Stump grinding

Farm Forum

Spring is the time of year when people get around to removing trees in their yard. Removing trees and disposing of the brush is a hazardous undertaking and is best performed by professionals who have the training and equipment to safety remove trees. However, whether a professional tree service removes the tree or the homeowner, there is usually the question of: what to do about the stump?

The most effective means of dealing with a stump is to hire a service to come out and grind it. This usually involves grinding out the entire stump to a depth of 8 to 12 inches and grinding any surface roots that flare out from the stump. Most stump grinding services charge by the inch, measuring the length of the stump in its longest dimension. Grinding the stump usually does not include removing the grounded chips or filling the hole with soil. Some services will perform these functions but usually at an additional charge.

The slower approach is to let the stump decay naturally, but this can take a decade or more. The decay process can be accelerated by cutting the stump level to the ground, drilling 1-inch diameter holes into the wood, and pouring about 4 oz. of a slow-release fertilizer in each hole. After adding the fertilizer the holes can be filled with topsoil. The holes should be about 10 inches deep and spaced one foot apart. There are commercial stump removal products that can be poured in the holes but these are just fertilizers, either potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate. This accelerated process usually takes one to three years. You’ll still have to use a sharp spade to break up the stump but it usually comes apart fairly easily by then.

Some recommend pouring kerosene down the holes. Then, after six weeks and lighting it. This might be entertaining but the fire can be smothering for a time period as it consumes the larger roots. I don’t recommend this practice.

Pine needle scale

By John Ball

SDSU Extension Forestry Specialist

Pine needle scale (Chionaspis pinifoliae) is often a problem on Colorado blue spruce. While I receive several pictures of pine needle scale during a year, this one is great because it shows the parasitized scales. If you look closely, you may notice that a number of the scales have a round hole in them. This is where the parasitoid emerged from the shell. The white scales you see now on last year’s needles are the females. If you tear the shell off you’ll find about 20 or more very small reddish-brown eggs. The eggs hatch about the time common lilacs bloom and the crawlers emerge from their now-dead mom to move to the newer needles where they insert the mouthparts into a stoma (opening in the needles for gas exchange) and begin to feed. The females lose their legs and develop the white waxy covering and the cycle begins again. Pine needle scale can be a problem on young spruce and pines but generally their natural enemies keep them in check. Many pesticide treatments, while well intended, may kill more of their natural enemies than the scales. The best treatments are oils, either dormant or summer, depending on the season, to kill the eggs or (more effectively) to kill the newly hatched crawlers. Oils tend to be more effective at killing the scales and sparing the natural enemies.

Plant development

ahead of schedule

By John Ball

SDSU Extension Horticulture Specialist

The forythias and cornelian cherries (Cornus mas) are blooming in Brookings. This did not occur until about mid-April last year so we are a little ahead for the season. Many trees and shrubs have their buds expanding and I expect we will see a lot more plants in bloom and leaf within the next week or two. An early spring is nice, but let’s hope we do not get a stretch of cold weather (0° to 10°F). This could end up killing the tender flowers and leaves on many plants. We seem to experience this event every five years or so and it’s mostly our non-native woody plants that are affected. Native trees, such as our bur oaks, know to hold off until May before they begin to put out new growth or flowers.

David Graper named

coordinator of the South Dakota Extension Master Gardener Program

Dr. David Wright, Professor and Head of the Plant Science Department, has announced that David Graper has agreed to continue as the Master Gardener Coordinator on a permanent basis, after having served as the Interim Coordinator since December of 2014. Graper began as the state coordinator when he was initially hired back in 1990 until 2003 when he took a sabbatical and then other duties within the Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks Department. But, he continued to be involved with the South Dakota Master Gardeners in various capacities since that time.

“I am excited to be able to work with the Master Gardeners. They are a great group of enthusiastic people that are eager to learn and anxious to help others to become better gardeners”, Graper said. He is busy organizing Master Gardener training for 2016. Applications will be available online by April 10 at or you may request a form by contacting him at

Three SD Regional

Centers staffed with

Master Gardeners

Seasonal Horticulture Assistants started staffing three SDSU Extension Regional Centers, part time, beginning April 1. Various Master Gardeners may be volunteering in each of the offices at different times but the primary workers are the same as last year. Mary Hercher will be working 19 hours a week in the Rapid City Regional Center, located at 711 North Creek Drive. The phone number is (605) 394-1722. Cindy Schnabel is working at the Aberdeen Regional Center, 6-8 hours a week. It is located at 13 Second Ave. SE. The phone number is 605-626-2870. Karin Wolter will be working in the Sioux Falls Regional Center for 12-15 hours a week. It is located at 2001 E. Eighth St., the phone number is 605-782-3290.

If you have gardening questions or plant samples to bring in, it is probably a good idea to call to make sure that a Master Gardener will be on hand to visit with you before you make the trip to the Regional Center.

South Dakota Extension Master Gardener

Training for 2016

By David Graper

South Dakota Master Gardener Program Coordinator

South Dakota Extension Master Gardener training classes are now being formed. In order to become a Master Gardener, you must first attend an introductory half-day session, then complete a series of online classes as well as four hands-on sessions. Since 2013, the majority of Master Gardener training is offered online so you can get the training in the comfort of your own home or some other location where you have access to a computer, to complete the various modules of the training. The first modules will be available starting the end of April.

The hands-on training sites for 2016 are Brookings, Sioux Falls, Aberdeen and Rapid City. The location for those sites was based largely on local interest in those areas of the state. We plan on utilizing the DDN systems, located in at least two of these sites, to broadcast the hands-on sessions to the other SDSU Extension Regional Centers so that people that do not live close to one of the four sites this year can still participate. These four, day-long, hands-on sessions give trainees the opportunity to learn skills such as planting, pruning, plant propagation, along with plant and pest identification by seeing and doing. These are held in each of the training sites. Participants may choose from each of the locations for their hands-on training. There will also be an initial half-day session for participants to get registered, get acquainted, pick up their training manual and learn the log-in procedure to access the online training. You will need access to a computer and have an email address to access the online training modules. More information will be forwarded to participants as we get closer to the beginning of training.

Master Gardeners work in their community to promote and teach gardening. Opportunities include writing articles, giving talks, working at fair booths, helping in community and school gardens, teaching and answering garden questions. The training gives a well-rounded education preparing them to help their communities. Currently there are about 800 active Master Gardeners and interns across the state, many of which are also active in one or more of the 19 area groups of Master Gardeners. In 2015 the South Dakota Extension Master Gardeners contributed more than 13,000 hours of volunteer service, worth over $246,000 to South Dakota individuals, families and communities.

If you are interested in participating in Master Gardener training this year, you will need to complete an application form that can be found at The application deadline will be April 20. There are two options available for training. With the standard application you will receive the training, the Resource Manual and access to the online training. After completing the training and passing a final test, you will be a Master Gardener Intern. You will be then be obligated to provide 50 hours of volunteer service back to the People of South Dakota over the next two years, to become a full-fledged Master Gardener. The cost for the standard training is $160. The second option is available for individuals that want to get the training and resource manual but do not have the desire to become a Master Gardener. You receive the same training as the future Master Gardener Interns but there is no volunteer service requirement and you will not become a Master Gardener upon completion of the course. The cost of that option is $500.

Contact David Graper at: for additional information or if you would like to have an application form mailed to you.

Mark your Calendar for

an Upcoming Event

The next Third Thursday program at McCrory Gardens is entitled “Backyard Vegetable Gardening” presented by: Kim James – Foodtopia Farms. The program will be held at the McCrory Gardens Education & Visitor Center in Brookings, SD, Thursday, April 21 – 6:30 pm

Looking to improve your eating habits? Start gardening! You (and your kids) are more likely to eat fresh produce if you are involved in raising it and nothing tastes quite as good as food grown with love. You don’t have to till up an acre, even a few plants can make a difference. This presentation aims to inspire you to get started by covering the what, when, and how of small scale vegetable gardening. Kim has been growing vegetables for market for 5 years and will share her tips, favorites, and enthusiasm for growing tasty plants that give back.