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Beware the Garlic Mustard

by Beth Fisher on April 25th, 2016

Spring has arrived in Iowa City, and so have the weeds. Which means it’s time to keep an eye out for Garlic Mustard. According to the Iowa DNR “Garlic Mustard is a rapidly spreading, highly invasive non-native plant. It was introduced from Europe in mid-1800s for medicinal and herbal uses and came to the U.S. without predatory beetles or other natural controls. Garlic Mustard threatens to rob Iowa of healthy, diverse native woodlands.”  Unfortunately wildlife do not eat Garlic Mustard. Human intervention is the only way to control it.

Garlic Mustard is a woodland plant that favors shade or dappled shade, but it will also grow in sun given enough moisture.  The Iowa Wildlife Federation suggests that if you’re out hiking in your favorite woods (or hunting for morel mushrooms) take along a big garbage bag and load it up with Garlic Mustard plants before they get a chance to set seed.  Garlic Mustard is not difficult to pull, especially if there has been recent rain. If you wiggle the plant a little then pull at a slight angle, you’ll be less likely to break off the stem leaving the roots to re-sprout.

Garlic Mustard is a biennial – it flowers the second year.  The first year the plants stay short and has rounder toothed leaves.  It is often brighter green than its surroundings.

 

 

During its 2nd year, the plants spread into patches, and the leaves are more triangular/heart shaped. It gets up 12″ tall  or taller.

 

 

 

By late spring, you’ll be more likely to see Garlic Mustard patches in bloom.  Look for  heart shaped or triangular coarsly toothed leaves, with clusters of small 4-petal white flowers at the top of a 12″ to 36″ tall thin stalks.

 

 

The Iowa DNR has a great printable full color  Garlic Mustard brochure that contains color photographs of different ages of the plant, as well as suggested control techniques for small or large patches.  It’s a handy thing to carry with you the first time you look for the plant.

In 2011 the Friends of Hickory Hill Park sponsored a Garlic Mustard Identification program with a naturalist from the Johnson County Conservation Department, and you can watch the video here.

There are also many websites that can help you identify Garlic Mustard. One of the best is the King County, Washington weed identification website.

 

Beware of the 3 Czech Ice Kings!

by Kara Logsden on March 28th, 2016
Beware of the 3 Czech Ice Kings! Cover Image

2016 03 Spring FlowersLonger days, spring flowers, and sunshine have me in the mood for garden planning. A little voice in the back of my head, though, has been telling me I shouldn’t get ahead of myself and to remember the Three Ice Kings my Grandmother, Mother, and Father have always warned about. I remembered to “Beware of the Ice Kings” but I couldn’t remember the details beyond they had something to do with planting tomatoes (a staple in my garden).

I was talking to a Master Gardener, who also happens to be an ICPL Reference Librarian, and asked if she’d ever heard of the Three Ice Kings. Expert sleuth she is, she found a couple articles including this one from Homegrown Iowan:

“As the story goes, the three kings or saints – Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14 – were frozen when the temperature dropped while they were fishing at sea. On May 15, St. Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water to thaw out the three frozen kings.

The legend, brought to the United States by Czech immigrants, means that, for Iowans,  it’s a good idea to wait until May 15 to plant your tomatoes, peppers and other tender vegetables and flowers, or at least provide them with some protection in case overnight temperatures drop below freezing.”

My Grandmother is 100% Czech and first generation Iowan from Czech immigrants, so it makes sense she would know about the Ice Kings Legend.

So with a few more weeks to wait before planting, I decided a quick trip to the Library’s New Nonfiction Collection would help with garden planning. The first book I found is Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest by Michael VenderBrug. Not only does this book share a calendar for garden planning, but it also focuses on Midwest gardening issues. I especially liked the section addressing trellising tomatoes.

Foodscaping by Charles Nardozzi gives practical information about introducing edibles into regular landscaping. The pictures are great and I appreciated the information about container gardening.

Mystery writer Diane Mott Davidson’s book, Goldy’s Kitchen, weaves some of my favorite things into one book: Mysteries and Food. The Heirloom Tomato Salad recipe from her book, Fatally Flaky, looks perfect for my future tomato and basil harvest.

While I’m waiting for the Three Ice Kings, it’s nice to know I can find spring gardening inspiration at the Library.

Houseplants make it feel like spring

by Beth Fisher on February 20th, 2016
Houseplants make it feel like spring Cover Image

Winters are long in Iowa.  By the time the middle of February comes around, Mother Nature begins to tease us with bright sunny days.  But look at a calendar and you’ll see that we are still more than a month away from Spring.

If you’re itching to get your hands in the garden there is something you can do now that might make it feel like spring – get a new houseplant!  Tovah Martin’s new book “The Indestructible Houseplant – 200 beautiful plants that everyone can grow is “for all the windowsill-gardener wannabes… For all the folks who hankered for houseplants but didn’t know where to start, and for all the people who picked up the wrong houseplant and thought its hasty demise was their fault, this book is for you.”

The Idestructible Houseplant is both a good reference book and a fun read. (Yes, books can be both.) If you’re looking for a book on houseplants and you want to look up just one plant, hit the index in the back and it will tell you where to turn. Or hit the table of contents for her list of 200 plants and go from there.

But if you’re looking for a fun read, start at the very beginning.  Tovah Martin is an entertaining writer. Her snappy style and entertaining storytelling will get you hooked. She’ll tell you the story of how she got hooked on houseplants, how the idea for this book came to be, what her home is like and how she tested plants to come up with her 200 surviving “indestructibles.”

The 200+ page “Gallery of Indestructibles” lists her choices in alphabetical order.  Each new plant begins with an entertaining page or more describing the plant, a beautiful color photograph, and half-page table listing the plants features: it’s common name(s), Latin name, a rating (easy or easiest), size range, foliage description, other attributes, desired light exposure, water requirements, optimum night time temperature, rate or growth, soil type, fertilizing, issues and ideal companions.

indest1

The last 40 pages take you through what she calls “The Details” –  choosing a plant; general cautions about plant toxicity; light, humidity and temperature considerations; choosing and preparing a container.  The list of sources are mainly in Connecticut, but all have websites.

There is one thing I was surprised by.  The groupings called “Ferns” and “Ivy”  are examples of when the author groups plants into a family.  The information is general rather than specific to any of the individual types found in the index.  Not that the information isn’t good, but it might not be appropriate to ALL the different plants in either family.

This is a great gardening book, and I’m definitely adding it to my wish-list.

Daydreaming of gardening? Check out one of these magazines.

by Melody Dworak on February 5th, 2016

Country GardensThe next Project Green Second Sunday Forum is on Valentine’s Day—Sunday, February 14, 2016. Jonathan Poulton will present on Daylillies—Past, Present, and Future. If you can’t wait until then to get your garden on, but also don’t want to go out into the cold, visit the ICPL Zinio collection, where you can look through 18 different home and garden digital magazines.

Magazines are perfect for the weekend where you get to kick back a little more. Our gardening magazines include Country Garden, Better Homes & Gardens, Grit, and Successful Farming.

The January issue of Rodale’s Organic Life features the article “Grow from Scratch,” which includes a guide to growing plants from seeds and lovely illustrations.

ICPL has more than 150 digital magazines. They are available 24/7 through your computer or mobile device. After you log in with your Iowa City library card and password, you can check one out and flip through page by page just like a regular magazine. Reading magazines lets you kick back and relax, and enjoy big beautiful photographs and creative infographics.

Have questions about how to use our Zinio digital magazine collection? Ask a Librarian!

 

 

A Budding Hobby

by Shawna Riggins on September 25th, 2015

When my husband and I were looking for new places to live this past spring our top priority was finding a place with a fenced in yard for our pugs to romp in and enjoy. After living in our new location for almost three months now I have realized that the yard is almost as exciting for me as it is for the pugs.

Frank and Fifi are not the only ones excited to have a yard!

Frank and Fifi are not the only ones excited to have a yard!

Over the past few weeks I noticed mums being sold all around town and walked past them with longing. Then it dawned on me; I have a lawn, I can plant flowers! I immediately searched the Iowa City Public Library catalog and found some books to help me as I began thinking about what to plant and how to go about creating my first flower bed. I knew I wanted to plant mums because I love how they look and I read that they are pretty hardy so hopefully I wouldn’t kill them. Additionally, I decided to plant tulips so I would have flowers to enjoy as soon as winter ends, as well as some hostas that I was able to split and transplant from an abandoned bunch in the back yard.

Luckily I will have plenty of reading material over the Winter!

Luckily I will have plenty of reading material over the Winter!

Now the flowers are in the ground and the mulch has been spread, but my new obsession has just begun! I am already scoping out other parts of the yard and wondering what more I can do. Luckily for me, ICPL subscribes to several home and garden magazines to keep me thinking about new and different projects I can begin. What lawn or house project have to undertaken recently with the help of library resources?

IC Farmer’s Market Gardening Storytime Recap

by Morgan Reeves on July 1st, 2015

This past Saturday, I took an early morning trip to the Iowa City Farmer’s Market to do a special storytime. I had been worried about rain, but the day started off nice and sunny. I sat under the trees in Chauncey Swan Park and spread out some colorful tablecloths for the kids to sit on. After  a nice little crowd took their seats, we sang a welcome song together.

“We Clap and Sing Hello” to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell”

We clap and sing hello,
With our friends at storytime,
We clap and sing hello!
(Repeat with stomp, wave, etc.)

As an appropriate start to storytime, our first book was Farmer’s Market Day by Shanda Trent, which follows a little girl throughout a farmer’s market as she tries to decide what to buy.

I followed this by asking what the kids had gotten today at the farmer’s market. I told them about my delicious breakfast at Griddle Me This (blueberry lemon pancakes!). Conveniently one girl was still eating a muffin she had gotten, which led right into singing “Do You Know the Muffin Man?”

Oh, do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives in Drury Lane?

Oh, yes I know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Yes, I know the muffin man,
Who lives in Drury Lane.

Next I asked everyone if they knew where the fruits and vegetables they could get at the farmer’s market came from. Everyone knew they came from the garden. Then we read my big book version of Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres to see how these plants grow.

Afterwards, I asked everyone to pretend they were corn and grow up towards the sky. When I asked what is a tasty treat that comes from corn, everyone shouted out “POPCORN! So then we had to pretend we were popcorn by doing an action rhyme.

I’m a piece of popcorn (point to self)
Put me in the pot (make small tossing motion)
Shake me up, shake me up (jump around)
And watch me (freeze)
POP! (big jump with hands spread out and up)

Next we continued thinking about gardening, but this time with flowers instead of food, by reading Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn.

I was going to go to a rhyme next, but a family needed to leave and really wanted to hear the last book, so I moved right into My Garden by Kevin Henkes. I love this book because it is so imaginative and inspires belief in limitless possibilities.

I had fun sharing ideas with the kids about what would be in their gardens. Lastly we finished up with a fun little action rhyme focused on fine motor skills.

10 fat peas in a pea pod pressed (fingers in a fist pressed together)
1 grew, 2 grew, so did all the rest (very slowly uncurl 1, then 2 then, all fingers)
They grew and they grew, and they did not stop (keep slowly uncurling fingers)
Until one day that pod went POP! (suddenly open hands with fingers out)

Overall it was a fun and successful experiment, so perhaps we will try to do another Farmer’s Market storytime before it’s over.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

by Beth Fisher on February 27th, 2015

Even though you wouldn’t know it by looking outside Spring really is on the way.  Which means many of us have started thinking and dreaming about our gardens.

As most people know, there are two baisc types of garen plants:  annuals and perennials.  Annuals live fast and die pretty.  They last for only one growing season, and you have to replant them again next year.  Perennials are the mainstays in the garden. They come back year after year.  Many don’t hit their prime for two or three years, making year-round care of the plant important.   One of the most important things to consider before purchasing a perennial for your garden is what its hardiness zone rating is, to know if it will survive the winter in your garden.

The US Dept. of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map is now the standard device used to label plants in the US. zone map

It represents the average annual minimum temperatures in 11 zones which vary in ten-degree differences.  Each main zone is further divided into two sections, A and B, based on 5-degree differences.   The map is now interactive.   You can enter your zip code or state and it will tell you which zone you are in.  You can also click on a state on the map and a popup map will appear showing the zones as well as county lines, major cities and rivers.    Click here to try it out.

A bit of history:

The earliest versions of national hardiness maps were developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s by a variety of groups, most notably the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University.  The first USDA Hardiness Zone map was published in 1960 and updated in 1965.  Because it used a different temperature scale for its divisions than the Arnold Arboretum map, it often led to confusion for gardeners rather than clarity.  The USDA map would not be updated again until 1990 when it underwent a huge overhaul, using data collected between 1974 and 1986.  Additional zones were added to include Canada and Northern Mexico as well as Alaska and Hawaii.  Th 1990 map standardized its division s into the well-known 10 and 5 degree division, and became the default hardiness zone map in the US.

There is one big drawback to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map however, it deals with only the average minimum temperatures.  It does not take into account summer weather at all.  Heat, humidity and rainfall are also just as important to the survival of a garden plant, and all that information is found on plant tags as well.   But where can you find maps that give you this  information?

One of the best sources of this type of information is the PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University.   In fact, the USDA used much of their winter data in the most recent overhaul of the Hardiness Zone Map.     From their web site:  “The PRISM Climate Group gathers climate observations from a wide range of monitoring networks, applies sophisticated quality control measures, and develops spatial climate datasets to reveal short- and long-term climate patterns.”

“PRISMs homepage can be found here.    From this page you can find lots of neat informational maps.PRISM_ppt_30yr_normal_4kmM2_annual

  • The link to 30 Year Normals takes you to a map that compiles the data from 1981-2010, and you can adjust it to see precipitation or temperature and you adjust by month.
  • The link to Gallery of State Maps takes you to a US map that you can then click on state by state to see the average annual precipitation (1981-2010) by state.

Combining information from The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map and the PRISM maps, can give you a lot of information about where you live and the types of plants the will probably work best in your area.    Unless you are dealing with a microclimate.  But that’s another topic for another blog post.   Happy Gardening!

ICPL Announces Second Sunday Garden Forum Lineup

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on January 5th, 2015

For more than 20 years, the Iowa City Public Library and Project GREEN have partnered to host the Second Sunday Garden Forum series. This winter’s forums will be held on January 11, February 8, and March 8.

John Clemens of the Eastern Iowa Bonsai Association kicks off the series January 11 with “The Art of Bonsai.” His presentation will focus on the shape, harmony and proportion of bonsai to express art in the form of these beautiful long-lived trees. Bonsai literally means a tree in a small pot that has been pruned and trained. Bonsai is the “new” interest to gardeners everywhere, despite the fact that the horticultural art form dates back thousands of years in Asian history.

David Morton, the head gardener at Brucemore, will give a tour of gardens of Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site on Feb. 8. Brucemore, a 26-acre, park-like estate encompasses a Queen Anne-style mansion and multiple gardens. Many of the plants seen today were seeded by Irene Douglas, a knowledgeable gardener who enjoyed experimenting with new plant varieties as well as traditional. Today, Brucemore’s gardeners continue her work by preserving examples of historic plant varieties while adjusting to meet the needs of the changing natural and urban environment.

Think you know everything there is to know about perennials? Thinks again. All perennials require care during the year, some varieties more than others. Low maintenance perennials are the ideal plants for individuals who want an attractive garden, but have limited time to spend working in the garden. Richard Jauron, a horticulturist with Iowa State University and Extension and Outreach, will present “Low Maintenance Perennials” on March 8.

All Second Sunday Garden Forum programs will be held on the second Sunday of the month from 2 to 4 p.m. in Meeting Room A at the Iowa City Public Library. After each presentation, there will be a refreshment break followed by a question and answer session. All programs will be shown live on The Library Channel, Iowa City cable channel 20.

For more information, contact Beth Fisher at Beth-Fisher@icpl.org or (319) 887-6024.

Roadside plants in Iowa

by Beth Fisher on June 9th, 2014

iowa roadways3If you’ve ever taken a roadtrip, you know there are all sorts of things to see when cruising down the roads of Iowa. Big cities and small towns; railroads, bridges and barns; modern buildings or historic architecture; fields of corn, soybeans or hay; and trees, grasses and wildflowers.

It might surprise you to know that many of the trees, grasses and wildflowers you see in and along the roadsides of Iowa were planted by the Iowa D.O.T.   Iowa’s Living Roadways, a small spiral bound book produced by the Iowa Department of Transportation is a guide to the various landscape designs and planting styles used to maintain the roadways of Iowa.

The guide includes photographs and plant profiles of  41 species of wildflowers and grasses- from Canadian Anemone, Blackeyed Susan, Spiderwort and Vervain;  33 species of trees –  including, 10 species of Crabapples,  five species of Maples and 4 species of Oak; and 16 types of shrubs – from Chokeberries, to Dogwood and Fragrant Sumac.    Each plant profile includes a color photograph, a description, bloom times, trivia, and possible habitats or locations.

The end of the book has a glossary, references and bibliography, and  a fun 8-page section called Amazing Plant Facts.  (Did you know that Oak tress do not produce acorns until they are 50 years old?)     You can find a copy of this book in either the Circulating or Iowa Reference Collections at 582.13/Iowa’s

 




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