Posts tagged habitat

April events (and two late March additions)

Area events for late March/April 2009. If you know of others in the coming weeks, add a comment below or send an email to cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com

 

Sat. March 28 – 1-3 p.m., Grant Wood Elementary School gym, 1930 Lakeside Dr., Iowa City – Building your home’s curb appeal: free landscaping seminar shows what it takes. Now that spring has arrived, you may have noticed that the nicer the weather gets, the worse your lawn starts to look. A little yard work may help spruce things up. If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve the appearance of your property and the curb appeal of your home, plan to attend a series of informational presentations. There is no charge to attend, and door prizes will be given away each hour. Presentations will include Curb Appeal, Easy-to-Care-For Landscaping, and information on the Iowa City Area Association of Realtors (ICAAR) Tool Shed, a garden tool-loaning program.  This event is sponsored by ICAAR Fair Housing Ambassadors, Iowa City Landscaping, Grant Wood Neighborhood Association and the City of Iowa City Neighborhood Services Division. It was funded in part by a City of Iowa City PIN grant (Program for Improving Neighborhoods) awarded to the Grant Wood Neighborhood Association.
For more information, contact Marcia Bollinger, Neighborhood Services Coordinator, at 356-5237 or e-mail Marcia-bollinger@iowa-city.org.

 

Tues., March 31 – 1-3 p.m., Converting a traditional planter to adapt to no-tilled fields isn’t as costly and difficult as some might think. The Iowa Learning Farm is hosting a planter clinic at Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, to demonstrate how to convert to a no-till planter. The clinic will include a presentation by local NRCS staff about the benefits of no-till and residue management, a demonstration by Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension Agricultural Engineer, on how to convert to a conventional planter to a no-till planter and a panel discussion with farmers who practice no-till. The clinic will be held at 6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW at the Tippie Beef Education Center arena, located on the southeast side of campus.  The planter is the key for no-tillage as it is likely the only machinery that moves the soil for seed placement. Seed depth and seed-to-soil contact are keys to emergence when planting through residue, says Hanna. The benefits of no-till are numerous. Equipment needs are minimal, labor costs are reduced, and there is less soil compaction when field passes are eliminated. Also organic matter builds in the soil over time. The farmer panel at this clinic may address some of these issues and how they overcame the barriers to no-till. The planter clinic is open to the public and there is no charge for the event. Registration begins at 12:30.  To RSVP or for more information about the clinic, contact Farm Conservation Liaison Erin Harpenau, 515/509-4768, email: erinharp@iastate.edu

Wed. April 1 –  6 p.m.,  Hiawatha Public Library, 150 W. Willman St., Starting Garden Transplants. Linn County Master Gardener Zora Ronan discusses growing vegetable and flower transplants successfully at home. Call (319) 393-1414.

Thurs., April 2 – 7 p.m., Tiny Gardens, Lots of Food. Are you interested in less expensive food that is also fresher and safer? Join Judy Kash at the Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids, for suggestions and encouragement for growing some of your own food—even with limited garden space, time, money, and experience. Explore ideas for combining production and beauty in your new edible landscape. For questions or to register, call 362-0664. Member fee for this program is $5, nonmembers are $8.

 

Fri., April 3- Sat., April 4, The largest All-Iowa horticulture exposition in 100 years will be held in Ottumwa, Iowa at the Bridge View Conference Center.  The exposition, billed as the state fair of horticulture, is sponsored and coordinated by the Iowa State Horticultural Society, and supported by over 20 in-state horticulture associations and Iowa State University Extension. Nearly 100 vendors are expected to exhibit plants, art, garden supplies, and lawn equipment.  A wine village featuring Iowa wineries is also planned.  Additionally, the Expo will feature three concurrent educational seminar tracks featuring experts from around the state and region.  Topics will cover the gamut of horticultural specialties including honey production, growing herbaceous perennials, panel sessions of wine and arboriculture experts, rain gardens, organic lawn care, sustainability in the home garden, children’s gardening, and much more.  The Expo will offer anyone, novice to professional to engage in Iowa’s diverse and vibrant horticulture industry. Elvin McDonald, renowned horticultural author and former editor-at-large for Better Homes & Gardens® will be the keynote speaker for the inaugural All-Iowa Horticulture Exposition on April 3.  His lecture “Why I Love to Garden” will begin at 10:00 AM. Twenty-four breakout sessions on Friday and Saturday will offer attendees a wide variety of topical information that showcases the diversity of Iowa horticulture and gardening.  Top speakers for these sessions include Susan Appleget Hurst, senior associate editor at Better Homes & Gardens® and Kathleen Ziemer, known throughout the area as “the butterfly lady”.  A number of ISU Extension personnel will also be present including Dr. Jeff Iles, Dr. Eldon Everhart, Dr. Cindy Haynes, Dr. Patrick O’Malley, Dr. Nick Christians, Dr. Kathleen Delate, Andy Larson, and Dennis Portz.  Please visit www.iowahort.org for more information about speakers, topics, and times.  Single and two-day registration packages are available.  Visit www.iowahort.org for registration forms or contact your local ISU Extension Office.  For more information call 641-683-6260.

Sun., April 5 – 2 p.m., Chickens in the Yard. Before the advent of industrial agriculture and long distance food shipping, many families kept small flocks of chickens in backyards… even in the city. Join Indian Creek Nature Center Director Rich Patterson to learn how you can do the same. “In this day and age when incomes are stretched thin and costs are high the Nature Center is hosting a series of programs that may help people become more self sufficient in food,” said Patterson. Discover how to convert table scraps and garden weeds into delicious eggs. Learn the ins and outs of keeping a few chickens for fun and food. The member fee for this program is $5, nonmember fee is $8. Please call 362-0664 with any questions or to register for the program.

Tues., April 7 – 6:30-8:30 p.m., Using Prairie Wildflowers and Native Grasses in Iowa Landscapes, Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Hall Room 234, 6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids. Neil Diboll will present the process of establishing prairie gardens and meadows using either plants or seeds, in both small and large venues.  He will highlight the top prairie wildflower and grasses for landscape use, along with specific step by step procedures for achieving success.  Diboll is a Prairie Ecologist for Prairie Nursery and produces native plants and seeds and designs native landscapes.  Since he began in 1982, he as devoted his efforts to championing the use of prairie plants, as well as native trees, shrubs and wetland plants, in contemporary American landscapes.  The session is free.  See web site: www.extension.iastate.edu/linn

Wed. April 8 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Garden Lighting. Why only enjoy the beauty during the day? You don’t have to be an electrician to be able to enhance your garden in the evening!  Linn County Master Gardener Deb Walser will discuss placement, types of lighting, and transformer options – let there be lite!

 

 

 

Wed. April 8- 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and Thurs. April 9, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Mount Vernon. Come get dirty down on the farm while learning from an expert how to construct a hoophouse. Practical Farmers of Iowa is hosting a two day hoophouse training build workshop at Laura Krouse’s Abbe Hills Farm near Mount Vernon. Adam Montri will lead the workshop. Hoophouses are structures that extend the season on fruit and vegetable farms by providing a protected environment. This training build will address hoophouse construction through an actual build of a 35 foot by 96 foot double poly hoophouse. Participants will learn techniques and tips to efficiently and effectively build a hoophouse, and will have opportunities to ask questions related to design and construction of the hoophouse as well as how to grow vegetables 12 months out of the year without supplemental light or heating. Wednesday will start with a light breakfast at 8:00 a.m., and the workshop will begin at 8:30. Participants will break at noon for lunch. Meals and refreshments will be provided, including dinner at 7:00 p.m. when work is done for the day. Thursday will commence at 8:00 a.m. with a light breakfast. The workshop begins at 8:30. Lunch will be served at noon, and the field day will end at 4:30. Adam Montri is the Outreach Coordinator for the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm. He works with farmers around the state on year-round vegetable production in hoophouses through on-farm economic research projects, one-on-one production consultations, and hoophouse training builds in rural and urban sites. He and his wife Dru and daughter Lydia own and operate Ten Hens Farm, a year-round farm, in Bath, MI.  Laura Krouse and her summer workers on Abbe Hills Farm produce vegetables for a 200-family CSA from June through October. She hopes the addition of the hoophouse will extend the garden season until Christmas. Laura also grows seed for an open pollinated variety of corn that has been selected on the 72-acre farm since 1903. A number of soil conservation and water quality practices have been established, including a restored upland wetland surrounded by native prairie. Primarily chemical-free practices are used to manage soil fertility and pests. Directions to Abbe Hills Farm: 825 Abbe Hills Road, Mount Vernon. From Highway 30 and Highway 1 south of Mt. Vernon: Go north at the 4-way stop of Highways 30 and 1. Go uptown to the stoplight. Turn left and go west to 8th Ave/ X20. You will be in front of Cornell College. Turn right and go north a little more than 1 mile out of town. Turn left and go west on Abbe Hills Road a little more than 1 mile. There are two red sheds on the north side of the road (and soon to be a big HOOPHOUSE). The address is 825 Abbe Hills Road. From Highway 1 north of Mt. Vernon: At the stoplight in downtown Mt. Vernon, turn right and go west to 8th Ave/ X20. You will be in front of Cornell College. Turn right and go north a little more than 1 mile out of town. Turn left and go west on Abbe Hills Road a little more than 1 mile. There are two red sheds on the north side of the road (and soon to be a big HOOPHOUSE). The address is 825 Abbe Hills Road. This field day is free, and everybody is welcome. RSVP is required by April 3 to Sally Worley, sally@practicalfarmers.org, (515)232-5661.

Fri., April 10 – 8:30 p.m., Spring Moon Walk, Indian Creek Nature Center. Enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights of a springtime evening on the trails. Walk to a high point of the Nature Center to view the moonlit landscape below. Adults: M: $3, NM: $5. Children: $1.

 

Sat., April 11 – 1:30 p.m., Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, 10260 Morris Hills Rd., Toddville, Iowa. Earth Month Wildflower Walk. Enjoy a leisurely woodland walk, celebrate spring and learn ways to have less impact on our planet. Cost: $2.50/adult, $1/child 16 and under or $5/family.

319.892.6485

Sat., April 11 and Sun., April 12 – 11 a.m., to 5 p.m., Easter Open House, Noelridge Greenhouse, Cedar Rapids. Features aquarium display by the Eastern Iowa Aquarium Association and Indian Creek Nature Center displays, along with a beekeeper. Free plant for first 500 children under age 12.

 

Tues., April 14 – 6:30-8:30 p.m., Don’t Fence Me In – Creating Garden Rooms Without Walls, Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Hall Room 234, 6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids. With colorful slides that Shirley Remes has taken of garden rooms in historic public gardens as well as delightful homeowner gardens, she will demonstrate how to create easy and affordable garden rooms in your own yard, large or small.  Dividing a landscape into garden rooms not only creates more enjoyable living space but solves practical space problems.  Photographer, journalist, lecturer and treasurer of the national Garden Writers Association, Remes is field editor for Better Homes and Gardens magazine and writes for Cottage Living, Organic Gardening and Victoria magazines. The session is free. See web site: www.extension.iastate.edu/linn

Tues., April 14 – 5:30-6:30 p.m., Culver’s Garden Center & Greenhouse, 1682 Dubuque Road (Highway 151 East), Marion. Veggies and Herbs in Pots and Containers. The free seminar will focus on growing vegetables, herbs and more in containers in order to enjoy the benefits of homegrown produce, even in limited space. Participants are asked to RSVP by calling (319) 377-4195.

 

 

Wed. April 15 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Revitalizing Your Garden. For the novice or experienced gardener, this class covers beginning or re-working the soil prep, planting, transplanting, and pruning for your beds. Linn County Master Gardener Lori Klopfenstein will also cover tools, design principals, and “go to” resources for all your garden needs.

Sat., April 18 – 9:30 a.m., Earth Day Tree Planting, Indian Creek Nature Center. Help diversify the woods as part of a wetland restoration. Bring a shovel, wear old clothes, and be prepared to get dirty. Participate in a tree planting ceremony “on behalf of Sacred Mother Earth,” facilitated by Wha’la, a Cree man from Squamish Territory. The ceremony is a Chanupa or Pipe ceremony. He will offer songs and direction to us from his traditional way of life. Trees Forever Field Coordinator Matt Nachtrieb will demonstrate the best way to plant a tree. Free.

Sat., April 18 – 8:30 a.m., Herbert Hoover National Historic Site will kick off National Park Week with a spring restoration project in the 81-acre tallgrass prairie. Volunteers are needed to help remove weeds from a recent planting of native prairie grasses and flowers. Volunteers interested in helping at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site should contact Adam Prato at (319) 643-7855 by Friday, April 17. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable work clothes. Water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats are recommended. Meet at the Visitor Center at 8:30 a.m. for an orientation and to get signed up. Work in the prairie will be from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum are in West Branch, Iowa at exit 254 off I-80.

Sat., April 18, Habitat for Humanity Restore Go Green expo., 725 N. Center Point Rd., Hiawatha.

Sat., April 18 – Creative Gardening Hands ON Workshops, Linn County Extension, 3279 7th Avenue, Suite 140, Marion, Iowa. Register and pre-pay materials fee  by April 10th, call: 319-377-9839

9:00am–10:30am • Twig Art

Have fun using garden prunings to create a pot trellis. The project will include the pot, soil and plants.  The participant will supply a hand pruner, wire cutter, needle nose pliers (optional) and scissors. Shelby Foley, Linn County Master Gardener, leads this class. Materials fee: $10 (due at time of registration) Class is limited to 20 participants.

11:00am–12:30pm • Build a Toad House

Parents, delight your child with this fun filled morning. Accompany your child as they enjoy the hands-on experience of making a mosaic toad house with Linn County Master Gardener, Karla McGrail. Materials fee: $10 (due at time of registration) Class is limited to 25 participants, age 7 and up.

1:00pm–3:00pm • Building A Gourd Birdhouse

Members of the Iowa Gourd Society will share their expertise and provide sturdy gourds for this fun project. All materials will be furnished to construct and decorate a unique, functional birdhouse. Won’t it be fun to watch the birds flock to their new home this spring? Materials fee: $30 (due at time of registration) Class is limited to 25 participants.

Sat., April 18 – 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Cedar Rapids Linn County Solid Waste Agency – 1954 County Home Rd.  Marion,  Earth Day Dumpster Dive

 Bring a load of waste to the agency and let the staff show you what can be recycled.  All loads chosen as recycled, will be recycled and disposed of free of charge.   No appointment necessary and Linn County Residents can bring their items from 10am to 2pm.

Sun., April 19 – 3-5 p.m.,

Iowa City Environmental Film Festival, Iowa City Public Library, Room A, 123 South Linn Street, Iowa City. Blue Gold:  World Water Wars Host:  FAIR!  Film Overview:  www.bluegold-worldwaterwars.com In today’s world, corporate giants force developing countries to allow privitization of their public water supply.  As water enters the global market place, corporate giants, private investors and corrupt governments vie for control of our fresh water supply.  A line is crossed when water becomes a commodity.  So the stage is set for world water wars, with a new geo-political map and power structure, and the possibility of military involvement.  The film shows numerous worldwide examples of people fighting for their basic right to water.  As Maude Barlow proclaims, “This is our revolution, this is our war.”  Will we survive? Based on the groundbreaking book, “Blue Gold:  The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water” by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke. Winner of the Vancouver International Film Festival Film Audience Award.

Wed. April 22 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Container Gardens. Container gardens do not have to be three geranium, asparagus fern and vinca vines. Come see what can be done with the newest annuals for your containers. Linn County Master Gardener Deb Walser’s own containers will be featured along with planting instructions. You will never have a plain container again.

Wed., April 22 – noon-4 p.m., Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, Earth Day Guided Hikes. AmeriCorps Naturalist Sarah Hinzman will lead a 45 minute spring-themed hike every hour on the hour beginning at noon. The last hike of the day is at 4:00 p.m. Meet her at the kiosk area on the lower end of the long sidewalk. Donations accepted.

Wed., April 22 – 4 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library: Kids and Worms: Composting. First-Fourth graders, get you hands dirty and learn how composting with worms can help our Earth. Space is limited to thirty kids 150 West Willman St., Hiawatha, Iowa  319.393.1414

Thurs., April 23 – 6 p.m., Welcome the changing of the seasons by joining the Brucemore gardeners for the Spring Landscape Hike. Brucemore, Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site, is located at 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The 90-minute hike will emphasize the renewal of spring through the sights and sounds found on the Brucemore estate. Experience a sea of budding bluebells, wildflowers sprouting, and the pond awakening after winter’s slumber. Brucemore gardeners take participants off the beaten path into the natural areas of the 26-acre estate. The tour will explore current issues of preservation and public use as well as the seasonal chores spring requires. Hear stories of the spring activities of the Brucemore families, like picking wildflowers for May Day baskets, and much more. Participants will have ample opportunity to ask questions and seek advice about their own gardens. Admission is $10.00 per person and $7.00 per Brucemore member. Space is limited, call (319) 362-7375 to reserve your spot or register online at www.brucemore.org

Sat., April 25 – 6-8 p.m., Mid American AeroSpace – 280 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Recycle in Style. Join area resale shops for a fashion show like no other.  All models will be sporting clothing from consignment, thrift and resale shops.  Get some great money saving ideas at this one of a kind event.  Ticket information available by calling 319-377-5290.

Tues., April 28 – 6 p.m., Natives: Planting, Caring, and Options Workshop. Spring has arrived! Learn easy and effective ways to “go green” in your gardens and landscapes this year by utilizing native Iowa plants. Planting indigenous flora is the most effective way to create sustainable and healthy gardens and landscapes. Join Master Gardener Becki Lynch for a native Iowa plants and prairie history workshop,  in the Brucemore Visitor Center. Brucemore’s own gardens and grounds were originally designed in the 1900s by O.C. Simonds, a founder of the Prairie School landscape movement, who advocated a strong conservation ethic in landscape design. Simonds planted local forbs and grasses to develop the Brucemore grounds into “outdoor rooms.” Using indigenous flora exemplifies environmental stewardship and helps to curb natural resource depletion. Planting with natives is also a great way to preserve Iowa’s unique prairie history. Lynch shares how to identify and incorporate indigenous plants in your own gardens and landscapes. Join the many Iowa gardeners who are preserving our beautiful Iowa heritage. $15 per person and $10 per Brucemore member. Space is limited call (319) 362-7375 or register online now.

Wed. April 29 – 6 p.m., Hiawatha Public Library, Lawns Green With Envy. Linn County Master Gardener Jerry Schmidt will give you advice on how to turn your grass into a lawn.  Find out the best ways to rid your lawn of weeds, mushrooms, bare spots, and all those digging critters.

 

 

 

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Assessing the beds

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

 

Euoooooooo!  I sure don’t like little four legged critters running unexpectedly across my feet!   Now I ‘m not afraid of little four legged critters.   I just don’t like them not giving me any warning.

               A chipmunk apparently had plans to create a winter habitat in a pile of leaves under my peony bushes.  The little fellow and I had to come to an agreement that he and I are not sharing that space at the same time.   I’m raking the leaves out of the way to eliminate the unwanted habitat and potential damage to flowers and shrubs in the bed.  Removing diseased leaves and branches at the same time will help reduce diseases next season. 

My peonies are going to stay all together this year.   They seem to be doing fine.  I am going to move the Iris though.  They’re located in a rather out of the way bed and will be much too beautiful in the spring to not be enjoyed.  Iris can be dug and divided right now and do not need to be planted deeply in the soil but do need to be kept moist after transplanting. 

But then the decision must come, where do  I transplant them.  Now is a perfect time to pour a cup of coffee, wander through the gardens and assess the beds. Examine each bed from several angles.   Be critical. Keeping a seasonal pictorial journal using a digital camera is such a great idea.  Pictures don’t lie:  do you need more height, more color, more  diversity?  Several Master Gardeners routinely keep a garden log.  Now, you may not want to be as involved in your gardens as a Master Gardener, but even placing some markers next to your plants and keeping your purchasing receipts provides a record of what you bought when and from whom in case the plant(s) is performing fantastically or not so much and you want to add or eliminate that species. 

Trees and shrubs can be transplanted now, too.  If a “honey do” on your list involves moving a large tree or shrub, a word of advice is to telephone One Call and determine where your underground utility lines are located.  Safety first is always a great motto.
Did you know that weeds often set their seeds in the fall for the coming year?  Continue weeding until Jack Frost arrives and plan next spring to plant a ground cover where weeds now reside. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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Attracting pollinators

Most people would rather keep bees at bay, but Steve Hanlin, entomologist with the US Department of Agriculture research station in Ames, Iowa, understands their value as pollinators. To Steve, bees and other pollinators have a multi-billion dollar impact on what we eat and wear.

Steve spoke at Sunday’s Honey Fest at the Indian Creek Nature Center. His mention of Osmia bees was met with a round of applause by some of the beekeepers in the audience. That type of bee, also known as the Mason bee,  does not sting.

  The USDA mostly uses honey bees for their pollination of heirloom crops, which are raised by staff in Ames, but Steve called the bumblebee the “best wild pollinator there is.” The cost of bumblebees is more prohibitive, so they’re not used as often by his group.

For people with apple orchards or other plants in need of pollination, Steve said it’s best to not spray weed beds and to not use a rototiller. Both destroy habitats where bees like to live.

Old mouse nests are an ideal spot for bumblebees, but encouraging mice to live nearby raises its own questions. Basically, bumblebees live in undisturbed sandy soil.

Steve said osmia bees can be attracted by placing cardboard straws in an empty Pringles can where the bees can live. Plastic straws don’t work, as the bees would suffocate. The cardboard straws are what mail-order bees are shipped in, he said. Another “bee house” can be seen in the photo above.

 As an aside, Steve said moths also pollinate, but only night-blooming plants.

Also, some types of cactus are endangered because their pollinators, bats, are declining in number.

Honeybees don’t pollinate trumpet-style flowers, he said, and while bumblebees make little “honey pots” Steve doubts that people who buy bumblebee honey are getting the real thing. The honey, produced in tiny quantities, would have to be extracted by micro-pipette, he said.

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Centipedes, millipedes and more Japanese beetles

 

 

Master Gardener Intern, Sue Levasseur, answers two questions frequently asked of the Hortline:

 

            Q.  How can I get rid of those metallic-green bugs that are eating my plants?

The Japanese beetle has become a significant pest in Iowa during the past decade.  The head and thorax are shiny metallic-green, and the wing covers are coppery red. A row of five tufts of white hairs grow on each side of the abdomen.

            Japanese beetles are a double threat insect in the home garden.  In the larvae stage they are white C-shaped grubs that are approximately 1¼” long when fully mature.  They inhabit the soil from August until June where they feed on turf grass roots and organic matter.  Adult beetles emerge in June and eat the foliage and flowers of over 300 plants.  Foliage is consumed by eating the tissue between the veins, a type of feeding called skeletonizing.

            Control of adult beetles is difficult because they emerge every day for a period of several weeks.  Handpicking or screening of high-value plants may be of benefit in isolated situations with limited numbers of beetles.  Spot spraying infested foliage of high value plants with carbaryl (Sevin), permethrin (Eight) or cyfluthrin (Tempo) may reduce damage for several days but multiple applications are required to maintain control.  Spraying the adult stage is not an effective strategy for prevention of white grubs.  Use of floral lure and sex attractant traps is not recommended; research suggests that they are not effective in controlling moderate to heavy infestations and they may attract more beetles into a yard than would occur otherwise.  However, the traps may reduce damage and beetle populations where landscapes are isolated from other Japanese beetle breeding areas or when mass trapping (everyone in the neighborhood) is used.  

            Q.  What is the difference between centipedes and millipedes and how can I get rid of them in my house?

            House centipedes are approximately 1½” long with 15 pairs of long, threadlike legs extending from their body segments (one pair per segment). In contrast, millipedes are about 1¼” long and have 30 pairs of short legs extending from their body segments (two pair of legs per segment). 

            House centipedes are found both indoors and outdoors, but prefer living in damp portions of basements, bathrooms, and unexcavated areas under the house.  They feed on small insects, insect larvae and spiders.  Thus they are beneficial and considered harmless to people but most homeowners consider them a nuisance.

            To deter centipedes from your home dry up and clean the areas that serve as habitat and food source for centipedes as much as you can.  Residual insecticides can be applied to usual hiding places such as crawl spaces, dark corners in basements, baseboard cracks, openings in concrete slabs, under shelves and around stored boxes.

            Millipedes are usually found outdoors where they feed on decaying vegetable matter.  They are one of nature’s harmless “recyclers”.  Millipedes are accidental invaders in the house.  Capture and discard the offending invader.

Gardening Questions?  Call the Linn County Master Gardener Horticulture Line @ 319-447-0647.

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Letting milkweed grow

A monarch caterpillar makes its way along a milkweed plant in late July in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

A monarch caterpillar makes its way along a milkweed plant in late July in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

  

 

This monarch caterpillar was munching on common milkweed at my garden this weekend. As noted below, habitat destruction has reduced the amount of milkweed growing in the Midwest, which is the only food source for the graceful Monarch butterfly. That’s one of the reasons I don’t kill off all the milkweed in my gardens. Another reason: the scent of milkweed flowers, as another gardener once described it to me, is intoxicating. Unfortunately, my nemesis, the Japanese beetle, has managed to suck all the milkweed flowers to brown this year. More plants are springing up, and hopefully will bloom after the destructive beetle has gone underground. Though the caterpillars look a bit ominous, they won’t bother your tomatoes or other plants, so don’t poison or otherwise kill them off, as Monarchs already face a number of obstacles to survival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   For more information on milkweed, the following came from the Monarch Watch Web site at www.monarchwatch.org

    Monarch larvae appear to feed exclusively on milkweeds in the genus Asclepias and several other genera of viny milkweeds in North America. Milkweeds are perennial plants, which means an individual plant lives for more than one year, growing each spring from rootstock and seeds rather than seeds alone. In the Midwest, milkweeds were historically common and widespread on prairies, but habitat destruction has reduced their range and numbers.

    Milkweeds belong to the family Asclepiadaceae, derived from Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine and healing. Though most members of the genus Asclepias are tropical, there are approximately 110 species in North America known for their milky sap or latex contained in the leaves. Most species are toxic to vertebrate herbivores if ingested due to the cardenolide alkaloids contained in the leaves and stems.

    When Monarch larvae ingest milkweed, they also ingest the plants’ toxins, called cardiac glycosides. They sequester these compounds in their wings and exoskeletons, making the larvae and adults toxic to many potential predators. Vertebrate predators may avoid Monarchs because they learn that the larvae and adults taste bad and/or make them vomit. There is considerable variation in the amount of toxins in different species of plants. Some northern species of milkweed contain almost no toxins while others seem to contain so much of the toxins that they are lethal even to monarch caterpillars.

 

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Talking trees

   Wasn’t much of a tree. Neither showy nor stately. But when two storms in July and August of 2003 took down first one half, then the other, our backyard was forever changed, along with my opinion of the tree’s value.

   Birds lost their habitat and food source. Suddenly, the summer sun scorched its way into our home. Even the squirrels that used to chase each other up its branches seemed perplexed at what to do on the stump that remained.

   I hastily replaced the tree (the variety of which I was never sure) with another, without doing my homework. Not a good move. Suggestions made by the Marion-based Trees Forever in an article in the Thursday, May 22, edition of The Gazette might make better choices for Iowans looking to replace their trees this year.

   In the meantime, if you have any tree stories to share, add your comments here.

  

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Garlic Mustard Challenge

   Because of the late spring, the Great Garlic Mustard Challenge in Johnson County has been extended through May 11.

   Volunteers are still needed to help pull the invasive plant at Iowa City and Johnson County parks, said Marcia Klingaman, one of the organizers.

  The goal is to beat the record of 1,960 pounds – almost 1 ton – of garlic mustard pulled previously.

  Volunteers can sign up to help at the city of Iowa City’s Web site: www.icgov.org/default/?id=1818

   The site also lists the basics of garlic mustard: the plant was introduced to North America by European settlers who used it as a medicine and an edible herb. During the past two decades it has spread at an alarming rate across the eastern United States and, more recently, crossed the Mississippi into Iowa.

 

The site notes that garlic mustard can be found in most woodlands and woodland edges,  as well as un-mowed areas of shaded or

semi-shaded yards, parks, golf courses, and natural areas. If you live along a creek or along a ravine, there’s a very good chance that you will find garlic mustard.

 

Garlic mustard spreads rapidly and becomes so dense that it shades out all native species of woodland flowers, ferns, and tree seedlings. This in turn reduces habitat and food for woodland animals and leads to increased competition and pressure on native plants in those areas where they do exist. A single garlic mustard plant produces hundreds of seeds that can survive in the soil for more than 5 years. Within just a few years, garlic mustard completely dominates the woodland understory. Because most animals will not eat garlic mustard it has no natural controls.

 

The site also notes proper disposal methods – don’t place discarded garlic mustard in your compost or Yardy so seeds can’t further propagate.

 

 

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