Posted by: Dennis Hinkamp on Apr 23, 2010
Spring Gardening Tips
Ask a Specialist: Do You Have Spring Yard Care Tips?
LOGAN, UT – Answer by: Taun Beddes, Utah State University Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent, Cache County
With warmer weather comes an array of questions about yard and garden care, including when to spray apple trees, if and when to apply lawn fertilizer and lawn insect control, and general timing of gardening tasks. Consider this information:
• Apple and pear trees will blossom soon. At blossom, they are most susceptible to fire blight, the disease-causing bacteria that usually enter the trees through openings in blossoms. From there, newly infected branches turn a burnt brown or black color and often develop a characteristic shepherd’s crook shape. To prevent fire blight, prune properly and do not over-fertilize. If trees appear healthy and produce sufficient amounts of fruit, consider not fertilizing at all. Over-fertilization and incorrect pruning stimulates excessive growth and causes trees to be highly susceptible to infection. Additionally, pruning during blossoming creates injury points where bacteria may enter.
To protect trees, apply an agricultural antibiotic during flowering, and follow label instructions carefully. Agricultural antibiotics may need to be reapplied after precipitation. Once an infection has occurred, the only way to remove it is through pruning. Branches should be removed 6 inches to a foot below the point where infection is visible. After every cut, pruners should be sterilized using a 10 percent bleach solution, spray disinfectant or rubbing alcohol. Of those options, rubbing alcohol seems to be less corrosive to metal parts. For detailed information, see the USU Extension fact sheet entitled Fire Blight (http://extension.usu.edu/cache/files/uploads/fire-blight-08.pdf).
• Fertilizing lawns properly is another spring task, and it can be very confusing. Factors to consider include what nutrients the turf needs and how much traffic the lawn receives. Utah soils often have sufficient nutrients, with the exception of nitrogen. Having a simple soil test performed by USU is inexpensive and can save money.
Generally, nitrogen-only fertilizers are less expensive than complete blends. For more information on soil testing, visit the USU analytical lab website (http://www.usual.usu.edu/).
The way the lawn is used is an important factor to consider when determining how much fertilizer to apply. If a lawn receives mostly light traffic, one or two applications will be sufficient. For heavier traffic areas, three or four applications may be necessary. For more information on lawn care, see the fact sheet (http://extension.usu.edu/files/factsheets/care.pdf).
• Lawn-feeding insects can be another difficult problem for gardeners. Insects often prefer grass that is over-fertilized and improperly mowed. For lawns with past infestations, it may be necessary to treat proactively. Preventative chemicals available to homeowners include halofenozide and imidacloprid. Lawn professionals have many other treatment options available. An online presentation detailing lawn pests can be found at (http://utahpests.usu.edu/ipm/files/uploads/PPTDocs/09sh-insects-turf.pdf).
The USU Extension Pest Lab offers a valuable service in answering many yard and gardening questions. The lab sends weekly email updates during the growing season that pertain to common landscape and garden problems. Visit its website (http://utahpests.usu.edu/ipm/) to subscribe to updates. Scroll to the bottom of the page and follow the hyperlinks.
Direct column topics to Julene Reese, Utah State University Extension writer, Logan, Utah, 84322-4900; 435-797-0810; firstname.lastname@example.org