Tag Archives: Trees

Garden Myths & Facts Article By Horticultural Professionals

Two horticultural professionals took some of the most popular garden myths into the university laboratory to prove or disprove the accuracy of these myths. Dr. Linda Chalked-Scott from Washington State University and Dr. Jeff Gilliam from the University of Minnesota tested these myths under controlled conditions to determine if they really work.

The Myth
For years we’ve been told that if we water plants on a hot sunny day the sun reflecting through the water droplets will burn the foliage.

The Facts

We are constantly being warned in books, magazines, and various websites that if we water on a sunny day we will burn the leaves. The premise behind this is the water drops that accumulate on the leaf surfaces act as tiny magnifying glasses, focusing the sun’s energy into intense beams that burn leaves. We’re told that since water conducts heat, wet leaf surfaces are more likely to burn than dry ones. This is one of those myths that refuse to die. Although most of the university web sites dispel this myth, hundreds of other web sites keep the misinformation alive.

If your plants are showing signs of water stress in the middle of the day, by all means you should water them!

Delaying irrigation until the evening (not a good time to water anyway, as this can encourage fungal diseases or the following morning could damage your plants and open them up to diseases.

There are many causes of leaf scorch, but irrigation with fresh water is certainly not one of them.

So remember:

Wet foliage is not susceptible to sunburn

Analyze site conditions to ensure optimal root and shoot health and prevent drought problems

Any time plants exhibit drought stress symptoms is the time to water them

Ideal watering time is in the early morning; watering during the day increases evaporative losses, and evening watering regimes can encourage establishment of some fungal diseases

Do not overuse fertilizers and pesticides, especially those containing sodium or other salts

If using recycled or gray water, consider running the water through a filtering system before applying it to plants.

The Myth

Using nursery tags is an accurate method to determine a plant’s final size.

The Facts

Fall is the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs. Selection can be a tricky practice, especially when site conditions limit size of plantings. Small landscapes require small-scale plantings.

At the nursery, one can be overwhelmed by the variety of deciduous trees and conifers, and even within a species there may be several cultivars from which to choose.

Without any prior knowledge of these plants, gardeners resort to nursery tags to determine mature heights and widths. Armed with this information, one can select those trees and shrubs whose size is appropriate to the site. But does this approach really work?

Many factors determine the mature size of any tree or shrub. The most obvious on plant size is genetic makeup – you only have to look at cultivar names like ‘Midget’ or ‘Giant Candles’ to understand this component.

Geographic location also plays a role in determining height. For instance, trees tend to grow taller in areas where temperatures are more moderate; trees in coastal areas are generally larger than these same species in more interior regions. Within a geographic area, local climate will further influence final size: rainfall and temperature can vary widely within a region. The microclimate of a site will influence tree size due to differences in environmental factors such as drainage, and soil type.

Competition for water, light, and nutrients, will affect not only growth rate but final height as well.

1.  Nursery tags most likely contain species information relevant to that nursery’s geographic location
2.  Genetics, geography, climate, and plant competition will all influence the maximum height any specimen will obtain
3.  To determine the most likely height range for a tree in your landscape, observe how that species performs elsewhere in your area
4.  If no local landscape specimens exist for a particular plant, look to the internet for plant performance information from similar climates elsewhere in the world.

The Myth

Landscape fabric provides permanent weed control for landscapes

The Facts

Concern over the use of herbicides has caused landscape professionals and gardeners to look closely at non-chemical methods of weed control. Mulches are increasing in popularity as weed control measures and have a number of additional benefits, including water retention and soil protection. Mulches may be organic, inorganic, or synthetic. Synthetic mulches, including geotextiles, are of interest to many consumers and professionals because they are perceived as nonbiodegradable, permanent solutions to weed control.

Developed for agricultural use, geotextiles have found their way into ornamental gardens as landscape fabrics. These fabrics, a vast improvement over the impermeable black plastics still (unfortunately) used for weed control, are woven in such a way that water and gas exchange can occur but light penetration is significantly reduced. Hence, they are effective in reducing weed seed germination in areas where soil disturbance would otherwise induce germination of weeds. Such fabrics have been so effective in reducing weeds in vegetable and ornamental crop production that they have been applied to more permanent landscape installations.

Like the dieter searching for a permanent weight loss pill, so we as gardeners continue to seek permanent weed control solutions. Unfortunately, there is no such permanent fix.

We must remain ever vigilant in our battle with weeds and cannot rely on a product to do this. The fact is that weed control fabrics are not permanent and will decompose, especially when exposed to sunlight.

For permanent landscapes, they are not a long term solution and in fact can hinder landscape plant health.

Some of these facts are listed below.

Any organic matter or soil on top of the fabrics will hasten their colonization by weeds; this precludes covering the fabric with anything but inoert mulch like pebbles. It also requires continual maintenance to keep the fabric free of debris. Weeds will eventually grow on top of and through these fabrics, making their removal difficult.
Geotextiles degrade in the landscape in as little as one year if unprotected from sunlight.
The aesthetic quality of landscape fabrics is minimal; it becomes worse as the materials begin to degrade.
Personally I had a situation where field bindweed grew some 25 feet under landscape fabric before emerging at the edge of the bed, seeking sunlight.

In closing, I expect some of you might disagree with some of these findings. However remember that this research was done in reputable university labs under controlled conditions. Each of us will draw our own conclusions.

Article Taken From Dave’s Garden Website
By Paul Rodman
October 29, 2012

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

Email:  hbright@acegroup.cc

Phone:  800-291-2143

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The Natural World Article By Earthyman From Ion Exchange, Inc.

The natural world, as recognized over and over again can be our best teacher. The struggles and stresses that we perceive in our daily lives can get to be such a drain on us. When this happens, our lives are no longer in cadence or harmony with others and the natural world. We start to feel distressed and lost while even armed with our fine educations, years of therapy, self-awareness and physical fitness. Where do we turn? There seems to be no answer and no one to help us.

I remember when I was very young and my parents used to argue with each other, I would get very upset and walk out of the house. There was an old red oak stump in our timber. I would just sit there, staring at the ground and trees around me. It was my escape and my haven from stress and turmoil. This little wood lot that had been so mistreated and now barely remained had become my friend and companion. Having been stripped of all valuable timber long ago, then grazed, then abandoned, now recovering but extremely scarred, the landscape did not complain but only saw new opportunity for change and a new life. The stripping of its timber was not harbored in a memory bank filled with judgments of greed or bad behavior. No one was being held responsible for the condition of this little parcel. Out of what looked like total defilement and desolation came a new beginning and a new life for this old, old piece of ground.

There were Yellow Warblers, Myrtle Warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, Ruby Crown Kinglets, and Purple Finches, over 100 species of beautiful birds in this small haven along with squirrels, rabbits and copperheads. It was amazing that this land, so poor, could house and care for such a diversity of life. Underneath the shallow leaves and humus of the oaks and hickories, it was only 2″ to shale rock. Erosion had not even allowed a new soil to stay in place. Now a new soil was starting to form. The oaks grew ever so slowly, but they grew. Now, down the slope, a small clearing, a little knoll occupied by Andropogon virginicus, or Broom Sedge as we called it, was dotted with Eastern Red Cedars. From here, I could lie down in the grass and look to the south and east to see a whole horizon bounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Only 12 miles away, I could see Big Bald Mountain on the North Carolina line marked by the Appalachian Trail. It was a beautiful wilderness within site of this abandoned and forgotten vestige that was once a link and connection to these mighty mountains. Like a child cast out into a desert of chaos and severed from its mother, this little wood lot had become an island. My education and awareness might not have been that well established at the age of nine but my feelings were in tact and I knew this was a place where I could go and start to heal and find comfort. I didn’t have to worry about conflict here. I was accepted and I fit in with the rest. I became part of that landscape and it is still within me. I have learned from the great spirit of the natural world. Every change is an opportunity for a new beginning. Nature does not hear or respond to shame, blame, doubt, and guilt nor does she harbor regrets or grudges. She takes what she has and moves on to constantly create more beauty in the world.

I think it’s time to move on and create some beauty in our world. Won’t you join the natural world

Earthyman

http://ionxchange.com/

Native Plant Communities Of Iowa Article

By: Howard Bright

The Plant Communities of Iowa are vast but we will limit them to four major communities knowing there are many subgroups of these four.  What is a plant community? In nature, certain species are found growing together and they form specific colonies of plants called  “plant communities”. Native plants always grow in association with others to create plant communities that are essentially associations of indigenous species that have evolved over thousands of years and adapted to the specific geography, hydrology and climate of a particular area. The resulting “communities” are really groups of plants that exist together because of the given environmental conditions. 

Why is it important to know about natural plant communities?  It is very important because we can use these native plant communities as a prescription from nature in designing our wildflower gardens or landscapes.  There are four broad categories of native plant communities here in the Midwest and hundreds of sub categories as we break each of them down into more specific site conditions.  It is important to recognize which one of the four categories you would like to create or reconstruct.  The four major plant communities of the Midwest are: Prairies, Savannas, Wetlands and Woodlands.

When the white man drove deeper through the hardwood forest driving westward until they eventually broke through the dark shadows of trees and the shrubs of that forest land and peered out onto the blinding light of the open prairie, it was a sight to behold waving in the wind and appearing as a sea of rolling grasses dotted with the colors of blooming flowers.  Indeed this was a strange land to these new visitors.  Steeping out onto this sea of grass, the pioneer disappeared and kept moving westward.  This land was covered with Buffalo, Elk, Deer, Bear, Cougars, Prairie Chickens, Beaver and all kinds of wildlife.

It wasn’t long before this land was discovered, occupied and changed forever. In the 1800s, Iowans reworked the face of their new state with a speed and to an extent perhaps unparalleled in human history.  At the beginning of the century, a blanket of prairie cloaked three-quarters of this “land between two rivers.”  Pothole marshes dotted the flatter north-central part of the state, while a network of streams laced the rolling hills elsewhere across Iowa.  Dense forests engulfed some valleys in the east and groves of bur oaks climbed out of the river corridors and onto the ridges to form savannas.

Thousands of Native Americans lived on the land, harvesting wild plants and animals, growing crops, and occasionally managing the vegetation with fire.  By 1900, however, Euro-American settlers had claimed nearly all of Iowa’s 36 million acres as farmland. Non-Indian settlement officially began on June 1, 1833, when pioneers first were allowed to claim new land in the 6-million-acre Black Hawk Purchase along the west side of the Mississippi River.  By 1846, when Iowa became a state, census records listed 96,088 people.  The population doubled to 192,914 by 1850 and topped one million before 1870.  In 1900, Iowa had 2.2 million people, compared to 2.9 million people today.  Most lived on the state’s 200,000 farms, working land where 95 percent of the prairie, two-thirds of the woodlands, and most of the wetlands had been converted to agriculture.  This dramatic, swift, almost complete change of diverse prairie to a monoculture of cropland profoundly altered the ecosystem.  Twenty-eight million acres of bluestem, dropseed, compass plants, coneflowers, gentians, and hundreds other species were transformed, in a relative eye-blink, into a patchwork of corn, wheat, oats, hay, and pasture.  Those plots have expanded to the huge roadside-to-roadside corn and soybean fields that we see today.

Before Iowa was settled a map depicts the vegetation that was present around 1850.  Note the majority of the landscape was tall grass prairie.  There were thousands of acres of wetlands, especially in Central and Northwest Iowa.  The Woodlands were confined to the steep areas along streams and in the Driftless area of Iowa.  Rolling and steeper hills were occupied by Savannas.

It only took 60 to 70 years to almost completely change the ecosystem of Iowa.  It is said that this was one of the quickest and largest annihilations of a natural ecosystem.  Oxen with wooden and steel plows developed by John Deere ripped up the prairie sod and crops were planted.

Glacial deposits occurred over the entire state of Iowa during a period of 2.5 million years and as recent as 10,000 years ago.  The only region not affected by glaciations is northeast Iowa where bedrock is exposed in many areas.

A multitude of events were occurring simultaneously during the last glacial period known as the Wisconsian Glacial Age.  Notably, while the older glaciers of the Nebraskan, Kansan and Illinoinian had long retreated and left their heavy loads across the state, a new glacier advanced from the north covering the north central and central pars of the state.  At the same time huge amounts of silt were blowing in from the northwest from the exposed glacial plains due northwest of Iowa’s western border. Loose materials much younger than the bedrock beneath dominate the present land surface across Iowa. These materials consist of sediment originating from ice sheets, melt water streams, and strong winds during a series of glacial events between 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago (Quaternary). This familiar “dirt” consists of pebbly clay, sand, gravel, and abundant silt, which over time have weathered into Iowa’s productive loamy soils. These easily eroded “Ice Age” deposits account for the gently rolling appearance of much of the Iowa (and Midwestern) landscape.

During the Ice Age, glaciers advanced down into the mid-continent of North America, grinding underlying rock into a fine powder like sediment called “glacial flour.” As temperatures warmed, the glaciers melted and enormous amounts of water and sediment rushed down the Missouri River valley. The sediment was eventually deposited on flood plains downstream, creating huge mud flats. During the winters the melt waters would recede, leaving the mud flats exposed. As they dried, fine-grained mud material called silt was picked up and carried by strong winds. These large dust clouds were moved eastward by prevailing westerly winds and were redeposited over broad areas. Heavier, coarser silt, deposited closest to its Missouri River flood plain source, formed sharp, high bluffs on the western margin of the Loess Hills. Finer, lighter silt, deposited farther east, created gently sloping hills on the eastern margin. This process repeated for thousands of years, building layer upon layer until the loess reached thicknesses of 60 feet or more and became the dominant feature of the terrain.

Even though the prairie is gone, it has left us with a black treasure, our soil.  Over the eons of time the plants that grew on the prairie formed the richest soil on this planet.  Millions of acres are blanketed with black earth known as prairie soils.

What makes soils the way they are?  How did Iowa end up being the most fertile land in the world?   A unique combination and interaction of all of these factors formed our soils.  How are the soils of Iowa different?  By changing just one factor, we affect a major change in the soil.

Factors that interacted to form our soils can be simplified to: Parent Material, Climate, Topography, Vegetation, Time and Human Beings.

Soils are conceived, as we are, from our Parent Material.  Parent materials are composed of the raw earth that lays exposed to the elements. Major parent materials in Iowa consist of bedrock, glacial deposits called glacial till, water deposited material or alluvial deposits, and wind blown silt known as “loess”.  In other parts of the world, soils may be formed in volcanic ash or rock.

Climate has a profound effect on our soils as they are influenced by rainfall, temperature, freezing and thawing, sunlight and day length.

The way the land lays called Topography greatly influences our soils.  From the steep hills along river corridors to the level bottomlands, slope of the land can change the characteristics of our soils.

Vegetation and Organisms dramatically affect our soils.  Within a very localized area, we can note the effect of our past vegetation and what influence it has had on soils.  From the deep rich organic prairie soils developed under the influence of the tall grass prairie to the soils developed under a woodland condition depth of topsoil and fertility vary greatly.

We probably forget about a factor that is ever present and that factor is Time.  It is obvious when we think about the sediment deposited by a river or stream, which is in geologic times, is extremely young.  What a contrast when we sit atop a rock out crop that has been exposed for eons of time.  The stream deposited material stays forever young while the bedrock of a long ago sedimentized ocean bottom gets older and older.  Soils can’t hide their age either.

On the recent geologic scene came Humans and they have now joined the forces of soil forming factors.  By plowing, the natural vegetation and protection of the soil has been removed increasing erosion to an alarming rate.  Topsoil is destroyed, texture of the soil, which allows infiltration of water, is altered, soil forming organisms are eliminated, fertility is diminished as organic matter is washed away and soil tilth is destroyed.  Man has and is having his influence on our soils.  Fallow land and row crops now occupy land that was once a lush sponge to absorb water and cleanse it.

Once we understand the importance of our geologic past, recent history and soil forming factors, we can start to put together nature’s puzzle.  This intricate puzzle laid down over the eons is now at our fingertips for those who pay attention.

What other questions do we need to ask to get this right combination of plants that will fit our site?

  • What direction is your site facing, called Aspect?  A north and northeasterly direction may receive much less sunlight on a steeper slope than those facing south or west on the same steepness of slope due to the angle of the sun.
  • Is your site level, rolling or steep?  Slope as a steep south slope may be hot and dry while a steep north slope may be cool and moist.
  • How much Sunlight does your site get?  If it is dense shade versus full sunlight, you will need entirely different plants to suit your situation.
  • What is the condition of the soil in regards to Soil Moisture?  Drainage of the soil can range from saturated to excessively drained.
  • What are the sizes of the particles that make up your soil, called Texture.   It could range from sand to clay which an important characteristic to note as some plants will not tolerate these conditions.  For detailed description of your soils contact your local NRCS office and get a soil survey report of your county.

Absorbing and understanding the characteristics of our landscapes and soils allows us to then classify our sites.  In site classification we will assign a general category to our site based on all the previously mentioned information.  There are basically five sites to consider:

  • Dry
  • Dry Mesic
  • Mesic
  • Wet Mesic
  • Wet

Next we need to decide which plant community we are dealing with.  It may be a pre-existing condition or one that we want to create.  It is usually best to take what nature has given us if we have that opportunity.  However, if you live in an urban area, your site may have been severely altered and you will have to decide what you want to create there.  As mentioned before, we have four categories of plant communities:

  • Prairie
  • Savanna
  • Wetland
  • Woodland

Once the plant community is determined, select the most appropriate species for your plant community.  Now you are using nature’s prescription for success in creating your native wildflower planting.

http://ionxchange.com/

Kayaking on The Yellow River

 Whoever thought that people would be attracted to Northeast Iowa just to go kayaking.   Every year a group of people, sometimes up to 20 of them flock to Northeast Iowa’s Yellow River.  Iowa, known for cornfields is seldom thought of as a great place to kayak.  Low and behold in a remote region of Iowa that is full of limestone bluffs, valleys, trees and scenery beyond belief with eagles and vultures flying overhead, there is a clear stream with rainbow and brown trout and smallmouth bass. The Yellow River has the steepest vertical elevation fall of any river in Iowa.

Your launch may be at a bridge called 16, a name that was given to a small community that existed there in the late 1800’s.  Spend four hours on the Yellow River, stopping to fish or have a shore lunch with friends on a hot July day and you would swear that you were in Colorado or somewhere out west having the time of your life.  There are beautiful vertical walls lush with liverworts and often the more observing kayakers will stop by the walls and pet the Lichens or Liverworts as they are known because they have a feel that is so special and unforgettable.  Takeout may be at Ion, a ghost town now with nothing left.  A huge flood destroyed the whole town of 149 people back in 1916.  There was a hotel, a hardware store, a sawmill and a gristmill.  An old timer, Bill Aard, saw his best friend cut in half at the sawmill.  Bill never traveled more than 20 miles out of the valley during his whole life.  He died at 103 years of age.

There now exists just downstream from Ion a well known native seed and plant nursery and The Natural Gait.  Many people stay at The Natural Gait in one of their exquisite log cabins for their venture down the Yellow River.

Whether you go to kayak or scenery or just to relax, the Yellow River is a place to remember.

By Howard Bright

www.ionxchange.com

www.thenaturalgait.com