Archive for April, 2009

Much to do in May

Following are gardening/environmental events scheduled in Eastern Iowa for May 2009. If you know of others, send an email to: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com

Friday, May 1, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Ton of Fun Earth Day celebration and re-opening of SWAP shop, Cedar Rapids/Linn County landfill, 1954 County Home Road, Marion, includes “dumpster dive” for customers dropping off items that shows what people would have thrown away without environmental intervention. See: http://www.solidwasteagency.org/

Friday, May 1, 7 p.m., Prairiewoods, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, Farm Sanctuary President and co-founder Gene Baur, discusses his work and national best-selling book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food. He will provide firsthand accounts of conditions on today’s farms, outline efforts to combat the current system, and put forward a vision for a healthier and more sustainable food system. For more information, visit www.genebaur.org or call Prairiewoods at (319) 395.6700.  Fee: $10. His book will be available at Prairiewoods prior to and on the day of the event. See: www.prairiewoods.org

Friday, May 1 to Sunday, May 3, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Solar Energy Worshop, Prairiewoods. Dennis Pottratz, Iowa’s first nationally certified photovoltaic installer, will lead hands-on workshop. Fee: $250, includes lunch each day. NOTE: This has been postponed. See: www.prairiewoods.org

Saturday, May 2, 9 a.m. to noon, Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids, Guild’s annual spring plant sale with wildflowers, prairie grasses, perennials, garden art and more. See: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org/

Sunday, May 3, 2 p.m., Celebrating Land and People, Indian Creek Nature Center dedication of 28-acre woodland at NW corner of 44th Street and Otis Rd SE. Call (319) 362-0664 to register for this free event.

Sunday, May 3, 2-4 p.m., Iowa City Environmental Film Festival, Iowa City Public Library, 123 South Linn St., Food Not Lawns will host a screening of The Future of Food The film offers an in-depth investigation into the genetically engineered foods that are quietly filling U.S. grocery store shelves. David Cavagnaro, photographer and board member of Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, will present additional insights into this trend toward the globalization of our food system. Backyard Abundance is hosting a community seed swap after the screening at 4 pm.  Bring seeds, if you have some to spare. Vegetable, herb and prairie seeds will all be available. See: http://www.backyardabundance.org/eventCurr.aspx?id=25

Monday, May 4, 3:30 p.m., Squaw Creek Park near Marion. Volunteers will help Trees Forever and the Linn County Conservation Board plant 100 oak trees as part of National County Government Week.  Another 100 trees will be potted up by volunteers for use in replanting flood-stricken areas of Cedar Rapids and Linn County. Supervisors Lu Barron and Brent Oleson will speak at the event, along with Shannon Ramsay, Founding President of Trees Forever, who will address the importance of trees, wetlands and prairies. The oak trees were donated to Trees Forever by IA-WIS-IL Nursery from Cascade.  Members of the Cedar Rapids Green Iowa AmeriCorps team helped dig the trees and will be at the event. For more information: call 1-800-369-1269, or see: www.TreesForever.org

 Tuesday, May 5, 7 p.m., Secrets of the Bearded Iris, Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center near Toddville. The Linn County Conservation Department is hosting a program led by  Wanda Lunn, who grows over 300 bearded iris in her Cedar Rapids garden. Her garden is one of only 40 registered Historic Iris Preservation Gardens in the United States. Wanda will share the varied types and colors of bearded iris as well as secrets to growing them well in Iowa.  Cost is $2.50/adult, $1/child or $5/family.  Call (319) 892-6450 or (319) 892-6485.

Saturday, May 9

–          8 a.m. – 1 p.m., Cedar Rapids Garden Club, Plant & Garden Sale, CornerHouse Gallery & Frame, 2753 First Ave. SE, annuals and perennials specially grown for you by Piersons Florist, Occasions Florist and Fairfax Nursery, as well as Garden Club members, designer patio-ready pots, herbs, heirloom tomatoes, new and gently used garden items, recipes, and exciting presentations. Proceeds will go to support community beautification projects.

–          9 a.m., Cedar Valley Iris & Daylily Society annual spring sale, Penn Meadows Park Gazebo, North Liberty. Named cultivars available, mostly $4-$10. Proceeds used to purchase plants for future sales. See: http://www.cvids.org/May2009Sale.html

–          9 a.m. to noon,  Brucemore Plant Sale,  2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, features a wide array of perennials and annual plants from Brucemore’s greenhouse. Back by popular demand, the Brucemore gardeners have prepared a variety of topiaries and hanging baskets. Plant sale prices range from $3 to $15, with all proceeds benefiting garden and landscape restoration projects at Brucemore.  The garden staff will be on hand to provide their expert advice on the selection, placement and care of plants.  Also, step inside the Brucemore Museum Store where a variety of garden books and merchandise will be available for purchase.  Call (319) 362-7375 or visit www.brucemore.org

–          9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Project GREEN garden fair, Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City. Sale of assortment of trees, shrubs, vines, and sunny and shade perennials, plus local experts will be available to answer garden questions including Mark Vitosh, DNR forester; Terry Robinson, Iowa City forester; Tim Thompson, DNR wildlife biologist; Jim Scheib, member of Eastern Iowa Bird Watch; Master Gardeners of Johnson County; a garlic mustard specialist; and Jennifer Jordan, the IC recycling coordinator, who will be available for information and questions relating to the IC Community Compost program. See: http://www.projectgreen.org/gardenfair.htm

Sunday, May 10, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Noelridge Park Greenhouse open house, Cedar Rapids, will include sale of hanging flower baskets for $20/$30 and $40 as a fundraiser, plus gardening book sale. Also information from Neighbor to Neighbor Sharing Plants, bee keepers, Eastern Iowa Bonsai Society, Butterfliz of Iowa, bookmark making and the Indian Creek Nature Center.

Monday, May 11, noon to 1 p.m., Prairiewoods, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha. Environmental luncheon on heirloom seeds. $10 for meal. See: www.prairiewoods.org

Thursday, May 14, 6-8 p.m., Prairiewoods, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha. Exploring Wild Edibles, $6/person or $10/family. Bring a small container to collect plants. See: www.prairiewoods.org

Friday, May 15, 4-7 p.m. and Saturday, May 16, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Annual Friends of Hickory Hill Park plant sale, backyard at 1167 E. Jefferson St., Iowa City. Plant donations needed, as well as help before and during sale. Sale will include perennials including coneflowers, phlox, daylilies, asters, daisies, hostas, Lily of the Valley, wild ginger, celadine poppy,  herbs and groundcovers as well as native plants.  Some house plants may be included. For more information or to volunteer,  call Joan at 319-338-5331.

Saturday, May 16, 8 a.m. to noon, Linn County Extension parking lot, 3279 Seventh Ave., Marion, Linn County Master Gardeners plant sale, featuring many kinds of perennials (both for sun and or shade), and many varieties of hosta and daylilies, also wildflowers, groundcovers, ornamental grasses, annuals and more. Plants come from Master Gardeners’ gardens, where they were carefully dug and potted, and tenderly taken care of until the sale. Master Gardeners will help you choose the plants just right for you and Plant Doctors will answer your gardening questions. New this year will be a container potting / design service. Bring your own container and the experts will create a beautiful combination of plants for sun or shade. We will have plants available for containers, or bring any of your own you wish to incorporate in the arrangement.  See: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/linn/events/

Saturday, May 16, 8 a.m. to noon, Johnson County 4-H Fairgrounds, south side of Iowa City,  Johnson County Master Gardeners host a flea market and plant sale, featuring an assortment of annuals, perennials, houseplants, bulbs, tubers and seedlings.  There will also be a great assortment of new and previously used lawn, yard and garden tools and equipment.  Donated items can be dropped off at the food booth on the fairgrounds Thursday, May 14, or Friday, May 15.   

Saturday, May 16, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, May 17, 1-5 p.m., First Annual Grant Wood Scenic Byway Art & Culture Tour.  Combines love of art with a scenic drive through Jackson and Jones counties. Get to know the regional art and artists of the Grant Wood Scenic Byway with art galleries, wineries and artists in special locations. See: http://www.iowadot.gov/iowasbyways/index.aspx or contact Linda Muller, (563)652-5104.

Saturday, May 16- Sunday, May 17, Urban permaculture for land, yards and gardens, Prairiewoods. Learn how to begin applying permaculture techniques around your home and in your community. Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable environments. This workshop will include two days of classroom and hands-on experiences. Information and techniques will include ecological patterns, edge, energy flow, zones and sectors, soil, trees, wind breaks and shelter belts, composting, water and landscape, mulch beds and gardening. Instructors are Grover Stock and the staff from Big Green Summer. Fee: $120 for both days, includes a permaculture book and lunch both days. Scholarships are available; reduced rates for more than one person from a family or organization. See: www.prairiewoods.org

Tuesday, May 26 and Thursday, May 28, 6 p.m. or Saturday, May 30, 10:30 a.m., Brucemore’s Historic Landscape Tour, 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids.  Experience the passion influential historic landscape architect, O.C. Simonds, had for retaining the natural elements of the land, using native vegetation, and applying his knowledge of nature and artistic principles to achieve his picturesque style. Participants will learn the progression of the Brucemore landscape from 1886 to present, the importance of the estate’s architecture on the landscape, and hear the challenges facing the continuing preservation of the estate. Contact Brucemore at (319) 362-7375 or visit www.brucemore.org

May 31-June 14, Permaculture Design Certification, BGS Campus, Fairfield. Instructors are Doug Bullock, Lonnie Gamble, Grover Stock, and dozens of guest presenters. Cost is $1,200 if you register by May 1.  See: http://www.biggreensummer.org/page/Permaculture+Design+Certification+2009

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Project BudBurst

   I can tell you when my Greenland tulips, Strutter’s Ball daylily or perennial hibiscus bloomed in the last several years; when the grass first turned green this spring or when the chartreuse of the willows began to show. I’m a compulsive jotter. Maybe it’s the product of my training as a reporter combined with my gardening obsession that compels me to write down every observation. At least I’m not alone. Nationwide, nature-lovers, gardeners, scientists and students are taking note of what’s happening in the natural world around us.

   It’s all part of an effort called Project BudBurst – http://www.windows.ucar.edu/citizen_science/budburst/

 

  Thousands of volunteers across the country have been participating in the project, which tracks climate change by recording the timing of flowers and foliage. Project BudBurst, started as a pilot program in 2007 and operated by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Chicago Botanic Garden and University of Montana, is amassing thousands of observations from these “citizen scientists” to give researchers a detailed picture of our warming climate.  An analysis of thousands of Project BudBurst observations from last year and the 2007 pilot shows a baseline for the timing of key plant events. Volunteers can compare these observations to flowering and leafing in future years to measure the impact of a warming climate. Overall, 4,861 observations were reported online in 2008 from participants in every state except Hawaii.

 

   Rachael Drummond, who works in Media Relations for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., got me in touch with an Eastern Iowa participant of Project BudBurst. Den Henrickson of Marion said he decided to get involved after hearing about the project on National Public Radio. Den is keeping track of three things in his yard: Eastern red cedar, Eastern white pine trees and buffalo grass. “I think this is a valuable way to leave a nugget of information for future generations,” he said. Den added that he knows some people are combing parks and ditches in search of plants, but he knew he would be more apt to follow through with something in his own backyard.

  

  The project works like this: Each participant in Project BudBurst selects one or more plants to observe. The Web site suggests more than 75 trees and flowers, with information on each. Users can add their own choices. Participants begin checking their plants at least a week prior to the average date of budburst–the point when the buds have opened and leaves are visible. After budburst, participants continue to observe the tree or flower for later events, such as seed dispersal. When participants submit their records online, they can view maps of these phenophases across the United States.

 

   Den, 37, said he’s watching the white pine, for example, for the first needles, first pollination and first pine cones.  He joked that he should be watching the common dandelion, another of the options on the list. Because this is the first year Den has been involved, he didn’t have a comparison to previous years and hasn’t been recording any of the phases on his own. An information technology employee at ADM in Cedar Rapids, Den said he isn’t a “jotter” like me, but he is a data person. And that’s where he sees the importance of the project, especially when it comes to global warming. “I’m not into it for the politics of climate change,” he said. “In my mind the jury is still out on that. With the data, you get a clearer picture.”

 

   Here is more about Project BudBurst from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research:

   The science of phenology, or tracking cyclic behavior among plants and animals, has a distinguished history. For centuries farmers, naturalists, and scientists have kept careful records of the phenology patterns of plants and animals. Farmers have long used their phenology knowledge to predict the best time for planting and harvesting crops and when to start expecting problems with insect pests.  Numerous plant and animal species throughout the world are being affected by climate change. Some plants respond to warmer temperatures by extending their growing seasons. Others shift their ranges toward the poles or to higher elevations.

   At the same time, many insects breed and disperse based on regular cycles of sunlight rather than temperature. This can cause a mismatch between the behavior of pollinating insects, such as bees, and flowers that bloom earlier than the insects expect. Such asynchronous behavior has already been noted across many parts of the world.  

   Researchers have already found some interesting comparisons from the last two years. In 2008, for example, forsythia in Chicago opened their first flowers from April 17 to 19—almost a week earlier than the 2007 flowering dates of April 23 to 25. In Wadsworth, Ohio, flowering dogwood reached full bloom on May 8, 2008, which was two weeks earlier than in 2007. They warned, however, that results about global warming couldn’t be drawn from just two years of data. Scientists will have to analyze observations for many years in order to distinguish the effects of long-term climate trends from year-to-year variations in weather.

   Project BudBurst is funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, National Ecological Observatory Network, National Geographic Education Foundation, and U.S. Forest Service. The USA National Phenology Network is one of Project BudBurst’s partners. The project is also supported by the National Science Foundation and is hosted on Windows to the Universe, a UCAR-based educational website.

Den with his trees in Marion, Iowa

Den with his trees in Marion, Iowa

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Dragonflies and Damselflies

My all-time favorite insect, the dragonfly, is finally getting the attention it deserves. This came out today from the University of Iowa:

Dragonflies and Damselflies cover

Dragonflies and Damselflies cover

“Dragonflies and Damselflies in Your Pocket: A Guide to the Odonates of the Upper Midwest,” the new addition to the Bur Oak Guides Series, will become available from the University of Iowa Press May 1.

The pocket guidebook with text and photos by Ann Johnson will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at http://www.uiowapress.org. Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at http://www.eurospangroup.com/bookstore.

Just as more and more people enjoy watching birds and butterflies, watching the many shimmering dragonflies and damselflies — collectively called “odonates,” from Odonata, the name of this order of aquatic insects — has become a popular outdoor pastime. With their extremely large eyes, elongated transparent wings, long and slender abdomens, and prehensile extendible jaws, dragonflies and damselflies are efficient hunters and quick, darting fliers. Their beauty and their behavior make them delightful subjects for birdwatchers and other nature lovers.

“Dragonflies and Damselflies in Your Pocket” introduces 50 of the showiest odonates of the Upper Midwest. In addition to providing useful general information about broad-winged damsels, spreadwings, pond damsels, darners, clubtails, cruisers, emeralds and skimmers, Johnson includes common and scientific names, sizes, general flight seasons and the best habitats in which to find each species.

Dennis Paulson, author of “Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West,” wrote, “With beautiful photos backed up by concise text, this little guide is simple and easy to use as it introduces birders and general naturalists to a wonderful group of insects, the Odonata. It should be in every glove compartment and backpack.”

Johnson is a management analyst for the Iowa Department of Human Services, a founding member of the Iowa Odonata Survey, and the owner of AJ Endeavors, which specializes in natural history Web development. A self-described birder gone bad, she now spends summers chasing more bugs than birds near her home in south central Iowa.

Named after the state tree of Iowa, the Bur Oak Guides are published to assist the exploration and enjoyment of the natural environment of the Midwest.

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When to transplant

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

    I was so ready to start my ditch project.  That’s the area I wrote about in an earlier blog that due to last summer’s over abundance of rain is now inaccessible by lawn mower.  The weather seemed to be cooperating and the ground temperature is almost warm enough.   Commencing with a hoe and a good pair of gloves, I’m tackling the winter debris of branches and weeds.  As some coaches will tell you, the best defense is a good offense:  removing any pest and disease infestation creates a healthier plant bed.  I do have some weed spray for the tough stuff.  There’s enough left over ground cloth to cover the area.  Garden centers have mulch just waiting for me to pick up.  The fall perennials are peeking about 3-4 inches out of the ground and are begging to be moved. (Rule of thumb:  transplant spring flowering plants in the fall and fall flowering plants in the spring.)  Hurrah! The growing and planting season has begun.  However, when I picked up a handful of dirt, it balled up in my hand.  So, time out!  That ground is definitely not dry enough.   “Mudding in” transplants will result in a hardened clumpy soil that will be very difficult to work going forward.  So, instead of transplanting right now, I’ll amend the soil by adding that wonderful stuff weathered horse droppings are made of.  Several inches of home grown compost and/or organic matter means I don’t have to fork out funds for commercial fertilizers.   In a few days, baring additional downpours, I will plant the transplants, remembering to water in the plants then gently tamping the soil down around them to remove air pockets. 

    Once the plants are in place, the ongoing project involves seasoning the seeder wagon, moving it to the middle of the area and planning how flowers will cascade out of it.  My son will bring a load of rock for the erosion control.  I can hardly contain my enthusiasm for how I perceive my new garden will evolve.

 

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Recycle in Style Fashion Show

The first ever Recycle in Style Earth Week Fashion Show was tonight (April 25, 2009) at the MidAmerican Aerospace Warehouse in Cedar Rapids. Organizer Stacie Johnson noted the space was fitting, as the company recycles airplanes. About 200 people surrounded the runway where models from area consignment shops showed off some of the fashions available for a fraction of the cost of new. Local designer Sonya Darrow also modeled her “Seven Days, Seven Different Styles for under Seven Dollars” collection.

Here is a sample from tonight’s first-ever event:

Carla Davis, from Mix 96.5, emcees the fashion show.

Carla Davis, from Mix 96.5, emcees the fashion show.

A model from Plato's Closet walks the runway.

A model from Plato's Closet walks the runway.

Designer Sonya Darrow of Cedar Rapids shows part of her collection.

Designer Sonya Darrow of Cedar Rapids shows part of her collection.

The night's youngest model, from Stuff Etc.

The night's youngest model, from Stuff Etc.

Models Jenna Nelson (with Yorkie) and Heidi Franklin from Stuff Etc.

Models Jenna Nelson (with Yorkie) and Heidi Franklin from Stuff Etc.

Stacie Johnson (right) coordinator of the fashion show.

Stacie Johnson (right) coordinator of the fashion show.

Dayna Kriz, art instructor for the Gary Comer Youth Center in Chicago, with some of her students' redesigned t-shirts, jewelry and keychains.

Dayna Kriz, art instructor for the Gary Comer Youth Center in Chicago, with some of her students' redesigned t-shirts, jewelry and keychains.

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Garden bazaar

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, check out the Prairiewoods Garden Bazaar featuring “all things green, good and growing.”

The bazaar is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 25, 2009, at Prairiewoods, 120 Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, Iowa.

Event features herbs, plants, seeds, chimes, artisan vendors, birdhouses and more. Also, learn how to plant an herb garden and create yard art. All proceeds benefit Prairiewoods.

See: http://www.prairiewoods.org

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Your photos – springtime heralds and new additions!

New photos today! Laurie Vulich shots these wildflowers during a walk along the trails at the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids on this warm spring day.

 

Wildflowers shot at the Indian Creek Nature Center.

Wildflowers shot at the Indian Creek Nature Center.

 

 

Bloodroot in bloom

Bloodroot in bloom

 

 Intrepid photographer and Linn County Master Gardener, Jay McWherter, sent in these photos shot at the Noelridge Park Greenhouse open house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on April 11…  

 

 

Close-up of an orchid

Close-up of an orchid

Passion flower

Passion flower

 

 

Tulips

Tulips

If you have photos you’d like to share, send to: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com

Include information about the subject and where and when it was shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Red, Hot and Green” in Cedar Rapids and how you can win $10,000 by going green!

Nicole Facciuto talks to Glenn Williams of Procter & Gamble Tuesday night at Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids.

Nicole Facciuto talks to Glenn Williams of Procter & Gamble Tuesday night at Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids.

 OK, so maybe you haven’t gone “green” yet. Procter & Gamble is giving people in the Cedar Rapids area a great incentive to do so. The company is giving away $10,000 to the winner of its Future Friendly Challenge.

Cedar Rapids was chosen as the pilot site for the company’s sustainability initiative, which isn’t a product launch, but an awareness effort to point out energy, waste and water savings involved with P&G products. 

   Nicole Facciuto, host of HGTV’s “Red, Hot & Green” was at Lindale Mall tonight (Tuesday, April 21) to help launch P&G’s effort and will be there from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday. She and others who will demonstrate the products can be found under a green tent near the Sears store at Lindale.

   P&G’s Glenn Williams said the contest will continue at other Future Friendly events in the coming weeks, but is for the Cedar Rapids area only.  Anyone who wants to enter the contest can pick up a form at Lindale  or other locations in the next few weeks and write, in 300 words or less, how they have gone green, without sacrifice.

   Nicole, whose show is shot in LA, noted that little things add up to help  move the whole country toward sustainability. “I’m just here to tell people about it because I believe in the small steps,” she told me during a “tour” of the Future Friendly tent. Nicole, 33, said she’s no stranger to Iowa, having spent a summer at Lake Okoboji. She’s into Freecycle, recycling and once made a coffee table out of a pile of old books that a school discarded. 

  Products in the Future Friendly initiative are marked with a green sticker and are already at Hy-Vee supermarkets and will be in more Cedar Rapids stores in the near future. Glenn said Cedar Rapids was chosen because the community shows awareness about sustainability and “our target audience lives here.”  

 

Update: Glenn just sent in more info on how to enter the contest:

The rules are simple: just tell us in 300 words or less about how you’re living a more “future friendly” lifestyle without making any deep sacrifices or trade-offs.  Drop your entry at the FF pop-up or email it, and you could win the 10,000 dollars.  Nicole and other FF experts will determine the winner.

The email address is: futurefriendly@yandlpr.com

Here is more about the pilot:

 

   Procter & Gamble has chosen Cedar Rapids and Earth Day to launch a new sustainability initiative pilot. The new Future Friendly program will include products from P&G’s most recognized brands, including PUR, Charmin and Dawn. Each brand provides specific savings in water, waste or energy, with the resource-saving benefits marked on the packaging.

   To launch the pilot, a Future Friendly demonstration house will be unveiled at Lindale Mall  in Cedar Rapids on Earth Day, April 22, 2009, where visitors can see live product demonstrations and learn how they can take simple steps in their own homes to save energy, water and reduce waste. 

    Nicole Facciuto, host of HGTV’s “Red, Hot and Green” will be at Lindale Mall from  10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Wednesday to share environmental home design and lifestyle tips.  Visitors can enter to win a $10,000 grand prize by submitting the best “go green without sacrifice” story in the Future Friendly Challenge. Each household that registers at Lindale Mall on Earth Day will receive a coupon book and a reusable shopping bag.

   Examples of the Future Friendly resource savings include this:  If all Iowa residents who use bottled water switched to a PUR faucet mount system, they would save more than $574 million each year – enough money to send nearly 5,000 students to Coe College for four years.

    Look closely at the wording to see if those savings add up for your family. This example assumes that if one household switched from bottled water to a PUR mounted faucet system, they would be able to eliminate 3,200 plastic bottles and save $600 per year.  If you don’t use bottled water, which has lost favor among the eco-conscious, those savings might not apply to you.

    Other examples include:   If all Cedar Rapids households switched from a regular roll of Charmin to Charmin MegaRoll, it would save more than 77,000 gallons of fuel – enough to fuel 44 school buses in Iowa for an entire year.  And if all Cedar Rapids households cleaned their dishes with Dawn Direct Foam, without filling up the sink with water, they would save more than 600,000 liters of water – enough to irrigate more than six acres of Iowa farmland for one week.

 

   P&G, which has two plants in Iowa City, notes that each Future Friendly product must meet strict, science-based performance criteria, including a reduction of more than ten percent in water use, energy use or waste versus previous or alternative products. In addition, the benefits of the products cannot trigger inefficiencies in other areas of environmental concern. The brands in the pilot program include Tide, Downy, Gain, Cheer, Dreft, Era, Dawn, PUR, Cascade, Charmin, Bounty and Duracell.  Future Friendly has operated as a multi-brand effort in the UK and Canada since 2007.

For more information, see:  www.future-friendly.com

 

 

Lindsey Pugh of Grayslake, Ill., demonstrates the absorbency of Bounty paper towel on Tuesday night at Lindale Mall.

Lindsey Pugh of Grayslake, Ill., demonstrates the absorbency of Bounty paper towel on Tuesday night at Lindale Mall.

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All about lawns

   It’s spring and attention is turning to lawns. Two things today about lawn care. The first is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith and the second came to me from Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey sent the message to remind homeowners that spring is an ideal time to improve soil quality in our yards and that restoration of the soil can help retain water, prevent erosion and protect water quality.

 

This is from Claire Smith:

 

   Are you ready for some mowing?  Depending on the weather, your summer lawn mowing and maintenance can begin anytime in April.

Did you service the mower last fall?  If you didn’t have time then, you should take time now.  Beg or bribe your favorite spouse or relative to change the oil, kick the tires, replace the spark plug and air filter, and be certain the blades are sharp and not bent. 

If the ground temperature is 55-60’ you can commence any necessary re-seeding and repairs. Lawn repair kits that will contain seed and mulch can be purchased.  But remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is so do not succumb to terrific sounding no maintenance grasses and groundcover.   Apply the patch after you have removed the dead turf and loosened and amended the soil.

   Pizza or ice cream treats may create some enthusiasm to have the kids or grandkids help you rake and remove clumps of leaves and other debris left over from winter ice and snow. Initiate a game of pickup sticks (branches). Tamp down runways created by winter vole activity and fill in holes. 

  Hose off lawn areas along walks, drives and roadways that have been exposed to deicing compounds or your grass may not reappear.  Keep newly seeded and sodded areas moist to reduce stress on young and developing root systems.   Watering an established lawn is not necessary now.  Wait until May to fertilize.  Over watering and over fertilizing does more harm than good on your lawn:  strike a happy medium.  Excessive use of insecticides may reduce nature’s aerating machines, the earthworm. Monitor your lawn for any insect damage prior to spraying. 

   Proper mowing is a real key to a healthy lawn.  The suggested mowing height is 3-3 ½” Taller grass forms a deeper root system.  Stronger plants are more likely to fend off insects, disease and weeds.  Remove only 1/3 of the total height of the grass and leave the clippings on the lawn to decompose. Clippings add nitrogen, moisture and organic matter to the soil.  Varying the direction and pattern of mowing will reduce the wear and tear on the lawn.

   So, are you ready for some mowing?  Grab a bottle of lemonade and your hat and sunscreen. Hop on the mower and enjoy the spring weather and the start of a beautiful lawn.

 

From Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship:

 

    Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today encouraged homeowners to consider incorporating soil quality restoration efforts into their annual spring yard work.

   Often in urban areas, especially new developments, the topsoil has been removed and what is left is compacted.  Restoring soil quality helps yards and green spaces absorb and infiltrate rainfall, which reduces the homeowners need to water their yard while protecting water quality and preventing runoff.

   “Iowa is known for it’s great soil, and rightfully so, but we need to make sure we are taking care of that soil so that it is healthy,” Northey said.  “What made our soil so productive was the high organic matter content and porosity that absorbed rain and allowed roots to grow deep.  Soil quality restoration helps recreate those conditions that allow plants to thrive.”

   If you are establishing a new lawn, perform deep tillage (8-12 inches deep) before seeding or sodding to breaks up compacted soils.  Add compost to increase organic matter.  It is recommended that soils have 5 percent or more organic matter before sodding or seeding, which can be achieved by incorporating 1 to 3 inches of compost.

   If you have an existing lawn, consider aerating the soil and then apply a blanket of compost in the spring or fall.  An application of one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch of compost following aeration will help fill the holes with organic matter to amend the soil and allow existing turf to grow through the compost amendment. If your turf is patchy, add seed to the compost application to thicken up the vegetation.

   “Improving the soil quality in your yard will make your lawn healthier, require less water and reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticide applications,” Northey added.  “A better looking lawn and improved water quality in the state are possible when we better manage runoff through soil quality restoration and other measures that allow water to infiltrate.”

   There are a number of other lawn care tips to help care for your soil and promote infiltration of water and prevent runoff.

  • Begin mowing after the first of May and end near Labor Day.
  • Set the mower at three inches high. The higher the grass shoots the deeper the grass roots, making it better able to survive dry periods.
  • Use the mulch setting on your mower to leave the grass clippings on the yard. Don’t lower organic matter content by removing clippings.
  • Consider using native plants for accent in planting beds or in rain gardens to minimize the amount of turf grass.
  • Seed your lawn to a native turf mixture that has deep roots and thrives in Iowa’s weather conditions without extra care.

   More information about urban conservation, rain gardens and a soil quality brochure are available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov

 

 

               

               

 

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Getting back to Earth

To some of us who grew up gardening, the process comes naturally. How can you not know how deep to plant a radish seed or realize you have to wait until the danger of frost has passed to plant your tomatoes? Actually, I’ve heard from people who grew up gardening and despise it now. That includes a couple editors here at The Gazette, who prefer to stay as far away as possible from watering cans, trowels, or anything else that reminds them of the back-breaking labor of their youth. 

   But, as mentioned in  today’s (4/19/09) Gazette article: http://www.gazetteonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090419/NEWS/704199992/1002/NEWS

more and more people are moving toward gardening, as a way to help the Earth and save money on food budgets in these tough economic times. To that end, Iowa State University Extension has come up with a great beginner’s guide to home gardening, especially tailored for Iowa.

 

Even experienced gardeners will find helpful hints on beets, potatoes, squash and numerous other veggies, along with everyone’s favorite: weed control.

 

You can find the guide here: http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2009/4-8/introduction.html

 

 

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