Posts tagged water

Daylily Fever

 

Arachnidan Trap daylily (Photo/Zora Ronan)

Arachnidan Trap daylily (Photo/Zora Ronan)

  I’ve been receiving calls and emails about Zora Ronan’s upcoming open gardens this weekend and hearing from people who plan to make the trip to see her daylilies. For those of you who cannot attend, Zora sent some tips on dividing daylilies and other general advice:

    When or if to divide a daylily is a decision to be made based on the plant’s health.  If it is not looking unhealthy, is still blooming freely and has not outgrown its space, there is no reason to disturb it.  I only divide when one or more of those problems occurs.  Daylilies vary greatly in how fast they become crowded.  I have some that get divided every 4 years or so and some that have been fine for more than that time.  The biggest problem in waiting to divide until the plant is very overgrown is that it can become very large and hard to handle.  When I do divide, I replenish the soil with lots of compost and a bit of peat. 

   Daylilies are considered the perfect perennial because they survive and thrive with very little care.  However, good nutrition and adequate water is always going to improve daylily performance.  I do fertilize lightly every year with lawn fertilizer (no herbicide).  Daylilies can use a bit more nitrogen than other perennials to keep the foliage a nice healthy green.  I apply a 3-month time released fertilizer in the early spring–never any fertilizer after August 1.  If you have a good supply of compost, top-dressing with that every year is also beneficial and can probably take the place of artificial fertilizer. 

   Any dividing is best done in spring or after bloom has ended.  I would not divide any later than early to mid-September – daylilies need about 6 weeks to settle in before winter arrives.  We never know when that is going to happen.

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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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Long-lasting flowers

    The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith: Early in the spring we took Mom lilacs.  The wonderful scent wafted all the way down the hall in her apartment building.   The next week apple blossoms popped out to mix with more lilacs.  A bouquet of iris followed a couple of weeks later.  Iris don’t exhibit a pungent aroma, but the double blossoms are stunning.  Last week we took peonies.  There’s no escaping that fragrance! Mom loves having admiring visitors just follow their noses to her living room.  

      Have you ever picked a bouquet of flowers only to have them wilt within hours?   Cut the stem at an angle with a sharp knife or garden scissors. Choose fresh blooms as they’ll last longest.  Try a preservative. There are some non-commercial preservatives you can use to maintain healthy and happy blossoms.  Flowers need sugar for survival and growth as well as disinfectants to inhibit fungi and bacteria growth.  One tablespoon of sugar with ¼ tsp. of bleach mixed in a vase full of water is a good home remedy.    ¼ tsp. of citric acid (available in drug stores) per one gallon of water is another option.  Keep the vase filled with fresh water. Avoid using chemically softened water or extremely hot or cold water.  Shun direct sunlight and direct heat, i.e.  keep the vase off the top of the refrigerator and T.V.  A challenge at my house is keeping vases away from the cats who view fresh greenery as a delicacy, to be gobbled up and then regurgitated.  An upside down plastic berry basket in your bowl or vase will aid in holding the flower arrangement in place if you don’t have a flower frog handy. 

         Two year old Charlie feels he’s Great Grandma’s designated flower delivery man.  Our quest there is keeping the vase upright so we don’t leave a trail of water all the way down the hall.  But, no matter how flowers get to their destinations, fresh cut, home grown bouquets are almost as good as a tomato plucked fresh from the vine or a box of chocolate covered cherries.

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Japanese beetles are back

They’re back.

Japanese beetles

Japanese beetles

I spotted the first Japanese beetle of the season yesterday on my raspberry bushes. I went to check one of my rose bushes and sure enough, there was another one, sucking the life out of a beautiful pink bud. Unfortunately, both got away.

The beauty of these copper-colored beetles belies the devastation they wreak. Adult Japanese beetles feed on more than 300 types of plants – turning leaves into lacy skeletons. As larva, the white c-shaped grubs feed on turf grass roots.

I’ve heard some people have luck with the Japanese beetle traps that can be found at garden centers. Others say the traps just lure more beetles into your yard. When I see just a couple of the bugs, I use the squish method, but as they become more numerous, I’ll try to control their numbers with soapy water.

Take a small bucket with water and dish detergent – any kind will probably work – and knock the beetles off the plants into the bucket. The beetles are more active at certain times of day and will fly off. Othertimes, they do a drop and roll, which is the best way to get them to fall into the bucket. Early evening seems to be the time when they are more sluggish and easier to catch that way. Obviously, if you are growing crops that the beetles are attacking, such as grapes (another favorite,) you’re going to need a different method of control. They also favor certain trees, but supposedly they don’t kill the trees as do pests like the emerald ash borer. I also wonder what they will ultimately do to the monarch butterfly population, as Japanese beetles devastate the monarch’s food source, milkweed.

Since they make my top 10 bad bugs list, the Japanese beetle and different control methods can be found in several posts on this blog. Just use the search box at the right to find more from city arborist Daniel Gibbons, master gardeners and others on this foreign invader.

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Garden experimentation

   The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith: My daughter’s garden is going to amount to a hill of beans.  Her first family garden last year was so much fun that they planted another.  Michelle dug a hole for a tomato and as she picked up the  plant, two year old Charlie dumped a half package of green beans in the hole and then proceeded to cover the seeds with his yellow plastic rake, “Back and forth, Gramma, back and forth”.  No problem, we’ll just use a trellis and enjoy Charlie and his beanstalk.  Catie was a big help, too.  She labeled a stake for both ends of the rows so we’ll be sure to know what we planted.  FYI, the rows are all of ten feet long.  Watering the seeds daily until they germinate hasn’t been a problem as long as no one minds that Charlie can turn on the spigot and water himself, Catie, and the neighbor’s dog.  We’re waiting to mulch the plants until they sprout in an effort to keep Charlie off the rows. With limited garden space, they’re experimenting with a hanging container cherry tomato plant. The container will probably require watering daily, allowing the water to run through the container. 

   Charlie helped us plant Hosta in their back yard this week.  The family is renovating the yard so some landscaping is in order. Their home is nestled on a hill surrounded by mature trees.  We planted several Hostas between a retaining wall and a tree where they will enjoy speckled sunlight.  Hosta prefers a rich organic soil, but they will grow in about anything.  We have access to aged horse manure to augment the soil and topped that, of course, with hardwood mulch. 

   Michelle plans to alternate Day Lilies and Iris in a sunny spot in front of the house.  Both are perennials preferring full sun and fertile, well drained soil, but once established will tolerate drought.  The latter makes them a good choice for a busy working Mom with two equally busy youngsters.

   Annuals will supplement other spaces.  Petunias, Snapdragons and Salvia are sun lovers.  Impatiens are shade/part shade lovers.  All are easy keepers.

    Eventually there will be shrubs and other flowering perennials.  Michelle and her family are having such a good time experimenting with what works and what doesn’t with both their vegetable and flower gardens.  And that’s what gardening should be about:  family and fun!

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Good news/bad news on annuals

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

 It’s a good news, bad news thing.  Annuals provide long-lasting color throughout the summer. Then they die. 

       Perennials, while often providing dramatic color and impression, also often hold blooms for only a short time.  So, mix annuals with perennials.  Tuck annuals in and around trees and shrubs for a surprise splash of color. Use annuals in a container combining colors and textures.  Try some annuals in your vegetable garden. 

           Plan, plan, plan.  Think about what you’re doing.  Starting small works.  Remember when it’s 110’ in the shade in August, you may not want to be tending to an entire back yard of flowers.  But, make an impact.  Down by the road I have a 1’ x 60’ group of plantings that I never have gotten right.  The perennials keep coming up, but there just isn’t any emotion.  Maybe expanding it with a serpentine arrangement will help.  Annuals will be the option until I decide how I want it to ultimately evolve.  

     Color counts.  Create mood and interest with color.  Cool colors like greens, blues and violets help a small area seem larger and hot spots cooler.  Warm colors, the oranges, reds, and yellows, will warm a location and steal the show.  Go ahead:  combine warm and cool contrasting colors.  Yellow and blue are stunning together; red and green eye catching.  Use your imagination.  If you have a very favorite color, create a monochromatic garden but keep interest by varying textures. 

            Choose the right plants.  Annuals that require deadheading and staking may not be your cup of tea.  Reading the label is critical to know proper care. 

           Annuals require one inch of water each week.  When you can see four leaves on each plant, add mulch.  Mulch impedes weed growth and helps retain moisture.  Compost is a wonderful amendment. 

            Visit your favorite garden center.  Ask lots of questions.  Visit your neighbors’ gardens.  Ask lots of questions.  Dig in the dirt and then enjoy what you’ve created.

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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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