Hot time in the Summer…

DSCN3721When it comes to Nebraska weather, we all tend to forget how quickly our feelings can switch. Why, only six months ago many of us probably could be heard complaining about how cold it was outside. Many pleaded for Mother Nature to give us a bit of warm weather to remind us spring would soon return. But, once spring arrived for those of us around Lincoln we soon were asking Mother Nature to stop raining after giving us the wettest May on record. And, don’t forget that a few years agowe were entering the begining of the Drought of 2012. The soil was parched, plants were withering, and many lawns were turning brown. It seems like many years Nebraska weather can be similar and quite different at the same time.

While this spring and early summer have been enjoyable with at times cooler temperatures, there isn’t anything quite like summer in Nebraska. The old adage “If you don’t like the weather – wait five minutes – it’ll change” certainly comes to mind. Every year though Mother Nature eventually turns up the heat and sends us more normal summer weather and that normal weather will drive many of us into the cool respite of air conditioned houses and outside searching for shade to avoid the heat.

July and August for many is a time for vacations, celebrating the Fourth, and enjoying the sweet taste of vegetables from our vegetable gardens. For those of us in the nursery industry we spend our time helping clients try to keep their landscapes and gardens looking their best. For some that could mean dealing with disease and insects, while for others it could mean assistance with caring for their plants, and for others installing new plantings. Yes, I did say planting.

Neddenriep, Shirley - Gardening - Nemaha CountyWhile the summer is not a time to “plant and forget,” it can be a great time to plant. Many have extra time and possibly some help from kids out of school or are simply spending more time at home caring for their kids over the summer. While some days bring terrible heat, most summer mornings or early evenings usually bring moderation to the heat making it actually enjoyable to be out working in our landscapes and gardens.

When we talk about planting in the summer, it is with some understanding and care. Simply put, people who plant in the summer usually tend to care for their plants better than those who wait for fall. The nicer weather in spring encourages people to believe that Mother Nature will take care of new plants without our help. We see our plants standing strong and tall and mistakenly believe that we won’t have to do much because the plants are looking great. However, with our Nebraska summers we need to make sure we care for our plants, whether we planted them last fall, this spring, or this summer. Keep an eye on any plant younger than about 12 months, ensure you water them about once or twice a week and you should do fine.

For those who are itching to add a few plants or simply have finally found time to work in the landscape, summer planting can be rewarding and offer great success with proper care. A young plant, whether it is planted in the cool spring or the hot summer, simply needs a bit of assistance to make sure it survives until it can set its roots and begin caring for itself. How long this takes will depend on the plant. Check with your local nursery professional for specific care instructions for your specific plantings.

When it comes to caring for your older plants while they should not need as much supervision don’t worry if they aren’t looking as good as they did in the spring. A bit of timely watering, maybe some trimming to shape the plant, and a bit of mulch to help hold the moisture around the root system can do wonders to help them through the summer. With a bit of care, plants showing stress in the heat should perk right back up and yes, even thrive, in our challenging summers.

  1. Keep watching for insects and disease in your turf and plants. The added stress of summer heat can make any problems they cause affect your plants even worse.
  2. Check your turf for grub issues. Consider applying preventative treatments if you’ve had grub issues in the past. Otherwise keep an eye out for damage then treat ASAP.
  3. Watch your watering! It’s just as easy to over water your plants as it is to under water. Best results are with watering at least a day or two apart that are applied slowly and deeply to encourage plants to establish vigorous root systems. Aim to water for longer duration but less frequently for best results.
  4. Dead head old blooms as needed to encourage plants to re-bloom faster or to give a cleaner appearance on plants done blooming for the season.

Keep an eye out for fungus. With higher humidity this time of year, we are seeing fungal issues. Use preventatives if you are worried as prevention takes half the material and effort as attempting to cure will take

DSCN4290Now when we talk to clients about summer plant care the first thing we mention is to try to walk the landscape at least once a week even in the heat. Check for weeds, look for insect or disease issues, and generally try to catch problems before they can get out of hand. A bit of work in the heat could solve a problem with minimal effort versus waiting until the weather is cooler but now the problems have grown and it might take lots of work to get things back in shape. Many of our clients usually do this walk around when they mow their lawn.

As you walk your landscape keep an eye out for insects eating on foliage, red spider on evergreens, the jalapeno shaped husks of bagworms on evergreens, turf damage from grubs or webworms, and fungal issues on roses, turf, or other plants. Most problems, if noticed before too much damage occurs or pests are allowed to get out of control, can be controlled with timely treatment. While many chemicals are labeled for many plants and pests do always follow label directions and consult a nursery professional with questions and to get help picking the right control for your situation.

As long as you are able to check on your plants once or twice a week through the summer and add a bit of water as needed, and possibly deal with a problem before it gets out of hand, you should be able to keep your plants growing well and looking good even in the heat of summer.

Overall Mother Nature can be our best friend or worst enemy. Which one we believe she is all depends on what she brings us each day, and I for one have said a few choice words about her already this year. However, if we are there to care for our plants here and there, the summer time in Nebraska can be an enjoyable and often fulfilling time in the landscape.

 

 

Andy Campbell is manager of Campbell’s Nurseries Landscape Department. A Lancaster County Farm Bureau Member, Campbell’s, a family owned Nebraska business since 1912, offers assistance for all your landscaping and gardening needs at either of their two Lincoln garden centers or through their landscape design office. www.campbellsnursery.com.

 

Sweet Onion Casserole

A5 Recipes- sweet onion casseroleIngredients
5 large sweet onions, halved and sliced longitudinally
½ cup butter
½-1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup crushed butter-flavored crackers
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions
1. In very large skillet, saute onions in butter until very tender.
2. Place half of onions in a greased 2-quart baking dish; sprinkle with half of the cracker crumbs and half of the cheese. Repeat layers.
3. Bake uncovered at 350º for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

 

Yield: 8-10 Servings

How to Pick the Best Ear of Sweet Corn and Cook It Perfectly

DSC_3330We’ve all been there. Walking around the farmers market, or grocery store, hundreds maybe even thousands of ears of sweet corn piled in a bin waiting for the luck of the draw. Yes, you could rip each husk open, peer inside and make your choice that way. Or, utilize this simple and accurate way to choose your staple for summer dinner.

  1. Look for corn with silks that are brown and sticky to the touch. If the silks are black or dry, the corn is old. The more silks, the better that means there will be more kernels of corn.
  2. Feel through the husk, without peeling it, checking for plump, even kernels. And the husks should be a nice green color, not brown.
  3. Check the bottom on the ear of corn where it was broken off the stalk. If it has turned brown, it’s probably at least two days old.

You must remember, when buying fresh sweet corn, the tasty sugars start turning to starches the moment it is picked, so you will want to cook it the same day you buy it, if possible. But, sweet corn will keep in the fridge longer if you leave the husks on. Page 5 - bigstock_Corn_On_The_Cob_4473454If you buy your sweet corn from the farmers market, don’t be surprised if you find a bug, but don’t expect to see them. Delicious sweet corn starts in the field (where there are bugs). Nebraska farmers are proud to provide high-quality foods and they’re using the latest in technology to do so. Sweet corn hybrids have been grown by farmers for more than a decade. Technology has allowed a protein found in naturally occurring bacteria to be combined with sweet corn seed. It protects the sweet corn from insects that are drawn to the sweet sugar in the crop. Even some organic farms will use this bacteria to control certain insects. By building the protein into the seed, farmers can raise much more of the crop to meet demand while using about 85% less insecticide, fuel and energy (tractor trips across the field). 4H notecard2Overall, it’s a win-win for the farmer and consumer. But all this work can go to waste by overcooking that ear of corn. There are so many ways to prepare sweet corn. Boil it. Grill it. Microwave it. This is the most basic method to cook an ear of corn perfectly.

  1. Start with a pot of water on the stove.
  2. Add husked corn. When the water comes to a rapid boil, the corn is done. About 5-10 minutes.
  3. That’s it! Enjoy with butter!

For bonus, I’ll give you a couple things to avoid in the cooking process.

  1. Do not add salt to the water. It will toughen the corn as it cooks.
  2. Don’t cool the corn under cold water, unless you like soggy sweet corn.
  3. Overcooking will cause the kernels to become hard and reduce the sweetness.

Blog Bio Pic with Color

Easy Sherbet Swirl Dessert

IA5 Recipes- Sherbert dessertngredients
Crust:
25 crushed vanilla wafers
1/3 cup flaked coconut
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter, melted
Filling:
1 pint each of three different sherbet flavors or 3 pints of rainbow sherbet.
Note: I prefer combining orange, pineapple, and raspberry sherbets, but in small town Nebraska, you may have to use what is available. Rainbow sherbet was used for the recipe in the picture.

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In medium bowl, combine crust ingredients. Place1/2 cup of crumb mixture in small baking dish. Press remainder of crumb mixture in an 8 or 9-inch springform pan. Bake both containers of crumb mixture for 10-12 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.
3. Allow sherbet to soften slightly. Carefully place scoops of each sherbet alternately over crust. Spread sherbet until the crust is covered. With a knife, carefully swirl sherbets together for a marble pattern. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of remaining crumb mixture on top.
Cover, freeze until firm (4-6 hours).

 

Yield: 8 Servings

Watch Out for Foodborne Illness This Summer!

Pg A13 - Amber Pankonin PhotoWith summer in full swing, many families are on the go and taking food with them. Whether it’s camping outdoors, swimming in the pool, or participating in sporting events, it’s important to be mindful of the potential risks for foodborne illness. Children, older adults, and women who are pregnant are at most risk for developing foodborne illness. Warmer temperatures outside can accelerate bacterial growth, so it’s always best to keep items stored in a cooler. If you’re headed on a picnic or to the lake, pack a cooler full of water bottles or other healthy beverages and start with half of them frozen. That way you’ll have the benefit of keeping everything cold and not waste room with ice. Make sure to keep high protein items like prepared meats, dairy items like chocolate milk, cheese, yogurts, and dips stored on ice while traveling to prevent any foodborne illness this summer.

 

Amber Pankonin MS, RDN, CSP, LMNT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, passionate about food, nutrition science, and agriculture. She works as a nutrition communications consultant, adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and blogger at stirlist.com.

Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce

A5-Recipes Asian Broccoil SaladIngredients
1 large head broccoli, cut into small florets
1 cup shelled cooked edamame
½ cup thinly-sliced green onions
½ cup peanuts
Sesame seeds for garnish
Peanut Sauce:
¼ cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons hot water, as needed to thin the sauce
Directions
1. Heat large pot of water until it’s boiling. Add broccoli florets and boil for 30 seconds. Quickly drain broccoli and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking process. Drain (be thorough or dressing will get watered down).
2. Place broccoli and other salad ingredients in a serving bowl.
3. Prepare peanut sauce by whisking all the sauce ingredients together in small bowl. If dressing is too thick, whisk in hot water a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
4. Pour sauce over vegetables and toss to coat.
Garnish with sesame seeds before serving if desired.

Changing Renewable Fuels Standard Bad for Nebraska

steve corn head shotJust a few short weeks ago the EPA announced its proposed targets for the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS determines how much ethanol will be blended in to the nation’s gasoline supplies. The EPA’s proposed targets fell well short of direction given to the agency by Congress. Congress was very clear in its direction that the United States can and should produce significantly more ethanol for our country’s cars and trucks.

The EPA’s action has broad implications, particularly here at home in Nebraska. Nebraska ranks second in the U.S. in ethanol production. What started as a single ethanol plant in 1985 has blossomed into a true industry for our state with 24 ethanol plants scatted across Nebraska today. There’s no question the boom in ethanol production has helped boost corn prices and farm income. But the benefits of that growth don’t stop there.

A study conducted by the University of Nebraska released this past April shows that Nebraska’s ethanol industry is worth roughly $5 billion to the state’s economy, providing direct full-time employment for some 3,000 Nebraskans. To quote the study, “the effects on Nebraska’s economy and rural areas have been both sustained and substantial.”

The value of Nebraska’s ethanol industry isn’t limited to ethanol production. The dried distillers grains generated through the ethanol production process have become an import feed stock for Nebraska’s livestock sector, boosting Nebraska’s ability to feed cattle and, no doubt, contributing to Nebraska’s ascent to being the number one cattle feeding state in the nation.

But there is more. In addition to building agriculture markets, creating jobs, and boosting the state’s economy, it’s also helped decrease our reliance on imported oil and contributed to cleaner air. For all those reasons, we need more ethanol, not less. Having the EPA meet the targets established by Congress is the place to begin; anything short of that is clearly a step in the wrong direction.

In the coming weeks and months Nebraska Farm Bureau will be zeroed in on working with both Congress and the Administration to make sure we’re taking full advantage of our renewable fuel sources.

As we move our state forward in producing the food, fuel, and fiber that we all need, we’ll continue to look for ways to grow our state and to make life better for both rural and urban Nebraskans.