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Archives for May 16, 2013

A Case for Getting Rid of Lawns? (Or Not)

By Lisa Kaplan Gordon

When I grew up, a lush, green lawn was every suburbanite’s dream, a sign they’d achieved the American dream of homeownership and a weed-free front yard. Today, I still love a lawn. I love the look, feel and smell of grass. And I’m willing to pay almost $700 a year to the people — mowers, weeders, aerators, chemical treaters — who keep my turf looking great.

But suddenly, grass lawns are public enemy No. 1. Some drought-stricken places are banning new lawns because they are, basically, unquenchable. The anti-turf people say get rid of lawns because:

  • Mowers are loud and polluting.
  • Fertilizers contaminate the watershed.
  • Lawns gulp tens of thousands of gallons of water every time you irrigate them.

I live in Virginia, where we’ve got enough water — for now. Still, in the heat of summer, I water at sunup. Not only because it’s best for the lawn, but because I don’t relish the fish eye I get from neighbors who don’t share my love of fescue.

Why I Love Lawns

I believe lawns are a friend to man and beast. And so does the EPA, which says a healthy lawn:

  • Provides feeding grounds for birds, who munch on the insects and worms found beneath grass.
  • Prevents soil erosion.
  • Filters contaminants from rainwater runoff.
  • Absorbs airborne pollutants like dust and soot.
  • Converts carbon dioxide to oxygen, which helps clean the air.

Granted, plants and trees perform many of the same services. And many homeowners are replacing lawns with native species plants and even vegetable gardens. One of my neighbors, who has solar panels on her roof and a Chevy Volt in her driveway, has turned her front yard into a tomato and pumpkin patch. She’s a lovely person. But her yard is a mess, with vines snaking every which way, leaf mulch and wood chips rotting in smoking mounds, wire cages dotting the landscape. Good luck trying to sell that house.

In fact, studies show that well-kept landscaping can add 15 percent to the price of a home. The studies don’t parse the value of lawns alone, but a flawless, emerald lawn obviously makes a property look better and more saleable. I realize not everyone has a love affair with lawns. In fact, my HouseLogic colleagues have different views.

She Hates Grass

One HouseLogic contributor, Lara Edge, hates her lawn in Tennessee, which “serves no purpose except to sprout weeds,” she says. Instead of mowing “outdoor carpeting,” she’d rather grow vegetables in her front yard — the only sunny, level spot on her property. Alas, her HOA prohibits veggies in the front yard, saying it hurts curb appeal.

“The notion that you’re sacrificing curb appeal and beauty if you plant vegetables in your front yard is just plain wrong,” Edge says. “A little nurturing goes a long way in creating edible beauty.”

He Hates Weeds

John Riha, another HouseLogic contributor, loves his lawn; but the weeds love it more. “It’s disappeared under a crazy quilt of every known type of common weed — dandelions, crabgrass, nutsedge, purslane — you name it, and I’ve got it,” Riha says.

So, instead of waging a weed battle he won’t win, he gradually replaces each weed he digs up with bulbs and plants indigenous to southern Oregon. Indigenous plants are much more likely to survive drought or cold snaps than plants imported from far-flung places. Plus, they’re pretty.

Alternatives to Lawns

If no lawn, then what? Check out these ideas:

This article was originally published on HouseLogic.

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City struggles to pay for plant care



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When city projects are finished and landscaping costs go to the parks and recreation department, the care for plants usually isn’t funded. Now, the city wants to provide one-time cash to take care of the greenery.

By Ali Helgoth

CHEYENNE — When the city puts down asphalt for a road project, chances are trees, grass or other landscaping will go in with it.

It then falls to the city’s parks and recreation department to maintain the improvements.

“We all want to see roadway landscapes improved,” said Rick Parish, director of parks and recreation. “As you add those things on, there is a lot of different maintenance needs.”

The projects mean more grass to mow, more trees to water and more irrigation systems to maintain. But the department hasn’t been given more money to pay for it.

“It has just been a long time, slowly occurring thing that we just reached a breaking point,” Parish said. “We could not afford it with the (existing) budget.”

This year, Mayor Rick Kaysen is proposing that $320,000 in one-time funds be used to pay for two new workers to maintain improvements in public rights of way and for new equipment and supplies for them to use.

During a budget workshop last week, Councilman Mark Rinne asked whether that is a proper use of one-time money since some expenses are ongoing.

Kaysen and city treasurer Lois Huff said it is.

Said Huff, “What we have in mind is to start funding it this way, and we are actively looking for another funding source in the future.”

She said a possible source is optional fifth-penny sales tax money.

Parish said if the extra funding doesn’t come from one-time sources, it does need to come from somewhere. Over the last 10 years, the area maintained by parks and rec has increased by more than 30 percent, he added.

The department now maintains 1,859 acres. That includes large areas of open space, parks and golf courses.

More often it includes land in rights-of-way n the trees, grass, irrigation systems and fencing put in with road projects to make them look nicer.

The city now has 116 such acres that have to be maintained, and that is expected to get bigger.

“Every street project that’s coming out now has these beautification enhancements, and it’s just going to continue to grow,” Parish said.

For example, the roundabout project at Pershing Avenue, Converse Avenue and 19th Street includes a lot of landscaping.

With the greenery comes more costs n herbicide, fertilizer, tree replacement, tree wrap, supplies and workers’ time.

In the past, parks and rec tried to incorporate the expenses into its budget.

But Parish said as funding got tighter, services were cut at areas like pocket parks and in landscaping so things that people used most often n like the large parks and athletic fields n could be maintained.

To help gauge the cost of maintenance for projects, the City Council recently adopted a “street enhancement toolbox.”

It includes ideas for the improvements that can be made and cost estimates for installing, maintaining and replacing them, said Nancy Olson. She is a transportation planner for the Cheyenne Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The toolbox includes a spreadsheet so planners can enter the features they want and get cost estimates, she said.

It also serves as a reminder, Parish said.

“There is a cost when we do all these enhancements on our roads,” he added.

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A new look for Sunset Tower apartments

SANFORD — The front entrance of Sunset Tower is getting a facelift, and it’s nearly complete.

Located on Main Street, Sunset Tower is a very visible part of the downtown area, and the entrance of the eight-story building had become rather “tired looking,” said William G. Keefer, the executive director of the Sanford Housing Authority (SHA), which owns and operates the building.

Each year, Keefer said, SHA allocates $130,000 for capital improvements for Sunset Tower and East Side Acres, a 48-unit apartment complex on Emery, Bates, Bowdoin, Harvard and Yales streets in Sanford. This year, SHA decided to use some of that fund to renovate the entrance to Sunset Tower.

SHA hired an architect to design the new entrance and construction work began on the $106,000 project a few months ago. Keefer said the contractor hopes to complete the project by the first week of June.

The design includes two ramps for handicap accessibility and new pole lights should be in place by the end of this week. Keefer said the landscaping will include new red maple trees purchased from Waban Projects and that SHA will talk to residents about other landscaping ideas.

Sunset Tower was built in the early 1970s, Keefer said, and has 74 units — efficiency and one-bedroom apartments — for senior citizens and/or disabled residents.

The Sanford Housing Authority serves Sanford, Springvale and the surrounding towns of Alfred, Kennebunk, Lebanon, North Berwick, Wells, Shapleigh and Acton.

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Ask Eartha: Time to test your green thumb

Dear Eartha,

It is starting to feel like spring is finally reaching Summit County! I am getting in the mood to garden. I used to have a plot in the Frisco community garden, but it would be great to dust off the old green thumb. Got any ideas?

Layla, Frisco

Let’s get ready to garden! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, garden season is finally here. The sun is shining and it’s getting warm. So naturally all you green thumbers are excited to get outside and dig in the dirt. Whether you have a plot in one of the five different community gardens in Summit County, a garden at home or something yummy potted on your porch, there are lots of great ways to get ready for the season.

Right now is a good time to start prepping everything for your garden. It sounds simple enough but to get the most out of your plot, garden or porch it’s good to be prepared. I always plan my garden backwards. “Say what?” Don’t worry, I will explain.

Start by figuring out what you want out of your garden and what you can reasonably expect from your location. This might involve some research. Start by looking at vegetable varieties that are cold weather hardy and quick finishing, or veggies that friends and neighbors have grown successfully. This means leaning toward lettuces, peas and green onions rather than tomatoes, okra or asparagus.

You will then need to locate the seeds. Try to find organic or non-GMO seeds. My favorite seed company is Johnny’s seeds at, or go with a local nursery like Alpine Gardens or Summit Landscaping. Use the information on the back of the packet to determine if you are going to direct seed (put those seeds directly in the dirt) or if you need starters (transplanted babies). Remember the seeds have an expiration date. Start with a fresh packet for the highest rate of success. If you need a starter, you can find these at the nurseries mentioned above or you can grow them yourself indoors.

Planting in healthy soil is one of the most important things you can do for your plants. Summit County has their very own community compost program where you can purchase locally made compost for your garden. For more info, call 970-468-9263 x 0.

Last but not least, create a garden calendar for yourself based on the information you have collected. This will help you stay on track with planting and help you get the most out of your space. Also include reminders to weed at least once a week and add nutrients as needed.

There are lots of great resources for those getting ready to dive back into the dirt. Check out to get the scoop on what’s happening in all of the gardens and how to get involved. The Summit Garden Network is a great way to connect with other local growers and talk about everything from high alpine tomato varieties to vermin control. You can also get the latest in volunteer opportunities, garden events and even classes.

For all those second year plot holders or those looking to dive a little deeper into their gardens, please join us tonight from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Buffalo Mountain room at the County Commons for the free Graduate Garden workshop. Cassidy and Jen from the High Country Conservation Center will be tackling hard-hitting subjects like succession planting, heirloom varieties, trellising and companion planting. There will also be a QA session at the end for everyone to share their past successes and failures.

It’s a great time of year to start getting into the gardening mood. Whether you are a seasoned plant assassin or blessed with two green thumbs, you can always learn more and make your summer more fruitful. Check out or for more information about how to get involved, learn more and get growing. See you in the gardens!

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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JUST ONE THING | Gardening Knife

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Dragonfly Landscape Design

Dragonfly Landscape Design Ltd. is a full-service landscape design and implementation firm based in Westhampton Beach, serving the east end of Long Island, NY.

We believe that a great landscape starts with a good landscape design. Good landscape design is an art form and should express your individual taste and complement your home’s architecture as well as meet your lifestyle requirements. From a practical standpoint, a good landscape plan should also take into consideration not only what the space and plants will look like this season, but also what the design will look like 5 or 10 years from now. It should enhance desirable views, screen undesirable views, and ultimately create comfortable outdoor living spaces that you will enjoy season after season.

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Frugal gardening: Tips to save on the lawn and garden – Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The first signs of spring have us all thinking of lush gardens and green grass.

While it’s easy to spend a fortune on plants, fertilizers, pots and a well-manicured lawn, your gardens shouldn’t be a sink hole for your hard-earned cash. Follow these tips to get beautiful results that won’t bury you in debt.

Join a horticultural society

Fran Dennett, volunteer with Master Gardeners of Ottawa-Carleton, says joining a horticultural society can help you save big on your plants. “At the (Ottawa-Carleton and Gloucester Horticultural Society), we always have plant sales,� she says. (See listings below).

Not only can you score plants at a fraction of the store cost, Dennett says you also receive the benefit of getting a mature plant that has been grown in the area, meaning it will be quicker to take to the soil and because they’ve been cared for by members of the horticultural society, they’re often in better shape than store-bought plants.

“A lot of plants that you buy in the big-box stores have been neglected. They’re shipped from some place not in Ottawa so already the TLC factor once they leave the greenhouse (is low),� says Dennett.

The Gloucester Horticultural Society also hosts yearly seed exchanges. You can also organize ask your own plant or seed exchanges with friends and neighbours.

Plant From seeds

Plants increase in price the larger they are. Starting from scratch can save you a bundle at the plant store. A package of 40 seeds costs between $1.50 and $3.

Recycle egg cartons and yogurt containers rather than buying expensive starter pots and focus on seeds that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Dennett recommends looking for annuals that have long blooming periods such as Alyssum, Calendula, Cosmos and Nasturtiums. Nasturtiums make great cut flowers and typically last into the early fall. “You can often use these to decorate your Thanksgiving table,� says Dennett.

Nasturtiums are also edible. Dennett puts them in her salads to add a peppery flavour and unlike other annuals, you can collect their seeds to plant the following year.

“Place them in a paper envelope, then the following year, soak them for 24 hours and plant them in moist soil,� she says.

Reduce your water bill

Neill Ritchie, owner of Ritchie Feed Seed, says adding mulch to flower beds and vegetable gardens can help reduce water consumption. “(Mulch) helps the soil to not dry out so fast, so you don’t have to water it as much,� says Ritchie.

Cedar mulch is a good option for flower gardens while plastic corn starch-based mulch sheets can be used in a vegetable garden. “It holds the moisture in longer and keeps the weeds out,� says Ritchie.

Installing a rain barrel in the backyard is another smart solution. (See to find a fundraising rain barrel sale in your area).

Don’t play brand favourites

Name-brand fertilizers may use cutting-edge technology, but Ritchie says house brands are just as effective and can make a big difference in your gardening budget. “If you steer away from any brand names, you’re going to save between 15 to 30 per cent (by buying) store-branded fertilizer,� he says.

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Sell My Property Tips: Getting the most from your garden

If you’re selling your property in the Spring or Summer seasons, one thing that buyers will be looking for in the sun is a garden.

Your own private patch of grass out the back may not seem like a priority, especially with work and other commitments taking up your time, but a garden can be a big factor in your property’s appeal. For a family, for example, it could be the one big difference between clicking on a listing and scrolling down to the next.

But how can make sure people fall in love with your lawn? Sell My Property offers eight steps to get the most from your garden:

Get your timing right

If you have a garden, Spring is the best time to sell your home. The warm weather and positive vibes will be encouraging buyers to start their house hunt afresh – so you should be ready for them. Choosing bulbs that will flower in succession are a great way to maximise the colour from your garden.

But even if you’re not in the hot summer’s sun, don’t fret: just plant something else. Bedding plants will appear attractive in autumn, ensuring your back yard boosts your property’s appeal all year round.


Get the right flowers…

Flowers, great. But which ones? The right flowers can make a big difference to house hunters. Indeed, according a recent Homebase survey, roses are the most attractive flower to potential home buyers. If roses aren’t your thing, the survey’s other most popular flowers include: lavender, fuchsia, tulips, sweet peas, lilies, jasmine, geraniums, hydrangea and sunflowers.


… or grow your own veg

Vegetable gardens are increasingly popular among homeowners – it’s no coincidence that demand for allotments in the UK is on the up. So if you already have a vegetable patch in place, the chance to grow your own greens could appeal to the some of the more health-conscious, or cost-conscious, buyers.


Trim, snip and clip

Nobody likes a messy garden, so make sure yours is tidy. A quick trim around the garden, cutting the grass to a short length, will go a long way to keepings things smart. Snipping unruly hedges and clipping any wild branches will complete the effect.



As well as the garden, don’t forget to pay attention to the things around it: fences, gates, chairs, doors. If anything needs to be fixed or oiled, a bit of DIY will create the best possible impression – and stop that annoying squeak that’s been driving you mad for years.


If it’s not green, give it a clean

Why stop at DIY? If your chairs are dirty, give them a wipe. If the patio door windows are grubby, give them a spray. Cleanliness on the inside is what counts when taking photos for a listing or organising a viewing: but it’s just as important outside.


Shed responsibility

If you have a shed, take responsibility for it: clear out any leaves, tidy any cables. If you want someone to love your home, it needs to feel loved. A tidy shed, complete with working door and clean windows, will avoid your garden looking ignored or neglected.


Keep it simple

All the above is very well and good, but remember what we said about time? No one wants to take on a huge responsibility. Extravagant borders or high-maintenance flower arrangements may deter as many people as they impress. So make sure your garden is simple as well as stunning.


For expert advice on how to sell your home and information on listing your property online, visit

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Gardening Tips From An Expert


With the long weekend just a day away, planting flowers and gardens is on many peoples’ minds. Paul Bongers of The Country Basket Garden Centre took some time to talk about preparing your gardens and flower beds.

Paul said that the May 24th weekend is the general rule of thumb to get everything planted, but that some people try to rush it and end up losing plants. Others believe that gardens should be put in following the last full moon of May, while some think that it is after the last frost. “The problem with waiting until after the last frost is that nobody knows the answer as to when the last frost will come,” said Paul.

With the incredibly warm temperatures last week, Paul wasn’t surprised to see many people out buying plants. The problem with that, he said, is that people weren’t anticipating the frost which came this week. While some plants are hardier and can stand up to frost (pansies, cabbage and onions are just a few examples), most are not able to endure it.

Basil, peppers, begonias and other similar types of plants are very susceptible to the cold. Paul said that if you’ve planted your basil in the last two weeks that there’s a high likelihood that it will need to be planted again; the frost is too much for basil to handle.

If you have your pepper and tomato plants purchased already, Paul cautions that they should be kept inside and protected from the frost until the end of May or even until the first week of June. He said, “The biggest problem is that people plant on their schedule, not on the plants’ schedule.”

Another good tip that Paul shared was about perennials. “Just because perennials come back every year doesn’t mean that they can be planted at any time of the year,” he stated. No need to worry if you’ve already purchased perennials or other plants that don’t do well in frost, though. Even keeping them in the garage for another week overnight should protect them until it’s time to plant.

Paul also stresses the importance of fertilizing the soil that you’ll be using for flowers or vegetables. “One of the best things to help you be most successful is to use a good plant fertilizer. The number one thing that you can do in the spring to have success with your plants all summer is to fertilize your soil.” Paul recommends a fertilizer with a high middle number, such as 10-52-10.

The Country Basket Garden Centre grows and sells thousands of plants. They have ten green houses and offer, “a wide assortment of annuals, perennials, herbs, roses, vegetables, garden mums, Easter lilies, poinsettias, trees, and shrubs.” They also feature a full service Flower Boutique.

One of the best things about turning to a garden centre like The Country Basket is that they have experts on hand who are able to take the time to fully explain the requirements for any plant that you are purchasing. While some people shy away from buying plants at a garden centre due to the cost, it can actually be more costly in the long run to buy plants from places like grocery stores. This is because those plants are not cared for by experts and there are no experts on hand to advise you of their care.

Paul is excited about the stock that The Country Basket Garden Centre has. He said, “We have tons of new stuff this year – tropical plants, dahlias in a variety of colors, a new series of trailing petunias (including different colors and sizes), the list goes on and on.”

The garden centre is also excited to be selling lobularia this year – it is a “super plant” that grows in virtually any condition. You can plant it now and it will last into October, is what Paul said.

For more information about The Country Basket Garden Centre, you can visit their website at Do you have any tips or advice about gardening? We’d love to hear them, so please leave them in the comment section below!

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‘Earth Perfect?’ to feature prominent speakers, garden tours

1:34 p.m., May 15, 2013–Everyone who appreciates the beauty of nature and gardens — from backyard enthusiasts to art historians — will find something to learn and enjoy at the “Earth Perfect?” symposium, being held June 6-9 at locations at and near the University of Delaware.

“Earth Perfect: Nature, Utopia and the Garden” will combine themed tours of some of the area’s most renowned gardens with lectures, panel discussions and academic papers on topics related to the garden. Designed for members of the public who are interested in the importance and meaning of gardens, as well as for professional gardeners and scholars, its expert speakers will focus on such aspects as landscape architecture, history, art, literature, botany, environmental impacts and garden design.

Events Stories

The symposium follows the publication of an essay collection by the same name, co-edited by Annette Giesecke, professor of ancient Greek and Roman studies at UD, and Naomi Jacobs, professor of English at the University of Maine (Black Dog Publishing, 2012), that explores the relationship between humanity and the garden through a variety of disciplinary lenses. A second collection of essays is in development. 

“This is not an event designed primarily for scholars,” Giesecke says of the symposium. “Just about everyone seems to have some connection to gardens — their own, their grandmother’s, a public garden. People really light up when they hear about this event.” 

Following are a few highlights of the symposium.

  • Keynote speakers will include Emma Morris, author of the acclaimed Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World; Jane Knight, landscape architect of the Eden Project, a new global garden and environmental education charity in Cornwall, England; Rick Darke, widely published author, photographer, lecturer and consultant on regional landscape design and conservation; and Stephen Forbes, executive director of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide in South Australia.
  • Additional keynote talks will be delivered by photographer Margaret Morton, whose work includes four published books; UD’s McKay Jenkins, professor and author of What’s Gotten Into Us: Staying Healthy in a Toxic World; UD’s Doug Tallamy, professor and author of Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens; permaculture expert Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables; and landscape architect Marcus de la fleur, whose projects apply sustainable site development principles.
  • Tours will be given at Longwood Gardens, site of the June 7 sessions, and at Chanticleer Garden and Winterthur Garden, where the June 8 events will be held. June 9 will feature tours at Mt. Cuba Center and at the Delaware Center for Horticulture, where Wilmington community garden tours will be available.
  • In addition to several opening-day lectures on June 6, when all events will be at Clayton Hall Conference Center on UD’s Newark campus, a variety of presentation sessions and workshops will be held that day. Topics will include science and the garden, reclamation and reuse, ecosystem designs, literary gardens, sustainability, and gardens and healing.

For a detailed program and registration information, visit the website. The symposium offers attendees 20 American Society of Landscape Architects CEUs.

UD sponsors of the symposium are the Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center, the Center for Material Culture Studies and the departments of Art, Art Conservation, Art History, English, Fashion and Apparel Studies, History and Philosophy, all in the College of Arts and Sciences; the colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources and of Earth, Ocean, and Environment; and the Delaware Environmental Institute. Other sponsors and participants include Longwood Gardens, Chanticleer, Winterthur, Mt. Cuba Center, the Delaware Center for Horticulture and the American Public Gardens Association.

Article by Ann Manser

Photo by Evan Krape

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