees as I had more questions on branch dieback and even tree death. It was not our summer that caused stress but a culmination of weather extremes over past years.  Read more.

September 11, 2015
Rust in Turf

Have your shoes turned rusty-orange after walking across the lawn? If so, your lawn is affected by a fungal disease called rust. Rust may appear at any time during the growing season, but is most common in late summer and is often more severe in shaded areas.  Read more.

September 18, 2015
Ignore Nuisance Insects

It seems like a lot of bugs are bugging a lot of people recently! You may have been annoyed by a swarm of tiny, white winged insects... or you may notice large beetles devouring ripe tomatoes or overripe fruit... or had caterpillars forming large, ugly webs on the tips of branches in trees.  Read more.

September 25, 2015
Control Noxious Weeds NOW!

Late September and October may be the best time of the year to control our three most common noxious weeds... leafy spurge, Canada thistle and musk thistle. These plants will be growing rapidly with recent rains and warm days this fall. Actively growing plants are more susceptible to herbicide applications.  Read more.


October 2, 2015
Estimating Corn & Soybean Yields

Each year about this time I get calls from farmers wanting to estimate their yields and each year I look it up, print off a sheet or two, put it in the mail or try to explain it to someone over the phone. Read more.

October 9, 2015
BEWARE: Home Invasions Up!

If you aren’t already, you should be on high alert. I’ve received numerous calls about homes around the county being invaded, some while the residents were in their house. I have to confess that we didn’t take all the necessary precautions and our home also fell victim to these invaders. Read more.

October 16, 2015
Fire Safety During Harvest

Harvest is always a busy time of year. The past week and the week ahead will see a lot of this year’s crop being harvested after a wet start in late September. However, we can’t let the rush to get crops harvested come before safety. Read more.

October 23, 2015
Fall Noxious Weed Control

As harvest winds down, there is another important task that many folks need to remember. Fall is a perfect time of the year to control our three most common noxious weeds, leafy spurge, Canada thistle and musk thistle. This fall is setting up to be excellent for weed control because of moderate temperatures, some rainfall, and the lack of a hard killing frost have weeds actively growing which makes the more susceptible to herbicide treatments. Read more.

October 30, 2015
Fall Lawn Care

The lawn care season is winding down, but has not ended. Several important lawn care tasks for the next couple of weeks should include a final fertilization, continued mowing as needed, removing leaves that have fallen, and draining the irrigation system after watering in the last fertilizer application if Mother Nature doesn’t do that for us. Read more.


November 6, 2015
Protect Your Investment: Stored Grain Management

Harvest is over or winding down for most area farmers and it has been a near perfect fall for harvest. I know a few farmers with poorly drained bottomland soils who are waiting for it to dry out or the soils to freeze so they can finish harvest will disagree with me, but for the most part it has been a good fall for harvest after a wet start in late September. Read more.

November 20, 2015
Protect Yourself: Stored Grain Safety

Two weeks ago I talked about managing moisture and temperature levels in stored grain to protect and maintain the quality put into the bin. While it is important to protect grain quality, it is even more important to protect ourselves and others that might be working with or around on-farm stored grain. Read more.

November 25, 2015
Christmas Tree Selection & Care

For many families, once the Thanksgiving leftovers are in the refrigerator, it’s time to start preparing for Christmas. For many, the most prominent part of the holiday display is the Christmas tree. There has been a trend with more people selecting natural trees, but it is important to select a fresh tree. Read more.


December 4, 2015
Fire Prevention Around Your Home

Last Monday’s snow reduced the likelihood of fire for a while, but it didn’t last too long. While I don’t think many of us miss the snow, you do need to consider that this increases a risk that is easy to overlook. When dry plants and plant material are not covered by snow or moistened by rain, you need to be aware of potential fire hazards around your home. Read more.

December 11, 2015
Fire Prevention In Your Home

Last week I talked about fire hazards outside the home. This week I wanted to talk about a fire hazard inside. In 2014, almost 3,000 Americans died in residential fires and there were almost 16,00 fire-related injuries, according to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association. Read more.

December 18, 2015
Feeding Birds

One of the easiest ways to enjoy wildlife in the comfort of your home is to watch birds at a feeder. You'll be amazed at the variety of birds that will come to your feeder throughout the year. Experts disagree about whether backyard bird feeding will significantly help bird populations. But feeding certainly can help individual birds living near your home. Read more.

John Wilson's 2016 Columns/Articles


January 22, 2016
Check Stored Grain

Warm temperatures this winter will create the potential for grain to go out of condition in bins. When we have warm temperatures, grain nearest the bin walls, especially on the south and west sides of the bin, warms up more than grain in the middle of the bin. This difference in temperatures in the grain mass can cause moisture movement and condensation which leads to grain going out of condition. Read more.


February 5, 2016
Winter Is “For The Birds!”

This week is much better, but if you’re like me, last week wasn’t good to do much of anything outside if you didn’t have to. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the outdoors. I know my wife and I both spent time watching the bird feeders behind our house on some of those cold, snowy days.  Read more.

February 19, 2016
Melting Snow

Earlier this month it was snow, snow, snow, now it is melt, melt, melt. Melting snow puts moisture in the soil profile that benefits crops and ornamentals next summer, but it may also cause problems.  Read more.

February 26, 2016
Spring Projects

The Canada geese have been checking out the nesting boxes on the pond at my place which is a good indication that, if not here, spring is just around the corner. Warmer days predicted this weekend will gave me the opportunity to get outside and do some things in the yard.  Read more.


March 4, 2016
Skunk Alert!

A distinct odor greeted me as I parked in my driveway and walked towards the house when I came home from a meeting the other evening. I just hoped I’d make it to the back door before I discovered the source of that odor. (I made it!)  Read more.

March 11, 2016
Improving Pastures

You are probably a month or more away before you think about using pastures for grazing unless you stockpiled some forage, or left extra grass ungrazed last fall. Usually the first thing you will do to improve your pastures is to fertilize them in the spring... but fertilizer isn’t cheap. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to improve the productivity of your pastures without the cost of commercial fertilizers?  Read more.

March 18, 2016
ALFALFA - The Forgotten Crop

Too often alfalfa can be the forgotten farm crop... we take care of alfalfa when we’re caught up on everything else. I’d like to suggest you move alfalfa higher on your priority list... and one of the first things you need to do with your alfalfa fields should be done in the next few weeks.  Read more.

March 25, 2016
Severe Weather

Last week, March 21-25, was Nebraska Severe Weather Awareness Week. I think it is interesting that we have a whole week designated as Severe Weather Awareness Week, but only one day in November designated as Winter Weather Awareness Day. Read more.


April 1, 2016
Tornadoes: Fact or Myth

As a follow-up to last week’s report about severe weather awareness week, I thought it might be good to review some facts and myths considering our most violent form of severe weather in this part of the country, the tornado. No place in the U.S. is completely safe from tornadoes.  Read more.

April 8, 2016
Controlling Noxious Weeds

The weather hasn’t seemed like it lately, but we are coming into the window of time for controlling noxious weeds this spring. Fall may be the best time to control noxious weeds, but don’t neglect your opportunities this spring.  Read more.

April 15, 2016
Cool Weather & Burndown Herbicides

The weather seems like it can’t make up its mind whether it’s early March or late May. But finally the extended weather forecast appears to suggest more consistent springlike conditions. One concern I’ve visited with several local farmers about is how the freezing temperatures will affect the performance of burndown herbicides.  Read more.

April 22, 2016
Fertilizing Lawns & Crabgrass Control

This has been a strange spring for weather, but anymore I’m not sure what a normal spring is. We started wet, but it soon turned dry. Our temperatures alternated between those typical for mid-March and mid-May, but gradually warmed to where the soil was almost warm enough for crabgrass to germinate.  Read more.

April 22, 2016
Arbor Day - 2016

I was looking for something new to talk about regarding Arbor Day this year. So many times we focus on the usual talking points about Arbor Day...  Read more.

April 29, 2016
Ground Ivy Control

I expect to get certain kinds of calls at certain times of the year. My observations as I drove around led me to believe, and my suspicions were confirmed by the large number of calls I've received... 2016 is an excellent year for ground ivy in lawns.  Read more.


May 6, 2016

The Great Tomato Race

The shelves in the tent at our local garden retail outlet are full of horticultural potential in a variety of different size pots. Taking my wife in there is like ringing a bell for Pavlov’s dog, she suddenly starts drooling with the thought of eating.  Read more.

May 13, 2016
Nutsedge Drives Homeowners Nuts!

As I was recently mowing my lawn AGAIN between rains, I noticed a few light yellow-green blades of grass that were even taller than the rest of my grass. This was in a protected area right next to a retaining wall so I think that is why this weed was a little earlier than I would normally expect.  Read more.

May 20, 2016

Sure Sign of Spring

Some people may link the arrival of spring with lilac blooming or the need to mow your lawn. Not me, I have something that, to me, heralds the arrival of spring like nothing else... my first call on what to do about snakes around (or IN) someone’s home. This year was no exception!  Read more.

May 26, 2016
Emerald Ash Borer and Camels

In my 38-year Extension career, I never remember talking so long about a pest that wasn't even here! I'm sure part of the reason is that emerald ash borers (EAB) are so devastating to ash trees. Since its arrival, EAB has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees. Read more.


June 3, 2016 
Late Planting & Replanting Decisions

I’m sure there has been, but it’s hard to remember a year when we’ve had so much rain in April and May. This has put many farmers behind on their planting or made replanting necessary.Read more.

June 10, 2016
Windbreak Workshop

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, settlers and farmers recognized the importance of trees in what J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day, described as a treeless prairie when he moved to Nebraska. Many farmstead and livestock shelter windbreaks were planted up to or over a century ago.  Read more.

June 17, 2016
Emerald Ash Borer & Camels - The Rest of the Story

Three weeks ago, I wrote a column about how treating your trees for Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) was like treating your trees to prevent camel damage. It wasn’t necessary at this time because EAB, or marauding camels, hadn’t been detected in Nebraska.Read more.

June 24, 2016
Watering Lawns

Some areas have received rain in the past week or two, a few of those areas too much rain, but many areas are quite dry and lawns are starting to show signs of drought stress, especially with above normal temperatures.  Read more.


July 1, 2016
Brown Spots in Lawns

The warm humid conditions we’re experiencing can promote diseases such as dollar spot and brown patch. If brown areas appear in your lawn, diagnose the problem before applying a pesticide.  Read more.

July 8, 2016
Scouting for SCN

2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the soybean cyst nematode (SCN) being identified for the first time in Nebraska near Falls City. Since then it has been identified in 58 counties that produce 94% of Nebraska's soybeans.  Read more.

July 15, 2016 
Cash Lease Workshops on Wednesday, July 27

Area farmers and landlords have two opportunities to attend a Landlord - Tenant Cash Lease Workshop on Wednesday, July 27. Nebraska Extension will be offering programs at 1:30 p.m. at the Firehall in Pender or at 6:30 p.m. at the First National Bank Northeast in Tekamah.  Read more.

July 22, 2016

Tomato Problems

Our weather, with alternating cooler rainy periods and extreme heat like last week, is setting us up for a number of problems. Nothing is more frustrating to the home gardener than to watch their tomatoes slowly ripen, only to discover the bottom of the fruit has turned black and started to decay.  Read more.

July 29, 2016

Scout Now for Soybean Aphids

Soybean aphids have been found in recent field surveys in northeast Nebraska. I checked a few local fields and found an occasional plant with a few, usually less than 10 aphids/plant. These numbers are extremely low, which is typical this time of year, but it does signal it’s time to start scouting.  Read more.


August 3, 2016

New Thoughts on Watering Lawns

With recent scattered rains, watering lawns isn’t high on everyone’s priority list. However, if you missed out on the rain you may be watering your lawn now and almost everybody will probably have to water a few times in the next month or two.  Read more.

August 11, 2016 

Summer Lawn Care

Last week I talked about how to efficiently water your lawn in the summer without overwatering. There was an important point I needed to explain a little more. Someone asked what I meant about letting a lawn go dormant in the hot summer months and why it applied to bluegrass lawns, but not fescue lawns.  Read more.

August 19, 2016

Farmland Leases in Nebraska

Over half of the cropland in Nebraska is leased to someone else who farms the ground rather than being farmed by the owner. This has generated many more questions regarding leases and unfortunately, more misunderstandings between landlords and tenants.  Read more.

August 26, 2016

Bacterial Leaf Streak of Corn Confirmed in Nebraska

I have visited with a few people about this individually, but it could not be released publicly until last Friday, August 26. The following is taken from an article in the latest edition of CropWatch. For more information, other links, and images of the disease, please visit  Read more.


September 1, 2016

September Lawn Care

Last week we flipped the calendar over to a new month, and September can be the most important month to get your bluegrass and tall fescue lawns back in good condition after the stressful months this summer, although this year wasn’t as bad as many.  Read more.

September 8, 2016

New Corn Disease: Bacterial Leaf Streak

Some of you may have heard recently that a new disease had been discovered in Nebraska corn fields. On Friday, August 26, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture announced that this new disease called bacterial leaf streak of corn had been identified in Nebraska.  Read more.

September 15, 2016

Alphabet Soup: BSR-SDS-SCN

Don't you just love trying to remember what abbreviations and acronyms represent? I have to admit that every so often I will stare at an acronym and try to remember exactly what I should associate with the hodgepodge of letters in front of me. Today I want to talk about three of these that are all related.  Read more.

September 22, 2016 

National Farm Safety and Health Week

This kind of slipped up on me and I missed doing an article about it last week. However, the need and importance is the same a week later. I need to credit my colleagues at Iowa State University for much of the content of this article.  Read more.

September 29, 2016 

How to Minimize Soil Compaction During Harvest

Harvest is one of my favorite times of year. Watching fields being harvested as I drive to and from work each day takes me back to my days of growing up on a farm in the Platte River valley.  Read more.


October 6, 2016 

Fall Lawn Weed Control

We are just entering the best time of year to control many problem broadleaf weeds in turf. October is a GREAT time to control dandelions, white clover, ground ivy and other perennial weeds that are a perennial problem for people trying to keep their lawns looking nice.  Read more.

October 13, 2016

Noxious Weed Control

Harvest and planting season are probably the two busiest times of the year for most farmers. While I don't expect anyone to delay planting to take care of the other job I'm going to talk about today, it is something you might address when it's too wet to combine or as soon as harvest is wrapped up.  Read more.

October 20, 2016

Biting Bugs

After my experience a week ago Monday, that beautiful day when it got above 80OF, I told Patty I knew what I had to write about in my next column. I’d taken the day off to finish staining our house and enjoyed the weather, but not the pests that were out in full force that day.  Read more.

October 27, 2016

Spiders & Snakes

Forty-two years ago (that’s 1974 for the mathematically challenged), Jimmy Stafford’s song “Spiders & Snakes” peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts. For those of you too young to remember this, check it out on youtube. His lyrics, “I don’t like spiders and snakes,” are echoed by many 40-some years later.  Read more.


November 3, 2016

Fall is Best Time for Marestail Management

With corn and soybean harvest nearing completion, this is a great time to begin scouting fields for winter annual weeds. The primary species to look for is marestail, also known as horseweed, as many populations in Nebraska have evolved resistance to glyphosate and ALS-inhibiting herbicides.  Read more.

November 10, 2016

Don't Sing The Soybean Blues! Test for SCN

As harvest is wrapping up, most farmers are glad that job is finished and happy with their yields. This year good management and Mother Nature converged to give most farmers above average yields. But occasionally this fall, I ran into farmers who were disappointed in their yields, particularly soybean yields.  Read more.

November 17, 2016

Christmas Tree Selection & Care

I hate rushing the Christmas holiday before we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, but this might be too late for some people if I wait until next week. I’m guessing some people will select a Christmas tree on the weekend after Thanksgiving, along with their other early Christmas shopping.  Read more.

November 23, 2016

Fall Watering

It's important for trees, shrubs, turf and perennials to go through fall and into winter with a moist soil. Last week’s rains  haven’t completely made up for dry weather the last 6-8 weeks.  Read more.


December 1, 2016

Prepare Fireplaces and Firewood For Safe Use This Winter

Every year, at least 12,000 Americans die in residential fires, according to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association. Because of the risks associated with fires, it's important to understand and practice safety tips when using indoor fireplaces and wood burning stoves this winter.  Read more.

December 8, 2016 

Confronting Cropping Challenges

One thing many farmers dread each winter or early spring is attending a private pesticide applicator training session when their license to purchase or apply restricted use pesticides expires.  Read more.

December 16, 2016 

Fireplace & Wood Stove Safety

After our visit from the polar vortex last week, I hope I have enough wood split to use in our fireplace for heating over the winter. I’ve hear it said that firewood is an excellent heat source, it warms you five times.  Read more.