Posts tagged horticulture

Answers to your questions and what about those tiny worms??

Cyndi Lee asked the following: I have found a large trail of what at first looked like sawdust, but upon closer examination are very tiny worm like things. They are falling from the large tree I have which overhangs our deck. Any idea what these are? They are very tiny and are falling in clumps. They are a pale yellow in color.

 If you know what the worms might be, please leave a reply below.

 Linn County Master Gardeners have answered some of the other questions you’ve been asking:

 Q: We have a small vine-like weed that is taking over the gardens and flower beds. they are small leafed the stems are strong and grow upon the plants and choke them off. I pull them constantly but they continue to grow back. Is there anything that I can spray them with without killing off the flowers and garden plants? I would appreciate your input.

ANSWER: Cut and paint cut end with undiluted Round Up.  Use a small foam brush.

 Q: I found a large worm on my mom’s apple trees and what to know if they are good worm or bad. where can I take then to find out? I can take them to Ames but where in Ames?????

ANSWER: Bring sample to Linn County Extension Office, 3279 7th Ave., Marion.  We’ll try to identify it here, or give info to ISU.

 Q: I am in need of help to get rid of the seedlings from my pear tree. I need to know when and how to manage them as I have a flowerbed under my tree. I did not put these in but inherited them from the previous owner. They are a nightmare to deal with. Thank you for your help.

ANSWER: They will need to be pulled out.

 Q: I have a beautiful Walnut tree but it has been sprouting branches near its bottom and just does not look right. Can I prune them now ? If so what angle? And should I put something on the exposed ends? Some of the branches are approx. an inch in diameter. I surely don’t want to harm my tree!

ANSWER: The tree is under stress for some reason.  Prune now.  Do not paint anything on wound.  It will heal itself.

 Linn County Master Gardeners also answer questions on Iowa State University extension’s horticulture hotline at (319) 447-0647.

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Home and Garden Show and much, much more

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

 

The 2009 Winter Gardening Fair – what an event!  The new Kirkwood Center for Continuing Education is a phenomenal building—one floor, great traffic patterns and lots of light.  A two-track program offered something of interest to everyone with the slightest interest in all things flora.  High energy keynote speaker Janet Macunovich used her photographer husband, Steve Nikkila’s talents to the max to delight all with “Continuous Color in the Landscape”.  

Bummed that you didn’t attend?  Let us share with you multiple other educational opportunities.  Linn County Master Gardeners will be presenting several FREE educational opportunities at the Hiawatha Public Library.  Classes include Pruning Trees and Shrubs, February 18th; Houseplants, February 25th; Starting Garden Transplants, April 1st; Garden Lighting, April 8th; Revitalizing Your Garden, April 15th; Container Gardens, April 22nd; and Lawns Green with Envy April 29.  All classes commence at 6:00 p.m. 

The WMT Garden and Home Show is March 14th & 15th at Hawkeye Downs.  Master Gardeners will be available throughout the show to answer questions and offer suggestions. 

Another highlight is the Creative Gardening Series.  The evening programs are FREE sponsored by the Master Gardeners.  Dates are March 31st, April 7th and 14th.    A hands-on program on April 18th, with different options available is offered, also.  The hands on classes will have a fee.   Additional information will be available on this blog soon.

  Several hundred plants will be for sale at our annual Plant Sale on May 16th at the Linn County Extension Office, 3279 7th Ave. in Marion.  These are plants from Master Gardeners’ personal gardens.

Master Gardeners will be available to offer information about growing conditions and locations.

Mark your calendar for the Master Gardener’s Garden Walk on June 13th.  This is a wonderful opportunity to visit five gardens, each unique in its own right. You’re encouraged to ask lots and lots of questions and glean ideas from each flower bed, pond, and landscape.

Linn County Master Gardeners provide a cooperative venture with the Linn County Fair from July 8th-13th.  On August 22nd, Master Gardeners will participate in the Garden and Art Show at Brucemore.  

Feel free to call the Horticulture Hort Line at 319-447-0647 for additional information on any of these opportunities.  And call the Horticulture Hort Line to hear research based answers to any plant questions you have.

 

 

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The gardening itch

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

 

     OH!  I had an itch I couldn’t scratch the other day.  And, it occurred two days in a row! The weather was so beautiful!  I wanted so badly to scratch in the snow and dirt to just take a tiny little peek into the flower beds.  I don’t really know what I expected to find.  But I was so curious.  I strolled around the yard. It was like the second day of my latest diet:  can I resist the urge?!   I did resist though not wanting to disrupt the protection the melting mulch provides.  But, then, lo and behold!  A seed catalog arrived in my mail box.  Now how do the seed companies know when to provide a positive reinforcement that spring is just around the corner!

     January is a perfect time of the year to plan gardens.  Measurements will help determine the number of plants needed.  Check the Iowa State University Extension Service web site for gardening information.    Share photos at your favorite garden center.  Ask lots and lots of questions.  Gardeners are nearly always willing to offer advice and knowledge.    One of the most difficult decisions for me in purchasing new plants is color combinations that will provide attractive contrasts.   I relate to a statement, “nature doesn’t create bad color combinations, we do” in an Iowa State Horticulture and Home Pest News publication entitled “Color for Winter Landscapes throughout the Year”.  The article promotes color and interest in conifers but I found it intriguing in the combinations of colors suggested. 

     An absolute must have for a source for color combinations is the 2009 Iowa State University Extension Service calendar available for $6.00 at the Linn County Office in Marion (or mailed to you for $8.00).  Each month features dramatic photos in a different color for each month with lists of annuals, perennials and woody plant selections in the color of the month. The final two pages share a wealth of design information.  And, the back cover provides numerous Horticulture publications and resource contacts.  It is one of the most informative calendars around. 

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Overwintering geraniums

The following is by Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist at Iowa State University Extension:

Geraniums are popular flowering plants, blooming from May through frost.  However, you don’t have to let the first hard frost destroy your geraniums.  Geraniums can be overwintered indoors by potting up individual plants, taking cuttings, or storing bare-root plants in a cool, dry place.  Regardless of the method, the plants should be removed from the garden prior to the first frost. 

Potted Plants

Carefully dig up each plant and place in a large pot.  Water each plant thoroughly, then place the geraniums in a bright, sunny window or under artificial lighting.  Geraniums prefer cool indoor temperatures.  Daytime temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees F and slightly cooler night temperatures are ideal.  During their stay indoors, water the plants thoroughly when the soil becomes dry.  The geraniums are likely to become tall and lanky by late winter.  In March, prune back the plants.  Cut the geraniums back by one-third to one-half.  The geraniums will begin to grow again within a few days and should develop into nice specimens by May. 

Cuttings

Using a sharp knife, take 3- to 4-inch stem cuttings from the terminal ends of the shoots.  Pinch off the lower leaves, then dip the base of each cutting in a rooting hormone.  Stick the cuttings into a rooting medium of vermiculite or a mixture of perlite and sphagnum peat moss.  Clay or plastic pots with drainage holes in the bottom are suitable rooting containers.  Insert the cuttings into the medium just far enough to be self-supporting.  After all the cuttings are inserted, water the rooting medium.  Allow the medium to drain for a few minutes, then place a clear plastic bag over the cuttings and container to prevent the cuttings from wilting. 

Finally, place the cuttings in bright light, but not direct sunlight.  The cuttings should root in six to eight weeks.  When the cuttings have good root systems, remove them from the rooting medium and plant each rooted cutting in its own pot.  Place the potted plants in a sunny window or under artificial lighting until spring. 

Bare Root Plants

Dig the geraniums and carefully shake all the soil from their roots.  Then place one or two plants in a large paper sack and store in a cool (45 to 55 degrees F), dry location.  An unheated bedroom or indoor porch might be a suitable location.  An alternate (somewhat messier) method is to hang the plants upside down in cool, dry location.  The foliage and the shoot tips will eventually die.  In March, prune or cut back each plant.  Remove all shriveled, dead material.  Prune back to firm, green, live stem tissue.  After pruning, pot up the plants and water thoroughly.  Place the potted geraniums in a sunny window or under artificial lighting.  Geraniums that are pruned and potted in March should develop into attractive plants that can be planted outdoors in May. 

The overwintered geraniums can be planted outdoors in May (after the danger of frost is past).  Before planting, harden or acclimate the geraniums outdoors for several days.  Initially, place the geraniums in a shady, protected location and then gradually expose the plants to longer periods of sunlight.  Plant the geraniums in the garden after the plants have been properly hardened. 

 

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Overseeding lawns

Richard Jauron, Horticulture Specialist at Iowa State University Extension, offers the following on overseeding lawns:

Healthy, well maintained lawns are attractive landscape additions.  Lawns in poor condition, however, are somewhat unsightly.  The poor condition of a lawn may be due to poor management, heat, drought, diseases, insects or other factors.  In severe cases, the existing lawn may have to be destroyed and a new one established on the site.  Lawns that contain over 50 percent desirable grasses can often be improved by overseeding.  

Overseeding is the sowing of grass seed into an existing lawn.  In Iowa, the best time to overseed a lawn is late summer (late August to mid-September).

Site Preparation

Good site preparation is necessary for successful overseeding.  If possible, identify and correct the problems causing the lawn to decline.  Overseeding may only be a temporary solution if these problems are not corrected. 

To reduce the competition from the established turfgrass, mow the lawn at a height of 1-1/2 to 2 inches.  Successful overseeding also requires good seed-to-soil contact.  Simply throwing or broadcasting seed over the lawn typically results in poor seed germination as much of the seed is resting on the thatch layer or soil surface.  Rakes, core aerators, vertical mowers, and slit seeders can be used to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. 

Overseeding Small Areas

Small areas can be prepared by gently raking the thin spots.  When raking, it’s necessary to break the soil surface without pulling out the existing turfgrass.  After raking, sow the seed by hand.  Then, work the seed into the soil by gently raking the areas a second time. 

Overseeding Large Areas

Large areas can be prepared by using a core aerator.  Core aerators are machines with hollow metal tubes or tines.  They remove plugs of soil when run over the lawn.  To prepare the site, go over the lawn three or four times with the core aerator.  When finished, there should be 20 to 40 holes per square foot.  Apply the seed with a drop seeder.  Afterward, drag the area with a piece of chain link fence or drag mat to break up the soil cores and mix the seed into the soil. 

It’s also possible to prepare the site with a vertical mower.  When run over the lawn, the knife-like blades of the vertical mower slice through the thatch and penetrate into the upper 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil.  One or two passes should be sufficient.  Afterwards, remove any dislodged debris from the lawn.  Sow grass seed over the lawn with a drop seeder.  Work the seed into the soil by again going over the site with the vertical mower. 

Large areas also can be overseeded with a slit seeder.  A slit seeder makes small grooves in the soil and deposits the seed directly into the slits. 

Core aerators, vertical mowers and slit seeders can be rented at many garden centers and rental agencies.  If you would rather not do the work yourself, many professional lawn care companies can overseed your lawn. 

Post Seeding Care

Keep the seedbed moist with frequent, light applications of water.  It’s usually necessary to water at least once or twice a day.  Continue to mow the lawn at a height of 1-1/2 to 2 inches.  Mow the lawn frequently to reduce the competition from the established turfgrass.  When the new seedlings reach a height of 1-1/2 to 2 inches, gradually increase the mowing height over the next several weeks.  The final mowing height should be 2-1/2 to 3 inches.  Approximately six weeks after germination, fertilize the lawn by applying 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.  

When properly overseeded, a thin, scruffy-looking lawn can be turned into a thick, lush lawn in just a few weeks. 

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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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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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