Posts tagged plants

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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Garden bazaar

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, check out the Prairiewoods Garden Bazaar featuring “all things green, good and growing.”

The bazaar is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 25, 2009, at Prairiewoods, 120 Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, Iowa.

Event features herbs, plants, seeds, chimes, artisan vendors, birdhouses and more. Also, learn how to plant an herb garden and create yard art. All proceeds benefit Prairiewoods.

See: http://www.prairiewoods.org

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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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Another snowstorm? Look here for spring

As Iowa braces for what could be another spring snowstorm this weekend, Deb Engmark, head gardener at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, sent the following observations and photos from the historic Brucemore estate:

From the Brucemore Gardens

 

It would have been a glorious first snow fall of the season had the snow fallen sometime between November 27th and December 30th. With four to six

 inches on the ground, my week of vacation coming to an end, and not nearly enough yard work finished, it sure made Sunday hard to take. On the bright side, on Monday morning the little bit of green that was evident in the landscape at the end of last week was much more abundant and vibrant. I also noticed the swelling of the buds on many of the shrubs and some of the trees here at Brucemore have expanded close to the point of explosion. Many buds have popped and the leaves are extended toward the sun.

 

 The honeysuckle bushes along Linden Drive opened sometime between 8:00 a.m. and 12:30p.m.on Monday, as did the first scillas on the property, revealing the sweet essence of  spring along with the reliable blues many visitors associate with older neighborhoods. The snowdrops are always an early sign of winters waning. Shining in the woods for a few weeks already and now many of the white nodding heads have opened to reveal the upside down v-shape of green marking the inside bell and if you are able to get close enough, it too carries a fresh scent of spring.   

 

Out in the formal garden the crocus are blooming and other bulbs are making their presence known as are some of the undesirables dandelions, violas and the creeping charlie seem to have survived the winter just fine, lucky us.

 

Now, before spring has totally sprung, is a great time to take notice of that which is often overlooked – trees. We are fortunate here at Brucemore to have a few grand specimens to appreciate. Across the road from the formal garden, west of the old greenhouse is a mature red maple and a stately old red oak.  Roger Johnson, our building and grounds superintendent, believes they are some of the oldest trees on the property. He estimates that they are well over 100 years old due to their height, trunk diameter, and the texture of the bark.  Oaks are slow growing, long-lived, and require a century to mature, and will often live undisturbed for two to three centuries or more. The red maple upon maturity develops a unique bark texture. Flat gray ridges like fins begin to wave and flake while spiraling up to the multitude of branches. A bit of the oaks’ structural supremacy and the mature maples textured bark is softened after the emergence of the leaf canopy in spring.

 

As I finish this typing Tuesday afternoon, the landscape has changed once again adding more colors, hues and tones in every passing moment.

 

I would love to hear what you are doing also!  Please feel free to send me any suggestions, ideas, or tips from your own gardens and explorations.

 

 

Deb Engmark                            

Brucemore Head Gardener                     

2160 Linden Dr. SE

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403

deb@brucemore.org

www.brucemore.org

 

 

Blue scilla

Blue scilla

 

Snowdrops at Brucemore

Snowdrops at Brucemore

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March Madness and will this snow kill my plants?

   Sunday’s Homegrown Highlights column in the Gazette shows that a) the only thing predictable about March weather is that it’s unpredictable and b) our columns for Sunday’s newspaper are written in advance.  Hopefully, no one dug under several inches of snow to begin “waking the garden.”

    In fact, the snow acts as insulation for plants from the cold. Ones that have already bloomed might be done for the season after being buried under snow, but those that were just emerging – tulips, daffodils (at least those here in Cedar Rapids that have not blossomed yet) and others should be fine.

     I’ve been able to resist the temptation to begin yard work even on those beautiful, sunny and 70-degree days of March, and I will at least for the first couple weeks in April. Until the ground is fairly dry – much less soggy than what it’s been recently –  it’s really best to stay off the lawns and out of flower beds. I know a few vegetable gardeners who already planted potatoes and onions before this weekend’s snow. Some vegetables are more tolerant of the cold and can survive even in weather like this. Just remember, there’s no reason to jump the gun on yard work. Enjoy each season as it unfolds. There will be plenty of time for outdoor work in the months to come.  

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