NDSU Extension - Traill County


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Traill County Extension

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Soil field Day



Garden Hose

When the weather is hot we often drink more water but what about our plants? On the normal year in Traill County the water isn’t nearly as plentiful. Good thing Carrie Knutson, an Extension Agent out of Grand Forks County is thinking about watering plants.

Dakota Gardener: Water the Roots

I prefer to drink room temperature water when I am thirsty.

The exception is when the weather is hot. Then I like ice water.

How do landscape plants prefer their water? Ice water definitely would not be on their list. The image of my plants ordering water according to their preference makes me laugh. Lately they would say, "Stop, we have enough!" but that is not true for all portions of the state.

Water is a resource that all living things need. Sometimes we need to supplement what Mother Nature provides. Do you know the correct way to water your thirsty landscape plants?

Ornamental flowers, trees, shrubs and vegetable plants take up water from the soil through their roots. When watering, concentrate the water at the base of the plant and don't water the leaves. Keeping the plant leaves dry helps prevent leaf diseases. Water deeply and less often to encourage root growth and drought tolerance. To avoid getting the leaves wet, water by hand or use a soaker hose or drip irrigation in vegetable gardens and flower beds. If you water with an overhead sprinkler, water in the morning so the leaves have time to dry during the day.

The amount of water a plant needs depends on your soil and the plant. Clay soils can hold more water and generally will need to be watered less frequently than sandy soils. Check your soil at a depth of 4 to 6 inches. If the soil is dry, now is the time to water.

Vegetable gardens will need about 1 inch of water or rain a week to maintain production. Containers may need daily watering. Perennial flowers might only need supplemental water during extended periods of dry weather. Using native plants or plants that tolerate dry conditions will help conserve water. Newly planted trees and shrubs will need more water. A general recommendation is watering every day for one to two weeks after planting if the soil is dry, then every two to three days for the next few weeks. The same rule for checking the soil at a depth of 4 to 6 inches and watering if the soil is dry applies as well.

Don't overwater. The soil should be moist but not soggy. A common rule is 10 gallons of water per week for every inch of caliper (diameter) of the trunk. Regular rainfall will be enough for established trees and shrubs. However, they may benefit from additional water during extended periods of dry weather. Again, remember to water deeply to make sure the water soaks into the root area.

Use mulch to help conserve water in gardens, flower beds, large containers and around the base of trees and shrubs. Place 3 to 4 inches of mulch over the soil. Keep the mulch away from the stems of plants to prevent disease and pest damage.

Happy gardening!

Pruning TomatoesTomato Plant

This week’s information comes from the desk of Carrie Knutson- NDSU Extension Agent out of Grand Forks County.

“Mistakes, I have made a few” I believe is a line from a Frank Sinatra song.

I have made many mistakes during my gardening career. I try to learn from these mistakes and not repeat them next time.

In years past, I learned, but I haven’t fixed my one of my mistakes. One mistake I make is not pruning my tomatoes. The growing season seems to go by so fast, and before I know it, my tomatoes cages are broken and plants are lying on the ground. That’s very disappointing for me, but I think the slugs look forward to the feast every year.

Pruning tomatoes doesn’t take that much time and is pretty easy to do, although a little bit of knowledge helps. First, tomatoes have compound leaves. Each leave has five or more leaflets. A sucker may grow from the base of each leaf where it attaches to the stem of the vine. Second, tomatoes are of two types: indeterminate and determinate. Determinate tomatoes stop growing when they reach a certain height, usually 4 to 5 feet. Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow and produce suckers all growing season.

Popular determinate varieties include Celebrity, Defiant and Roma, and bush types such as Bush Early Girl and Bush Goliath. Popular indeterminate varieties include Big Beef, Big Boy, Early Girl and Juliet. Many heirloom and cherry tomato varieties have indeterminate vines.

To prune determinate tomatoes, locate the first sucker below the first flower cluster. You can keep this sucker and remove suckers that are below and you are done. Indeterminate tomatoes will need a little more work. These tomatoes start the same way as determinate tomatoes, but you will need to remove all other suckers above sucker No. 1. You also can leave a few suckers to help your plant fill in and produce more fruit. This is where the art of gardening comes in - finding a pruning method that works for your needs.

If your tomatoes are still a little unruly, you can trim back the tops of the vine. Prune tomatoes when plants are dry and the shoots are small. The suckers will be easier to remove when they are small and this will reduce the chances of damaging the plant. A scissors or pruners can be used to remove the shoots and will give you a clean cut. Pruning will help increase air flow, reducing the chances of disease development. You also will want to remove any leaves that are touching the soil for the same reason.
I can almost taste the tomatoes and can’t wait for the first tomato to ripen. The slugs will just have to dream about them this year. Happy gardening!

Carrie Knutson
NDSU Extension/Grand Forks County
Ag & Natural Resources - Horticulture

Excess Moisture and Trees

Water in trees  Let's talk about trees and all the extra  
  moisture we’ve seen across the county in the past 
  year. Most trees varieties (and lilacs) don’t like having
  wet feet. What that means is if you are seeing water
  around the roots of your trees, you should try to drain
  it away from them. Having water around the roots will
  cause the trees extra stress and therefore increasing
  the susceptibility to diseases.

  Common tree diseases include: black knot (effects:
  chokecherry, mayday tree, plum, other Prunus
  species.), canker (all spruce trees), and fire blight
  (apple, cotoneaster, crabapple, mountain ash,
  hawthorn and other rose family plants), and needle
  cast (blue and white spruce).

Using Herbicides Effectively To Control Weed Populations

According to Ron Smith Extension Horticulturist and Turfgrass Specialist and Rich Zollinger Extension Weed Specialist

For the homeowner, weeds are controlled with two broad classes of herbicides, preemergence and postemergence. Preemergence herbicides are applied to the turf area before weeds emerge. Their main use is in controlling grassy weeds like green and yellow foxtail, barnyardgrass, and crabgrass. They are applied when soil temperatures are at about 50°F. With the exception of Tupersan (siduron), most preemergence herbicides will also inhibit the emergence of desirable grass seed. Consequently, the waiting period specified on the label (from 42 to 60 days) should be observed before any reseeding is carried out.

All preemergence herbicides need to be activated through watering to be effective. Generally, 0.5 inch of water (about 300 gallons per 1000 square feet) is recommended for optimal control. If vigorous seedlings in May turn out to be crabgrass in August, control can be achieved with postemergence herbicides. Control of crabgrass is most effective if post-emergence herbicides (Acclaim and Dimension) are applied while plants are small. Postemergence herbicides are usually used to control perennial and biennial broadleafed weeds. These products are most effective when weeds are young and actively growing, but should not be used when air temperature is higher than 85°F to prevent secondary damage to desirable grasses.

Unlike preemergence herbicides, lawns should not be watered for 24 hours after application to allow for absorption into the target plant. Mowing should also be delayed for a few days after application for the same reason. Seasonal timing of postemergence herbicide application is important, with late summer or early fall being the best time. This is because the weeds are translocating the products of photosynthesis in the greatest amount at that time, and the applied herbicides (assuming systemic capability) will be carried to the root system, giving the most effective kill. Herbicides without systemic characteristics are simply contact (or burn-down) products, effective only on sprouting annual weeds.

Mature perennial weeds like dandelion or common plantain will regrow after contact herbicides are applied. Variability in weed control is common when herbicides are applied by homeowners. This is due to any number of factors: herbicide tolerance of weed species, or antagonistic contaminants in the water, such as clay, organic matter, high sodium bicarbonate levels, and high calcium and magnesium levels. Ammonium sulfate applied with postemergence herbicide reduces antagonism, making herbicides more effective. The need for any additional adjuvants, surfactants, or fertilizers is indicated on the product label.

Herbicides are useful, effective tools in the control of weeds in turf areas. Product labels should always be read and followed when using a herbicide, or any other pesticide. Herbicides are not a miracle cure, as they provide only short-term relief from weeds. The best approach is an integrated regime of proper mowing, fertilization, irrigation, and use of other cultural practices to maintain a vigorous turf.


Traill County Courthouse


NDSU Extension/Traill County
114 Caledonia Ave. W.
Box 730 (mailing address)
Hillsboro, ND 58045
Phone:  701-636-5665   
Fax: 701-636-5666

Office Hours:
8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday
Summer Office Hours:
(Memorial Day - Labor Day)
7 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.,  Monday-Thursday
8 a.m. - Noon, Friday

Related Links:
NDSU Extension
North Dakota Department of Agriculture

Traill County
City of Hillsboro
Cities of Mayville-Portland
City of Hatton

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