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Profile nitrogen testing

By David G. Hallauer

Meadowlark District Extension agent, crops and soils/horticulture


As with phosphorous, potassium and other nutrients, high yields also remove a sizeable nitrogen load. In most cases, there is some level of residual nitrogen left in the soil profile that allows us to attain high yields, even in the absence of higher nitrogen rates. Combine high yields with areas of denitrification this year and testing for profile nitrogen may be in order.

Since nitrogen is a mobile nutrient in the soil profile, nitrate testing requires soil sampling to a 24 inch depth. Shallower depths can be used, but may inaccurately portray soil nitrate levels available for the next crop. Sampling isn't as simple as the zero to six inch sampling method common for P, K, Zn, and others, but can result in excellent nitrogen rate information for the following crop.

Profile nitrogen testing can also be a valuable tool during drought years when the crop doesn't take up a lot of nitrogen. For more information about soil testing, contact your district office.

Pruning shrubs

After an October with some cool, damp weather, November has thus far provided some great weather for outdoor work. One such job you might be considering is pruning back shrubs.

It would probably be best to find something else to work on! Light pruning and/or the removal of dead wood is actually fine this time of year. We can get by with these activities, particularly dead wood removal, at just about any time of the year. Severe pruning, however, should be avoided until spring. Pruning of spring-blooming shrubs should be avoided until even later. Even light pruning, now or in the spring before bloom, will reduce flowers on shrubs like lilac and forsythia. Wait on these spring-bloomers until after flowering.

Shrubs also differ in how severely they can be cut back. Trim junipers lightly since they do not break bud from within the plant. You'll lose shape of those plants if you don't. If juniper shape has gotten away from you, they should be removed.

Certain shrubs can be pruned back severely during the spring. Rejuvenation is the most severe type of pruning and may be used on multi-stem shrubs that have become too large with too many old branches to justify saving the younger canes. All stems are cut back to 3- to 5-inch stubs. This works well for spirea, forsythia, pyracantha, ninebark, Russian almond, little leaf mock orange, shrub roses and flowering quince. As long as you wait until spring, pruning will be very effective.

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