Posts tagged how

Digging up dirt

Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith shares the following about becoming a master gardener:    

       Do you like getting your hands dirty and your feet wet?  How about digging up dirt?  Would you wholeheartedly grovel in the ground with new friends?  Are you inquisitive about things flora? Have you ever considered becoming a Master Gardener?  From experience, I can say, it’s a great experience.  What better way to get in touch with nature than through an educational opportunity provided by Iowa State University Extension’s Master Gardener program and an opportunity to make new friends who willingly share their expertise.  The enrollment process is not daunting! If you can demonstrate that you know a little something about gardening; you are enthusiastic about acquiring new knowledge; and would eagerly commit to some volunteerism and community betterment, then this program is for you. Sure, some of the Linn County Master Gardeners can spew verbiage about hundreds of issues.  Some of us, though, still need to ask questions and do the research.  But gardeners of any type and especially Master Gardeners love to share.  In fact, our mission statement says, “the purpose of the Master Gardener program is to provide current, research-based home horticultural information and education to the citizens of Iowa through ISU Extension programs and projects.”

                What do Master Gardeners do in addition to enjoying their personal gardening passions?

Imagine helping create a children’s garden at Lowe Park in Marion.  Learn how fabulous gardens are created by assisting at the annual Garden Walk.  Contribute some time at the Winter Gardening Fair where there are outstanding keynote speakers and the opportunity to choose from dozens of classes.  Lead or scribe on the Horticulture Line to research answers to any number of telephone and walk in questions.  Have privy to updates provided directly to you by ISU plus receive an informative monthly newsletter created by Linn County Master Gardeners.

                Applications and further information are available at http://www.mastergardener.iastate.edu or call the Linn County Extension Office at 319-377-9839. Please note that the application and fee are due by Friday, July 17th.  Visit the website at www.extension.iastate.edu/linn .  Selecting “Yard and Garden” will bring a menu of articles and information about the Master Gardener program.   Go ahead, talk to any Master Gardener.  They’ll tell you to try it:  you’ll like it!

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Long-lasting flowers

    The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith: Early in the spring we took Mom lilacs.  The wonderful scent wafted all the way down the hall in her apartment building.   The next week apple blossoms popped out to mix with more lilacs.  A bouquet of iris followed a couple of weeks later.  Iris don’t exhibit a pungent aroma, but the double blossoms are stunning.  Last week we took peonies.  There’s no escaping that fragrance! Mom loves having admiring visitors just follow their noses to her living room.  

      Have you ever picked a bouquet of flowers only to have them wilt within hours?   Cut the stem at an angle with a sharp knife or garden scissors. Choose fresh blooms as they’ll last longest.  Try a preservative. There are some non-commercial preservatives you can use to maintain healthy and happy blossoms.  Flowers need sugar for survival and growth as well as disinfectants to inhibit fungi and bacteria growth.  One tablespoon of sugar with ¼ tsp. of bleach mixed in a vase full of water is a good home remedy.    ¼ tsp. of citric acid (available in drug stores) per one gallon of water is another option.  Keep the vase filled with fresh water. Avoid using chemically softened water or extremely hot or cold water.  Shun direct sunlight and direct heat, i.e.  keep the vase off the top of the refrigerator and T.V.  A challenge at my house is keeping vases away from the cats who view fresh greenery as a delicacy, to be gobbled up and then regurgitated.  An upside down plastic berry basket in your bowl or vase will aid in holding the flower arrangement in place if you don’t have a flower frog handy. 

         Two year old Charlie feels he’s Great Grandma’s designated flower delivery man.  Our quest there is keeping the vase upright so we don’t leave a trail of water all the way down the hall.  But, no matter how flowers get to their destinations, fresh cut, home grown bouquets are almost as good as a tomato plucked fresh from the vine or a box of chocolate covered cherries.

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All about lawns

   It’s spring and attention is turning to lawns. Two things today about lawn care. The first is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith and the second came to me from Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey sent the message to remind homeowners that spring is an ideal time to improve soil quality in our yards and that restoration of the soil can help retain water, prevent erosion and protect water quality.

 

This is from Claire Smith:

 

   Are you ready for some mowing?  Depending on the weather, your summer lawn mowing and maintenance can begin anytime in April.

Did you service the mower last fall?  If you didn’t have time then, you should take time now.  Beg or bribe your favorite spouse or relative to change the oil, kick the tires, replace the spark plug and air filter, and be certain the blades are sharp and not bent. 

If the ground temperature is 55-60’ you can commence any necessary re-seeding and repairs. Lawn repair kits that will contain seed and mulch can be purchased.  But remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is so do not succumb to terrific sounding no maintenance grasses and groundcover.   Apply the patch after you have removed the dead turf and loosened and amended the soil.

   Pizza or ice cream treats may create some enthusiasm to have the kids or grandkids help you rake and remove clumps of leaves and other debris left over from winter ice and snow. Initiate a game of pickup sticks (branches). Tamp down runways created by winter vole activity and fill in holes. 

  Hose off lawn areas along walks, drives and roadways that have been exposed to deicing compounds or your grass may not reappear.  Keep newly seeded and sodded areas moist to reduce stress on young and developing root systems.   Watering an established lawn is not necessary now.  Wait until May to fertilize.  Over watering and over fertilizing does more harm than good on your lawn:  strike a happy medium.  Excessive use of insecticides may reduce nature’s aerating machines, the earthworm. Monitor your lawn for any insect damage prior to spraying. 

   Proper mowing is a real key to a healthy lawn.  The suggested mowing height is 3-3 ½” Taller grass forms a deeper root system.  Stronger plants are more likely to fend off insects, disease and weeds.  Remove only 1/3 of the total height of the grass and leave the clippings on the lawn to decompose. Clippings add nitrogen, moisture and organic matter to the soil.  Varying the direction and pattern of mowing will reduce the wear and tear on the lawn.

   So, are you ready for some mowing?  Grab a bottle of lemonade and your hat and sunscreen. Hop on the mower and enjoy the spring weather and the start of a beautiful lawn.

 

From Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship:

 

    Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today encouraged homeowners to consider incorporating soil quality restoration efforts into their annual spring yard work.

   Often in urban areas, especially new developments, the topsoil has been removed and what is left is compacted.  Restoring soil quality helps yards and green spaces absorb and infiltrate rainfall, which reduces the homeowners need to water their yard while protecting water quality and preventing runoff.

   “Iowa is known for it’s great soil, and rightfully so, but we need to make sure we are taking care of that soil so that it is healthy,” Northey said.  “What made our soil so productive was the high organic matter content and porosity that absorbed rain and allowed roots to grow deep.  Soil quality restoration helps recreate those conditions that allow plants to thrive.”

   If you are establishing a new lawn, perform deep tillage (8-12 inches deep) before seeding or sodding to breaks up compacted soils.  Add compost to increase organic matter.  It is recommended that soils have 5 percent or more organic matter before sodding or seeding, which can be achieved by incorporating 1 to 3 inches of compost.

   If you have an existing lawn, consider aerating the soil and then apply a blanket of compost in the spring or fall.  An application of one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch of compost following aeration will help fill the holes with organic matter to amend the soil and allow existing turf to grow through the compost amendment. If your turf is patchy, add seed to the compost application to thicken up the vegetation.

   “Improving the soil quality in your yard will make your lawn healthier, require less water and reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticide applications,” Northey added.  “A better looking lawn and improved water quality in the state are possible when we better manage runoff through soil quality restoration and other measures that allow water to infiltrate.”

   There are a number of other lawn care tips to help care for your soil and promote infiltration of water and prevent runoff.

  • Begin mowing after the first of May and end near Labor Day.
  • Set the mower at three inches high. The higher the grass shoots the deeper the grass roots, making it better able to survive dry periods.
  • Use the mulch setting on your mower to leave the grass clippings on the yard. Don’t lower organic matter content by removing clippings.
  • Consider using native plants for accent in planting beds or in rain gardens to minimize the amount of turf grass.
  • Seed your lawn to a native turf mixture that has deep roots and thrives in Iowa’s weather conditions without extra care.

   More information about urban conservation, rain gardens and a soil quality brochure are available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov

 

 

               

               

 

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Welcome March

Following are some of the gardening/home/environmental events scheduled in Eastern Iowa during March 2009. If you know of other events, please add them in a comment below, or send an email to: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com

 

Events:

 

Wed., March 4, 12:15-12:45 p.m. – As part of the Cedar Rapids Public Library’s Brown Bag Briefing series, Paul Rost of Earl May Garden Center will present “Planning and Planting a Vegetable Garden” in Westdale Mall. Meet in the Programming Room of the Bridge Library on the lower level of Westdale near the JCPenney store.  For more information check the website at http://www.crlibrary.org or call Rebecca Bartlett at 398-5123.

 

Sat., March 7, Living from Holy Ground: Growing in Harmony, Eating in Faith will explore the relationship between faith, farming and food.  This one-day retreat will take place at Crooked Creek Christian Camp, Washington, Iowa. The main speaker, Gary Guthrie, is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farmer from Nevada, Iowa.  He produces over 17,000 pounds of fresh vegetables on just 2 acres of land.  Guthrie has earned the name The Carrot King because of the sweet-tasting carrots he raises.  A graduate of Iowa State University, Guthrie was drawn to this style of faming as a way to merge his love for sustainable agriculture, community development and faith. Guthrie spent time in Bolivia with Mennonite Central Committee developing sustainable agricultural systems in the context of a semi-humid tropical rainforest. Guthrie will explore two topics.  Fidelity and Fecundity: Exploring the Fruits of Faithfulness will examine the effects of our relationship with the land and the positive impact that a healthy relationship can reap.  Guthrie’s second session, Restoration: Preparing for the Return from Collapse, grows out of Collapse by Jared Diamond. Are we headed toward a collapse and, if so, are we prepared to recover?  How can farmers and eaters work to restore and sustain our land?  In addition to Guthrie’s keynote addresses, the following workshops for farmers, gardeners, and eaters will be offered:  Perspectives from a Farmer, with grass-feeding farmer Steve Rodgers; Faith and Farming with organic farmer Calvin Yoder; Precision Farming, with Terry Brase, Associate Professor of Ag Geospatial Technology ; Permaculture:  From Barren to Bountiful, with local gardener and artist Kay Fleming; Gardening with Flower, with Anna Geyer of Anna’s Cutting Garden; Where does your food come from?: Examining your Foodshed with Karla Stoltzfus, minister at First Mennonite Church, Iowa City, and CPS associate; Nutrition is more than Skin Deep with Certified Clinical Nutritionist Jessica Forge; Life on a CSA with  Susan Jutz of ZJ farms.   A lunch featuring local foods will be provided. Pre-registration is required. More information can be found by contacting Crooked Creek Christian Camp. Phone 319-653-3611 or email cccamp@iowatelecom.net  You can also visit the camp’s website – www.crookedcreekcamp.org  The camp is at 2830 Coppock Road, Washington, Iowa.

 

Sat., March 7 and Sun., March 8, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. – The 26th Annual Maple Syrup Festival at the Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids.  Enjoy a  pancake breakfast and learn how maple syrup is made. Call 362-0664 for ticket information.

                       

Tues., March 10, 6 p.m. – Brucemore Pruning for Produce workshop. Join Patrick O’Malley, an Iowa State Field Specialist, and the Brucemore gardeners for this hands-on workshop and discussion showing how to properly prune for produce. O’Malley will demonstrate proper techniques to maximize yield and manage pruning challenges.  Now is the time to make correct cuts for a beautiful and bountiful harvest of nuts, apples, pears, and other fruits throughout the upcoming growing season.  The workshop will commence in the Brucemore Visitor Center, 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids,  and move to the orchard for a demonstration. Participants will have ample opportunity to ask questions and seek advice concerning their own gardens and landscapes. Admission is $15 per person and $10 per Brucemore member. Space is limited. Call (319) 362-7375 for reservations or register online at www.brucemore.org  

 

Wed. March 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. – Daylily Delights is the title of Zora Ronan, Linn County Master Gardener’s, presentation on the art of selecting and growing daylilies at the Linn County Extension Office Conference Room, Suite 140, 3279 7th Ave., Marion.  This class is FREE and open to the public.  Registration is requested.  Call the Extension Office at 319-377-9839.

 

 

Thurs., March 12, 7 p.m. – Learn how to select the right perennials for your garden from Deb Walser, a master gardener, at a PowerPoint presentation at the Marion Public Library.  Even if you have been growing perennials for years, Walser will show some of the newest perennials available in local nurseries.  The program, co-sponsored by the Friends of the Marion Parks and the Friends of the Marion Library, is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

 

Sat., March 15, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sun., March 16, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. – WMT Lawn & Garden Show, Expo North & South Hawkeye Downs, 4400 6th Street SW, Cedar Rapids.

 

Fri., March 20, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., 2009 Wind Energy Conference in Fairfield, Iowa.  In 2008, Iowa surpassed California to become the nation’s second largest in wind power generating capacity. At a time when renewable energy, sustainability and alternative forms of energy are in the spotlight. Iowa State University Extension presents the Wind Energy Conference at the Fairfield Fine Arts and Convention Center. Farmers, landowners, businesses, schools and homeowners interested in learning more about wind power are invited. The day will include exhibits, breakout sessions and panelists discussing the wind resources available in Iowa, the opportunities and threats related to the industry, and perspectives from current turbine owners and operators. The afternoon sessions will be broken into two tracks, one focusing on wind farms and the other on wind turbines for individuals, businesses or schools.  Sponsors include Iowa State University Extension, Iowa Energy Center, Henry County Farm Bureau, Jefferson County Farm Bureau, and Pathfinders RC&D. To register for the 2009 Wind Energy Conference, contact the Jefferson County Extension office at (641) 472-4166. The cost is $20 per person and will be limited to the first 200 registrants.  For registration materials, visit www.extension.iastate.edu/jefferson or call (641) 472-4166. Exhibitor booth space is available for interested businesses or organizations.  For more details, contact the Jefferson County Extension office. 

 

Sat., March 28, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Patrick O’Malley, ISU Horticulture Field Specialist for Eastern Iowa, will conduct a workshop to lead a hands-on exercise on grafting apple trees at the Linn County Extension conference room.  O’Malley will explain different types of grafting techniques followed by a hands-on grafting demonstration for you to create two apple trees to take home.  Each student will get to choose two rootstocks (two of one kind or one of each). The rootstocks are: P-22 (dwarfing) for a tree that gets 6-8 feet tall. The tree will need support. The second will be EMLA-7 and is for a free standing tree that grows 12-15 feet tall. No support is needed. Extra root stocks will be available for $5 each.  Bud wood or scions from several different trees will be provided. Choices include: Red Delicious, Chieftain (which come from Iowa and Jonafree), Liberty, Williams Pride, Dayton and Red Free which are mostly Apple Scab and Cedar Rust resistant. You will work with a partner. Bring a sharp pocket knife or grafting knife if you have one. Do not use a serrated knife. Some knives will be provided. Cost of the workshop is $35 for non-Master Gardeners. Minimum class size is 10; maximum size is 30. Register by calling 377-9839 and send your payment to Linn Co. Extension Service, 3279 7th Ave., Marion, IA 52302 no later than March 25.

 

Tues. March 31, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Creative Gardening Series – Presented by the Linn County Master Gardeners –  Plant It and It Will Grow!  Basic Vegetable Gardening, Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Hall Room 234, 6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids. Bud LeFevre will discuss basic vegetable gardening techniques for the novice and the pro.  Ideas range from those handed down thru family generations to modern day organic practices.  Emphasis is on tomato and pepper growing.  LeFevre is co-owner and founder of Distinctive Gardens, Inc., a unique nursery carrying a variety of unusual and sought after woody plants, perennials and annuals, located in Dixon, IL.  Bud has been vegetable gardening his whole life and working in the horticulture industry since he was 13.  The session is free.

 

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