Posts tagged Richard Jauron

Iowa’s weed season

   I’ve driven right past my plot in the city gardens, not recognizing it from what it was a week, or even days before. The rain and heat make the perfect recipe for weed season in Iowa. They grow fast and my combat methods are slower than the tillers many people use.

    Richard Jauron, extension horticulturalist at Iowa State University wrote the following about weed control in Iowa:

   Weeds are those annoying plants that gardeners love to hate. In the garden, weeds compete with desirable plants for water, nutrients, sunlight and growing space. They also may harbor insects and diseases. Allowed to run rampant in the garden, weeds can drastically reduce yields of fruits and vegetables. in addition, they hinder the performance of annual and perennial flowers.

    The first step in weed control is identification of the weed or weeds. The type of weed helps determine the best method of control. The two main types of weeds are annuals and perennials. Annual weeds germinate from seeds, grow, flower, set seed and die within one year. Perennial weeds live for three or more years. Most perennial weeds die back to the ground in fall, but their crowns or roots produce new shoots in spring. Weeds also can be classified as broadleaf weeds or grasses.

    There are three general methods of weed control in the home garden: cultivation (hoeing and tilling) and hand pulling, mulches and herbicides.

Cultivation and hand pulling effectively control most annual weeds. Perennial weeds are often more difficult to control. Repeated cultivation is often necessary to destroy some perennial weeds. When cultivating the garden, avoid deep tillage. The roots of many vegetables, fruits and flowers grow near the soil surface.  Deep cultivation will cut off some of these roots. Also, deep cultivation will bring deeply buried weed seeds to the soil surface where they can germinate. Hoe or till around plants or between plant rows, and pull weeds close to plants.

    To effectively control weeds, cultivation and hand pulling must be done periodically through the growing season. Small weeds are much easier to control than large weeds. It’s also important to destroy the weeds before they have a chance to go to seed.

    Mulches control weeds by preventing the germination of annual and perennial weed seeds. Established weeds should be destroyed prior to the application of the mulch. In addition to weed control, mulches help conserve soil moisture, reduce soil erosion, prevent crusting of the soil surface, keep fruits and vegetables clean and may reduce disease problems.

    Grass clippings, shredded leaves and weed-free straw are excellent mulches for vegetable gardens and annual flower beds. Apply several inches of these materials in early June after the soil has warmed sufficiently. Plant growth may be slowed if these materials are applied when soil temperatures are still cool in early spring. Grass clippings, shredded leaves and similar materials break down relatively quickly and can be tilled into the soil in fall.

Wood chips and shredded bark are excellent mulches for perennial beds and areas around trees and shrubs. Apply two to four inches of material around landscape plantings. These materials decay slowly and should last a few years. However, it’s often necessary to apply additional material annually to retain the desired depth.

   Herbicides can be used to supplement cultivation, hand pulling and mulches. However, several limitations prevent the extensive use of herbicides in the garden. Only a small number of herbicides are available to home gardeners. Additionally, most home gardens contain a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers. No one herbicide can be safely used around all garden and landscape plants. If not applied properly, herbicides may cause unintended damage to fruits, vegetables and ornamentals. Herbicides are pesticides. When using any pesticide, carefully read and follow label directions.

Weeds are a persistent problem for home gardeners. However, weeds can be effectively controlled by cultivation, hand pulling, mulches and (on occasion) herbicides. Persistence is the key. Gardeners need to be as persistent with their weed control efforts as weeds are in coming back again, and again and again.

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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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Winterizing roses

  Every year around this time, my neighbor’s oak tree, two houses down, generously deposits a pile of  leaves in my backyard.  For that, my roses and I are grateful.  I use the oak leaves as mulch around my hybrid tea roses.  Most types of leaves don’t hold up well in the long-term, but leathery oak leaves withstand the forces of winter. My miniature roses do well under Styrofoam caps in Iowa’s coldest days and my old-fashioned roses somehow survive without any help.  The week of Thanksgiving is the usual time to prepare roses for winter in the Cedar Rapids area where my roses grow.

 

   Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist at Iowa State University Extension, offers more tips on winterizing roses below:

 

   Most hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda roses require winter protection in Iowa. The low temperatures and rapid temperature changes in winter can severely injure and sometimes kill unprotected roses.

   Hilling or mounding soil over the base of each plant is an excellent way to protect hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda roses.

   Begin by removing fallen leaves and other debris from around each plant. Removal of diseased plant debris will help reduce disease problems next season. Then loosely tie the canes together with twine to prevent the canes from being whipped by strong winds. Next, cover the bottom 10 to 12 inches of the rose canes with soil.

   Place additional material, such as straw or leaves, over the mound of soil. A small amount of soil placed over the straw or leaves should hold these materials in place.  Prepare roses for winter after plants have been hardened by several nights of temperatures in the low to mid-twenties. Normally, this is early November in northern Iowa, mid-November in central areas, and late November in southern counties.

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Winterizing mums

 

The following is by Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist at Iowa State University Extension:

 

   Chrysanthemums are shallow-rooted plants. Repeated freezing and thawing of the soil during the winter months can heave plants out of the ground and cause severe damage or even death.

   Gardeners can increase the odds of their mums surviving the winter by applying a mulch in fall. Mulching helps eliminate the alternate freezing-thawing cycles that can heave plants out of the soil.

    Apply the mulch in late fall, typically late November/early December. Do not cut back the plants prior to mulching. Simply cover the plants with several inches of mulch. Suitable mulching materials include clean straw, pine needles and evergreen branches. Leaves are not a good mulch as they tend to mat down and don’t provide adequate protection. The mulch should remain in place until early to mid-April.

 

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Overwintering geraniums

The following is by Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist at Iowa State University Extension:

Geraniums are popular flowering plants, blooming from May through frost.  However, you don’t have to let the first hard frost destroy your geraniums.  Geraniums can be overwintered indoors by potting up individual plants, taking cuttings, or storing bare-root plants in a cool, dry place.  Regardless of the method, the plants should be removed from the garden prior to the first frost. 

Potted Plants

Carefully dig up each plant and place in a large pot.  Water each plant thoroughly, then place the geraniums in a bright, sunny window or under artificial lighting.  Geraniums prefer cool indoor temperatures.  Daytime temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees F and slightly cooler night temperatures are ideal.  During their stay indoors, water the plants thoroughly when the soil becomes dry.  The geraniums are likely to become tall and lanky by late winter.  In March, prune back the plants.  Cut the geraniums back by one-third to one-half.  The geraniums will begin to grow again within a few days and should develop into nice specimens by May. 

Cuttings

Using a sharp knife, take 3- to 4-inch stem cuttings from the terminal ends of the shoots.  Pinch off the lower leaves, then dip the base of each cutting in a rooting hormone.  Stick the cuttings into a rooting medium of vermiculite or a mixture of perlite and sphagnum peat moss.  Clay or plastic pots with drainage holes in the bottom are suitable rooting containers.  Insert the cuttings into the medium just far enough to be self-supporting.  After all the cuttings are inserted, water the rooting medium.  Allow the medium to drain for a few minutes, then place a clear plastic bag over the cuttings and container to prevent the cuttings from wilting. 

Finally, place the cuttings in bright light, but not direct sunlight.  The cuttings should root in six to eight weeks.  When the cuttings have good root systems, remove them from the rooting medium and plant each rooted cutting in its own pot.  Place the potted plants in a sunny window or under artificial lighting until spring. 

Bare Root Plants

Dig the geraniums and carefully shake all the soil from their roots.  Then place one or two plants in a large paper sack and store in a cool (45 to 55 degrees F), dry location.  An unheated bedroom or indoor porch might be a suitable location.  An alternate (somewhat messier) method is to hang the plants upside down in cool, dry location.  The foliage and the shoot tips will eventually die.  In March, prune or cut back each plant.  Remove all shriveled, dead material.  Prune back to firm, green, live stem tissue.  After pruning, pot up the plants and water thoroughly.  Place the potted geraniums in a sunny window or under artificial lighting.  Geraniums that are pruned and potted in March should develop into attractive plants that can be planted outdoors in May. 

The overwintered geraniums can be planted outdoors in May (after the danger of frost is past).  Before planting, harden or acclimate the geraniums outdoors for several days.  Initially, place the geraniums in a shady, protected location and then gradually expose the plants to longer periods of sunlight.  Plant the geraniums in the garden after the plants have been properly hardened. 

 

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Harvesting winter squash

Richard Jauron, Horticulture Specialist at Iowa State University Extension, offers timely advice on harvesting winter squash:

 

 

    Harvest winter squash when the fruits are fully mature. Mature winter squash have very hard skins that can’t be punctured with your thumbnail. Additionally, mature winter squash have dull-looking surfaces.

   When harvesting winter squash, handle them carefully to avoid cuts and bruises. These injuries are not only unsightly, they provide entrances for various rot-producing organisms. Cut the fruit off the vine with a pruning shears. Leave a 1-inch stem on each fruit.

    After harvesting, cure winter squash (except for the acorn types) at a temperature of 80 to 85 degrees F and a relative humidity of 80 to 85 percent. Curing helps to harden their skins and heal any cuts and scratches. Do not cure acorn squash. The high temperature and relative humidity during the curing process actually reduce the quality and storage life of acorn squash.

    After curing, store winter squash in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location. Storage temperatures should be 50 to 55 degrees F. Do not store squash near apples, pears, or other ripening fruit. Ripening fruit release ethylene gas which shortens the storage life of squash.

   When properly cured and stored, the storage lives of acorn, butternut, and hubbard squash are approximately 5 to 8 weeks, 2 to 3 months, and 5 to 6 months, respectively.

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Overseeding lawns

Richard Jauron, Horticulture Specialist at Iowa State University Extension, offers the following on overseeding lawns:

Healthy, well maintained lawns are attractive landscape additions.  Lawns in poor condition, however, are somewhat unsightly.  The poor condition of a lawn may be due to poor management, heat, drought, diseases, insects or other factors.  In severe cases, the existing lawn may have to be destroyed and a new one established on the site.  Lawns that contain over 50 percent desirable grasses can often be improved by overseeding.  

Overseeding is the sowing of grass seed into an existing lawn.  In Iowa, the best time to overseed a lawn is late summer (late August to mid-September).

Site Preparation

Good site preparation is necessary for successful overseeding.  If possible, identify and correct the problems causing the lawn to decline.  Overseeding may only be a temporary solution if these problems are not corrected. 

To reduce the competition from the established turfgrass, mow the lawn at a height of 1-1/2 to 2 inches.  Successful overseeding also requires good seed-to-soil contact.  Simply throwing or broadcasting seed over the lawn typically results in poor seed germination as much of the seed is resting on the thatch layer or soil surface.  Rakes, core aerators, vertical mowers, and slit seeders can be used to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. 

Overseeding Small Areas

Small areas can be prepared by gently raking the thin spots.  When raking, it’s necessary to break the soil surface without pulling out the existing turfgrass.  After raking, sow the seed by hand.  Then, work the seed into the soil by gently raking the areas a second time. 

Overseeding Large Areas

Large areas can be prepared by using a core aerator.  Core aerators are machines with hollow metal tubes or tines.  They remove plugs of soil when run over the lawn.  To prepare the site, go over the lawn three or four times with the core aerator.  When finished, there should be 20 to 40 holes per square foot.  Apply the seed with a drop seeder.  Afterward, drag the area with a piece of chain link fence or drag mat to break up the soil cores and mix the seed into the soil. 

It’s also possible to prepare the site with a vertical mower.  When run over the lawn, the knife-like blades of the vertical mower slice through the thatch and penetrate into the upper 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil.  One or two passes should be sufficient.  Afterwards, remove any dislodged debris from the lawn.  Sow grass seed over the lawn with a drop seeder.  Work the seed into the soil by again going over the site with the vertical mower. 

Large areas also can be overseeded with a slit seeder.  A slit seeder makes small grooves in the soil and deposits the seed directly into the slits. 

Core aerators, vertical mowers and slit seeders can be rented at many garden centers and rental agencies.  If you would rather not do the work yourself, many professional lawn care companies can overseed your lawn. 

Post Seeding Care

Keep the seedbed moist with frequent, light applications of water.  It’s usually necessary to water at least once or twice a day.  Continue to mow the lawn at a height of 1-1/2 to 2 inches.  Mow the lawn frequently to reduce the competition from the established turfgrass.  When the new seedlings reach a height of 1-1/2 to 2 inches, gradually increase the mowing height over the next several weeks.  The final mowing height should be 2-1/2 to 3 inches.  Approximately six weeks after germination, fertilize the lawn by applying 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.  

When properly overseeded, a thin, scruffy-looking lawn can be turned into a thick, lush lawn in just a few weeks. 

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