Monday, October 21, 2019

Fall Lawn and Tree Reminders

Kari Lewis

Now, as we proceed farther into fall, I wanted to give some reminders regarding fall tree and lawn care.  Proper care of trees now, in the fall, usually reduces winter damage to trees.

Once the trees’ leaves turn color and fall off, the tree is dormant so, it is recommended to water trees once each week until the soil freezes.  This watering after the tree is dormant provides a water reserve for when the tree comes out of dormancy and it will make a big impact in next year’s overall tree health. Remember to water not at the tree trunk, but out at the dripline of the tree to water those feeder roots. 

If you have newly planted trees, it’s important to protect them from winter desiccation.  It’s advised to construct sun barriers for newly planted evergreens on the windward and south side of trees or shrubs to protect them from winds that will dry them out and protect them from intensive reflective winter sun.  These young trees can be protected by wrapping burlap between fence posts or propping a wooden pallet on end.  Deciduous trees (that’s the ones whose leaves turn color) with smooth and dark bark should have trunks wrapped with a tree wrap to reflect the sun, which will reduce sunscald on the bark. 

Regarding lawns, fall is the time to make another fertilizer application or two.  In Montana, it’s recommended to fertilize around Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.  The final fall fertilizer application should occur after the last mowing of the year, but about four weeks before the soil freezes.  The fall fertilizer applications are key fertilizing times, as your lawn will green up much faster in the spring if it receives this October fertilizer application. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Living frugally to retire early - is that possible?
by Wendy Wedum, Pondera County Extension

The past couple of years I’ve been participating in a book club with MSU and North Dakota Extension Agents.  It is fun to get the perspectives from others during our weekly chats and to learn new information that I might not have read about myself.

This year’s book is How to Retire the Cheapskate Way by Jeff Yeager. Over the next several weeks, I’m going to share the tips he’s learned from other frugal savers and his own experiences along with the comments from other experts in the field of financial management.

From a former colleague, Jeff learned about the "Cheapskate’s Hierarchy of Moolah Management." It has four steps.  Today we’ll start with step number one.

Step One: Reduce your dependency on money as much as possible, thereby reducing your need for great cash flow. He says, "Cheapskates place the highest priority on spending less…not earning more."  Do you know anyone who has gotten a raise and still seems to be living paycheck to paycheck?

In step one it is important to place the highest priority on spending less, not earning more; there are three parts to step one:

First, identify your needs and your wants. Try to reduce your routine living expense needs to be no more than 50% of your income and allocate no more than 20% of your income to your wants or extras. Then put the remaining 30% into savings.  Take small steps to live within your means and whenever you can live below your means.  One suggestion is to make setting aside money for your savings part of your spending plan.

Second, establish a permanent standard of living and refuse to let your living expenses grow as your income grows during your working years.  As you income grows, put the extra income into your savings account or increase your contributions to a 401k or if you need to make a major purchase, save up for half or more of the total cost to reduce payment amounts for a loan. 

Third, avoid as much debt as possible and when you do take on debt, work on paying that off as quickly as possible.  Doing so will save you money in less interest paid and it helps people to avoid things like foreclosure and bankruptcy.  Pay ahead on house or car loans by adding extra payments to the principal.  If you have several credit cards with balances and loans to pay off, check out Utah State University's PowerPay - a free program to make a 'personalize, self-directed debt elimination program'.  

See the Resources below for more information.
MSU Extension has MontGuides to help with the budgeting.  
Track'n Your Savings Goals

If you want all the details, get a copy of Yeager's Book:  How to Retire the Cheapskate Way - The Ultimate Cheapskate's Guide to a Better, Earlier, Happier Retirement by Jeff Yeager, 2013.

Utah State University Extension "PowerPay"

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Haying or Grazing Alfalfa and Cereal Forages

With a few decent days in the weather forecast, there’s interest in getting back into the fields and either haying or grazing what’s left of the alfalfa or cereal forages.  With the snow and weather we’ve had this fall, there’s definitely a few things to be aware of.  Today we’ll talk first about alfalfa and then then cereal grains.

Proper fall management of alfalfa is important to ensure that there are enough carbohydrate reserves heading into winter.  The healthier the stand, the less chance of winter injury or winterkill occurring.  Once the plant has experienced a killing frost and gone dormant, it safe for the plant to be harvested or grazed as carbohydrate reserves are no longer needed for regrowth this fall. 
If grazing alfalfa, there is increased concern for bloat immediately following a killing frost.  The general recommendation is to wait at least three to five days after a killing frost before considering grazing.  Livestock should be moved onto the field in the late morning or early afternoon after they’ve grazed another pasture so they’re not going onto the field with an empty stomach and then tanking up on alfalfa, potentially causing bloat.  Another option would be to feed some dry hay before turning onto the alfalfa field to lessen the risk of bloat in animals unaccustomed to alfalfa.

Regardless of whether you are harvesting the alfalfa by grazing it or swathing it, always leave enough stubble to increase snow capture for the winter.  Snow cover helps prevent ice sheeting and protects against temperature fluctuations.  If plants are exposed to warm temperatures through the winter, that can cause a break in dormancy and the plant will begin using carbohydrate reserves too early, leading to increased risk of winter injury or winterkill. 

Now, how about any cereal forages left out there – forages such as oats, barley, or other grain hays?  Any time a plant is stressed, whether it be from drought, frost, hail damage, etc., the potential for nitrate accumulation rises, and cereal forages are especially prone to nitrate accumulation.  Thus, with the snowstorms we’ve had, I would suspect there’s potential for nitrate accumulation in some of those plants as snowstorms would certainly count as an environmental stressor. 

Nitrates are typically highest in the lowest one-third of the plant stems, so cutting or grazing above that portion will reduce the chance of excessive nitrate ingestion.  If grazing, be sure to not overgraze but leave plenty of stubble behind and if swathing, consider raising the header slightly to cut higher up the plant.

If planning to graze a pasture of cereal forages, turn cattle in during the afternoon after they’ve had a full feed.  I would certainly recommend a nitrate test before grazing cereal forages.  Extension offices can offer a ‘quick test’ or a sample can be sent to a lab for analysis within a few days.  It’s important to know if nitrates are present and as depending on the nitrate level, poor performance, abortions in bred livestock, and death can occur.  If there is nitrate present, the effects could potentially be mitigated by also feeding some grass hay along with the field that is to be grazed. 
Further resources:
Fall Consideration of Alfalfa