Posts tagged tilling

City gardens ready for potato planting on Good Friday

imga00711Good news for gardeners who lease plots from the city and want to get their potatoes planted on Good Friday… 

Despite some weather setbacks, Cedar Rapids parks staff finished tilling and marking all three of the city garden sites this week. Cedar Rapids leases out 150 plots at Ellis Park; 102 at Squaw Creek Park and 60 at the Tuma Soccer Complex. As of today, only 97  plots were rented at  the Ellis garden, which was flooded out for the season last June. Soil tests for benzene, arsenic and other chemicals have come back at safe levels, but some of the people who gardened at Ellis may have also been flooded out of their homes and won’t be back to garden.  

I spoke to E.B. Kunkle of Cedar Rapids today, who appeared to be the first gardener back at the Ellis site.

E.B. Kunkle

E.B. Kunkle

E.B. was planting onion sets. Last year, he was able to harvest green onions, spinach and radishes before the floods wiped out everything. Gardeners were advised against returning last year due to possible contaminants. Today’s weather was in the 50s and the soil was dry enough to get started, at least on onions. E.B. has tried growing potatoes in the past, but they were overcome by (my nemesis) the potato beetle.

Gardening lore calls for potatoes to be planted on Good Friday, which is tomorrow (April 10, 2009.) I doubt that I’ll get mine in that day, but as usual, turned to my uncle, Craig Musel, for advice. Uncle Craig gardens near Chelsea, Iowa, and always manages to win at least a few blue ribbons for his potatoes at the famous and fabulous Iowa State Fair. I talked to him Monday, and he said he started planting his potatoes about three weeks earlier, which would be mid-March. His tip? “I plant them whenever I can get them in the ground,” he said and keeps planting “until I’m done.”  Those blue ribbon winners – never want to reveal their secrets.

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One Call

Following is a good reminder from Iowa One Call for Iowans thinking about planting trees or doing other digging this season:

 

Earth Day and Arbor Day Signal Outdoor Activity – Remember to call Iowa One Call before you dig!

 

As Earth Day and Arbor Day quickly approach, on April 22 and 25, many Iowans are looking forward to getting outdoors to plant a tree or undertake other outdoor gardening, landscaping or home improvement projects. But before turning a spade or firing up the post hole digger, Iowans must remember to call Iowa One Call before they dig. While April highlights Earth and Arbor Days and the start of the digging season, April has also been proclaimed Iowa One Call Month by Iowa Lt. Governor Patty Judge. Iowa One Call Month marks the beginning of a 2008 digging safety campaign to remind Iowans of Iowa’s law to call 811 or (800) 292-8989 to have underground facilities located and marked before digging or excavating.

 

“By proclaiming the month of April as Iowa One Call Month, we remind all professional contractors, homeowners, businesses and anyone engaged in any type of digging activity to call Iowa One Call before doing any excavating. Individuals who fail to use Iowa One Call may risk civil liabilities, serious injury or even death,” states the signed proclamation.

 

“Iowa One Call’s purpose is to protect people and property,” said Ben Booth, public relations coordinator for Iowa One Call. “By locating and marking underground utilities before digging begins, Iowa One Call saves lives, prevents damage to the environment and helps to avoid service interruption. Individuals who fail to contact Iowa One Call prior to digging are subject to civil penalties that may range from $1,000 to $10,000 per violation. This is not something that just applies to people engaged in professional construction excavation. Homeowners and farmers can be held liable as well. So the safe and smart thing to do is always call first.”

 

The Iowa One Call Center phone lines – at 811 or (800) 292-8989 – are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by a team of 40 customer service representatives. Notification to Iowa One Call must be made at least 48 hours in advance (excluding weekends and legal holidays). While residential gardening does not require utility locates, it is a good idea to notify Iowa One Call before digging a new garden or using equipment, such as a power tiller.

 

Iowa law defines “excavation” as an operation in which a structure or earth, rock or other material in or on the ground is moved, removed, compressed or otherwise displaced by means of any tools or equipment. This includes, but is not limited to, digging, drilling, driving, grading, scraping, trenching, tiling, tunneling, ditching and demolition of structures.

 

Booth adds, “Even seemingly harmless activities like pounding a piece of re-rod in the ground to hold a landscape timber in place or digging a hole for a new shrub can damage an underground line. People also need to know that once utilities are marked, they need to avoid digging within 18 inches on either side of flags and paint markings.”

 

Calling Iowa One Call is Easy and Free

The national One Call 811 phone number was established last year. It is a standardized number for callers anywhere in the country to reach the respective One Call Center in their state. Iowans can reach Iowa One Call at 811, (800) 292-8989 or via the Web at www.iowaonecall.com. There are no charges for the phone call. Iowa One Call’s service is free of charge to anyone requesting a utility locate.

 

About Iowa One Call

Iowa One Call is a nonprofit organization with over 1,500 members, including city and county utilities, electric companies, gas companies, water and sewer districts, telephone companies and cable TV and Internet providers. Iowa One Call coordinates the marking of underground facilities throughout the state. Each year, Iowa One Call personnel handle more than 400,000 incoming calls and coordinate over 2 million underground facility locates within Iowa. Historically, the Center’s peak period is from April through October, when customer service representatives average more than 45,000 calls per month. For more information, visit www.iowaonecall.com.

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Backyard gardens

For anyone who missed this weekend’s session on backyard gardening, the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids sent along this synopsis, with further resources worth checking out:

Fred Meyer (fred.meyer@backyardabundance.org) is with Backyard Abundance (www.backyardabundance.org) This group helps residents understand how to make ecological improvements to their yards. The group gives yard tours throughout the community and shows what others can do in their yard to benefit the environment. Upcoming tour is Sat., May 10 from 2-4 PM at 38 Quincent Court in Iowa City. 


Fred is a master gardener, master conservationist and studies permaculture. This is permanent agriculture – observing how the environment works and using these clues to create environmentally beneficial yards – build community.
One interesting thing from his talk was the timeline of the American lawn. The idea of a lawn was brought to the U.S. from England in 1850’s. The USDA and Golf association developed turf grass in early 1900’s. It didn’t take off right away due to the many wars and depression; folks were  more concerned with putting food on the table. In 1945 when war ended the country was left with all of these chemical factories and decided to market this lawn concept. So esentially it is a very new concept that people bought into right away. Turfgrass has no real benefit to the environment and many negative effects….
We need to rethink this yard concept!
 Sarah West (sjwestie@gmail.com) is with Iowa City Food Not Lawns (icgrows.wikispaces.com) Iowa City Food Not Lawns is an active group designed to provide networking and resources for the communities in and around Iowa City that seek to establish regenerative living systems within the urban setting. This includes the integration of neighborhood food production, edible landscaping, water collection, beneficial use of waste, resource sharing, and a commitment to increase local dialogue, education, and social justice by raising awareness of these basic components of living.

 Sarah is also a student of permaculture. She studied in Fairfield last summer in their self-sustaining eco village community – solar and wind power and community gardens. She spoke on the many benfits of growing your own food, including health, money savings and mental benefits.

Both emphasized getting out and observing and listening to nature. Also, talking with others about these concepts and trying things out. One tool they suggetsed was  a broad fork. Apparently tilling isn’t good as it upsets the structure of the soil and “weeds” usually benefit from tilling (by seeds being brought up from underground). This tool breaks up soil and aerates soil enough to plant things, but not destroy the healthy natural layering.

 

 

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