Posts tagged flower beds

Weeding Party!

Cheryl Hoech, volunteer coordinator for Friends of Noelridge Park Greenhouse and Botanical Center, sent the following:

We are having a party and you are invited.

What:Weeding in prep for the Open Garden on Wednesday

Who: 40 volunteer hours needed

When: Monday July 13, 8 to noon come and go as you please

Where:  At the demonstration flower beds at Noelridge

RSVP: Please let me know if you can come on Monday so I can have enough treats for all of you. Noelridge Friends can be reached at:

You can find more about Wednesday’s open gardens by clicking on the events category at the right.

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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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Demonstration gardens

Linn County Master Gardener Shelby Foley describes a worthwhile trip to make in Eastern Iowa:


A group of Linn County Master Gardeners has developed a demonstration garden at Lowe Park, 4500 N. 10th St., Marion that serves as an outdoor, hands-on learning laboratory.  The garden consists of eleven beds and a composting station.  Master Gardeners are in the garden on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to dusk and on Thursday mornings from 9:00 a.m. until noon all summer meeting with the public to talk gardening and answer your questions.

            From conifers to roses to vegetables, the beds offer something for everyone interested in gardening.  The herb garden features eight different types of basil, each with a unique color and taste.  Visitors are encouraged to sample them and taste a bit of Italian summer.  The birds and butterflies bed is planted with flowers and herbs to attract our winged friends.  Here a caterpillar munching on a leaf is a good thing and visitors may spot a chrysalis or two hanging on the plants.  Several beds of annuals are changed in design and color from year to year for added interest.  The other beds provide just as many interesting designs, textures and colors. 

            Meander through the gardens.  Enjoy the marvelous scents.  Hear the soft sound of the native grasses swaying in the summer breeze.    Relax by the water feature.   You will undoubtedly be intrigued by the possibility of a family gardening project. 


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Your gardening questions


Master Gardener Claire Smith answers three common gardening questions:


·         What’s the easiest way to keep weeds and grass from my flower bed?

Mulch!  It conserves moisture, adds nutrients, increases esthetic appeal and reduces the possibility of diseases by preventing water from splattering on leaves.  It’s affordable, easy to install, and readily available.  

Choices range from wood chips to sawdust, manure with sawdust, and straw to leaves to layers of newspapers to crushed rock.  Wood chips vary in composition and are purchased at local garden centers.   Sawdust should be spread thinly to prevent compacting.  Leaves are a good choice, especially if composted.  Manure or manure with sawdust might be found free from a local farmer.  While a great amendment, a word of caution, it may contain hay or straw with weed seeds.  This would be a do-it-yourself project, so plan to provide your own containers and shovel and be prepared for an odiferous ride home if you have an SUV.  Recycle your newspaper with 6-8 sheet deep layers. Crushed rock adds texture and color but removing it in the future may be difficult.

·         How can a person recondition or improve the soil in flower gardens?

Eliminate guesswork!  Perform a soil test now. It is difficult to improve the soil after you’ve commenced planting.  Call the Linn County Horticulture Hotline for information about obtaining a sample kit.  Add organic matter (compost, well-rotted manure or peat moss) to improve drainage in clay soil and water-holding capacity in sandy soil.  A rule of thumb is to add 2-4” into 6-12” of soil.  Watch for earthworms as one indication of healthy soil. They provide aeration and add fertilizer with their waste. 

·         How deep should you plant bulbs? 

Bulbs should generally be planted at a depth of two to three times the height of the bulb, i.e. a one inch bulb should be planted 2-3” deep.  Space bulbs 2-3 times their diameter apart.  Lightly tamp the soil to remove air pockets, then water thoroughly to settle the soil.   Always read planting labels 

Call the Linn County Horticulture Hotline at 319-447-0647 with your questions. 


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