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Fall Soil Testing is a Good Investment

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By: Jerrold Tesmer, University of Minnesota Extension in Fillmore & Houston Counties

Soil testing, in any type of agricultural or horticultural landscape, can provide a number of benefits. A soil analysis takes the guesswork out of fertilizer recommendations, makes good economic sense and ensures fertile soil without excess fertilizer application. Based on the results of the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory, the local Extension office can provide area residents with their specific soil conditions, and ultimately offer more accurate advice and consultation to their questions.

Soil testing kits, which include sample bags, collection recommendations and a soil sample information sheet, are available at both the Fillmore and Houston County Extension Offices. Instructions for sampling soil in both small and large landscapes are also offered. After the sample has been collected and mailed to the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory, located on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul Campus, the results are processed within three to five days and returned to the landowner.

Along with the returned soil test results, recommendations are provided for nutrient application. Please contact me in Caledonia or Preston, at either Extension office, if assistance is needed to interpret the recommendations or soil test results.

More information regarding soil testing through the University of Minnesota can be found at http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu or http://www.extension.umn.edu/nutrient-management/
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Fertilizer recommendations in Minnesota are based on "Fertilizer Guidelines for Agronomic Crops in Minnesota" BU-06240-S Revised 2011, Daniel E. Kaiser, Extension Soil Scientist; John A. Lamb, Extension Soil Scientist; and Roger Elieason, Director, University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory.

Spring Planting and Care of Trees

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By: Nathan Winter, Extension Educator, McLeod & Meeker Counties

Trees are often enjoyed more by people that come after those that planted the tree. Trees help define how a yard in the city will look and the type of landscaping that can be done by determining shade or full sun types of plants. Businesses and city municipalities also use trees to help make areas more astatically pleasing to those that are working within in those areas as well as those that are using those areas for recreation. In rural country settings, trees serve many purposes, but one of the core purposes is protection from the weather elements.

We need to know when and how to plant trees to get them started off in the right direction. According to the University of Minnesota Forest Resource Extension, in the Midwest region, bareroot trees and shrubs should be planted when the plants are dormant in the spring or at the end of the growing season (fall). Balled and burlapped, containerized, and container grown plants can be planted throughout the growing season, but with caution during the summer months. If planting in the fall, the recommendation is to plant four weeks before the soil temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. To plant trees correctly, obtain a copy of the U of M publication called "Planting and Transplanting Trees and Shrubs", which can be found at http://z.umn.edu/e8m.

Watering is going to be important to a newly planted tree as well as any existing trees on your landscape. Since watering is such a time consuming task, you may have to pick and choose the existing trees that you want to water. I recommend watering any newly planted trees and also water any trees that have shown stress, disease, or insect problems through the growing season.

Water newly watered trees over the root zone of the tree. Established trees should be watered around the "root zone" of the tree. Roots of trees can vary from 1.5 to 3 times as wide as the canopy. Avoid frequent light watering and instead water infrequently and heavy. You will want to wet the soil to a 6 - 8 inch depth and then let the soil dry out in between. Use a rod to determine when you have wet the soil to that depth. Believe it or not, you can over water trees, which will starve the roots of oxygen and cause roots to rot. If rains are averaging one inch every week, watering will probably not be necessary.

Protect stems of landscape and shrub trees from animals and mechanical equipment. This is most important on new or young shrubs and trees. Use a mesh or hardwire cloth at least three inches from the stem. Plastic guards can also be used, but they are only recommended to encase the lower part of the stem, where damage can take place. Sun scald can be prevented by wrapping the trunk with a commercial tree wrap, plastic tree guards, or any other light-colored material. Put the wrap on in the fall and remove it in the spring after the last frost. Wraps should be used primarily on new trees.

Fertilizing trees should be done on a case by case basis. A soil test can be done to determine if the soil does not have the adequate amounts of fertilizer in the soil. U of M Soil Test Kits can be picked up at most U of M Extension Offices or by contacting the U of M Soil Testing Laboratory: http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/. Often, the tree has sufficient amounts of nutrients available if the lawn is already being fertilized regularly. To learn more about fertilizing trees, obtain a copy of the U of M publication called "Tree Fertilization: A Guide for Fertilizing New and Established Trees in the Landscape", which can be found at http://z.umn.edu/e8n.

Do the best you can to educate yourself on caring for those beloved trees properly. Proper care will help increase the longevity of your landscape trees and give you and others years of enjoyment and admiration for the trees.

Still Time to Prune Trees

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By Nathan Winter
Extension Educator, McLeod and Meeker Counties

The spring time weather will soon be heading our way with April only weeks away. The winter period has been the time for meetings and the spring brings outdoor activities and scratching of the soil for planting. From recent phone calls in the McLeod and Meeker County Extension Offices, I can tell people in the community are thinking ahead to spring. They are wondering what they should plant and how soon they can start? Often, many of the common questions revolve around tree management. For example, when should I prune my apple trees? Well, if you have not already, there is still some time for certain species of trees.

Prune apple trees, including flowering crabapples, mountain ash, hawthorns and shrub cotoneasters in late winter from February to early April. Spring or summer pruning increases chances for infection and spread of the bacterial disease fireblight. Autumn or early winter pruning is more likely to result in drying and die-back at pruning sites. Oaks, ash, and elm trees can also be pruned this time of year.
Pruning approaches include crown thinning, crown raising, and crown reduction. Crown thinning is primarily used in hardwoods to increase the amount of room for light and air to penetrate the tree. You still will want to maintain the trees natural shape, and form.

Another form of crown thinning is to make sure there is only one dominant leader instead of two or more co-dominate leaders on the tree. Crown raising is cutting off some of the bottom branches to permit travel underneath the tree. This could be for lawn mowers, people, and vehicles. Be sure not to raise the crown of the tree too high to avoid an excessively high crown.

Crown reduction is another approach to pruning. This method should be used only in a last resort when the tree has outgrown its permitted space. This approach should not be used on trees with a pyramidal growth form.

Topping and tipping pruning practices do more harm to trees than they help. Topping is pruning large upright branches between the nodes and is sometimes done to reduce the height of the tree. Tipping is pruning lateral branches between nodes to reduce the crown width. These practices result in sprouts and dead branches that will reduce the life of the tree. Use the crown reduction method as a last resort and avoid topping and tipping.

What about treating the wounds? Most of the time the tree sap, gums, and resins naturally work to decrease pathogens invading the trees. Therefore, there are very few circumstances when wound dressings are needed for pruning cuts. Often, they create more problems than they avoid.

The University of Minnesota Extension Website contains a vast amount of information. The website has further information pertaining to pruning other types of trees. Following is a great link to learn more about pruning trees and shrubs: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg0628.html.

By: Julie Sievert, Extension Educator, Sibley County
Christian Lilienthal, Extension Educator, Nicollet County
Mike Donnelly, Extension Educator, Rice & Steele Counties

Do you have the dream of owning acreage in the country? Do you have an existing acreage that is in need of a plan and strategies for the best possible results? The Living on the Land Workshop Series, offered by University of Minnesota Extension, will equip you with the education and resources to be successful.

The eight-week course is designed to arm landowners with agricultural information to enable them to be good stewards of their land. The course will begin with goal-setting and individual property inventory, then address soil, plant, water and animal basics.

The Living on the Land curriculum addresses a growing need for information regarding small acreages. The series incorporates knowledge and experience from a team of instructors to address topics including: what do you have and what do you want, what you can do with your land, protecting water quality, what to do about weeds, lawn and pasture maintenance, getting down and dirty with soils, and caring for and managing your animals. The series also includes a farm tour.

The series will be taught by Extension educators and natural resource professionals at two locations. One of the locations is in Gaylord at the Sibley County Service Center. In Gaylord, the series will be held on Monday evenings from February 4th to March 25th. The second location is in Northfield at the Northfield Community Resource Center. In Northfield, the series will be held on Thursday evenings from March 7th to April 25th. Both workshops will run from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. with light meals provided at each session.

Early registration is $175 until Monday, January 28 for the Gaylord location and Thursday, February 28 for the Northfield location. All registrations received after those dates will be $200. Each registration is valid for up to two people representing a single farm who will share materials. For example, a husband and wife team or two siblings may attend together. Benefits include useful educational publications, an educational farm tour, soil tests, a site visit/consultation from a University of Minnesota Extension educator in your area, as well as the tools to help you succeed with your goals and dreams on your country acreage.

For more information about the series in Gaylord, please contact Julie Sievert at 507-237-4100 or schu0944@umn.edu or Christian Lilienthal at 507-934-0360 or lili0004@umn.edu. For questions regarding the Northfield location, please contact Mike Donnelly at 507-332-6109 or donne099@umn.edu.

Register now--space is limited at each location. Additional information and the Living on the Land workshop series brochure can be found on the Small Farms website.

'Sick' Trees Becoming Common

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By Mike Boersma
Extension Educator, Pipestone and Murray Counties

Over the past several weeks, many homeowners have witnessed a number of problems with their trees. Some abnormalities this spring may include bare branches that failed to leaf out, seemingly healthy leaves falling from trees, small or under-developed leaves, curled leaves, or brown to black spots on otherwise normal leaves. While these symptoms can be a result of several things, many of them have likely been caused by one sort of environmental stress or another.

The dry fall, lack of snow cover, unseasonable winter temperatures, warm March, cool April, late frost, and wet May and June have all contributed to some extent. Dry conditions last fall and winter certainly caused stress to trees - especially young trees - that weren't properly watered. The warm March followed by a late frost also caused damage to leaf buds or very young leaves. But the most common cause for concern lately has been the brown or black patches developing on leaves of many species of shade trees. These patches are likely caused by a fungus, as the frequent rainfall during May and June provided ideal conditions for fungal growth.

Fungal diseases are most common in late spring and early summer and tend to follow stretches of cool, wet weather conditions. These diseases can take different forms and affect different species of trees, but they commonly appear as brown or black patches on the leaves of shade trees. Trees that are affected in early spring will often develop large patches that can cause the leaves to curl and fall from the tree. However, trees affected later in the growing season will likely only show small spots of black or brown on otherwise normal leaves.

While the signs and symptoms can vary significantly, the causes and effects of these fungal diseases are usually quite similar. In addition to cool, wet weather, dense trees or multiple trees planted too close together are often more vulnerable since the dense vegetation remains protected from sun and wind. This causes trees to remain cooler and wetter than ideal and allows fungi to grow and spread more readily. Fungal diseases often start on the lower, inner branches and work their way up and out.

Unfortunately, there is not much that we can do to help these trees right now. Simply watering, feeding, fertilizing, and keeping the trees as healthy as possible may be the best thing for them since fungal infections are not usually detrimental to the long-term health of the tree. Also, collecting and disposing of any fallen leaves will help prevent the fungus from spreading and re-infecting trees in the following growing season. Pruning dense growth to allow for more air circulation and sunlight penetration will also help to prevent the growth and spread of the fungus.

If the problem persists for multiple years or if the tree is under other stresses caused by root restrictions, insect pressure, or drought, homeowners may want to treat the infected tree with a fungicide as a means of prevention. Fungicide applications need to start in early spring, at bud break, and continue according to label recommendations. Unfortunately, while this process would help prevent future infection, it is not likely cost-effective until it is absolutely necessary - especially for large mature trees.

Visit the What's Wrong with May Plant Website to help you diagnose your tree problems: http://z.umn.edu/84k. The web page is designed to help gardeners in Minnesota diagnose problems in the yard and garden caused by insects, diseases, and nonliving factors.

By Mike Donnelly
Extension Educator, Rice and Steele Counties

The University of Minnesota Extension fields a number of questions regarding soil fertility and soil testing. The local Extension offices and the Farm Information Line offer soil testing assistance and are primary links to the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory, which provides routine soil testing and fertilizer recommendations for homeowners, farmers, florists, nursery workers and a number of other groups.

Soil testing, in any type of agricultural or horticultural landscape, can provide a number of benefits. A soil analysis takes the guesswork out of fertilizer recommendations, makes good economic sense and ensures fertile soil without excess fertilizer application. Based on the results of the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory, the local Extension offices and the Farm Information Line can provide advice and consultation with specific soil conditions.

Soil testing kits, which include sample bags, collection recommendations and a soil sample information sheet are available at your local Extension offices or by contacting the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory. Instructions for sampling soil in both small and large landscapes are also offered. After the sample has been collected it can be mailed or delivered to the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory on the St. Paul Campus.

The sample will be processed and analysis will be provided in the selected area. Along with the returned soil test results, recommendations are provided for nutrient application. If assistance is needed to interpret the recommendations or soil test results, please visit your local Extension office or call the Farm Information Line at 1-800-232-9077.

More information regarding soil testing through the University of Minnesota can be found at http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu.

Good Time for Lawn Weed Control

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By Nathan Winter
Extension Educator, McLeod and Meeker Counties

Spring is the time that most homeowners work towards controlling lawn weeds. Pre-emergent herbicides are often used to control crabgrass and other spring germinating weeds. Typically, the best time to apply pre-emergent herbicides for lawn weeds is the middle of May. However, timing should be moved up in 2012 due to the above normal temperatures this spring. Pre-emergent herbicides can be purchased to help control those populations. Follow the label requirements for application and be sure that the product is labeled for the use you have intended it for.

Some gardeners are now using corn gluten meal because it acts similar to pre-emergent herbicides by inhibiting weed seeds from germinating. Corn gluten meal also contains a source of Nitrogen fertilizer. For best results, apply 20 pounds of corn gluten meal per 1,000 square feet and lightly water into lawn. Be sure to not apply these pre-emergent herbicides to areas where you have planted seed or plan to plant seeds. These pre-emergent herbicides are not selective for which types of seeds they stop from germinating.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, post emergence herbicides may be applied any time the weeds are actively growing, the air temperature is 60-80 degrees F, there are no winds, and there is no rain in the forecast for 48 hours. Most effective control of perennial broadleaf weeds is obtained when applied in early fall (August 15-October 15) or in spring (May 1-June 1). For some weeds, repeated application at 20-30 day intervals may be required for control.

For dandelions, use 2, 4-D or a combination of 2, 4-D, MCPP (Mecoprop), and dicamba can also be utilized. The ideal timing for applying these products for dandelion control is September. If your weed control approach is to control dandelions in the spring, apply chemical after they have finished blooming in May. The non-chemical option is to manually dig out the plants. A weeding fork, dandelion diggers may be a couple of options for that task. Get as much of the dandelion root as you can so the dandelion does not start growing again.

For creeping charlie, use a combination of 2, 4-D and MCPP or a combination of 2, 4-D, MCPP, and dicamba. The ideal timing for applying these products to creeping Charlie is in September or autumn once temperatures have cooled to the 60's and 70's. If your weed control approach is to control creeping charlie in the spring, apply chemical while the temperature remain cool and the plant is actively growing in the beginning to middle of May. The non-chemical approaches are to pull the plant out or utilize a dethatching rake. It may be necessary to start over with the lawn if the creeping charlie gets out of control.

Most other broadleaf weeds can be controlled by herbicide applications of 2, 4-D and/or a combination of 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba. It is always a good idea to know what you are spraying to be sure that the herbicide will control the desired pest. The herbicide label should list the weeds it will control. Another herbicide option is to utilize a non-selective herbicide like glyphosate. Use of these types of products should only be used when spot spraying targeted weed pests. Drift on to lawns and ornamental plants will injure or kill the desired plants as well as the targeted weed pests.

A healthy lawn is very important to limit the competition of lawn weeds. Work on improving the lawn while trying to slow down and eliminate weed competition. Try to seed grass into bare areas of the lawn, fertilize, and aerate your lawn to help it compete against the weeds. When using chemicals, read and follow all of the directions for using the specific product. If you are looking for further information contact the Extension Office in McLeod County 320-484-4303 or Meeker County 320-693-5275.

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