Posts tagged floods

“Looks like jalapenos”

   My son, Brennan, planted this Spanish Flag vine from seed he found at the Oakhill Jackson community garden party earlier this year. The community garden that was planted in southeast Cedar Rapids, like much else in that neighborhood, unfortunately succumbed to flooding. But happily, the seeds sown elsewhere thrived.  The foliage of this plant reminded me of sweet potatoes when it first was growing. Brennan said the flower “looks like jalapenos,” an apt description.

   From what I’ve found, Spanish flag, (botanical name: Mina lobata) is an annual vine that grows in full sun and well-drained soil. Brennan’s was planted under a tree, so he must have the right touchJ

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Will CR rebuild green?

   For a time Sunday, a panel discussion at the Environmental Film Festival was a panel of one. OPN architect Bruce Hamous made it to the showing at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, but City Council members Tom Podzimek and Brian Fagan were no-shows for the film, “Edens Lost and Found: Chicago,” about urban transformation, and their spot on the panel.

  Hamous gave his insight on LEED standards and sustainable building – or “smart” building as he’s come to call it, but he wasn’t in a position to answer some of the questions lobbed from an audience that had obviously been doing their homework. Many of their questions were about the city’s commitment to environmentally sustainable rebuilding after the floods. Podzimek did show up toward the end of the session, saying he had been working.  Fagan, contacted today, was apologetic.  He had the forum on his calendar, but for the wrong date.  

   Fagan said he really wanted to be at the discussion and noted that the city is absolutely committed to sustainable rebuilding. In fact, he said that the “Year of the River” concept should be broadened to the “Decade of the Watershed.” Let’s hope the rest of the council agrees.

   As evidence of the city’s commitment to rebuilding green, Fagan sent the following:

Here are links to the planning firms we are working with in our River Corridor Redevelopment Planning coordinated by Sasaki in conjunction with JLG.


Working with the city on facility assessment and redevelopment is CDM:


CDM’s city’s of the future podcasts can be found on their site or this direct link to the Knowledge Center:


Also working on site systems sustainability is Conservation Design Forum (Jim Padgett is a principal – and native Iowan – and I hope to have him come in and talk about focusing on the watershed in the near future):


On building systems sustainability is Arup:


Finally, and critically from a sustainability perspective is the transportation firm Parsons Brinckerhoff:


All are involved in plan review and as we move to the next phase and talk about neighborhood development and strengthening, I would like to see us continue to work with these firms, Fagan wrote.

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Brucemore photos

  Executive Director Jim Kern kicked off Brucemore’s Garden and Art Show by happily announcing that we’d get through the day without rain. He was so right. Not only a rainless day, but a gorgeous one. Head gardener Deb Engmark and her crew had the grounds looking beautiful, befitting the weather.  I’ll try to get as many photos as I can of the event here, and will add more later in the week.  Visitors to the show could buy plants and artwork, including jewelry, paintings, sculpture and more. New this year, the Solid Waste Agency gave away FREE compost – a gardeners delight:)

Pat Nosbish of Kansas City, right, and Mary Corkery, of Cedar Rapids, look at daylillies from K&K Gardens of Hawkeye, Iowa, at Saturday's show at Brucemore

Pat Nosbish of Kansas City, right, and Mary Corkery, of Cedar Rapids, look at daylillies from K&K Gardens of Hawkeye, Iowa, on Saturday

 By the time I was there, the Agency’s Stacie Johnson had filled 99 bags of compost to hand out and I’m sure many more followed. Thanks Stacie!! Shannon Ramsay of Trees Forever and her crew posted the value of a few of the towering oaks and maples on the Brucemore Estate. One large oak had a “price tag” of $81,580, meaning the tree could offer that value – by absorbing stormwater, reducing the need for electricity and filtering pollutants – over its lifetime. And a good-sized crowd chose to sit under that tree for shade. Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens flower shop demonstrated floral arrangements and made it look so simple. Their boss, Chad Rummel, uses bonsai clippers instead of a knife to cut the flowers. Anyone know where those can be found?

Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens
Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens

Brucemore was luckily spared during the historic flooding in June that devastated downtown Cedar Rapids and beyond. But it has been fully supportive of rebuilding efforts and demonstrated its partnership with the rest of the area’s cultural/art world with a panel discussion at the garden show on the importance of art.

Janelle McClain, past owner of CornerHouse Gallery, Joe Jennison of the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance and head cheerleader, art therapist Joan Thaler and Stephanie Kohn, curator of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, poignantly described the value of art, especially in light of the floods. By lifting spirits, acting as therapy in overcoming grief, conducting fundraisers and giving people a reason to stay in Eastern Iowa,  the arts and cultural events are needed now more than ever, they said. Jennison noted that 35 of the 140 organizations in the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance were directly affected by the floods and others, indirectly affected, such as losing Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City as a performance venue for some of the Alliance’s members. Very fitting that Brucemore offered this panel discussion in what has been a rough summer for many in Eastern Iowa.  
I also attended Lori Willett’s “Cooking with Herbs 101” session and “Compost Happens” by the Linn County Master Composters. Look for more on those, including one of Willett’s herb recipes, later on this blog.

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Sunshine of the plant world

   Sunflowers have been brightening neighborhoods once covered in floodwaters.

Linn County Master Gardeners Deb Walser and Mary Prendergast suspect the sunflowers could have been dislodged and moved from area gardens by the floodwaters, or floated away as seeds from bird feeders during the floods.

   Corn has also been sprouting in the median of I-380 that was once covered by floodwater.   That seed or the young plants, probably came from adjacent fields.


  If you have a theory on where the plants have come from, add your opinion in a message below.


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Farmers market moves back

   The Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department will reopen the Eighth Avenue City Farmers Market at the city parking lot on Eighth Avenue and Second Street SE on Saturdays only beginning Aug. 9, from 7:30 a.m. to noon. The market had been moved to Noelridge Park due to downtown flooding.

    The Noelridge Farmers Market on the corner of Collins Road and Council Street NE will continue Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.

    A farmers market will no longer be held on Saturdays at Noelridge this season.

    The Eighth Avenue City Farmers Market will be closed Aug. 16, Sept. 6 and Oct. 4 when the Downtown Farmers Market is open.

    Call Teresa White, (319) 286-5699, for more information.


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Lost strawberry season?

Just days before the Iowa floods, I talked to a local grower who was expecting a bumper crop this year. Since then, I haven’t been able to reach him, but it sounds like his was among the many areas flooded out in mid-June. I didn’t see much in the way of strawberries at our local markets, either.


If you were lucky enough to have homegrown strawberries this year, Richard Jauron, Horticulture Specialist at Iowa State University Extension, offers some tips, noting that now is the time to tend to June-bearing strawberry beds to ensure a good fruit crop next year:


A June-bearing strawberry planting can be productive for several years if the bed is given good care. One important task is to renovate June-bearing strawberries immediately after harvest. The renovation process involves leaf removal, creation of 8-inch-wide plant strips, and fertilization. After the initial renovation steps have been completed, irrigation and weed control are necessary throughout the remainder of the growing season.


Start the renovation of June-bearing strawberries by mowing off the leaves 1 inch above the crowns of the plants with a rotary mower within one week of the last harvest. (Do not mow the strawberry bed after this one week period, as later mowing destroys new leaf growth.) To aid in disease control, rake up the leaf debris and remove it from the area.


June-bearing strawberries grown in 2-foot-wide matted rows should be narrowed to 8-inch-wide strips with a rototiller or hoe. When selecting the part of the row to keep, try to save the younger plants and remove the older plants. If the strawberry planting has been allowed to become a solid mat several feet wide, renovate the bed by creating 8-inch-wide plant strips. Space the plant strips about 3 feet apart.


Fertilization is the next step in renovation. Apply approximately 5 pounds of 10-10-10 or a similar analysis fertilizer per 100 feet of row to encourage plant growth and development.


Water the strawberry plants during hot, dry weather. Strawberries require approximately 1 inch of water per week for adequate growth. Irrigate the planting during hot, dry summer weather to ensure optimum production next season. Irrigation during the summer months encourages runner formation and flower bud development. (The flower buds on June-bearing strawberries develop in late summer and early fall.)


Control weeds in the strawberry planting by cultivating and hand pulling.


Some June-bearing strawberry varieties are extremely vigorous, producing runners beyond the 2-foot-wide matted row. These runners should be placed back within the 2-foot row or removed to prevent the planting from becoming a solid mat of plants.


Well-maintained strawberry plantings that are renovated annually may remain productive for four or five years. Poorly managed beds may be productive for only two or three years.

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Stressed out trees

The following, from a brochure issued by Iowa State University Extension Service on “The Effects of Flooding on Trees” comes from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith, along with a message from Coordinator Bev Lillie, about becoming a master gardener:


Mature, well-established trees are more tolerant of flooding than over mature trees or seedlings of the same species.  If flooding is recurrent or uninterrupted and keeps soils saturated, serious damage to trees may occur. 

Flooding during the growing season typically is more harmful to trees than flooding during dormant periods.  Flood-stressed trees exhibit a wide range of symptoms including yellowing leaves, defoliation, reduced leaf size and shoot growth, crown dieback and sprouts along the stem or trunk.  Symptoms may progress into tree decline and death, reoccur for several years and then eventually disappear, or subside by as early as next year indicating rapid tree recovery. 

Flooding reduces the supply of oxygen to the soil and roots and usually results in growth inhibition and injury to flooded trees.  Deposits of silt or sand as shallow as three inches can be injurious, especially to newly planted trees.  Tree roots also must contend with high concentrations of toxic compounds that accumulate in waterlogged soils.  Strong currents and soil particles suspended in flood waters can erode soil from around the base of trees exposing tree roots.  Exposed roots are vulnerable to drying and mechanical injury and their occurrences may make trees more vulnerable to windthrow. Flood-stressed trees are prime candidates for attack by secondary organisms.  Several opportunistic disease-causing fungi and insects invade trees that are weakened or stressed.  Minimizing additional stress or injuries should be a priority on high value trees for one to three years after flooding to reduce the chance of attack by insects.

            “The best approach to managing flood-stressed trees is to enhance their vigor by following proper tree-maintenance practices and eliminating additional stresses.  Dead or severely cankered branches should be removed as soon as possible.  Aerating the soil, mulching and watering during extended dry periods are recommended tree-care practices that can help enhance vigor, but they are not rescue treatments for severely injured trees.  Trees developing substantial dieback and decline symptoms or those possessing defects that prone to windthrow and structural failure should be removed from the landscape immediately.                                                    

Questions regarding flood damaged or stressed trees, flowers and vegetables can be directed to the Linn County Master Gardeners Horticulture Hotline at the Linn County Extension Office at 319-447-0647.


Contact the Linn County Extension Office at (319) 377-9839 or e-mail Bev at for more information about becoming a Linn County Master Gardener.  Information as well as applications may be picked up at the office, mailed to you or accessed by going to:, then click on Yard and Garden. The deadline for returning completed applications is July 25, 2008.

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Downtown market update

   I’ve heard some people have been upset that the Downtown Farmers Market was canceled instead of relocated after the June floods in downtown Cedar Rapids.


   Nearly 150 vendors had planned to sell fresh produce, baked goods and more at the market on June 21 and this Saturday, July 5.


   Jill Wilkins, events director for the Downtown District, explains: Some of the market materials, including tents for the sponsors, were in the Downtown District headquarters, and were damaged in the floods. The group needed time to recover and find an alternative site, which it currently is seeking. For health reasons due to the extensive flooding, it’s unlikely that the downtown market will remain downtown, at least for the next couple of months, Wilkins said.


   It appears the market will resume, in a temporary location, on Aug. 2. The first downtown market, on June 7, attracted about 10,000 customers.


   If you’re missing your fresh veggies, the list of other Eastern Iowa sites can be found on the Farmers Market tab on this blog.


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Free plants

For people traveling to the Decorah area in northeast Iowa, Seed Savers Exchange still has some free pepper and tomato plants available.


Abe, at their visitor center, said this morning that a few flats of the plants are left. Already, Seed Savers has given away hundreds of plants to people whose gardens were flooded. Keep in mind, if your garden was flooded by rainwater, it should be safe to continue gardening. If the floodwaters were contaminated with raw sewage, etc., discard any produce that was growing, including root crops like turnips. You’ll need to wait at least 90 days to replant (pretty much the rest of the growing season here) and may want to have your soil tested before you proceed.


This is the notice Seed Savers Exchange sent after the flooding in Iowa earlier this month:


SSE thanks everyone for their concern about flood damage at Heritage Farm and we hope not too much damage occurred in your gardens, farms, and homes.


The gardens at Seed Savers Heritage Farm escaped the floods with minor damage, but the landscape down the valley was damaged along with many trails, bridges and fences.


SSE has many tomato and pepper transplants left from the spring sale.  Many are very tall but still healthy and in need of a garden.  If anyone is still interested in replanting, the plants are free.  Unfortunately they are to tall to be mailed, but they can be picked up at the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at Heritage Farm.


Again SSE hopes everyone is safe and recovering from the floods of 2008.


Please come visit and take advantage of our surplus of transplants at the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at 3074 North Winn Road, Decorah, Iowa.


Best wishes from the the staff of Seed Savers Exchange.


Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds.

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Well water testing

Another diversion from gardening, but the following, from University Hygienic Lab, is important flood information for anyone with a private well:

Should I be testing my water?  Many people who are on private well systems are asking that question because of the recent flooding.

Nancy Hall, supervisor of environmental microbiology for the University Hygienic Laboratory, explains that the focus for testing is on wells that have been directly impacted by flood waters.

“People whose drinking water comes from private wells should have their water tested if their wells were covered by flood water or if the well is located close to flood water, which are those located in the 100-year and 500-year flood plain.  We have sent the message for years that people should have their  well water tested once a year, and people should do this.  But our priority now is to first make sure that we test the water for those families impacted by the flood who may be without safe water.”

The University Hygienic Laboratory (UHL) distributed hundreds of water testing kits to all county health departments affected by the flooding for this testing. These kits include supplies and instructions for collection and mailing of samples to the Lab on the Oakdale Campus, just north of Iowa City. Contact your county health department to obtain a kit.

The UHL provides consultation on disease prevention, water and food safety, and disinfection of environmental surfaces. These services are particularly helpful to homeowners and businesses as they resume operations following a flood. The toll-free number for the Hygienic Lab is 800-421-IOWA (4692).
Additional information about health concerns related to flooding is also available on the University of Iowa Flood Blog at and on the UHL home page at
The Iowa Department of Public Health provides detailed information about precautions to following recovery and clean-up following a flood on their website at
The University Hygienic Laboratory is part of the University of Iowa and is the state of Iowa’s environmental and public health laboratory. The UHL is the designated laboratory for the Iowa Neonatal Metabolic Screening Program, with facilities located on the Oakdale Campus in Iowa City and at the Iowa Lab Facilities in Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb. Among its many services, the laboratory functions as a consultative and analytical support facility for state agencies, health professionals and citizens. The UHL performs analyses on samples from virtually all matrices, including human clinical specimens, air, drinking water, wastewater, soil, sediment, industrial effluents, oil and fish. 

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