Skip to main content

On the Fence - April 2018

On the Fence, Acreage Insights for April 2018.

April 2018

Well, the calendar said spring arrived last month… but I think someone forgot to tell the weatherman. April should bring more seasonable temperatures. Actually, I think April is probably one of my favorite months of the year. It’s time to get outside and do something in preparation for the season ahead.

Preparing for Planting
I’ve ordered 125 shrubs that I’ll be planting later this month, so if anyone has a green thumb and would like to help, let me know. I won’t hold my breath for an inundation of calls or emails with offers of assistance! (LOL) This sounds like a lot to plant, but my wife (and great planting partner) was glad to hear it was only 125 shrubs this year compared to the 450 trees and shrubs we planted last year! Hopefully this will be the last year for any major tree or shrub plantings on my acreage.

On the Fence, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights for April 2, 2018, http://communityenvironment.unl/fence-april-2018This is a new shrub planting (three different species, all good pollinators) on my acreage three months after they were planted.

I won’t go into all the details here, but for anyone planting tree or shrub seedlings, I did try some plastic tree tubes last year and was VERY impressed with the results. If you’d like more information, click on the email link to the right and drop me an email. I planted bare-root seedlings, about 12 inches tall, last spring. They grew like crazy and some of them were up to five foot tall by late summer. They were only watered twice, once when they were planted and once during a hot, dry spell in mid-summer.

Just as I’ll be planting things around my place, our farmer neighbors will be busy planting crops for the coming growing season. The big difference is, mine is for wildlife, beauty and my enjoyment. Theirs will be for their livelihood. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and allow planting to get done in a timely fashion in late April and early May. Here’s an interesting fact, on average each farmer produces enough food to feed 165 people.

On the Fence, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights for April 2, 2018, http://communityenvironment.unl/fence-april-2018This calf is waiting to be turned out to pasture once they green up.

Be Cautious on Rural Roads
The next month or so and in the fall during harvest are the two most dangerous times when traveling country roads. There is a lot of large farm equipment on the roads at both of these times of year. Additionally, in spring the roads are often soft, especially along the shoulders, which makes meeting or passing pieces of equipment even more hazardous. Just be extra cautious on rural roads and don’t be in too big of a hurry.

Calving & Lambing Comes to an End
The other big activity taking place on some farms is calving and lambing. This was completed earlier in the year on many farms, while others will continue this into late spring. There is not a right time or wrong time, it just depends on what works best for each operation.

On the Fence, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights for April 2, 2018, http://communityenvironment.unl/fence-april-2018I found this smooth greensnake in a flowerbed right behind my house, it is about 15" long - they grow up to 32".

Here are a couple of things important to remember in April, whether you are on the farm or on an acreage. I’ve joked that I know when spring is REALLY here by when I get my first call from a frantic homeowner that just had a close encounter with a snake.

There are two important thing to remember regarding snakes. First, there are no repellants or toxicants you can use on snakes. Discourage them by reducing places they would like to hide around your home such as tall vegetation, piles of leaves that blew in along the foundation, stacks of boards, bricks or cement blocks, etc.

Also, remember that snakes in Nebraska are beneficial, eating insects and small rodents and the vast majority are not poisonous. Only four of the 32 species of snakes found in Nebraska are poisonous and not all areas of the state have any venomous snakes.

The two most commonly encountered snakes in eastern Nebraska are the garter snake and the bullsnake. Occasionally a bullsnake will mimic a rattle snake by rapidly shaking its tail, but it lacks the rattles on the tip of the tail. At other times you may encounter something really rare. The smooth greensnake is the rarest snake in Nebraska. There have been less than 30 confirmed sightings of it in the state. I’m proud to report that I found two of those snakes on my acreage, right behind my house, in two consecutive years!

A Guide to Snakes, Turtles, Frogs, Lizards, and Salamanders - has great pictures and information on identifying Nebraska wildlife. 

Acreage Landscape Care
My other most common question in the spring is when to fertilize and apply crabgrass preventer to the lawn. In spite of what commercials might say, the best time to make your first fertilizer application (with a crabgrass preventer) would be the last week of April or first week of May, depending on if we have an early or late spring. Fertilizing earlier can actually harm your lawn and is a waste of the crabgrass preventer because this weed’s seed usually doesn’t germinate until early May.

So there’s a project you can delay for about a month. You will want to start mowing when your grass starts growing. It’s always a challenge in the spring to mow often enough so you only remove about a third of the total height. Fertilizing too early will cause a flush of early growth that will make this even more difficult.

On the Fence, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights for April 2, 2018, http://communityenvironment.unl/fence-april-2018You can never have too much wood chip mulch. Yes, I moved all of it with that wheelbarrow!

So there’s a couple of things to think about this spring. I’m sure you will have plenty more… rake up and remove leaves that blew in around the house over the winter; be sure the lawn mower is tuned up with the oil changed and the blade sharpened so it’s ready to go when you need it; put mulch around perennials, shrubs, and trees; select new plants to add to your landscape that will not only beautify it, but will add sources of pollen for our pollinating insects; put up or clean out bird feeders and bird houses; and that’d just part of my list… I’m sure my wife will add more! LOL

Whatever you do, get outside, work on a project, and enjoy your surroundings… it’s a wonderful time to live in the country. So until next month, have some fun on your acreage!

On the Fence, Acreage Insights for April 2018.
On the Fence. Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights,
On the Fence with John Wilson
Extension Educator - Innovative Cropping and Water Systems
Nebraska Extension Educator John Wilson discusses life on an acreage.

Location: Based in Burt County with responsibilities in Thurston and Dakota counties; statewide responsibilities with soybean cyst nematode education
Program Areas: Crop Production, particularly corn, soybeans & alfalfa; integrated pest management, particularly insects, diseases & nematodes
Focus Area: Soybean cyst nematodes and soybean diseases
Education: BS and MS degrees in agronomy (crop production option) from University of Nebraska-Lincoln