Archive for July, 2008

Your photos:)

 

Prairie coneflowers at Lowe Park in Marion, Iowa

Prairie coneflowers at Lowe Park in Marion, Iowa

  We’re kicking off a new feature, starting with this photo from Devon Dietz, who captured the early sun on prairie coneflowers driving up to Lowe Park in Marion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Devon called the view for visitors “spectacular” and noted that the Linn County Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens are in full bloom at the park, as well.

    If you have a photo of a garden bed, unusual plant or gorgeous flower that you want to share on this blog, email the photo to: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com

    I’ll try to post as many as I can.

 

Leave a comment »

Master lawn care

The following comes from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

                Did you remember to stop the mail and newspapers and let the neighbors know you’d be gone when you went on vacation this summer?  What did you do about your lawn?  If you planned to be gone for more than a week, did you have someone mow it for you?  How about watering it?  Vacationing during hot and dry July and August might mean you will need someone to water for you.

                During these hot days, sustaining your lawn is important. If you choose to continue watering, clay soils should get a good soaking weekly; sandy soils should be watered at least, ½” twice per week and growing lawns need one inch per week.  Watering early in the day saves water lost to evaporation and reduces disease problems.  Actually, you could just let the lawn go dormant for the rest of the season.  It will turn brown during this stressful period, but once the weather cools and fall rains commence, it should green up again.  There is still time to lay sod if you have a new lawn but it will require extra care.  Be certain the soil surface stays moist until the sod roots into the soil below.  Once rooted it will still need thorough although less frequent watering. 

                Do not fertilize dormant or non-irrigated lawns now.  Fertilization can cause damage and may even kill the grass. 

                Crabgrass may be starting to appear.   Now would be a great time to pinpoint its location on your lawn map making it easier to target pesticide application as crabgrass is usually eradiated in early spring.

                Mow grass at 3-3 ½” tall. Taller grass is more drought tolerant and better able to compete with pests.  A plus to warmer dryer weather is that you can mow less often.  Leave grass clippings where they fall.  They impart organic matter, nitrogen and earthworm food.

                Rules of thumb:  mow high, keep pests under control and choose proper watering patterns.

 

Comments (5) »

Letting milkweed grow

A monarch caterpillar makes its way along a milkweed plant in late July in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

A monarch caterpillar makes its way along a milkweed plant in late July in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

  

 

This monarch caterpillar was munching on common milkweed at my garden this weekend. As noted below, habitat destruction has reduced the amount of milkweed growing in the Midwest, which is the only food source for the graceful Monarch butterfly. That’s one of the reasons I don’t kill off all the milkweed in my gardens. Another reason: the scent of milkweed flowers, as another gardener once described it to me, is intoxicating. Unfortunately, my nemesis, the Japanese beetle, has managed to suck all the milkweed flowers to brown this year. More plants are springing up, and hopefully will bloom after the destructive beetle has gone underground. Though the caterpillars look a bit ominous, they won’t bother your tomatoes or other plants, so don’t poison or otherwise kill them off, as Monarchs already face a number of obstacles to survival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   For more information on milkweed, the following came from the Monarch Watch Web site at www.monarchwatch.org

    Monarch larvae appear to feed exclusively on milkweeds in the genus Asclepias and several other genera of viny milkweeds in North America. Milkweeds are perennial plants, which means an individual plant lives for more than one year, growing each spring from rootstock and seeds rather than seeds alone. In the Midwest, milkweeds were historically common and widespread on prairies, but habitat destruction has reduced their range and numbers.

    Milkweeds belong to the family Asclepiadaceae, derived from Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine and healing. Though most members of the genus Asclepias are tropical, there are approximately 110 species in North America known for their milky sap or latex contained in the leaves. Most species are toxic to vertebrate herbivores if ingested due to the cardenolide alkaloids contained in the leaves and stems.

    When Monarch larvae ingest milkweed, they also ingest the plants’ toxins, called cardiac glycosides. They sequester these compounds in their wings and exoskeletons, making the larvae and adults toxic to many potential predators. Vertebrate predators may avoid Monarchs because they learn that the larvae and adults taste bad and/or make them vomit. There is considerable variation in the amount of toxins in different species of plants. Some northern species of milkweed contain almost no toxins while others seem to contain so much of the toxins that they are lethal even to monarch caterpillars.

 

Comments (2) »

Garden Grinch

At times, I feel a sort of kindred spirit with the Grinch.

    Not when the Mean One slinks through homes, stealing from every Who down in Whoville.

    But on days when I’m looking for a peaceful respite in my city-leased garden, I do have a certain sympathy for Mr. Grinch when he laments about all the “noise, noise, NOISE!””

    I can see where some people need to use their heavy-duty tillers to bust through the sod at the beginning of the gardening season, but this year it seems, every weekend they’re out in force, using the tillers for weed control. The noise can be ear-splitting, even a distance away.

    My garden isn’t pristine, and sure, there are weeds, especially with a rain-drenched summer such as this one, but there are alternatives to using gas-consuming noise pollutants.

    A hoe, for one. This much quieter option might take a little more physical exertion than a tiller, but after testing a tiller once or twice, I’d stick with the hoe. At least it’s easy to put down and rest, as needed, compared with shutting off and restarting the tiller.

   An older gentleman at the city gardens used a manual tiller that he said he picked up at a yard sale for $5. Quiet and non-polluting, both in noise and gas emissions, the tool seemed quite effective at uprooting his garden’s weeds. If anyone is aware if these can be found, other than a garage sale, please let me know.

   My preferred method of weed control is using something I have in abundance: newspaper.

   I use it at home to create new flower beds and at my vegetable garden on the ground surrounding my plants.

   Early in the season, before the plants spread out enough to hold down the newspaper on their own, some type of “paper weight” is needed. For this, I use something else found in abundance: weeds.

   The method goes something like this: Lay down two to four sheets of newspaper surrounding each vegetable plant – this works especially well around tomatoes. Throw some uprooted weeds on top of the paper so it doesn’t blow away. After about a week, the weeds have dried and I cover this with a layer of another free mulch that I have in abundance: leaves.

   The leaves take a little more effort. Every fall,  I rake up a good 20 or so large bags of leaves from my honey locust tree, which I store until gardening season arrives the next spring.

   This newspaper/weed/leaf mulch keeps many weeds at bay for the season, and when city workers till the area in October, the newspaper and leaves are turned into the ground. Worms, especially, seem to like the newspaper.

   I know the method isn’t perfect – some newspapers blow away or a weed sprouts through areas not covered properly – but at least I can enjoy the sound of birds and carry on a conversation without having to go search for peace at the top of Mount Crumpet.   

Comments (1) »

Practical Farmers

   Practical Farmers of Iowa will host a two-part event on Saturday, August 2. The field day will begin at 4 p.m. at the home of Eric and Ann Franzenburg. Discussion will include: culture and post-harvest handling of medicinal herbs, high tunnel tomato and flower production, adding an enterprise to the farm, making more profit on fewer acres, corn boiler heating systems, and organic certification.

    At 6:30, the event will move to the Tara Hills Country Club for a gourmet fundraiser dinner by Ben Halperin, executive chef and owner of the acclaimed Augusta restaurant. Reservations are required for the dinner. To register, contact Cedar Johnson at (515)232-5661 or cedar@practicalfarmers.org

    Eric and Ann Franzenburg started farming in 1993 with Eric’s parents Don and Pat. They added herbs to the conventional farm in 1995 as a way to diversify and increase profits. The new enterprise was quite a success, and the Franzenburgs now grow 130 acres of medicinal herbs. 2008 will be the third year of tomato production on the farm, and the first year for flower production. The Franzenburgs constructed three new high tunnels on the farm this year to accommodate their new enterprises.

   Ben Halperin recently moved to Iowa via New Orleans with his wife Jeri. They opened Augusta Restaurant in Oxford this past January. The restaurant, serving “comfort food with a Cajun twist,” has become a destination place for many. The gourmet dinner Saturday evening will feature food from local farmers.

    Direction to the farm: 6925 19th Ave., Van Horne. From Hwy 30, turn north on CR-V42 for 3 miles. Turn north on CR-E44 for 4 miles. Turn north on 19th Ave. for .7 miles. The Franzenburgs’ farm is on the right.

   Directions to Tara Hills Country Club: 1846 70th St., Van Horne. From the Franzenburgs, go south on 19th Ave. for .7 miles. Turn west on CR-E44 for .4 miles. Tara Hills is on the left.

   This event is sponsored by the Ceres Foundation. Sustaining sponsors for Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Days are the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University Extension, Iowa Pork Producers Association, American Natural Soy, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Midwest Organic Services Association, Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture, and the CROPP Cooperative of Organic Valley/ Organic Prairie Family of Farms. Major sponsors for the Field Days are Wheatsfield Cooperative Natural Foods Grocery, Hubbard Feeds, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Iowa Forage and Grasslands Council, King Corn and Mosaic Films, and the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. 

    PFI is a non-profit sustainable agriculture group dedicated to farming that is profitable, environmentally sound, and healthy for consumers and communities. Founded in 1985, PFI has over 700 farmer and non-farmer members throughout Iowa. For more information, call (515)232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org

Leave a comment »

Demonstration gardens

Linn County Master Gardener Shelby Foley describes a worthwhile trip to make in Eastern Iowa:

 

A group of Linn County Master Gardeners has developed a demonstration garden at Lowe Park, 4500 N. 10th St., Marion that serves as an outdoor, hands-on learning laboratory.  The garden consists of eleven beds and a composting station.  Master Gardeners are in the garden on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to dusk and on Thursday mornings from 9:00 a.m. until noon all summer meeting with the public to talk gardening and answer your questions.

            From conifers to roses to vegetables, the beds offer something for everyone interested in gardening.  The herb garden features eight different types of basil, each with a unique color and taste.  Visitors are encouraged to sample them and taste a bit of Italian summer.  The birds and butterflies bed is planted with flowers and herbs to attract our winged friends.  Here a caterpillar munching on a leaf is a good thing and visitors may spot a chrysalis or two hanging on the plants.  Several beds of annuals are changed in design and color from year to year for added interest.  The other beds provide just as many interesting designs, textures and colors. 

            Meander through the gardens.  Enjoy the marvelous scents.  Hear the soft sound of the native grasses swaying in the summer breeze.    Relax by the water feature.   You will undoubtedly be intrigued by the possibility of a family gardening project. 

 

Leave a comment »

Downtown Farmers Markets return

The Cedar Rapids Downtown District announced today that the Downtown Farmers’ Markets will be back downtown beginning Saturday, August 2, from 7:30AM-noon. Location of the market will include Greene Square Park and surrounding areas. The Downtown District received confirmation from Police, Fire, Health Inspectors, and City officials that this location has been declared a safe and appropriate space following flood cleanup.  This is where the remaining downtown markets will take place this year. Parking ramps are clean, available, and will be free to market patrons.

 

Sponsors for the August 2nd market will include Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust, the Eastern Iowa Airport, and the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation. Markets will include main stage entertainment, interactive family activities, and cooking demonstrations, in addition to the 148 local Iowa vendors. The return of this market is one more piece to the Rebuild Downtown campaign – declaring the commitment so many businesses, organizations, and individuals throughout the community have expressed in rebuilding a downtown better than ever following the historic June flooding.

 

The Downtown District is contracting all market vendors, sponsors and entertainment to confirm the news. If you are a part of the downtown farmers markets and have any questions, contact Events Director Jill Wilkins at 398-0449.  For additional market information visit www.rebuilddowntowncr.org or see the Farmers Market tab on this blog.

Leave a comment »