Posts tagged April

Warning of the Three Frozen Kings

    When it was sunny and 80 degrees for a brief day or two in April,  I heard from several people asking if they should go ahead and plant their gardens. In Iowa, that’s fine for many vegetables, such as cabbage, peas and potatoes, but I warned them to hold off on the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other tender plants. Those plants might actually have been OK during the past couple weeks, as it’s stayed fairly warm, so gardeners who took a gamble will be ahead of the game. But old-school gardeners often heed the warning of the Three Kings.     

   This is something that I ran last year on this blog,  but as it’s often asked, here’s what I’ve been told about the legend of the Three Kings:

    The Three Kings, or Three Frozen Kings, is a Czech legend that serves as a warning to protect tender plants against a possible late frost.  In one of various forms, the story says the three kings or saints (Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14) were frozen when the temperature dropped while they were fishing at sea.

    On May 15, St. Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water to thaw out the three frozen kings.

    Since Czech immigrants found Iowa similar to their home country, those traditions carried over, and, whether or not the story makes sense,  it  seems sensible in many years to heed the Three Kings warning.

     Knowing the last average frost date for your area can also help. That date can vary, however, depending on the source. I’ve seen that in northeast Iowa, the last average frost date is May 10. East-central Iowa is April 30, and southeast Iowa is April 20. Those might seem early in some years, but look accurate for 2009.

    A U.S. Climatography report placed northern Iowa, around Decorah, with a last average frost date of May 26; central Iowa, around the Cedar Rapids area, at May 13 and southern Iowa, around Ottumwa, at May 3.

    Climatologists say the average can vary,  even within the same county. The last frost date might be a week later in low-lying areas or a week earlier on hilltops.  Because the frost date is only an average, your safest bet might be to heed the Three Kings warning and wait until May 15 to set out those tender plants.

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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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March Madness and will this snow kill my plants?

   Sunday’s Homegrown Highlights column in the Gazette shows that a) the only thing predictable about March weather is that it’s unpredictable and b) our columns for Sunday’s newspaper are written in advance.  Hopefully, no one dug under several inches of snow to begin “waking the garden.”

    In fact, the snow acts as insulation for plants from the cold. Ones that have already bloomed might be done for the season after being buried under snow, but those that were just emerging – tulips, daffodils (at least those here in Cedar Rapids that have not blossomed yet) and others should be fine.

     I’ve been able to resist the temptation to begin yard work even on those beautiful, sunny and 70-degree days of March, and I will at least for the first couple weeks in April. Until the ground is fairly dry – much less soggy than what it’s been recently –  it’s really best to stay off the lawns and out of flower beds. I know a few vegetable gardeners who already planted potatoes and onions before this weekend’s snow. Some vegetables are more tolerant of the cold and can survive even in weather like this. Just remember, there’s no reason to jump the gun on yard work. Enjoy each season as it unfolds. There will be plenty of time for outdoor work in the months to come.  

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April events (and two late March additions)

Area events for late March/April 2009. If you know of others in the coming weeks, add a comment below or send an email to cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com

 

Sat. March 28 – 1-3 p.m., Grant Wood Elementary School gym, 1930 Lakeside Dr., Iowa City – Building your home’s curb appeal: free landscaping seminar shows what it takes. Now that spring has arrived, you may have noticed that the nicer the weather gets, the worse your lawn starts to look. A little yard work may help spruce things up. If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve the appearance of your property and the curb appeal of your home, plan to attend a series of informational presentations. There is no charge to attend, and door prizes will be given away each hour. Presentations will include Curb Appeal, Easy-to-Care-For Landscaping, and information on the Iowa City Area Association of Realtors (ICAAR) Tool Shed, a garden tool-loaning program.  This event is sponsored by ICAAR Fair Housing Ambassadors, Iowa City Landscaping, Grant Wood Neighborhood Association and the City of Iowa City Neighborhood Services Division. It was funded in part by a City of Iowa City PIN grant (Program for Improving Neighborhoods) awarded to the Grant Wood Neighborhood Association.
For more information, contact Marcia Bollinger, Neighborhood Services Coordinator, at 356-5237 or e-mail Marcia-bollinger@iowa-city.org.

 

Tues., March 31 – 1-3 p.m., Converting a traditional planter to adapt to no-tilled fields isn’t as costly and difficult as some might think. The Iowa Learning Farm is hosting a planter clinic at Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, to demonstrate how to convert to a no-till planter. The clinic will include a presentation by local NRCS staff about the benefits of no-till and residue management, a demonstration by Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension Agricultural Engineer, on how to convert to a conventional planter to a no-till planter and a panel discussion with farmers who practice no-till. The clinic will be held at 6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW at the Tippie Beef Education Center arena, located on the southeast side of campus.  The planter is the key for no-tillage as it is likely the only machinery that moves the soil for seed placement. Seed depth and seed-to-soil contact are keys to emergence when planting through residue, says Hanna. The benefits of no-till are numerous. Equipment needs are minimal, labor costs are reduced, and there is less soil compaction when field passes are eliminated. Also organic matter builds in the soil over time. The farmer panel at this clinic may address some of these issues and how they overcame the barriers to no-till. The planter clinic is open to the public and there is no charge for the event. Registration begins at 12:30.  To RSVP or for more information about the clinic, contact Farm Conservation Liaison Erin Harpenau, 515/509-4768, email: erinharp@iastate.edu

Wed. April 1 –  6 p.m.,  Hiawatha Public Library, 150 W. Willman St., Starting Garden Transplants. Linn County Master Gardener Zora Ronan discusses growing vegetable and flower transplants successfully at home. Call (319) 393-1414.

Thurs., April 2 – 7 p.m., Tiny Gardens, Lots of Food. Are you interested in less expensive food that is also fresher and safer? Join Judy Kash at the Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids, for suggestions and encouragement for growing some of your own food—even with limited garden space, time, money, and experience. Explore ideas for combining production and beauty in your new edible landscape. For questions or to register, call 362-0664. Member fee for this program is $5, nonmembers are $8.

 

Fri., April 3- Sat., April 4, The largest All-Iowa horticulture exposition in 100 years will be held in Ottumwa, Iowa at the Bridge View Conference Center.  The exposition, billed as the state fair of horticulture, is sponsored and coordinated by the Iowa State Horticultural Society, and supported by over 20 in-state horticulture associations and Iowa State University Extension. Nearly 100 vendors are expected to exhibit plants, art, garden supplies, and lawn equipment.  A wine village featuring Iowa wineries is also planned.  Additionally, the Expo will feature three concurrent educational seminar tracks featuring experts from around the state and region.  Topics will cover the gamut of horticultural specialties including honey production, growing herbaceous perennials, panel sessions of wine and arboriculture experts, rain gardens, organic lawn care, sustainability in the home garden, children’s gardening, and much more.  The Expo will offer anyone, novice to professional to engage in Iowa’s diverse and vibrant horticulture industry. Elvin McDonald, renowned horticultural author and former editor-at-large for Better Homes & Gardens® will be the keynote speaker for the inaugural All-Iowa Horticulture Exposition on April 3.  His lecture “Why I Love to Garden” will begin at 10:00 AM. Twenty-four breakout sessions on Friday and Saturday will offer attendees a wide variety of topical information that showcases the diversity of Iowa horticulture and gardening.  Top speakers for these sessions include Susan Appleget Hurst, senior associate editor at Better Homes & Gardens® and Kathleen Ziemer, known throughout the area as “the butterfly lady”.  A number of ISU Extension personnel will also be present including Dr. Jeff Iles, Dr. Eldon Everhart, Dr. Cindy Haynes, Dr. Patrick O’Malley, Dr. Nick Christians, Dr. Kathleen Delate, Andy Larson, and Dennis Portz.  Please visit www.iowahort.org for more information about speakers, topics, and times.  Single and two-day registration packages are available.  Visit www.iowahort.org for registration forms or contact your local ISU Extension Office.  For more information call 641-683-6260.

Sun., April 5 – 2 p.m., Chickens in the Yard. Before the advent of industrial agriculture and long distance food shipping, many families kept small flocks of chickens in backyards… even in the city. Join Indian Creek Nature Center Director Rich Patterson to learn how you can do the same. “In this day and age when incomes are stretched thin and costs are high the Nature Center is hosting a series of programs that may help people become more self sufficient in food,” said Patterson. Discover how to convert table scraps and garden weeds into delicious eggs. Learn the ins and outs of keeping a few chickens for fun and food. The member fee for this program is $5, nonmember fee is $8. Please call 362-0664 with any questions or to register for the program.

Tues., April 7 – 6:30-8:30 p.m., Using Prairie Wildflowers and Native Grasses in Iowa Landscapes, Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Hall Room 234, 6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids. Neil Diboll will present the process of establishing prairie gardens and meadows using either plants or seeds, in both small and large venues.  He will highlight the top prairie wildflower and grasses for landscape use, along with specific step by step procedures for achieving success.  Diboll is a Prairie Ecologist for Prairie Nursery and produces native plants and seeds and designs native landscapes.  Since he began in 1982, he as devoted his efforts to championing the use of prairie plants, as well as native trees, shrubs and wetland plants, in contemporary American landscapes.  The session is free.  See web site: www.extension.iastate.edu/linn

Wed. April 8 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Garden Lighting. Why only enjoy the beauty during the day? You don’t have to be an electrician to be able to enhance your garden in the evening!  Linn County Master Gardener Deb Walser will discuss placement, types of lighting, and transformer options – let there be lite!

 

 

 

Wed. April 8- 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and Thurs. April 9, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Mount Vernon. Come get dirty down on the farm while learning from an expert how to construct a hoophouse. Practical Farmers of Iowa is hosting a two day hoophouse training build workshop at Laura Krouse’s Abbe Hills Farm near Mount Vernon. Adam Montri will lead the workshop. Hoophouses are structures that extend the season on fruit and vegetable farms by providing a protected environment. This training build will address hoophouse construction through an actual build of a 35 foot by 96 foot double poly hoophouse. Participants will learn techniques and tips to efficiently and effectively build a hoophouse, and will have opportunities to ask questions related to design and construction of the hoophouse as well as how to grow vegetables 12 months out of the year without supplemental light or heating. Wednesday will start with a light breakfast at 8:00 a.m., and the workshop will begin at 8:30. Participants will break at noon for lunch. Meals and refreshments will be provided, including dinner at 7:00 p.m. when work is done for the day. Thursday will commence at 8:00 a.m. with a light breakfast. The workshop begins at 8:30. Lunch will be served at noon, and the field day will end at 4:30. Adam Montri is the Outreach Coordinator for the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm. He works with farmers around the state on year-round vegetable production in hoophouses through on-farm economic research projects, one-on-one production consultations, and hoophouse training builds in rural and urban sites. He and his wife Dru and daughter Lydia own and operate Ten Hens Farm, a year-round farm, in Bath, MI.  Laura Krouse and her summer workers on Abbe Hills Farm produce vegetables for a 200-family CSA from June through October. She hopes the addition of the hoophouse will extend the garden season until Christmas. Laura also grows seed for an open pollinated variety of corn that has been selected on the 72-acre farm since 1903. A number of soil conservation and water quality practices have been established, including a restored upland wetland surrounded by native prairie. Primarily chemical-free practices are used to manage soil fertility and pests. Directions to Abbe Hills Farm: 825 Abbe Hills Road, Mount Vernon. From Highway 30 and Highway 1 south of Mt. Vernon: Go north at the 4-way stop of Highways 30 and 1. Go uptown to the stoplight. Turn left and go west to 8th Ave/ X20. You will be in front of Cornell College. Turn right and go north a little more than 1 mile out of town. Turn left and go west on Abbe Hills Road a little more than 1 mile. There are two red sheds on the north side of the road (and soon to be a big HOOPHOUSE). The address is 825 Abbe Hills Road. From Highway 1 north of Mt. Vernon: At the stoplight in downtown Mt. Vernon, turn right and go west to 8th Ave/ X20. You will be in front of Cornell College. Turn right and go north a little more than 1 mile out of town. Turn left and go west on Abbe Hills Road a little more than 1 mile. There are two red sheds on the north side of the road (and soon to be a big HOOPHOUSE). The address is 825 Abbe Hills Road. This field day is free, and everybody is welcome. RSVP is required by April 3 to Sally Worley, sally@practicalfarmers.org, (515)232-5661.

Fri., April 10 – 8:30 p.m., Spring Moon Walk, Indian Creek Nature Center. Enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights of a springtime evening on the trails. Walk to a high point of the Nature Center to view the moonlit landscape below. Adults: M: $3, NM: $5. Children: $1.

 

Sat., April 11 – 1:30 p.m., Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, 10260 Morris Hills Rd., Toddville, Iowa. Earth Month Wildflower Walk. Enjoy a leisurely woodland walk, celebrate spring and learn ways to have less impact on our planet. Cost: $2.50/adult, $1/child 16 and under or $5/family.

319.892.6485

Sat., April 11 and Sun., April 12 – 11 a.m., to 5 p.m., Easter Open House, Noelridge Greenhouse, Cedar Rapids. Features aquarium display by the Eastern Iowa Aquarium Association and Indian Creek Nature Center displays, along with a beekeeper. Free plant for first 500 children under age 12.

 

Tues., April 14 – 6:30-8:30 p.m., Don’t Fence Me In – Creating Garden Rooms Without Walls, Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Hall Room 234, 6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids. With colorful slides that Shirley Remes has taken of garden rooms in historic public gardens as well as delightful homeowner gardens, she will demonstrate how to create easy and affordable garden rooms in your own yard, large or small.  Dividing a landscape into garden rooms not only creates more enjoyable living space but solves practical space problems.  Photographer, journalist, lecturer and treasurer of the national Garden Writers Association, Remes is field editor for Better Homes and Gardens magazine and writes for Cottage Living, Organic Gardening and Victoria magazines. The session is free. See web site: www.extension.iastate.edu/linn

Tues., April 14 – 5:30-6:30 p.m., Culver’s Garden Center & Greenhouse, 1682 Dubuque Road (Highway 151 East), Marion. Veggies and Herbs in Pots and Containers. The free seminar will focus on growing vegetables, herbs and more in containers in order to enjoy the benefits of homegrown produce, even in limited space. Participants are asked to RSVP by calling (319) 377-4195.

 

 

Wed. April 15 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Revitalizing Your Garden. For the novice or experienced gardener, this class covers beginning or re-working the soil prep, planting, transplanting, and pruning for your beds. Linn County Master Gardener Lori Klopfenstein will also cover tools, design principals, and “go to” resources for all your garden needs.

Sat., April 18 – 9:30 a.m., Earth Day Tree Planting, Indian Creek Nature Center. Help diversify the woods as part of a wetland restoration. Bring a shovel, wear old clothes, and be prepared to get dirty. Participate in a tree planting ceremony “on behalf of Sacred Mother Earth,” facilitated by Wha’la, a Cree man from Squamish Territory. The ceremony is a Chanupa or Pipe ceremony. He will offer songs and direction to us from his traditional way of life. Trees Forever Field Coordinator Matt Nachtrieb will demonstrate the best way to plant a tree. Free.

Sat., April 18 – 8:30 a.m., Herbert Hoover National Historic Site will kick off National Park Week with a spring restoration project in the 81-acre tallgrass prairie. Volunteers are needed to help remove weeds from a recent planting of native prairie grasses and flowers. Volunteers interested in helping at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site should contact Adam Prato at (319) 643-7855 by Friday, April 17. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable work clothes. Water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats are recommended. Meet at the Visitor Center at 8:30 a.m. for an orientation and to get signed up. Work in the prairie will be from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum are in West Branch, Iowa at exit 254 off I-80.

Sat., April 18, Habitat for Humanity Restore Go Green expo., 725 N. Center Point Rd., Hiawatha.

Sat., April 18 – Creative Gardening Hands ON Workshops, Linn County Extension, 3279 7th Avenue, Suite 140, Marion, Iowa. Register and pre-pay materials fee  by April 10th, call: 319-377-9839

9:00am–10:30am • Twig Art

Have fun using garden prunings to create a pot trellis. The project will include the pot, soil and plants.  The participant will supply a hand pruner, wire cutter, needle nose pliers (optional) and scissors. Shelby Foley, Linn County Master Gardener, leads this class. Materials fee: $10 (due at time of registration) Class is limited to 20 participants.

11:00am–12:30pm • Build a Toad House

Parents, delight your child with this fun filled morning. Accompany your child as they enjoy the hands-on experience of making a mosaic toad house with Linn County Master Gardener, Karla McGrail. Materials fee: $10 (due at time of registration) Class is limited to 25 participants, age 7 and up.

1:00pm–3:00pm • Building A Gourd Birdhouse

Members of the Iowa Gourd Society will share their expertise and provide sturdy gourds for this fun project. All materials will be furnished to construct and decorate a unique, functional birdhouse. Won’t it be fun to watch the birds flock to their new home this spring? Materials fee: $30 (due at time of registration) Class is limited to 25 participants.

Sat., April 18 – 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Cedar Rapids Linn County Solid Waste Agency – 1954 County Home Rd.  Marion,  Earth Day Dumpster Dive

 Bring a load of waste to the agency and let the staff show you what can be recycled.  All loads chosen as recycled, will be recycled and disposed of free of charge.   No appointment necessary and Linn County Residents can bring their items from 10am to 2pm.

Sun., April 19 – 3-5 p.m.,

Iowa City Environmental Film Festival, Iowa City Public Library, Room A, 123 South Linn Street, Iowa City. Blue Gold:  World Water Wars Host:  FAIR!  Film Overview:  www.bluegold-worldwaterwars.com In today’s world, corporate giants force developing countries to allow privitization of their public water supply.  As water enters the global market place, corporate giants, private investors and corrupt governments vie for control of our fresh water supply.  A line is crossed when water becomes a commodity.  So the stage is set for world water wars, with a new geo-political map and power structure, and the possibility of military involvement.  The film shows numerous worldwide examples of people fighting for their basic right to water.  As Maude Barlow proclaims, “This is our revolution, this is our war.”  Will we survive? Based on the groundbreaking book, “Blue Gold:  The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water” by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke. Winner of the Vancouver International Film Festival Film Audience Award.

Wed. April 22 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Container Gardens. Container gardens do not have to be three geranium, asparagus fern and vinca vines. Come see what can be done with the newest annuals for your containers. Linn County Master Gardener Deb Walser’s own containers will be featured along with planting instructions. You will never have a plain container again.

Wed., April 22 – noon-4 p.m., Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, Earth Day Guided Hikes. AmeriCorps Naturalist Sarah Hinzman will lead a 45 minute spring-themed hike every hour on the hour beginning at noon. The last hike of the day is at 4:00 p.m. Meet her at the kiosk area on the lower end of the long sidewalk. Donations accepted.

Wed., April 22 – 4 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library: Kids and Worms: Composting. First-Fourth graders, get you hands dirty and learn how composting with worms can help our Earth. Space is limited to thirty kids 150 West Willman St., Hiawatha, Iowa  319.393.1414

Thurs., April 23 – 6 p.m., Welcome the changing of the seasons by joining the Brucemore gardeners for the Spring Landscape Hike. Brucemore, Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site, is located at 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The 90-minute hike will emphasize the renewal of spring through the sights and sounds found on the Brucemore estate. Experience a sea of budding bluebells, wildflowers sprouting, and the pond awakening after winter’s slumber. Brucemore gardeners take participants off the beaten path into the natural areas of the 26-acre estate. The tour will explore current issues of preservation and public use as well as the seasonal chores spring requires. Hear stories of the spring activities of the Brucemore families, like picking wildflowers for May Day baskets, and much more. Participants will have ample opportunity to ask questions and seek advice about their own gardens. Admission is $10.00 per person and $7.00 per Brucemore member. Space is limited, call (319) 362-7375 to reserve your spot or register online at www.brucemore.org

Sat., April 25 – 6-8 p.m., Mid American AeroSpace – 280 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Recycle in Style. Join area resale shops for a fashion show like no other.  All models will be sporting clothing from consignment, thrift and resale shops.  Get some great money saving ideas at this one of a kind event.  Ticket information available by calling 319-377-5290.

Tues., April 28 – 6 p.m., Natives: Planting, Caring, and Options Workshop. Spring has arrived! Learn easy and effective ways to “go green” in your gardens and landscapes this year by utilizing native Iowa plants. Planting indigenous flora is the most effective way to create sustainable and healthy gardens and landscapes. Join Master Gardener Becki Lynch for a native Iowa plants and prairie history workshop,  in the Brucemore Visitor Center. Brucemore’s own gardens and grounds were originally designed in the 1900s by O.C. Simonds, a founder of the Prairie School landscape movement, who advocated a strong conservation ethic in landscape design. Simonds planted local forbs and grasses to develop the Brucemore grounds into “outdoor rooms.” Using indigenous flora exemplifies environmental stewardship and helps to curb natural resource depletion. Planting with natives is also a great way to preserve Iowa’s unique prairie history. Lynch shares how to identify and incorporate indigenous plants in your own gardens and landscapes. Join the many Iowa gardeners who are preserving our beautiful Iowa heritage. $15 per person and $10 per Brucemore member. Space is limited call (319) 362-7375 or register online now.

Wed. April 29 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Lawns Green With Envy. Linn County Master Gardener Jerry Schmidt will give you advice on how to turn your grass into a lawn.  Find out the best ways to rid your lawn of weeds, mushrooms, bare spots, and all those digging critters.

 

 

 

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A move for Cedar Rapids farmers market

    Iowa City officials are handling a potential move of its farmers markets from a covered parking ramp – on an occasional basis to a busier site a few blocks away  – by talking to market vendors. Cedar Rapids has a different way of changing its farmers market sites and doesn’t have to jump through the same hoops as Iowa City.  A couple years ago, some vendors and customers were upset over the move from the covered Riverside Roundhouse in Cedar Rapids to an open air market at the city parking lot at Eighth Avenue and Second Street SE.  Market officials say the new site is no longer an issue for customers or vendors.      Nevertheless, Teresa White, the city’s farmers market supervisor, decided to move the Thursday markets from Eighth Avenue to Greene Square Park. “I just want to be different,” she said. Teresa also hopes the market will be a boost for workers in downtown Cedar Rapids, which is still recovering from last June’s flood.  

   Greene Square is quite a convenience for those of us who work in The Gazette, as the park is just outside our office. What do you think? Will that move be a good one?  And what should become of the roundhouse? Is it just a  relic that should be demolished with other flood-damaged buildings?

 

   I will be updating the farmers market schedule for as many in Eastern Iowa as I can find and will post it here later this spring. Most markets don’t start until May, although the Hiawatha one usually gets a head start in April.

   If you are a market master, have information on a farmers market or know of a new one, you can send the info to me at: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com or leave a message below. Please include a contact name and phone number.

 

    Here is the Cedar Rapids farmers market schedule for this season:

 

    Eighth Avenue and Second Street SE parking lot will be May 2 through Oct. 24; Tuesdays from 4-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to noon, except when the Downtown Farmers Markets are held. Thursday markets will be 4-6 p.m. in Greene Square Park, from June 11 through Aug. 27.

   Noelridge Park farmers markets, from May 1 through Oct. 23, are 4-6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

   The larger Downtown Farmers Markets – with a record 160 vendors this year – are 7:30 a.m. to noon on June 6 and 20; July 18; Aug. 1 and 15; Sept. 5 and Oct. 3.

 

 

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Spring pruning tips

Richard Jauron, extension horticulturist at Iowa State University, offers the following on spring pruning of berries and other small fruits:

Small fruits that are commonly grown in home gardens include raspberries, grapes, gooseberries, currants and blueberries. For maximum production, small fruit crops need to be pruned in late winter/early spring (March/early April). Proper pruning procedures for raspberries, grapes, gooseberries, currants and blueberries are outlined below.

Raspberries
The pruning procedures for raspberries are based on the growth and fruiting characteristics of the plants.

Summer-Bearing Red Raspberries
Remove all weak, diseased and damaged canes at ground level in March or early April. Leave the most vigorous canes, those approximately 1/4 inch in diameter when measured 30 inches from the ground. After thinning, remaining canes should be spaced about 6 inches apart.

Also, prune out the tips of the canes that have died due to winter injury. Cut back to live tissue. If the canes sustained little winter dieback, remove the top 1/4 of the canes. Cane-tip removal or “heading-back” prevents the canes from becoming top heavy and bending over under the weight of the crop.

Red raspberries sucker profusely from their roots. Plants should be maintained in a one- to two-foot-wide hedgerow using a rototiller or spade. Remove or destroy those shoots that emerge outside the one- to two-foot-wide hedgerow.

Fall-Bearing Red Raspberries (Two Crop System)
Follow the same pruning procedures as described for the summer-bearing red raspberries. This pruning option provides both a summer and fall crop.

Fall-Bearing Red Raspberries (One Crop System)
Prune all canes back to ground level in March or early April. While the plants won’t produce a summer crop, the late summer/early fall crop should mature one to two weeks earlier. Also, total crop yield is typically larger using the one-crop system versus the two-crop system.

Maintain the plants in a one- to two-foot-wide hedgerow.

Black and Purple Raspberries
Remove the small, weak canes, leaving only four or five of the largest, most vigorous canes per clump or plant. Cut back the lateral (side) branches to 12 inches in length for black raspberries and 18 inches for purple raspberries.

Grapes
Grapevines produce fruit clusters on the previous season’s growth. Before pruning, a grapevine may have 200 to 300 buds capable of producing fruit. If the vine is not pruned, the number of grape clusters would be excessive and the grapevine would be unable to ripen the large crop or produce adequate vegetative growth.

To maximize crop yields, grapevines are trained to a specific system. The most common training system used by home gardeners is the four-cane Kniffin system. The four-cane Kniffin system is popular because of its simplicity. In the four-cane Kniffin system, the canes of the grapevine grow on two wires, one located three feet above the ground and the second six feet high.

If using the four-cane Kniffin system, select four canes on the upper wire, two going in each direction. Also, select four canes on the lower wire. To aid identification, some gardeners tie brightly colored ribbons or strips of cloth on those canes they wish to retain. All remaining one-year-old canes should be completely removed.

Going back to the upper wire, select two of the remaining four canes (one going in each direction). Prune these canes back to one or two buds. These short one or two bud canes are referred to as renewal spurs. The renewal spurs provide the shoots or canes that will produce next year’s crop. Prune the remaining two canes on the upper wire back to eight to 13 buds. The number of buds left on the fruiting canes is determined by plant vigor. If the grapevine is vigorous, leave 13 buds per cane. Leave only eight buds per cane if the grapevine possesses poor vigor.

Prune the four canes on the lower wire the same as those on the upper wire. When pruning is complete, no more than 60 buds should remain on the grapevine. When counting the number of buds on the grapevine, include both the buds on the fruiting canes and those on the renewal spurs.

Gooseberries and Currants
Gooseberries and currants produce the majority of their fruit on 2- and 3-year-old shoots. Shoots that are 4 years old and older produce very little fruit. After the first growing season, remove all but six to eight vigorous, healthy shoots. The following year, leave four or five 1-year-old shoots and three or four 2-year-old canes. After the third growing season, keep three or four shoots each of 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old growth. A properly pruned, established plant should consist of nine to 12 shoots. Pruning of mature plants consists of pruning out all 4-year-old shoots and thinning out some of the new growth.

Blueberries
Blueberry plants are shrubs like currants and gooseberries. Blueberry yields and fruit quality decline when blueberry shoots (stems) reach 5 years of age. In late winter/early spring, prune out any dead or diseased stems. Also, prune out stems that are 5 years old and older. Allow one to two new shoots to develop each year.

The pruning of small fruits really isn’t difficult. It requires a basic understanding of plant growth and pruning techniques, proper pruning equipment and (sometimes) a little bit of courage.

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California Dreamin’ – tree style

The following is by James Romer, Extension Horticulturist at Iowa State University:

   This time of the year gives many gardeners an empty feeling. It is hard to keep warm and dry when temperatures dip below zero and it snows every other day. It is reminiscent of those classic song lyrics — “All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray … California dreamin’ ….” Anyway, this is a great time of the year to do some planning and pruning.

   The late dormant period (February to early April) is an excellent time to prune deciduous trees. The absence of foliage at this time of year gives the home gardener a clear view of the tree and allows him/her to select and remove appropriate branches.              

   Proper pruning improves the appearance, maintains the health and prolongs the life of trees. Improper pruning destroys their natural beauty, weakens them and may lead to their premature death.

   It is essential to make proper cuts when pruning trees. Do not make flush cuts. Flush cuts are cuts made as close as possible to the trunk or main branch. Flush cuts produce large wounds, destroy the tree’s natural mechanisms that promote healing and slow the “healing” process.

    When pruning trees, make the final cut just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge. The branch collar is the swollen area at the base of the branch. The branch bark ridge is the dark, rough bark ridge that separates the branch from the main branch or trunk. Pruning just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge retains the tree’s natural defense mechanisms and promotes the healing process. When a branch is pruned properly, a slightly raised area remains on the trunk or main branch. However, do not leave stubs.

   Do not apply wound dressings to pruning cuts. The application of wound dressings or paints doesn’t stop decay and may actually inhibit or delay the healing of wounds.

   There is one exception with not applying paint to oak trees. Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is lethal to many oaks. Oak wilt infections occur most commonly in spring and early summer and are spread from infected trees to healthy trees by sap-feeding beetles. To reduce the risk of the spread of oak wilt, don’t prune oaks from April 1 to July 1. If oak trees must be pruned between April 1 and July 1, for example, to correct storm damage, immediately apply a latex paint to all cut surfaces to avoid attracting sap-feeding beetles to the wounds.

   Use the three-cut procedure when cutting large branches to prevent extensive bark damage. Make the first cut about one to two feet from the main branch or trunk. Cut upward and go about halfway through the branch. Make the second cut a few inches beyond the first. Cut downward completely through the branch. Make the final cut just beyond the branch collar.

   Some trees, such as maple, birch and elm, bleed heavily when pruned in late winter or early spring. However, the heavy bleeding doesn’t harm the trees. (The trees won’t bleed to death.) Eventually the flow of sap will slow and stop. Heavy bleeding of susceptible trees can be avoided by pruning in late June or early July.

   The pruning of deciduous trees by the home gardener should be limited to small trees and the removal of smaller branches that can be reached from the ground in medium to large trees. Branches high up in large trees and those near utility lines should be left to professional arborists. Professional arborists should have the proper training and equipment to safely perform the job.

    If that’s not enough to do, another enjoyable winter activity is to leaf through garden catalogs. Many contain colorful plant photographs. Some carry specific merchandise, such as seeds, perennials, roses or fruits. Others carry a wide variety of products.

    Also, visit a bookstore or public library and browse through some of their gardening books. Excellent reference books for home gardeners include “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” by Michael Dirr; “Continuous Bloom” by Pam Duthie; “Herbaceous Perennial Plants” by Allan Armitage, and many others.    

    Remember also that your Iowa State University Extension county office has numerous publications on gardening in Iowa. Most of these publications also are available from the ISU Extension Online Store at www.extension.iastate.edu/store.

So get busy planning, pruning and dreaming about plants for this spring.

 

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