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Archives for May 24, 2013

Schools: Cost of security upgrades starts at $649000


Schools: Cost of security upgrades starts at $649,000

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

It will cost $649,000 to upgrade security at the entrances to Georgetown County’s 19 public schools. And the cost would top $1 million if the school district elects to replace doors, reinforce windows and install more cameras and fences, according to estimates presented to the school board this week.

The board received the security estimates shortly after learning that the district could face the loss of $845,000 in funds for programs for students with disabilities. While the construction funds and special education funds come from different sources, the figures highlight the frustration of school officials who are trying to find funds for additional programs but are spending more and more money on security.

The district began a review of school security following the shooting deaths of 20 students and six staff at an elementary school in Connecticut in December. The district paid for county deputies and Georgetown city police officers to provide security at the district’s nine elementary schools. It already had resource officers at the eight middle and high schools. The district also added security at after-school events.

District staff along with staff from SGA Architecture started looking for ways to make it harder for an intruder to force his way into the schools. “There are no true standards,” said Mike Rolison, an architect with SGA. He researched a variety of measures. In the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., companies that provide those materials “are going flat out,” he said.

SGA’s proposal includes installing film over existing glass at the entrances to make them bulletproof. Partitions will be installed in school lobbies to direct visitors to a reception area. That was done at Waccamaw High as part of a renovation last year, but where visitors now find an open counter, Rolison proposes installing a bulletproof glass “bandit barrier.” Some schools, including Waccamaw Middle, will have “transaction windows” like those used in some ticket counters and banks.

“We’re trying to stop people going into schools and directly down corridors,” Rolison said.

The proposal also includes installing alarms at the front desk in each school.

“I think it’s just heartbreaking,” School Board Chairman Jim Dumm said. “We’re using education dollars to protect our kids.”

Board Member Arthur Lance called it a “Fort Knox mentality” and said “I just get a pain in my heart.”

Superintendent Randy Dozier said many of the safety ideas were proposed by school staff. “The cost is not astronomical. To do nothing is not acceptable,” he said. “The goal is to slow somebody up. You’re not going to keep them out.”

The security measures would take 12 to 14 months to complete, and Dozier suggested the district start by installing security film on the windows, estimated to cost $103,000.

“I don’t want to make it look like a prison, but if it would save one life I would do that,” Dozier said.

The school district has created a safety task force with law enforcement, fire and emergency management officials. Bill Compton, the district’s facilities director, called it “the new normal.” The goal is to make sure emergency services have the information they need about the schools and can get access, he said.

Using Waccamaw Elementary as an example, Crompton said security concerns change the way people view school facilities. Landscaping that has grown up since the school opened in 1976 has been cut back from the building. “It’s easy to hide between a bush and a building,” he said.

Trees have grown up to block the view of security cameras and provide a way for someone to climb onto the school roof. Gardens planted by students have grown as well and now they provide hiding places for potential intruders, Crompton said.

And rain barrels, installed to promote an awareness of stormwater, are a nice idea, Crompton said, but who checks to see what’s inside?

School Board Member Richard Kerr said he liked the idea of starting with limited improvements to see how the public responds.

He also asked for a summary of the district’s current security costs. The draft budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 shows $232,500 to continue paying for the security staff that was added in January.

“It’s important for people to know how much we spend on security,” Kerr said. “I still haven’t given up on getting some of that from the state.”

Dozier said state funds seem unlikely, but there may be some federal grants available.

The district has a $76.9 million operating budget proposed for the coming year. That’s up by $2.2 million from the current year. But with declining enrollment, the district will lose 3.5 teaching positions.

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Designer Show Houses: An Open House—For 10000 People

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Free Landscaping Workshop in Plymouth

If you want ideas for how you can make changes to your yard the City of Plymouth is holding a “Water-Smart Landscaping: Using Rain as a Resource” workshop for free.

You will get personalized advice from a landscape designer — and discover practical, low-cost tips for attractive and healthy landscaping that uses rainwater efficiently. The ideas you get at the workshop will help you reduce the need for sprinkling, fertilizer and frequent maintenance while also saving you money and minimizing storm water runoff.

The workshop will show examples of how to create low-cost, multi-functional landscape features in your yard to meet your needs and benefit the environment. Through aerial photos, you will receive advice on your specific property.

To register, send an email to Please provide your name, address and contact information.

The workshop is on June 4, 6 – 8: 30 p.m. at the Plymouth Library, 15700 36th Ave. N.

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Out of the shadows

undated_CXL_sarahwolfe1By Sarah Wolfe
Associated Press
Looking for a fresh way to liven up your garden walls? Think plants, not paintings.
Living pictures – cuttings of assorted succulents woven together in everything from picture frames to pallet boxes – have caught on among garden designers and landscapers this spring as an easy, modern way to add color and texture to an outdoor space.
“Living pictures composed of succulents have a gorgeous sculptural quality that works surprisingly well in a number of different aesthetics – contemporary, bohemian, Southwestern and more,” says Irene Edwards, executive editor of Lonny home design magazine. “They’re great for urban dwellers with limited space.”
Living pictures are also nearly maintenance-free (i.e. hard to kill). So even beginners or those with the blackest of thumbs can look like the master gardener of the neighborhood.
There are a few ways you can go.
For a larger living picture, you can use a wooden pallet, framing out the back like a shadow box. Large, do-it-yourself living wall panels are also for sale online through garden shops like San Francisco’s Flora Grubb Gardens and DIG Gardens based in Santa Cruz, Calif.
But going big right away can be daunting, and bigger also means heavier, so many newbies like California gardening blogger Sarah Cornwall stick with smaller picture or poster frames.
Go vintage with an antique frame or finish, or build your own out of local barn wood. Chunky, streamlined frames like the ones Cornwall bought from Ikea give a more modern feel.
You’ll also need a shadow box cut to fit the back of the frame, and wire mesh or “chicken wire” to fit over the front if you’re going to make your own.
First, nail or screw the shadow box to the back of the frame. A depth of 2 to 3 inches is ideal. Set the wire mesh inside the frame and secure it with a staple gun, then nail a plywood backing to the back of the shadow box.
Almost any succulent can be used for living pictures, though it’s usually best to stick with varieties that stay small, like echeverias and sempervivums, says DIG Gardens co-owner Cara Meyers.
“It’s fun to use varieties of aeoniums and sedums for their fun colors and textures, but they may need a little more maintenance, as they may start to grow out of the picture more,” she says.
Cut off small buds of the succulents for cuttings, leaving a stem of at least 1/4-inch long.
No succulents to snip? You can always buy some at a nursery or trade with other gardeners in your neighborhood.
“They grow so easily, don’t feel embarrassed knocking on a door to ask for a few cuttings,” Cornwall says.
Make sure any old bottom leaves are removed, then leave the cuttings on a tray in a cool, shaded area for a few days to form a “scab” on the ends before planting.
Set the frame mesh-side up on a table and fill with soil, using your hands to push it through the wire mesh openings.
Be sure to use cactus soil, which is coarser than potting soil for better drainage.
Some vertical gardeners place a layer of sphagnum moss under and over the soil to hold moisture in when watering.
Now comes the fun and creative part.
Lay out the succulent cuttings in the design you want on a flat surface, and poke them into the wire mesh holes in your frame.
You can start either in one corner or by placing the “focal point” cuttings in first and filling in around them. Waves or rivers of color are popular living-picture designs, although Cape Cod-based landscaper Jason Lambton has gone bolder with spirals of green and purple.
“We painted the pallet different color stripes to go with the color theme of the back of the house,” says Lambton, host of HGTV’s “Going Yard.” “It looked like a cool piece of living, reclaimed art.”
Using just one type of succulent is also a simple yet elegant option, says Kirk Aoyagi, co-founder and vice president of FormLA Landscaping.
“Collages with some draping and some upright plants can create a more dramatic look and feel,” he says.
Keep the living picture flat and out of direct sunlight for one to two weeks to allow roots to form along the stems, then begin watering.
“If you hang it up right away or it rains a lot, that dirt will just pour right out. … I made that mistake once,” Lambton says.
Mount your living art once the succulents are securely rooted, which can take four to eight weeks depending on climate.
After that, water every seven to 10 days by removing from the wall and laying it flat. Be sure to let the water drain before hanging your living picture back up, to avoid rotting.
DIG Gardens:
Flora Grubb Gardens:
FormLA Landscaping:
c. Associated Press
Photo from stock.xchng

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Bear Creek Gardens: Best Landscaping Service

Those wanting an impressive yard, whether or not they were born with a green thumb, need look no further than Bear Creek Gardens for their landscaping needs.

The business was named the Best Landscaping Service in the area as part of the Best of Maury County readers’ poll.

“That’s awesome,” Charlie Williams, who runs the garden center, said about the business’s win. “We have a lot of repeat customers, so we feel grateful.”

The business has won the award seven years in a row. Jason Daughrity leads a staff of 14 people in landscaping, design, irrigation, outdoor lighting and the full-service garden center on Bear Creek Pike.

Williams said a lot of new customers come after seeing nearby lawn transformations.

“We’ll do this neighbor’s house, then the next thing you know we’ll have three more houses on the same street,” Williams said.

The garden center has occasional sales, like the one going on throughout May where all old inventory is 40 percent off.

Bear Creek Gardens, 200 Bear Creek Pike in Columbia, is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday. More information may be obtained online at or by calling (931) 840-0030.

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Five owners open their gardens in Home Garden Tour June 1

If you’ve been thinking about getting some chickens for homegrown eggs, the Backyard Chicken Program on Saturday, June 1, will help you learn what all is involved. This program, sponsored by Smith and Cherokee County Texas AM AgriLife Extension offices, starts at 9 a.m. in the Cherokee County Expo Center. Registration is at 8:30 a.m..

The morning session will cover laying flock breeds, nutrition, diseases, housing and regulations. The speaker is Dr. Morgan Farnell, associate professor, Extension program leader and specialist for poultry management. After a catered lunch, attendees will tour Poppa Skinny’s Farm near Dialville, which raises chickens, pork, seasonal produce and fruit using sustainable and organic production techniques.

The cost is $25 (includes lunch) and requires an RSVP to 903-590-2980 by tomorrow, Friday, May 24. For more information, contact the Smith or Cherokee County Extension offices.

Keith Hansen is Smith County horticulturist with the Texas AM AgriLife Extension Service. His web page is EastTexasGardening. His blog is

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Gardening experts to share top tips

Expert gardening tips will be shared at an event to raise money for a Sussex children’s hospice.

A panel of horticulturalists will answer questions at a special Gardeners’ Question Time event on June 4 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Chestnut Tree House.

The panel will be chaired by BBC Radio Sussex gardening reporter Jean Griffin and include the head gardeners from the grounds of historic buildings Fittleworth House and Parham House.

There will be a light buffet and wine at the evening, which has been organised by Bognor Regis Friends of Chestnut Tree House. Guests will also have the opportunity to buy plants donated by local nurseries and take part in a raffle.

Paula Puleston, long-term volunteer for Chestnut Tree House and member of the Bognor Regis Friends Group, said: “I have volunteered at Chestnut Tree House since 2007 and love every bit of my time spent helping the teams that do such fantastic work both at the hospice and out in the community.

“Without their incredible work and the support of the local community, Chestnut Tree House wouldn’t be able to provide the care and support the children and their families need at a very difficult time in their lives.

“Over the years we have held many events to raise vital funds for the hospice. This year, we’d like to do something exceptional as Chestnut Tree House is 10 years old, and so we have organised an extra special Chestnut Tree House Gardeners’ Question Time.”

Tickets for the event, which starts at 6.30pm at St Mary’s Centre, in Felpham, are £10 per person, which includes a buffet and glass of wine. To purchase tickets contact Paula Puleston on 01243 584 843.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2013, All Rights Reserved.

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Tips to help your garden get over seasonal extremes

Spring floods, summer droughts and temperature extremes take their toll on gardens and the gardeners who tend them. Help your gardens recover from the crazy temperature and moisture extremes that seem to occur each year.

Start by assessing the current condition of your landscape. Remove dead plants as soon as possible. They can harbor insect and disease organisms that can infest your healthy plantings. Consider replacing struggling plants with healthy plants better suited to the space, growing conditions and landscape design. You often achieve better results in less time by starting over rather than trying to nurse a sick plant back to health.

As always, select plants suited to the growing environment and that includes normal rainfall. Every season is different, but selecting plants suited to the average conditions will minimize the care needed and increase your odds for success. Roses, coneflowers, sedums and zinnias are just a few drought tolerant plants. Elderberry, ligularia, Siberian iris and marsh marigold are a few moisture tolerant plants.

Be prepared for worse case scenario. Install an irrigation system, such as the Snip-n-drip soaker system, in the garden. It allows you to apply water directly to the soil alongside plants. This means less water wasted to evaporation, wind and overhead watering. You’ll also reduce the risk of disease by keeping water off the plant leaves.

A properly installed and managed irrigation system will help save water. The convenience makes it easy to water thoroughly, encouraging deep roots, and only when needed. Turn the system on early in the day while you tend to other gardening and household chores. You’ll waste less water to evaporation and save time since the system does the watering for you.

Capture rainwater and use it to water container and in-ground gardens. Rain barrels and cisterns have long been used for this purpose and are experiencing renewed interest. Look for these features when buying or making your own rain barrel. Make sure the spigot is located close to the bottom so less water collects and stagnates. Select one that has a screen over the opening to keep out debris. And look for an overflow that directs the water into another barrel or away from the house.

Add a bit of paint to turn your rain barrel into a piece of art. Or tuck it behind some containers, shrubs or a decorative trellis. Just make sure it is easy to access.

Be sure to mulch trees and shrubs with shredded bark or woodchips to conserve moisture, suppress weeds and reduce competition from nearby grass. You’ll eliminate hand trimming while protecting trunks and stems from damaging weed whips and mowers.

Invigorate weather worn perennials with compost and an auger bit. Spread an inch of compost over the soil surface. Then use an auger bit, often used for planting bulbs, and drill the compost into the soil in open areas throughout the garden. You’ll help move the compost to the root zone of the plants and aerate the soil with this one activity.

A little advance planning and preparation can reduce your workload and increase your gardening enjoyment.

Gardening expert, TV host and author Melinda Myers’ website is

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NORTH COAST GARDENING: Kitchen garden tips – Times

What is a kitchen garden? Let’s think of it as being a low-maintenance, no-till garden of containers or raised beds. How about a handy little vegetable garden that can always offer something fresh on hand for making salads, soups and stews all year long? With a bit of planning this is easily possible. Here are a few tips:

LET THERE BE LIGHT — Vegetables, especially winter and early spring crops, need at least six hours of light each day. While most cool-season vegetables and herbs tolerate coastal frosts, they will languish if there is not sufficient light.

PROVIDE ROOT SPACE — This means choosing wide, deep pots for container gardening. Containers should be 18-inches wide minimum, and at least as deep. With raised bed gardening, 8- to 12-inch tall beds are ideal. Place hardware cloth in the bottom of beds if gophers are in the vicinity.

FEED THE SOIL — Have on hand plenty of compost, composted manures, worm castings and a good slow-release organic fertilizer such as 4-4-4. Fall-planted vegetables destined for winter harvest will do best if additional amendments and nitrogen are added to the soil.

PROTECT — Slugs and snails are active all year long because of our mild coastal weather. Use an organic slug bait on a regular basis, especially winter and early spring. Cover young spring-planted starts with a row cover to protect from green spotted cucumber beetle.

TIME YOUR CROPS FOR CONTINUED HARVEST — Consider the following time table:

April-May: Plant beets, carrots, greens, green beans, shallots and herbs.

May-July: Plant green beans, summer squashes, greens and herbs.

August-October: Plant carrots, beets, leeks, greens and garlic.

October-December: Plant broccoli, Asian greens, shallots, leeks, kale and salad greens.

December-January: Still possible to plant broccoli, kale, Asian greens, but the weather is chilly and wet. Growth slows way down. Vegetables planted at this time will not grow much, but really take off come March.

February-March: Plant Asian greens, broccoli, carrots, leeks, shallots, lettuces and greens.

Remember: Time your crops, and feed the soil at each planting. Have on hand row cover to protect plants from hard freeze in late winter and pests in spring.


Terry Kramer is a trained horticulturist and journalist. She has been writing a garden column for the Times-Standard since 1982. If you have a question you’d like answered in this column, email it to and put “Question For Terry Kramer” in the subject line, or write to Terry Kramer/Lifestyle, Times-Standard, P.O. Box 3580, Eureka, CA, 95502.

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Avoid herbicide injury to plants

When weeds appear in the lawn and landscape, many homeowners turn to chemical weedkillers to take care of the problem. Herbicides (weedkillers) kill plants. That is what they are supposed to do. When used correctly, they can be an effective tool. When used improperly, they can damage desirable plants.

Before you reach for a weedkiller, here are some guidelines for using these chemical tools:

1. Read the label — the entire label — before using the product. Many of the “weed and feed” products or broadleaf weedkillers contain a combination of 2,4-D, MCPP and dicamba. Somewhere on the label of these products it will note that they should not be used in the root zone of “desirable trees and shrubs.” If you have a landscape with established shade trees, you will be applying these materials in the root zone of “desirable trees and shrubs.”

So what can you do if you have weeds and trees in your lawn? If you just have a few weeds here and there, don’t use an herbicide product over the entire lawn. Spot spray the individual weeds or dig them out. I like the “weed popper” tools like Fiskars Uproot Lawn and Garden Weeder or Grampa’s Weeder ( that use leverage to pop out the weeds along with most of their roots. This avoids tedious back-breaking digging with a hand weeder.

2. If you’re not using a ready-to-use product in a spray bottle, it’s wise to use a separate garden sprayer for herbicide sprays. If a sprayer is not cleaned thoroughly, you can end up damaging your plants with a contaminated sprayer.

To clean a sprayer:

— If you can’t use all the material you have mixed, spray it somewhere in the landscape where it won’t harm plants. Check the label to determine what areas are safe. Do not store any mixed product in your sprayer.

— Check the product label for specific directions on how to clean the sprayer after using the product. If there are none, thoroughly rinse the tank, hoses, wand, nozzle and any other parts with water. Spray the rinse water over a wide area that will not cause damage. Don’t dump it on the ground or down the drain.

— After cleaning the sprayer when using 2,4-D or a similar herbicide, fill the tank with water and add ammonia (1/3 cup of ammonia per gallon of water). Allow it to soak for 24 hours, being sure that the ammonia solution is also run through the sprayer and all its parts before soaking. This will remove much, but not all, of the 2,4-D from the sprayer.

3. Damage to plants from weed killers can also be caused by drift that occurs when sprays are applied when it’s windy. It is hard to find a calm day in this region, but you should never apply herbicides when the wind speed is more than 15 mph. It’s best to wait until the wind is 5 mph or less. Also, the larger the droplet size, the less likely the material will drift off target.

— Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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