Archive for May, 2008

Garden fun in June!

   Following are Eastern Iowa gardening events scheduled during June. If your group has an activity not listed, please add information about the event in a comment below, or send an email to: Cindy.Hadish@gazcomm.com

 

 

   Mon. June 2, noon to 3 p.m., and 5:30 – 8:30 p.m., –  informational meeting for Marion street tree inventory, Trees Forever office, 770 Seventh Ave., Marion.

   Tues. June 3 and Wed. June 4, noon to 3 p.m. and 5:30 – 8:30 p.m., –  tree identification training at Trees Forever. Call (319) 373-0650 for information.

   Fri. June 6National Garden Fitness Day –  get off the treadmill and into the garden. Watch the Homegrown blog for tips on this day!

   Sat. June 7, 9:30 a.m., – Brucemore in Bloom – also June 14, 21, and 28 – at Brucemore, 2160 Linden Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids. Wander among the unique flowers and plants as the Brucemore garden staff traces the development of the formal garden from conception to the current design. Admission: $10/adult and free to Brucemore members. Call (319) 362-7375 for reservations or register online.

   Tues. June 10 – Fri. June 13 – Native plant identification course, hosted by the Iowa Valley RC&D Council in and around the Amana area.  Robert Mohlenbrock of Biotic Consultants, Inc. will teach this intensive hands-on field course where the distinguishing characteristics of every plant encountered will be discussed. The class will visit several different types of wetland and prairie sites.  The course is designed for environmental specialists, wetland scientists, agriculture consultants and other professionals, but is open to anyone interested in identifying plants native to this area.  Call (319) 213-9243.  Course cost is $600.

   Sat. June 14, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., –  Linn County Master Gardener’s garden walk, $5 for adults or $10 per family. See the Master Gardeners category on the Homegrown blog for details or go to: www.extension.iastate.edu/linn

   Sat. June 14, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., –  Garden Walk in Clarence. Tickets are $10 and include eight gardens, lunch and presentations by Bill Oliver and Zora Ronan of  the Linn County Master Gardeners. With the exception of the gardens, all events take place at St. John’s United Church of Christ, 320 Ninth Ave. Clarence.  Sponsored by Friends of the Zybell Library. Ticket sales begin at 8:30 a.m.

   Sat. June 14, 9-10 a.m., – Plant your own herb pot with Mike Duggan Wyatt, Hy-Vee garden center, 5050 Edgewood Road NE, Cedar Rapids. Bring your lawn chair and garden gloves and listen to master gardener, Mike Duggan, as he shares his expertise regarding appropriate herbs best suited for containers and how to maintain them. You will plant your own container to take home. Containers will be available for purchase or bring your own container (up to a 12” pot). The class fee will cover soil, plants and instruction. $20.  Pre-register at customer service, (319) 378-0762.

   Sun. June 22, 7-10 p.m.,   Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids,  “Nature Rocks – The Year of the River” second annual green benefit for the Indian Creek Nature Center & SPT Theatre Company. Features live music concert by SPT; Wine from Cedar Ridge Vineyards;  lessons about conservation, recycling, sustainability and our natural waterways. Families are encouraged to bring food, beverages and lawn chairs. Tickets are $25 for adults; children 12 and under are free. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Indian Creek Nature Center at (319) 362-0664.

   Sun. June 29, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.,  – Project GREEN Garden Tour, Iowa City, $5 for adults; children 16 and under are free. Includes five gardens in Iowa City. See www.projectgreen.org for more information.

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Bad “worms”

Iowa State University Extension gardening experts answer questions on damaging worms:

 

Worms are devouring the needles on my mugo pine.  What should I do?

 

The “worms” that are eating the needles on your mugo pine are the larvae of the European pine sawfly. European pine sawfly larvae are grayish green. Two light stripes and one dark stripe run down the sides of the body. The legs and head are shiny black. 

 

The larvae feed mainly on mugo, Scotch and Austrian pines, though other pine species are occasionally damaged. They do not feed on spruce or fir. Larvae typically appear in mid to late May in Iowa and are usually gone within a few weeks. 

 

European pine sawfly larvae feed on needles produced in previous years. (The needles on most  pines persist for two to five years.) They do not harm the new needles developing on the branches. As a result, the damage is mainly aesthetic. Larval feeding does not destroy the affected branches. The branches simply have fewer needles than normal. 

 

To keep damage to a minimum, the larvae of the European pine sawfly can be controlled by pruning off and discarding infested branches, knocking the larvae off affected branches into a bucket or other container and destroying them, or spraying them with an insecticide, such as Sevin. 

 

I occasionally find small, white worms in my cherries.  What is the best way to control them?

 

The small, white “worms” are probably the larvae of the cherry fruit fly (Rhagoletis spp.)  Cherry fruit flies lay eggs on developing cherry fruit in May. Damaged fruit appear shrunken and shriveled when ripe, and usually contain one off-white larva (maggot) that is slightly longer than one-quarter of an inch.

 

Cherry fruit fly damage varies greatly from year to year. It may be more practical to tolerate some damage and loss of usable fruit than to attempt effective preventive control.

 

To prevent maggots from appearing inside the fruit, the tree must be thoroughly sprayed with a labeled insecticide when the adults emerge and before the females lay their eggs inside the young fruit. Because the flies emerge over an extended period of time, several sprays will be needed. You can monitor fruit flies with yellow sticky traps hung in the tree in early May. Check traps daily after the first fruit fly is caught and repeat the spray application until flies no longer appear. 

 

Check for home orchard sprays and other insecticides at your local garden center. Carefully read and follow label directions.

 

 

 

 

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Showcase gardens

Becki Lynch, Linn County Master Gardener, shares information about the group’s  Garden Walk: 

 

Have you heard about the new activity that the Master Gardeners in Linn County are offering?  We are hosting a Garden Walk on Saturday, June 14!  We hope that it will be well received, and plan on hosting a walk every year as a fundraiser. 

 

As you can imagine, we have a wealth of beautiful gardens to showcase, and it was a tough decision for this first year.  We guarantee that if you decide to go on the tour, you will get many creative ideas and helpful hints for your own gardens.

 

Since we know that we all have very different tastes, time, and space, the committee chose five gardens that represent a wide range of those elements.  So whether you have acres to play in, or a 1/4 acre lot, there will be examples geared to your situation.

 

To download a map,  just log on to www.extension.iastate.edu/linn and click on “1st Annual Garden Walk. “ Or, simply call the Hortline at 319-447-0647 and they will be happy to send you a brochure.

 

The hours will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the price is $5 per person or $10 per family.

 

And now to the fun part!  What gardens will be showcased this year?  Today, I will describe two, and will continue next week with the final three.

 

The Skripsky Gardens – 4296 Fox Meadow Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids –

Ellen Skripsky is a longtime Master Gardener, and won the award for Master Gardener of the Year in 2007.  As a senior, she is an expert on how to garden ergonomically, with minimal strain on muscles.  She has a “Kitchen Garden” outside her back door, which is a square foot raised bed.  She can easily harvest vegetables for her dinner table.  Ellen also is an expert with containers and has beautiful combinations of colors and ornamental grasses throughout her large city lot.  The mature trees provide a canopy and restful shade, particularly at the front of the house. 

 

The Ortberg Gardens – 317 Forest Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids –

            This property is the historic Armstrong Estate, and thus the white home is both elegant and graceful on a large corner lot.  Val Ortberg has refined and built on the beds that surround the house with an English historic garden design theme.  The property has gentle slopes, and she combines myriad perennials with urns, fountain and iron fencing to provide that old world feel.  The beds range from sun to shade, with a color pallet emphasizing pastels.

 

Even if you are not a gardener, come to view the gardens of those who love to plan and beautify their corner of the world.

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Beetle battle

Colorado potatoe beetle

   Gardeners and farmers market vendors I’ve spoken to this spring show consensus that everything is at least two weeks behind our typical Iowa growing season.

   For the most part, I agree. While it’s nice to enjoy the scent of lilacs at the end of May, I’m still waiting to pull my first radish.

   But one thing, I discovered, seems even earlier than usual.

   This weekend I was encouraged to see that all my potatoes had finally emerged at the garden I lease from the city.

   While things are slow, most plants are looking great.

   Upon closer inspection, I saw something striped and moving and NNNOOOOO!!!

   Already, it’s time for Iowa’s pest season to begin.

   The dreaded Colorado potato beetle — Leptinotarsa decemlineata — the bane of my tiny potato crop, was already at work decimating the foliage just as the plants emerged from the ground.

    I looked to the helpful New York Times “1,000 Gardening Questions & Answers” book, a gift from my friend Dru (thanks DruJ) to research what I might do this year to battle these beetles.

   What I found was somewhat discouraging.

   The organic methods I prefer aren’t very effective when a single female can produce 10,000 offspring by the end of summer.

   I’ve used the powder Garden Guard on the potatoes, but it only stays on as long as it’s not windy or rainy. That’s what — about two hours on any given day this spring?

   Knowing the damage they wreak, I’m much less squeamish about squishing the little buggers than I would have been in the past.

    The Times’ book recommends organic gardeners apply a dose of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to kill the small larvae.

    Larger larvae and adults can be killed with rotenone, a strong but short-lived botanical poison favored by organic gardeners when they must take extreme measures.

   To add insult to infestation, the book notes, Colorado potato beetles can live a full two years. But they won’t stay if there’s nothing to eat, so the final – or first – line of defense is late planting. If they don’t find any potato, eggplant or nicotiana leaves when they emerge from the ground in spring, they’ll leave.

   So, I’m too late (or I was too early) to try that last idea.

   I do try to rotate where I plant the potatoes, but it doesn’t seem to matter where they go. The beetles will find them. Maybe next year, I’ll go for the late start. Any other suggestions?

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Iris garden secrets

Blue intermediate iris known as \

   You can’t help but learn something when visiting Wanda Lunn’s garden. The Cedar Rapids woman has one of only two display gardens in Iowa for the Historic Iris Preservation Society, and she readily shares her 50-some years of gardening knowledge.

 

   Wanda’s garden is a combination of historic and modern varieties of iris, intermingled with hundreds of daylilies and other perennials. The oldest iris are generally less showy, with smaller blossoms than more modern versions.

    Wanda has hundreds of visitors to her gardens every summer and is willing to share the secrets of her success. One misconception she wants to change is the notion that iris are difficult to grow in Iowa. Wanda shows that is anything but the truth. Given adequate space (enough “breathing” room) and proper sunlight, the plants thrive.  She doesn’t fear the iris borer, either.

    The borer doesn’t affect smaller intermediate and dwarf iris, she notes.

    Eggs hatch when temperatures reach 70 degrees, so as long as foliage is cleaned out before then – either in late fall or early spring – the borers shouldn’t be a problem on larger iris either, she said.

    Late freezes made last year a poor one for many plants, but Wanda said the iris, especially, are making up for it this year.

    Iris bloom only once on the “mother” plant, she explains. They then either reproduce or die. Those that didn’t bloom last year will bloom this year, along with their offspring.

    Anyone with spare time this weekend, or next, has the opportunity to see the resulting splendor in Wanda’s garden in northwest Cedar Rapids.

   Wanda notes that she has over 80 DIFFERENT clumps of dwarf , intermediate and miniature tall bearded iris blooming right now. Her garden will be open for those who want to see these rare, earlier iris bloom on Memorial Day, Mon. May 26 , from  10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

   In addition, she has hundreds of stalks right now on the tall bearded iris clumps that will be blooming next weekend, including more than  200 different cultivars in several categories: Historics, modern ruffled, amoneas, broken colors, plicatas and multi-colored.

   She also has several colors of peonies, several colors of Siberian iris and a multitude of other late blooming spring bulbs and perennials on the one-third acre lot. To see those plants in bloom, her garden will also be open to the public  from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat. May 31 and Sun. June 1.

  

    Wanda and her husband live at 526 Bezdek Dr. NW, just off E Avenue. Look for more on Wanda’s iris garden in the Community section of The Gazette.

 

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Talking trees

   Wasn’t much of a tree. Neither showy nor stately. But when two storms in July and August of 2003 took down first one half, then the other, our backyard was forever changed, along with my opinion of the tree’s value.

   Birds lost their habitat and food source. Suddenly, the summer sun scorched its way into our home. Even the squirrels that used to chase each other up its branches seemed perplexed at what to do on the stump that remained.

   I hastily replaced the tree (the variety of which I was never sure) with another, without doing my homework. Not a good move. Suggestions made by the Marion-based Trees Forever in an article in the Thursday, May 22, edition of The Gazette might make better choices for Iowans looking to replace their trees this year.

   In the meantime, if you have any tree stories to share, add your comments here.

  

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Thrillers, fillers and spillers

        How fun is this asks Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith… my thirty-something daughter has decided for the first time in her adult life to plant (albeit small) a vegetable garden.  It’s for “the kids” (?)  She told me that when she and her brother were kids how they liked to eat things right out of the garden.  She says she liked peas and her brother ate radishes and onions until we caught them and made them come to the house to wash what they had picked.  They don’t seem to be the worse for wear now, though.  And, then we remember putting cages around our tomatoes, not to keep them upright, but because the Golden Retriever loved ripe tomatoes!  Oh!  Those were the good old days. 

       Those of you who don’t have much space for gardening may be interested in the following article from Master Gardener Gloria Johnson on Combinations for Vegetable and Flowering Containers.

        Gloria says:  With the right size container, adequate sun, and consistent watering and fertilizing, many vegetables and flowering annuals and perennials can be grown in pots.   Pick a color theme, culinary theme, or a nonsensical theme and let your imagination run wild. Combinations created in container gardening can be refreshing and magical.  For a great combination remember to have a “thriller” (a tall dramatic plant), a “filler” (a middle size plant), and a “spiller” (a plant that drapes over the sides) in each container.

        Tomatoes make great thriller plants for a container.  Insert the largest and heaviest metal cage you can buy (I attached mine to the deck railing for extra sturdiness).  A great cherry tomato is the “Sweet 100” and it does very well in a container.  For a larger tomato, the “Big Boy” or “Better Boy” does well.  I use my containers on the deck to try out some of the heirloom tomatoes which occasionally require some extra attention.  I have had good luck with “Brandywine” and “Mr. Stripy”.

      For the filler, I use herbs such as chives, basil, cilantro, and bush celery.  I have added annuals such as marigolds, straw flower, and miniature zinnias to brighten and add color to the container.

      For the spiller, I have used trailing herbs, nasturtiums and petunias.  It is beneficial to use plants for the fillers and spillers that can tolerate dry conditions.

      I only put one tomato plant in a container and I do not combine tomatoes and peppers in the same pots.   For the pepper pot, I would use the pepper plant as the thriller and then a complimentary herb as the filler and a flowering annual as the spiller.

     A salsa garden of Roma tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño peppers, chives and green onions or an Italian garden with Roma tomatoes, basil, oregano and chives make great combinations.  Or, how about a pot full of mints such as Pineapple Sage, Mint Julep (for that afternoon iced tea), spearmint, orange mint or chocolate mint (great in chocolate chip cookies!). 

     You will enjoy your vegetable garden no matter what its size.  And can you think of a more pleasurable way to spend your summer than eating what you – or the kids or grandkids – have grown yourself?  And by the way, the container perennials can be transplanted into the ground and enjoyed for years to come.

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