Posts tagged Iowa State University

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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Emerald Ash Borer larva found in Iowa; UPDATE: ash tree protection

An infestation has not been confirmed, but officials are scouting northeast Iowa after an Emerald Ash Borer larva was found.  Iowa State University extension sent out tips today (June 5, 2009) on protecting your ash trees. See those tips at the end of the following info that was released Thursday (June 4, 2009) from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship:

ELKADER – Efforts to scout portions of northeast Iowa for the presence of emerald ash borer (EAB) have intensified following the submission of an EAB larva to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  The larva was reportedly from Clayton County, however no additional EAB larvae have been found and no signs of infestation have been spotted in the immediate area. As a result, an EAB infestation cannot yet be confirmed.

 The EAB larva was reportedly found in a small sentinel tree at the Osborne Welcome and Nature Center in Clayton County.  The tree was established by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources with funding from the U.S. Forest Service.

 Officials from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, DNR and Iowa State University Extension have been conducting extensive scouting of the tree and around the Osborne Center this week.

 The Osborne Center is located approximately five miles south of Elkader and approximately 60 miles southwest of where an EAB infestation was confirmed in Wisconsin in early April of this year.

 Additional experts are returning to the area in the upcoming weeks to place traps in the immediate and surrounding area, during the next one-two weeks, to determine if an EAB infestation is present in the area.

 Officials from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University Extension will also be hosting two public meetings on Tuesday, June 16th at the Osborne Center about this discover.  The officials will meet with timber industry representatives 1:00 p.m. and then host a public meeting for residents that evening at 6:30 p.m.

 EAB detection in Iowa was the result of collaborative team members looking for this pest since 2003. From visual surveys, to sentinel trees, to nursery stock inspection, to sawmill/wood processing site visits, and hundreds of educational venues [meetings, phone calls, written correspondence, media interviews, and 1-on-1 conversations], the Iowa EAB team has been working to spread the word about this invasive insect and to protect the state.

 The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is native to the Orient, and was introduced in the United States near Detroit, Mich. in the 1990s.  EAB kills all ash species by larval burrowing under the bark and eating the actively growing layers of the trees.

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer

 Iowa State University Extension will issue a separate news release providing EAB management recommendations.

 The metallic-green adult beetles are a half inch long, and are active from May to August.  Signs of EAB infestation include one-eighth inch, D-shaped exit holes in ash tree bark and serpentine tunnels packed with sawdust under the bark.  Tree symptoms of an infestation include crown thinning and dieback when first noticed, epicormic sprouting as insect damage progresses, and woodpecker feeding.

 “We started our scouting efforts in the park where the larva was reportedly found and are spreading outwards. We have a five-mile radius grid that is going to be thoroughly investigated for any additional signs of EAB,” said Robin Pruisner, State Entomologist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

 If an infestation is ultimately confirmed in Iowa, officials have a plan is in place to help stop the spread of EAB that would include a quarantine prohibiting the movement of hardwood firewood, ash nursery stock, ash timber or any other article that could spread EAB from infested areas.

 Clayton County is one of the top producers of forest products in Iowa.  The county has an estimated 66 million woodland trees and an estimated 6.6 million ash trees.

 EAB has been killing trees of various sizes in neighborhoods and woodlands throughout the Midwest. Ash is one of the most abundant native tree species in North America, and has been heavily planted as a landscape tree in yards and other urban areas. According to the Iowa DNR, Iowa has an estimated 58 million rural ash trees and approximately 30 million more ash trees in urban areas.

 The Iowa Emerald Ash Borer Team includes officials from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the USDA Forest Service.

 The movement of firewood throughout Iowa and to other states poses the greatest threat to quickly spread EAB.  Areas currently infested are under federal and state quarantines, but unknowing campers or others who transport firewood can spark an outbreak.  As a result, officials are asking Iowans to not move firewood and instead buy wood where they are staying and burn it completely.

 To learn more about EAB please visit www.IowaTreePests.com or for additional resources Iowans can visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/forestry/eab/index.html

Ash leaf damage/ Deb McCullough, Michigan State University

Ash leaf damage/ Deb McCullough, Michigan State University

From ISU Extension:

AMES, Iowa — The presence and new discovery of emerald ash borer (EAB) in states adjacent to Iowa has increased interest in this exotic, invasive insect and what Iowans can do to protect ash trees (Fraxinus species) on their property.

ISU Extension is collaborating with Iowa state regulatory agencies and local officials to prevent introduction of EAB into Iowa and limit its spread. For a full list of EAB detection and education activities, please visit our website at: www.extension.iastate.edu/pme/EmeraldAshBorer.html

Treatment options to protect ash trees from this destructive pest are available but careful and thoughtful analysis is needed to circumvent spread of false information and excessive and needless use of insecticides. Forest, horticulture, and insect specialists with Iowa State University Extension have developed a guide that outlines your management options against EAB.

The first step for many is confirming that you do have an ash tree. Only ash trees are susceptible to EAB attack, but all species and cultivars of ash trees are at risk.

Second, is the ash tree growing vigorously and in apparent good health? Trees must be healthy and growing for treatments to be effective. Ash trees with mechanical injuries, loose bark, thin canopies, and those growing on poor sites (limited rooting area, compacted soil or other stresses) are not worth treating. If your ash tree looks healthy and is important to your landscape, then preventive treatment options may be considered.

Insecticide control measures against EAB should not be used unless you live within 15 miles of the confirmed EAB infestation. Treatment outside this risk zone is not advised. Protecting ash trees with insecticides is a long-term commitment. Most treatments will need to be reapplied annually or twice per year for an indefinite number of years to protect the tree. With that in mind, most homeowners would be ahead to remove and replace susceptible trees.

Treatment timing is critical and must be matched to insect life cycle. After mid-June treatment is not recommended because it takes time for the systemic insecticide to be distributed within the tree (from 2 – 8 weeks depending on the application method).

Ash tree damage from Emerald Ash Borer/ Mark Shour, ISU Extension

Ash tree damage from Emerald Ash Borer/ Mark Shour, ISU Extension

The recommended time of application is early to mid April each year. If the tree is large (more than 16” diameter), a treatment in early fall is also suggested. So the next window for treatment for trees in Iowa would be mid to late September 2009.

A new Iowa State University Extension publication, PM 2084, Emerald Ash Borer Management Options,  will be available on June 12. The North Central Region Integrated Pest Management Center’s Insecticide Options for Protecting Ash Trees from EAB was issued in May 2009. Both can be found at www.extension.iastate.edu/pme/EmeraldAshBorer.html

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What do lightning bugs eat / An Evening with Fireflies

     An upcoming event at the Indian Creek Nature Center prompted me to call one of our awesome entomologists at Iowa State University. The Nature Center is having a walk at 8 p.m. Friday featuring one of my favorite insects –  the lightning bug!  

Lightning bug/ David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

Lightning bug/ David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

    What’s not to love about lightning bugs? They light up dark summer nights with their intermittent flashes and unlike other nighttime bugs, they don’t bite – in fact, they kind of tickle when you catch them. Best of all, in their younger stage, they eat slugs and other pests. 

Lightning bug larva/ Gerald J. Lenhard, Louisiana State Univ., Bugwood.org

Lightning bug larva/ Gerald J. Lenhard, Louisiana State Univ., Bugwood.org

   I wrote about lightning bugs last year after attending a workshop led by ISU entomologist Donald Lewis. Until then, I had no idea that  lightning bugs, as larvae, dined on not only slugs, but other insect larvae and snails – a real beneficial beetle! But I’ve had a nagging question since then: what do adult lightning bugs eat? After all, kids catch lightning bugs all the time, put them in a jar, punch holes in the lid and throw some grass inside. So do lightning bugs eat grass??

   Probably not, was the answer.  Donald Lewis said, if anything, they might occasionally feed on nectar. Some female species of lightning bugs use the signal of a different variety of lightning bug to attract males, and then, well, the male doesn’t become their mate, but their meal!  So, that’s what that species eats, but, he said, most adult lightning bugs appear to not eat much of anything.

   As an aside, he noted that punching holes in the lid of a jar might be more harmful to lightning bugs than leaving the lid intact and not-too-tight on the jar. Lightning bugs come out at night because they need a certain level of humidity and would basically dry up in the hot summer sun. Punching holes might allow too much air into the jar and also dry out the bugs. Safest bet might be a catch and release method. Get a good look, admire their flashing lights and let them fly free.

     Here’s some info about Friday’s (June 5, 2009) walk:   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. For more details, see: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org or call (319) 362-0664.

    REMINDER: Remember to stop by the Gazette/KCRG tent between 9-10 a.m. Saturday (June 6, 2009) at the Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids. Sign up for the drawing (rattles, corn-made dishes and other baby items courtesy of Dandelion Earth Friendly Goods) and let me know what you’d like to see on the Homegrown blog and in The Gazette. The tent will be in Greene Square Park, along 4th Avenue, close to the corner along the railroad tracks. See you there!

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Frost warning and Houby Days morel winners

Meteorologists might call it a frost advisory, but here’s my warning: if you’ve planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers or other plants that might be susceptible to frost, including annuals in planters, bring them inside (the ones in pots, that is) or use an old sheet or otherwise cover the others. Forecasts call for temps in Eastern Iowa to dip close to freezing both tonight (Sat., May 16) and tomorrow night (Sun., May 17.)

Now, on to more morels. Houby Days is taking place in Czech Village this weekend, a celebration of the mushroom (houby in Czech.) I heard mixed reviews about the morel crop this year, some saying they’re finding hundreds and others saying last summer’s flood messed up this season in Iowa.  Among the activities in Czech Village – on 16th Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids and some events across the river, including an egg and houby breakfast – was the annual houby contest, featuring morel mushrooms. Trophies were awarded for the largest, most unusual, smallest and best display. Here are the winners:

Largest morel (10 1/2 inches) from Mike McNeal, Cedar Rapids. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Largest morel (10 1/2 inches) from Mike McNeal, Cedar Rapids. (photos/Cindy Hadish)

Skylar Strawn, 11, of Cedar Rapids, with his award winning smallest mushroom, (in the plastic bag, attached to the larger one) which he estimated at 1/2-centimeter.

Skylar Strawn, 11, of Cedar Rapids, with his award winning smallest mushroom, (in the plastic bag, attached to the larger one) which he estimated at 1/2-centimeter.

Butch and Toni Velky of Swisher, with most unusual winner - 6 mushrooms growing together - which they dubbed "Bohemie Six-Pack"

Butch and Toni Velky of Swisher, with most unusual winner - 6 mushrooms growing together - which they dubbed "Bohemie Six-Pack"

Tom Slade, Solon, and Tyson Gosnell, Shellsburg, carry away their best display award winner, which included at least 250 morels. The two revealed where they found them: "In the woods."

Tom Slade, Solon, and Tyson Gosnell, Shellsburg, carry away their best display award winner, which included at least 250 morels. The two revealed where they found them: "In the woods."

There was no award for cutest display, but Debbie Eickstaedt and Theresa Shaver of Cedar Rapids undoubtedly would have won with this fawn.

There was no award for cutest display, but Debbie Eickstaedt and Theresa Shaver of Cedar Rapids undoubtedly would have won with this fawn.

Looks like the weather was right for these morels, which are actually carved out of pine wood by Ron Takes (in tan jacket) and Tom Brislawn of Troy Mills.

Looks like the weather was right for these morels, which are actually carved out of pine wood by Ron Takes (in tan jacket) and Tom Brislawn of Troy Mills.

Finally, if you want to know even more about morels, my brother, Gregg, passed along the following link to a paper by Lois Tiffany of Iowa State University and Donald Huffman of Central College:  http://amcbt.indstate.edu/volume_27/v27-4p3-11.pdf

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Getting back to Earth

To some of us who grew up gardening, the process comes naturally. How can you not know how deep to plant a radish seed or realize you have to wait until the danger of frost has passed to plant your tomatoes? Actually, I’ve heard from people who grew up gardening and despise it now. That includes a couple editors here at The Gazette, who prefer to stay as far away as possible from watering cans, trowels, or anything else that reminds them of the back-breaking labor of their youth. 

   But, as mentioned in  today’s (4/19/09) Gazette article: http://www.gazetteonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090419/NEWS/704199992/1002/NEWS

more and more people are moving toward gardening, as a way to help the Earth and save money on food budgets in these tough economic times. To that end, Iowa State University Extension has come up with a great beginner’s guide to home gardening, especially tailored for Iowa.

 

Even experienced gardeners will find helpful hints on beets, potatoes, squash and numerous other veggies, along with everyone’s favorite: weed control.

 

You can find the guide here: http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2009/4-8/introduction.html

 

 

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Stop the killing! Take care of those seedlings

You’ve planted your seeds indoors, waited for them to sprout and one day find a container of tiny, droopy plants.

    What went wrong?

    Damping-off could be responsible for the collapse and death of your seedlings.

    The gardening experts at Iowa State University Extension note that damping-off is caused by several different fungi. Environmental conditions usually associated with damping-off are poorly drained potting soil and overwatering.

    Damping-off can be prevented by using clean containers, a sterile, well-drained potting mix and by following good cultural practices.  Previously used containers should be washed in soapy water, then disinfected by dipping in a solution containing one part chlorine bleach and nine parts water. Flower and vegetable seeds need an evenly moist potting mix for good germination.  After germination, allow the potting soil to dry somewhat between waterings. 

 

   I’m getting a later than usual start on my seedlings, having just planted my first round today. The earliest I’ve planted seeds indoors was in late January – I had flowers blooming by the end of March. Some plants, of course, need more time to grow than others. The ISU gardening experts also offer this reminder on the starting times for seeds: The crop time (number of weeks from sowing to planting outdoors) for several popular flowers and vegetables are as follows: 10 to 12 weeks – geranium; eight to 10 weeks – petunia and impatiens; six to eight weeks – marigold, pepper, and eggplant; five to seven weeks – tomato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower; three to four weeks – cucumber, watermelon, muskmelon and squash.  Always check the seed packet if unsure of the correct sowing date. 

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Spring pruning tips

Richard Jauron, extension horticulturist at Iowa State University, offers the following on spring pruning of berries and other small fruits:

Small fruits that are commonly grown in home gardens include raspberries, grapes, gooseberries, currants and blueberries. For maximum production, small fruit crops need to be pruned in late winter/early spring (March/early April). Proper pruning procedures for raspberries, grapes, gooseberries, currants and blueberries are outlined below.

Raspberries
The pruning procedures for raspberries are based on the growth and fruiting characteristics of the plants.

Summer-Bearing Red Raspberries
Remove all weak, diseased and damaged canes at ground level in March or early April. Leave the most vigorous canes, those approximately 1/4 inch in diameter when measured 30 inches from the ground. After thinning, remaining canes should be spaced about 6 inches apart.

Also, prune out the tips of the canes that have died due to winter injury. Cut back to live tissue. If the canes sustained little winter dieback, remove the top 1/4 of the canes. Cane-tip removal or “heading-back” prevents the canes from becoming top heavy and bending over under the weight of the crop.

Red raspberries sucker profusely from their roots. Plants should be maintained in a one- to two-foot-wide hedgerow using a rototiller or spade. Remove or destroy those shoots that emerge outside the one- to two-foot-wide hedgerow.

Fall-Bearing Red Raspberries (Two Crop System)
Follow the same pruning procedures as described for the summer-bearing red raspberries. This pruning option provides both a summer and fall crop.

Fall-Bearing Red Raspberries (One Crop System)
Prune all canes back to ground level in March or early April. While the plants won’t produce a summer crop, the late summer/early fall crop should mature one to two weeks earlier. Also, total crop yield is typically larger using the one-crop system versus the two-crop system.

Maintain the plants in a one- to two-foot-wide hedgerow.

Black and Purple Raspberries
Remove the small, weak canes, leaving only four or five of the largest, most vigorous canes per clump or plant. Cut back the lateral (side) branches to 12 inches in length for black raspberries and 18 inches for purple raspberries.

Grapes
Grapevines produce fruit clusters on the previous season’s growth. Before pruning, a grapevine may have 200 to 300 buds capable of producing fruit. If the vine is not pruned, the number of grape clusters would be excessive and the grapevine would be unable to ripen the large crop or produce adequate vegetative growth.

To maximize crop yields, grapevines are trained to a specific system. The most common training system used by home gardeners is the four-cane Kniffin system. The four-cane Kniffin system is popular because of its simplicity. In the four-cane Kniffin system, the canes of the grapevine grow on two wires, one located three feet above the ground and the second six feet high.

If using the four-cane Kniffin system, select four canes on the upper wire, two going in each direction. Also, select four canes on the lower wire. To aid identification, some gardeners tie brightly colored ribbons or strips of cloth on those canes they wish to retain. All remaining one-year-old canes should be completely removed.

Going back to the upper wire, select two of the remaining four canes (one going in each direction). Prune these canes back to one or two buds. These short one or two bud canes are referred to as renewal spurs. The renewal spurs provide the shoots or canes that will produce next year’s crop. Prune the remaining two canes on the upper wire back to eight to 13 buds. The number of buds left on the fruiting canes is determined by plant vigor. If the grapevine is vigorous, leave 13 buds per cane. Leave only eight buds per cane if the grapevine possesses poor vigor.

Prune the four canes on the lower wire the same as those on the upper wire. When pruning is complete, no more than 60 buds should remain on the grapevine. When counting the number of buds on the grapevine, include both the buds on the fruiting canes and those on the renewal spurs.

Gooseberries and Currants
Gooseberries and currants produce the majority of their fruit on 2- and 3-year-old shoots. Shoots that are 4 years old and older produce very little fruit. After the first growing season, remove all but six to eight vigorous, healthy shoots. The following year, leave four or five 1-year-old shoots and three or four 2-year-old canes. After the third growing season, keep three or four shoots each of 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old growth. A properly pruned, established plant should consist of nine to 12 shoots. Pruning of mature plants consists of pruning out all 4-year-old shoots and thinning out some of the new growth.

Blueberries
Blueberry plants are shrubs like currants and gooseberries. Blueberry yields and fruit quality decline when blueberry shoots (stems) reach 5 years of age. In late winter/early spring, prune out any dead or diseased stems. Also, prune out stems that are 5 years old and older. Allow one to two new shoots to develop each year.

The pruning of small fruits really isn’t difficult. It requires a basic understanding of plant growth and pruning techniques, proper pruning equipment and (sometimes) a little bit of courage.

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