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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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Spring tree care

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

 

    March marked the start of our transition from winter to spring.  Now that the snow has melted  (we hope,)  it’s a good time to examine your trees for winter damage.  We often expect our trees to be self sufficient and  tend to neglect their well-being.  

     After the frost is gone, thoroughly water trees that have been subjected to de-icing compounds.  This will move the chemicals through the soil and away from the tree roots.   Watering before the ground thaws will create runoff and pollute soil and ground water. 

     If your trees need to be fertilized, wait until the ground has completely thawed.  Fertilizer run off wastes money and also contributes to groundwater pollution.

     If, and only if, an insect problem exists, dormant oil sprays can be used once the temperature reaches a constant 40 degrees.  Dormant oils are used to control some scale insects and overwintering insects. 

    Rabbits and voles girdle trunks at the base.  Damage will appear as a lighter area on the trunk, primarily as teeth marks.   The damage interrupts the flow of water and nutrients to the roots.   While you have no recourse for the damage, it is wise to monitor the health of the tree as severe damage can kill a tree.

    Tree wraps should be removed in the spring as the temperature warms.

    Complete pruning prior to trees leafing out.  Storm damaged branches should be removed as they occur. 

    If you’re planning on adding trees to your landscape, now is a good time to visit our local nurseries and greenhouses for suggestions and recommendations.        Personally, I’m going to find the shadiest spot under the big walnut to plant my chair and enjoy my favorite summer beverage.

 

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Not Earth Day, but Earth Hour

Earth Day isn’t until April 22, but you can get a head start with Earth Hour this weekend.

 

   At 8.30 pm Saturday, March 28, 2009, 2,848 cities in 83 countries will switch off their lights for Earth Hour in a moment of global solidarity.
  According to Earth Hour’s Web site (an initiative of World Wildlife Fund) millions of people from all walks of life and corners of the world will participate in Earth Hour from small island nations of the South Pacific to the densely populated cities of the Americas, casting their vote in the world’s first global election between Earth and global warming. See:
www.earthhour.org/home

 

   Will anyone here be participating?

 

 

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A move for Cedar Rapids farmers market

    Iowa City officials are handling a potential move of its farmers markets from a covered parking ramp – on an occasional basis to a busier site a few blocks away  – by talking to market vendors. Cedar Rapids has a different way of changing its farmers market sites and doesn’t have to jump through the same hoops as Iowa City.  A couple years ago, some vendors and customers were upset over the move from the covered Riverside Roundhouse in Cedar Rapids to an open air market at the city parking lot at Eighth Avenue and Second Street SE.  Market officials say the new site is no longer an issue for customers or vendors.      Nevertheless, Teresa White, the city’s farmers market supervisor, decided to move the Thursday markets from Eighth Avenue to Greene Square Park. “I just want to be different,” she said. Teresa also hopes the market will be a boost for workers in downtown Cedar Rapids, which is still recovering from last June’s flood.  

   Greene Square is quite a convenience for those of us who work in The Gazette, as the park is just outside our office. What do you think? Will that move be a good one?  And what should become of the roundhouse? Is it just a  relic that should be demolished with other flood-damaged buildings?

 

   I will be updating the farmers market schedule for as many in Eastern Iowa as I can find and will post it here later this spring. Most markets don’t start until May, although the Hiawatha one usually gets a head start in April.

   If you are a market master, have information on a farmers market or know of a new one, you can send the info to me at: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com or leave a message below. Please include a contact name and phone number.

 

    Here is the Cedar Rapids farmers market schedule for this season:

 

    Eighth Avenue and Second Street SE parking lot will be May 2 through Oct. 24; Tuesdays from 4-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to noon, except when the Downtown Farmers Markets are held. Thursday markets will be 4-6 p.m. in Greene Square Park, from June 11 through Aug. 27.

   Noelridge Park farmers markets, from May 1 through Oct. 23, are 4-6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

   The larger Downtown Farmers Markets – with a record 160 vendors this year – are 7:30 a.m. to noon on June 6 and 20; July 18; Aug. 1 and 15; Sept. 5 and Oct. 3.

 

 

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Your Questions: answers, and a new one

Tom from Cedar Rapids left a question that hopefully someone in this area can answer. He asked the following:

I’m looking at harvesting some of the water that comes off my roof, but I haven’t found a good source for rain barrels in the greater CR, IA area. Where’s a good place to get one?

Thanks!

If you have an answer for Tom, leave your comment below.

 

 

Pam and Leora last week asked the following:

 

   I have started a flower garden in the front of my home which is facing east but does get some south sun on part of the garden area. I love flowering plants but I have not done a good job with finding appropriate plants. Does anyone have ideas of various plants that are perennials to put here?

 

 How soon should you start trimming the fruit trees: apple and pear? What other tips should I know to get the trees ready for spring? I have heard a lot about spraying the trees so what should I use?

 

 We have heard of growing potatoes in tires, but need to know the procedure. We have two big tractor tires to work with. Please help us.

 

Gardeners can be a shy bunch, but Bev Lillie, Master Gardener coordinator for Linn County, was able to get answers from some of the Linn County Master Gardeners.

Here’s what they said about the pear and apple trees: prune fruit trees in late winter/early spring.  Apply a fungicide/insecticide, e.g., home orchard spray biweekly after the blossoms drop.

As for what perennials to plant, if the site is in partial sun or shade, you can find suggestions at the Iowa State Extension Web site by searching on partial shade plants:  www.extension.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/

Some of my favorites include Japanese iris, which flower in early to midsummer; turtlehead, which grows 2-3 feet tall and has pretty pink or white flowers in the fall, and for foliage plants lungwort or pulmonaria and the groundcover lamium, which stays green almost year-round and flowers during the spring, summer and fall. 

 For the potato question, Ed Hume Seed’s Web site: http://www.humeseeds.com/index.htm offered some possibilities. My mom has had success with the first method, which uses straw and might work in large tires, as well.

Straw: For centuries, Scandinavians have grown potatoes in stacks of straw or other mulching material. Potatoes are planted above ground in the straw, and as the vines begin to grow, additional straw` or mulch is mounded up around the base of the plants. This results in a yield of very clean potatoes. New potatoes can be harvested easily even before the potato vines mature completely.

Under plastic or in plastic garbage bags: Garden soil or a commercial potting soil can be used to grow the potatoes in the bags, Fold over the top half of the bag, fill with soil, and plant a certified seed potato that has been cut in half. The plastic bag can be set above ground wherever it’s convenient. Punch holes in the bottom of the bag for drainage.

You also can plant potatoes under black plastic. Cut open a piece of the black plastic, and plant a potato piece. The potato tubers will develop as they would in the open ground. However, the tubers that develop close to the surface of the soil are shaded by the black plastic and should not develop the green inedible portions that often are found on other tubers. The black plastic also will aid in controlling weeds.

Garbage cans or containers: Old garbage cans, or wooden or fiberboard-type containers are suitable for growing potatoes, if they have adequate drainage. You can conserve space by growing them in this manner. A word of caution, though: The plants tend to dry out more rapidly when grown in containers, so additional watering will be needed. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up with misshapen tubers.

Pulmonaria, or lungwort, in bloom

Pulmonaria, or lungwort, in bloom

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Ready for Daylight Saving Time

I love sunflowers and thought it was a good excuse to use one in this account of Daylight Saving Time (or Daylight Savings Time, as many people say) from www.webexhibits.org

sunflower

sunflower

Just as sunflowers turn their heads to catch every sunbeam, so too have we discovered a simple way to get more from our sun.

  

 

   Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 8, 2009, so set your clocks ahead one hour before going to bed Saturday night.

 

 I, for one, am looking forward to the time change and wish it were year-round. I know there have been studies that show people have trouble adjusting their sleep schedules during the fall and spring time changes.  In the last two years, we have extended the length of Daylight Saving Time in the U.S.  – a positive move, in my opinion. Anyone else like to weigh in?

Whether you agree or disagree, you might find the history behind Daylight Saving Time interesting. Following are some tidbits from the WebExhibits site. Much more can be found at: http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/index.html

   According to some sources, DST saves energy. Studies done by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1975 showed that Daylight Saving Time trims the entire country’s electricity usage by a small but significant amount, about one percent each day, because less electricity is used for lighting and appliances.

    The rationale behind the 1975 study of DST-related energy savings was that energy use and the demand for electricity for lighting homes is directly related to the times when people go to bed at night and rise in the morning. In the average home, 25 percent of electricity was used for lighting and small appliances, such as TVs and stereos. A good percentage of energy consumed by lighting and appliances occurred in the evening when families were home. By moving the clock ahead one hour, the amount of electricity consumed each day decreased.

   In the summer, people who rose before the sun rises used more energy in the morning than if DST were not in effect. However, although 70 percent of Americans rose before 7 a.m., this waste of energy from having less sunlight in the morning was more than offset by the savings of energy that results from more sunlight in the evening.

   In the winter, the afternoon Daylight Saving Time advantage is offset for many people and businesses by the morning’s need for more lighting. In spring and fall, the advantage is generally less than one hour. So, the rationale was that Daylight Saving Time saves energy for lighting in all seasons of the year, but it saves least during the four darkest months of winter (November, December, January, and February), when the afternoon advantage is offset by the need for lighting because of late sunrise.

   In addition, less electricity was thought to be used because people are home fewer hours during the “longer” days of spring and summer. Most people plan outdoor activities in the extra daylight hours. When people are not at home, they don’t turn on the appliances and lights. Although a 1976 report by the National Bureau of Standards disputed the 1975 U.S. Department of Transportation study, and found that DST-related energy savings were insignificant, the DOT study continued to influence decisions about Daylight Saving Time.

   The argument in favor of saving energy swayed Indiana, where until 2005, only about 16 percent of counties observed Daylight Saving Time. Based on the DOT study, advocates of Indiana DST estimated that the state’s residents would save over $7 million in electricity costs each year. Now that Indiana has made the switch, however, researchers have found the opposite to be the case. Scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, compared energy usage over the course of three years in Indiana counties that switched from year-round Standard Time to DST. They found that Indianans actually spent $8.6 million more each year because of Daylight Saving Time, and increased emissions came with a social cost of between $1.6 million and $5.3 million per year. Commentators have theorized that the energy jump is due to the increased prevalence of home air conditioning over the past 40 years, in that more daylight toward the end of a summer’s day means that people are more likely to use their air conditioners when they come home from work.

   However, the Indiana research findings don’t necessarily apply elsewhere. In cooler climates, for example, energy savings may well occur. In addition, some argue that there is a public health benefit to Daylight Saving Time, as it decreases traffic accidents. Several studies in the U.S. and Great Britain have found that the DST daylight shift reduces net traffic accidents and fatalities by close to one percent. An increase in accidents in the dark mornings is more than offset by the evening decrease in accidents.

   However, recent research indicates that pedestrian fatalities from cars soar at 6:00 p.m. during the weeks after clocks are set back in the fall. Walkers are three times as likely to be hit and killed by cars right after the switch than in the month before DST ends. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, who found a 186 percent jump in the risk of being killed by a car for every mile walked, speculate that drivers go through an adjustment period when dusk arrives earlier. Although the risk drops in the morning, because there are fewer pedestrians at 6:00 a.m., the lives saved in the morning don’t offset those lost in the evening.  This research corroborates a 2001 study by researchers at the University of Michigan, which found that 65 pedestrians were killed by car crashes in the week before DST ended, and 227 pedestrians were killed in the week following the end of DST.

There may also be an economic benefit to DST, as daylight evening hours encourage people to go out and shop, potentially spurring economic growth.

The Daylight Saving Time plan was not formally adopted in the U.S. until 1918. ‘An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States‘ was enacted on March 19, 1918. See law

 

Under legislation enacted in 1986, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. began at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and ended at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October.

 

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. beginning in 2007, though Congress retained the right to revert to the 1986 law should the change prove unpopular or if energy savings are not significant. Going from 2007 forward, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S.

  • begins at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and
  • ends at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November

 

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I Spy

Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, submitted the following about springtime preparations:

 

I spy, with my little eye, something green.  It’s tiny, a sliver, and there’s another and another right there in my yard.  Under the melting snow and ice, live grass is trying to peek through.  Is it my imagination to expect green grass in early March?  As soon as we endure the annual State Girls’ Basketball Tournament snowstorm, it will be spring in Iowa!  Then, we can dig into yard work. 

Initially we monitor the gardens’ environments.  Disease prevention can save future headaches.  Start by removing unwanted leaves, branches and other debris deposited by wind or critters. Prune or trim back the stems you left for winter interest.   Peruse your garden catalog for species and varieties that are disease resistant.  Know if your new plantings prefer shade or a sunny setting.   Plan plantings to provide adequate airflow.   Humidity and wetness under the canopy are often conducive to disease so spacing is important. Maintaining good plant vigor through proper watering and fertilizing will make your plants less prone to disease.  As you plan your garden, consider the water source.  How many trips will you need to make with a watering can or how far will you have to drag a hose?  Is a rain barrel feasible in or near the bed?  How about a soaker hose?  I have two beds near the road ditch.   I alternate running the soaker hoses from a spigot beside the house.  I also have a water barrel mounted in a wagon to use for beds where no running water is available.   Proper timing with fertilization will be important.  Follow label directions on packages.   Retain the water and feeding directions for further reference. 

Compost amends the soil.  Use it abundantly!  Mulch is a valuable asset.  It helps hold moisture, chokes out weeds and prevents too much water from splashing on the underside of plants during a heavy rain.  I stock up my season’s supply as soon as each becomes available.

 Bird houses are a wonderful addition to a garden.  A water feature will attract birds and butterflies.  Both come in all manner of shapes and size. 

Remember to check out the rakes and shovels and tune up the lawn mower.  As soon as the soil is above 50 degrees, it’s time to plant!  

 

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