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Extension > Small Farms News > April 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

Good Time for Lawn Weed Control

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.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Variety Selection

By Janelle Daberkow
Extension Educator, Stearns and Benton Counties

Care in the selection of the vegetable varieties you will be growing is important for many reasons. The selection of the varieties you choose to grow and sell should be taken after considering several different aspects of your production. First, consider what the market and consumer demand is for your area. Are the varieties you are growing popular and well received from your consumers? Are the consumers you are working with interested in something new or different? Next, consider your operation. Are the varieties you are growing performing well under your growing conditions? Are you pleased with how they are performing? Is the production schedule of these varieties suitable for your operation and consumer demands? And finally, consider if the varieties you are growing have any disease or insect resistance.

Certainly growing situations are very different for each grower, each location, and each year's conditions. But now, with advances in technology, we have the ability to extend the growing season by using high tunnels or row covers, select superior genetics in plants that have disease and insect resistance, and ultimately have a wider selection of varieties to choose from. Many vegetables have been bred for disease resistance, with a good example being tomatoes. Tomato varieties have different disease resistance that is identified on the seed package as V= verticillium wilt resistance, F= fusarium wilt resistance, T= tobacco mosaic virus, amongst others.

A resource available online for commercial growers has had an update release for 2012. The Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers can be found online at: This is a very useful resource for growers across the Midwest. This is an updated version of an already existing resource that has been created by Extension and University Research stations in from six different states across the Midwest. Another very helpful resource specific to varieties for Minnesota gardeners and growers can be found here:

So what should you do when selecting vegetable varieties? Do your research. Talk with colleagues, seed representatives and local growers and educators to gather as much information as possible about your options. Experiment by growing one or two different varieties or cultivars each year. Look at trying new varieties as an opportunity, rather than a chore. Consider surveying your consumers on their likes and dislikes on your experimental varieties, and ask them what else they would like to see from your products. Develop a relationship with the local seed representative so they can be a reference source for you, and can help to fill in any gaps that are not covered in a seed catalog. Collect and document previous year's data on sales, production, and performance. Information is power, so knowing what your consumer response is to your products, as well as how each variety fared with production and sales has infinite value, and will help to propel you into future years of production. Don't be afraid to take risks from year to year and measure how you fare, rather than being forced to take a huge risk when conditions are forced upon you.

Early Season Pasture Thistle Control

By Jerry Tesmer
Extension Educator, Fillmore and Houston Counties

When the grass started greening up, it also meant other less welcome plants will soon be appearing. Normally, early May is excellent for early season pasture weed control, but if this weather trend continues, consider moving the timing up. Plants that are easily controlled when small and tender become more difficult to control as they mature. Also, early control of pasture weeds allows more grass to grow and the pasture will support additional grazing.

There are a many broadleaf weeds to be concerned with, but Bull Thistle, Musk Thistle, and Canada Thistle seem to be most common. The good news is the process of controlling thistles often controls other broadleaf weeds.

Bull Thistle and Musk Thistle are biennials, which mean they take two years to complete their life cycle. They form a rosette (a flat group of leaves at ground level) and store food in their roots the first year and flower (produce seed) the second year. Control measures, chemical or mechanical, are most effective when applied during the first year's growth. If treatment is delayed until the second year, early season application of herbicide before bloom is important. In most cases you will have both years present in your pasture.

If you have only a minor problem with scattered plants, mechanical control can be effective. The rosettes are too generally too low to be mowed effectively, so digging the first year plants is your most dependable method. The second year growth can be mowed, but multiple trips will be needed to successfully prevent the thistles from producing flowers. Once you have flowers, you have seed. As a perennial, Canada Thistle can be a tougher weed to deal with. It not only produces seeds, it also spreads by underground rhizomes.

If you chose to use herbicide control, a number of choices are available. I counted fourteen options in the Grazing Restriction Table (page 41) in the U of M Extension Publication Plants Commonly Found in Established Minnesota Horse Pastures. Check it out at click on Agriculture, than Horses. Horse pastures have the same weeds as cow, sheep, and goat pastures.

Anytime you use herbicides reading the label is a must. The label will list any precautions and grazing limitations for milk and meat animals. However, many labels do not list horses. Extension Educator Krishona Martinson suggests horses should be excluded for seven to ten days after spraying.

This is another good argument for splitting pasture into multiple paddocks, not only will you increase grazing productivity, you have an opportunity to control weeds in each paddock When the animals are rotated out of a current pasture into a new one use that opportunity to dig, mow, or spray your thistles.

If you are trying to maintain a legume in your pastures, be aware that any of the broadleaf herbicides will eliminate both alfalfa and clovers. Mechanical control or spot spraying will be your only alternatives.

Age Appropriate Tasks for Youth

By Jerry Tesmer
Extension Educator, Fillmore and Houston Counties

Each year, about 100 farm children die across our country as a result of work-related injuries. Sometimes parents overestimate their child's ability to perform dangerous jobs. Before asking your child to perform any task or chore, ask yourself: Is my child physically and mentally prepared to handle the task at hand? Most child development experts suggest waiting until a child is at least age 12 or 13 before you allow them to operate a tractor or perform other potentially hazardous jobs. Even then, kids need adequate training and supervision.

Slow-Moving Vehicle Emblems

By Jerry Tesmer
Extension Educator, Fillmore and Houston Counties

Farmers know the limitations of their machinery. The general public may not! Tractors generally travel no faster than 25 miles per hour. Machines at this speed are identified to motorists on the road with a Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) Emblem. The SMV emblem has a central orange triangle. The orange triangle was designed to be eye-catching during daylight hours. The orange triangle is bordered by red strips of reflective tape. The red strips are visible as a hollow red triangle when illuminated by low beam headlights up to 600 feet. Check your SMV signs this spring before field work begins!

Take a Break

By Jerry Tesmer
Extension Educator, Fillmore and Houston Counties

Research shows that after every two hours of work, we should take a 15 to 20 minute break. This break can relieve stress and increase focus of what we are doing. Data shows that injuries occur more often in late morning or late afternoon after farmers have been working for several hours. A short break in the middle of the afternoon will decrease your chances of having a serious farm accident. After such a break we are more rested and more mentally alert.

Instead of thinking of downtime, think of a nap as a good risk management tool. The average farm accident can cost upwards of $20,000 in medical bills and lost productivity. Operator downtime pays because there are fewer errors, injuries, and even deaths when a body is well rested.

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