Posts tagged Claire Smith

Mixing pets and plants

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

    So the kids talked you into getting a dog.  But you want to keep your lawn attractive.  With planning, it is possible to mix pets and plants. Perhaps container gardening is the answer for your flowers.

            If a kennel and run is not in your vision, design a cobblestone or decorative pebble area in an interesting shape with some large rocks then train your dog to use only that area. Good drainage is a necessity.  Diluting urine will help eliminate yellow spots in the lawn.  Wherever you choose to let the dog urinate, hose that area thoroughly and routinely.  Raised beds are functional, easy to work in, and will control urination on the gardens. 

            Select sturdy plants.  Coneflowers and Liatris are good possibilities.  One poke from a thorny plant will deter your pet.  Barberry Bushes have showy purple, gold or variegated foliage and outstanding fall color.  Viburnum flowers in spring and exhibits flashy fall color.  Flowering trees will provide above ground level color.  If you’re absolutely in love with a fragile looking delicate plant, put it in a hanging basket or an elevated planter.  If you plan to use evergreen shrubs, note that squirrels, chipmunks, and other small critters may move in around them creating potential for altercations and injury between the wildlife and your pet.

            Puppies are inquisitive, and plants like Hollyberry, English Ivy, and Yews are poisonous.  If you question a plant’s toxicity, inquire at your local extension office, Master Gardener Hort. Line (319-447-0647), or your veterinarian before purchasing it. 

            Whether you’re gardening for pets, wildlife or the environment, it’s a good idea to limit the use of chemicals.  A pesticide with a taste attractive to insects may also be attractive to your pet.  Read the label directions thoroughly: look for pet safe. 

            The safest mulch for your pet is leaves and cut grasses.  Mow, bag, and use generously.  Even if Rover investigates what’s under the mulch, he can’t hurt himself by ingesting a chemical.  Plus, you’re not feeding the landfill.

            Just as kids need discipline, pets can learn respect for plants and lawns, too.  Spend some time and effort learning the ropes together.  With effort, and a good pooper-scooper, it is possible for flora and fauna to coexist.

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Garden experimentation

   The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith: My daughter’s garden is going to amount to a hill of beans.  Her first family garden last year was so much fun that they planted another.  Michelle dug a hole for a tomato and as she picked up the  plant, two year old Charlie dumped a half package of green beans in the hole and then proceeded to cover the seeds with his yellow plastic rake, “Back and forth, Gramma, back and forth”.  No problem, we’ll just use a trellis and enjoy Charlie and his beanstalk.  Catie was a big help, too.  She labeled a stake for both ends of the rows so we’ll be sure to know what we planted.  FYI, the rows are all of ten feet long.  Watering the seeds daily until they germinate hasn’t been a problem as long as no one minds that Charlie can turn on the spigot and water himself, Catie, and the neighbor’s dog.  We’re waiting to mulch the plants until they sprout in an effort to keep Charlie off the rows. With limited garden space, they’re experimenting with a hanging container cherry tomato plant. The container will probably require watering daily, allowing the water to run through the container. 

   Charlie helped us plant Hosta in their back yard this week.  The family is renovating the yard so some landscaping is in order. Their home is nestled on a hill surrounded by mature trees.  We planted several Hostas between a retaining wall and a tree where they will enjoy speckled sunlight.  Hosta prefers a rich organic soil, but they will grow in about anything.  We have access to aged horse manure to augment the soil and topped that, of course, with hardwood mulch. 

   Michelle plans to alternate Day Lilies and Iris in a sunny spot in front of the house.  Both are perennials preferring full sun and fertile, well drained soil, but once established will tolerate drought.  The latter makes them a good choice for a busy working Mom with two equally busy youngsters.

   Annuals will supplement other spaces.  Petunias, Snapdragons and Salvia are sun lovers.  Impatiens are shade/part shade lovers.  All are easy keepers.

    Eventually there will be shrubs and other flowering perennials.  Michelle and her family are having such a good time experimenting with what works and what doesn’t with both their vegetable and flower gardens.  And that’s what gardening should be about:  family and fun!

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Ash trees, anthracnose and Emerald Ash Borer

Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, shares the following about anthracnose and Emerald Ash Borer:

    Anthracnose – big word, hard to wrap your tongue around.  Anthracnose is a common foliage disease of shade trees in Iowa, including the ash tree.  Multiple inquiries to the Master Garden Hort-Line this morning were from folks whose ash trees were dropping leaves, an unusual occurrence in the spring.  A good guess would indicate that most of those folks were concerned that their wonderful ash tree had become infested with the Emerald Ash Borer.   Be aware that experts are seeing if the Emerald Ash Borer has invaded Iowa by crossing the river into the Northeastern portion of the state.

    A bit about each of these diseases: 

    Ash trees can be infested with anthracnose that is caused by a fungus.  There are a number of closely related fungi, but each is host specific to the tree it infects.  Often symptoms appear serious, but generally the damage caused is minimal and doesn’t seriously affect mature shade trees.  Symptoms include tan to black blotches; immature leaves becoming distorted from abnormal leaf expansion; young leaves dying and falling soon after a heavy infection.  If a severe infection does occur early in the growing season, the trees may defoliate and then a new set of leaves may emerge.  Following are some suggestions to decrease the severity of anthracnose and minimize its impact on your tree’s health:

–          Clean up and destroy fallen leaves:  use your lawn mower bagger

–          Prune the tree to remove diseased branches and properly dispose of them.

–          Prune to open the canopy for better air circulation. Fungi relish damp conditions. Pruning is generally not recommended now, but better to prune than lose the tree.

     The Emerald Ash Borer prefers Green Ash and Black Ash Trees, but will tackle any ash when the previous two mentioned have all been killed.  The borers emerge from early spring to late summer, but evidence may not be visible for up to a year.  Signs of infestation are D-shaped holes in the bark of the trunk and branches and shoots growing from the base of the tree which is the most telltale sign.  The beetle will effectively girdle the tree.  

Following are some suggestions to help reduce infestation and impact of the Emerald Ash Borer:     

–          Avoid planting ash trees

–          Learn the signs and symptoms of the Emerald Ash Borer

–          If camping, purchase firewood at or near the campsite but thoroughly inspect firewood prior to purchase

–          Do not bring extra firewood home with you.

     Maintaining a healthy environment for your trees and plants is of utmost importance.  A routine inspection of your yard and garden is necessary.  Discuss abnormalities with your local extension service, Master Gardeners, or a reputable garden center.  Pictures or actual plant samples are wonderful aids in diagnosing problems. 

REMEMBER THE LINN COUNTY MASTER GARDENER PLANT SALE THIS SATURDAY, MAY 16TH FROM 8:00 TO NOON IN THE EXTENSION OFFICE PARKING LOT AT 3279 7TH AVE. IN MARION.

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Good news/bad news on annuals

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

 It’s a good news, bad news thing.  Annuals provide long-lasting color throughout the summer. Then they die. 

       Perennials, while often providing dramatic color and impression, also often hold blooms for only a short time.  So, mix annuals with perennials.  Tuck annuals in and around trees and shrubs for a surprise splash of color. Use annuals in a container combining colors and textures.  Try some annuals in your vegetable garden. 

           Plan, plan, plan.  Think about what you’re doing.  Starting small works.  Remember when it’s 110’ in the shade in August, you may not want to be tending to an entire back yard of flowers.  But, make an impact.  Down by the road I have a 1’ x 60’ group of plantings that I never have gotten right.  The perennials keep coming up, but there just isn’t any emotion.  Maybe expanding it with a serpentine arrangement will help.  Annuals will be the option until I decide how I want it to ultimately evolve.  

     Color counts.  Create mood and interest with color.  Cool colors like greens, blues and violets help a small area seem larger and hot spots cooler.  Warm colors, the oranges, reds, and yellows, will warm a location and steal the show.  Go ahead:  combine warm and cool contrasting colors.  Yellow and blue are stunning together; red and green eye catching.  Use your imagination.  If you have a very favorite color, create a monochromatic garden but keep interest by varying textures. 

            Choose the right plants.  Annuals that require deadheading and staking may not be your cup of tea.  Reading the label is critical to know proper care. 

           Annuals require one inch of water each week.  When you can see four leaves on each plant, add mulch.  Mulch impedes weed growth and helps retain moisture.  Compost is a wonderful amendment. 

            Visit your favorite garden center.  Ask lots of questions.  Visit your neighbors’ gardens.  Ask lots of questions.  Dig in the dirt and then enjoy what you’ve created.

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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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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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In search of grubs, and how to treat crabgrass and arborvitae

Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, wrote the following about three of the most frequently asked questions to the Linn County Master Gardener Horticulture Hotline. The HortLine is available to answer questions from 9 am.. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday  and  9 a.m. to noon on Fridays at (319)447-0647.

 

    One of the commonly asked questions in the spring concerns when to apply pre-emergent crabgrass killer.  Master Gardener Susan Long has this response:  Typically, the blooming of the forsythia or the redbud is a good indicator of when to apply pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide.  Pre-emergents must be applied before the crabgrass germinates. Ground temperatures must be a minimum of 50 degrees. If the material is applied too early, crabgrass seeds that germinate late in the season will not be controlled.  If applied too late, some crabgrass will have already germinated.  In central Iowa, this is usually mid-April to May 1.  However, if the weather warms up early or stays cool longer, then adjustments must be made based on the conditions.  Having a thick, healthy lawn that is fertilized, watered and mowed certainly discourages the growth of crabgrass. 

    Susan also answered a question about arborvitae having brown leaves due to winter burn and whether it will recover and/or should be pruned:  Avoid pruning browned, burned areas from evergreen trees and shrubs in the early spring since these branches may still have viable buds that will produce new foliage when growth resumes.  The brown will eventually fall off.  If the buds did not survive, then prune dead branches back to living tissue.  The affected trees and shrubs should look much better by late June or July.  There is no need to fertilize affected evergreens.  However, if the weather this spring is dry, periodically water evergreens to encourage new growth and speed their recovery.

    Another caller wondered what causes a lawn to be torn up at night.  Lawns that have grubs attract raccoons, skunks, and crows which turn over large patches of turf in search of the grubs.  The best time to treat is early in the summer when insecticides have the best changes of working.  The entire lawn may not need to be treated, rather treat grub “hot spots” determined by observation or sampling.  Presently trichlorfor (Dylox or Bayer 24-Hour Grub Control) and Sevin are the fastest-acting, most effective homeowner insecticides for curative grub control.  These must be watered in completely after application.  In many cases it may be preferable to repair the damage through seeding or sodding without treating.  If the old, loose sod is still green it may reattach with adequate watering.

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