Local Interest

What Kills Trees

By Kathleen Cue, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Assistant Educator

 Trees in native undisturbed sites live, on average, to be about 150 years old.  Downtown trees have a life expectancy of 7-17 years; suburban trees 30-40 years; and rural trees 60-70 years.  Why is there such a difference in life expectancy between trees in native sites than those in disturbed sites? Certainly there are acute factors, like hail, herbicide drift and insect infestations that can kill trees but the chronic issues overwhelmingly pre-dispose trees to shortened lifespans.

By Kathleen Cue, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

In carpentry, there is an old adage urging us to measure twice and cut once. The same can be said when it comes to plants.  Planning is the least expensive of the plant selection process, simply requiring a little of our time to talk to experts and glean information from catalogs and web sources.  I’ve never had a client say, “Gosh, I’m really sorry I planned and did the research!”  Rather, I hear from clients who didn’t adequately plan and are now dealing with how to help plants survive or costly removals.

Saving Seeds

By Kathleen Cue, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

 Long before the advent of seed catalogs, gardeners saved seed from their prettiest, tastiest and most promising flowers and vegetables of the gardening season, discarding the seeds from the blah, the unattractive and the poor producers.  In essence, gardeners have helped mold the shape of gardening selections, making them some of the earliest purveyors of genetic modification.

 Today, the farm-to-table movement has generated new interest in the time-honored practice of seed saving. Before starting seed saving, there are two concepts that are worth knowing and understanding.

Fall Garden Clean Up

By Kathleen Cue, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

 When cleaning up the fall garden, it’s hard to know what should be cleared away and what should stay.  Gurus of tidiness opt for removing everything now in order to start with a clean slate in the spring.  But is there such a thing as too much tidiness?  It turns out that, yes indeed, that can be true. 

 Plant stems act as a catch-all, collecting leaves, twigs and other bits of organic debris around the crown of perennial plants. This mulch layer protects the crown and root system from weather extremes, making them more winter-hardy.

The Benefits of Fallen Leaves

By Kathleen Cue, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

 It’s too bad autumn’s fallen leaves are seen as a nuisance, something to be gotten rid of as soon as possible. In truth, they are a boon to landscapes, serving as mulches, benefiting soils, and boosting our compost piles. Not only are leaf piles fun to jump in and make for great leaf fights, by using leaves, we keep this resource out of landfills.

Herbicide Damage to Vegetable Plants

By Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator Kathleen Cue, Dodge County

 Twisting, curling, and cupping of leaves are often symptomatic of herbicide damage on vegetable plants. The culprits that most readily cause this type of damage include 2,4-D (used to kill broadleaf weeds in lawns and pastures), dicamba (lawn and crop broadleaf weeds) and picloram (pasture broadleaf weeds). These herbicides are plant growth regulators, killing weeds by stimulating excessive growth and exhausting the plant’s carbohydrate reserves. When vegetable plants are exposed to smaller amounts of these herbicides, then distortion of growth results.

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