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Archives for March 30, 2013

Get ideas for your home at Spring Home Show

As reliable as returning robins and forsythia blossoms, the Lehigh Valley Builders Association Spring Home Show makes its annual appearance, this year with fresh hope in improving attendance.

The economy is slowly improving, with home sales locally and around the country leading the way.

“New home builders are reporting both increased traffic and phone calls,” Lehigh Valley Builders Association Executive Director Chuck Hamilton said. “Remodeling projects have been steady through the downturn but 2013 indicates an increase in projects. These are all good signs that the consumers in our market are becoming more confident in the economy.”

Many of those consumers – 13,000 or so, Hamilton estimated – will make their ways to Stabler Arena Friday through Sunday for a look at all things new and exciting on the home front.


They can attend seminars on a variety of subjects.

Show-goers can get a taste of Hollywood with a look at the Seal Master Chopper, a custom motorcycle that’s been riding the home show and exhibition circuit for years, promoting a line of pavement maintenance products and equipment.

The chopper was designed and built by Orange County Choppers of — the same shop of the reality TV show “American Chopper.”

But the real attraction for most is what’s going on in vendor offerings.


In recent years, remote home control and automation have come within the reach of more consumers as they’ve acquired smart phones and other mobile computing devices.

Glen Hill, president of Current Concepts in Coopersburg, will demonstrate the Elan g! entertainment and control system. With the system backbone installed, users can choose from many remote capabilities: view home video monitor feeds, manage lighting, lock or unlock doors, program entertainment, adjust heating and cooling systems and much more.

All of it is possible, Hill said, “from an iPhone, iPad, Android, laptop or desktop – anywhere in the world.”


Builder Ken Snyder of Spectrum Homes, Whitehall, said his company’s Lifestyle series responds to many buyers’ wishes to arrange more of their living space on one floor.

“People want a single-story ranch, or master-bedroom first-floor arrangement, or an in-law suite,” he said. This kind of structure involves some special considerations.

“We have to comply with local ordinances. If there’s an in-law suite, there has to be a common area with the rest of the home – otherwise it might be considered an apartment building.”

Snyder said these homes are available in many custom designs from 1,500 to 3,500 square feet.


The Western Lehigh Landscaping booth addresses a familiar trend toward outdoor living, with a nod to current style preferences.

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Turf wars: Which grass is best for the Texas summer?

DALLAS, Texas — You want the perfect turf; the kind that makes your neighbors green with envy.

The problem is, “We have a shortage of water resources in Texas,” said Patrick Dickinson, who coordinates the urban water program at Texas AM Agrilife Research Center in North Dallas.

The center includes a model home that shows environmentally-friendly landscaping ideas. Just as they recommend you do, they ripped out two-thirds of the grass at the model home and replaced it with less thirsty alternatives.

“More natives and plants that are blooming,” Dickinson said.

And where there is grass, you won’t find a single blade of St. Augustine.

“St. Augustine has a reputation as a water hog, and it is,” Dickinson said.

In fact, he said in the summer, St. Augustine drinks more than double what Zoysia or Bermuda grass varieties do. Buffalo grass drinks even less than those varieties.

Homeowner David Wysinger is re-sodding with Bermuda.

“It’s Texas, and it’s going to get hot,” said Wysinger.

He’s resodding with Bermuda, but he admits, he thought about St. Augustine.

“I considered it,” he said. “My parents have St. Augustine. But it’s high-maintenance.”

Wysinger’s lawn has suffered through the drought in recent years. “Bald spots and dead areas,” he said. And he was limited in what he could do about it. Because of strict watering restrictions, he quit trying.

Wysinger hopes this year he can abide by strict water restrictions, and that somehow his new grass will be greener on the other side of the next few months.

Tip: Experts say if you don’t have a sprinkler or rainwater measuring device, you can put an empty tuna can in your yard when you water. When it fills up, they say that is as much water as your lawn should use in an entire week.

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Facebook pushing ahead with less flashy design for new office campus

Facebook is choosing substance over flash with the new office campus it is building across the street from its current headquarters building.

The social networking service this week received the go-ahead from the City of Menlo Park, Calif., to erect the custom-built facility that it has been planning for months. Its current home is a former Sun Microsystems facility.

Facebook, however, apparently wants something a bit more low key than the original design.

Facebook hired world-renowned architect Frank Gehry to design the campus. He’s perhaps best known as the architect behind the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, both of which feature distinctive modern-looking metal curved faces.

Images courtesy of City of Menlo Park, Calif.

According to, Gehry’s creative partner, Craig Webb, told the city council that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and others at the company asked the famous designer to tone down his original design and drop early ideas such as building ends that would have looked like butterfly wings.

“They felt some of those things were too flashy and not in keeping with the kind of the culture of Facebook, so they asked us to make it more anonymous,” Webb said.

Facebook joins the likes of Google and Apple, which are both planning big Silicon Valley building projects that are anything but unassuming.

Consider Apple’s spaceship-shaped facility in Cupertino, Calif., which is slated for completion in 2016. It will have a massive underground auditorium, a parking garage for nearly 5,000 cars, a fitness center, a mostly off-the-grid energy center and a thick layer of trees that will enshroud the four-story ring-shaped building. The circular structure will have huge walls of glass that let Apple employees look out from both sides onto park-like landscaping that includes jogging paths and walking trails.

And Google plans to build an $82 million, 17,000-square-foot private airport terminal in San Jose, Calif., to accommodate its business jets. If approved by the city, it will be an addition to the Mineta San Jose International Airport already located there. It would include a 33,000-square-foot building for offices and retail shops, a 66,000-square-foot hangar, 18.5 acres for aircraft parking and a 300-space car parking lot.

As for Facebook’s new campus, it will house 3,400 engineers in a long 433,555-square-foot building with reconfigurable work and meeting space and a rooftop garden that supposedly will even include oak trees.

The new campus, dubbed Facebook Campus West, will be situated on ground owned by Facebook and reachable by an existing tunnel that already connects the two pieces of ground. It will take about two years to build.

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FH Gardening 101: Mulch for Everyone!

When a tree falls, a garden grows.

That’s the silver lining story Fair Haven officials are telling about the abundance of mulch that has become available in the borough due to the myriad felled trees from Hurricane Sandy.

Now, with spring planting season on the horizon and plenty of leftover ground up trees from Sandy’s aftermath, the borough’s Department of Public Works employees have stored the resulting excess of mulch, rather than clearing it, and are in the process of moving it to a giant pile at Fair Haven Fields.

Residents and Rumson neighbors are welcome to come and get it for their gardens and landscaping starting the week of April 1. No fooling. Really.

“We just had so many trees down from the storm that we ended up with this enormous pile of mulch,” Mayor Ben Lucarelli said. “And it’s the best kind of mulch, because it’s mostly ground trees.”

Call it a silver lining storm story, the mayor said. Regardless, the trees are down and they’re now going to contribute to a rebirth of sorts in spring gardening and landscaping, he said.

And the mulch isn’t the only good gardening news going on in Fair Haven.

Borough Engineer Rich Gardella has come up with a plan for the much requested deer fencing for the community garden.

The fence, which Lucarelli said will encompass a “very large” swath of land, was okayed and will be installed in time for spring planting to keep the deer from taking a dive into the garden and depleting the growth.

It is expected to cost roughly $15,000 and will stand 10 feet high. The cost will be covered by fees for garden plots. Community gardeners came to council with the request after they found a giant stag in the munching on veggies in the middle of the garden last year.

“That’ll keep the deer out,” Lucarelli said.

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Nurseries evolve to survive and thrive

THE NURSERY industry has been hard hit not only by the economic slump but also by changing demographics and dismal spring weather. Some nurseries never made up the income they lost to last spring’s sodden weekends.

The state’s Department of Revenue statistics tell the story. Our nursery and floriculture industry had gross revenues of $182.9 million in 2006, which fell to $134.2 million by 2009. There’s been a slight recovery, but the first two quarters of 2012 came in slightly below the same period in 2011.

We see the fallout. Emery’s Garden in Lynnwood shut down after 15 years in business. Now we refer to nurseries by their past lives, as in Urban Earth, formerly Piriformis, and Emerald City Gardens, formerly Fremont Gardens. Breanne Chavez, executive director of the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association, says nurseries are adjusting to the new normal. Some have had record years, others are struggling.

“I pay close attention to what customers want,” says Susan Petersen, who bought her urban nursery in Wallingford off Craigslist two years ago and renamed it Urban Earth. She specializes in edibles, small-scale plants and dwarf conifers. She’s expanded her gift shop to include local artists and invites garden clubs to meet at the nursery. “I’m a small nursery that tries to be a big one,” says Petersen. “I see things improving; I did better this year than last.”

Heidi Kaster of Dragonfly Farms Nursery near Kingston runs a design and landscaping firm, invites customers to explore her ever-expanding display gardens, and stocks the nursery with practical as well as unusual plants. “We’re all plant nerds before we’re salespeople here,” says Kaster of her helpful crew.

Kaster invites small specialty nurseries to set up and sell plants in her pasture, and she hosts a garden art festival every summer. She’s built raised vegetable beds to demonstrate how to grow edibles, and hosts egg and book swaps in the little sandwich and espresso shop she recently added. “I’m out in the sticks,” says Kaster. “You have to be creative out here.”

Long a destination nursery for those seeking the newest and coolest plants, DIG Nursery and Garden on Vashon Island is changing with the times. “Younger gardeners don’t have the same passion for plants,” says owner Sylvia Matlock, who is putting less emphasis on unusual plants and more on dramatic-looking but easy-care ones. Digital technology has changed how people pursue plants and gardening information; they go online rather than seek out local nursery experts. To combat the trend, Matlock’s “survive and thrive” strategies include stocking up on drought-tolerant succulents and hardy cactus, creating inspirational displays and planting ready-to-go containers.

Innovation, community-building, responsiveness to customers and the times are all clearly demonstrated by these dauntless businesswomen. But why isn’t our Northwest industry out front on eco-gardening and sustainability? Could we replace those landfill-bound black plastic pots with biodegradable containers? How about changing growing practices so containerized plants aren’t so amped up on chemicals that they struggle to adjust when planted in garden soil?

I’d love to see how far leadership in clean, green gardening would go to attract that elusive generation of newer gardeners and propel our nursery industry into the future it deserves.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at

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Home and garden events for the week of Mar. 30 – Daytona Beach News

“SHORT SWEET” HORTICULTURE SERIES, APRIL 1-19: presented by Ruth Micieli, horticulture program assistant and Master Gardener Program coordinator and Louise Leister, Water and Environmental Education Program coordinator with the University of Florida/Flagler County Extension Service, learn how to plan and manage your landscape, based on the Florida Friendly Landscaping principles. April 1: 10 a.m.-noon, Stormscaping Workshop; April 15: 10 a.m.-noon, Firewise Landscaping; April 19: 10 a.m.-noon, Growing Citrus Workshop, VerdeGo Nursery, 4801 N. U.S. 1, Bunnell, free admission; Flagler County Extension Office, 150 Sawgrass Road, Bunnell. $5 per person (unless otherwise noted), includes refreshments and program materials. Preregistration required: 386-437-7464.

MEN’S GARDEN CLUB OF VOLUSIA COUNTY, APRIL 3: “Bromeliads and Their Care,” with Jay Thurrott, president of the Bromeliad Society International, includes refreshments, 10 a.m.-noon, New Smyrna Beach Regional Library, 1001 S. Dixie Freeway, New Smyrna Beach. FREE. 386-427-2028.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH GARDEN CLUB, APRIL 3: theme is “A Garden and Tea Party,” 10-10:30 a.m. social time, 10:30 a.m. business meeting followed by lunch, New Smyrna Beach Garden Club Clubhouse, 2000 Turnbull Bay Road, New Smyrna Beach. $12 includes catered lunch, call for reservations. 386-409-7912.

NATIVE PLANT WILDFLOWER GARDENING, APRIL 6: 10-11:30 a.m., Full Moon Natives, 1737 Fern Park Drive, Port Orange. FREE. Reservations requested: 386-212-9923.

GARDEN AND HISTORY TOUR, APRIL 6: with Park Ranger Amanda Dixon, 1-2 p.m., Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, 6400 N. Ocean Shore Blvd., Palm Coast. Regular park entrance fees apply. 386-446-6783.

GARDEN CLUB AT PALM COAST, APRIL 8: Louise Leister will explain how to create an inviting garden that works for both humans and wildlife, new members welcome, 1-3 p.m., sign-in begins at 12:30 p.m., Flagler County Extension Office, 150 Sawgrass Road, Bunnell. 386-445-6645.

CARING FOR PALM TREES, APRIL 10: with Master Gardener Deborah Proudfoot, 1-3 p.m., City Island Library, 105 E. Magnolia Ave., Daytona Beach. 386-257-6036, ext. 16264.

DESIGNING A FLORIDA-FRIENDLY LANDSCAPE, APRIL 10: 1-3 p.m., Garden Club of DeLand, 865 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand. FREE. 386-822-5778.

SECOND SATURDAY PLANT SALE, APRIL 13: 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, 6400 N. Ocean Shore Blvd., Palm Coast. $4 per vehicle for single occupancy; $5 per vehicle for up to eight people. 386-446-6780.

QA CLINIC, APRIL 17: with Carole Alderman and Jane Holcomb, 9-11 a.m., Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens, 950 Old Sugar Mill Road, Port Orange. FREE. 386-822-5778.

PROPAGATING PLANTS, APRIL 18: 1-2 p.m., Ormond Beach Public Library, 30 S. Beach St., Ormond Beach. FREE. 386-822-5778.

INVASIVE PLANTS AND ANIMALS, APRIL 18: with Extension Director David Griffis, 2-3 p.m., New Smyrna Beach Regional Library, 1001 S. Dixie Freeway, New Smyrna Beach. FREE. 386-822-5778.

ADAPTIVE GARDENING, APRIL 18: Katie Diehl offers tips for people whose gardening is limited by injury or physical disabilities, 7-8 p.m., Hopkins Hall, 192 W. Connecticut Ave., Lake Helen. FREE. 386-822-5778.

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Gardening Tip of the Week- 30th March

Gardening Tip of the Week- 30th March

30/03/2013 , 9:41 AM by Peter Riley

The Gardening Guru gives his best tips on how to increase the number of plants in your garden. Take a listen below and join John Gabriele and Mark Matthews Saturday mornings at 8.30am for the Compoat heap!


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Gardening Tips: Different ways to grow your vegetables

Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013 11:07 am

Gardening Tips: Different ways to grow your vegetables

By Matthew Stevens

RR Daily Herald


With last week’s Square Foot Gardening Symposium still fresh on my brain, I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to grow vegetables other than traditional row gardens.

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Friday, March 29, 2013 11:07 am.

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Spring gardening tips from local nursery owner John Migas, April 10

Tips for growing of azaleas and rhododendrons in our area will be discussed in the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society program at the Old School House History Center, 130 Center St., Douglas, 7 p.m. April 10.

Presenter John Migas, founder of Woodlands Nursery in Saugatuck Township and key figure in establishing the floral plantings along The Old School House Back-In-Time Pathway will show and discuss varieties that grow well here. He also will talk about propagation of these plants by taking cuttings and raising them in the home.  After the indoor presentation, Migas will guide a tour through the Back-In-Time garden and answer questions.  His SDHS program is sponsored by Michigan Azalea Society.

Migas, originally a carpenter by trade, bought a home here in 1985 and met neighbor Charlie Mann, a renowned landscape architect, prompting the start of Woodlands Nursery and a new career carrying on Mann’s work. His nursery primarily supplies professional landscapers and retail nurseries.

Admission is free, the public is invited and refreshments will be served.

For general information about the Historical Society and its activities, visit

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Donna Stiles: Tips on composting and fishy garden solutions – Record

I’ve received some emails from readers asking about composting, so I thought I’d share a few hints about that. Keep those emails coming!

1. You know the lint you throw away every time you use your dryer? Instead of throwing it away, try burying it around your flower and vegetable gardens. It will help your soil retain moisture. Don’t have time to bury it? Just throw it in your compost pile. It still has the same effect.

2. You know that wonderful chore of having to clean out the fish tank (yuck). Make it a little less painful by making something positive of it. Your fish might be done with the water, but it is full of nutrients your plants, flowers and vegetables will love.

3. Talking about fishy solutions, a simple liquid fertilizer that works great for annuals, perennials, vegetables and even house plants is fish emulsion. Make sure you dilute it with water before applying it. You can use it every two to three weeks to help all your plants grow. You can find fish emulsion at your local nursery or garden center.

4. Revive soil with vacuum cleaner bags. After the vacuum cleaner sucks up the dust from your home, let your garden do the rest. Empty the bag in your garden and work in the soil or add to your compost pile. The lint and dust will break down and enrich the soil.

5. Making a compost pile is really easy and we should all have one. You can throw almost anything that is natural and biodegradable. All you need is a place to keep it and the materials to build one. You can use old trash cans, chicken wire, old wood — anything you can cover and keep dark. Once built, be sure to water it down and stir it around until it is ready to use.

Donna Stiles is owner of Donna’s Dam Seeds in Shasta Lake. She can be reached at

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