Tag Archives: Iowa

Cedar Valley Home & Garden Article Going native: Start your own wildflower garden from scratch

Going native: Start your own wildflower garden from scratch

The coneflower is a given when compiling lists of popular wildflowers.

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This prairie plant is beloved for its easy-going nature and long-lasting daisy-like blossoms blooms. It attracts bees, butterflies and other insects into the garden, and it’s fun to watch goldfinches dangling upside down dining on seeds plucked from spent heads.

Narrow-leafed purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) is an Iowa native, along with pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) and purple conflower (Echinacea purpurea). A few areas of Iowa, mostly on our western edge, you’ll find the yellow prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) and the grey-headed prairie coneflower (Ratibida pinnata).

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Black-eyed and brown-eyed Susans are prized, along with columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) with its cheerful red and yellow nodding blooms, wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). New England aster (Symphyotricum novae-angliae, previously Aster novae-angliae) is among my personal favorites, and the first type of aster I ever planted. Monarchs passing through my fall garden find it a valuable source of nectar (and a landing pad to rest).

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Search out a source for high-quality seeds and plants that are suited to your growing conditions — location, soil type, sun exposure, etc. The National Garden Bureau, which has declared 2013 the “Year of the Wildflower,” also suggests tracking down fact sheets and publications geared toward your geographic region, such as the Xerces Society (www.xerces.org) and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s extensive database that can be searched by state (www.wildflower.org). Iowa State University Extension also has good resources for wildflower information.

To create your own wildflower garden, follow these NGB suggestions:

1. Prepare the soil by removing weeds and other unwanted vegetation. If the soil is compacted, till lightly so the soil is loose and germinating seeds can put down roots. A bow rake is great for loosening the top layer of soil. Digging or roto-tilling too deep will bring up weed seeds and other plants that will need to be removed later to avoid competing with the wildflower seeds. While it may not be practical or necessary to amend the soil before planting wildflowers, you can add organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure before planting depending on the site.

2. Wildflower seed and seed mixes can be planted in either spring or fall. Spring rains help seeds germinate and plants get established before many weeds have a chance to grow. In cold climates, a dormant seeding of wildflowers can be done in the fall when temperatures are low enough that seed will not germinate until weather warms up the following spring, similar to what happens in nature. Some seeds, especially many of our native perennial wildflower species, need a chilling period to break their dormancy. This is provided naturally by the change in temperatures from winter into spring.

3. Scatter seeds by hand or with a small spreader. Seeds can be raked into the soil or lightly covered with soil. Water thoroughly right after planting and keep seeds and seedlings moist for about 4-6 weeks. Gradually reduce watering as seedlings develop. Identify and remove weed seedlings as soon as possible since they will compete with wildflowers for water, nutrients and space. For dormant seeding, watering after planting seeds is not necessary.

Care & feeding

Annual flowers are more abundant at first because they grow and flower quickly. Perennial plants will follow and eventually become established; many annual and perennial plants may reseed themselves.

Year one: Not all seeds will germinate right away, especially perennial wildflowers. Don’t be disappointed if there is no “instant” meadow. For more immediate results combine seeding wildflowers with planting a few container-grown plants. Plants will quickly get established and compete with weeds that may appear.

Identify and remove weeds when small to prevent spreading. Wildflowers may need additional water if rainfall is sparse, especially during extended heat spells. Avoid cutting flowers so they can seed and fill in the garden next year.

Year two: You’ll see new plants from seed that didn’t germinate the first year. Water if rainfall is inadequate, especially in spring or hot we ather. Remove weeds as they appear. As flowers become established, weeding will lessen. Fill in bare spots with seed or container-grown plants.

Year three and beyond: Minimal maintenance; remove weeds that may move in. Move plants that are too close or overcrowded and use them to fill in bare spots or sow more seeds. You may need to water if there is an extended period of heat. Fertilizing is generally not required.

In the garden setting, you can mulch around plants with compost or well-rotted manure. Mowing or cutting wildflowers to about 6 inches high will spread seeds and keep the garden looking neat. You can dig or rake the soil to regenerate a wildflower garden by improving contact between soil and seeds that have dropped to the ground.

Article Taken From Cedar Valley Home & Garden Website

To Purchase Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Our Website at Ion Exchange, Inc.

 

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[IOWA-NATIVE-PLANTS] Developing Problem – Wild Feral Hogs

There is a developing problem in native habitat areas. Wild feral hogs have been a plague in southern states and have been known to be far southwestern Iowa for nearly a decade. They are spreading farther into the state. Last week, two were killed in Crawford County, north of Denison. They can be dangerous to individuals hiking or working in remote areas and they are an ecological disaster. They can root up and destroy large areas of vegetation and devastate native wildlife.

They multiply rapidly, having two or more litters a year, and can start reproducing six months after birth. If you should encounter one in the wild, give it a wide berth and report it immediately to the DNR. They may have large tusks and can be quite fearless. Be careful when you are out and about, and take this threat seriously.

By: Larry Grill

 

Earthyman Article on How to Do a Dormant Seeding

When and how to do a dormant seeding is a question that is often asked when sowing native seeds.  By following these simple guidelines, you can be successful using a dormant seeding.

Make sure your site is prepared and there is no sign of any growing live vegetation present.  An exception would be if you were planning on supplementing an existing planting to add more diversity.  After the ground temperature drops below 50 degrees, you can start sowing your seed usually in the Midwest this occurs at the end of October or the first of November.  Even if you have 2 inches of snowfall, the seed can be broadcast over the snow.  Any time in late fall or even winter, seeds can be broadcast.

You can check your soil temperature in your state by googling for soil temperatures for instance in Iowa, you may go to: http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/NPKnowledge/soiltemphistory.html

If you have a small area, one to two acres or less, broadcast your seed by hand.  In this instance the seed can be mixed with 10 to 20 parts of wet sand to 1 part seed by volume.  After you have thoroughly mixed your seed with the wet sand, divide it into 2 to 4 lots and go over the entire area with each lot.  The seed can then be broadcast by hand using an ice cream container under one arm and reaching in with the other hand to grab a handful of this seed matrix.  Cast it in a swinging motion just as you would feed chickens.  With the next lot of seed, walk in a different direction so as to get a more even distribution of the seed.  This is repeated with each lot and going a different direction each time.

Since this is a dormant seeding, we are depending upon Mother Nature to achieve good seed to soil contact which is the most important element in any kind of seeding.  Mother Nature will then rain, snow, freeze and thaw. This is just what we want as it will ensure the proper stratification of the seed to break the dormancy code and allow better germination in the spring.  Stratification is a process whereby we can either by Mother Nature or human treatment break the dormancy of seeds to enable germination.

Go to Native Wildflowers & Seeds Website for a variety of quality native seeds and seed mixes.   Ion Exchange, Inc. is a Native Plant and Seed Nursery for over 25 years.  They grow and market native wildflowers, grasses, sedges and rushes.

Plant Sale! Plant Now and See Why Next Spring! at Ion Exchange, Inc.

Plant Sale! Plant Now and See Why Next Spring!

The mild weater is inviting you to put some plugs in the ground NOW, for a head start in the Spring!

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As long as the ground isn’t frozen, you can still plant your plugs or store them outside in the plug flats and cover them lightly with a mulch. This is the way we over-winter our plugs, here at Ion Exchange, Inc Ion Exchange, Inc.

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Telephone: 800-291-2143
Fax: 563-535-7231
Email: hbright@ionxchange.com

 

Lesson Learned from the Land Article

As I mapped soils throughout eastern Iowa back in the early 70’s, it was interesting for me to put together a picture of what the original landscape looked like.  In eastern Cedar County, I came upon some soils that did not fit the general description of prairie or savanna soils in that they were somewhere in between the two. I pondered this as I walked day after day over the land and began to see the picture in my mind.  Savannas are transitions from prairie to a micro climate that favors some tree growth.  There must be all grades of transition but what are they called?  When does a prairie become a prairie as we walk westward out of the timber into the savanna into the “prairie”?  When does a prairie become a savanna?  What is your definition of a savanna?  I don’t think there is a definition or name that can be placed on this “la la land of the past”.  One way to look at these ecosystems is to imagine an interaction not individual influences, although they may be critical.  If we back away in time and peer down from above, we can see a constant winning and waning of movement much like the tides that come and go.

What footprint is left in the soil to give us clues to the past? Certainly visual imprints are evident even though the land is now covered with corn and beans.

John Madson, who wrote Where the Sky Began, so beautifully described his vision of coming out of the timber and seeing, looming in front of him, an open sky and a sea of grass as far as the eye could see.  He made mention of the front line soldiers sent out by the savanna or timber which allowed the advancement of the savanna and timber upon the prairie.  Wild plumb trees were sent out as a front line defense or offense depending upon which the environment favored.  Sometimes the battle would be won by the prairie and other times by the savanna and eventually a total overthrow of one over the other but the soldiers of the front line are always forgotten for they are in this “la la land of transition”.   I was reminded of them that day in Cedar County, Iowa as I observed the grainy grey coats of the now vanished front line soldiers of the savanna who left their mark upon the prairie soil profile.  Were they lost in battle as they succumbed to the forces of the prairie or were they stopped dead in their tracks by the ever- advancing moldboard plow?

I am reminded of my life and how it is much like this ever- changing world that we know as Prairie and Savanna but not a struggle or battle but the ebb and flow with the tides of life.  Just as every component of the prairie and savanna are a part of the total wonderment of creation so are we.  Are we on the frontline of change?  Do we have the courage to move forward regardless of the elements that we face?  The lessons of the land are there for all of us if we just open our eyes and hearts and breathe in the intuitive powers of this great planet.

Howard Bright, President
Ion Exchange, Inc.
http://www.ionxchange.com
800-291-2143
“Helping you create your own natural beauty”

Iowan’s Plant Natives at Half the Cost Article

Iowan’s are planting native wildflowers and grasses at one half the cost of the seed.  Through a special program and a cooperative effort amongst private growers, Iowa DNR and Pheasants Forever, it is possible to get a voucher to add much diversity to your landscape using species that are native to Iowa.  This is a one of a kind program that benefits everyone involved.  It provides wildlife cover for pheasants, deer, rabbits and a host of beneficial insects including butterflies, moths and many other pollinators.  The natives include such species as Indian Grass and Big Bluestem which root down to enormous depths into the soil which control erosion much better than European imports such as Broom Grass.

Iowa witnessed one of the largest and fastest ecosystem loss in the world as the Tallgrass Prairie was very quickly turned into corn production.  Millions of acres of black rich soil that had been created by the deep-rooted prairie has now vanished.

Thanks to this special Habitat Program created by the  cooperation of Iowa Landowners, Iowa Native Seed Growers, The Iowa DNR and Pheasants Forever, the once lost Tallgrass Prairie is returning to once again replenish precious topsoil and control erosion.

By Howard Bright  http://ionxchange.com/

Comment On Earthyman’s Best Butterfly Plant Video of Meadow Blazingstar (Liatris ligulistylis) at Ion Exchange, Inc., in Northeast Iowa

Comment on You Tube from mrilovetheants:   Loads of Monarchs there, and what looks to be a Great Spangled Fritillary at1:55 middle left. Those aren’t that common, you must have lots of Violets in your forest.

Response from http://ionxchange.com/ Yes, we have lots of violets at our woodland edge.

Earthyman views the best butterfly plant at Ion Exchange, native seed and plant nursery in NE Iowa. Meadow Blazingstar (Liatris ligulistylis) will attract butterflies to your prairie perennial garden. Blazingstar is a perennial prairie wildflower

To Purchase This Beautiful Butterfly Plant Visit Us At http://ionxchange.com/products/LIATRIS-LIGULISTYLIS-%7C-Meadow-Blazingstar.html