Tag Archives: UNL Extension

A late freeze in May is never positive news, let alone after a challenging winter that Nebraskans have endured this year. This morning, the temperature dropped down to 27 degrees Fahrenheit in North Platte, causing considerable damage to vegetable gardens and flowers.

Several factors will impact freeze damage. The actual temperature and duration of the temperature will be the most important. Location of plant material on protected areas, wide open areas, on slopes, in low spots and upland areas will also impact the severity of a freeze. Putting these factors together requires gardeners to observe specific locations where impacted material is located.

Vegetables are one of the first questions that many gardeners will ask about. When temperatures dip down to the mid 20s, many vegetables will not survive temperatures that cold. As the day warms up after a freeze, foliage and plant parts will start to show a water-soaked appearance. This damaged plant material will start to quickly break down and die off.

Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant are severely damaged at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. For those gardeners who planted these crops already, the damaged will become noticeable very quickly or fatal. These severely damaged plants probably will not produce very much over the gardening season. Severely damaged and dead plant material should be removed.

Before replacing these plants, it is important to harden these plants by placing them outside in a protected area and brought in at night for a couple weeks. This process will acclimate tender transplant vegetables to reduce plant shock when they are finally planted in the ground or in a container.

Rhubarb is another crop that gardeners will ask about related to frost damage and toxicity. Freeze damaged leaves and stems will become soft and turn black. Remove these damaged examples with a sharp, sterile knife down to the base of the plant. If stalks appear to be frost damaged, simply remove them to avoid any chance of possible toxicity that can enter stalks from the leaves. Rhubarb leaves do contain oxalic acid, which is moderately toxic. This part of the plant is not eaten anyway, and needs to be discarded.

Early season crops such as radishes, peas, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, and similar crops are going to be more tolerant of a freeze. These crops may have been spared depending on the factors that I have already discussed. Michigan State University Extension has compiled a very helpful set of descriptions of freeze damage on a variety of vegetable crops.

General freeze damage temperature levels for frost tender, moderately frost tender and frost hardy crops are also included. This resource can be downloaded and viewed at
https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/freeze_damage_in_fall_vegetables_identifying_and_preventing for anyone to print and keep for future reference.

Directly seeded warm season crops, including cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash and okra should not have been planted yet since the soil has not warmed up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

If these crops have been planted, they may not germinate. If these crops have germinated, severe damage of seedling death will not be uncommon. These crops will probably need to be replanted.

For a complete listing of vegetable crops and their minimum soil temperature for directly seeding vegetable crops or planting transplant vegetables, refer to this University of California Extension table at http://sacmg.ucanr.edu/files/164220.pdf to view or download. The optimal growing temperature and maximum growing temperature is also listed for each crop as a quality reference to keep from year to year.

A soil thermometer is one of the best resources for gardeners when deciding plant vegetable crops. This reasonably priced tool can be purchased at hardware stores, garden centers, retail stores or online. For those who do not care to purchase a soil thermometer or need immediate soil temperature data, the UNL Cropwatch website updates soil temperature across Nebraska. This resource can be found at https://cropwatch.unl.edu/cropwatchsoiltemperature to
find the seven day average for a number of locations to help make informed planting decisions based on soil temperature.

As with all decision making, consider all these factors related to freeze damage, damage characteristics by crop, hardening vegetable transplants, and minimum soil temperatures to plant various vegetable crops. Each of these factors are important, and are combined together to help gardeners make informed decisions for best results.

If anyone has any questions about understanding the information on a seed packet, feel free to contact me by sending an email message to dlott2@unl.edu, by following my Nebraska Gardener blog at https://nebrgardener.wordpress.com/ or by calling my office at (308) 696-6781.

 As part of ongoing efforts to support those affected by recent flooding, Nebraska Extension county offices across the state have moisture meters available for homeowners to borrow to monitor the moisture content of flooded materials.


It can take weeks or months to dry a house to the point where repairs can be made. It’s common for homeowners to discover large amounts of mold in walls months after a flood because they didn’t wait for the structure to dry before making repairs. The moisture level of structures cannot be determined by appearance or time spent drying, so a calibrated meter is recommended to measure moisture levels before rebuilding.


“It’s important to wait until wood and other materials dry out before attempting to repair a flood-damaged home,” said Dave Varner, associate dean with Nebraska Extension. “Renovating too soon could trap moisture, leading to rotting and promoting the growth of mold.”


One-hundred-fifty moisture meters have been distributed to extension offices throughout Nebraska and more are on the way. Homeowners wanting to borrow a meter are encouraged to contact their county office. Instructions for using the meter will be provided upon checkout.


Access to moisture meters is just one of the many ways that Nebraska Extension is helping Nebraskans recover from the flood. For more information and flood-related resources for individuals and families, homeowners, businesses, and farmers and ranchers, visit https://flood.unl.edu.

Members of the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health in the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health will provide a tractor safety course May through July in 12 towns across Nebraska. In partnership with Nebraska Extension, the course provides extensive training on tractor and all-terrain vehicles safety with a variety of hands-on activities. 


Instilling an attitude of ‘safety first’ and respect for agricultural equipment are primary goals of the Nebraska Extension Tractor Safety & Hazardous Occupations Course for those 14 and 15 years old who work on farms. Those under age 14 are not eligible to take the course. 


Federal law prohibits children under 16 years of age from using certain equipment on a farm unless their parents or legal guardians own the farm. However, certification received through the course grants an exemption to the law allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and to do field work with certain mechanized equipment. 


The most common cause of agricultural-related deaths in Nebraska is overturned tractors and ATVs, said Susan Harris-Broomfield, University of Nebraska Extension educator in Kearney and Franklin counties. 


Cost of the course is $60 and includes educational materials and instruction, supplies and lunch. 


The first day of class will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program, hands-on participation, concluding with a written test, which students must pass to attend the second day of training. 


The second day of training will include a driving test and equipment operation and ATV safety lessons. Classes begin at 8 a.m. both days.  


Students will demonstrate competence in hitching and unhitching equipment and driving a tractor and trailer through a standardized course. The ATV simulator will be at most sites and will demonstrate experience about safe behavior and laws for ATVs and utility-task vehicles (UTVs). 


Instructors for the course are members of the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health: Aaron Yoder, Ph.D., Ellen Duysen; UNMC graduate students Dan Kent, and Jill Oatman; and Nebraska Extension educators Troy Ingram, Randy Saner and John Thomas.  


End times vary depending on the number of participants. 


Dates, training site locations and site coordinator phone numbers are below:  


May 20 & 21 – Geneva, Fairgrounds (402) 759-3712; 

May 22 & 23 – Nelson, Fairgrounds (402) 225-2092;  

May 28 & 29 – Grand Island, Extension Office, (308) 385-5088; 

May 30 & 31 – Kearney, Extension Office, (308) 236-1235;  

June 4 (first day is online) – Gordon, Fairgrounds, (308) 327-2312 

June 5 (first day is online) – McCook, Fairgrounds (308) 345-3390; 

June 6 & 7 – Ainsworth, Evangelical Free, (402) 387-2213; 

June 11 & 12 – O’Neill, Plains Equipment, (402) 336-2760; 

June 13 & 14 – North Platte, West Central Research and Extension Center, 

(308) 532-2683; 

June 18 & 19 – Gering, Legacy Museum (308) 632-1480; 

June 20 & 21 – Wayne, Fairgrounds (402) 375-3310; 

July 1 & 2 – Weeping Water, Fairgrounds, (402) 267-2205. 


For more information or to register, contact the appropriate Extension Office above. The registration form can be found at kearney.unl.edu