Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Caring for Your Perennial Flower Garden

Cassie Homan, Horticulture Agent 

Perennials are a great addition to our landscapes because they come back for many years. They spread to fill in flowers beds and add beautiful blooms throughout the spring and summer seasons. Herbaceous perennials are plants that die to the ground in the winter and returns each spring with new growth from the roots.

When planning a perennials bed think about the amount of light it will receive and spacing. Perennials can be planted throughout the growing season, but usually are planted in spring. Water well at the time of planting and continue to water new plants with one inch of water per week. Once established, watering deeply and infrequently promotes deeper rooting that reduces the need for supplemental moisture. Fertilize new plants with a starter fertilizer, then feed annually with a slow release fertilizer.

Mulch your perennial bed with two inches of organic mulch to conserve moisture, deter weed growth and insulate the ground. Keep mulch away from the crown of the plant to reduce the chance of fungal diseases on plant crowns or fleshy stems. Wait until spring to remove the tops of your perennial plants. They can provide some winter interest in your landscape, but more importantly they help insulate the plant. If the plant is tender, it is a good idea to add a loose mulch layer later in the fall. This prevents the plant from heaving out of the soil with repeated freezes and thaws.

Perennials are great plants because they can be low maintenance. Every three to five years they can be divided to maintain plant vigor. Midsummer bloomers, such as daylilies, are best divided in early spring. Perennials that bloom in the spring should be divided in late summer or early fall. To divide, cut the leaves off the plant, leaving about 6 inches of the top. Dig around the plant with a garden fork and lift the plant. Divide plants with a sharp, sterile knife or spade. Be sure each division has three to five buds for new shoot production.

For a full list of recommended perennial flowers click on the link bellow and check out the Prairie Bloom List. These flowers have been trialed and tested by K-State. They are proven to do well in our Kansas climate.

If you would like more details perennial flowers in your landscape contact Cassie Homan, Post Rock District Horticulture Agent, at (785)738-3597 or by email at 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Career Opportunity to Serve the Post Rock District as a Nutrition Educator

Nora Rhoades, Family and Youth Development Agent 

K-State Research and Extension is currently looking for a motivated individual to join our team! We are looking for someone to join our enthusiastic team as a Nutrition Educator. This individual will primarily serve Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne and Smith Counties in the Post Rock District as well as Phillips and Rooks Counties in the Phillips-Rooks District.

A Nutrition Educator serves to meet the Kansas Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education mission. Commonly known as SNAP-Ed, this nutrition education program is provided at no cost to Kansas families with limited resources. Our goal is to provide nutrition education and promote, implement and support initiatives for policy system and environmental changes to improve dietary quality, enhance food resource management skills, prevent obesity and increase physical activity.

We’re looking for a team member with knowledge of and experience working with limited resource families, diverse audiences and subject matter background. Written and verbal communication skills, such as confidence speaking in front of groups and facilitating meetings is important. The ideal candidate will work alongside supportive and passionate community partners and our local K-State Research and Extension team to extend quality educational experiences through direct education and promote community health in the region through public health approaches.

Kansas State University is an Equal Opportunity Employer of individuals with disabilities and protected veterans and actively seeks diversity among its employees.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Up and Away and Out of Sight – Safe Medicine Storage

Nora Rhoades, Family and Youth Development Agent

Approximately 60,000 young children are brought to the emergency room each year because they got into medicines that were left within reach.

Families take medicines and vitamins to feel well or stay well. Any medicine or vitamin can be dangerous if taken in the wrong way or by the wrong person, even medicine you buy without a prescription. Children are curious. Are all of your medicines stored safely?

  • Walk around your home and find the best place to store medicines up and away and out of sight of young children, such as a high cabinet.
  • Never leave medicines out on a table, countertop or bedside table, even if you have to give the medicine again in a few hours. Put every medicine and vitamin away every time you use it, including those you use daily.
  • Always relock the safety cap on bottles. If the medicine has a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear the “click” or until you can’t twist anymore. Keep your medicines in their original child-resistant containers. Other containers, such as pill organizers, often lack child safety features and can be easily opened.
  • Remind house guests to keep purses, bags or coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight.
  • As a guest, don’t be shy about asking about safe storage locations. In a hotel, look for a high cabinet or passcode-protected safe.
  • Set a daily reminder to take your medicines and vitamins on your refrigerator or a location you check regularly like a cell phone, since the medicine will be safely stored out of sight.

It’s important to teach your children what medicine is and why you or another caregiver must be the one to give it to them. Never tell your children medicine is candy, even if they don’t like to take their medicine.

Save the Poison Help number (800) 222-1222 in all of your phones, so you have it when you need it. Make sure it’s available to anyone that spends time with your child. Call Poison Help right away if you think your child might have gotten into a medicine or vitamin, even if you are not completely sure.

Up and Away and Out of Sight is an educational program to remind families about the importance of safe medicine storage. It is an initiative of PROTECT, in partnership with the CDC. For more safety suggestions, like those shared in this blog article, visit

Monday, April 8, 2019

Fertilizer application considerations this spring for 2019

Sandra L. Wick, Crop Production Agent

Wow, this winter will certainly be one for the history books!  Many producers could not apply nitrogen (N) fertilizer in the fall due to the persistent saturated soil conditions, with wet conditions continuing for many soils this spring. As planting time rapidly approaches, producers may have questions related to the potential effect of ammonia (NH3) especially for corn seedlings, as well as soil considerations for anhydrous ammonia applications under suboptimal conditions.  Thanks to Dr. Dorivar Ruiz Diaz for providing N fertilization information in the latest “KSU Agronomy Newsletter”, Friday, April 5, 2019 edition.

Starter fertilizer is typically considered as the placement of a small rate of fertilizer, usually nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), near the seed at planting time. The idea is this fertilizer "jump starts" growth in the spring, and it is not unusual for a producer to see an early-season growth response to starter fertilizer application, according to Dr. Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, K-State Research and Extension soil fertility specialist.   But some producers might also consider using this opportunity to apply higher rates of fertilizer that can supply most of the N and P needs for the corn crop. Wet soil conditions in many areas of Kansas during the fall and winter months continue to limit N applications for corn. Under these conditions, Ruiz Diaz points out that N application at planting time can provide a good alternative for some producers.

Producers should be very cautious about applying starter fertilizer that includes high rates of N (and/or K). It is best to have some soil separation between the starter fertilizer and the seed. The safest placement methods for starter fertilizer are either as a deep-band application 2 to 3 inches to the side and 2 to 3 inches below the seed (2x2), or as a surface-band application to the side of the seed row at planting time (2x0), especially in conventional tillage or where farmers are using row cleaners or trash movers in no-till (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Graphics by Dr. Dorivar Ruiz Diaz
What are the risks with “pop-up” placement?  Ruiz Diaz reminds producers if starter fertilizer is applied with the corn seed (“pop-up” in-furrow), there is an increased risk of seed injury when applying more than 6 to 8 pounds per acre of N and K combined in direct seed contact on a 30-inch
row spacing.  See Table 1.

What is a “salt”?  “Salts” are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and base. Most fertilizers are soluble salts (e.g. KCl from K+ and Cl-). Salt injury can occur when fertilizer addition increases the osmotic pressure in the soil solution (due to an increase in salt concentration) around the germinating seed and roots which can cause plasmolysis (i.e. water moves out of the plant cell, cell membranes shrink, and the cell collapses). Symptoms of salt damage are short, discolored roots and a reduced corn population.

Figure 2.  Nitrogen fertilizer can result in injury from salts, but also from ammonia toxicity when using urea-containing fertilizers. Urea converts to ammonia, which is very toxic to seedlings and can significantly reduce final stands Symptoms of ammonia toxicity from urea-containing fertilizers placed too close to the seed. Photos by Dr. Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, K-State Research and Extension.

What about N rates with 2 X 2 placement or “surface dribble”? Ruiz Diaz stresses that starter fertilizer placement, such as 2x2 or surface dribble, provides enough soil between the fertilizer and the seed and are considered safe alternatives for higher rates of N application. Recent studies in Kansas suggests that the full rate of N can be applied safely using these placement options. One concern from some producers is related to the additional time demands for the application of high rates of fertilizer during planting. However, this can be an excellent time for N application, minimizing potential N “tie-up”, and providing available N to the corn, particularly under no-till systems with heavy residue.

In summary, producers can apply most of the N needs for corn at planting as long as the fertilizer placement provides enough soil separation between the fertilizer and the seed. The best options are the 2x2 placement or surface-dribble with similar results in terms of crop response. Nitrogen applications with the starter fertilizer can provide an excellent alternative for producers who might not have the opportunity for anhydrous ammonia applications this spring or are planning to apply additional N as side-dress.

If you have additional questions on nitrogen fertilization, give Sandra a call at any of our Post Rock Extension District Offices in Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne or Smith Center. 

Post Rock Extension District of K-State Research and Extension serves Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, and Smith counties. Sandra may be contacted at or by calling Smith Center, 282-6823, Beloit 738-3597, Lincoln 524-4432, Mankato 378-3174, or Osborne 346-2521.  Join us on Facebook at “Post Rock Extension” along with our blog site at “  Also remember our website is and my twitter account is @PRDcrops.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Cutting Food Waste

Ashley Svaty, Nutrition, Food Safety and Health Agent

About 40 percent of food grown in the United States goes uneaten. On average, Americans toss and waste 23 pounds of potentially edible food per person each month. At this rate, food waste is costing the average family of four approximately $190 per month. Food waste is not only a concern for our pocketbooks, it is a major concern that challenges our natural resources and environment.  The U.S. Food & Drug Administration state that food waste is the second biggest component in our landfills.  Food production to consumers uses 80% of our freshwater and half our land
Major Sources of Food Waste
Food waste occurs at every step within the food industry, on the farm and with packers, processors, distributors, and retailers. Some of this waste is caused by simply dumping products that are less than perfect in appearance. Consumers often throw away food because they fear food safety caused by a misunderstanding of what food product dating means, along with uncertainty about perishable food storage.
Product Dating
Sell by and use by dates on food packages are not federally regulated, except in the case of infant formula. The dates printed are used to suggest the product’s quality, not safety. Most of the food dates on packages are on perishable foods, which are foods that will likely quickly spoil, decay or become unsafe to eat if not kept refrigerated at 40° F or below or frozen at 0° F or below.  A Sell by Date indicates that a product should not be sold after that date for quality reasons.  A Use by or Best by date is the maker’s best estimate of how long a product will keep at its best quality. These are quality dates only, not safety dates.

Tips to Reduce Food Waste
 Be aware of how much food you throw away.
 Shop your refrigerator first! Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
 Plan your menu before shopping and buy only those things on your menu.
 Buy only what you realistically need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.
 Be creative! If safe and healthy, use the edible parts of food that you normally do not eat.
 Safely preserve surplus fruits and vegetables - especially abundant seasonal produce.
 At restaurants, order only what you can finish by asking about portion sizes and be aware of side dishes included with entrees. Take home the leftovers and keep them for your next meal.
 At all-you-can-eat buffets, take only what you can comfortably eat.
 Check the temperature setting of your fridge.  Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the temperature is at 40° F or below.

If food is obviously spoiled-abnormally soft, discolored, moldy, or has a strong unpleasant smell-throw it away.  No matter if the item was properly stored or stored for a short amount of time.  Eating spoiled or contaminated food could cause foodborne illness. If you or a family member has a foodborne illness, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Source: U.S Food & Drug Administration

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Stop Crabgrass Before It Starts Growing

Cassie Homan, Horticulture Agent 
Weeds always seem to pop up in our lawns and gardens no matter how often we pull them out. This year try to get ahead of the game with a crabgrass preventer.

Crabgrass preventers are another name for preemergence herbicides that prevent crabgrass seeds from developing into mature plants. Many people have a somewhat foggy idea of how they work and assume they kill the weed seed. Such is not the case. They do not kill the seed or even keep the seed from germinating but rather kill the young plant after it germinates.  Therefore, they do not prevent germination but prevent emergence.

Crabgrass preventers are just that – preventers. With few exceptions they have no effect on existing crabgrass plants, so they must be applied before germination. Additionally, preventers do not last forever once applied to the soil.

Microorganisms and natural processes begin to gradually break them down soon after they are applied. If some products are applied too early, they may have lost much of their strength by the time they are needed. Most crabgrass preventers are fairly ineffective after about 60 days, but there is considerable variation among products. (Dimension and Barricade last longer.)

For most of Kansas, crabgrass typically begins to germinate around May 1st or a little later.  April 15th is normally a good target date for applying preventer because it gives active ingredients time to evenly disperse in the soil before crabgrass germination starts.

Even better, base timing on the bloom of ornamental plants. The Eastern Redbud tree is a good choice for this purpose.  When the trees in your area approach full bloom, apply crabgrass preventer. A follow-up application will be needed about 8 weeks later unless you are using Dimension or Barricade. Products that do require a follow-up application include pendimethalin (Scotts Halts) and Team (Hi-Yield Crabgrass Control).

Dimension and Barricade are the only two products that give season-long control of crabgrass from a single application. In fact, they can be applied much earlier than April 15th and still have sufficient residual strength to last the season. Barricade can even be applied in the fall for crabgrass control the next season

Dimension can be applied as early as March 1st. Because of the added flexibility in timing, these products are favorites of lawn care companies who have many customers to service in the spring. Though Dimension is usually not applied as early as Barricade, it is the herbicide of choice if it must be applied later than recommended. It is the exception to the rule that preemergence herbicides do not kill existing weeds. Dimension can kill crabgrass as long as it is young (two- to three-leaf stage). Dimension is also the best choice if treating a lawn that was planted late last fall. Normally a preemergence herbicide is not recommended unless the lawn has been mowed two to four times. But Dimension is kind to young tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass seedlings and some formulations can be applied as early as two weeks after the first sign of germination. However, read the label of the specific product you wish to use to ensure that this use is allowed. Lawns established in the fall can be safely treated with Dimension the following spring even if they have not been mowed.

Note that products containing Dimension and Barricade may use the common name rather than the trade name. The common chemical name for Dimension is dithiopyr and for Barricade is prodiamine. Remember, when using any pesticide, read the label and follow instructions carefully.

We recommend crabgrass preventers be applied before fertilizer so that the grass isn’t encouraged to put on too much growth too early. However, it may be difficult to find products that contain preemergents without fertilizer. Those that don’t contain fertilizer are listed below.

- Scotts Halts
Team (Benefin + Trifluralin)
- Hi-Yield Crabgrass Control
- Hi-Yield Turf & Ornamental Weed and Grass Stopper
- Bonide Crabgrass & Weed Preventer
- Green Light Crabgrass Preventer

If you would like more details about treating your lawn for weeds contact Cassie Homan, Post Rock District Horticulture Agent, at (785)738-3597 or by email at Also make sure to sign up for our Lawn Care Program on April 18. Follow this link:

Monday, March 4, 2019

Are You Ready for an Emergency?

Nora Rhoades, Family and Youth Development Agent

Kansas is home to a wide variety of weather, and it is sometimes hard to know what to expect. Tornadoes, thunderstorms, blizzards, and floods are common threats along with extreme heat, cold, and wind. Other emergencies your family may confront could relate to vehicle trouble, medical concerns, fires, and accidents. An emergency or disaster can strike at any moment and will likely affect every family at some point. The best way to work through difficult situations and circumstances is to be prepared before a concern presents itself.

Emergency Plan Considerations:
✔ What emergencies could affect my family where we live, work, learn, and play?
✔ What special needs (infant, elderly, medical, disability) does my family have?
✔ What are each individual’s responsibilities? How will we work together as a team?
✔ How will we be alerted and warned (tv, wireless alerts, radio) about potential hazards?
✔ Identify a place to meet if separated and the route to get there. How will you shelter-in-place?
✔ Where can you shelter away from home?
✔ Identify local and out-of-area ‘In Case of Emergency’ contacts. It is a good idea to clearly identify
    these contacts in your phone and in a wallet or purse.

Practice your emergency plan at least 2 times each year!

Basic Emergency Kit Suggestions:
✔ Water — 1 gallon per person per day
✔ Food — non-perishable items
✔ Manual can opener
✔ Radio — battery-powered or hand-cranked
✔ Flashlight
✔ Extra batteries
✔ Sanitation and personal hygiene items
✔ First aid kit
✔ Medications — 7 day supply
✔ Blanket
✔ Whistle
✔ Dust mask
✔ Duct tape
✔ Plastic sheeting
✔ Moist towelettes
✔ Garbage bags and plastic ties
✔ Area maps
✔ Cell phone and chargers
✔ Extra cash
✔ Multi-purpose tools — pliers, scissors
✔ Copies of personal documents
✔ Family and emergency contact information
✔ Pet supplies
✔ Activities for children
✔ Extra clothing and sturdy shoes
✔ Matches
✔ Jumper cables

Strive to include enough supplies to last a minimum of 3 days!

For More Information Visit:
✔ KSRE’s Prepare Kansas Blog
✔ Post Rock Extension District Website
✔ Post Rock Extension District Office (Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne, Smith Center)
✔ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
✔ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
✔ American Red Cross
✔ National Weather Service

Monday, February 25, 2019

Have you thought about adding chloride to your fertility management program?

Sandra L. Wick, Crop Production Agent

Well winter is still here, even though we occasionally get a “tease” from spring that isn’t too far away!  It soon will be time when you will be in field planting corn, soybeans and grain sorghum.  So it isn’t too early to start thinking about your fertility program.
Of course your first step with any cropping system is soil testing.  This component is critical and is the cornerstone of your fertility program.  This will help provide you with the needed analysis of your soil to determine the nutrients that need to be applied depending on your crop choice.   K-State Research and Extension does offer this service through the Soil Testing Laboratory, but there are also several soil commercial laboratories in the state of Kansas that are also available to producers.   So we highly encourage you to include soil testing as part of your fertility management program.

“Chloride is one of the essential micro-nutrients that you may have not thought about to include in your fertility program,” according to Dr. Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, K-State Research and Extension Soil Fertility specialist.  It is normally present in the soil in sizeable quantities, however, evaluations in Kansas indicates fairly low soil chloride levels. A critical role of chloride is in the oxidation of water in photosynthesis and as an activator of several enzymes. In addition, chloride application has been shown to suppress or reduce the effects of numerous diseases on a variety of crops.

Ruiz Diaz points out that physical symptoms of chloride deficiency in plants vary and are not always consistent. In wheat, some varieties show a characteristic leaf spotting, best described as random chlorotic spots on the leaves The spots resemble tan spot lesions, but are smaller and do not have the characteristic “halo” at the edge of the spot. On low-chloride soils in Kansas, some varieties consistently show the leaf spotting, while other varieties never spot. Other research indicates no obvious visual deficiency symptoms which occurred on corn or grain sorghum, even where chloride fertilization increased yields.

Summaries of soil test data in Kansas show a majority of the samples had chloride levels below 40 pounds per acre, with a significant number of samples less than 10 pounds per acre (on 0- to 24-inch samples).

As an anion, a negatively charged ion, chloride is not readily adsorbed on the soils exchange complex and is subsequently not attached. Because of this, chloride moves readily with soil water. Chloride is quite leachable, even more so than nitrate.

Kansas State University Soil Testing Laboratory and most commercial labs offer a chloride soil test. Ruiz Diaz emphasizes that because of the leaching potential of chloride, it is recommended to sample to a depth of 24 inches to best assess soil chloride status (just like nitrogen and sulfur). When testing for pH, phosphorus (P), potassium (K), organic matter, and zinc, a 0- to 6-inch sample is recommended. When testing for the mobile nutrients (nitrogen, sulfur, or chloride) a 0- to 24- inch sample is recommended.

Ruiz Diaz points out that potassium chloride (KCl) is the most common and readily available chloride-containing fertilizer in Kansas. On an elemental basis, KCl fertilizer is 53 percent potassium and 47 percent chloride. For ease of calculating, assume a ratio of roughly 50 to 50 potassium to chloride. For example, if 50 pounds of KCl fertilizer is applied, about 25 pounds of chloride would be furnished. Since P and K in fertilizer are reported on an oxide basis (P2O5 and K2O), it can be confusing because many fertilizer dealers know potassium chloride as 0-0-60 or 0-0-62. For ease of calculating chloride application, just remember the product is about 50 percent chloride.  Research in Kansas has evaluated all sources of chloride and results show each of these fertilizers to be equally effective in supplying chloride.

Research indicates the likelihood of a response to chloride fertilizer is directly related to soil chloride levels. So to start incorporating chloride fertilization, a soil test is highly recommended to determine if a chloride application might benefit your crop.  When soil tests indicate a need for chloride, the recommendation is to apply 10 to 20 pounds of actual chloride per acre, depending on soil test chloride level.

Considerable research with chloride fertilization has been conducted in Kansas on wheat, corn, and grain sorghum. Positive yield responses have been noted on these crops. To date, response to chloride fertilization on other crops such as soybean has been limited.  Remember, response at any given soil chloride level in a specific year may vary with several factors, including variety, disease pressure, timing of moisture or temperature stress relative to the effect of chloride on plant development, and soil chloride distribution relative to crop root distribution.

A more detailed research summary, with yield response data, can be found in the recently updated KSRE publication MF2570, “Chloride in Kansas: Plant, Soil, and Fertilizer Considerations”:

The Post Rock Extension District will be hosting a “Spring Crops Update Meeting” on Thursday, March 14, in Lincoln at the Finch Theatre starting at 10:00 a.m. and concluding at approximately 12:30 p.m.  A FREE lunch will be served following the program, sponsored by The Bank of Tescott. Pre-registration is requested by Monday, March 11, either ONLINE at  or to your local office of our Post Rock Extension District in Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne or Smith Center.  A minimum of 10 participants are needed to hold the meeting.  Hope to see your there!

Post Rock Extension District of K-State Research and Extension serves Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, and Smith counties. Sandra may be contacted at or by calling Smith Center, 282-6823, Beloit 738-3597, Lincoln 524-4432, Mankato 378-3174, or Osborne 346-2521.  Join us on Facebook at “Post Rock Extension” along with our blog site at “  Also remember our website is and my twitter account is @PRDcrops