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

Categories: Gardens

Buying the Right Tools for your Garden

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If you are a professional gardener, you’d be looking for the best quality tools?

You know you would. Budget wouldn’t be the main factor as your tools would help you to make a living. So why compromise just because you are a keen amateur?

On the other hand, if you are a gardener; a once a year type, you may want to go ahead with less expensive tools. These days there are a proliferation of tools available to make your gardening life easier. Don’t restrict yourself just the traditional items. Look at what’s available. Amazon is a great source to actually buy these tools, but it can be a little overwhelming. To help narrow down to the better options, it is often best to use one of the many review sites, such as Garden Eaze, which provides quality reviews of gardening tools available on Amazon.

Presently, there are a lot of companies which manufacture garden tools. As a result, tools are less robust as the companies needs to satisfy stockholders. Most companies use plastic handles, cheaper grade of wood, thinner steel and so on. All these result in poor quality garden tools, but more dividends for stockholders. Hence, it is important to ask yourself, what do you know about buying these tools? It is also important to ask yourself about how to make sure that you buy the best in each category.

Design of the Tools

The first thing you need to notice is the design. The best kind of tools has refined designs which are more users friendly. A little bend or a less angle can make a big difference while using garden tools. It is also important to check the thickness of steel. It should be just heavy enough to serve its purpose. However, it should not be very heavy and tire the user. There are many different types of tools in the market according to size and weight. It is important to define your needs and requirements so that you can buy one accordingly.

Type of Metal Used

Attachment of Handle

It is also important to consider the kind of metal which has been used to manufacture the tool. Thin steel will usually mean poor quality. Usually, thin steel comes from a large roll which is cut to manufacture more number of tools from the same roll. This is done to lower production costs. On the other hand, there are many manufacturers which experiment with different formulas to ensure more durable and strong steel. Durability and strength are one of the most important to factors to consider.

Interestingly, attachment of handle also plays a very crucial role to make sure that it is high quality. This is even more important for spades and forks. Most of the poor quality tools have thin steel, which is only riveted and wrapped around the handle. Such handles may allow you to work fast, but they are not at all strong. Such handles get broken very easily.

Let’s take a look at a good example from our friends over at Garden Eaze. The tree lopper is a specialist tool for pruning upper branches of overgrown trees. When you use them you will obviously be reaching up high and the quality of the handle will be critical.

Socket or Strapped Connection

The best kind of garden tools has a strapped connection or socket. Strapped connection is believed to be the strongest. Straps and head are only one piece of steel. Moreover, straps usually extend up to the riveted handle. Socket attachment is also as strong as a strapped connection. In this connection too, head and socket are one piece of steel. Moreover, the handle is fastened into the socket.

Warranty Period

Last but not the least, it is very important to ask yourself, ‘what is the warranty on this thing?’ There are many good companies which offer a lifetime warranty. It is always better to go with a company which provides a good warranty period.

These were only some of the factors which will determine your choice while choosing garden tools. There are also other factors and you should do a thorough research before you think about buying your tools.

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.

How To Build Your Own Raised Bed Planter

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When I look through the home and garden magazines, or really any home improvement magazine, the homes seem to all have large expansive yards with plenty of room for everything that you could dream of doing to make it more comfortable for entertaining and living.

When I look at my backyard, it is not so expansive and I am sure that many people fall into that category.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy getting out there and getting our hands dirty, it just means that we have to be more conscious of what kind of space we have to work with.  A great way to use some of this space more efficiently is to have a raised garden bed.  It is also a good way to plant without having to do as much work with tilling each year.

You can control the growth of the plants as well, without worrying about them overtaking your yard.  But for those of us that are handier in the garden and around plants than with power tools, building the raised garden bed may be a bit intimidating.  It shouldn’t be, it really is a DIY project that most anybody could attempt and complete.

You will need some tools. Get the best you can afford. If you don’t know what tools are the best then use a review site ( for example).

And building it on your own is so much more satisfying than buying a ready made one at the store.  And it is usually a little less expensive.  Here are some simple steps to follow.


Like any other endeavor, location is a very important aspect of starting your raised garden bed.  Look for the flattest spot possible.  This way you do not have to dig as much to level out the ground.  You are going to want to consider how tall to build the planter as well, knowing that the taller it is, the more dirt you will need to fill it in.  1 to 2 feet is usually sufficient.  Also, if you are building more than one planter or placing the planter near another object, give yourself enough room to maneuver through the walkway and perhaps to use a wheelbarrow or even a lawnmower.

Level the Ground

Next you will want to level the ground that you picked out.  You will want to remove the grass and any weeds, and you want the ground to be as level as possible so that the planter is level.  If you anticipate poor drainage, dig a little deeper and put in a layer or coarse stone or gravel.  If you really have a drainage problem, you can always install perforated drainage pipes under the gravel.  You will then want to place a layer of landscape fabric before filling with fresh soil.  Another good idea is to put some sort of metal meshing down to keep out the gophers and moles.  Think about all of that fresh soil with tempting vegetable roots just calling to the animals.

Build the Sides

The third major step is to build the sides of the planter.  Using treated outdoor lumber, you will want to build all four sides separately and then connect them in place.  This is the part that might scare some people off, but you can buy pre-cut lengths of 2x material at the home improvement store. 

This is where the right tools will be essential. Even if it just a ratcheting screwdriver, get the right one.

It is 1 ¾ inches thick and depending on how tall you want your planter; you can use material that is 6, 8, 10 or 12 inches wide.  You just stack two lengthwise edge to edge and take some other short pieces of lumber and fasten to both pieces in order to hold it together.

Do this with all four sides and then you just connect the corners with screws using a cordless drill.  Then you take some stakes and drive them down at the corners, you can either do this on the inside or the outside of the corners to hold them in place and attach to the planter using screws again.

Last, just attach a piece of lumber around the top edge lying flat so that you will have a place to set tools and sit down while working. Depending on how large the planter is, you may want to put support stakes in the middle of each side as well.

Once the bed is built, you can stain or paint is before filling it in to help make it even more weather proof and beautiful.   After filling it in with soil, all you have to do is decide what you want to plant.

Are you going to plant flowers or vegetables so that you have fresh produce whenever you want?  Sure, it’s a little bit of work, but this is the type of project that gives returns long after the work is done and while you are enjoying fresh vegetables that you grew with your own two hands, you can be proud of what you built to get you there.

Categories: Gardens Green Buildings

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 To receive an informational brochure or to learn more about high tunnel resources contact Natalie Sukup at 402-472-1725 or e-mail at

Categories: Growing

DIY Landscaping – Safety First!

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Spring and summer are popular and busy seasons for landscaping.  After being forced indoors for the winter, many gardening enthusiasts jump at the chance to do yard work, gardening and landscaping.  Professional landscaping, although attractive to look at, can be costly.  DIY landscaping has become more popular as many people escape their busy “9-5 work week” by planting flowers, mowing the lawn, trimming shrubs, and building stone walls, paths and ponds.

Building your own backyard sanctuary can have many mental benefits and can provide a good physical workout, but it is always important to be safe while landscaping. The same type of injuries and accidents can take place in the home as on a work site.  In fact, hobbyists or beginners may be more at risk for accidents as they may have less experience with equipment and/or safety regulations.

Common Injuries And Accidents In Landscaping

industrial concept with tools and equipment, selective focus on nearest

Landscaping can be a fulfilling job with pleasing results, but it can also be a dangerous occupation or hobby if proper safety precautions are not taken.  Professional landscapers are at risk for various work-related injuries and accidents every day.  A person, fixing up their yard in the spring, is at risk of similar injuries.  Home accidents and construction accidents can be very similar in nature.  The most common accidents that occur in a landscaping setting include, but are not limited to:

  • Cuts and amputations due to tools, saws, wood chippers, lawn mowers
  • Electric shock due to contact with high wires, buried cables, etc.
  • Heat and cold stress (i.e. Heat stroke)
  • Sprains and strains in back, wrist, ankles from improper lifting, pushing physical limitation
  • Hearing or vision damage due to improper eye or ear wear
  • Chemical burns/inhalation from pesticides and other chemicals
  • Slips, trips and falls

Safety Tips

The potential dangers of a landscaping job should not deter someone from enjoying it, but being aware of the dangers and following a few safety tips will greatly improve the chances of an error free landscaping job.  Safety Tips vary from what clothing to wear to proper equipment usage and even to what to do if you find an animal.  Here are some safety tips that would be most helpful to DIY landscapers:

Wear the right clothing for the job:

Depending on the task, it’s best to wear light, well-fitted clothing to protect you from debris, sun, and other irritants

Wear Sunscreen, Sunglasses, and Stay Hydrated

Even on a “perfect” day, it’s easy to become overcome by the sun and get dehydrated

Use the right tool for the job

Don’t skimp on this area. There are plenty of places to get good advice on tools. Before using, make sure it works and is sharpened, etc.

Stand and work in ergonomic positions.

Avoid awkward postures and  poor lifting stances

Working with others

When working with others, make sure you know where they are at ALL times to avoid a multi-person accident

Use common sense when using tools, ladders, and other implements: For example, if you have not used a piece of machinery (like a rented tiller) make sure you know how it works.  When using a ladder, use the proper size and do not over reach.

DIY Landscaping: Don’t Become another Accident Statistic

Given the right tools, time, energy and precautions, a DIY landscaper can turn their yard into a one-of-a-kind place of beauty.  You don’t need to visit a park or arboretum to appreciate and admire well-crafted landscaping.   Do It Yourself!

Categories: Gardens

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.

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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.

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Categories: Harvest