Posts tagged May

Warning of the Three Frozen Kings

    When it was sunny and 80 degrees for a brief day or two in April,  I heard from several people asking if they should go ahead and plant their gardens. In Iowa, that’s fine for many vegetables, such as cabbage, peas and potatoes, but I warned them to hold off on the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other tender plants. Those plants might actually have been OK during the past couple weeks, as it’s stayed fairly warm, so gardeners who took a gamble will be ahead of the game. But old-school gardeners often heed the warning of the Three Kings.     

   This is something that I ran last year on this blog,  but as it’s often asked, here’s what I’ve been told about the legend of the Three Kings:

    The Three Kings, or Three Frozen Kings, is a Czech legend that serves as a warning to protect tender plants against a possible late frost.  In one of various forms, the story says the three kings or saints (Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14) were frozen when the temperature dropped while they were fishing at sea.

    On May 15, St. Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water to thaw out the three frozen kings.

    Since Czech immigrants found Iowa similar to their home country, those traditions carried over, and, whether or not the story makes sense,  it  seems sensible in many years to heed the Three Kings warning.

     Knowing the last average frost date for your area can also help. That date can vary, however, depending on the source. I’ve seen that in northeast Iowa, the last average frost date is May 10. East-central Iowa is April 30, and southeast Iowa is April 20. Those might seem early in some years, but look accurate for 2009.

    A U.S. Climatography report placed northern Iowa, around Decorah, with a last average frost date of May 26; central Iowa, around the Cedar Rapids area, at May 13 and southern Iowa, around Ottumwa, at May 3.

    Climatologists say the average can vary,  even within the same county. The last frost date might be a week later in low-lying areas or a week earlier on hilltops.  Because the frost date is only an average, your safest bet might be to heed the Three Kings warning and wait until May 15 to set out those tender plants.

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Much to do in May

Following are gardening/environmental events scheduled in Eastern Iowa for May 2009. If you know of others, send an email to: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com

Friday, May 1, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Ton of Fun Earth Day celebration and re-opening of SWAP shop, Cedar Rapids/Linn County landfill, 1954 County Home Road, Marion, includes “dumpster dive” for customers dropping off items that shows what people would have thrown away without environmental intervention. See: http://www.solidwasteagency.org/

Friday, May 1, 7 p.m., Prairiewoods, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, Farm Sanctuary President and co-founder Gene Baur, discusses his work and national best-selling book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food. He will provide firsthand accounts of conditions on today’s farms, outline efforts to combat the current system, and put forward a vision for a healthier and more sustainable food system. For more information, visit www.genebaur.org or call Prairiewoods at (319) 395.6700.  Fee: $10. His book will be available at Prairiewoods prior to and on the day of the event. See: www.prairiewoods.org

Friday, May 1 to Sunday, May 3, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Solar Energy Worshop, Prairiewoods. Dennis Pottratz, Iowa’s first nationally certified photovoltaic installer, will lead hands-on workshop. Fee: $250, includes lunch each day. NOTE: This has been postponed. See: www.prairiewoods.org

Saturday, May 2, 9 a.m. to noon, Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids, Guild’s annual spring plant sale with wildflowers, prairie grasses, perennials, garden art and more. See: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org/

Sunday, May 3, 2 p.m., Celebrating Land and People, Indian Creek Nature Center dedication of 28-acre woodland at NW corner of 44th Street and Otis Rd SE. Call (319) 362-0664 to register for this free event.

Sunday, May 3, 2-4 p.m., Iowa City Environmental Film Festival, Iowa City Public Library, 123 South Linn St., Food Not Lawns will host a screening of The Future of Food The film offers an in-depth investigation into the genetically engineered foods that are quietly filling U.S. grocery store shelves. David Cavagnaro, photographer and board member of Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, will present additional insights into this trend toward the globalization of our food system. Backyard Abundance is hosting a community seed swap after the screening at 4 pm.  Bring seeds, if you have some to spare. Vegetable, herb and prairie seeds will all be available. See: http://www.backyardabundance.org/eventCurr.aspx?id=25

Monday, May 4, 3:30 p.m., Squaw Creek Park near Marion. Volunteers will help Trees Forever and the Linn County Conservation Board plant 100 oak trees as part of National County Government Week.  Another 100 trees will be potted up by volunteers for use in replanting flood-stricken areas of Cedar Rapids and Linn County. Supervisors Lu Barron and Brent Oleson will speak at the event, along with Shannon Ramsay, Founding President of Trees Forever, who will address the importance of trees, wetlands and prairies. The oak trees were donated to Trees Forever by IA-WIS-IL Nursery from Cascade.  Members of the Cedar Rapids Green Iowa AmeriCorps team helped dig the trees and will be at the event. For more information: call 1-800-369-1269, or see: www.TreesForever.org

 Tuesday, May 5, 7 p.m., Secrets of the Bearded Iris, Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center near Toddville. The Linn County Conservation Department is hosting a program led by  Wanda Lunn, who grows over 300 bearded iris in her Cedar Rapids garden. Her garden is one of only 40 registered Historic Iris Preservation Gardens in the United States. Wanda will share the varied types and colors of bearded iris as well as secrets to growing them well in Iowa.  Cost is $2.50/adult, $1/child or $5/family.  Call (319) 892-6450 or (319) 892-6485.

Saturday, May 9

–          8 a.m. – 1 p.m., Cedar Rapids Garden Club, Plant & Garden Sale, CornerHouse Gallery & Frame, 2753 First Ave. SE, annuals and perennials specially grown for you by Piersons Florist, Occasions Florist and Fairfax Nursery, as well as Garden Club members, designer patio-ready pots, herbs, heirloom tomatoes, new and gently used garden items, recipes, and exciting presentations. Proceeds will go to support community beautification projects.

–          9 a.m., Cedar Valley Iris & Daylily Society annual spring sale, Penn Meadows Park Gazebo, North Liberty. Named cultivars available, mostly $4-$10. Proceeds used to purchase plants for future sales. See: http://www.cvids.org/May2009Sale.html

–          9 a.m. to noon,  Brucemore Plant Sale,  2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, features a wide array of perennials and annual plants from Brucemore’s greenhouse. Back by popular demand, the Brucemore gardeners have prepared a variety of topiaries and hanging baskets. Plant sale prices range from $3 to $15, with all proceeds benefiting garden and landscape restoration projects at Brucemore.  The garden staff will be on hand to provide their expert advice on the selection, placement and care of plants.  Also, step inside the Brucemore Museum Store where a variety of garden books and merchandise will be available for purchase.  Call (319) 362-7375 or visit www.brucemore.org

–          9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Project GREEN garden fair, Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City. Sale of assortment of trees, shrubs, vines, and sunny and shade perennials, plus local experts will be available to answer garden questions including Mark Vitosh, DNR forester; Terry Robinson, Iowa City forester; Tim Thompson, DNR wildlife biologist; Jim Scheib, member of Eastern Iowa Bird Watch; Master Gardeners of Johnson County; a garlic mustard specialist; and Jennifer Jordan, the IC recycling coordinator, who will be available for information and questions relating to the IC Community Compost program. See: http://www.projectgreen.org/gardenfair.htm

Sunday, May 10, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Noelridge Park Greenhouse open house, Cedar Rapids, will include sale of hanging flower baskets for $20/$30 and $40 as a fundraiser, plus gardening book sale. Also information from Neighbor to Neighbor Sharing Plants, bee keepers, Eastern Iowa Bonsai Society, Butterfliz of Iowa, bookmark making and the Indian Creek Nature Center.

Monday, May 11, noon to 1 p.m., Prairiewoods, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha. Environmental luncheon on heirloom seeds. $10 for meal. See: www.prairiewoods.org

Thursday, May 14, 6-8 p.m., Prairiewoods, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha. Exploring Wild Edibles, $6/person or $10/family. Bring a small container to collect plants. See: www.prairiewoods.org

Friday, May 15, 4-7 p.m. and Saturday, May 16, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Annual Friends of Hickory Hill Park plant sale, backyard at 1167 E. Jefferson St., Iowa City. Plant donations needed, as well as help before and during sale. Sale will include perennials including coneflowers, phlox, daylilies, asters, daisies, hostas, Lily of the Valley, wild ginger, celadine poppy,  herbs and groundcovers as well as native plants.  Some house plants may be included. For more information or to volunteer,  call Joan at 319-338-5331.

Saturday, May 16, 8 a.m. to noon, Linn County Extension parking lot, 3279 Seventh Ave., Marion, Linn County Master Gardeners plant sale, featuring many kinds of perennials (both for sun and or shade), and many varieties of hosta and daylilies, also wildflowers, groundcovers, ornamental grasses, annuals and more. Plants come from Master Gardeners’ gardens, where they were carefully dug and potted, and tenderly taken care of until the sale. Master Gardeners will help you choose the plants just right for you and Plant Doctors will answer your gardening questions. New this year will be a container potting / design service. Bring your own container and the experts will create a beautiful combination of plants for sun or shade. We will have plants available for containers, or bring any of your own you wish to incorporate in the arrangement.  See: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/linn/events/

Saturday, May 16, 8 a.m. to noon, Johnson County 4-H Fairgrounds, south side of Iowa City,  Johnson County Master Gardeners host a flea market and plant sale, featuring an assortment of annuals, perennials, houseplants, bulbs, tubers and seedlings.  There will also be a great assortment of new and previously used lawn, yard and garden tools and equipment.  Donated items can be dropped off at the food booth on the fairgrounds Thursday, May 14, or Friday, May 15.   

Saturday, May 16, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, May 17, 1-5 p.m., First Annual Grant Wood Scenic Byway Art & Culture Tour.  Combines love of art with a scenic drive through Jackson and Jones counties. Get to know the regional art and artists of the Grant Wood Scenic Byway with art galleries, wineries and artists in special locations. See: http://www.iowadot.gov/iowasbyways/index.aspx or contact Linda Muller, (563)652-5104.

Saturday, May 16- Sunday, May 17, Urban permaculture for land, yards and gardens, Prairiewoods. Learn how to begin applying permaculture techniques around your home and in your community. Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable environments. This workshop will include two days of classroom and hands-on experiences. Information and techniques will include ecological patterns, edge, energy flow, zones and sectors, soil, trees, wind breaks and shelter belts, composting, water and landscape, mulch beds and gardening. Instructors are Grover Stock and the staff from Big Green Summer. Fee: $120 for both days, includes a permaculture book and lunch both days. Scholarships are available; reduced rates for more than one person from a family or organization. See: www.prairiewoods.org

Tuesday, May 26 and Thursday, May 28, 6 p.m. or Saturday, May 30, 10:30 a.m., Brucemore’s Historic Landscape Tour, 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids.  Experience the passion influential historic landscape architect, O.C. Simonds, had for retaining the natural elements of the land, using native vegetation, and applying his knowledge of nature and artistic principles to achieve his picturesque style. Participants will learn the progression of the Brucemore landscape from 1886 to present, the importance of the estate’s architecture on the landscape, and hear the challenges facing the continuing preservation of the estate. Contact Brucemore at (319) 362-7375 or visit www.brucemore.org

May 31-June 14, Permaculture Design Certification, BGS Campus, Fairfield. Instructors are Doug Bullock, Lonnie Gamble, Grover Stock, and dozens of guest presenters. Cost is $1,200 if you register by May 1.  See: http://www.biggreensummer.org/page/Permaculture+Design+Certification+2009

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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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A move for Cedar Rapids farmers market

    Iowa City officials are handling a potential move of its farmers markets from a covered parking ramp – on an occasional basis to a busier site a few blocks away  – by talking to market vendors. Cedar Rapids has a different way of changing its farmers market sites and doesn’t have to jump through the same hoops as Iowa City.  A couple years ago, some vendors and customers were upset over the move from the covered Riverside Roundhouse in Cedar Rapids to an open air market at the city parking lot at Eighth Avenue and Second Street SE.  Market officials say the new site is no longer an issue for customers or vendors.      Nevertheless, Teresa White, the city’s farmers market supervisor, decided to move the Thursday markets from Eighth Avenue to Greene Square Park. “I just want to be different,” she said. Teresa also hopes the market will be a boost for workers in downtown Cedar Rapids, which is still recovering from last June’s flood.  

   Greene Square is quite a convenience for those of us who work in The Gazette, as the park is just outside our office. What do you think? Will that move be a good one?  And what should become of the roundhouse? Is it just a  relic that should be demolished with other flood-damaged buildings?

 

   I will be updating the farmers market schedule for as many in Eastern Iowa as I can find and will post it here later this spring. Most markets don’t start until May, although the Hiawatha one usually gets a head start in April.

   If you are a market master, have information on a farmers market or know of a new one, you can send the info to me at: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com or leave a message below. Please include a contact name and phone number.

 

    Here is the Cedar Rapids farmers market schedule for this season:

 

    Eighth Avenue and Second Street SE parking lot will be May 2 through Oct. 24; Tuesdays from 4-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to noon, except when the Downtown Farmers Markets are held. Thursday markets will be 4-6 p.m. in Greene Square Park, from June 11 through Aug. 27.

   Noelridge Park farmers markets, from May 1 through Oct. 23, are 4-6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

   The larger Downtown Farmers Markets – with a record 160 vendors this year – are 7:30 a.m. to noon on June 6 and 20; July 18; Aug. 1 and 15; Sept. 5 and Oct. 3.

 

 

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