Posts tagged winter

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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Technically, it’s still winter

Several warm and sunny days this week might make us forget that winter is still with us, officially, at least, until Friday. Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, sent the following about this time of year:

Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

  

 

 

 

   From the Brucemore Gardens

 

   The lengthening of the days and the warmer temperatures make me want to go outside and get back to gardening along with the rest of the grounds crew here at Brucemore. We have pruned all the deciduous trees and grape vines. The lawns and garden beds have been raked and the orchard will be pruned this week. While failing to pull the greenery used for holiday decorating out of a still frozen container, a somber realization dawned on me: it is still winter and there is a good month left before the real gardening can begin, and before we know it, the whole growing season will have passed by in a blur of continuous activity.

 

In my haste to hurry up and get busy, I realized that I had almost missed it again—the experience, the wondrous process of late winter merging into spring. With every rain drop and ray of sunshine, change is taking place. We all know this but rarely take the time to observe and enjoy. This year I vow to observe and enjoy with total presence, and I will stay conscious and aware during every season and transition of the year. Through Cindy’s blog, (thank you Cindy) I will share my experiences and offer tips and ideas for you to use in your own gardens.

 

I encourage you and yours to participate wholeheartedly also. Come visit the Brucemore gardens and grounds to experience the seasons this year. Our gates are open during regular business hours, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and often from dawn to dusk. Stroll the grounds, formal gardens, pond, timber, and orchard. Stop by the children’s garden to pick up a monthly activity sheet, which offers suggestions for additional nature study opportunities.

 

I would love to hear what you are doing also!  Please feel free to send me any suggestions, ideas, or tips from your own gardens and explorations.

 

Deb Engmark

Brucemore Head Gardener

2160 Linden Dr. SE

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403

deb@brucemore.org

www.brucemore.org

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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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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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Shower time!

 

 

Aloe vera gets a shower

Aloe vera gets a shower

 Those dear, neglected houseplants, alternately baking and freezing in windows that vacillate between oven and freezer in the winter. Once spring arrives, mine spend Iowa’s warmer months outside, where they grow lush and green. But first they must survive the less than ideal conditions indoors.

 

   Kept out of reach of predatory cats, I don’t pay as much attention to my houseplants as I should in the winter. But just recently I brought them back into better health with a good shower. I’ve tried the bathtub and basement sink methods, but finally found that the best spot to spray the plants is right under their window, in the kitchen sink. Each plant gets a good spray and soaking. I let the water drain from the bottom of the planters before putting them back in place. Usually, I try to give them a shower once a month during the winter months, though I’ve been slacking this year. The process can leave a bit of a mess in the sink and although I’m not usually a bleach person, it comes in handy when thoroughly cleaning the sink afterwards.

 

   Because some of the plants are almost out of sight in their window, had it not been for their shower this month, I would have missed a nice surprise. A  geranium, which my mother entrusted to my care when her home was flooded this summer, had actually bloomed! Perhaps this was the plant’s cry for help, since some flowers bloom when they are stressed, but it was nice to see a bright spot of color on a cold winter’s day. 

Mom's geranium

Mom's geranium

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Winter Gardening Fair

Linn County Master Gardener, Becki Lynch, shares the following about the Winter Gardening Fair:

 

Hard to believe we’re already into 2009!  I don’t know about you, but the years seem to be spinning along even faster as I get older – and now we’re almost to February 7, 2009, the day of the Winter Gardening Fair, 2009.

 

As you may already know, the Iowa State University Extension Linn County Master Gardeners sponsor this day of gardening seminars each year, partnering with Kirkwood Community College. 

 

This year we’re offering a full day of four seminars, as well as a keynote presentation for $49.  Lunch is also included.  Simply call our Hortline number (319) 447-0647 to request a brochure, or go to our web site www.extension.iastate.edu/linn to see the full array of seminars and details to register.

 

We’re particularly pleased and looking forward to our keynote and featured speakers, Janet Macunovich and Steven Nikkila.  They are a husband and wife team that are both knowledgeable and entertaining speakers.  Janet will be speaking on how to provide continuous color in your landscape through all four seasons.  She is a true Midwesterner and provides very practical and down-to-earth instructions and tips – at the same time, she is a joy to listen to.  I know she’ll get you excited to start your gardening season with lots of new ideas.

 

Steven is a wonderful photographer, who is also a delight to listen to about ways to improve those garden photographs that are so helpful in recording and planning your garden landscape.  He speaks to all of us amateurs with our digital cameras, as well as those more “professional level” folks.  I’m looking forward to being able to ask some of those questions I have about light and framing.  Why do I always seem to cut off the heads of my most beautiful flowers?  And why isn’t the color the same in the photograph as what I see?

 

I’m sure you’ll enjoy our speakers this year, and I hope to see you at the fair this year.  Next week, we’ll have more on  some of the wonderful local speakers who will be presenting workshops at the fair.  

 

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Happy Anniversary!!

    How could I forget our anniversary? It was Jan. 17, 2008, when the online version of Homegrown started, so this blog has already passed its one-year mark.

 

    With that in mind, I wanted to point out some new features that have been added since then.  First, searches are now easier with the addition of a search button.  If you want to know more about lawns or corn or lady bugs or something else,  just put the word or phrase into that space and click to find more on the topic. The “Your Photos” feature was added last year. Even though I asked for garden or plant photos, since it’s winter in Iowa, feel free to submit your cold weather photos – the ice on your tree branches, birds at the feeder or your child’s tongue stuck to a metal pole. OK, maybe not the last one, but photos you want to share can be emailed to me at: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com and I’ll post them to Your Photos for the world to admire.

 

    The gardening events category is a popular one, but remember to look for the posted dates. Many of those items are from 2008. I’ll try to remember to put 2009 on all the new events to avoid confusion. The farmers markets list is from last year, but I will update the list this spring.

 

    If there are any other additions or changes you’d like to see on Homegrown, please let me know by email (same as above) or by posting a comment below.

 

    Finally, here is the message that kicked off Homegrown just over a year ago. I think it’s still appropriate today.

 

Welcome! I am so excited to be doing this!! Homegrown is the blog version of a gardening column I wrote for The Gazette a few years ago, a reference to locally grown vegetables, fruits and flowers. First off, although I was born in the 1960s, I don’t consider myself a product of the ’60s, so if you’re looking for a less than legal “homegrown” substance, you’ve come to the wrong blog, dude. Everyone else, feel free to come back often – more will be added as we move into growing season – and please, offer your comments. I want to know what your interests are. I’m also thrilled to provide a forum for our Master Gardeners, who will be sharing their expertise, as well. Thanks for checking in. I look forward to hearing from you!

  

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