Posts tagged garden

Daylily Fever

 

Arachnidan Trap daylily (Photo/Zora Ronan)

Arachnidan Trap daylily (Photo/Zora Ronan)

  I’ve been receiving calls and emails about Zora Ronan’s upcoming open gardens this weekend and hearing from people who plan to make the trip to see her daylilies. For those of you who cannot attend, Zora sent some tips on dividing daylilies and other general advice:

    When or if to divide a daylily is a decision to be made based on the plant’s health.  If it is not looking unhealthy, is still blooming freely and has not outgrown its space, there is no reason to disturb it.  I only divide when one or more of those problems occurs.  Daylilies vary greatly in how fast they become crowded.  I have some that get divided every 4 years or so and some that have been fine for more than that time.  The biggest problem in waiting to divide until the plant is very overgrown is that it can become very large and hard to handle.  When I do divide, I replenish the soil with lots of compost and a bit of peat. 

   Daylilies are considered the perfect perennial because they survive and thrive with very little care.  However, good nutrition and adequate water is always going to improve daylily performance.  I do fertilize lightly every year with lawn fertilizer (no herbicide).  Daylilies can use a bit more nitrogen than other perennials to keep the foliage a nice healthy green.  I apply a 3-month time released fertilizer in the early spring–never any fertilizer after August 1.  If you have a good supply of compost, top-dressing with that every year is also beneficial and can probably take the place of artificial fertilizer. 

   Any dividing is best done in spring or after bloom has ended.  I would not divide any later than early to mid-September – daylilies need about 6 weeks to settle in before winter arrives.  We never know when that is going to happen.

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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: noelridge@gmail.com

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

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Iowa’s weed season

   I’ve driven right past my plot in the city gardens, not recognizing it from what it was a week, or even days before. The rain and heat make the perfect recipe for weed season in Iowa. They grow fast and my combat methods are slower than the tillers many people use.

    Richard Jauron, extension horticulturalist at Iowa State University wrote the following about weed control in Iowa:

   Weeds are those annoying plants that gardeners love to hate. In the garden, weeds compete with desirable plants for water, nutrients, sunlight and growing space. They also may harbor insects and diseases. Allowed to run rampant in the garden, weeds can drastically reduce yields of fruits and vegetables. in addition, they hinder the performance of annual and perennial flowers.

    The first step in weed control is identification of the weed or weeds. The type of weed helps determine the best method of control. The two main types of weeds are annuals and perennials. Annual weeds germinate from seeds, grow, flower, set seed and die within one year. Perennial weeds live for three or more years. Most perennial weeds die back to the ground in fall, but their crowns or roots produce new shoots in spring. Weeds also can be classified as broadleaf weeds or grasses.

    There are three general methods of weed control in the home garden: cultivation (hoeing and tilling) and hand pulling, mulches and herbicides.

Cultivation and hand pulling effectively control most annual weeds. Perennial weeds are often more difficult to control. Repeated cultivation is often necessary to destroy some perennial weeds. When cultivating the garden, avoid deep tillage. The roots of many vegetables, fruits and flowers grow near the soil surface.  Deep cultivation will cut off some of these roots. Also, deep cultivation will bring deeply buried weed seeds to the soil surface where they can germinate. Hoe or till around plants or between plant rows, and pull weeds close to plants.

    To effectively control weeds, cultivation and hand pulling must be done periodically through the growing season. Small weeds are much easier to control than large weeds. It’s also important to destroy the weeds before they have a chance to go to seed.

    Mulches control weeds by preventing the germination of annual and perennial weed seeds. Established weeds should be destroyed prior to the application of the mulch. In addition to weed control, mulches help conserve soil moisture, reduce soil erosion, prevent crusting of the soil surface, keep fruits and vegetables clean and may reduce disease problems.

    Grass clippings, shredded leaves and weed-free straw are excellent mulches for vegetable gardens and annual flower beds. Apply several inches of these materials in early June after the soil has warmed sufficiently. Plant growth may be slowed if these materials are applied when soil temperatures are still cool in early spring. Grass clippings, shredded leaves and similar materials break down relatively quickly and can be tilled into the soil in fall.

Wood chips and shredded bark are excellent mulches for perennial beds and areas around trees and shrubs. Apply two to four inches of material around landscape plantings. These materials decay slowly and should last a few years. However, it’s often necessary to apply additional material annually to retain the desired depth.

   Herbicides can be used to supplement cultivation, hand pulling and mulches. However, several limitations prevent the extensive use of herbicides in the garden. Only a small number of herbicides are available to home gardeners. Additionally, most home gardens contain a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers. No one herbicide can be safely used around all garden and landscape plants. If not applied properly, herbicides may cause unintended damage to fruits, vegetables and ornamentals. Herbicides are pesticides. When using any pesticide, carefully read and follow label directions.

Weeds are a persistent problem for home gardeners. However, weeds can be effectively controlled by cultivation, hand pulling, mulches and (on occasion) herbicides. Persistence is the key. Gardeners need to be as persistent with their weed control efforts as weeds are in coming back again, and again and again.

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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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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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Warning of the Three Frozen Kings

    When it was sunny and 80 degrees for a brief day or two in April,  I heard from several people asking if they should go ahead and plant their gardens. In Iowa, that’s fine for many vegetables, such as cabbage, peas and potatoes, but I warned them to hold off on the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other tender plants. Those plants might actually have been OK during the past couple weeks, as it’s stayed fairly warm, so gardeners who took a gamble will be ahead of the game. But old-school gardeners often heed the warning of the Three Kings.     

   This is something that I ran last year on this blog,  but as it’s often asked, here’s what I’ve been told about the legend of the Three Kings:

    The Three Kings, or Three Frozen Kings, is a Czech legend that serves as a warning to protect tender plants against a possible late frost.  In one of various forms, the story says the three kings or saints (Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14) were frozen when the temperature dropped while they were fishing at sea.

    On May 15, St. Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water to thaw out the three frozen kings.

    Since Czech immigrants found Iowa similar to their home country, those traditions carried over, and, whether or not the story makes sense,  it  seems sensible in many years to heed the Three Kings warning.

     Knowing the last average frost date for your area can also help. That date can vary, however, depending on the source. I’ve seen that in northeast Iowa, the last average frost date is May 10. East-central Iowa is April 30, and southeast Iowa is April 20. Those might seem early in some years, but look accurate for 2009.

    A U.S. Climatography report placed northern Iowa, around Decorah, with a last average frost date of May 26; central Iowa, around the Cedar Rapids area, at May 13 and southern Iowa, around Ottumwa, at May 3.

    Climatologists say the average can vary,  even within the same county. The last frost date might be a week later in low-lying areas or a week earlier on hilltops.  Because the frost date is only an average, your safest bet might be to heed the Three Kings warning and wait until May 15 to set out those tender plants.

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