Posts tagged runoff

Rain: Too much of a good thing

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

     He was correct.  A climatologist said July was going to be wetter and colder than normal.  Did you imagine we’d be wearing jackets and sweatshirts on mid-summer mornings?  A couple of my houseplants living on the deck for the summer got relocated under the eaves.  They were experiencing a little too much of a good (rain water) thing.  It has been nice not having to drag hoses or fill the water wagon as much this year.  The soaker hose has been pretty much dormant, too. 

    It does bother me letting all this precious water run off, though.  Rain barrels have become a popular efficient way to retain that wonderful commodity that Mother Nature provides. Rain barrels don’t need to be plugged in or powered up.  They’re good for the environment and save money. 

    Rain water is preferably to municipal water for gardens because it provides a beneficial pH balance, thus creating less of a need for fertilizer. 

     Rain barrels situated at the base of a gutter or downspout, are typically modified recycled 55 gallon food grade drums, and include a filter, spigot and with an overflow pipe usually directed  on to a flower or vegetable bed.  Commercial rain barrels are available with costs varying.   Rain chains, water-funneling devices, can be used in place of down spouts for an esthetic effect.  Maybe you would want a decorative rain barrel situated on either side of your patio door. 

     Rain barrels may provide a good source of water should we have a water restriction order.  While the primary use is plant associated, rain water can be used to wash a car, scrub patio furniture or even flush a toilet. 

     Rain barrels do require minimal maintenance.  Leaves and other debris have to be removed from the filter and the gutter supplying the water.  Also, users need to guard against mosquito breeding and algae.  All in all helping  the environment far outweighs a bit of inconvenience.

    And, speaking of mosquitoes, just a reminder with all of the moisture we’re experiencing, the most common floodwater mosquito will be laying eggs in any source of stagnant or muddy water.  Remember to regularly empty and clean the kids’ wading pools, the pet’s water dishes and the bird bath.  Tall weeds and grasses harbor mosquitoes during the day.  Reduce the incidence of the problem and reduce the population of the annoying and possible disease carrying critters.

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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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Working on flood prevention

   Rain gardens are one of the ways individuals can work together to help reduce flooding. The Indian Creek Nature Center has scheduled the following two programs for Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009 to learn more. Only a couple spots are open for the second session, on building a rain barrel. Call the Nature Center today (Friday) at (319) 362-0664 to register. Several spots are available in the first session on creating a rain garden, so you might be OK to just show up.

 

PUBLIC PROGRAM-RAINWATER IS NOT RUNOFF! RAINWATER IS A RESOURCE-1 PM: CREATE A RAIN GARDEN-MEMBER:$8-NONMEMBER:$10-As citizens of the earth we have a responsibility to manage run-off from our property and yard. Learn how to capture water from hard surfaces and roofs in rain gardens. Rain gardens are beautiful and environmental! Native seed and plant sources, planting methods, and care will be discussed.

PUBLIC PROGRAM-RAINWATER IS NOT RUNOFF! RAINWATER IS A RESOURCE-2:30 PM: BUILD A RAIN BARREL-A MATERIALS FEE WILL BE CHARGED FOR THIS PROGRAM-Good ideas keep coming back! Our grandparents had a rain barrel and cistern to capture water from roofs. Water was then used for everyday household needs. Get creative and make your own rain barrel with Master Gardener Deb Walser.

 

The Indian Creek Nature Center is at 6665 Otis Rd. SE, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  

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Rain gardens

Presented by:  Lucy Hershberger Forever Green Inc.

Sat. September 6th 10 am

Rain gardens are gardens designed with a purpose: they reduce runoff into our rivers and streams, which reduces pollution and flooding.  Participants will learn what a rain garden is, how it works, and how to determine the location, size and best plants to use in their rain garden. 

 

The near record rainfalls we had this year demonstrated the need to manage surface runoff  help reduce flash flooding and pollution in our rivers and streams.  Rainfall used to be absorbed into the ground as it fell. Now roads, parking areas and buildings channel water and the pollutants it carries into storm sewers that drain directly into streams and rivers.  Rain gardens can absorb most rainfalls and reduce these problems while enhancing the appearance of your yard. 

 

Lucy Hershberger, Forever Green Inc., will show you how you can plant a rain garden that will help reduce the runoff problem.  This hands-on seminar will offer participants an opportunity to see a rain garden under construction, learn what a rain garden is, how it works, and how to determine the location, size and best plants to use in their rain garden.

 

Location:  Forever Green Garden Center  

125 Forevergreen Rd. Coralville, Iowa

 

For information contact:

Lucy Hershberger Forever Green Inc.

319-626-6770 or e-mail forevergreen@southslope.net

This event is free to the public.

www.forevergreengrows.com

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July gardening events

   The Johnson County Master Gardeners are holding their 13th annual Taste of the Heirloom Garden on Wednesday, July 16 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Plum Grove State Historic Site, 1030 Carroll street, Iowa City.

   This unique project funds the Plum Grove gardens (there are three:  vegetable, flower and wildflower}; a Horticultural scholarship at Kirkwood Community College, 4H prizes at the fair, and garden mainenance.

   The gardens have received two awards:  first Iowa State Service Award and National Garden designation by National Garden Clubs of America and the Smithsonian.

   Each year,  a committee scours 19th century cookbooks to plan a menu of three soups,  vegetable dishes, salads, breads, and desserts based on produce planted in the vegetable garden. There is a different food selection each year and a recipe pamphlet is available. Senior Center Post Office Brass entertains with old tunes,  door prizes are awarded, guided tours to gardens and 1840 Robert Lucas home, free parking and this year a visit from the ghost of Robert Lucas.

    Despite the late spring and continued rain, the garden is growing with new varieties.  More than  45 different heirloom tomatoes have been tested since its inception. Strawberry and Malabar spinach are some of the new varieties. The wildflower garden has new acquisitions and a new resting stump is from a tree under which the Mormons camp on their trek across Iowa.  This project will be featured at the Farm Progress show.

   For more information contact Betty Kelly blk106@earthlink.net

 

    Seed Savers 28th Annual Convention will be  July 18-20 at Heritage Farm north of Decorah, Iowa.
    Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds.

   This year’s keynote speaker is Lynne Rossetto Kasper from NPR’s The Splendid Table. Other speakers include Rich Pirog from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and SSE Advisor John Swenson.
    The Annual Convention kicks off Friday evening with an informal reception at the Visitors Center. There will be a wine tasting by Winneshiek Wildberry Winery and turkey summer sausage and jerky from Jenkins Industries in Decorah.
   Saturday there is a full schedule of events – with walks and tours, a seed swap, flower arranging by Willowglen Perennial Nursery, and open houses in many of SSE’s facilities in the morning, and speakers in the afternoon. After a locally grown dinner is the keynote speech and a barn dance.
   Sunday morning there is a bird walk and a wide selection of tours and workshops to choose from.
   For more information call SSE’s office at 563-382-5990 or visit:
www.seedsavers.org

 

   Culver’s Garden Center & Greenhouse will have a free seminar, focusing on the benefits and beauty of gardening with native plants.

   Native Iowa Plants will be Saturday, July 19, from 10-11 a.m. in Culver’s Greenhouses, 1682 Dubuque Road (Highway 151 East), in Marion. The seminar is being held as part of Culver’s Customer Appreciation Weekend, July 19 and 20, and will cover different types of plants native to Iowa and the benefits of using them.

  Native plants in the garden and landscape require less maintenance and water, cause less harmful runoff, are more likely to thrive, maintain or improve soil condition, and provide natural sources of food and shelter for native wildlife.

  RSVP by calling (319) 377-4195.

  Culver’s Garden Center & Greenhouse was established in April of 1998, an extension of Culver’s Lawn Care & Landscaping, Inc.   More information is available at: www.culverslandscape.com

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