Archive for November, 2008

Compost winner!!

Saturday, Nov. 15, is America Recycles Day and what better way to recycle than by composting?

   Composting turns egg shells, banana peels and other fruit and vegetable peelings that would otherwise end up in a landfill into a nutrient-rich soil amendment that helps gardens thrive.

    Readers sent in some wonderful essays to our compost contest and we’ll eventually get those posted here, beginning with our winner: Beverly Whitmore of Cedar Rapids.

Beverly Whitmore

Beverly Whitmore

 

 

 

    Beverly won a kitchen composting package, courtesy of the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency. Special thanks to our judges, Bev Lillie, Linn County master gardener coordinator; Dustin Hinrichs, Linn County Public Health air pollution control specialist and Stacie Johnson, education coordinator for the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency. Stacie provided the prize.

   Thank you to everyone who enteredJ

 

Here is Beverly’s winning entry:

 

I’m a magician.  I can turn coffee grounds, dried crushed eggshells and any kind of fruit or vegetable peelings into “black magic”!  Even the stems of irises and day lilies go into my “recipe” for compost.  The real secret is to “chop” up the ingredients into small pieces, and turn those ingredients with a pitch fork once in a while.  Come see my garden next spring and you will not only see lovely, black dirt full of healthy earthworms, but after it has “baked” it really does have a sweet aroma.  When neighbors stop by to say how pretty my garden is and comment that I must use a lot of fertilizer … I simply say “no, I just put a shovel of compost around my plants, it’s really what makes them so happy”.  My plants grow taller than usual and produce lovely blooms.  One could say that I like to play in the “dirt” and I do!  Whether it be “mixing” a concoction of non edible peelings and leaves, or enjoying the beautiful plants and their blooms, one thing is for sure, my husband is happier too … he gets to tote “less” garbage to the street each week!

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Forbidden Fruit: equal rights for veggies

The following on equal rights for European veggies is from FoodNavigator.com

EU scraps regulations on forbidden fruit

By Gavin Kermack, 13-Nov-2008

Ugly and misshapen fruit and vegetables are to be permitted for sale in Europe for the first time – but equal rights are still a dream for many grocery items covered by separate regulations.

 

The European Commission has torn up its much-maligned 100-page document providing legislation on the shape, size and texture of fruit and vegetables, meaning that from 1st July 2009 consumers will be able to purchase 26 items, including onions, apricots, Brussels sprouts, watermelons and cauliflowers with as many knobs, bumps and curves as they like.

“This marks a new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development at the EC. “In these days of high food prices and general economic difficulties, consumers should be able to choose from the widest range of products possible. It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the wrong shape.”

A further ten items, including tomatoes, lettuces and endives, lemons, limes and apples, will still be covered by the regulations. However, EU member states will be free to allow shops to sell them as long as they are labelled with words to the effect of ‘product intended for processing’.

These ten products account for 75 per cent of the value of fruit and veg trade in the EU.

FoodNavigator.com has learned that the continued segregation of deformed citrus fruits was a compromise reached by the EC in order to avoid a qualified majority of votes against deregulation.

16 of the 27 member states – including France, Spain and Italy – voted against the move.

Streamlining

Peka Pesonen, secretary general of Copa and Cogeca, which represents farmers and agricultural cooperatives in Europe, said that the move ignored the interests of the European fruit and vegetables sector.

“The use of objective parameters such as size and uniformity helps put a clear and univocal price on each quality, at both the producer and consumer level,” she said. “We fear that the absence of EU standards will lead member states to establish national standards and that private standards will proliferate, which will only hamper the smooth running of the single market and hinder simplification.”

The EC has been criticised in the past for over-regulation of foodstuffs. “[This is] a concrete example of our drive to cut red tape,” said Fischer Boel. “We simply don’t need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level.”

The decision has been welcomed by many in the food industry. A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said, “Defra welcomes this decision. It is a sensible first step on the way to further streamlining of the regulations.”

It’s bananas

Tim Down, a fruit and veg wholesaler from Bristol, UK, was outraged in June when he was forced to throw away 520 Chilean kiwis after being told by the Rural Payments Agency that they did not meet industry standards.

Some of the kiwis weighed up to four grams less than the stipulated 62g.

“Standards are necessary,” Down told FoodNavigator.com, “but they have to be implemented in a sensible way.”

“How anyone ever sat down in an office in Brussels and got paid an enormous amount of money to decide on the correct curvature of a cucumber beggars belief.”

Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1677/88 previously stated that Class I and Extra Class cucumbers were allowed a bend of 10mm per 10cm of length, with Class II cucumbers being allowed twice as much bend.

From next year, though, even bent cucumbers will be allowed into Europe.

However, we will not be seeing abnormal bananas just yet. One famous regulation, (EC) No. 2257/94, which states that bananas must be “free from abnormal curvature of the fingers”, is to remain.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Michael Mann, the EC’s agriculture spokesperson, told FoodNavigator.com. “Perhaps we will come back to bananas in the future.”

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“Few enemies”

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

 

The critters sense that the weather outside will be—already is—frightful.  I almost need traffic signals and turn lanes in my yard and driveway where the squirrels are frantically harvesting nuts from the walnut trees.  Canadian geese have noisily moved in mass overhead traveling south.    I’ve not had feedback from the deer, but they must have felt the hosta in my xeriscape was especially tasty as they have, again, totally decimated all of them as they prepare for winter snow cover. 

 You see, we live in the country and our road ditch is steep, difficult to weed whip and impossible to mow.  We created an attractive xeriscape using mulch to cover grass and weeds and rock to stop an area of erosion, then added a few perennials for interest.  Maintenance has been minimal.  This spring we plan to xeriscape a smaller area on the other side of the lane.  An article in a recent Master Gardener’s newsletter sparked my interest in perennial ornamental grasses. Linn County Master Gardener, Becki Lynch says ornamental grasses have few enemies. Deer, rabbits, squirrels, even insects seem to not be interested in them.   Becki describes the grasses as “beautiful, regal, feather topped, silver sheened, golden stemmed, ten feet tall, back-lit by the sun and swaying in gentle breezes.”  After established, ornamental grasses are drought resistant.  You can fertilize them—or not.  They do like mulch.  And, ornamental grasses come in a multitude of heights, shapes and textures. Ornamental grasses sound like a plan to me. What do you think?  Oh, when, oh when will seed catalogs start to arrive?

Even if we can’t work outside in Iowa’s winters, we can still enjoy gardening by listening to someone from the Master Gardener’s Speaker’s Bureau.  A colorful and educational presentation on any number of gardening topics is available for your group or organization.  Contact the Linn County Extension Office at 319-377-9839 for a brochure reflecting the range of speakers’ experience.

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Winterizing roses

  Every year around this time, my neighbor’s oak tree, two houses down, generously deposits a pile of  leaves in my backyard.  For that, my roses and I are grateful.  I use the oak leaves as mulch around my hybrid tea roses.  Most types of leaves don’t hold up well in the long-term, but leathery oak leaves withstand the forces of winter. My miniature roses do well under Styrofoam caps in Iowa’s coldest days and my old-fashioned roses somehow survive without any help.  The week of Thanksgiving is the usual time to prepare roses for winter in the Cedar Rapids area where my roses grow.

 

   Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist at Iowa State University Extension, offers more tips on winterizing roses below:

 

   Most hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda roses require winter protection in Iowa. The low temperatures and rapid temperature changes in winter can severely injure and sometimes kill unprotected roses.

   Hilling or mounding soil over the base of each plant is an excellent way to protect hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda roses.

   Begin by removing fallen leaves and other debris from around each plant. Removal of diseased plant debris will help reduce disease problems next season. Then loosely tie the canes together with twine to prevent the canes from being whipped by strong winds. Next, cover the bottom 10 to 12 inches of the rose canes with soil.

   Place additional material, such as straw or leaves, over the mound of soil. A small amount of soil placed over the straw or leaves should hold these materials in place.  Prepare roses for winter after plants have been hardened by several nights of temperatures in the low to mid-twenties. Normally, this is early November in northern Iowa, mid-November in central areas, and late November in southern counties.

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Local foods Monday

Preston Maring to discuss benefits of locally grown food Nov. 10

California obstetrician Dr. Preston Maring, will visit the University of Iowa on Monday, Nov. 10, to discuss the economic, health, community and environmental benefits of locally grown, sustainably produced food.

Maring will present “Sustaining Iowa: Making the Connection Between Food, Health and the Land” at noon in Room 140 of Schaeffer Hall on the UI campus.

Maring’s talk is one of three scheduled presentations in Iowa. He will speak at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 10, at the Commons Ball Room at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, and at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, in Room 2050 of Agronomy Hall at Iowa State University in Ames.

All the events are free and open to the public.

Maring is associate physician-in-chief at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., where he is responsible for tertiary-care services planning and development for Oakland’s 200,000 health plan members as well as members from around the northern California region.

In 2003, Maring helped start a weekly farmers’ market for hospital staff, visitors and the community, resulting in different market models, community outreach and a programwide focus on healthy eating. Today, the concept has spread to 40 other Kaiser Permanente health care facilities.

More recently, he has worked with Kaiser Permanente and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers to create a system that sources food for inpatient meals from small family farmers.

An enthusiastic cook as well as a physician, Maring’s blog, “Dr. Maring’s Farmers’ Market and Recipe Update,” gets about 50,000 page views each month. The blog is at http://recipe.kaiser-permanente.org/kp/maring/about/.

Following each of Maring’s presentations, speakers will share Iowa stories about the benefits of local food. These include Iowa City chef Kurt Michael Friese, author of the 2008 book “A Cook’s Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland” and editor for Edible Iowa River Valley magazine; and Story County Planning and Zoning director Leanne Harter, who will discuss the county’s new Local Foods Systems Initiative report. In Cedar Falls, Maring will be the featured speaker for the annual local food dinner.

Maring’s visit is sponsored by the UI Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination, the UI Sustainability Steering Group, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU and the Center for Energy and Environmental Education at UNI.

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Ladybugs, Lady Beetles

   They are red, orange or shades in between and tend to invade homes in late fall.

   Ladybugs and lady beetles are different names for the same bug that some people see as a pest, but I see as a benefit. I don’t have the large-scale home invasion that some people do, so that could be why I see ladybugs through rose-colored glasses. When they do come indoors, I have a spot for them on my houseplants.

   My houseplants spend the summer outdoors and are given a good shower before I bring them inside in the fall. I don’t use any type of chemical insecticide, and that’s where the ladybugs come in: put them on the plants and they spend their days looking for tiny bugs to eat. They’re amazing to watch in action.

 I know my solution isn’t for everyone, so following are tips from Iowa State University about indoor control and other helpful information:

Ladybug in action

Ladybug in action

 

  The Asian lady beetle is present all summer but is most noticeable in the fall when second generation adults migrate from trees, gardens and fields to reflective, vertical surfaces (such as the south side of the house) in preparation for winter hibernation. 

 

   Asian lady beetles are a beneficial biological control in trees during the summer, and in fields and gardens during the fall, but can be a severe household nuisance during late fall and winter. Wooded residential and industrial areas are especially prone to problems.

   The origins of the Asian lady beetles are not clear, although it appears the current pest species was not purposefully released in the United States or in Iowa. Beetles that arrived by accident in ports such as New Orleans in the late 1980s have crawled and flown all by themselves to all corners of the country.

   The multicolored Asian lady beetle is 1/3 inch in length; dome-shaped; yellowish-orange to red with variable black spots on the back. Deep orange is the most common color. The 19 black spots may be faint or missing. There is a black “W” shaped mark on the thorax.

   Asian lady beetles, like other accidental invaders, are “outdoor” insects that create a nuisance by wandering indoors during a limited portion of their life cycle. They do not feed or reproduce indoors; they cannot attack the house structure, furniture, or fabrics. They cannot sting or carry diseases. Lady beetles do not feed on people though they infrequently pinch exposed skin. Lady beetles may leave a slimy smear and they have a distinct odor when squashed.

   Asian lady beetles follow their instinctive behavior and fly to sunny, exposed surfaces when preparing to hibernate through the winter. The time of beetle flight varies but is usually from mid-September through October (depending on weather.) Light colored buildings and walls in full sun appear to attract the most beetles.

   Sealing exterior gaps and cracks around windows, doors, eaves, roofs, siding and other points of access before the beetles appear can prevent unwanted entry. Experience suggests, however, that comprehensive pest proofing is time-consuming, often impractical and usually not 100% effective.  For large infestations with intolerable numbers of beetles, spraying pyrethroid insecticides such as permethrin or esfenvalerate to the outside of buildings when the beetles appear may help prevent pest entry. Homeowner insecticides other than pyrethroids usually do not provide satisfactory prevention.

   Long-term relief may come from planting trees that will grow up to shade the south and west sides of the house. The most practical control for beetles already inside is to vacuum or sweep them up and discard. Indoor sprays are of very limited benefit. Interior light traps are available.

Donald Lewis, of Iowa State University’s Department of Entomology, adds the following about ladybug myths and facts:   

Myth: Ladybugs are different from lady beetles

Fact: Ladybugs and lady beetles and ladybird beetles are all different names for the same thing.

Myth: Asian lady beetles come from soybean fields.

Fact: There are Asian lady beetles in soybean fields, but also many other places including trees and, gardens.

Myth: Soybean harvest causes multicolored Asian lady beetles to migrate to town and to houses.

Fact: Day length and temperatures trigger migration – expect swarms of beetles on first warm days after frost. Soybean plants lose their leaves, and therefore any aphids the lady beetles might be eating long before harvest. The beetles leave soybean fields as the plant leaves begin to turn yellow and not when the combines arrive.

Myth: Farmers released the lady beetles to eat the soybean aphid

Fact: No releases were ever made in Iowa. Multicolored Asian lady beetles arrived in Iowa by wandering from adjoining states several years before the soybean aphid appeared.

Myth: Lady beetles breed in the walls of the house during the winter.

Fact: They do not reproduce during the winter.

Myth: Finding a ladybug brings good luck.

Fact: This myth might not be all wrong. Since ladybugs eat aphids, other small insects, mites and the eggs of insects and mites, you could argue that ladybugs do bring good luck to farmers and gardeners. However, there is no evidence to prove that the good luck extends beyond the benefit of fewer aphids feeding on your plants.

Myth: You can tell the age of a ladybug by counting its spots.

Fact: There are over 5000 different species of lady beetles (ladybugs) in the world and approximately 475 species in North America. There may be as many as 100 different kinds in Iowa. The numbers and arrangements of spots on the backs of ladybugs are distinctive for the different species, and once a lady beetle emerges as an adult it never changes its spots.

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Winter farmers market

The Mount Vernon Winter Farmers Market season begins Saturday, Nov. 8, from 11 am-1 pm, in the lower level of Mount Vernon City Hall, 213 First St.

 Pastured beef, pork and lamb; apples, natural honey, gourmet candies, baked goods; jams and jellies, hand-crafted jewelry, woodcrafts and more will be available. Markets will continue, twice monthly, through April 2009. The remaining 2008 markets are Nov. 22, Dec. 13 and Dec. 20.

If you know of other winter farmers markets, send information to: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com

 

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November need-to-know

Linn County Master Gardener, Susan Long, prepared the following Q & A’s that are frequently asked of Hortline volunteers in November.

                Q:  Can I plant potted mums in my garden now for blooms next year?

                A:  Even though potted garden mums may be deemed “hardy”, they don’t over-winter well in Iowa.  The repeated freezing and thawing may heave the plants out of the ground causing damage or death.  The best protection is to not cut back any of the plant and mulch heavily with clean straw, pine needles, or evergreen branches after several hard freezes (mid to late November).  Leaves tend to mat down and don’t serve as adequate protection.  Spring is a better time to plant mums as they have the summer to establish themselves.

 

                Q:  Is it OK to prune oak trees now?

                A:  Winter (December through February) is the best time to prune oak trees in Iowa.  Pruning oak trees in winter greatly reduces the risk of an oak wilt infection.  Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is lethal to many Oaks.  It can be spread from infected trees to healthy trees by sap-feeding beetles.  Oak wilt infections occur most commonly in spring and early summer.  Pruning oak trees in winter greatly reduces the risk of an oak wilt infection as the beetles and fungal mats are not present at that time of the year.

 

                Q:  How do I get my Christmas cactus to bloom at Christmas?

                A:  Day length and temperature control the flowering of a Christmas cactus. Temperatures shouldn’t be above 70’ in the daytime with nighttime temperatures of 60-65’.   Provide your plants with bright day light, not artificial light, until mid-October.  Move the plant to an unused location after mid-October, giving your plant 14 to 16 hours of continuous darkness each day for at least 3 weeks.  Keep the soil conditions dry, watering every 7-10 days.  They don’t like to be moved, however, once buds set the plant can be moved to another location.  Your plant should start to bloom at Christmas.

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Last chance to win!!

Tuesday, Nov. 4 (Election Day) is the deadline for the compost contest, so enter soon if you haven’t already!

See the “compost contest” post from October for details. Basically, in 200 words or less, tell us how and why you like to compost and you could win a kitchen composting package. Send an email to me at: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com or drop your entry off at The Gazette, 500 Third Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids. Don’t mail it in if you haven’t already, as the submission would come after the deadline. Good luck 🙂

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Climate change Monday

CLIMATE  CHANGE IN  IOWA TOPIC OF NOV. 3  FORUM:

Kirkwood, Area Partners Host “Connections” Discussion with Dr. Jerald Schnoor

 

“The global climate is changing. We know that humans are responsible for a large portion of that change, which will have implications for Iowa.”

 

That is the central theme of a public forum set for Kirkwood Community College on Monday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. Kirkwood and several other colleges and community groups will host a “Connections” program in Ballantyne Auditorium on the main Kirkwood campus.

 

The free forum will feature Dr. Jerald Schnoor of The University of Iowa, speaking on “Mitigating and Responding to Climate Change in Iowa.”  Schnoor is the Allen S. Henry Chair and professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

 

Discussion will include what we know and how we can mitigate global warming while creating economic opportunities for the future.  Policy options from the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council and from the Midwest Governor’s Accord will be discussed.

       

In an academic career spanning nearly three decades, Schnoor has studied many aspects of environmental science, especially water quality, environmental protection and public policy. He has served in advisory and official capacities with the Environmental Protection Agency, National Research Council and others. Schnoor has won numerous awards, including distinguished lecturer honors at Yale, Iowa State and Massachusetts universities. In 1996 he received the Distinguished Fellows Award from the Iowa Academy of Science, the group’s highest honor.

 

The Connections Natural History Speaker Series is a cooperative project since 1993, bringing noted science professionals to the Cedar Rapids metro area for free, public discussions in the natural sciences. All fees for the program are provided by grants and private donations. Participating partners include the Linn County Conservation Department, Cedar Rapids Washington High School, Coe College, Cornell College, Mt. Mercy College, Linn County Environmental Council, Cedar Valley Rocks and Minerals Society and other organizations, as well as Kirkwood.

 

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