Posts tagged dirt

Digging up dirt

Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith shares the following about becoming a master gardener:    

       Do you like getting your hands dirty and your feet wet?  How about digging up dirt?  Would you wholeheartedly grovel in the ground with new friends?  Are you inquisitive about things flora? Have you ever considered becoming a Master Gardener?  From experience, I can say, it’s a great experience.  What better way to get in touch with nature than through an educational opportunity provided by Iowa State University Extension’s Master Gardener program and an opportunity to make new friends who willingly share their expertise.  The enrollment process is not daunting! If you can demonstrate that you know a little something about gardening; you are enthusiastic about acquiring new knowledge; and would eagerly commit to some volunteerism and community betterment, then this program is for you. Sure, some of the Linn County Master Gardeners can spew verbiage about hundreds of issues.  Some of us, though, still need to ask questions and do the research.  But gardeners of any type and especially Master Gardeners love to share.  In fact, our mission statement says, “the purpose of the Master Gardener program is to provide current, research-based home horticultural information and education to the citizens of Iowa through ISU Extension programs and projects.”

                What do Master Gardeners do in addition to enjoying their personal gardening passions?

Imagine helping create a children’s garden at Lowe Park in Marion.  Learn how fabulous gardens are created by assisting at the annual Garden Walk.  Contribute some time at the Winter Gardening Fair where there are outstanding keynote speakers and the opportunity to choose from dozens of classes.  Lead or scribe on the Horticulture Line to research answers to any number of telephone and walk in questions.  Have privy to updates provided directly to you by ISU plus receive an informative monthly newsletter created by Linn County Master Gardeners.

                Applications and further information are available at http://www.mastergardener.iastate.edu or call the Linn County Extension Office at 319-377-9839. Please note that the application and fee are due by Friday, July 17th.  Visit the website at www.extension.iastate.edu/linn .  Selecting “Yard and Garden” will bring a menu of articles and information about the Master Gardener program.   Go ahead, talk to any Master Gardener.  They’ll tell you to try it:  you’ll like it!

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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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Wood vs. rock

Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, offers the following on mulch choices:

      While you’re contemplating donning your thinking cap to plan another flower garden, here’s an interesting comparison by Linn County Master Gardener, Deb Walser  recommending mulch over rock.

     Display beds are often mulched with mulch fabric then covered with rocks.  It is believed this is maintenance-free.  However, after a few years, leaves, dirt and other debris will land in the rocks causing a buildup of organic material.  Weed seeds may then blow in and start to grow in this fertile soil bed.   Often the solution to this problem is adding more rock—which only compounds the problem.  Also, this is not a suitable planting medium for annual flowers.  Rocks must be pushed back and holes cut into the fabric for plant placement.

      Both mulches help hold moisture in the soil during an average spring.  However, in the summer, with higher temperatures, rock pulls valuable moisture, needed by the plants, away from the soil.  Rock does not improve the soil in any way.

      I recommend the use of wood mulch for all beds and borders.  It holds back weeds, holds in moisture and as it biodegrades, helps improve poor soil (i.e. clay).  When soil, leaves and debris land in a wood mulch bed, it becomes part of the soil.  The only disadvantage to wood mulch may be that top dressing, (applying a thin topcoat) may be necessary each spring to maintain the aesthetic appeal, and to fill in any areas where it may have moved or decomposed.

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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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