Archive for August, 2008

Compost happens

Glenn Babinat, left, and Wil Carew, master composters
Glenn Babinat, left, and Wil Carew, master composters

One of the most informative presentations for gardeners at Brucemore’s Garden and Art Show last weekend was by Linn County Master Composters Glenn Babinat and Wil Carew.

    Master Gardener Deb Walser also discussed vermiculture, or worm composting done in your home. In Walser’s case, the vermiculture is in a 10-gallon Rubbermaid container, now in her basement, but formerly under a table, until her husband discovered it:)
   Indoor vermiculture uses red wiggler worms, found at several online sources or at bait shops. The worms decompose food scraps, such as vegetable peelings, as well as newspaper.
   For every half-pound of food collected, you need one pound of worms.
  Shredded newspaper (not the colored kind) makes good bedding material. The worms like temperatures between 50 and 75 degrees, so basements are ideal. Deb advises against using orange peels and notes that some of her worms drowned from watermelon overdose. The composting takes about two to four months and the castings can be harvested in about six months.
   Outdoor composting doesn’t require any special containers, but most people use a bin of some sort to keep the materials contained. Wil and Glenn showed a prototype (see photo) of a 3-bin system. Compost is decomposed plant material with greens, or moist materials, and browns, such as newspapers or dried leaves.  Adding compost to garden soil improves the soil structure and increases productivity.
  Vegetable peels, grass clippings, leaves, egg shells and sawdust can all be used in compost. Avoid animal products such as bones, meat or fish. Herbivore (cow, horse) manure can be added but avoid using carnivore (cat, dog) feces.
   Keeping the compost turned and adequately, but not overly, moist helps speed the composting process. Using three browns (dry material) to one green (veggies, etc.) helps prevent that rotten egg smell. Wil and Glenn said there is really no wrong way to compost and because it’s free, it’s a great way to add organic organisms to your garden and help keep more items out of the landfill.
  
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Tree planting tips

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

Oh! The weather outside is delightful!   It’s so great to work in the yard now that it’s a bit cooler and less buggy.  The latest project is creating a stenciled board on the front of a new flower bed that says “Welcome to the Farm.”  Granddaughter Catie will be creatively adding flowers, leaves, butterflies and dragonflies. 

However, as I sat there painting, I couldn’t help but notice that the maple tree in the waterway looks pretty shabby.  We won’t be able to prune it until early winter. Some larger dead branches and some crossovers will need to come out.  The tree is a case of planting a wonderful tree in the wrong location!  Constantly soggy roots were not conducive to a healthy tree and we may need to replace this one.

As mentioned previously,  fall is a good time to plant a tree.  Choose wisely when purchasing one.  Avoid those amazing bargains.  Use a reputable nursery’s stock and investigate the guarantee prior to writing your check.  It’s a good idea to plant a balled or burlap wrapped tree in the fall.  Even a container tree should be o.k.  and will experience less stress than an open rooted specimen.  Ask about the tree’s adult height:  perhaps a dwarf model would better suit your location than a tree that may reach a height of 50-60 feet.  Plant the tree as soon as possible.  Dig the hole two to three times the diameter of the root ball.  The burlap will rot in the ground but remember to remove any rope or stakes. Water the tree well and keep the tree moist even into the winter.   Your tree needs to adapt to the soil in which you’re planting it so don’t amend the soil.  Amending the soil may create unwanted air pockets and prevent water from penetrating onto the roots.  Three or four inches of good organic mulch around, but not up against the trunk, will help to retain moisture

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Brucemore – herbs

  I went out and bought fresh mozzarella immediately after watching Hy-Vee dietitian Lori Willett’s presentation, “Cooking with Herbs 101” at Saturday’s Garden and Art Show at Brucemore. I’ve grown herbs for years, but rarely use them. Lori’s presentation –  more specifically, the samples she gave her audience –  inspired me to put some of the herbs to use.

   Here’s her recipe for peach, mozzarella and basil salad, taken from the Aug. 2006 issue of Real Simple Magazine:

   Ingredients:

   3 ripe peaches, peeled, if desired

   1 cup of fresh basil leaves, torn

   8 oz. fresh mozzarella ball, cut into 1 inch chunks

   2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

   1/4 tsp. kosher salt

   1/8 tsp. black pepper

Cut each peach into six to eight wedges and cut each wedge in half crosswise. In a large bowl, combine the peaches, basil and mozzarella. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Chill for up to several hours. Serve cold or at room temperature. Serves 4.

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Dividing perennials

Two workshops  on dividing perennials are scheduled this week and in September…

 

 Culver’s Garden Center & Greenhouse in Marion is planning a free seminar to help homeowners and gardeners learn to divide common perennials.  

 

Share the Love: Dividing Perennials will be  Tuesday, Aug. 26.  from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in Culver’s Greenhouses, 1682 Dubuque Rd., Hwy 151 East. The free seminar will focus on how to divide perennial plants that have outgrown their space or for use in other locations. 

 

People interested in attending the free seminar are asked to call (319) 377-4195.

 

Also, Brucemore has scheduled a workshop on fall perennial division in the Brucemore Formal Garden on Wednesday,  Sept. 10,  at 6 p.m.  The Brucemore garden staff will demonstrate tips and techniques for successfully dividing a variety of plants, including peonies and lambs ear. 

 

Dividing perennials each fall helps to maintain a healthy garden while providing an opportunity for distributing favorite plants to other parts of the garden or sharing them with friends. Participants should wear gloves, bring a spade and/or fork, and be prepared to dig and split plants from the garden. Each participant will have the opportunity to take a small piece of Brucemore home with them.

 

There will be ample opportunity to ask questions and seek advice from the experts at the end of the workshop. Admission is $10, or  $7 for Brucemore members. Space is limited. Call (319) 362-7375 for reservations or register online at www.brucemore.org by September 9.

 

Brucemore is Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site and is located at 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

 

 

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Brucemore photos

  Executive Director Jim Kern kicked off Brucemore’s Garden and Art Show by happily announcing that we’d get through the day without rain. He was so right. Not only a rainless day, but a gorgeous one. Head gardener Deb Engmark and her crew had the grounds looking beautiful, befitting the weather.  I’ll try to get as many photos as I can of the event here, and will add more later in the week.  Visitors to the show could buy plants and artwork, including jewelry, paintings, sculpture and more. New this year, the Solid Waste Agency gave away FREE compost – a gardeners delight:)

Pat Nosbish of Kansas City, right, and Mary Corkery, of Cedar Rapids, look at daylillies from K&K Gardens of Hawkeye, Iowa, at Saturday's show at Brucemore

Pat Nosbish of Kansas City, right, and Mary Corkery, of Cedar Rapids, look at daylillies from K&K Gardens of Hawkeye, Iowa, on Saturday

 By the time I was there, the Agency’s Stacie Johnson had filled 99 bags of compost to hand out and I’m sure many more followed. Thanks Stacie!! Shannon Ramsay of Trees Forever and her crew posted the value of a few of the towering oaks and maples on the Brucemore Estate. One large oak had a “price tag” of $81,580, meaning the tree could offer that value – by absorbing stormwater, reducing the need for electricity and filtering pollutants – over its lifetime. And a good-sized crowd chose to sit under that tree for shade. Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens flower shop demonstrated floral arrangements and made it look so simple. Their boss, Chad Rummel, uses bonsai clippers instead of a knife to cut the flowers. Anyone know where those can be found?

Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens
Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens

Brucemore was luckily spared during the historic flooding in June that devastated downtown Cedar Rapids and beyond. But it has been fully supportive of rebuilding efforts and demonstrated its partnership with the rest of the area’s cultural/art world with a panel discussion at the garden show on the importance of art.

Janelle McClain, past owner of CornerHouse Gallery, Joe Jennison of the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance and head cheerleader, art therapist Joan Thaler and Stephanie Kohn, curator of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, poignantly described the value of art, especially in light of the floods. By lifting spirits, acting as therapy in overcoming grief, conducting fundraisers and giving people a reason to stay in Eastern Iowa,  the arts and cultural events are needed now more than ever, they said. Jennison noted that 35 of the 140 organizations in the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance were directly affected by the floods and others, indirectly affected, such as losing Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City as a performance venue for some of the Alliance’s members. Very fitting that Brucemore offered this panel discussion in what has been a rough summer for many in Eastern Iowa.  
I also attended Lori Willett’s “Cooking with Herbs 101” session and “Compost Happens” by the Linn County Master Composters. Look for more on those, including one of Willett’s herb recipes, later on this blog.

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Sunshine of the plant world

   Sunflowers have been brightening neighborhoods once covered in floodwaters.

Linn County Master Gardeners Deb Walser and Mary Prendergast suspect the sunflowers could have been dislodged and moved from area gardens by the floodwaters, or floated away as seeds from bird feeders during the floods.

   Corn has also been sprouting in the median of I-380 that was once covered by floodwater.   That seed or the young plants, probably came from adjacent fields.

 

  If you have a theory on where the plants have come from, add your opinion in a message below.

 

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Know your bugs

 

 
Sixspotted tiger beetle, a beneficial insect
Sixspotted tiger beetle, a beneficial insect

   The watch continues for the notorious emerald ash borer, a pest that has devastated ash trees in at least seven states, including neighboring Illinois.

   The emerald colored bugs appeared near Detroit six years ago and have been advancing toward Iowa.

   Having seen photos of the emerald ash borer, I quickly reacted when I saw a pretty emerald bug outdoors earlier this summer.

   Iowa State University has an awesome insect identification program that allows Iowans to e-mail a photograph of their bug and have it identified by entomologists.

   I shot a photo of my bug next to a ruler to show its size and sent it to the site.

   Good news: it wasn’t an emerald ash borer. Bad news: I had killed a sixspotted tiger beetle, a beneficial insect that extension entomologist Donald Lewis said is easily mistaken for an emerald ash borer.

   Lewis tells me the beetles are predators that chase other insects across the ground in woodlands.  They hunt food like a tiger.

   Tiger beetles are ecologically beneficial.  They are not a pest.  The beetles do not bite, sting or carry disease.  They do not feed on crops, trees or houses.  They are remarkably fast and difficult to catch.

   I’m bummed that I caught one, but glad it wasn’t an ash borer.

Lewis says the emerald ash borer is much smaller and narrower and does not have the long sharp jaws of a tiger beetle (predatory

hunter.)

 

   For Iowans who have a bug they’d like identified,  specimens can be submitted to the Iowa State University Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic for diagnosis at no charge.

   You can e-mail a close-up digital image to  insects@iastate.edu

   Specimens can also be sent to the clinic.

   Bugs should be dead when shipped and mailed in a bottle, box or padded envelope.  Soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, aphids and ants, and spiders, mites and ticks can be preserved in hand sanitizer gel.  Hard insects such as moths, butterflies and beetles do not need to be preserved, but they should be restrained inside the container so they don’t bounce around during shipment (for example, secure a moth or butterfly inside a box with layers of dry paper toweling.)

    Mail sample to:

Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic
327 Bessey Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-3140

 

Include information about where you live, where you found your insect, and how to get in touch with you. 

 For  a photo of the emerald ash borer, go to:  http://www.emeraldashborer.info/files/E2944.pdf

 

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