Weekly News Releases and Columns

October 18, 2021

NEWS RELEASES

Cuming County 4-H Achievement "Tailgate"

This year, the Cuming County 4-H Council and Extension Staff are switching things up for this year's end of year celebration. Join us for an evening of food, bounce house, corn hole tournament, photo booth & more! This year's event will take place on Sunday, November 14th from 5:00-7:00 p.m. There will be an informal program beginning at 6:00 p.m. with pictures to follow. Food will be served from 5:00-6:30 p.m. Families may come and go as they please, but if 4-H members are receiving awards, we ask they arrive at 6:00 p.m. for pictures.

Another fun event is a corn hole tournament. We are looking for corn hole teams! If you are an interested 4-H member, please contact the Extension Office with two team members names and a team name.

Although this is an open house, we do need a head count for food. So, please RSVP to the Extension Office by November 8th.

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SOURCE: Melissa Nordboe, Extension Assistant
RELEASE DATE: September 27, 2021

Cuming County Board of Supervisors Seeking Extension Board Nominations

The Cuming County Board of Supervisors are seeking nominations for individuals interested in serving a three-year term on the Cuming County Extension Board. Due to changes in the laws, Extension Board Members are appointed by the Board of Supervisors rather than being elected.

Three positions on the Cuming County Extension Board are up for appointment. The district lines are defined according to the Cuming County Board of Supervisors districts. Nominees are needed for the districts served by Supervisors District Steve Meister District 1 and Norbert Holtz, District 7. Eric Brockmann, Extension Board Representative, has agreed to a second 3-year term in District 3 (Supervisor Judy Mutzenberger). Potential candidates are encouraged to contact the Extension Office, if you have questions on which supervisor district you reside in.

A nominating committee is seeking nominations or calls from interested individuals. This nomination committee will be responsible for preparing a slate of potential candidates that will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration. If you are interested in being a candidate, please feel free to contact the Cuming County Extension office at 402/372-6006. You may also contact nominating committee members Kristie Borgelt or Joan Plagge.

According to Extension Educator Hannah Guenther, the operation of Nebraska Extension should be given serious consideration by all county residents. It operates the tax funds under the guidance of the Cuming County Extension Board. Extension programs focus on priority needs and issues facing people of the county.

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SOURCE: Hannah Guenther, Extension Educator
RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2021

Extension Board to Meet

The Cuming County Extension Board will hold their regular meeting on Monday, October 25, 2021. The meeting will be held in the Courthouse Meeting Room beginning at 7:00 p.m. The full agenda for the Extension Board meeting is available for review at the Extension office.

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SOURCE: Hannah Guenther, Extension Educator
RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2021

Food, Nutrition and Health

Hannah Guenther

Nebraska Extension Serving Cuming County

Have a Healthy Halloween

I feel that it is necessary to start this article by saying that I am not a Halloween person. I do love a chance to get into character, but as a whole Halloween is just not my holiday. That being said as time goes on, I am starting to get a little more festive so much so that Charlotte already has her Halloween costume, mums are sitting on my front porch, and we (Adam and Charlotte) carved a pumpkin this year! Charlotte has been taking her Halloween costume for a test run most evenings, so we are counting down the minutes until she can finally wear her bank robber attire. So, it only seems right to share with you some fun and creative ways to celebrate this holiday so we can all have a great Halloween!

Poison Apples

No, I'm not saying handout poison apples, but I do think apples are a great treat without any tricks. Buy a large sack of apples and make a sign advertising poison apples (sans poison) for the trick or treaters. Encourage trick or treaters to wash all fresh fruit prior to eating. I know that you might be thinking that they will be avoided, but you may be surprised how many kids will appreciate the crunch of fresh fruit after munching on candy all night.

Ghostly String Cheese

For a personalized protein snack, dress up string cheese with a sharpie! Simply draw two eyes and an open mouth to turn your string cheese into little ghosts. They are individually wrapped and will help balance out that sugar rush.

Jack 'O' Clementine's

Keep that sharpie out for one more trick. Buy a bag of cutie clementine's from the grocery store and turn them into mini pumpkin by drawing jack-o'-lantern design on the fruit. Since the peel protects the fruit, your oranges will still be safe to eat!

Franken-Cakes

With the holiday landing on a weekend, I am planning ahead with some spooky, scary breakfasts. One of my favorite festive breakfasts is having fun with pancakes. To turn your pancakes a ghastly shade of green, add your milk and eggs to a blender with a ripe banana and 2 large handfuls of spinach. Add to your dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Candy Corn Parfait

I'm an absolute sucker for candy corn and it is the inspiration of this snack that would be perfect for a seasonal snack this Halloween. In small clear cups layer cut pineapple, mandarin oranges, and top with vanilla yogurt. It looks like candy corn, tastes sweet, but is healthy and full of vitamins.

Mummy Pizza

This final snack is a great way to get in the holiday spirit and get kids in the kitchen. Cut English muffins in half and spoon on a thin layer of pizza sauce. Pull and layer string cheese horizontally across the English muffin. Add two slices of olives for your mummy's eyes and put under the broiler for 30 seconds - 1 minute until the cheese has melted. It's a yummy mummy!

Try one or all these recipes or suggestions for a healthier Halloween!

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Garden Bits

Kathleen Cue
Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

Fall's Fungi

This is the time of year when fungi become the topic of conversation. What most people find alarming is the speed with which conks, mushrooms, and puffballs develop. In some cases, it is literally overnight. What is visible are the sporulating structures—the part of fungi that produces the next generation. A good way to think of this is plants make seeds to produce the next generation, fungi produce spores. These spore-producing structures are varied and fascinating, and most people who ask about them are wanting to eat them.

Perhaps it is the tastiness of morels that have people wondering if other fungi taste as good. As mycologist and Master Gardener Dr. Tom likes to say, "There is no antidote when a poisonous mushroom is eaten. The sum of what medical staff can do is to treat the symptoms and hope you survive." This is a sobering thought indeed when contemplating eating something found in the landscape and emphasizes the need to identify anything before it is eaten.

Mycologists use several characteristics of fungi to identify them. First, the outward appearance is analyzed as to shape, color, and size. This alone is not necessarily enough to ID mushrooms; in which case a spore print is necessary. Spore prints are created by laying a mushroom's cap, gill side down, on a sheet of white paper. (Dark paper is used for spores expected to be white.) A bowl is inverted over everything to keep out drafts and then left in place overnight. The next day the bowl and mushroom is removed to reveal the color and pattern the spores have left on the paper. When coupled with the physical characteristics of an unidentified mushroom, a spore pattern is an excellent tool for identification.

Most fungi are saprophytic, meaning they take in their nutritional needs by decomposing dead organic matter such as leaf litter and wood. Saprophytes are important nutrient recyclers in an ecosystem and keep us from being buried up to our chins in organic material. Some fungi are plant pathogens, killing the plant they are growing in and on. Still others are beneficial to trees (known as mycorrhizae), extending a tree's root system to aid in water and nutrient uptake in return for sugars produced by the tree.

When submitting fungi for identification to your local Extension Office, place them in a paper bag and leave them unrefrigerated until they are dropped off. Plastic bags and chilling speed the decay process, making identification more difficult. Wear gloves to protect your hands or wash hands soon after collection is completed.

A good source for more information about mushrooms is found here: https://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/gtr/gtr_nrs79.pdf .

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Blooming Lilacs

It is not unusual for some plants to blossom out of season. Magnolia, crabapple, lilac, and forsythia are notably spring-blooming plants, but stressful growing conditions can instigate a type of dormancy that pushes flowering to later in the season. Lilacs are a great example this year.

To better understand why this happens, it is helpful to know when flower bud formation takes place. As soon as the current flowers fade, trees and shrubs begin the process of making flower buds for next year. These buds are stored within the wood, fully formed just beneath the bark, during the remainder of the summer and extending through the winter. In a "normal" growing season (whatever that is!) flower buds will break dormancy in the spring and emerging buds will open. Environmental conditions and ill-timed pruning will disrupt the timing of flower bud emergence.

It's important to note that the late flowering of a lilac does not indicate a dying plant. It does, however, point to something being off, whether it is manmade or environmental. One factor, pruning late in any growing season, is going to disrupt flowering the following year because mid-summer to late fall pruning removes flower buds that have already formed. Drought, deep cold, late frosts, and extreme springs are environmental factors that throw off the plant's internal flowering clock as well.

For this year, the negative double-digit freeze of February followed by the cold wet spring segueing into hot summer conditions were the instigation of late flowering in lilacs. This abrupt variation in weather is difficult for us to handle but imagine being a plant stuck outside and weathering whatever Mother Nature throws your way! Unlike ill-timed pruning, which removes already-formed flower buds, weather conditions not conducive for flowering will keep flower buds dormant, delaying emergence until conditions are favorable for flowering.

Since late flowering can be indicative of plant stressors beyond our control (like weather), best management practices now will help them in the months ahead. Deep, infrequent irrigation, mulching with 2-4 inches of wood chips or shredded bark, and refraining from fertilizing are good practices, providing the support plants need to go about their normal cycles of emerging, growing, and flowering next year.

Kathleen Cue is the Horticulture Extension Educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Dodge County, Fremont, Nebraska.

Extension is a Division of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln cooperating with the Counties and the United States Department of Agriculture. University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension educational programs abide with the nondiscrimination policies of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Readying the Garden Soil for Winter

As harvest from the vegetable garden draws to a close, it is time to plan and take steps to protect the soil for the winter months ahead. This ensures the soil is in good shape and ready for next year's garden. After all, soil isn't just dirt, but a rich and varied composition of minerals and plant nutrients, organic matter, beneficial microorganisms, and humic acid. It is not only foundational, with spaces for roots to grow and anchor plants, but also serving up a nourishing "stew" for seed germination, plant growth and vegetable production.

You can start by removing spent vegetable plants, weeds, and mushy produce from the garden. Diseased plant material and weeds with seeds should not be composted but buried elsewhere as most home compost piles do not get hot enough to kill pathogens and seeds. Things that are disease and insect free can be added to the compost pile.

Consider planting a cover crop, sometimes known as green manure, such as annual rye, hairy vetch, peas, radishes, or barley. Seeds planted now will germinate yet this fall, providing winter-long protection of the soil from wind erosion. Cover crops also protect the soil from rain droplet splash, which destroys soil structure. Come spring, the cover crop is mowed, and the material worked into the soil, boosting soil tilth. More information about cover crops is found at this USDA site: https://go.unl.edu/kjn3 .

Piles of raked tree leaves should not be burned. Instead, run a mulching mower over the leaves to chop them up, then add them to the garden. Roughly spade in the chopped leaves to keep them from blowing away. The presence of leaves in the soil will allow for better infiltration of water, which in turn provides a jump start to leaf decomposition, ultimately enriching the soil and providing pore spaces for plant roots to grow.

Fall is a great time to add soil amendments. A soil amendment loosens clay soils and increases water holding capacity in sandy soils. Realize that plant roots don't grow in the soil, they grow in the spaces in the soil, so adding amendments like compost, well-aged manure, leaf mold, or decomposed wood chips increases soil spaces and root growing capacity.

Vary the tools and methods for cultivating the soil. Using a mechanized tiller, year after year, can create an undesirable hardpan layer beneath the cultivated soil. Hardpan allows little water percolation, creating a waterlogged soil above it, and an impenetrable layer for roots to grow through it. Opt instead, to forego using any cultivation at all or hand dig with a spade in alternate years, breaking through the tine depth of the rototiller's reach and punching holes into the hardpan below.

If the soil is powdery dry, drag out the hoses and do a final watering of the garden. Soil water helps with the freeze-thaw cycle, fracturing soil into beneficial soil aggregates and boosting soil structure.

Caring for the soil has a huge payoff, with healthy plants and better production. Gardeners can take the time to provide winter protection for their soil, ensuring it remains the resource that it is.

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Snails and Slugs

Snails and slugs are noted for their voracious appetites, eating holes in the leaves of hosta (their preferred food) but also munching on roses, ferns, impatiens, begonias, and fruits, including strawberries and tomatoes. You may not see the actual snails and slugs themselves since they prefer to feed at night or on cloudy days, but if you see holes AND their silvery slime trails, these guys are making themselves at home. Typically, snails and slugs prefer to slime their way to the center of leaves where they will eat holes between leaf veins. Sometimes they eat their way inward from leaf edges.

Both snails and slugs are mollusks. They move about, crawling along with one muscular "foot" structure. This muscle secretes mucus to make travelling easier. Snails and slugs have a similar appearance except snails have a shell and slugs are shell-less.

Gardeners should employ a multitude of strategies to lower snail and slug numbers.

•Surround plants with diatomaceous earth in a band about one inch high by three inches wide. Diatomaceous earth is tiny shell shards of ancient marine animals. As slugs and snails crawl across diatomaceous earth, their bodies are punctured, causing dehydration and death. Diatomaceous earth loses its effectiveness when wet, so re-applications will have to be made after a rainstorm.

•Use drip irrigation to reduce humidity and wet surfaces. Dry areas incur less snail and slug activity than damp places do.

•Snails and slugs are attracted to the smell of fermentation. You can lay a beer trap for them by burying a shallow dish in the soil, so the top of the dish is even with the soil surface. Fill the trap with beer or near beer. Snails and slugs will crawl towards the scent, fall into the trap, and then drown. Check the trap regularly, emptying it and adding more beer as needed.

•Lay old boards around the base of plants. Snails and slugs like to congregate in cool moist places. Every morning, the boards can be flipped over, and gardeners can step on the mollusks hiding there.

•Iron phosphate, sold as Sluggo® or Escar-Go®, interferes with snail and slug metabolism, causing them to cease their feeding and later dying. These products are labeled for use on ornamentals and food crops.

•Pesticides containing the active ingredient metaldehyde are effective against these mollusks by dehydrating them but may be ineffective when rainfall or irrigation provides the necessary water to re-hydrates snails and slugs.

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Fall Armyworm

The fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, is a pest of row crops and lawns, preferring Kentucky bluegrass above other types of lawn grasses grown in the region. The caterpillars eat the blades of grass, to the point of turf thinning and browning. Sixth instars, the largest they'll grow as caterpillars, are 1-¼ inches long with 3 stripes extending along their length and an inverted "Y" shape on their head. Pupation takes place in the turf, with the adult moths emerging to mate. Sources differ on the number of eggs each female produces but it is many, ranging from 100 to 1000. Egg masses can appear on buildings, fences, plants, and outdoor furniture. Eggs develop into first instar caterpillars in just 2-5 days. Initially, feeding is minimal, owing to the caterpillar's small size, but as they grow, their appetite increases and the damage they cause more readily apparent.

The FAW is a tropical pest, overwintering where winters are mild, in southern Florida and Texas, and blown to northern locations via storms and the accompanying winds in summer. The "fall" in its common name refers to caterpillars becoming prevalent in late summer and early fall and "armyworm" references the caterpillars moving across the lawn in a line, eating everything as they go. FAW has no diapause, a suspension of development to successfully overwinter harsh winters like some of our native insects do. The FAW will be active until the first freeze at which time all feeding and activity by the FAW ends—at least until next year's storms blow moths into our region.

Insecticides will be most effective when caterpillars are newly-hatched and damage is not noticeable. To monitor for the FAW, mix a container of soapy water and dump it on the lawn. If the caterpillars are present, they will move above the lawn's surface. Insecticides containing one of these active ingredients are effective against the fall armyworm: carbaryl, chlorantraniliprole, azadirachtin, Monterey B.t., spinosad, and bifenthrin. Once the lawn is free of the FAW, overseeding may be necessary to fill in thin areas. More information about the fall armyworm may be found here: https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/insects/fall-armyworm-in-turf/ .

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Selecting Trees

With September upon us, it's time to think about tree planting. If tree selection is on your to do list, putting the effort and time into researching what trees to plant pays off in a tree canopy that nets long term benefits in shade, beauty, soil stabilization, and stormwater mitigation.

Start by taking an inventory of what is already there—not just what is in your yard but in the neighborhood as a whole. Being the sixth person on your block to plant the same tree in the yard means loss of significant tree cover when an insect or disease wipes them out. (Think of the emerald ash borer with ash trees.) Diversifying trees in a landscape lends resiliency and negates the need for treating every single tree when a species-specific problem strikes.

Next, seek the input from tree people. Not tree people who blog from their work site far away, but tree people from your region, who have experience in troubleshooting tree health issues and provide consultation for trees problems that have developed 5-10 years after trees are planted. Understanding what problems are commonly seen is information worth knowing when selecting a tree.

The final consideration is the mechanism for how the tree is grown out at the nursery—potted, B & B (balled and burlapped), grow bag, and bare root. Potted trees should be in a specialty pot that prevents roots from circling, which would require removal/disentangling before planting. B & B trees deliver larger trees but also have lost a considerable portion of their root system when dug by a hydraulic tree spade. Grow bags are made of a heavy-duty mesh fabric that allows roots to breathe and develop without circling inside the bag. Bare root trees, primarily available for purchase in the spring, saves considerable costs in transport because there isn't the added weight of soil. All of these mechanisms for roots have advantages and disadvantages.

Don't be afraid to purchase a small tree. "What is a fast-growing tree I can plant?" is a common question and too often results in planting the same trees over and over again. Small trees, having a more complete root system, don't have to overcome root loss and girdling, sending energy into top growth, a huge benefit. The old belief to stay away from planting an oak because it is slow growing is no longer true when beginning with a small tree.

Many problems are actually created when trees are planted, so pay close attention to the root flare, the part of the tree's anatomy where the trunk flares into a root system. If the flare isn't visible above the soil line, the tree is too deep. Trees can be too deep within the pot, ball, or grow-bag themselves so be sure to determine where the flare is located on the tree and then plant so the flare is slightly above the soil line.

Looking for a good tree list? Start with the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum's "Trees for Eastern Nebraska": https://go.unl.edu/7iwr .

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Late Season Pest Management in the Vegetable Garden

This is the season of vegetable abundance and while it would be great if our most pressing concern involved harvest, instead we find vegetable pests are an ongoing problem.

Squash Bugs
This sucking pest reduces leaves to dry crunchiness, interfering with the process of photosynthesis and vegetable production. Where their numbers are small, adult and immature squash bugs can be handpicked from cucumber, melon and squash plants and dropped into a bucket of soapy water. When populations are high, Neem oil can be applied to the bugs and their eggs (red in color and massed in the "V" of the leaf veins on the undersides of leaves.) Trap crops of delicata or blue hubbard squash are preferred food sources for squash bugs, minimizing their damage to other crops, so long as gardeners still manage pest numbers in the trap crops.

Squash Vine Borer
No insect causes the collapse of squash vines faster than squash vine borer. Eggs are laid at the base of stems by the adult, a clear wing moth. Hatching caterpillars bore into stems, feeding on water-conducting tissues. Since it is almost impossible to eradicate them once they are in the stems, prevention is key. Wrapping the base of stems with cardboard rolls or strips of aluminum foil will prevent access to stems by the egg-laying female moths.

Cabbage Looper Caterpillar, Diamondback Moth Caterpillar, and Imported Cabbageworm
Caterpillars in this group feed on the leaves of cole crops. Gardeners wanting to get in a second planting of cabbage or broccoli can be frustrated by these insect pests coming to the table with forks in hand. Initial holes from feeding are gradually enlarged to leave nothing behind but a few leaf veins. Squishing caterpillars between your fingers is certainly satisfying but Dipel (B.t.), Neem oil, or Spinosad will work too.

Blister Beetles
Blister beetles have wide-ranging food preferences among crops, ornamentals, and vegetable gardens, eating holes in the leaves of eggplant and potato. This species is not all bad—blister beetle larvae feed on grasshopper eggs. The bodies of the blister beetle contain cantharidin, which can cause blisters on skin when insects are crushed. Their numbers are rarely high enough in vegetable gardens to warrant application of an insecticide so instead, gather blister beetles with a gloved hand and drop them into a bucket of soapy water.

Bi-Weekly Column:
  • Have a Healthy Halloween!
  • News Releases