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Archives for May 19, 2013

Changes afoot for downtown’s historic Market Square

The whine of bus engines and the stench of diesel exhaust are gone; Market Square, the heart of the heart of Brownsville, is entering a new phase, one aimed at attracting more people.


The city of Brownsville is handling the exterior makeover for the historic downtown centerpiece, the oldest part of which was erected in 1850.

Two years ago, even before the Brownsville Urban System relocated its buses to the new transit terminal on International Boulevard, the city’s planning department solicited ideas from University of Texas at Brownsville architecture students as to “what this place could look like,” said Ramiro Gonzalez, comprehensive planning manager for the city.

“We have a draft conceptual plan that’s basically been vetted through all the stakeholders,” he said.

Stakeholders include the fire department, Brownsville Historical Association, the planning department itself — any official entity with an interest in Market Square.

What kind of trees to install, lighting, landscaping and other options will be hammered out in the next few weeks, Gonzalez said.

“All those details are being worked through right now,” he said. “That’s where the plan stands. Engineering wise, it’s pretty much done.”

Gonzalez said the makeover will include not just Market Square itself but the alleys leading up to it, on either end, from East 10th Street and East 14th Street.

Locating the money to pay for the renovation is the next task, he said.

Sales tax revenue set aside for community development and Community Development Block Grant funds are among potential sources, Gonzalez said.

“There’s not going to be private grants out there,” he said. “You’re really going to have to be creative with finding the funding.”

Gonzalez said the University of Texas System Board of Regents’ decision to keep UTB downtown bodes well for downtown in general and Market Square in particular. Already more students are venturing downtown, he said.

“The importance of UTB staying where it is and growing into the urban fabric — you couldn’t ask for anything else,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a model that’s been replicated throughout the country. I know the city’s glad that UT made that decision.”

Market Square’s open-air market, with its distinctive, brick archways, was erected in 1852. It remained a working market until 1948, after which the city bricked in the archways and turned the building into city offices and City Commission chambers.

The BUS transit system moved into Market Square in 1984 — seen as a positive move at the time for a neglected area, Gonzalez said.

City hall vacated Market Square in 2007. The following year it was transferred to the Brownsville Historical Association on a 99-year lease under an agreement with then Mayor Eddie Treviño and the city.

The BHA opened its research center in Market Square in 2009 and began gradually renovating and occupying pieces of the complex. The permanent “Into the Wild West” exhibit, with pieces donated by the late Ben Edelstein, was installed in January 2010.

After BUS pulled out last year, BHA went to work on the market area itself.

Priscilla Rodriguez, BHA’s executive director, said a drop-down ceiling was removed to reveal the original ceiling. The interior was stripped down to the original brick walls and flooring as well. Market Square is essentially four buildings tacked together, she said.

“It was just amazing that so much of it was still intact,” Rodriguez said.

Wooden doors were custom-built for the archways. The first-floor renovation will be complete once the floors are sealed.

Rodriguez, BHA’s executive director, said Market Square’s hurricane-proof vaults are ideal for the nonprofit’s historic archives and collections. One vault houses BHA’s paper document and photo collection; another, its collection of historical objects, she said.

Before BHA moved into Market Square, these treasures were stuffed into a cramped space at the Stillman House complex with really no room for researchers, Rodriguez said.

Once the first floor is done, work will start on the second floor — empty now except for the occasional film crew. Rodriguez said the space will eventually serve as a rotating exhibition space for items from the archives, full of artifacts few people know exist.

“This is going to allow us to really showcase some of the awesome stuff we’re storing in our vault,” she said.

The second floor will also serve as a community meeting space. The original commission chambers will remain intact, meaning the mayor and City Commission can hold meetings there if they wish, Rodriguez said.

The mayor’s office, in fact, will eventually be installed in what once housed police and fire department headquarters — upstairs from what used to be the historic Texas Café and is now the Brownsville Heritage Office.

The total interior renovation should be complete within two years, Rodriguez said. The Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation is picking up the tab, around $180,000. It would likely be many times that if not for the architects and preservationists who have volunteered their time, Rodriguez said.

She said the space will be available free for certain events that are free and open to the public, though BHA also plans to rent it out for private events.

“We don’t want it dedicated to one particular function,” Rodriguez said. “We want it to be a flexible space.”

Article source: http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/local/article_6f727214-c02f-11e2-81f3-0019bb30f31a.html

Planting a $100 savings

San Antonio Water System is dangling $100 coupons to entice customers to replace lawn grass with drought-tolerant plants. The Watersaver Landscape Coupon pilot program, which will begin rolling out Saturday, is intended to subsidize the conversion of a 200-square-foot grass area to xeriscape.

SAWS customers can begin applying for the coupons Saturday at the Festival of Flowers, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Alzafar Shrine, 901 N. Loop 1604 West. Beginning June 1, applications will be available at www.saws.org and by calling 210-704-7283.

Once the application is approved, customers will receive the $100 coupon, which they can use at a participating nursery. Retailers will be listed at www.saws.org. So far, H-E-B Texas BackYard, Milberger’s Nursery, Rainbow Gardens on Bandera Road and the Arrangement Landscape have agreed to accept the coupons.

Under the program, applicants agree to replace the chunk of lawn with 15 plants chosen from a list of 16 specified by SAWS and purchased from a participating nursery. They also must mulch the planting area and cap any automatic sprinkler heads in that section of their yard.

SAWS conservation director Karen Guz likens the process to paint by numbers for the garden. Narrowing the plant choices, she said, will be especially helpful for those new to gardening in the area.

“There is an infinite variety of plants that could have gone into these two packages,” Guz said. The 16 options that made it were chosen for hardiness and availability from growers. Those selections are divided between two packages, one for sun and one for part-shade. Within each package, the plants are broken into three categories. Homeowners will choose seven plants classified as small evergreens, seven in the spreading perennial category and one large shrub.

The planting could include almost everything on the list or as few as three varieties — one from each category. SAWS will offer layout ideas for different 200-square-foot configurations and will provide information about plants on the lists.

Final cost of the package will vary by retailer and by the size of plants selected.

A survey last week of participating retailers showed that at the Arrangement Landscape, the packages start at about $130, before tax, for 1-gallon plants chosen for sun and 14 bags of hardwood mulch. At Milberger’s, a similar package of 1-gallon plants for part-sun and bagged mulch priced out at about $156.

“We are trying to lower people’s upfront costs and give them the opportunity to get a significant discount off the materials they need to make a transformation in their landscape,” Guz said.

The bigger goal is to conserve water. Total water savings will depend on how liberally homeowners had been irrigating their grass.

“Irrigated landscapes can use … anywhere from 10 to 100 times more” than the 6,000-gallon monthly average for SAWS residential customers, said SAWS conservation manager Dana Nichols. “We have plenty of people who are using 60,000 to 200,000 gallons a month. The difference is landscaping. The indoor use is about the same.”

The specified plants need only hand watering to get established, then little if any water to survive, Nichols said.

“Our direction is to hand water. It’s more effective than running a sprinkler system on new plants, and it just doesn’t take much water at all.”

SAWS officials hope to enroll about 1,000 customers in the coupon pilot. And they envision having as many as four similar offers throughout the year, Nichols said.

SAWS staff will visit the homes to make sure plants are used as intended, and the utility also offers consultations for those needing guidance about plant choices.

“If you’re new to the city or new to gardening, take advantage of the consultation to choose plants best for your microclimate,” Nichols said.

Call 210-704-7283 to schedule a SAWS consultation.

tlehmann@
express-news.net

Article source: http://www.mysanantonio.com/life/home_and_garden/article/Planting-a-100-savings-4525982.php

Taking prairie into your urban landscape

There is a big difference between Willa Cather’s prairie and the backyard urban prairie — and it’s more than acres versus square footage, size and scale or poetic prose.

Deciding to add some prairie to your yard is often about personal aesthetics and sometimes wanting to make an environmental change as well.

Mark Canney, park and garden designer of Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department, contends there are many influences that shape our horticulture preferences. In a recent seminar at Finke Gardens and Nursery on the topic of prairie landscapes, he cited travel as one. And in Nebraska, that might be as simple as a road trip to the Sandhills.

In taking a more artistic approach, consider your favorite paintings — in Canney’s case, “The Prairie is My Garden,” by artist Harvey Dunn — or classic literature, such as “A Lantern in Her Hand,” by Bess Streeter Aldrich.

On a less cerebral level, a homeowner might decide to go this route because he liked a neighbor’s take on prairie in their landscape or had seen bits and pieces of prairie on the University of Nebraska East campus or at the new Union Plaza at 21st and Q Streets.

Trademarks of prairie landscaping include the constant seasonal change of the plantings and a diversity of texture and form. Canney defined prairie plantings as needing moderate rainfall and included grasses, shrubs, tough perennials and wildflowers.

Rethinking landscapes is in many homeowners’ plans after last summer’s drought. Luann Finke said the possibility of water restrictions is in the forefront of her customers’ planting requests.

“We’re retro-fitting some sunny spots,” she said.

In established neighborhoods where trees cast a lot of shade, prairie plants are not going to work as well.

Waterwise plants are usually a part of a prairie-style planting and offer ecological diversity, according to Canney.

Native plants (those which were original to our area) and native introductions (not necessarily original, but with similar growing requirements) are obvious picks for this kind of landscape. And the great thing about native plant material is that it has survived over the decades, so it is a pretty sure bet to make it despite our erratic weather.

Looking at pros and cons of prairie planting will help decide how much — or little — you want to add to your yard.

Here are the pros:

* Heat (and cold) tolerant

* Low maintenance

* Ever-changing

* Economical (if you use seeds)

And the cons:

* Some view it as unattractive or messy-looking

* Slow to establish (plan on three years)

* Out of place in your neighborhood

* Many prairie plants are very tall or very full

There are a variety of ways to add prairie plants. Although grasses are a part of the prairie, they are only one of the options for use in your yard. Flowering perennials contribute color. Shrubs add form.

Some considerations include the scale of your planting — is it a tiny corner of your garden or the entire width of your lot? Then step back and take a look at the planted area from a distance. The color palette you select may decide which plants are chosen and how they are organized.

Starting on a very small scale — just dipping your green thumb into the prairie style — may be easier to do with one-gallon plants, as opposed to seeds, suggests Canney. Set them out and rearrange, until you have exactly what you want.

Here’s an example of a plant material for a small area with recognizable prairie style, using nine one-gallon plants. It could include three taller switchgrass plants; two shorter grasses, such as blue stem; and four one gallon perennials — one each that blooms in early spring, late spring, summer and fall. Examples Canney suggests are a pasque flower for early spring, baptisa for later spring, a coneflower for summer and an aster for fall.

If you are headed in the prairie-style landscape direction but can’t quite picture it in an urban setting, go to Union Plaza at 21st and Q Streets. In addition to a large swath of prairie grasses that run along the bike path, there are several smaller planted areas to check out, said Canney.

In the Assurity Overlook mound, for example, an assortment of Amsonia, sand cherry shrubs, purple prairie clover, Missouri primrose and shrub roses are planted in an orderly design.

Nearby, there are large concrete planters that have a prairie vibe with grasses and other perennials.

Article source: http://journalstar.com/lifestyles/home-and-garden/taking-prairie-into-your-urban-landscape/article_89ed1702-dcf2-522d-b592-b06b6878a272.html

Warm spring weekends bring out the gardeners

“Things that survived the drought, and did well, have also become popular,” Heidgen said.

He said many gardeners, for instance, learned last year that, if they kept up with watering, the heat produced bumper crops of tomatoes, squash and other backyard fruits and vegetables.

At the Wasco Nursery on Sunday, Brian Wiedenhoeft, of Geneva, said he intended to again plant annual red and white petunias this year along the front of his home, as he has for years.

He said the planting marks his only foray into gardening each year.

“It really makes the front of the house pop, you know?” Wiedenhoeft said.

He said the petunias, while noticeably smaller, seemed to pull through last summer’s drought. And that, he said, reinforced his decision to plant them again this year.

Others out on Sunday had more ambitious gardening and landscaping projects.

Maureen and Ray Zmich, of the Windings subdivision, west of St. Charles, said they were in the process of reclaiming a portion of their wooded lot that had become overrun with invasive weeds and shrubs.

The work included clearing the invasive plants, creating trails with mulch and stone, and replanting other, more desirous flowers and other plants.

“We were out all morning (Sunday),” Maureen said. “And we just ran out of plants.”

KNOW MORE: Want to know what you can do to succeed at your next gardening project? Meagan Provencher of the Wasco Nursery, west of St. Charles, and Joe Heidgen of the Shady Hill Gardens near Elburn, offer some tips:

– Don’t think it’s too late to plant. Did you run out of time to plant in May? No worries, said Provencher. “We plant from early spring to Christmas,” she said. “It can be done.”

– Take the time to improve your soil. Heidgen recommended using compost, peat or other organic material to augment your dirt. He also recommended changing at least half of the soil in planting containers annually. “It can be boring, but it’s a lot of the determination in how it’s going to turn out,” he said.

– Don’t overthink things. Don’t become too consumed with worry about pests or diseases. “I kill stuff all the time,” Provencher said. “Just take it and learn from it.”

Article source: http://www.kcchronicle.com/2013/05/19/warm-spring-weekends-bring-out-the-gardeners/ap8a9zc/

14th Annual Tour of Ponds & Gardens – WVLA

The 14th Annual Baton Rouge Area
Tour of Ponds and Gardens
Saturday, May 18 (10AM-5PM) Sunday, May 19 (12noon-5PM)

Baton Rouge, LA.(April 8, 2013) Harb’s Oasis and Deep South Koi and Pond Society will host the 14th annual Baton Rouge Area Tour of Ponds and Gardens, Saturday, May 18 thru Sunday, May 19. Tickets are available at Harb’s Oasis, 225.756.2720. The Tour of Ponds and Gardens’ tour book includes all the pond descriptions, locations and directions.

Since the Tour’s inception, over $110,000 has been raised and given back to the community to such charities as Susan G. Komen Foundation, Woman’s Hospital, Hilltop Arboretum and Brave Heart. The 2013 Tour of Ponds will benefit Brave Heart-Children in Need and Yelp!BR. Brave Heart is a non-profit organization focused on improving the quality of life for children who are experiencing the emotional trauma of being removed from their home due to abuse and/or neglect. Their goal is to offer comfort and give these children the tools to grow into productive citizens who in turn will contribute in positive ways to our society. Yelp!BR is a non-profit, no kill adoption organization founded in 2009 that finds homes for shelter dogs in Baton Rouge. They have found permanent homes for over 200 dogs that would otherwise have been euthanized.

Deep South Koi and Pond Society is a nonprofit club whose purpose is to promote interest in koi and water gardening in the South Louisiana area. Monthly meetings at club members homes offer the chance to see a variety of ponds, ask questions and get tips from pond owners and guest speakers. The club also sponsors activities throughout the year including the Tour of Ponds and Gardens, fish sales, and various educational and social activities. Visit www.deepsouthkoi.org for additional information.

Harb’s Oasis Landscaping and Garden Center has been in business since 1980, owned by Charbel Ruth Harb. They are the originators of this tour which began in 1999 to raise awareness of water gardening and the beauty of adding water movement to the garden along with giving back to the community. Harb’s Oasis has landscaped or built a majority of the water gardens on the tour, and is pleased to join Deep South Koi and Pond Society in presenting this exciting event. Visit www.harbsoasis.com for additional information.

Every year pond tour participants open their yards to showcase their beautiful and unique ponds. It is easy to get the inspiration and the information needed to make informed decisions about ponds, water gardens, fountains and landscaping, when you see the wide array of incredible designs that have been implemented in our area. Don’t miss this once a year opportunity to interact with homeowners and professionals about water features, fish, flowers, plants and outdoor entertainment areas, as you discover the drama that water in motion brings to the home and garden.

Article source: http://www.nbc33tv.com/events/14th-annual-tour-of-ponds-0

Off with their heads – stock tips for gardening season

Avid gardeners look to the coming summer as a time to tend to their patch of earth – harvest the ripe, nurture the growing, or yank the weeds.

It’s also a good time for investors to take advantage of lower trading volumes and do some portfolio gardening. Toron Investment Management reviews client portfolios in much the same way to spot the stocks that have reached their potential and should be sold, those that require more patience, and the losers that should be plucked.

“At least twice a year we try to go through all the different assumptions that led to the initial valuation and the original decision to purchase the stock, and make sure that everything we thought still applies,” says Toron partner Karl Berger.

For stocks that have gained in value, Toron looks at how their prices compare with the company’s earning potential. “We look at the valuation to see if the evolution of the business continues to support the stock price it’s trading at,” Mr. Berger says. If the price is consistent with or below earnings, it likely stays. If it outpaces earnings, Toron brings in the harvest.

Mr. Berger says India-based ICICI Bank is one example of a stock that was ripe for the picking. The stock nearly doubled in value from when Toron purchased it in 2005 to November of 2011 when it was sold. Over the next six weeks it fell 37 per cent. “You basically had to assume the Indian economy was going to grow at low double-digit rates for the next 20 years to justify the valuation that was required for ICICI to be trading at that level,” he says.

Canadian National Railway, on the other hand, is an example he uses as a stock that has gained but has more room to grow. “There’s never been a reason to sell it, even though the price has gone up, because the underlying business has continued to evolve.”

In some cases Mr. Berger says he will prune part of a position in a stock that has grown if it begins to dominate a client’s portfolio.

Dealing with a stock that has lost value requires some soul searching and a degree of humility, according to Mr. Berger. “When stocks go down you have to be really vigilant to see if the premise you purchased the stock on still exists or whether it ever really existed.”

One option is to admit you were wrong and sell at a loss, he says. Another is to reassess. One stock that got a second chance in the Toron portfolio was Japanese PVC pipe-maker Shin-Etsu Chemical. The stock was purchased in November of 2007 on the eve of the U.S. housing meltdown. When it lost half its value by the following March a decision was made to hang on. In less than two months it regained half its value and has since surpassed its former high. “It was a sound company with sound fundamentals but we got the timing wrong initially,” he says.

However, when good stocks go bad he has a warning for investors looking to buy more. “The notion of averaging down just to reduce your cost base I think is folly. But if you have a business that was solid and for whatever the reason the entire market as a whole has traded down for reasons that are unlikely to affect the performance of the company, then it’s fine to rebalance that position back up to a neutral weight.”

He recommends the same sort of evaluation when stocks flounder in a narrow trading range and uses Microsoft as an example. The stock hardly budged from mid-2010 to 2012 but it managed to grow its dividend yield to nearly 3 per cent. “They were making cash hand-over-fist and doing exactly what we wanted them to. The market just wasn’t recognizing it for whatever reason.”

Toron’s nurturing investment style isn’t for everyone, though. When it comes to tending the portfolio, Barometer Capital Management portfolio manager and head trader Diana Avigdor says it’s survival of the fittest. “Our basic tenet for our investment strategy is: Keep your winners, dump your losers.”

Barometer grows the winners and snips the losers by placing trailing stop losses below a stock’s current market price, which triggers a sell on the first whiff of a decline. “We only buy stocks that are on an upward price pattern. We buy on the way up and we sell on the way down,” Ms. Avigdor says.

Her disciplined investment style is exemplified by Apple, which she initially bought in the $500 range and let a stop loss trail it up to around $700. When the stock retreated to $600, a sell was triggered. At one point she even shorted Apple to the $400 range until another trigger got her out of position. “If it starts being the best performing stock again we may get back in,” she says.

What about good stocks that go bad in a broad market drop? She says natural-gas provider Keyera is an example of a hardy stock in her portfolio that gets knocked down by market winds and keeps getting back up. “Over the last few years we got shaken out of it – once when it was not performing relatively during the financial crisis,” she says.

The flounderers that trade in a tight range are often spared from Barometer’s heartless stop loss. Ms. Avigdor says the big Canadian banks are a good example where basic analysis – and a bit of compromise – are required.

“It would behoove you to take some profits as it moves lower but not sell out the whole thing because there is still a fundamental reason to hold it … so cut it in half. You can always get back.”

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Article source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/financial-road-map/off-with-their-heads-stock-tips-for-gardening-season/article11966001/

Tips for avoiding gardening aches on a prime weekend for planting

The Victoria Day weekend is often the traditional start of planting and gardening for many people here in Canada.

As things begin to warm up, many people take out their tools and start digging, trimming and planting, all of which can be hard work.

Before going for a run or hitting the gym you likely stretch and warm up, but how about before starting gardening?

Dr. Stacy Irvine, a chiropractor at Totum Life Science, says it’s important to do that, and also to break up your work.

“Try to spend approximately fifteen minutes doing each task, which means that you’re going to be changing your body position while gardening,” Irvine said. “People get in trouble when they stay in one position for too long.”

Improper techniques can lead to back injuries as well as repetitive strain injuries to joints and muscles.

Beyond warming up and alternating tasks, it’s also important to lift right – bending your knees and keeping a straight back – as well as ensure you kneel when planting.

You should keep a straight back doing this as well, and you can ease the strain on your knees with knee pads or a kneeling mat.

Article source: http://www.680news.com/2013/05/19/tips-for-avoiding-gardening-aches-on-a-prime-weekend-for-planting/

Tips for turning barnyard leavings into organic garden fertilizer

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CORVALLIS — The manure that chickens, horses, llamas and many other barnyard animals leave behind is rich in nutrients that make a great organic fertilizer for your garden, said Melissa Fery, an instructor with the Oregon State University Extension Service’s small farms program.

“Manure is a low-cost fertilizer and a wonderful way to utilize nutrients instead of creating a pile that is not getting used and could be harmful to water quality,” she said.

If you add animal manure to your soil, you’ll not only improve the quality of the soil but you also won’t need to water your garden as much.

All animal manures are good sources of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and other nutrients that plants need to thrive. But the amounts of each nutrient are highly variable depending on the animal’s diet, and the amount and type of bedding used, Fery said.

Fery recommended hot composting manure before applying it to your garden to kill parasites and reduce seeds from weeds. Composted manure is also easier to shovel and spread. Hot composting balances food, water and air in a compost pile to favor the growth of microorganisms that thrive in high temperatures.

“It takes one-half to one cubic yard of fresh organic matter for the pile to reach the recommended temperatures for hot composting,” said Nick Andrews, small farms specialist with the OSU Extension Service. “The pile should also have a balanced carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and good moisture and oxygen supplies.”

A simple way to start is by building two bins out of pallets or boards. The first bin is for making the compost and the second is for the final stage of decomposition, also known as curing. Curing stabilizes the compost and can take several months. Make the bins big enough to hold a pile that could get 4- to 6-feet high and 3- to 5-feet wide.

Mix or layer raw animal manure with brown leaves, straw, spoiled hay or shredded paper in the first bin. If using manure that is mixed with bedding, it will have a good carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and you don’t need to add anything else, Andrews said. Thick layers of one material might not decompose quickly if you don’t have a balanced carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, he added.

It’s important for the pile to have sufficient moisture, Andrews said. Wearing gloves, squeeze the organic matter firmly in your hand. You should be able to squeeze a few drops out of it. If you can’t, add water to the pile. If you can easily squeeze out a stream of water, mix in some dry organic matter. Turn the pile in the first bin with a pitchfork a few times during the first month as it heats up. The pile should heat to 130-140 degrees. When conditions are ideal, compost can heat up within one day, Andrews said.

After the pile cools down to an ambient temperature, transfer it to the second bin. It usually takes another two to six months to decompose or cure. Horse manure may take longer to break down if combined with sawdust or straw bedding used in the animal’s stall. Wear gloves when touching compost and wash your hands afterward.

Spread composted manure in your garden in small amounts, about one-fourth to one-half inches deep. Thicker applications up to 1 inch deep might be justified in poor soil with low organic matter. To prevent pollution, store compost away from water sources and cover the pile with plastic when you expect heavy rain. Don’t keep applying excessive amounts of compost year after year, Fery said.

If you have composting questions, call the Master Gardener Plant Clinic at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center at 541-776-7371.

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Article source: http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130519/LIFE/305190304

Container gardening tips

If you can’t have a garden plot, a container garden is a nice alternative. You’ll need pots and containers, potting soil, seeds and seedlings.

You can plant almost any plant or vegetable in a container and place it on your patio to grow. Be sure you have allowed enough space for the roots and commit yourself to a daily watering schedule, said Anne Smith of the Grand Forks Horticultural Society, because the soil in pots can dry out very quickly, especially on hot, windy days.

Take care not overwater. Plants can drown when there isn’t a big enough hole or holes for water to leave the pot, according to about.com/containergardening. If the soil gets too wet, the roots of your plants will rot and the plant will die. Don’t be afraid to drill or punch more holes in your pots for drainage. Also, it is a myth that adding gravel, pot shards or stones to the bottom of your container will increase drainage.

Read and save your plant tags and seed packets. They will tell you how big your plant will get, how much light, water and food it needs.

For ideas about filling your containers, ask the staff of your local plant nursery or check online. Flowers, herbs and tomatoes can thrive in a container.

— Paulette Tobin

For more help with your garden

• Visit the Grand Forks Horticultural Society’s website, www.angelfire.com/nd/gfhort. It has tons of useful information and links to related sites.

• Society members also meet regularly and have gardening presentations at East Grand Forks Campbell Library. The meetings are open to the public.

• The Grand Forks Horticultural Society’s 29th annual Garden Tour will be July 20-21. Homeowners will open their private yards for viewing and questions. Admission to a special plant sale is included with the ticket. Proceeds go to enhancing area public park gardens and educational programs.

• You can read the Northern Gardener, published by the Minnesota Horticultural Society, at www.northerngardener.org. It’s full of information, advice and gorgeous garden pictures.

— Paulette Tobin

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Article source: http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/263843/group/homepage/

Weather Garden Tip: Better start planting, and here’s why

View full sizeRainfall amounts from late Monday through Friday could be over one inch in all of Michigan, with some areas getting over one and a half inches for the week. 

The standard ‘safe’ date to plant most all of your garden is Memorial Day weekend.

We have a problem with that. We will have an extended period of showers and thunderstorms from late Monday right on through Friday morning.

So by the time we get to next weekend, our garden soil will be too wet to work.

The first graphic shows the amount of rainfall forecasted by the U.S. medium range forecast model.

The forecast will certainly change this far out in time. But I think the depiction of inch plus rainfall is reasonable.

So you better plant what you want to plant by 3 p.m. Monday. That is when I figure the first round of rainfall could be moving across the Lower Peninsula.

Here’s a controllable and always updated radar forecast.

View full sizeChilly air will move in after the rain stops Friday. This map shows next Saturday morning’s expected low temperatures. Most spots only drop to around 40 degrees, but some colder spots could have a light frost. 

Are we safe from frost?

There’s another problem here. In the first part of my advice, I’m saying you better plant today and Monday, or you are done for at least a week due to too wet of soil.

But there are also a couple of chilly days coming next weekend. I think there could even be a light frost in the northern parts of the Lower Peninsula.

In the southern half of the Lower Peninsula it will get chilly with low temperatures next Saturday morning of around 40 degrees. It will probably stay warm enough to avoid a frost.

But you better be prepared to have to cover tomatoes, peppers, and other plants that can’t handle frost. I’ll warn you of frost next week if necessary.

What shouldn’t we plant yet?

So I guess what I’m trying to tell you is plant, plant, plant. But there are a few things planted in a vegetable garden that I’d hold off planting for now.

Those are the seeds that need very warm soil to germinate. That means any vine probably won’t germinate yet due to cooler soil. Pumpkins, winter squash, cucumbers, watermelons, and other melons need soil temperatures in the 60s to germinate.

So we’ll have to wait until the temperatures have warmed up after Memorial Day to plant the above vegetables.

I got some of my garden worked up yesterday, and today will be a long one in my Weather Garden. If we can get a bunch of things planted today and tomorrow, there will be some great ‘seed sprouting’ rain Tuesday through Friday.

Off I go to plant some green beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, and of course a whole bunch of basil for my grilled pizza margherita.

What vegetables are you planting today, and do you have any tips you can share?



Mark Torregrossa has been the Chief Meteorologist for three television news stations in Michigan. A resident of the state for 20 years, he has also gardened since the age of ten and is an avid hunter. Email him at mark@farmerweather.com and find him on Facebook at facebook.com/mark.torregrossa and Twitter @weathermanmark

Article source: http://www.mlive.com/weather/index.ssf/2013/05/weather_garden_tip_better_star.html