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Archives for July 1, 2013

CHELSEA: DDA discusses plans for $750000 Palmer Ford dealership property

A2 Journal Blog

Welcome to Inside the Newsroom at A2 Journal, a blog written by the newspaper’s staff at A2 Journal, a new, weekly, community newspaper covering Ann Arbor. We will include photo galleries, videos and links, and encourage readers to post their comments.

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Great Gardens 2013: The Koy Garden

Gary and Judy Koy have spent the better part of 40 years turning 4 acres of hayfield into landscaping that should be on the cover of a magazine.

They bought the land and built their home just to be one of the first in the area in the Town of Maine, just outside of Wausau.

Since then, they’ve planted hundreds of trees and countless flowers that bloom from spring to fall. Roses dominate the rest, because they’re Judy’s favorite.

And there is just enough other stuff like shrubs, birdbaths and lawn ornaments to keep it all interesting.

The Koys say it takes about 5-hours a week to maintain. Although Gary says he never really walks through his yard, he pulls weeds as he walks through it. And Judy spends a lot of time in the off season going through magazines to come up with ideas.

The yard also features a Shakespeare Garden and multi-layered water feature. Gary and some buddies from where he used to work needed two weekends to put it in. But Judy tells us it still didn’t go in fast enough because she couldn’t wait to plant around it. The name of the waterfall, “The Bridge Over the River Koy,” was inspired by the movie but is a tribute to first born grandson, River Koy.

A rose garden will also be named for granddaughter, Emily Rose.

As for what the future holds for the garden, it depends who you ask. Judy says maintaining what they already have keeps them busy enough. Gary says he’d like to put in a fire pit.

Their best tip for your Great Garden: Make it a work in progress. Don’t do it all at once.

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Get more for your renovation dollars

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  • Couple redecorating home

Cost-wise, renovations begin with defining clearly what you want to accomplish to ensure that you are covering all the important requirements.

The whole household should be involved in the planning process what is really needed and what would be “nice to have”? How will your needs change over the years?

Discuss your ideas in detail with your builder, who can offer sound advice on costs and approaches.

A licensed builder can help you discover the hidden assets of your home. For instance, homeowners sometimes assume that they need extra floor space, when maybe all that is needed is more effectively designed space.

By rearranging interior walls, eliminating separations and installing larger windows, the builder can often create the sense of spaciousness and light that you want.

Look under existing carpeting and sheet flooring old hardwood is often of high quality and can be refurbished.

If your old trim and doors are in good shape, they can be refurbished rather than replaced.

Likewise, you may be able to resurface your kitchen cupboards instead of installing new ones, or perhaps you can “recycle” hardware such as knobs and handles.

Do the work in stages to suit your budget. Phasing the work allows you to achieve the results that you really want without undue financial pressure. Your professional builder can help develop a master plan, with proper sequencing of tasks, timelines and expected costs.

Product substitution can extend your budget. You don’t want to compromise on the overall quality of your renovation. However, where performance is not affected, you can consider using less expensive alternatives. Your builder can advise you on how to get the best value for your money.

Water-conserving fixtures will save a considerable amount of money over time in areas with water metering.

Likewise, energy-efficient lighting, high-efficiency heating systems and electronic thermostats mean long-term savings. Licensed builders are up to date on the latest technologies and can provide you with the information you need to make wise decisions for the long term.

Do some of the work yourself. If you have the skills and the time, you can stretch your renovation dollars by taking on some of the work yourself.

Generally, builders recommend that you leave structural and mechanical renovations to the professionals, but many homeowners can competently do their own painting, landscaping or other finishing jobs.

Talk to your builder about the effect of do-it-yourself work on scheduling and the builders’ warranty, keeping in mind that you should try not to interfere in the way the builder intends to manage the project.

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WCC’s ‘Green’ Building Gets Native-Plant Landscaping

By Patrick Hennessey, Westchester Community College

The Divney Tung Schwalbe planning, engineering and landscape architecture firm chose Westchester Community College as the site of its annual “do-it-in-a-day” volunteer landscaping project.

The partners in the firm along with the company’s employees recently designed and planted a garden at the entrance of the college’s Gateway Center on the main campus in Valhalla. They planted a variety of native plants donated by a member of the Westchester Community College Foundation Board.  

The Gateway Center, designed by the internationally recognized Ennead Architectural firm, is the first county-owned “green” building. 

Gateway received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification. Ecology and sustainability were central to the design, from the building’s overall siting and massing strategies to the integration of energy efficient systems and selection of materials.

Divney Tung Schwalbe partner Jerry Schwalbe, an alumnus of the college, is a licensed civil engineer with more than thirty years experience in site engineering, municipal infrastructure design, and project management and development. He supervised the garden project in coordination with members of the college’s Physical Plant Department and the college’s Native Plant Center.

“This was truly a labor of love,” says Schwalbe. “It was very special for me to be able to give something back to the institution that provided the educational foundation for my career,” he says.

The Native Plant Center was established by the Westchester Community College Foundation on the grounds of the college in 1998 to educate individuals on the importance of native plants of the Northeast. 

As the first national affiliate of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, The Native Plant Center builds on the work begun by the former First Lady to promote the use of native plants. 

The Center maintains demonstration gardens and educates the public about the environmental necessity, economic value, and natural beauty of native plants through conferences, lectures, field trips, classes, and its Go Native U certificate program.

“This space was truly transformed by the crew at Divney Tung Schwalbe,” says Carol Capobianco, the director of the college’s Native Plant Center. “Their attention to detail, extraordinary design skills, and just plain hard work made this project happen. Now we have a native garden showcase at the entrance to this building, which is an architectural jewel,” she says.  

Divney Tung Schwalbe, which was founded in 1972, is a team of land use professionals who help clients to envision and achieve successful and responsible development projects. The company serves a wide range of private and public clients throughout the New York Tri-State Region and beyond—from corporate headquarters and institutional facilities to residential communities, historic properties, and recreational sites.

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Home and garden notes for July 1


Central Oklahoma Bonsai Society, 7 p.m., July 9 at Will Rogers Exhibition Center, 3400 NW 36. Video program is “Introduction to Bonsai — Part 1.” Visitors welcome.

Weed and Seed Club, 11 a.m., July 13 in the Children’s Garden at Myriad Botanical Gardens, 301 W Reno. For more information email or call 445-7080.


Community Gardening workshop sponsored by Oklahoma County Master Gardeners 1 to 3 p.m. July 9, Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Service, 930 N Portland. Workshop will focus on starting a community garden, choosing a site for a community garden, coordinating and training volunteers and garnering support from local organizations and businesses. Free. For reservations call 713-1125 or go online to and click the “Contact Us” link.

Water saving landscapes, 9:30 a.m. to noon, July 12, Will Rogers Exhibition Center, 3400 NW 36. Save time and money growing a vibrant, low-water landscape. Participants will learn about plant selection, proper watering practices and the difference between drought-stressed and heat-stressed plants. Free. Call 943-0827.

Water Wise Landscaping: Outdoor Water Conservation, 9 to 11 a.m., July 13, Children’s Garden Porch, Myriad Botanical Gardens, 301 W Reno. Promote conservation through proper outdoor watering and drought-tolerant landscaping. Experts from the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service will provide information on different techniques from irrigation to proper plant selection followed by a walking tour through the gardens to show how these principles can be applied to create a beautiful, water-wise landscape. Free. Call 297-3995.


Mid-Week Market, 4 to 8 p.m., Wednesdays, July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, Sheridan Lawn, Myriad Botanical Gardens, 301 W Reno. Join the Urban Agrarian for the freshest, most delectable local fruits, vegetables and other goods like jams, jellies, sauces, pastas and baked goods. All locally grown and produced. Don’t be surprised to find a beer garden, sporadic entertainment, food trucks and more as the market grows. Call 297-3995.

Third Thursday — An Evening Garden Lecture Series, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. July 18, Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Service, 930 N Portland. Hear presentations on topics like soil fertility, plants for Oklahoma, tree selection and planting, container gardening and more. Third Thursday of each month through October.

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Half an hour to prepare for guests? Some tips

Summer is the season of inviting friends over for impromptu, casual get-togethers. That means it’s also the season of cringing when you realize your house is in no condition to be seen by the guests who will be arriving any minute now.

On summer evenings, “my husband will invite people over after golf,” says interior designer Mallory Mathison. “He’ll call and say, ‘We’ll all be there in 30 minutes.’ ”

That’s when she begins rushing around, quickly prepping their home for the soon-to-arrive guests.

What’s the best way to use that half hour or so before the doorbell rings to get even the messiest home party-ready? Try breaking it down like this:

•  Ten minutes of cleaning: “Most people don’t mind clutter,” says Evette Rios, a lifestyles blogger and a correspondent on ABC’s The Chew. “But they mind grime.”

Focus on wiping surfaces in your kitchen and bathrooms. Then grab an old sock or pair of pantyhose and use that to quickly dust surfaces in your living room and dining room.

Save time by only cleaning the rooms guests will enter, suggests Donna Smallin, founder of And don’t feel obligated to give anyone a full-scale tour of your home.

Got dishes in the sink? There’s no time to wash them, so Smallin suggests keeping an empty bin available for stashing dirty dishes under your sink. Or stash them in the oven, assuming you won’t use it during the party. (Just be sure to pull them out and wash them the following morning.)

Rios points out that having your dishwasher empty when the party is over will be helpful. But don’t hesitate to fill it with dirty dishes if necessary.

If you have carpets, a minute of quick vacuuming in major traffic areas can make a difference, Rios says, especially if you sprinkle on a bit of carpet deodorizer.

•  Ten minutes of hiding clutter: Walk through all the rooms where guests will be and collect any clutter in an empty laundry basket, Smallin says. Stash the basket in a bedroom and close the door. If all that household clutter is collected in one place, it will be easier the next day to deal with it all and not lose track of anything.

Once major clutter has been removed, Smallin says, go through the rooms and stack remaining items neatly. Magazines look much better in a neat stack, for example, than in a messy pile.

Pay attention to your home’s entryway, which makes a first impression, and to areas where guests will spend the most time.

If you work on your home’s “clutter hot-spots” in advance, improving the way you handle things like junk mail and other items that pile up, you’ll have less to deal with before a last-minute party, Smallin says.

•  Ten minutes of finishing touches: Scenting your space is fast, easy and has a huge impact, says Rios. She suggests placing a drop of lemon-scented oil or vanilla extract on light bulbs, then turning them on. The warmth will spread the scent throughout your home.

Mathison suggests lighting a few candles for their scent and flickering party atmosphere.

Other ways to add a fresh scent: Rios likes to tuck scented fabric softener sheets (the kind made for use in a clothes dryer) underneath couch cushions or inside throw pillows. If you have a kitchen garbage disposal, she suggests dropping slices of lemon or lime into it and running it for just a moment.

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The Root of It All: Straw bale gardening and July tips

I am trying to grow tomatoes using the straw bale method this year. So far, so good, but can you give me any advice for the remainder of the summer to get the best production? — Thanks. Frank, Caledonia.

Straw bale gardening is a technique gaining popularity in Wisconsin, and across the country. It is reported as an easier way to grow vegetables in small spaces. Joel Karsten’s book “Straw Bale Gardens” can be found at local bookstores for all the details, or visit his website at He also appeared on Larry Meiller’s “Garden Talk” radio show earlier this year; listen to that broadcast at by searching for “Karsten” or “straw bale garden.”

Straw bales are placed upright and primed by watering daily for a couple of weeks. A nitrogen fertilizer (synthetic, like lawn fertilizer, or organic, like fish emulsion) is watered in. Compost or a soil + compost mix is added to the top and pushed into the soft center of the bale before planting with your favorite vegetable.

I was intrigued by this concept and am growing summer squash in a bale discarded by my neighbors after Halloween. So far the squash is growing well and I have not yet had to add any additional fertilizer. Watch for yellowing in lower leaves, as that could be an indication of nitrogen deficiency. Any tomato fertilizer can be used; follow label directions and be sure to water it in thoroughly. Keep moist, a soaker hose or a slow drip on the bale is better than overhead watering via a sprinkler. Splashing water on the leaves can result in the spread of fungal diseases.

Another factor to consider is vine support; some container type tomatoes, like “Tumbling Tom” or “Lizzano” do not need support. But if you have an indeterminate tomato like “Brandywine” or even a more traditional determinate cultivar like “Early Girl,” you will need a post or cage to hold the vine up.

Keep me posted on how your tomatoes produce this summer and send a picture.


Summer garden tips

Once again it seems like our spring and summer are abnormal. Are there any special tips for helping maintain our gardens and keep them growing through the summer? — Joyce, Racine.

Last year our spring was three weeks ahead of “normal”; this year our spring was three weeks behind. Fortunately, with rain and warmth, plants catch up quickly, so now they are growing very fast.

If your beans are up, watch for bean beetles feeding on the leaves. There are many organic and synthetic control products available; if you choose the chemical route make sure “beans” and “beetles” are both listed on the label. Follow label directions to the letter. Not only is that the safest way to use pesticides (organic or synthetic), it is the law. And products work better when you follow the directions.

My favorite control for bean beetles on bush beans is to cover the entire row or area with floating row cover at planting; leave enough room for the beans to grow up under the row cover. You can leave it on until harvest because beans do not need bees for pollination. Keeps them clean, bug free and as a bonus, rabbits can’t eat them.

In your flower garden, take a look at late-blooming perennials that always get tall and floppy. Now is the time to cut them back to encourage more branching and a shorter, tidier appearance. Examples are the yellow coneflowers (Ratibida), asters, Russian sage and chrysanthemums. They can be pinched, or cut back to ⅓ of their height. Don’t cut any more after mid-July or flowering will be affected.

And, no, it is not too late to plant. Visit your local garden center and nursery to check out the great deals on annuals, vegetables, seeds and shrubs.

More questions?

Master gardener volunteers serving as plant health advisers are able to answer your questions at or by calling the Horticulture Helpline at (262) 886-8451 (Ives Grove) or (262) 767-2919 (Burlington).

Dr. Patti Nagai is the horticulture educator for Racine County UW-Extension. Submit your questions for The Journal Times QA column to Dr. Nagai at and put “Question for RJT” in the subject line.

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1. Bugs be gone

7. Bye-bye weeds (Part 3)

Most weeds can also be killed with an inexpensive and eco-friendly spray made from 1 gallon of white distilled vinegar mixed with 1 ounce of liquid dish soap.

8. Fall planting

Most people get the urge to plant new flowers, trees and shrubs in the spring, but in most climates the best time to plant them is in the late summer or fall, when their chances of survival are better and when they’re often marked down at nurseries.

Contributors to 99 Great Ways to Save 2013: Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, Tara Finnegan Coates, Joan Rattner Heilman, Stacy Julien, Megan Lawson, Marlece Lusk, Bob Lyford, Anne Masters, Jeff Yeager and AARP members like you.

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Garden of Eden Amid Rubble

Vincent Walsh was searching for just such a place three years ago when he discovered it, a disused print works beside the River Irwell in Blackfriars, a deprived neighborhood in Salford, an industrial city near Manchester in north west England. The building and accompanying wasteland have since been transformed into an urban farm and research laboratory where Mr. Walsh and his collaborators are designing new ways of growing food in hostile conditions, and of distributing it to the residents of a nearby housing estate.

Dubbed the Biospheric Project, it will open to the public Thursday as part of the 2013 Manchester International Festival, the biannual cultural event, whose program also features the British band the XX and the artists Matthew Barney and Tino Sehgal. Visitors to the Biospheric Project can explore its food-growing technologies, buy local produce from a whole-foods store it has opened in the housing estate and attend workshops on beekeeping, mushroom growing and the design of forest gardens like the one being cultivated on the cleaned-up wasteland.

“We’re planning to make every inch of the building and every inch of the land productive,” Mr. Walsh said. “Though this is very, very early days in a 10-year project to develop an action-led research laboratory in an area of urban deprivation where it is really needed, because the access to food on this estate is so poor.”

At a time when eco-social design experiments intended to help people to live sustainably are increasingly popular among young designers, and cultural events like the Manchester festival are eager to commission work with an enduring impact on needy local communities, the Biospheric Project is unusually ambitious. All of its growing systems, both the organic ones in the forest garden and the technological versions inside the old print works, have been designed from scratch as prototypes that will be tested on site as a decade-long series of works in progress.

The project began when Mr. Walsh was planning his research for a doctorate in socio-ecological urban development at the Manchester School of Architecture at Manchester Metropolitan University. Having studied design in his first degree and worked on community projects in the U.S. and Africa, he completed a master’s degree in architecture and urbanism, and decided to focus his doctorate on action-led research into the politics of food in deprived inner urban areas.

To do so, he needed to identify a suitable community and premises that he could “rip apart,” as he put it, to create an urban research laboratory for himself and other doctoral students. Eventually he found them in the Blackfriars estate and Irwell House, which had stood empty for years except for a car repair shop on the first floor. The building was owned by the real estate developers Urban Splash, which had no immediate plans to renovate it and agreed to rent it for 10 years on a partly philanthropic basis. A year later, Mr. Walsh was approached by the Manchester International Festival, which has since raised funding to create the research laboratory and forest garden, and helped him to establish the Biospheric Project with his co-director, Greg Keeffe, professor of architecture at Queens University, Belfast.

The project now occupies the two upper floors of the building and the roof. One floor will be used for talks and workshops during the festival, then converted for mushroom production. Mr. Walsh and his colleagues are already testing ways of growing oyster, shiitake and turkey-tail mushrooms to sell to restaurants. On another floor, they are experimenting with new forms of aquaponic technology in which fish, vegetables and herbs are cultivated using the same water. They are designing systems that require less water than existing ones.

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