Posts tagged compost

Garden Party and more in June

Following are some of the gardening and eco-events in Eastern Iowa in June 2009:

Fri., June 5., 8  p.m., An Evening with Fireflies, Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. 1 ½ mile walk on grass-surfaced trails. Members, $3; non-members, $5. Children, $1. See: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org

Sat., June 6, 4:30 p.m., Prairiewoods Garden Party at Mercy Medical Center’s Hallagan Education Center, 701 10th St. SE, Cedar Rapids. Features local wines and artisan cheeses from Kalona; dinner at 6 p.m., silent and live auctions and music. Cost: $35 each or $250 for table of eight. Call (319) 395-6700.

Mon., June 8 – Sat., June 27, RIVERRenaissance, flood anniversary events. See full schedule at: www.downtowncr.org

Tues.,  June 9 and Thurs.,  June 11, 6 p.m and Sat., June 13,  9:30 a.m., Brucemore in Bloom, 2160 Linden Drive SE. Wander among the unique flowers and plants as the Brucemore garden staff traces the development of the formal garden from conception to the current design. Learn about Mrs. Douglas’ vision of turning Brucemore into a country estate and prominent Prairie Style landscape architect O.C. Simonds’ involvement in the process. Admission: $10/adult and free to Brucemore members. Call (319) 362-7375 for reservations or register online: www.brucemore.org

Thurs., June 11, 9 a.m., Invasive Species Field Day, Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, 10260 Morris Hills Rd., Toddville. Learn about non-native invasive plants, typically transplants from distant places, that threaten native habitats in Iowa. Free program, lunch provided. Register by noon June 9 at www.LinnCountyParks.com by clicking on the “Events” area or call (319) 892-6450.

Sat., June 13, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Linn County Master Gardener garden walk. Explore five diverse Linn County Master Gardener gardens in Cedar Rapids and Marion. Gardens will include ornamental grasses, conifers, vegetables, perennials, containers, ponds and more. Master Gardeners will be at all of the gardens to answer your horticulture-related questions.  Admission: $5 per Adult; $10 per Family. Start at any of the five gardens. See: www.extension.iastate.edu/linn/news/Garden+Walk.htm

Sat. June 13, 10 a.m., Forever Green Garden Center, 125 Forevergreen Rd., Coralville, free pond and water feature seminar. Call (319) 626-6770 or e-mail:  lucyh@forevergreengrows.com

Sat., June 13, 1 p.m., Wetland dedication and walk, Indian Creek Nature Center. A half-mile walk where the Nature Center and Cargill have restored a forested wetland along the Cedar River. Free. See: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org

Sat., June 20, 1 p.m.,  Green and Simple: Greens from the Yard, Indian Creek Nature Center. Join director Rich Patterson to learn how to identify and prepare nettles, dandelions, lambsquarter and other plants for food.  Members, $5; non-members, $8; children, $1. See:  http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org

Sat., June 20, 6:30-8 p.m., Summer Solstice Celebration, Prairiewoods, 120 E. Boyson Road, Hiawatha. Show appreciation for your dad and the summer season. Join us for a special Father’s Day/Summer Solstice Celebration. The evening will include poetry, prayer, festivities and end the night with a bonfire and s’mores. Free-will offering. Call (319)395-6700 and see: www.prairiewoods.org

 Sat., June 20- Sat., June 27, Project AWARE, Volunteer River Cleanup on the Cedar River. See: www.iowaprojectaware.com

Sun., June 21, 7-10 p.m., “Nature Rocks – The Concert,” Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. A green benefit for the Indian Creek Nature Center and SPT Theatre Company. Featuring Mexican food; chair massages; lessons on recycling and a live music concert by SPT’s Doug Elliott, Gerard Estella, Janelle Lauer, Jane Pini and guest artist Dave Moore. Bring lawn chairs. Tickets are $25 for adults, children 16 and under are free. Call the Nature Center at (319) 362-0664 or pay at the gate. See: www.indiancreeknaturecenter.org

 Tues.,  June 23, 6 p.m., Summer Landscape Hike, Brucemore, 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids. Welcome in summer by joining the Brucemore gardeners on a 90-minute hike that will emphasize the spirit of summer through the sights and sounds of the Brucemore estate. Experience the vivid colors of the formal gardens in full bloom, the lush rose bushes, and the fruits of the orchard while listening to stories of the Brucemore families. Admission is $10.00 per person and $7 per Brucemore member. Registration required. Space is limited, call (319) 362-7375 or register online: www.brucemore.org

Thurs., June 25, 7 p.m., Backyard Composting, Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St. Learn about converting yard and kitchen waste into valuable soil for your yard and garden. Presented by Risa Dotson Eicke, Master Gardener Intern. Information on ECO Iowa City compost bin subsidy will also be available. ECO Iowa City is a grant-funded initiative to improve environmental sustainability in Iowa City. Call (319) 887-6004.

Sat., June 27, 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., ECO Iowa City Landfill and Compost Facility tour, 3900 Hebl Ave. SW. Learn about how compost is made on a large scale, the environmental benefits of composting as a waste reduction tool and how you can use compost to improve your yard or gardens. Parking is limited. Register by calling the Library Reference Desk at (319)356 -5200, option 5.

Sun., June 28, 2 p.m., Cedar Rapids screening of “Mad City Chickens,” a sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical look at the people who keep urban chickens in their backyards; 79-minute movie followed by discussion, Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE. Admission by donation. For more info: www.tarazod.com/filmsmadchicks.html

If you know of other events, send an email to: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com or add a comment below.

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Your questions: native lawn seed and “dead weight” compost

Homegrown readers are sending in their questions. Does anyone have answers for these two?

 Jody from Cedar Rapids sent in the first one:

 Hi Cindy – I love your site:) I live in C.R. and I have a question – where do I go to find native lawn grass mix?? I have a new very large area to seed! Thanks!

 Dikkie Schoggen asked the following:

 Rains daily for months has turned the compost pile into dead weight mud. We have composted for over thirty years and never had anything like this. How to rescue the mud and return it to useable compost?

 I thought the answer for Dikkie could be working brown material, such as dry leaves, into the compost pile. Any other suggestions? And does anyone know where Jody might find a native lawn grass mix in the Cedar Rapids area? And what might that be??

 Please answer in a comment below. If you have other gardening questions, you can ask those in a comment, as well.

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Using (free!) compost to restore flooded yards

 

Screening equipment and compost piles at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency's site in southwest Cedar Rapids (Cindy Hadish photo)

Screening equipment and compost piles at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency's site in southwest Cedar Rapids (Cindy Hadish photo)

   Stacie Johnson, compost expert extraordinaire, sent me a note about getting flooded yards back in shape. Stacie, education coordinator for the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency, said owners of flood-damaged homes have been calling the agency about using compost as fill as they begin work on their yards this spring.  Last June’s floods wiped out the vegetation of thousands of homes in Eastern Iowa, especially in the Cedar Rapids area. One caller wanted to put compost 4 inches deep on her lawn, but Stacie advises against using compost as fill or topsoil. The grass might sprout, but would have long-term problems growing. Also, it would make a very soft spot in the yard, as compost is mostly organic matter with little mineral content. 

      The Agency is giving away free compost for Linn County residents and Stacie wants it to be used so it’s most beneficial to these homeowners.

Here is what she says:

    Compost is a good source of soil organic matter and shouldn’t be used as you would topsoil.  The three compost applications recommended by the Solid Waste Agency are mulching, amending and top-dressing.

Mulching: add one inch of compost as a mulch layer, no need to work in and can be topped off with wood mulch for a formal landscape.

 Amending: (most likely the best approach for flood homes)  work one to two inches into the top six inches of existing soil.

 Top Dressing – spread 1/4 to ½-inch layer of compost over existing lawn; best to aerate before top dressing and reseed after.

A rule of thumb for how much compost is needed to complete a project:  square footage x depth x .0031 = cubic yards needed for your soil amendment project.

The agency’s Web site: www.solidwasteagency.org has more information on hours and where you can pick up the compost. The compost is made from the leaves and other natural materials collected in Yardys. It is aged in piles and unwanted materials are removed with a heavy-duty screening machine. The result is rich, dark compost that is great for the soil.

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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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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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I Spy

Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, submitted the following about springtime preparations:

 

I spy, with my little eye, something green.  It’s tiny, a sliver, and there’s another and another right there in my yard.  Under the melting snow and ice, live grass is trying to peek through.  Is it my imagination to expect green grass in early March?  As soon as we endure the annual State Girls’ Basketball Tournament snowstorm, it will be spring in Iowa!  Then, we can dig into yard work. 

Initially we monitor the gardens’ environments.  Disease prevention can save future headaches.  Start by removing unwanted leaves, branches and other debris deposited by wind or critters. Prune or trim back the stems you left for winter interest.   Peruse your garden catalog for species and varieties that are disease resistant.  Know if your new plantings prefer shade or a sunny setting.   Plan plantings to provide adequate airflow.   Humidity and wetness under the canopy are often conducive to disease so spacing is important. Maintaining good plant vigor through proper watering and fertilizing will make your plants less prone to disease.  As you plan your garden, consider the water source.  How many trips will you need to make with a watering can or how far will you have to drag a hose?  Is a rain barrel feasible in or near the bed?  How about a soaker hose?  I have two beds near the road ditch.   I alternate running the soaker hoses from a spigot beside the house.  I also have a water barrel mounted in a wagon to use for beds where no running water is available.   Proper timing with fertilization will be important.  Follow label directions on packages.   Retain the water and feeding directions for further reference. 

Compost amends the soil.  Use it abundantly!  Mulch is a valuable asset.  It helps hold moisture, chokes out weeds and prevents too much water from splashing on the underside of plants during a heavy rain.  I stock up my season’s supply as soon as each becomes available.

 Bird houses are a wonderful addition to a garden.  A water feature will attract birds and butterflies.  Both come in all manner of shapes and size. 

Remember to check out the rakes and shovels and tune up the lawn mower.  As soon as the soil is above 50 degrees, it’s time to plant!  

 

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“Compostales” part deux

More “compostales” from entries to our composting contest:

 

Gloria Overton of Cedar Rapids

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

Lauren Overton of Cedar Rapids

 

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

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

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

 

 

Jackie Meier of Robins

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

Thanks to all who enteredJ 

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