Posts tagged xeriscape

The deadly juglone of black walnut trees

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

    The seeder wagon is in place.  The lawn mower towed it out of the shed down to the water way and then with two planks and my favorite son’s strong back we pushed and pulled it to the other side of the ditch.  With the addition of an old wire garden gate staked behind a sapling, a hand pump from my parent’s former home and a rock lined pseudo fire pit filled with Petunias that were on the end-of-season sale, the area reflects the peaceful primitive atmosphere I was striving for.  This is the area I mentioned in an earlier blog that became inaccessible to mow due to last year’s flood.  Hosta, native grasses and prairie perennials will grace the space next year.  We continued our zeroscaping to include a part of the road ditch that I learned is also impossible to mow after the mower and I suffered a close encounter with the culvert.  Now that waterway is filled with large rocks and what was a sloping grassy space is mulched. 

            Hosta will ring the two Black Walnut trees in the roadway ditch.  Hosta is a plant of choice there because I have some that need transplanting and they are not sensitive to Juglone, a chemical secretion from Black Walnut Trees. 

             Discovered in the 1880s, Juglone is produced in the fruit, leaves, branches and root system of several trees with Black Walnuts exhibiting the highest concentration.  The greatest intensity in the soil exists within the tree’s drip line, on an average 50 ft. radius from the trunk of a mature tree.  Plants susceptible to Juglone display yellowing leaves, wilting and eventual death.  Plants sensitive to Juglone include Peonies, Hydrangea, Asian Lilies, and Lilacs.  There are multiple choices that will withstand close proximity to Walnut trees such as most grasses, Phlox, Sedum, Daylilies, Iris and Hosta.

            Now my challenge is to determine plants that are not only resistant to Juglone, but also to the deer population in this neighborhood.  Unfortunately, Hosta is one of the critters’ favorite choices.  They have already decimated the Hosta and Bee Balm in the ditch on the other side of the lane.  A great winter  pastime will be comparison shopping perennials and grasses that are both deer and Juglone resistant as well as low maintenance for those landscapes. 

             I actually enjoy mowing.  And I like the challenge of creating and maintaining flower beds, but the  simple clean lines of zeroscaping does appeal to me.  A few plants and shrubs easily embellish the area without overstating the purpose of low maintenance.

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“Few enemies”

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

 

The critters sense that the weather outside will be—already is—frightful.  I almost need traffic signals and turn lanes in my yard and driveway where the squirrels are frantically harvesting nuts from the walnut trees.  Canadian geese have noisily moved in mass overhead traveling south.    I’ve not had feedback from the deer, but they must have felt the hosta in my xeriscape was especially tasty as they have, again, totally decimated all of them as they prepare for winter snow cover. 

 You see, we live in the country and our road ditch is steep, difficult to weed whip and impossible to mow.  We created an attractive xeriscape using mulch to cover grass and weeds and rock to stop an area of erosion, then added a few perennials for interest.  Maintenance has been minimal.  This spring we plan to xeriscape a smaller area on the other side of the lane.  An article in a recent Master Gardener’s newsletter sparked my interest in perennial ornamental grasses. Linn County Master Gardener, Becki Lynch says ornamental grasses have few enemies. Deer, rabbits, squirrels, even insects seem to not be interested in them.   Becki describes the grasses as “beautiful, regal, feather topped, silver sheened, golden stemmed, ten feet tall, back-lit by the sun and swaying in gentle breezes.”  After established, ornamental grasses are drought resistant.  You can fertilize them—or not.  They do like mulch.  And, ornamental grasses come in a multitude of heights, shapes and textures. Ornamental grasses sound like a plan to me. What do you think?  Oh, when, oh when will seed catalogs start to arrive?

Even if we can’t work outside in Iowa’s winters, we can still enjoy gardening by listening to someone from the Master Gardener’s Speaker’s Bureau.  A colorful and educational presentation on any number of gardening topics is available for your group or organization.  Contact the Linn County Extension Office at 319-377-9839 for a brochure reflecting the range of speakers’ experience.

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Exceeding a gardener’s appetite

This post is from Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

    The old fashioned Pick-Up-Sticks game didn’t thrill my six year old granddaughter. For that matter, neither did picking up sticks in the yard, but it’s so great to be outside with the riding mower and wagon that even picking up sticks isn’t all bad.  Next comes cleaning up the flower beds.  Now I think compost. Compost is so wonderful as soil enrichment.  Did you know that about anything but the kitchen sink can go into a compost bin?  And the “bin” can be anything from a pile on the ground to a garbage can to a commercial container?  We’ll have more on compost in future articles.

    This year, my first goal is to be better organized.  I’m learning to be realistic in how much time I have to devote to gardening because gardening for me is like eating; my eyes always exceed my appetite.

·         To create less labor and more curb appeal, we’ll reshape a right angle corner to a soft angle in one of the beds.  It will be so much easier to ride the mower around a curve than to kneel and pull weeds or use a hand edger.  A border grouping between an old concrete water tank, a water way and a wooden fence where the lawn mower won’t fit will eliminate weed whipping there. 

·         An old rake head, attached to a wall will hold garden tools.           

·         The mower blades—that should have been sharpened last fall will be sharpened this week.

·         While weeding is easiest right after a rain, I’m adding a pair of pliers to my tool box to pull mulberry tree seedlings and other stubborn weeds that grow in my xeriscape.

·         Speaking of weeding, a good recycling use for old newspapers is as mulch. Create overlapping layers six to eight deep (black and white, not colored pages). Cover with a thin layer of mulch (i.e. wood shavings) for weight. You’ll eliminate weeds, conserve moisture, and save so much time watering.  And, as the paper disintegrates, it encourages earthworms who will aerate the soil for you. 

·         While I’m not a real bird aficionado, I like bugs less, so we’ll be adding some birdhouses.  Did you know a wren feeds as many as 500 bugs to her young in ONE AFTERNOON?  And, the many colors and designs will enhance the gardens esthetically as well.

·         Remember you can call the Iowa State University Extension Horticulture Hotline at the Linn County office with any gardening questions at 319-447-0647.  Happy Cleanup! 

                       

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