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Gardening Tips FOR BEGINNERS
Even beginners can start a green thumb off on the right foot with some helpful tips from Shenandoah’s Earl May Garden Center Manager Jerry Crawford. Many gardening enthusiasts credit their gardens for helping them peacefully escape from life’s stresses, but it can be daunting for those with little or no experience. But, gardening need not be intimidating, especially for beginners who stick to the following tips. n Determine what will flourish in your yard. “Pay attention to sun and shade; there are some plants that thrive great in 100 percent shade, like hostas, but others need more sun,” Crawford said. “For instance, a rose needs six hours of sun a day.” He recommends perennials for beginners, “That way you only plant them once and they come back every year and need little maintenance.” While you can plant anything you can get your hands on, the Iowa State Extension office has determined specific plant hardiness zones indicating which plants are most likely to thrive in given locations. Maps of these zones can be found at extension.iastate.edu. By adhering to the maps, gardeners can significantly increase their chances of growing successful gardens. n Location, location, location. The housing real estate motto about selecting the right location certainly applies to a garden. When choosing a spot, consider how much sunlight the location gets on a daily basis and its proximity to a water supply. “Look to the future,” Crawford advised. “If you plant something in the sun, but near a tree, in a few years as the tree grows, your plant may be under full shade.” Crawford also warned, “Pay attention to plant size. It may be awful cute now at one foot tall, but if it’s going to grow to six foot and it’s close to your house, you could have to rip it out five years from now because it’s growing into the siding, or blocking windows.” n Get your hands dirty before you plant. Preparing the soil a few weeks before you start planting will help plants succeed. Add some organic material, such as compost or fertilizer, to the soil roughly three weeks before planting. This helps the
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GARDENING Continued from Page 3
Managing difficult yard situations By TESS GRUBER NELSON Staff Writer
Many homeowners aim for a picture perfect lawn, but Mother Nature may have other things in mind, such as less than stellar growing conditions for their lawns, plants and other foliage. It can be easy to become frustrated when your yard is too muddy, too shady, or has soil that doesn’t allow anything to grow. However, there is hope. Brett Black of White House Lawns and Landscaping of Red Oak said there are plenty of options for homeowners with lackluster lawns. For homeowners with too much shade in their yards, Black first recommends thinning out the tree canopy to allow sunshine to reach the yard. Additionally, Black said there are many fescue grass blends that are tailored toward specific sunlight scenarios. Homeowners may find that low-light blends will grow better in shady areas. Hostas can also help decorate a shady area, said Black, as well as other ground cover plants. If all else fails, a homeowner might use landscaping as a way to decorate the shady spots – making it look as though it’s intentional. The soil in Southwest Iowa is mostly Loess soil, a mixture of clay
and sand. Black said most fescue grasses grow well in the Loess soil, which is a good thing. In general, Black said the soil in this area is great, thus the reason why it’s such a great agricultural area. However, great soil can’t help much when it comes to irrigation issues. Improper drainage and low-lying areas in a yard can become a muddy mess, but luckily, Black said it’s fixable. Installing a draining system or having the property sloped to draw water away can sometimes be done by a homeowner but is often best left to a professional. You may need to dig trenches, and the property may need to be regraded to make a difference. As for other lawn issues, Black said because of last year’s hot and dry conditions, he recommends aerating lawns this spring to break up the compacted soil. “We need to get that soil opened up,” said Black. The amount of aeration depends on how compact the soil in, and Black said soil needs to be moist during aeration, but not wet. “For the most part, a nice looking lawn just has to do with maintenance and mowing at the right height.”
soil retain water and nutrients, which will help your garden thrive. “If you’re going to do a flowerbed or landscape bed, you don’t need to till it, but make sure you get rid of all the weeds and grass before you start planting. A preemergence herbicide is never a bad thing to put in first,” Crawford said. “I’ve heard people talk about laying wet newspapers in the soil to prevent weed growth, but the thing about paper is, it does decompose; landscape fabric will stay there for years and still allows moisture to get through. You’ll still get some weeds, but nothing compared to what you would otherwise.” Crawford said landscape fabric costs approximately 40 cents a running foot. n Timing is everything. When you plant is sometimes as important as what you plant. Crawford’s rule of thumb is: if the ground is not frozen, trees and shrubs can be planted, but summer annual things, like geranium flowers, are safer to plant after May tenth’s frost date. He said pansies could survive in 26 degrees, as they can handle cold, but not heat. Hold fast to these suggestions or your garden might not grow much at all. Keep in mind many seedlings need significant light throughout the day. n Mulch much! “When you mulch, your flower beds look better, it helps prevent weeds, and it will hold moisture better than the soil,” said Crawford. Mulch also keeps soil in the bed, helping roots grow stronger, while deterring bugs and preventing weed growth. And, many gardeners find mulch adds an inexpensive visual appeal to their garden. n Keep it clean. Beginners rarely recognize the importance of cleaning gardening tools before putting them away. “When pruning different things, it’s important to clean the tools after each variety of plant is pruned, or fungus from one plant will be transferred to the next,” Crawford said. He suggests spraying the tool with a bleachwater ratio of one part bleach to 50 parts water. At the end of each gardening session, clean all tools thoroughly, as soil left on garden tools can play host to harmful microbes that could kill the plants. Gardening can be a labor-intensive yet gratifying hobby. By sticking to a few simple rules, beginners can develop a thriving garden that will reward all of that hard work.
Spring Home Improvement & Car Care - The Valley News (3/19) & Herald-Journal (3/20) ◆ 5
WARM WEATHER IMPACT ON PLANT AND TREES By KENT DINNEBIER Staff Writer
Unseasonably warm weather conditions this winter have jumpstarted the growth of fruit trees and plants across Iowa. “The nice warm winter was good for us because there was not a lot of damage for our perennial fruit crops,” Joe Hannan, Iowa State University Extension commercial horticulture field specialist for central and western Iowa, said. “We saw very little, if any damage, to our apples, grapes, sweet cherries, peaches and brambles.” Hannan said it was fairly unusual for less hardy fruits like sweet cherries and peaches to come through an Iowa winter unscathed. However, each of those fruits has already bloomed and apples are currently in bloom. As a result, local residents with fruit trees should have already started their pest management programs. Meanwhile, people growing strawberries need to closely watch their plants, if they are still under mulch, and get them uncovered once new leaves start to emerge. Although the growing cycle in Iowa is currently a couple of weeks ahead of schedule, Hannan said there are still two significant factors that could impact the growth of local fruit crops. The first threat is the lingering potential of frost. “With everything breaking buds, there is a susceptibility to frost. That is what everybody is interested in,” Hannan said. Typically, Hannan said May 10 is considered the end of the frost period for Iowa. Still, he said frosts are very site specific. Even if Southwest Iowa had a cold period, injury to perennial fruits would vary from location to location. The second factor is drought conditions that have developed in portions of the state as a result of the low snowfall totals. Hannan said Southwest Iowa is currently not considered one of those drought zones. However, he said growers in north central and northwest Iowa are experiencing the most severe lack of moisture at the present time. Still, he said irrigation practices can offset those drought conditions. “So long as there is a water supply for irrigation, this is manageable,” Hannan said. Finally, Hannan reminded local fruit growers that the production season is just getting underway. He said the unpredictability of weather in Iowa could still impact production totals in the state. “I’m not sure if the early start to the growing season will push the harvest forward because we do not know what the rest of the season is going to be like,” Hannan said.
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Home Projects PERFECT FOR SPRING The rejuvenating spirit of spring makes this beloved season an ideal time for homeowners to take stock of their homes and properties and address any issues that arose during the winter. While some homes make it through winter unscathed, the harsh weather of the year’s coldest season can add several tasks to homeowners’ springtime to-do lists. While some projects are best left to the professionals, others can be tackled even by those homeowners with little or no DIY experience. The following are a handful of projects tailor-made for spring.
8 ◆ Spring Home Improvement & Car Care - The Valley News (3/19) & Herald-Journal (3/20)
Inspect the gutters Gutters tend to bear the brunt of harsh winter weather, and come spring gutters are in need of inspection if not repair. Winter winds, snow and heavy rainfall can compromise the effectiveness of gutters, which can easily accumulate debris and detach from homes during winter storms. In addition, gutters sometimes develop leaks over the winter months. As a result, homeowners should conduct a careful inspection of their gutters come the spring, being sure to look for leaks while clearing the gutters of debris and reattaching gutters that might have become detached from the home on windy winter days and nights. When reattaching loose gutters, make sure the downspouts are draining away from the foundation, as gutters that are not draining properly can cause damage to that foundation and possibly lead to flooding. Take stock of roof shingles Much like its gutters and downspouts, a home’s roof can suffer significant damage over the course of a typical winter. Shingles may be lost to harsh winter winds and storms, so homeowners should examine the roof to determine if any shingles were lost (lost shingles might even be lying around the property) or suffered damage that’s considerable enough to require replacement. Summer can be especially brutal on shingles, especially those that suffered significant damage during the winter. If left unchecked or unaddressed, problems with damaged shingles can quickly escalate into larger issues when spring rains and summer sun inevitably arrive, so homeowners should prioritize fixing or replacing damaged shingles as quickly as possible. Check for freeze damage Frozen temperatures can be hard on humans and homes alike, but unlike humans who can stay inside when temperatures dip below freezing, homes are forced to withstand the elements throughout the winter. External hose faucets are often susceptible to freeze damage. To inspect such faucets, turn the water on and then place a thumb or finger over the opening of the faucet. If your thumb or finger can completely stop the flow of water, the pipe where the water is coming from is likely damaged and will need to be replaced. Examine the lawn for low spots Once a lawn has thawed out, homeowners can patrol their properties looking for low spots in the yard or even low spots within spitting distance of the home’s foundation. Such spots increase the likelihood of flooding. Flooding near a home’s foundation increases the risk of potentially costly damage, while low spots on the lawn that go ignored can make great breeding grounds for insects, including mosquitoes, when the weather warms up. When low spots are detected, fill them in with compacted soil. Compacted soil can prevent spring rains from flooding a yard or damaging a home’s foundation. Assessing potential property damage is a rite of passage for homeowners in the spring. Though some damage is significant, oftentimes even novice DIYers can work their homes and properties back into shape in time to enjoy spring and summer. Article provided by http://www.metrocreativegraphics.com
Getting started on spring cleaning For homeowners, spring cleaning is one of the annual rites of spring. The return of warmer weather presents the perfect opportunity for homeowners to open the windows, let some fresh air in and tidy up after a few months spent cooped up inside while the weather outside was frightful. But now that spring has arrived, the time to clean up around the house has come. Homeowners about to start on their annual spring cleaning should consider the following before beginning. Get the right tools The right tools won’t necessarily be a hammer and nails, but cleaning products that can make spring cleaning more efficient. Rubber gloves, cleaning products (preferably natural products that are good for the environment) and enough garbage bags to discard a winter’s worth of clutter should all be on hand before you begin cleaning. If they’re not, you’ll likely need to make a trip to the store while cleaning, which can be time-consuming and prolong the process. Take some inventory Many people have no problem buying new clothes, but they do find it hard to get rid of older items. Part of spring cleaning is tossing old items you no longer use, and that includes clothing. Clothing can take up a significant amount of space, so take some inventory on your wardrobe and decide which items you want to keep and which ones you can afford to discard or even donate.
Address the windows If the last several months have been especially cold or snowy, then you might not have looked out the windows in quite some time. Unfortunately, those windows might have accumulated quite the amount of dirt and grime while you were huddled inside. When washing the windows, do so on a cloudy day, as the sun can actually cause streaking. In addition, be mindful of what you’re using to wipe down the windows post-cleaning. Microfiber rags typically give windows a great shine without any streaking. The blinds and drapes will also need to be addressed, as they have likely accumulated some dust over the last few months. Dust the valance and the frame, and wipe the blinds down with a damp cloth. You can also use your vacuum’s upholstery and brush attachments to further clean blinds and drapes. Tidy up the bed You likely wash your bed linens regardless of the season. When spring cleaning, toss these linens into the washing machine and don’t forget to wash the mattress pads and bed skirting as well. While those items are in the wash, flip all the mattresses in your household. Don’t forget the kitchen The kitchen is not immune to clutter, and it’s especially easy for items to overstay their welcome in the refrigerator and the kitchen cabinets. Look for old takeout containers
in the refrigerator that have managed to stick around, and throw these out as well as any items that have passed their expiration dates. While items in the kitchen cabinets might not have an expiration date, it helps to remove them from the pantry and then dust and wipe down the shelves. When doing so, discard any items that no longer seem appetizing. Beat the rugs Area rugs have no doubt collected dirt and dust over the last several months. Though vacuuming these area rugs might be enough during the year, take advantage of the pleasant weather and take the rugs outside to beat them and rid them of dust and any other particles the vacuum might have missed over the last few months. Empty and clean the bookshelves Bookshelves are one the biggest collectors of dust in many homes. Open the windows in the home and then remove books from the shelves. Once the books have been removed, dust the shelves and wipe them down with a damp cloth. And don’t forget to dust the books and reorganize titles before returning them to their newly cleaned shelves. Spring cleaning is something all homeowners must do to keep their homes healthy and clean. Spring cleaning is annual event at many households, and a few simple strategies can make it go much more smoothly. Article provided by http://www.metrocreativegraphics. com
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