Archive for November, 2008

Preventing floods

    Jim Patchett, president of Conservation Design Forum in Illinois, will offer his ideas on flood prevention when he speaks at the Thursday, Dec. 4, Trees Forever forum in Cedar Rapids.

 

    One of the suggestions that anyone can do at home is to start a rain garden. Here are some of the resources he suggested for more information:

 

    Rain Gardens:  A How-to Manual for Home Owners, by Roger Bannerman and Ellen Considine, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources PUB-WT-776-2003 and it can be accessed online by Googling Roger Bannerman/ Rain Gardens.

 

     Also check out www.raingardens.org

This is the web site of the Rain Gardens of West Michigan organization.  Lots of useful information including how to design and construct a rain garden at home.

 

    You can also check the Maplewood, MN web site for rain garden information at www.maplewoodmn.govoffice.com

 

More information on Patchett and the Trees Forever symposium will be in The Gazette.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment »

Fresh trees

The following is by Claire Smith, Linn County Master Gardener:

 

Years ago when pizza delivery was first invented, we invited another family for pizza.   We ate, and then we adults moved to the living room.  At that time, the kitchen heat source in this old house was a Ben Franklin stove.  The kids decided that they would clean up for us (a pleasant surprise!)  Several minutes later, we sensed a smell only describable as HOT.  Running into the kitchen, we discovered the kids had shoved the empty pizza boxes into the stove.  The grease had heated the chimney to a vivid red.  Yes, Virginia, vivid red!  Needless to say we were extremely lucky to have a house left to celebrate the upcoming Holidays! 

It’s getting that time of year for kids to nestle in their beds and think of Sugar Plums and numerous other Holiday pleasures.  It’s also time for families to remember one of the most important items about the holidays that we seldom consider.   Safety!  

Use “live” greenery wisely.  Be certain the garland draped on the mantle is secured adequately.  Evergreens burn like tinder.  Flames flare out of control sending sparks flying into the room and igniting creosote deposits in the chimney. 

The same holds true for those beautiful candles that you place so strategically in the evergreen centerpiece.  Do not leave lit candles unattended. 

Create a family tradition and cut down a live tree at a tree farm.  Fresh trees stay greener longer.  Fresh needles will stay on branches longer and don’t break when bent.   Trim away low branches that will impede the tree from being secured in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep water in the stand while the tree is indoors.  Place the tree away from any heat source:  think fire as well as drying out the tree.  If you do purchase a tree from a store or organization, cut an additional two inches off the trunk to expose fresh wood to provide better water absorption. 

For those of you using artificial trees, look for a statement stating the tree is fire resistant prior to purchasing it.  And never, never use electric lights on metallic trees.

Pet and kid proof your trees.  Thin guy-wires can secure trees to walls or ceilings and prevent curious little hands and paws from pulling or knocking   trees around.  Avoid use of extension cords.  A child or pet tangled in an extension cord could cause utter disaster in your home.

Christmas Cactus, Poinsettias, Mistletoe, Holly Berries or any other Christmas plant may cause illness in kids and pets if ingested. 

My husband used to say, “Slow down.  You move too fast.”  I’ve learned.  I took my lesson from the Christmas morning when I thought I could dry one more load of clothes before the extended family arrived and started a mischievous kitten on the ride of his life in the dryer.  Fortunately, I knew the thumping wasn’t normal and immediately rescued a very dizzy, but otherwise o.k. feline.  Common sense is the best plan.  Use it!

 

Leave a comment »

Tropical oasis

   If you need an escape this winter, you don’t have to travel far. The Noelridge greenhouse offers a tropical oasis in the middle of Cedar Rapids. I usually go to the Mother’s Day and Easter weekend open houses, but would love to visit in the midst of a cold Iowa winter.  Stepping inside the greenhouse is like walking into summer.

   New this year, the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department has scheduled a class at the greenhouse on Monday, Dec. 8. You can use pressed flowers to create greeting cards, as well as a bookmark, at the session, which runs 6-8 p.m. Cost is $10 for residents or $12 for non-residents. Registration information is available at www.crrec.org

 

   Greenhouse tours also are available for groups or classes Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call (319) 286-5762 in advance to schedule a tour. Cost is $2 per person, with an adult chaperone free.

 

Leave a comment »

Where’s the Beacon

Simone Williams sent a message about a wonderful year-round farmers market in response to my blog post about Mount Vernon’s winter farmers market.  I had asked for information about other winter markets and Simone told me of a great one in Beacon.

 

The market is every Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.  In warmer months, it is located on the new ferry dock in the Beacon train station parking lot.  In winter, the market  is right next door inside Pete Seeger’s Sloop  Clubhouse.  Vendors sell everything from smoked trout, black dirt veggies, greenhouse greens,  pastries, breads, meat, eggs, milk, honey, maple syrup, pottery, jewelry, authentic North Carolina bar-b-q, soup, hummus, pesto, quiche and cheesecakes. 

 

Such a great market in small-town Iowa, I thought, and intrigued, went searching for more information. As it turns out, the Beacon market is in New York, not Iowa, which I confirmed with Simone. I should know to specify Iowa when making such requests, but, since the market sounds like a great place and many people will be traveling for the holidays, thought I’d mention it here, even if it’s not in our backyard.

 

With that, if anyone knows of any winter farmers markets, in Eastern Iowa, post a comment below or send an email to cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com

 

And stop by the Beacon market if your travels take you to New York.

 

 

Comments (2) »

“Compostales” part deux

More “compostales” from entries to our composting contest:

 

Gloria Overton of Cedar Rapids

 

My family loves to compost! We got started about 10 years ago when the previous homeowner left boards with notches cut in the ends. We decided it was a compost bin and assembled it. We have used that bin ever since. We compost our fruit and vegetable scraps like apple cores, banana peels, cornhusks, and our shredded paper. Our biggest surprise was diced melon rinds decompose in less than one week. We also add coffee grounds, tea bags and yard debris. Now it is filled to the top with tree leaves.

 

We love to compost because it makes wonderful dirt and is so relaxing. You can always move the compost around to make it break down more quickly. We are also very pleased with the quality compost it makes. Wow does grass seed ever germinate when they are planted in compost! My container garden is entirely planted in compost. The remaining compost goes into the garden or lawn. When you plant something in compost, it is like planting it in dirt on steroids!

 

 

Pam Kautz
and Eliza and Henry and Greta and Ben of Marion

We love compost!  We are beginner gardeners and compost is saving our sorry vegetable garden.  This year we started adding egg shells and this year is the first that we haven’t had a problem with blossom end rot on our tomatoes.  Compost is our friend that seems to cover our inexperienced missteps and is turning our sad, hard clay into a fruitful, lush source of organic produce for our family.  And digging the compost into the soil is a great job for little diggers.  Kids love it and really love the worms that love it too!  We only wish we had more (oh yeah, and some horse manure too).  Yeah for compost! 
 

Lauren Overton of Cedar Rapids

 

     When I compost I feel like I’m in a fun contest. I judge myself on how much I’m putting into the compost pile, how well I’m turning it, how often I’m turning it, and evaluate how good the soil is as a whole. The more variety of ingredients I put into the compost pile, the better the compost. I like that I have a ready supply of rich compost full of nutrients, rather than needing to buy packaged soil.

     Our “green” ingredients are: coffee grounds and filters, vegetable scraps, grass clippings, banana peels, apple cores, and the like. Our “brown” ingredients are shredded paper and fallen leaves.  I use my turning fork to mix the green and brown ingredients.

     We have one compost bin made of wood. My family has been composting for ten years. Now I am 15 years old and I do a lot of the composting for my family.  I love the process of making compost. I love the feel of the soil and being able to use it in my garden.

 

 

Jackie Meier of Robins

 

My family has been composting for many years. I learned from my mother that the outdoors is self contained if we just keep recycling.   She has her compost right next to her garden and keeps it full.

 It is such a reward to know you can create your own soil for growing plants.

 

Our backyard is full of many kinds of perinials and annual plants that go through the seasons along with clippings from mowing the grass, to leaves falling from the trees.  

 

We keep a bucket just outside our patio door for all our vegetable and fruit peelings.      It’s always fun to see how the seeds will sprout in the spring in the compost pile to produce a cucumber or tomato plant.  

 

We have filled many of our landscaping projects with the compost we create.  It is such a reward to be able to keep all the environment in it’s correct place,  WHERE IT ORIGINATED FROM!!! 

 

We not only keep compost processing but also all recyclable items. 

We do allot of traveling and will keep all recyclables with us until we return to process them correctly.

 

God gave us one earth and it is up to each of us to nurture it and keep it alive and healthy,  just like we do raising our children,  we need to care for our special planet.  

 

 

Thanks to all who enteredJ 

Leave a comment »

Forcing daffodils

The following is from the Iowa State University Extension gardening experts:

To successfully force daffodils indoors, you’ll need high quality bulbs, a well-drained commercial potting mix and suitable containers. Containers for forcing can be plastic, clay, ceramic or metal. Almost any container can be used as long as it has drainage holes in the bottom.

Begin by partially filling the container with potting soil. Then place the daffodil bulbs on the soil surface. Adjust the soil level until the tops of the bulbs are even or slightly below the rim of the container. The number of bulbs to plant per pot depends on the size of the bulb and container. Typically, three to five bulbs are appropriate for a 6-inch-diameter pot. A 6-inch pot also will usually accommodate five to seven bulbs of miniature varieties.

Once properly positioned, place additional potting soil around the bulbs, but do not completely cover the bulbs. Allow the bulb tops (noses) to stick above the potting soil. For ease of watering, the level of the soil mix should be 1/2 to 1 inch below the rim of the container. Label each container as it is planted. Include the name of the variety and the planting date. After potting, water each container thoroughly.

In order to bloom, daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs must be exposed to temperatures of 40 to 45 F for 12 to 16 weeks. Possible storage sites include the refrigerator, root cellar, or an outdoor trench. During cold storage, water the bulbs regularly and keep them in complete darkness.

Begin to remove the potted daffodil bulbs from cold storage once the cold requirement has been met. At this time, yellow shoots should have begun to emerge from the bulbs. Place the daffodils in a cool (50 to 60 F) location that receives low to medium light. Leave them in this area until the shoots turn green, usually four or five days. Then move them to a brightly lit, 60 to 70 F location.

Keep the plants well watered. Turn the containers regularly to promote straight, upright growth. On average, flowering should occur three to four weeks after the bulbs have been removed from cold storage. For a succession of bloom indoors, remove pots from cold storage every two weeks.

Leave a comment »

Indoor spring

  Beverly Whitmore of Cedar Rapids, winner of our composting contest, told of a great way to get tulips to bloom indoors.

 

   Beverly fills a pot about two-thirds full with potting soil, inserts the bulbs so they don’t touch and covers them with potting soil.

She waters once, lets it drain and covers the pot with aluminum foil.

   The next part is key – keeping the pots in a cold, dark place. Beverly has a part of her basement that stays dark and gets cold enough – it needs to freeze –  but an unheated garage might also work. In the spring, plants will pop through the foil.  Carefully remove the foil, water again and keep indoors until they bloom.

 

 

Leave a comment »