Posts tagged plants

The deadly juglone of black walnut trees

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

    The seeder wagon is in place.  The lawn mower towed it out of the shed down to the water way and then with two planks and my favorite son’s strong back we pushed and pulled it to the other side of the ditch.  With the addition of an old wire garden gate staked behind a sapling, a hand pump from my parent’s former home and a rock lined pseudo fire pit filled with Petunias that were on the end-of-season sale, the area reflects the peaceful primitive atmosphere I was striving for.  This is the area I mentioned in an earlier blog that became inaccessible to mow due to last year’s flood.  Hosta, native grasses and prairie perennials will grace the space next year.  We continued our zeroscaping to include a part of the road ditch that I learned is also impossible to mow after the mower and I suffered a close encounter with the culvert.  Now that waterway is filled with large rocks and what was a sloping grassy space is mulched. 

            Hosta will ring the two Black Walnut trees in the roadway ditch.  Hosta is a plant of choice there because I have some that need transplanting and they are not sensitive to Juglone, a chemical secretion from Black Walnut Trees. 

             Discovered in the 1880s, Juglone is produced in the fruit, leaves, branches and root system of several trees with Black Walnuts exhibiting the highest concentration.  The greatest intensity in the soil exists within the tree’s drip line, on an average 50 ft. radius from the trunk of a mature tree.  Plants susceptible to Juglone display yellowing leaves, wilting and eventual death.  Plants sensitive to Juglone include Peonies, Hydrangea, Asian Lilies, and Lilacs.  There are multiple choices that will withstand close proximity to Walnut trees such as most grasses, Phlox, Sedum, Daylilies, Iris and Hosta.

            Now my challenge is to determine plants that are not only resistant to Juglone, but also to the deer population in this neighborhood.  Unfortunately, Hosta is one of the critters’ favorite choices.  They have already decimated the Hosta and Bee Balm in the ditch on the other side of the lane.  A great winter  pastime will be comparison shopping perennials and grasses that are both deer and Juglone resistant as well as low maintenance for those landscapes. 

             I actually enjoy mowing.  And I like the challenge of creating and maintaining flower beds, but the  simple clean lines of zeroscaping does appeal to me.  A few plants and shrubs easily embellish the area without overstating the purpose of low maintenance.

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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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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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Gardening addiction

The following is by Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

                 Over the road and across the highway to the garden center I go.  The car knows the way, never to stray………………..   I told myself I already have enough plants for this year.  Can gardening be addictive?  Unfortunately I read somewhere that June is the time to walk around the yard looking for bare spots or drab areas that could use a little sprucing up with annuals.  And June is still prime time for planting annuals whose duty is to mask those early blooming perennials and waning spring bulbs.   I‘m going scoot out of here early in the day, returning quickly and maybe nobody will notice.  Morning is the best time to plant anyway, ahead of the hot daytime sun.  Nobody will discern me watering the new plantings daily because the hanging baskets get a drink daily and the container plants every other day. My potting soil didn’t have fertilizer in it, so I’m going to try a starter solution of fertilizer when I introduce these new plants into the landscape.               The next task is weeding, also a morning chore.  It keeps me out of the hot daytime sun.  Do you agree that weeding is a bother?  Not many folks enjoy it.  Pesticides limit weeds but also discourage bees, butterflies and birds.  Our Creeping Charlie is so aggressive. Hopefully, a pesticide will slow its pace, but a layer of hardwood mulch is an alternative to commercial weed killers. 

          Grooming beds certainly dresses them up.  Deadheading, –  removing fading flowers –  improves a plant’s appearance and encourages continual bloom.  I bought a pair of good garden shears this spring. They sure make a clean cut. I’ll remove the flower buds or flowering stem back to the first set of leaves.

                Participating in an exercise class several times each week keeps my doctor happy, but playing in the dirt is certainly therapeutic.  The dog and I and sometimes a cat or two could just spend hours and hours in the gardens.  Flower or vegetable gardens each create a soothing no worry-be happy atmosphere.

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A look at rain gardens

Gazette photographer Brian Ray takes photos of Lucy Hershberger in the rain garden at Forever Green Garden Center near North Liberty (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Gazette photographer Brian Ray takes photos of Lucy Hershberger in the rain garden at Forever Green Garden Center near North Liberty (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Our flood anniversary tribute continues with a look at rain gardens. Several people I interviewed for the article in the Sunday, June 14, 2009, Gazette said while rain gardens would not have prevented last year’s devastating floods in Iowa, they could have helped. Lucy Hershberger, co-owner of Forever Green Landscaping & Garden Center in Coralville showed me the well-kept rain garden in front of their site on Forevergreen Road, near North Liberty. Yellow and blue flag iris, native grasses, coneflower, liatris and dwarf arctic blue willow were planted when the rain garden was installed in September. It’s obvious that Hershberger’s  enthusiasm goes beyond trying to sell customers on a new fad. She has conducted free seminars on rain gardens for people to learn more and to better take care of their little corner of the environment. Hershberger remembers the interest in rain gardens and rain barrels in the early 1990s, at that time because of costs associated with watering. “Now it’s because of the awareness of stormwater management,” she said. “It’s not cost-driven.”

Blue flag iris

Blue flag iris

The following list of plants is from Iowa’s Rain Garden Design and Installation Manual Native Plant Favorites for Soils with Good Percolation Rates:

Common Name Height Comments

Blue grama 1-2 ft makes a good border

Bottle gentian 1 ft novel purple flowers

Butterfly milkweed 1-4 ft emerges late spring; no milky sap

Columbine 1-2 ft orange flower stalk may add 1 ft

Culver’s root 3-6 ft can get tall; for moderatley moist soils

Fox sedge 1-3 ft may not tolerate drought

Golden alexander 1-3 ft yellow dill-like flower, mod moist soils

Little bluestem 2 ft nice rusty color all winter

Mountain mint 1-3 ft for moist soils

Nodding onion 1-2 ft for moderately moist soils

Pale purple coneflower 4 ft most overused native; only in S. Iowa

Prairie blazing star 2-5 ft for moist soils

Prairie smoke 1 ft makes a good border

Sideoats grama 2-3 ft red anthers; not as tidy as little bluestem

Silky aster 1-2 ft loved by rabbits

Websites with native plant lists for rain gardens:

http://prrcd.org/inl/recommended_plants.htm

http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/runoff/rg/plants/PlantListing.html

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Mixing pets and plants

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

    So the kids talked you into getting a dog.  But you want to keep your lawn attractive.  With planning, it is possible to mix pets and plants. Perhaps container gardening is the answer for your flowers.

            If a kennel and run is not in your vision, design a cobblestone or decorative pebble area in an interesting shape with some large rocks then train your dog to use only that area. Good drainage is a necessity.  Diluting urine will help eliminate yellow spots in the lawn.  Wherever you choose to let the dog urinate, hose that area thoroughly and routinely.  Raised beds are functional, easy to work in, and will control urination on the gardens. 

            Select sturdy plants.  Coneflowers and Liatris are good possibilities.  One poke from a thorny plant will deter your pet.  Barberry Bushes have showy purple, gold or variegated foliage and outstanding fall color.  Viburnum flowers in spring and exhibits flashy fall color.  Flowering trees will provide above ground level color.  If you’re absolutely in love with a fragile looking delicate plant, put it in a hanging basket or an elevated planter.  If you plan to use evergreen shrubs, note that squirrels, chipmunks, and other small critters may move in around them creating potential for altercations and injury between the wildlife and your pet.

            Puppies are inquisitive, and plants like Hollyberry, English Ivy, and Yews are poisonous.  If you question a plant’s toxicity, inquire at your local extension office, Master Gardener Hort. Line (319-447-0647), or your veterinarian before purchasing it. 

            Whether you’re gardening for pets, wildlife or the environment, it’s a good idea to limit the use of chemicals.  A pesticide with a taste attractive to insects may also be attractive to your pet.  Read the label directions thoroughly: look for pet safe. 

            The safest mulch for your pet is leaves and cut grasses.  Mow, bag, and use generously.  Even if Rover investigates what’s under the mulch, he can’t hurt himself by ingesting a chemical.  Plus, you’re not feeding the landfill.

            Just as kids need discipline, pets can learn respect for plants and lawns, too.  Spend some time and effort learning the ropes together.  With effort, and a good pooper-scooper, it is possible for flora and fauna to coexist.

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Bugged by bugs?

  

Japanese beetles

Japanese beetles

 Spring in Iowa is too fleeting. Rare are those 70-degree days with cool nights before the air explodes with humidity and bugs begin their annual invasion. I can look at healthy green potato plants today and know that in a week or so the Colorado potato beetle will begin its defoliation quest. Same is true of the lush rose bushes that succomb ever earlier to the dreaded Japanese beetle, a copper-colored foreign invader.

   Because of the devastation they wreak on my plants, the Japanese beetle and potato beetle rank number one and two on my list of “bad bugs.” I was enjoying my backyard garden last night trying to think of others when a mosquito bit my leg. Mosquitoes= #3.

Colorado potato beetle

Colorado potato beetle

   Here are the others: 4) gnats or whatever those little black bugs are that bite behind the ears. 5) chiggers – not an insect, but larvae of a specific family of mites – the Trombiculidae. If you’ve ever suffered through chigger bites, you’ll know why these are on my list. 6) wasps – I try to leave them alone, but they seem ubiquitous this year and more aggressive – building wherever they take a liking, which includes my back porch and my sons’ club house.  7) ticks – again, not an insect, but my general worry over them keeps me from enjoying the outdoors at times. 8) Ants – luckily we don’t have  fire ants like they do in the south, but they’re just a pain when they decide to come in the house. 9) termites – again a general anxiety thing. 10) Emerald ash borer – not here in Iowa yet, but a preemptive disdain for a foreign invader that will someday devastate our ash trees. 

Emerald ash borer

Emerald ash borer

   What makes your list? I’m sure I’ll think of more, now that our perfect spring days are in the past.

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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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Project BudBurst

   I can tell you when my Greenland tulips, Strutter’s Ball daylily or perennial hibiscus bloomed in the last several years; when the grass first turned green this spring or when the chartreuse of the willows began to show. I’m a compulsive jotter. Maybe it’s the product of my training as a reporter combined with my gardening obsession that compels me to write down every observation. At least I’m not alone. Nationwide, nature-lovers, gardeners, scientists and students are taking note of what’s happening in the natural world around us.

   It’s all part of an effort called Project BudBurst – http://www.windows.ucar.edu/citizen_science/budburst/

 

  Thousands of volunteers across the country have been participating in the project, which tracks climate change by recording the timing of flowers and foliage. Project BudBurst, started as a pilot program in 2007 and operated by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Chicago Botanic Garden and University of Montana, is amassing thousands of observations from these “citizen scientists” to give researchers a detailed picture of our warming climate.  An analysis of thousands of Project BudBurst observations from last year and the 2007 pilot shows a baseline for the timing of key plant events. Volunteers can compare these observations to flowering and leafing in future years to measure the impact of a warming climate. Overall, 4,861 observations were reported online in 2008 from participants in every state except Hawaii.

 

   Rachael Drummond, who works in Media Relations for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., got me in touch with an Eastern Iowa participant of Project BudBurst. Den Henrickson of Marion said he decided to get involved after hearing about the project on National Public Radio. Den is keeping track of three things in his yard: Eastern red cedar, Eastern white pine trees and buffalo grass. “I think this is a valuable way to leave a nugget of information for future generations,” he said. Den added that he knows some people are combing parks and ditches in search of plants, but he knew he would be more apt to follow through with something in his own backyard.

  

  The project works like this: Each participant in Project BudBurst selects one or more plants to observe. The Web site suggests more than 75 trees and flowers, with information on each. Users can add their own choices. Participants begin checking their plants at least a week prior to the average date of budburst–the point when the buds have opened and leaves are visible. After budburst, participants continue to observe the tree or flower for later events, such as seed dispersal. When participants submit their records online, they can view maps of these phenophases across the United States.

 

   Den, 37, said he’s watching the white pine, for example, for the first needles, first pollination and first pine cones.  He joked that he should be watching the common dandelion, another of the options on the list. Because this is the first year Den has been involved, he didn’t have a comparison to previous years and hasn’t been recording any of the phases on his own. An information technology employee at ADM in Cedar Rapids, Den said he isn’t a “jotter” like me, but he is a data person. And that’s where he sees the importance of the project, especially when it comes to global warming. “I’m not into it for the politics of climate change,” he said. “In my mind the jury is still out on that. With the data, you get a clearer picture.”

 

   Here is more about Project BudBurst from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research:

   The science of phenology, or tracking cyclic behavior among plants and animals, has a distinguished history. For centuries farmers, naturalists, and scientists have kept careful records of the phenology patterns of plants and animals. Farmers have long used their phenology knowledge to predict the best time for planting and harvesting crops and when to start expecting problems with insect pests.  Numerous plant and animal species throughout the world are being affected by climate change. Some plants respond to warmer temperatures by extending their growing seasons. Others shift their ranges toward the poles or to higher elevations.

   At the same time, many insects breed and disperse based on regular cycles of sunlight rather than temperature. This can cause a mismatch between the behavior of pollinating insects, such as bees, and flowers that bloom earlier than the insects expect. Such asynchronous behavior has already been noted across many parts of the world.  

   Researchers have already found some interesting comparisons from the last two years. In 2008, for example, forsythia in Chicago opened their first flowers from April 17 to 19—almost a week earlier than the 2007 flowering dates of April 23 to 25. In Wadsworth, Ohio, flowering dogwood reached full bloom on May 8, 2008, which was two weeks earlier than in 2007. They warned, however, that results about global warming couldn’t be drawn from just two years of data. Scientists will have to analyze observations for many years in order to distinguish the effects of long-term climate trends from year-to-year variations in weather.

   Project BudBurst is funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, National Ecological Observatory Network, National Geographic Education Foundation, and U.S. Forest Service. The USA National Phenology Network is one of Project BudBurst’s partners. The project is also supported by the National Science Foundation and is hosted on Windows to the Universe, a UCAR-based educational website.

Den with his trees in Marion, Iowa

Den with his trees in Marion, Iowa

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When to transplant

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

    I was so ready to start my ditch project.  That’s the area I wrote about in an earlier blog that due to last summer’s over abundance of rain is now inaccessible by lawn mower.  The weather seemed to be cooperating and the ground temperature is almost warm enough.   Commencing with a hoe and a good pair of gloves, I’m tackling the winter debris of branches and weeds.  As some coaches will tell you, the best defense is a good offense:  removing any pest and disease infestation creates a healthier plant bed.  I do have some weed spray for the tough stuff.  There’s enough left over ground cloth to cover the area.  Garden centers have mulch just waiting for me to pick up.  The fall perennials are peeking about 3-4 inches out of the ground and are begging to be moved. (Rule of thumb:  transplant spring flowering plants in the fall and fall flowering plants in the spring.)  Hurrah! The growing and planting season has begun.  However, when I picked up a handful of dirt, it balled up in my hand.  So, time out!  That ground is definitely not dry enough.   “Mudding in” transplants will result in a hardened clumpy soil that will be very difficult to work going forward.  So, instead of transplanting right now, I’ll amend the soil by adding that wonderful stuff weathered horse droppings are made of.  Several inches of home grown compost and/or organic matter means I don’t have to fork out funds for commercial fertilizers.   In a few days, baring additional downpours, I will plant the transplants, remembering to water in the plants then gently tamping the soil down around them to remove air pockets. 

    Once the plants are in place, the ongoing project involves seasoning the seeder wagon, moving it to the middle of the area and planning how flowers will cascade out of it.  My son will bring a load of rock for the erosion control.  I can hardly contain my enthusiasm for how I perceive my new garden will evolve.

 

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