Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Archive for October 2009

For the Well of It

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The Arboretum attended UNI’s Autumn-matic Wellness Fair this past Tuesday to promote the gardens and one-mile walking trail to students, faculty and staff.  We had a great crowd and was fun to be on campus – thanks to Pat McGivern for lending her happy smile to the event!

And quite conveniently, Steph and Billie were right next to us promoting the UNI Botanical Center!  If you have not visited, make it high on your list to do so this winter!  Their website is http://www.uni.edu/biology/botanicalcenter.

The Arboretum was also promoting smart gardening tips … read below.

ten steps for a healthy (and natural!) garden

step one::  Start with your soil.  Well-balanced soil is the key to success!  Consider buying a soil test at your local garden center.  Amend soil as necessary.

step two::  Remove all unwanted plant material and debris in the spring.  Cultivate the soil by hand or using a tiller.

step three::  Soil lacking in nutrients?  Add 3 to 6 inches of organic compost to your topsoil.

step four::  Some bugs are good!  Earthworms continually fertilize the soil.  Control unwanted insects with soaps, oils and other organic alternatives.

step five::  Choose site-appropriate plant material that can thrive in our Iowa climate.

step six::  If your soil is incredibly nutrient deficient, consider using a slow-release organic fertilizer every few months (or as stated on container).

step seven::  Help smother weeds by using mulch.

step eight::  Weed by hand.  Get a bit of exercise and enjoy the fresh air!

step nine::  Water deep.  Soak the roots on a regular basis – this is better for the plants than quick, frequent waterings.

step ten::  Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

See you in the gardens.


Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 29, 2009 at 8:45 pm

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Green With Envy

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Picture 089I have to admit, I don’t often take notice of the grass under my feet. As long as it is green and growing, who cares? I would much rather focus on the flowerbeds and tree canopies. This is why the garden shop’s advertising of lawn winterizing surprises me each fall – “Oh yeah, there’s grass out there, too.”

What does it mean to winterize your lawn? Is it just another gimmick to get us into the store?

“Winterizing” is such a dirty word to me! If only we could go from the vibrant colors of fall right to the blooming buds of spring! Unfortunately we cannot, and there are a few steps we can take – in our lawns, just like our flowerbeds – to ensure the best spring possible.

Step 1. Rake up all leaves and debris. Take out some of your aggression in the lawn and rake out some of the deep thatch that has built up over the season. A thorough raking will rid your lawn of possible winter homes for pest and diseases, as well as jumpstart your spring garden clean-out.

 Step 2. Consider reseeding and fertilizing your lawn. Have bare patches? Fall is a great time for grass seeds to take root. Once the temps fall, there are fewer pests and diseases, so your grass can mature without competition. And if your lawn has many stresses throughout the season – heat, draught and high traffic to name a few – fertilizing might be a good idea. Feeding your lawn in the fall will ensure a greener late-season lawn as well as promote healthy plants going into the harsh winter and quicker bounce-back in the spring. There are many fertilizers available for late season application, with many high in phosphorous for root development.

But take note: Just like trees and perennials, your lawn goes through a hardening-off process. Fertilizing too late can cause a spurt of new growth you do not want going into winter.

Step 3. Give your lawn one final cut. Leaving your grass too long (most say over 2 ½ inches) can cause it to lay over once snow falls. The grass can develop a thick mat (just like left leaves) that can create a nurturing environment for disease.


See you in the gardens.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 22, 2009 at 6:37 pm

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Seeing Red

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Picture 006It does not feel like autumn, but the changing trees tell us otherwise.  The vibrant orange, reds and yellows of maples make autumn one of my favorite seasons of the year.  And a tree with early color at The Arboretum was the Amur maple, Acer ginnala.

Like many trees in the Aceraceae family, the Amur maple is best known for its showy fall color.  But unlike other maples, the Amur maple is smaller in stature and will likely only grow up to 20-30 feet with a branching, dense growth habit.  And as you can see from the above photo, Amur Maple leaves have fewer lobes than the more common maple leaves.

During the summer, Amur maple has a green leaf with inconspicuous white blooms in the spring.  Some varieties also have showy red fruit, but take note; Amur Maples can also produce significant seedlings in the areas around the tree.  Newer varieties can be less invasive.  This hardy tree is highly drought tolerant and can grow in sun or partial shade. 

See you in the gardens.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

October 15, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized