Author: Ryan

Discover an Unexpected Treasure: TLC Country Floral

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Nestled on the Nebraska Prairie between Fremont and Hooper is an unexpected treasure.

With a plan in mind, Ken and Sue Fase purchased their acreage in 2004 and set to work on their dream. As owners of TLC Country Floral the Fase’s grow, harvest and dry flowers from gardens located throughout their property. Sue, a second generation florist and horticulturist uses the preserved blooms to create unusual and unique floral designs which are sold in their shop located on the property.

A gardener at heart, Sue knew she wanted to capitalize on the beautiful mature trees on their acreage. Rather than creating one large garden space she designed numerous gardens throughout the 5½ acre property.

A potting shed, rose garden, gazebo, cutting garden and granite patio are among the features of the landscape. The Fase’s have planted over 65 additional trees and specimen shrubs. Each year over 120 container gardens are planted to add seasonal color.

Sue shares a love of unusual plants with her sister, Sally Bronson, and each year they search for unique plants to share with people visiting the shop and gardens.

The addition of a greenhouse in the fall of 2008 has allowed the Fase’s to expand their offering of unusual plants to their customers. Sue’s parents, Jim and Sue Spitalnick, are recently retired from the greenhouse business and assist in the shop and greenhouse.

Sue uses many processes to dry flowers including air drying and freeze drying.

The air drying method of preservation has been popular since the Victorian Era. Flowers such as Statice Sinuata and Gomphrena are harvested while fresh and hung in a temperature controlled environment to dry naturally. Air dried flowers adorn the ceiling at TLC Country Floral.

The freeze dry method of preservation requires specialized equipment. Flowers are harvested at their peak, pre-treated and frozen. The freeze drying chamber is set to 30 degrees below zero; the flowers are quickly inserted and placed under a vacuum. As the temperature is raised, the flowers slowly thaw and the vacuum removes the moisture from the chamber. Freeze drying perfectly preserves a bloom retaining the shape, color and sometimes even the fragrance of the flower. When freeze dried, vegetables such as Chile Peppers and Miniature Pumpkins look as though they have been freshly picked from the garden.

Some flowers are preserved in a SandVac machine. The SandVac preserves flowers with a material similar to Silica Gel. The flowers are pre-treated, buried in the material and placed into the machine under a vacuum. The Sandvac method of preservation works well for flowers such as Sunflowers, Gerbera Daisies and Daylilies.

Designs at TLC Country Floral reflect today’s modern styles and colors. They are artfully displayed among vintage treasures, furniture and garden art. The natural designs are unified with today’s green consciousness.

TLC Country Floral is open during their Spring and Fall Open Houses or by appointment. The Spring Open House will be held May 1, 2 and 3. Shop and garden tours are available by appointment during the growing season. For more information contact Sue Fase at (402) 654-2058 or by email at [email protected].

Categories: Gardens

Hazards in the Orchard

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As a follow up to our post on starting your own orchard, it is important to note the hazards that orchards can present, none of which are too worrying provided sensible precautions are taken.

An apple orchard is a safe place to find apples. However, some minor hazards do exist. Think of the hazards in three separate ways: trees, apples and people.


Hazards relating to the trees consist of flooding, drought, high winds, late frost, hail, floods, disease, insects, animals and humans. Apple tree branches can be peeled of their bark by hail. Without bark, insects and diseases have a quick entry to these trees. Trees must use energy towards healing instead of production – bearing apples.

High winds will blow fruit off. Trees heavy with fruit can literally be torn apart by wind. Ice loads and wind normally will not affect trees because they are trimmed to bear loads. Since apple trees do not like too much water, drowning is one sure quick death.


Disease, insects and animals can all be controlled by humans.

Deer and rabbits are proven hazards. In the fall, deer rub trees with their antlers causing severe damage to low branches and the cambium on the main trunk. Deer will eat tender new growth in the spring, and fruit buds in the winter. Rabbits will eat the bark of the small trees during the late fall and winter months. This girdling effect to trees can stunt growth and kill trees.


Humans threaten and damage trees by mechanical damage: improper spraying, improper pruning, and little humans can break branches while they climb in the trees. Most of this type of damage can be out grown in time, but the damage is real.

The actual apple has a few hazards during its own development. Hazards from apple buds to apples include frost, hail, insects, disease, winds, animals and humans. An apple is the result of a vigorous, healthy growing tree. An apple is the stored energy that would allow the tree to reproduce. Weather possesses the only uncontrollable hazard to apples. Hail can destroy 100% of the crop and wind can literally blow apples off the branches. Insects, disease and animals can be controlled by the orchard manager through spraying and fencing.

Hazards in the orchards to humans are limited but controllable. The process of spraying trees and fruit is one of the biggest hazards. Spraying must be done as per chemical labeling by capable people. When applied properly, the results of chemical application are safe for the applicator and the consumer of the apple. Ladders or the fall from a ladder is not recommended in any orchard while picking or pruning. The fall does not hurt; however, the sudden stop does.

Bee stings are always possible when you are among millions of fragrant flowers in the spring. Normally, if you leave the bees alone, they leave you alone. Bees prefer flowers over humans.

Also, overeating green apples can have an adverse affect. “Green Apple Quick Step” is not hazardous unless caught too far from the portable water closet.

Overall, an apple orchard is a very safe place to be. Orchard visits are great outdoor adventures for families of all ages. The apples cannot be any fresher.

Alternative Choices: Fabulous Trees to Consider

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The first item in the tree-planning process is, of course, selection. Many people select trees based only on their familiarity with a particular tree, neglecting to research other similar trees which may have better growth habits, higher pest resistance, greater hardiness or better landscape qualities.

I would like to introduce alternatives to consider in place of the familiar trees which may be over-planted in our area. 

A good example is the silver maple, which is widely planted mostly because of its extremely fast growth rate. Unfortunately, with fast growth rate comes weak wood which will often break in wind, ice and snow storms. Other problems are vigorous, shallow roots which can buckle sidewalks, and a long list of disease and insect pests.

If you appreciate the beauty of a maple, give the red maple, Acer rubrum, (pictured at left) a try. Although the growth rate doesn’t match the silver maple, the red maple is considered medium to fast growing, and is much preferable because of cleaner foliage, stronger wood and better for color.

Another familiar and popular tree in the home landscape is the pin oak. Its appeal is mostly related to its strongly pyramidal, formal shape, but it is not without its problems. Pin oaks are very intolerant of high pH soils. Iron chlorosis, or yellowing of the leaves, can be a disastrous problem. Also, since pin oaks hold their leaves during much of the winter, it seems like you can never finish cleaning up your lawn if there are pin oaks in the area.

If pin oaks appeal to you, but you don’t want to worry about correcting soil pH, try the northern red oak, Quercus rubra(pictured at top). Although not quite as strongly pyramidal as the pin oak, red oaks are usually nicely symmetrical, especially when mature. 

Red oaks are one the fastest growing of the oaks and are considered by some to be the most valuable landscape oak available. It transplants readily and is basically free of insect and disease problems. The large denser leaves and broader crown make red oak a much better shade tree than the pin oak.

Another oak which is loved by many people, myself included, is the bur oak. This huge tree is one of our most majestic trees, but its use is tempered for a couple of reasons. One is its notoriously slow growth rate and another is its mature size. It simply just doesn’t fit anywhere.

If you like bur oak and want something similar, but maybe a little faster, try swamp white oak. As its name implies, it prefers moist bottom lands but also has excellent drought resistance. Both the shape of the tree and its leaves are similar with the two trees. Besides the growth rate, another important difference is that swamp white oaks are much easier to transplant than bur oaks.

A tree which has become very popular, and is at the point being overplanted in this area, is the Bradford pear, a beautiful spring-flowering, medium-sized tree. 

There are basically two problems with the ‘Bradford’ pear. The most serious one in northern Nebraska is its winter hardiness. It is definitely more of a southern tree and does not harden off soon enough in preparation for our Nebraska winters. The other problem is its tight branch crotches, which many times result in severe splitting especially on older trees.

If you like the ‘Bradford’ pear, but not its problems, give Pyrus calleryana ‘Aristocrat’ or ‘Chanticleer’ pears, pictured at right, a try. ‘Aristocrat’ has wider branch angles, resulting in less splitting. The ‘Chanticleer’ hardens earlier in the fall, making it less susceptible to early freezes.

Herbs Throughout the Season

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Wish you could save some of the zesty and aromatic herbs your garden produces during the summer?

When the growing season has started to slow down with shorter days and cooler nights but you still have a good crop of herbs and wish to continue to use them in your fall and winter dishes. If they are planted in the ground you are going to have to preserve what you can by drying or freezing.

Find a method that works for the time and space you have. I dry a little throughout the summer. Small batches are easy and require little drying room. When you snip thyme for your marinate recipe, just snip some extra and dry on a paper towel and place in an air tight jar when completely dry.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) can be difficult to dry with good results. So try freezing some rolled up in plastic wrap and use in recipes still frozen.

Now if you really plan ahead for Christmas this year, pick out some pretty containers that go well on your patio but also will work in front of your “best light” window. Have your favorite herbs picked out and plant them in these great containers and can even give as gifts for Christmas or anytime during the winter.

When you do most of your spring planting, leave these containers until last as they will have an extended season inside. When the days get shorter and nights get cooler bring them in and your herbs will continue to grow for several more months. Most of this depends on the amount of light available from your windows as to how they grow inside. You will need to check them for water on a regular basis when first brought inside, as they need to be dry on top before you water them or they will rot and a fan for air circulation will help.

During the winter if you have a number of plants, turn your ceiling fan on reverse and run for awhile this is very helpful for all plants. You can mix herbs in one container, or if you have enough room, keep them separate. You are probably not going to be harvesting lots of herbs but any fresh herb will add a fresher taste to your dish. Take time to thoroughly clean and de-bug plants before bringing them in the house.

Basil does not like cool weather. Thyme, Thymus, parsley, Petroselinum and rosemary, Rosmarinus, are a few herbs that can take some cold weather, so leave them outside for as long as possible, even taking a slight frost. The Omaha Herb Society members have a running contest on who can winter over rosemary for the longest time. It’s a hard one so if you fail, you’ll have lots of company.

If you are wondering about starting herbs from seeds for spring, that is another topic with several different methods.

Categories: Growing

Growing Firs in Nebraska

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The state of Nebraska isn’t known for its vast forests of conifers, except for a couple pockets of Ponderosa Pine, Limber Pine, Eastern Red Cedar and Rocky Mountain Juniper. They will grow here, but are not thought of as having endless, hardy varieties to choose from as are the flowering crabs.

Over the past 25 years I’ve tried to grow several varieties of fir, spruce and pine. Some trials have shown disappointment, while others promise. This information should be especially useful now that many varieties, presently being used, have the possibility of disease problems. The following is a brief synopsis of what my conifer experiences have shown me, and hopefully will help shed some light on a few varieties in question. In this article I’ll talk about the Genus Abies, known as the true firs. In following issues I will discuss spruce, pine and a few other notables.

Firs are generally native to cooler, and less extreme climates than we have in Nebraska.

They dislike heavy soils, not to mention soil that accompanies new construction. The Concolor Firs has been the mainstay of the fir family. But I’ve grown to appreciate Canaan, Nordmann, Korean, Manchurian, Nikko, Corkbark, Turkish, Boris-Regis and Balsam as well.

It is said that the Nordmann and Turkish Fir can withstand the wettest, heaviest soils that any fir will tolerate. I have grown these in containers, and while other conifers are dying from being over watered, these two varieties show very few losses. They are heavy in texture like a Noble Fir (often used for Christmas tree production, but not proven hardy), and display a beautiful dark, green color. Both varieties would work well as a screen or accent and compare in size to a Concolor Fir (pictured at top left).

The Korean Fir (pictured at right) is known as a small garden conifer and is used quite often for that purpose in the New England states. Its needles have a green top-side and silver under-side, giving the tree a bicolor appearance. This is in contrast with the purple, upright standing cones it exhibits in late spring. It will probably mature around 30’ tall x 15’ wide.

Canaan Fir (pictured at left) are thought to be a natural cross between the Fraser Fir and the Balsam Fir. It seems to tolerate the heat much better than the two varieties from which it came. I consistently see 12-18” of growth per year, even in my non-irrigated pasture where most of these trees have been tested. It’s used for Christmas tree production and has that wonderful holiday scent. It’s a relatively narrow tree, and has been used in landscapes around foundations of homes. Probably my favorite conifer at present and will attain an approximate mature size of 30’ tall x 12’ wide.

Manchurian Fir is a long needled fir. As the name implies, you would gather that this tree is fairly tolerant of extreme weather conditions. After five years of growing this variety, I have yet to see a tree die, out of 20 or so planted. They aren’t only in my landscape, but in several, including a windbreak in Albion, NE. It, too, seems to be fairly moderate in growth at about 12” per year and displays a rich, green color. It’s one of my favorites. Have I said that yet?

Nikko, Corkbark and Boris-Regis Fir seem to do fairly well so far. I would have to say that the jury is still out on the Corkbark Fir. It dislikes heavy, wet soil as much, if not more so, than the Concolor Fir. I just hate to give up on it because of its blue color and corky bark. It’s a cousin to the Alpine Fir (pictured at right), which is native to the timberline region in Estes Park, CO. That tells you the Corkbark Fir dislikes heat and poor drainage…but so do I and I live here. One such Alpine Fir I planted went into complete transplant shock, lost ALL of its needles, sat dead looking for a year, then sent out new growth the following year. It is now a beautiful, dense, 5/6’ tall evergreen tree. I had never seen an evergreen do that before and that’s another reason I have a soft spot for the Corkbark.

The previously mentioned selections have proven to be the most durable, aside from a few other fir varieties I have tried such as Pindrow, Pacific Silver, Red, Sacchalin and Noble. I wouldn’t necessarily plant these varieties in a windbreak situation, although some are in just that, but rather use as food for thought. Just because an evergreen variety hasn’t been used, or isn’t supposed to be hardy here, does not mean it shouldn’t be tested. Didn’t people tell J. Sterling Morton that White Pine will never grow in NE? Good thing he didn’t listen.

Extend the Season

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In Nebraska, a fresh home grown tomato or any garden produce is hard to come by in the late fall months. After a hard freeze in Nebraska we can pretty much say farewell to fresh garden produce for the season. That was until several producers in the state invested in high tunnel hoop houses.

Mari Vineyards is not only unique for its winery, but also for the grape varieties it grows. These include Nebbiolo, Schioppettino, Malbec and Sangiovese. High tunnels encourage these cultivars by extending the growing season by about a month. (Leslie Mertz/for Good Fruit Grower)

High tunnel hoop houses are unheated greenhouse-like structures where plants are grown directly in the ground. Greenhouse grade plastic is stretched over a hoop frame and serves as a barrier which shields plants from natural elements giving them two to six extra weeks of growing on each end of the season. Without an added source of heat, producers carefully choose plants to grow in the high tunnel. These structures make it possible to harvest produce early in the summer and late in the fall, giving producers a jump on revenue for the seasons. A handful of producers in the state of Nebraska have utilized this value added resource to create longer seasons.

Early last year the University of Nebraska Rural Initiative saw this as an economic opportunity for Nebraska growers to potentially gain higher revenue and to satisfy those fall-fresh produce cravings many of us are guilty of having. Partnering with the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at UNL, funding was made available through University of Nebraska Rural Initiative and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to purchase the materials needed to build a high tunnel at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte. A 21 foot wide by 72 foot long, high style tunnel was purchased which features a gothic style frame, automated roll down sides, and double plastic layers.

The project, managed by Researcher and Extension Professor Dale Lindgren, was delayed because of windy conditions when it came to installing the plastic. “Wind is a major factor when it comes to installing the plastic cover,” comments Lingren. Installing the cover is easier on smaller high tunnels.

Tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, zinnias, and snapdragons were planted in the high tunnel in May, 2008. After the growing season appeared successful, late season plantings occurred in late June. Green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers were among the vegetables chosen. Research is focusing on planting design and layout, variety selection, influence of the natural environment, extending the season, and economic benefit.

The new structure has proven to be of great interest to the public. This spring and summer several organized groups visited the West Central Research and Extension Center to catch a glimpse of the high tunnel. A wide range of visitors from youth on up to adults has brought over 580 people this year. Groups including Chamber of Commerce Ag Groups, local Community Leadership groups, Master Gardeners, Garden Clubs, high school and elementary youth field day participants and representatives of commercial agriculture groups and general public walk-ins have visited the site to tour and ask questions about the high tunnel. The tunnel has also served as an educational tool for college and high school biology classes. University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate student, Natalie Sukup developed an informational brochure which has been handed out to visiting groups to help answer questions and where to find more information about high tunnels.

This summer the high tunnel was featured in two local television segments. The high tunnel has created more than just local interest. Backyard Farmer, a Nebraska Public Television (NET Television) gardening program, featured Lindgren and the high tunnel reaching not only Nebraskans but worldwide viewers through online internet viewing.

Future plans for project research will focus primarily on quality selection in vegetables with cultivars of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and beans. Other important activities will include detailed data collection on temperature, production, and yield, controlling insects and disease organically, and evaluating woodchips as mulch. Some companion field gardens will be implemented to compare planting dates, yields, and produce quality. Additional sites across Nebraska will be evaluated to build added affordable high tunnel models more appealing to the Nebraska producer.

Public education is a primary goal for the Rural Initiative and University of Nebraska Extension. Sukup will be using the high tunnel research to develop curriculum for producers across the state. The curriculum will focus on aspects of a high tunnel system that ranges from selecting an appropriate site to marketing the products it produces. Other states including Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky have developed high tunnel programs that producers are finding successful in season extension and quality control. Some studies have been conducted at UNL prior to the addition of North Platte’s high tunnel. These studies, conducted by UNL faculty member Laurie Hodges, has focused on cut flower production in high tunnels and understanding the microclimate within them. She has also contributed to the website, dedicated to providing high tunnel education to producers and educators across the Midwest.

The North Platte high tunnel is available for viewing at the UNL West Central Research and Extension Center by scheduling an appointment with Dale Lindgren from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information about high tunnels or visiting the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte, contact Dale Lindgren at 308-696-6706 or e-mail at [email protected]. To receive an informational brochure or to learn more about high tunnel resources contact Natalie Sukup at 402-472-1725 or e-mail at [email protected].

Categories: Growing

Pawpaw: North America’s Largest Native Edible Fruit

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The pawpaw is a native tree usually found growing in colonies and often among other, taller trees in extreme southeastern Nebraska.

The edible fruits are sometimes compared to short, stubby bananas, but are thicker and more rounded. The skin of the ripe fruits is light green or yellow green; the flesh is custard-like.

Pawpaws are easy to prepare: simply cut the fruits in half, then remove the seeds and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, being careful not to scrape in the greenish layer that lines the skin. The flesh should have a pleasant fragrance and be soft but not mushy.

(Cautions: under ripe or overripe pawpaws can cause indigestion, abdominal cramps; seeds and the greenish layer are not edible; handling pawpaws causes some persons to develop a skin rash.)

When I was in graduate school in Kentucky, I learned that the woods were full of pawpaws.

When October came, I placed a note on the department bulletin board that read, “I would appreciate receiving pawpaws and will share the resulting baked goods,” and I signed my name.

In a few days I became rich beyond my dreams — sacks of pawpaws, boxes of pawpaws, and a half-bushel of pawpaws. It was wonderful.

The inside of a pawpaw is soft and gooey.

I baked them and froze them, I made pawpaw cookies and pudding and ice cream and bread.

My fellow students ate it all and gave me serious feedback.

The consensus was that the bread was marvelous and that the rest were good, except the pudding, which they thought was a waste of good pawpaws that could have been made into bread.

Here is the recipe for pawpaw bread. It takes on a pale rosy tint as it bakes.

Pawpaw Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon soda½ teaspoon salt½ cup margarine or butter1 cup granulated sugar2 eggs1 cup mashed pawpaw pulp½ cup nutmeats (hickories if you have them)

• Grease a 9 x 5 x 3 – inch loaf pan with margarine or butter and set it aside.

• Sift the flour, soda, and salt together onto a piece of waxed paper.

• With an electric mixer, cream the margarine or butter until fluffy.

• Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until thick and light.

• Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well.

• Add about half of the dry ingredients and the remaining pulp, again stirring only enough to mix. Add the remaining dry ingredients and the remaining pawpaw pulp in the same way.

• Fold in the nutmeats.

• Bake for 1 hour (at 350 degrees) or until the surface springs back when lightly touched at the center.

• Remove from the oven and allow cooling for about 10 minutes, then loosening the sides with a table knife and then turn the loaf out onto a plate. Cover with a cloth and allow it to cool completely.

— — — — — 

Edited from the entries on Pawpaws and Hickory nuts in Wild Seasons: Gathering and Cooking Wild Plants of the Great Plains by Kay Young. © 1993 by the University of Nebraska Press.

Available wherever books are sold or from the University of Nebraska Press 800.526.2617 and on the web at

Categories: Harvest

Bringing More Green Roofs to Omaha

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You’d be hard pressed not to see a daily newspaper article or a story on the evening news about some aspect of going “green.”

Going “green” is often in the context of building and developing new public and private infrastructure that is less taxing on the environment from both a construction and ongoing maintenance standpoint.

Green roofs (or perhaps more accurately put, “vegetative roofs”) have been around in Europe for years, but have only recently started to catch on here in the United States.

Photo by Dr. Richard Sutton, UNLSuch roofs offer a number of potential benefits over standard roofs.

Image Credit:

The growing medium and plants that comprise the green roof provide insulating and water retention benefits, in addition to prolonging the life of the roof membrane — a standard item on both a green roof and a conventional roof.

With those and other potential benefits, why are there not more green roofs here in the U.S.?

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities is an organization based out of Toronto that serves as an ambassador for green roofs. They are a recognized leader in facilitating information exchange, education, and promotion and development of green roofs.

In October 2007, the City of Omaha and Douglas County teamed to bring a local market development symposium, produced by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), to Omaha.

The purpose of the event was two-fold.

First, to provide a basic education and understanding of green roofs, and second, to identify obstacles and barriers to green roof use in the Omaha metropolitan area.

From that symposium a local committee, subsequently named the “Green Roof Working Committee,” was formed with the intent of taking that information and coming up with action plans that could address the aforementioned obstacles and barriers to green roof use.

The committee has been meeting monthly since February, and has divided its work up among six subcommittees: Stormwater Design Manual, Covenants, Building Codes, Appraisal and Financing, Outreach and Education, and Overall Policy Development.

While basic education is needed to show builders, developers, and others the benefits of using green roof technology, the real hurdle to getting more green roofs built is really money.

Green roofs cost more to install because there are more components, but green roofs are projected to outlast their conventional counterparts two- to three-fold.

It follows that lenders, insurers, and others associated with the building industry will need to develop policies that apply specifically to green roofs rather than relying on the standard practices associated with conventional roofs.

The Green Roof Working Committee’s charge is to identify successful policies and practices from around the country, and facilitate the implementation of appropriate policies and practices in the Omaha area.

Categories: Green Buildings

Starting Your Own Orchard

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Starting an apple orchard can be a lot of fun, but will also be a lot of work.

Many days, maybe even years of work may pass until you pick apples.

The one constant your crop is at the mercy of mother nature.

There are many variables an orchard designer has control over: site selection, apple variety, ultimate tree size and tree spacing. However, the weather, bugs and disease are working against you.

If you can keep your apple trees happy, they will provide apples for you. Keep your apples happy and they will make your customers happy.

Site selection

When looking at a site for an orchard, seek ground that has good water drainage and does not lie low in the terrain. These low areas can become frost pockets, in other words, cold air settles in to low areas.

Fruit trees flower in the spring. A late freeze will damage the flower, thus reducing the crop.

Ripening happens in late summer until first fall frost. Frost/freezing can ruin the crop of those late ripening varieties.

Try to choose a site that will not be a frost pocket. If you own land that could be susceptible to untimely frost, choose varieties that bloom late and ripen early.

Stark Brothers Nurseries & Orchards Co. has a bloom and ripening chart for the different fruits that they sell. These charts will help determine those varieties that may do will on your site, in your region.

Finding varieties

Now, given the restraints of your site, your varieties need to be selected.

After considering your frost times, both spring and fall, under-stand that not all apples varieties will grow in Nebraska. Your local nursery will have done that portion of the selection process for you.

There are some 7,500 varieties in the world, 2,500 in the US, but only 100 commercially produced varieties. Pick the varieties that ripen when you want them to; August to November.

Select fresh, baking, saucing or cider varieties. Opinions will vary on what is the perfect apple. Keep in consideration that some varieties of trees will have some disease resistance to Cedar Apple Rust and/or Fire Blight while others have no resistance.


Another consideration is cross pollination of flowers.

All apple tree flowers will need to be cross pollinated. In the typical home owners 2 tree orchard, those two trees will need to pollinate each other; in a commercial setting with multiple varieties of apples, pollinating is not an issue.

You can choose apple trees of different varieties but they need to be blooming simultaneously.

Crabapples can also pollinate regular apple trees. Bees can only do their part if pollen is available at the needed time.

Understand, each variety of apple has slight differences in growth characteristics and vigor. These differences vary greatly in the overview of all apple varieties.

Size matters

With an orchard site and varieties picked, you will need to determine the maturity height you want: standard trees (20–40’), semi-dwarf (15–30’), or dwarf (10–18’) trees.

A fruit tree is a grafted, asexually propagated tree. The root stock and above ground portion (scion) are of two different trees. The union of these two parts is called a graft. The degree of incompatibility in that union is the dwarfing agent.

Dwarfing root stock along with the vigor characteristic of each variety will dictate the tree’s ultimate size. These factors will help determine the spacing of trees in the field.

Dwarf trees may be as dense as 300 to 1000 trees per acre. Semi-dwarf trees might be 100 to 300 per acre. The higher the density, the larger the cost, the larger the harvest and therefore the larger the work load.

Overly simplified, trees convert sunlight to fruit, the more sunlight captured, the more fruit produced.

Maintenance factors

Modern high density orchards require more intense trimming. Dwarf fruit trees in orchard settings are easier to trim at eye level versus a lift needed to trim some semi-dwarf and standard sized trees.

Dwarf trees, because of the density, will “cover” better with less chemical spray. All commercial orchards are sprayed weekly throughout the entire growing season. Organic orchards share apples with the bugs.

Modern high density dwarf apple orchards require that all trees must be individually staked.

Staking is not necessary in a regular and semi-dwarf orchard. Staking and training is a must to prevent the dwarf apple tree’s fruit load from breaking branches, not to mention the effects of brutal Nebraska winds. This staking or “trellis system” will cost more than the actual trees themselves.

There are different methods of tree training. Your trellis or staking system will dictate which pruning system you will use. Vertical axis, vase or slender spindle are some of the high density tree training methods.


Because dwarf trees start to produce early, dwarf and semi-dwarf trees tend to get planted more than standard sized trees. High density dwarf orchards are not common in the heartland due to high start up costs and low land cost. Costing 4 to 5 times more than semi-dwarf orchards, dwarf orchards are usually found on the east and west coasts where land prices are much higher.

In our “pick your own” orchard setting, Trees, Shrubs and More, Inc offers a modern high density dwarf apple orchard.

We have 8 varieties of apples ripening from Ultra Red Gala’s in early September to “BraeStar” Braeburn apples in mid to late October.

These trees are trained to a central axis system in a single system with overhead wire and post trellis. Spacing allows for a lawn like grass bed between tree rows.

At Trees, Shrubs and More, Inc., we have plenty of apples, plenty of parking and plenty of smiles.

New Plants for Salsa at Wenninghoff’s

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The Wenninghoff family has been growing and selling farm fresh produce in Omaha since the Great Depression. We have seen many changes in eating and buying habits and have tried to change our plantings accordingly.

This year, with the increase in home cooking and gardening, we are trying several new items with an emphasis on salsa. We are adding Roma Tomatoes which are a meaty tomato. They produce a lot of tomatoes per bush and also make a great tomato for salads. We are adding Cilantro along with other herbs.

Wenninghoff’s will be increasing our product line of peppers to include the ones mentioned in this article plus all of the different kinds we have grown over the years. Most people think of only using jalapeno peppers for salsa. That is like only using only one kind of seasoning on your grilled meats! We encourage people to try using different peppers for a more exciting salsa.

This year we are growing a very hot banana pepper called “Inferno”. It looks like a regular hot banana pepper, but it really packs a punch! Habanero’s are very hot and a beautiful orange color and a compact plant.

Another new pepper that we are trying is “Sunsation.” Most bell peppers start green and turn to red as they ripen. “Sunsation” turns to a deep yellow and they are very sweet.

Since salsa does not have to be hot, we are also trying a pepper called Marcato. It is a sweet Italian Roasting pepper. That should add an interesting flavor to any salsa.

We will begin planting as soon as the soil warms and hope to have a bountiful “salsa” crop by summer. Hope you can come see us. We are located at 6707 Wenninghoff Road, right off of Sorenson Parkway west of Immanuel Hospital.

Categories: Harvest