Horticulture

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As demand for fresh, local food intensifies, growers are getting more serious about providing produce outside the growing season. Home gardeners can grow greens at home during the winter months too. Chris Currey is an assistant professor of horticulture at Iowa State University, and he says hydroponic gardening is becoming more popular. 

Stan Shebs

During the long, gray days of winter, some gardeners take comfort by looking through seed catalogs, and others find solace in the beauty of indoor houseplants. Cindy Haynes, an associate professor of horticulture at Iowa State University, says there are several indoor plants that are easy to care for during the winter months.

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So far this year, winter has been unusually warm. While it feels great to us, it's not the best thing for the flowers and plants around us. 

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Richard Jauron, Iowa State University Extension Horticulturist, and Aaron Steil, Assistant Director of Reiman Gardens, about this year's unusual winter, which has some daffodils flowering early at Iowa State. 

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On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe speaks with DNR District Forester Mark Vitosh about the trees of the season. Vitosh describes the labor put into the growing of these trees as well as the interesting weather that has come this winter.

"Iced tea and a Christmas tree. What do you know?" Vitosh chuckles.

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On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa Charity Nebbe speaks with Richard Jauron, Iowa State University Extension Horticulturist, and Cindy Haynes, Associate Professor of Horticulture at Iowa State University about caring for plants indoors during the winter months.  They discuss holiday plants, traditional house plants and outdoor plants that can be over wintered in the home.  Bringing plants in from outdoors can pose some challenges.  

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Iowa may have had a mild fall so far, but winter is just around the corner. With that in mind, it's time to prepare yards and gardens for the arrival of winter.

Aaron Steil, Manager of Public Programs at Reiman Gardens, joins host Charity Nebbe to discuss best practices for winter readiness. Steil provides some tips for care of strawberries, asparagus, perennial care, diseased plants, and even how to take care of the leaves covering lawns.

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Growing plants organically, whether done on acres of farmland or a backyard garden, can be tricky work. Iowa State University Extension Organic Specialist Kathleen Delate joins Host Charity Nebbe on this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa. Delate explains what cover crops are and how they can improve soil quality by infusing it with nitrogen and carbon and preventing soil erosion, nitrate leaching, and ground water pollution. Delate also discusses the uses and benefits of composting.

Pumpkin Season Has Returned

Oct 16, 2015
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Regardless of your personal feelings about pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin season is here. 

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, Linda Naeve of the Value Added Agriculture Program at Iowa State University Extension speaks with Charity Nebbe about the squash family, where to find pumpkin patches, and the many dishes pumpkins can create.

"I'm a pumpkin fan myself," Naeve says. "There's pumpkin muffins, pumpkin squash soup, there's pumpkin scones. You can put pumpkin in just about anything and, I think, make it taste good with those spices."

Fall Colored Perennials

Oct 9, 2015
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Watching the trees change color is one of the chief pleasures of fall, but few people consider what hardy perennials can add to scenery. An added benefit is that they are pretty easy to tuck in, where a tree may not fit.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Denny Shrock, Master Gardener Coordinator at Iowa State University, discusses some of his favorite suggestions and he provides an extensive list of beautiful October bloomers as well as perennials with outstanding fall foliage colors.

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It may not feel like it yet, but it is officially fall. This hour on Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Aaron Steil, assistant director of Reiman Gardnes in Ames, and Iowa State University Extension horticulture expert Richard Jauron about spring blooming bulbs. It’s best to get them in the ground before the first frost, sometime in early fall. 

Jauron says that when you’re talking about tulips and daffodils, it works best to plant between 15 and 20 bulbs in a clump.

Iowa State University

With Iowa trees readying themselves for fall and the changing colors of leaves, look no further than Ames, Iowa for a new healthy seedling.  Bill Graves, Associate Dean of the Graduate College and Professor of Horticulture at Iowa State University, says he is excited about the Swamp White Oaks offered this year.  Graves loves to see people who enthusiastically purchase trees from ISU as well as discovering what becomes of those trees.

Mary Adams

As summer comes to a close, insects and arachnids have a lot of work to do to get ready for winter. That makes them especially visible in the fall. Iowa State University Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis says this year, he's seeing and hearing a lot more than usual about orb-weaver spiders. 

"We always see more spiders in the fall of the year because they reproduce and then die during the winter," Lewis says. "There are more than a hundred different kinds here in North America. This time of year you see those webs in the garden. Its their time to get that last gasp of food." 

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If you see lumps or weird shapes on the leaves of your oak tree, don't panic, says Laura Jesse, director of the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic at Iowa State University. She says it's likely a gall, which is harmless to the plant.

"They're the most interesting shapes," says Jesse, who calls them "beautiful." Jesse also says if you break them open you can usually find a wasp larvae that began feeding on the tree and prompted it to grow a gall around the insect.

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Right now some Iowans have noticed their front yards dying out in patches. Iowa State University horticulturist Nick Christians says there's a variety of reasons for that.

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Fresh herbs are one of the most versatile plants available to home gardeners. Iowa State University Extension Program specialist in Value-added Agriculture, Linda Naeve, says they're an easy way to add color and texture to the landscape without the risk of a plant getting too big. The exception to that rule is mint, which is very aggressive. Naeve says it should be planted in a container, and then added to the garden, to help keep it in check.

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As the work begins to replant Iowa's ash trees due to destruction by the Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB, the Chair of the Horticulture Department at Iowa State University Jeff Iles says we need to think about maintaining trees over the long term. Iles says as municipalities begin the task of replacing trees, they need to budget for ongoing maintenance. 

And EAB isn't the only good reason to replant.  It may also be needed as tree populations age.  Iles says individuals and volunteers can make a big difference in this effort, as most city budgets are tight.

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It’s county fair season, which means the quest for blue ribbons is on. During this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with horticulturists Richard Jauron and Cindy Haynes about the vegetable, fruit and flower competitions that bring so many people to the fair.

"You don't know who is exhibiting," says Haynes. "It could be someone who raises vegetables for sale or it could be a 10-year-old."

She says that when she's faced with a table of tomatoes, she looks for those that are ripe, blemish free and firm enough to hold up for a few days. 

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Even when the growing season is ideal, there are problems and diseases that crop up in yards and gardens. As Iowa has experienced this year, extra moisture can really set things off.

On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe sits down with horticulturists to find out how to deal with this summer’s common plant maladies, including a problem many Midwesterners have seen - some trees are already changing colors.

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It's mid-summer in Iowa which means it's two things: hot and muggy. This hour on Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with horticulture expert Richard Jauron and Denny Schrock, coordinator for the Iowa Master Gardener's Program.

Schrock says there are some plants that thrive in the heat and humidity.

Photo by Abby Wendle/Harveset Public Media

 

It’s Monday, around 9 o’clock, and the library is locked for the night.

Silently, Linda Zellmer appears on the other side of the glass door. She opens it and guides us up four dark floors towards a puddle of light.

“There it is,” she says, gazing down at the swollen bud of an orchid cactus. “It’s slowly opening.”

Zellmer perches on a stool behind her camera and waits in anticipation of the night’s big event: the moment when the bud opens.

Graham Wise / Wikimedia Commons

One out of every three mouthfuls of food comes from a plant that required some sort of pollination, so the declining populations of pollinators across the country is a cause for concern, says Iowa State University entomologist Donald Lewis.

“Since 2006, on the action of the U.S. Senate, there is this week in June when we are supposed to focus on pollinators,” says Lewis. “We have changed the habitat around us that are depending on a variety of flowers, and forms are struggling. That’s the point of National Pollinator Week – bring back the pollinators.”

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Why won’t my flowers bloom? They used to.

That’s a question that many gardeners are faced with at some point. Aaron Steil, program manager for Reiman Gardens in Ames, says it’s important to remember that gardens aren’t static. Sometimes spaces that were once full sun can become partial shade.

“Occasionally you’ll see this clump of iris that just won’t produce flowers anymore. Some gardners forget that sometimes our gardeners change. Take a step back and look at it with new eyes," he says.

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Now that our landscape is lush and green the impulse to plant something is strong, but how do you pick the perfect tree for your landscape?

Professor and Department Chair of Agriculture at Iowa State University Jeff Iles says that it’s important to remember that planting a tree is not like planting flowers.

“You’ve got to think it out. You’ve got to take into account what’s there already, and hopefully this tree is going to be with you for a while. You’ve got to plan for what it's going to turn into,” he say.  

Halvard from Norway

When our horticulture experts are stumped by a caller, they turn to the experts at Iowa State University's Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic.  They identify plant diseases, weeds, mushrooms and insects.  Host Charity Nebbe talks with Entomologist Laura Jesse and Plant Pathologist Lina Rodreguez-Salamanca about the sleuthing that happens in diagnosing a plant disease or insect infestation.

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Prairie rehabilitation has become an important part of restoring native plants and wildlife in many communities. One noticeable change in recent years is that many prairies are being grown on a smaller scale, in urban environments and backyards across Iowa.

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Shocking data reveals more than half of Iowa's trees fall under just two different genera: maple and ash. 

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forestry Bureau recently inventoried trees in 273 communities across the state. The results showed that maple and ash trees make up 54 percent of trees in Iowa’s public parks and streets. DNR Urban Forrester Matt Brewer says that the state needs to value diversity and learn from past diseases that hit the tree population.

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Walk into a garden center this time of year, and you’ll be greeted with row upon row of colorful flowers and other bedding plants. But all that variety can seem a bit overwhelming at times.

On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, horticulturists Richard Jauron and Chris Curry of Iowa State University put your worries to bed when it comes to approaching your big trip to the garden center.

It all starts out with having a game plan before even stepping foot in the garden center, so you know what to look for.

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It's easy to forget about food safety when it comes to garden produce, because growing your own food is considered healthy. Dr. Angela Shaw, an assistant professor of food safety at Iowa State University, says cognizance is key when it comes to food safety in home gardens.

"The first thing is to consider where you place your garden. Thinking about soil: what was previously there? Was there heavy metal? What was your house grown on? We have a lot of swampland as well as chemical landfills that are now communities."

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It's almost go-time in the garden, which means it's time to get ready for planting season.

On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Iowa State University Extension horticulturists, Linda Naeve and Richard Jauron.

They share advice on getting rid of old plant debris, how to dispose of it, and how to avoid common pitfalls in the planning process. Richard and Linda also answer listener questions, including an inquiry on how to plant flowers for a fall wedding.

Dennis Brown via Wikimedia Commons

Temperatures outside have been frigid, but there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy gardening and prepare for the spring.

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