Posts tagged gardeners

Time for city gardens

  I renewed my city garden lease yesterday and talked to a few other people who were doing the same. Cedar Rapids has leased garden plots – 20-by-50-feet of land each – at Ellis, Squaw Creek and Tuma parks. Cost is $20 annually. Renewals run through March 2, and after that, the plots can be leased to other people. Gardeners must go to the Ambroz Recreation Center, 2000 Mount Vernon Rd. SE, to reserve a garden. Ambroz is open 8-5, Monday through Friday.

Butterfly on milkweed at Cindy's city-leased garden in July 2008.

Butterfly on milkweed at Cindy's city-leased garden in July 2008.

 

  

   Last year wasn’t the best for gardening, with temperatures too cold to get the plants going in the spring, and then, of course, the rain. All of the gardeners at Ellis were completely washed out for the season due to the June flood (except for a couple of die-hards who returned after the water receded.) But soil tests conducted on the land have shown it’s not contaminated, according to the city, and gardeners are eager to try again.

 

   Chris Pliszka, who has leased a garden at Ellis for about five years, asked city workers about possible chemicals that were left behind by the floods.

Chris said he was comfortable going back after being told it wasn’t contaminated. Like other gardeners, he’s looking forward to growing fresh vegetables to eat from his garden. “The taste is amazing,” he said. Chris tries to get to his garden every day during the season, which brings up an important point about the leased gardens. The last two years, with gas prices high, I thought spending one solid day every week in my garden would be more practical than going a few times a week. The weeds proved too powerful and it became a constant battle between their overwhelming forces and my less-than-overwhelming hoe. Many people use tillers and some use chemical means to control their weeds. I’m going to try to be more aggressive with my mulching system and see if the weedy powers-that-be can be overcome this year.

 

 

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California Dreamin’ – tree style

The following is by James Romer, Extension Horticulturist at Iowa State University:

   This time of the year gives many gardeners an empty feeling. It is hard to keep warm and dry when temperatures dip below zero and it snows every other day. It is reminiscent of those classic song lyrics — “All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray … California dreamin’ ….” Anyway, this is a great time of the year to do some planning and pruning.

   The late dormant period (February to early April) is an excellent time to prune deciduous trees. The absence of foliage at this time of year gives the home gardener a clear view of the tree and allows him/her to select and remove appropriate branches.              

   Proper pruning improves the appearance, maintains the health and prolongs the life of trees. Improper pruning destroys their natural beauty, weakens them and may lead to their premature death.

   It is essential to make proper cuts when pruning trees. Do not make flush cuts. Flush cuts are cuts made as close as possible to the trunk or main branch. Flush cuts produce large wounds, destroy the tree’s natural mechanisms that promote healing and slow the “healing” process.

    When pruning trees, make the final cut just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge. The branch collar is the swollen area at the base of the branch. The branch bark ridge is the dark, rough bark ridge that separates the branch from the main branch or trunk. Pruning just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge retains the tree’s natural defense mechanisms and promotes the healing process. When a branch is pruned properly, a slightly raised area remains on the trunk or main branch. However, do not leave stubs.

   Do not apply wound dressings to pruning cuts. The application of wound dressings or paints doesn’t stop decay and may actually inhibit or delay the healing of wounds.

   There is one exception with not applying paint to oak trees. Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is lethal to many oaks. Oak wilt infections occur most commonly in spring and early summer and are spread from infected trees to healthy trees by sap-feeding beetles. To reduce the risk of the spread of oak wilt, don’t prune oaks from April 1 to July 1. If oak trees must be pruned between April 1 and July 1, for example, to correct storm damage, immediately apply a latex paint to all cut surfaces to avoid attracting sap-feeding beetles to the wounds.

   Use the three-cut procedure when cutting large branches to prevent extensive bark damage. Make the first cut about one to two feet from the main branch or trunk. Cut upward and go about halfway through the branch. Make the second cut a few inches beyond the first. Cut downward completely through the branch. Make the final cut just beyond the branch collar.

   Some trees, such as maple, birch and elm, bleed heavily when pruned in late winter or early spring. However, the heavy bleeding doesn’t harm the trees. (The trees won’t bleed to death.) Eventually the flow of sap will slow and stop. Heavy bleeding of susceptible trees can be avoided by pruning in late June or early July.

   The pruning of deciduous trees by the home gardener should be limited to small trees and the removal of smaller branches that can be reached from the ground in medium to large trees. Branches high up in large trees and those near utility lines should be left to professional arborists. Professional arborists should have the proper training and equipment to safely perform the job.

    If that’s not enough to do, another enjoyable winter activity is to leaf through garden catalogs. Many contain colorful plant photographs. Some carry specific merchandise, such as seeds, perennials, roses or fruits. Others carry a wide variety of products.

    Also, visit a bookstore or public library and browse through some of their gardening books. Excellent reference books for home gardeners include “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” by Michael Dirr; “Continuous Bloom” by Pam Duthie; “Herbaceous Perennial Plants” by Allan Armitage, and many others.    

    Remember also that your Iowa State University Extension county office has numerous publications on gardening in Iowa. Most of these publications also are available from the ISU Extension Online Store at www.extension.iastate.edu/store.

So get busy planning, pruning and dreaming about plants for this spring.

 

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Brucemore in winter

   I’m fortunate to live near the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids. I rarely miss Balloon Glow on Brucemore’s massive front lawn and other summer events, but winter has its own appeal.

   The following event coming up on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009, will highlight the winter landscape at Brucemore. Here is how the Brucemore staff describes their guided hike:

   The trees and grounds glisten under a blanket of un-tracked snow. Brucemore’s ever-changing landscape is beautiful even through the cold days of winter. Join the Brucemore gardeners on Saturday, January 24, at 10:30 a.m. for a guided hike through the estate’s 26 acres of natural outdoor winter beauty.

 

Brucemore’s winter hike follows an unpaved and often unseen route around the Brucemore estate. Current issues of preservation and public use are explored, along with stories from the past about the Brucemore families’ seasonal activities. Participants will have ample opportunity to ask questions and seek advice about their own gardens and landscapes.

 

Admission is $10 per person and free to Brucemore members. Space is limited, call (319) 362-7375 for reservations or register online at www.brucemore.org .

 

Brucemore is Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site and is located at 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Frightful weather?

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

           

It’s a debatable issue:  is the weather outside really frightful today?  Or, is it all in your perspective?  I was out and about this morning but arrived home in time to sit here at my computer plunking away for this week’s blog and watch the beautiful huge flakes of snow wafting to the ground. There’s just something mesmerizing about an Iowa snowfall.   Right now, right outside a kitchen window, a Cardinal is perched in a lilac bush sheltered in a blanket of white. What a sight!

            Speaking of birds, what will you do with your live tree after the Holidays?   How about, after removing the ornaments (especially the tinsel) propping the tree in your perennial garden?  It will add winter interest as well as shelter for birds that enjoy feeding on the seeds of coneflower, rudbeckia and liatris.  Or use it as mulch by pruning the branches and covering perennial and bulb gardens.  I’ll bet your neighbors would volunteer to let you take their trees, too. 

            Have you observed what wildlife visits your garden?  Their antics can be quite entertaining.  Note which plants helped bring them into the landscape. 

            Brush snow off shrubs and evergreens as the heavy wet stuff will cause breakage and damage. Prune only broken/damaged branches now.  

            Most importantly, investigate environmentally friendly methods of removing snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways.  Calcium Chloride is more expensive, but it is easier on your plants. Watch for new plant-friendly products entering the market. 

            And, if you haven’t found the perfect gift for a gardener friend, think about a journal, plant labels, hand pruners, flower scissors, a harvest basket (my second favorite choice), a gift certificate to a favorite garden center, or (my first choice!), a load of well seasoned manure, delivered. Yes! You read correctly!  It will be an inexpensive gift and certain to bring smiles to everyone’s faces. 

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November need-to-know

Linn County Master Gardener, Susan Long, prepared the following Q & A’s that are frequently asked of Hortline volunteers in November.

                Q:  Can I plant potted mums in my garden now for blooms next year?

                A:  Even though potted garden mums may be deemed “hardy”, they don’t over-winter well in Iowa.  The repeated freezing and thawing may heave the plants out of the ground causing damage or death.  The best protection is to not cut back any of the plant and mulch heavily with clean straw, pine needles, or evergreen branches after several hard freezes (mid to late November).  Leaves tend to mat down and don’t serve as adequate protection.  Spring is a better time to plant mums as they have the summer to establish themselves.

 

                Q:  Is it OK to prune oak trees now?

                A:  Winter (December through February) is the best time to prune oak trees in Iowa.  Pruning oak trees in winter greatly reduces the risk of an oak wilt infection.  Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is lethal to many Oaks.  It can be spread from infected trees to healthy trees by sap-feeding beetles.  Oak wilt infections occur most commonly in spring and early summer.  Pruning oak trees in winter greatly reduces the risk of an oak wilt infection as the beetles and fungal mats are not present at that time of the year.

 

                Q:  How do I get my Christmas cactus to bloom at Christmas?

                A:  Day length and temperature control the flowering of a Christmas cactus. Temperatures shouldn’t be above 70’ in the daytime with nighttime temperatures of 60-65’.   Provide your plants with bright day light, not artificial light, until mid-October.  Move the plant to an unused location after mid-October, giving your plant 14 to 16 hours of continuous darkness each day for at least 3 weeks.  Keep the soil conditions dry, watering every 7-10 days.  They don’t like to be moved, however, once buds set the plant can be moved to another location.  Your plant should start to bloom at Christmas.

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Last days of gardening

Normally, I don’t like to swear, but ARRGGHHH…. and #$@##!!!

 

   The last day for gardeners to work in their city-leased plots in Cedar Rapids is Sunday, Oct. 19, but that isn’t what got me riled.

   Parks workers will begin tilling garden plots at Tuma, Ellis and Squaw Creek parks on Monday, Oct. 20.  All produce, stakes, wire and plant ties must be removed by Sunday.

 

    It’s always sad to see the end of the gardening season, but it’s even more upsetting to have something taken by garden thieves.

    That’s what I discovered last night at my city-leased garden. Someone had taken every single one of the cabbage heads that I had planned to pick last night. The Grinch didn’t leave a single one! It was clear that it wasn’t a hungry critter by the clean knife slices on each of the plants; plus, at least the wildlife doesn’t hog everything, as this person did.

 

   I don’t mind sharing my veggies. In fact, I get the greatest sense of satisfaction in doing just that when I can donate to our local food pantries. But having someone take something without asking is low. I know it happens occasionally at some gardens and quite often at others.  It’s happened to us before, with sunflower heads and pumpkins, but cabbage??? And even though I doubt the thieves will be reading this, I have some suggestions for them.

 

1)      Ask first! There’s a good chance that many gardeners will gladly give you what you need.

2)      Don’t take everything. Chances are, I wouldn’t have missed a few heads of cabbage, or tomatoes or whatever else has been taken. But to steal everything is downright greedy.

3)      Change your ways! Click on the food pantries tab on this blog and find a place to donate those vegetables you took.

 

 

   A final thought: since some gardeners do abandon their plots before the final day of the season, there is likely good produce that goes to waste. Perhaps the Cedar Rapids Parks Department could allow “open harvesting” on the day after the gardeners have to leave.

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A note from Brucemore’s head gardener

The following is from Deb Engmark, head gardener at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids:

 

     October 1st turned out to be a beautiful evening for the Wrapping up the Garden workshop at Brucemore. An intimate group of home gardeners attended and all were eager to ask questions and share their knowledge about plants and getting the garden ready for winter. My only disappointment of the evening was running out of sunlight. However, the dwindling sun was the perfect interruption in our lovely walk through the Brucemore formal garden. Experiencing the late season colors of the flowers and foliage as the orange sky glowed behind the trees to the west was a beautiful site most do not get the opportunity to experience. Perhaps we will have another gorgeous day to experience the estate in all its autumn glory in the upcoming Fall Landscape Hike…

 

     At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, David Morton, Brucemore’s Assistant Gardener and I will lead guests on the annual Fall Landscape Hike. David developed the concept for the seasonal hikes as he and I were oohing and aahing over every color change, floating cloud and shadow cast that we came across during his first autumn employed at Brucemore.  The hikes allow us to share and enjoy the 26 acres we call our “office.”  Informal and casual, topics included on the hikes are seasonal chores and preservation issues, while questions and discussions are also encouraged.  Admission is $10 per person and $7 per Brucemore member. Registration required. Space is limited, call (319) 362-7375 or register online at http://www.brucemore.org for further information.

 

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