April - May 2005 issue: (download
in pdf format)
Protect your acreage from erosion
Tornadoes strike fear in the hearts of Iowans
Lightning kills – know the
danger and how to avoid it
Colorful flowers, sweet nectar attract hummingbirds
Use phosphorus responsibly on lawns
Select and plant perennials and annuals that enhance your landscape
Grow delectable raspberries in your home garden this year
Effective termite control is both a science and an art
your acreage from erosion
By Kapil Arora,
ISU Extension Agricultural Engineering Specialist
Spring rains can contribute to soil erosion, especially
in areas with minimum or no ground cover or where water
flow concentrates. Rain can cause unprotected soil
to dislodge; once detached, soil particles are carried
away with excess water.
This excess water combines and forms concentrated
flow. On slopes, the water’s energy can lead
to gullies, visible flow paths that can vary from a
few inches to several feet deep.
What can an acreage owner do? There are several ways
to limit erosion. Make sure that every part of the
acreage is protected by grass, plants, shrubs, trees,
etc. Use mulch to cover newly seeded or unprotected
areas. It will help to absorb the impact of rain, reducing
Make your acreage more absorbent so water runs less
freely on the surface. Pave only where necessary; vegetated
ground encourages water to soak in and recharge soil
moisture. Properly installed vegetated swales - trough-like
depressions that stop or slow erosion – also
Do not allow concentrated water to run freely over
long slopes. If these slopes are steep, erosion can
be severe. Vegetated depressions with barriers or terraces
may help. If the slopes are extremely severe, properly
constructed erosion control structures that safely
drop water to a lower elevation may be needed.
Finally, look closely at your land during and after
spring rains to see where erosion is occurring and
how preventive measures are performing. This will help
you better understand the conditions when making future
decisions. Also contact your local Extension office
for helpful resources.
strike fear in the hearts of Iowans
Rouse, Warren County Extension Education Director
You’re watching your favorite program and a
weather map pops into the corner of the screen. Your
county is in a “tornado watch.” Do you
know what to do?
A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for
a tornado to develop. You need to listen for changes,
particularly an upgrade to “tornado warning” status.
A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted
or indicated by radar. If you are in the path of the
storm, you should take immediate action.
Protect yourself indoors
Before spring and summer storms hit, designate an
area in your home where family members should take
shelter during a tornado warning. A basement is a good
place, but stay away from windows and sturdy furniture
or a stairwell. Protect yourself from flying debris
with blankets, quilts, or an unused mattress stored
in the shelter area.
If you don’t have a basement or if you live
in a multifamily dwelling, go to the lowest and most
central part of the building. Avoid exterior walls
and windows. Look for a small room, closet, or hallway.
Ask if there is a designated area for the multifamily
If you live in a mobile home, evacuation is a must.
Find shelter in a nearby permanent structure. Mobile
home parks often have a designated area for residents.
Protect yourself outdoors If you are caught outside,
lie flat in a nearby ditch or low-lying area where
wind and debris can blow above you. Cover your head
and neck with your arms and hands. Rain can accompany
a tornado, so be aware of potential flooding.
Have an action plan
Develop a tornado plan for your family and prepare
for weather situations now. Practice what to do frequently
so it becomes second nature to your family members.
Have a weather radio and a map to take with you in
the shelter so you can track the storm.
kills - know the danger and how to avoid it
Joy Rouse, Warren County Extension Education Director
67 people per year in the United States in the past
30 years. This is more than the average number of deaths
from tornadoes and hurricanes.
Injuries can occur from a main lightning strike or
as the current moves in and along the ground. People
may take action to protect themselves during a storm,
but are still vulnerable to being struck as thunderstorms
approach, depart, or remain nearby.
Lightning can strike as far away as 10 miles from
a thunderstorm. If you can hear thunder, you are within
striking distance. If the time between the lightning
flash and when you hear thunder is 30 seconds or less,
the storm is six miles away. Find shelter and wait
at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder
If caught outdoors, avoid water, high ground, and
open spaces. Unsafe places are underneath canopies,
park shelters, and nearby trees. Look for shelter in
a substantial building or fully enclosed metal vehicle
with the windows completely closed.
If you are outside and there is a strike nearby,
crouch down with your feet together and cover your
ears with your hands to reduce the potential for hearing
damage. Be a minimum of 15 feet from others.
For more information
flowers, sweet nectar attract hummingbirds
Steve Lekwa, Story County Conservation Director
Eastern North America and Iowa
are home to the ruby-throated
hummingbird. Attracting them to
your feeder during the summer
and early fall is easy if you have
appropriate habitat nearby.
As woodland birds, ruby throats
like trees or shrubs, but not open
country. Having the right flowers
and feeders nearby will encourage
them to stay.
Attracting hummingbirds Red salvias are a favorite, as are
red bee balm and other members
of the mint family. Trumpet vines
and trumpet creepers also get their
attention. Favorite native
wildflowers include red woodland
Hummingbirds like nectar-bearing
flowers that bloom throughout the
summer in colors ranging from
orange to red to violet. They
prefer flowers with long,
trumpetlike tubes and nectar
reservoirs at the base.
Hummers arrive in Iowa in mid-
May, about the time columbines
bloom. Yellow and orange
touch-me-nots (jewelweeds) are a
late summer favorite.
Hummingbirds burn an amazing
6,000 calories per day. They need
sugar to fuel their calorie needs.
Flower nectar, which makes up most of their food, tends
20-25 percent sugar content.
Commercial hummingbird food
typically duplicates that sugar ratio.
These mixes are usually nothing
more than table sugar, sucrose,
and occasionally red dye. You can
make inexpensive nectar by
dissolving one part table sugar with
four to five parts water. Never use
To attract hummingbirds, put out
several feeders. Although nest
mates may feed together in late
summer, adult hummers are
intolerant and often spend more
time chasing each other than
feeding. Placing feeders apart
Keep the nectar fresh. Clean the
feeders and add fresh nectar at
least weekly or at the first sign of
any cloudiness or fowling by
insects. Hummingbirds will visit
feeders through early fall as they
feed heavily to prepare for their
long migration. You can bring
feeders in after the first frost.
For more information
For a list of plants to use in Iowa
to attract hummingbirds, see
Hummingbirds to Your Garden.
phosphorus responsibly on lawns
By Eldon Everhart,
ISU Extension Horticulture Specialist
Independent research shows that phosphorus from properly
applied lawn fertilizers is rapidly immobilized and
will not runoff the lawn or leach into groundwater.
Healthy, dense grass actually reduces the phosphorus
in storm-water runoff by binding the soil and preventing
How does phosphorus get into storm sewers? Natural
sources such as leaf litter, soil particles, flowers,
seeds, and pollen fall onto hard surfaces and rainwater
washes them into lakes and streams through urban storm
Improperly applied fertilizer can cause problems.
Apply fertilizer according to label directions and
use only the kind and amount your lawn needs. Avoid
spreading fertilizer on hard surfaces; sweep up immediately
any fertilizer that lands there.
Know your lawn’s fertilizer needs
The best way to determine the fertilizer needs of
your lawn is to take a soil test. Sample bags and instructions
are available from your local Extension office. You
will receive a report by mail indicating what mineral
elements your lawn needs. There is a nominal fee for
Some lawns in Iowa need extra phosphorus. However,
many have enough and adding more is unnecessary. Soil
testing can identify the existing levels of phosphorus
in your soil. Don’t add phosphorus unless the
soil test indicates there is a need to do so.
Soil testing is an essential tool for managing your
lawn and protecting the environment. A sample taken
once every three years is ideal. This periodic sampling
is necessary because of changing soil conditions.
For more information
Contact your local Extension office or order
the publications listed below online.
Responsible phosphorus management practices for lawns
Establishing a lawn from seed (PM 1072)
Maintenance, fertilization of turfgrass (PM 1057)
and plant perennials and annuals that enhance your
By Cynthia Haynes, ISU Extension
Gardening season is almost here. Selecting healthy
plants suitable for your site and planting them carefully
are the first steps in establishing a successful landscape.
When you wander the endless rows at your local garden
center, consider the following before making any purchases.
Recognize healthy plants
Healthy plants have full leaves, stocky stems, and
an extensive root system. Look for new growth at the
stem tips and ends of the branches.
Pick the right plants
Before visiting the garden center, tour your landscape.
Look at the sites that need additional plants and answer
- Is the soil typically moist, average, or dry?
much direct sun does the site receive each day?
much room (height and width) is available?
type or color of foliage, flowers, habitat, etc.,
would you like in the landscape?
There are thousands of perennials and annuals. A
few are suited for almost any site or situation. Read
the labels carefully. Make sure they match your site
requirements. For more information on possible plants,
ask your local Extension office for Perennials for
Sun (PM 1914), Perennials for Shade (PM 1913), or Annuals
Plant with care
Most annuals and perennials are ready to plant in
mid to late May after the last threat of frost has
passed. Be sure to plant them carefully, usually at
the same level they were planted in the container.
After planting, water them well and add mulch to prevent
Garden Tips: Guidelines to Seasonal Chores and Growing
Annuals in Containers are two recently updated brochures
from Reiman Gardens. You can find these and other Reiman
Gardens brochures online at www.extension.iastate.edu.
Click on “publications.” Under “Go
to” click on “RGxx.”
Select plants that have tightly closed flower buds
instead of fully opened flowers. This way you can enjoy
the flowers in your garden.
delectable raspberries in your home garden this year
Mary Ann deVries, Polk County Extension horticulturist
The sweet taste of homegrown raspberries makes them
a favorite in any garden. They are easy to grow and
are well suited to most areas of Iowa.
Raspberries come in four basic types: black, purple,
summer-bearing red and fall-bearing red. Traditional
raspberry flavors typically are associated with the
summer and fall-bearing red varieties.
Selecting the right plants is an important first
step. Plants are best purchased from a reputable garden
center to ensure they are virus free.
Raspberries do well in most full-sun locations, but
avoid heavy clay or poorly drained soils. Place new
plants 1 ½ to 3 feet apart in rows spaced 6
to 8 feet apart. Late March and April are ideal times
to plant raspberries. Harden off plants outside in
a protected area for a few days prior to planting.
Pruning is the primary challenge for raspberry growers.
Because summer-bearing raspberries are biennial, first
year canes produce only leaves. In the second summer
these canes produce fruit.
At the end of the second season, the old fruiting
canes, which are then among other first-year canes,
must be pruned out. Thorns make this a tricky task.
Fall-bearing raspberries are a good alternative. Because
they bear fruit in late summer, leaves and fruit develop
on the same cane in the same summer. After frost, these
canes can be mowed rather than removed individually
Suggested summer-bearing red raspberry varieties
for Iowa include Boyne, Liberty, and Latham. Excellent
fall-bearing red raspberries include Heritage, Red
Wing, and Autumn Bliss.
For more information
ISU Extension offers a four-color brochure, Growing
Raspberries in the Home Garden (PM 1706). The cost
is $2 and any county Extension office can provide it.
termite control is both a science and an art
Donald Lewis, ISU Extension Entomologist
Questions about termites and termite
control are common in Iowa although termites here are
widely scattered. Termites in Iowa, called subterranean,
live underground in a loose collection of tunnels and
There are three types of termites. Worker
termites build and maintain the nest, care for the
young, and forage for food. Soldier termites guard
the colony. Swarmer termites are male and female adults
that emerge from well-established colonies and fly
off in an attempt to start new ones.
Identifying a home infestation
A home termite infestation is usually
not obvious because most activity is concealed. Warning
signs include the presence of pencil-wide mud foraging
tubes on foundation walls, floor joists, etc.; the
presence of hollowed spaces inside structural wood,
drywall, paneling, molding, paper or cardboard; and
emergence of swarmers.
There are two methods of termite treatment.
The first is injecting liquid insecticide into the
soil to provide a long-lasting chemical barrier that
protects the structure by repelling or reducing the
termite population. The second control method is baiting.
Devices in the ground or inside the house deliver a
slow-acting toxicant to the termite colony. No one
treatment method is always the best.
Because of the complexities and the
importance of a thorough and effective job, we do not
advise homeowners to treat their own homes. Instead,
hire a reputable local pest control firm.
For more information
To learn more about
selecting a pest control professional, visit your local
Extension office or see pamphlet PM 1496, Selecting
a termite control service.
To learn more about termites, go to