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Archives for July 7, 2013

Montana’s first edible forest to grow in Helena’s 6th Ward Park

From gravelly, gnarly patches of grass to a glorious “garden of eatin’” forest.

That’s the new vision for the 6th Ward Park.

And this coming week, it takes one huge step toward becoming reality.

Helena will be the first city in Montana to design an edible forest garden. And starting this week Dave Jacke, a national leader in this type of garden design, will teach a Helena workshop of 33 professionals from across the country who will help design the new park.

Jacke gives a public talk on edible forest gardens from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. The cost is $10 in advance, $12 at the door. To register go to

Instead of a barren grassy parking plot, think of an edible park with pear and plum trees, raspberries, currants and gooseberries, said Jessica Peterson, a social economist whose dream for this park is about to take root and bloom.

From groundcovers, to shrubs, to trees, the park will offer an array of tantalizing edible plants that also rebuild the soil and attract beneficial insects like bees.

The 6th Ward Park will also be the new home for 22 Helena Food Share community garden plots that need to be relocated to make room for that facility’s expansion.

The future garden park might also offer such amenities as playground equipment and benches.

On Tuesday night, Jacke will introduce the vision of forest gardening to Helena, sharing scientific background and successful examples of such gardens blooming across the country. You’ll also get to sample some perennial edibles suitable to growing in Helena’s backyards and gardens.

This past Tuesday morning beneath a blazing sun, the 6th Ward Park behind the HATS Transit Station was looking more than a little bit woebegone. Except for grass and gravel, it offers a lilac hedge, a couple of ash trees and a crabapple.

Its only visitors were two young foraging bucks and a cluster of folks there to discuss their shared vision for the park.

“It’s been a public park since 1915,” said Caroline Wallace, a landscape architect and partner in Inside Edge Design, which has taken a lead role in organizing the garden. “This place began as a community effort. This neighborhood was being developed as a business center when the train still ran. The park was very much a community effort.”

Trade organizations and a plumbing trade group pitched in to build the community park, which once was home to a baseball field and wading pool, she said. “It’s been under-utilized for decades.”

Wallace and Jessica Peterson, a social economist with Inside Edge Design, have been joined by a host of parties including Helena City Parks and Recreation, Helena Community Gardens and Helena Food Share, as well as the 6th Ward Neighborhood Association, P.A.L. and Central School students.

A host of other groups from Youth Connections to Lewis and Clark County Extension Office are joining in the conversation, and the list keeps growing.

It is this type of community support that’s needed to not only create and plant the garden, but to ensure it flourishes over the years, said Peterson.

According to Jacke, author of “Edible Forest Gardens,” the idea of an edible perennial landscape has been around thousands of years. It was used by native peoples in America and across the globe.

“It’s a forest garden that is designed by humans to mimic the forest ecosystem,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Montague, Mass.

Its many benefits include growing food, fuel, fodder, medicinal plants and building healthy soil.

“In Helena, which gets 11 to 12 inches of precipitation, we have challenges mimicking a forest ecosystem,” he said. But there are natural, sustainable plant communities he intends to explore — sagebrush steppes, aspen forests and ponderosa pine openings are just a few.

“A forest garden is a metaphor,” he added. While a forest might work on the East Coast, which gets a lot more moisture than here, an edible meadow or “eddow” could be part of a 6th Ward Park design.

So far, a list of some 300 plant species that thrive in the Helena area has been pulled together, according to Peterson.

A few potential plant mixes could include saskatoon, a native plant for dry prairies that produces seven tons of fruit per acre, said Jacke. There’s also currants, elderberries, burr oak, sunflowers, prairie turnips and such plants as buffaloberry that may not be all that edible but fix nitrogen into the soil.

While Jacke will lay out the design process at this week’s five-day workshop, the 33 attendees will help design the park, keeping in mind the needs of the three main stakeholders — Food Share, the Community Gardens and the city parks department. There’s also been input from the neighborhood association. By Friday night, July 12, the group will unveil its design.

“What’s for dinner is a design question,” said Jacke. “All human beings are designers.”

He helps train people around the country, so they can take the knowledge he shares and adapt it to their local landscapes and growing conditions.

Edible forest gardens are taking seed from coast to coast — from Wesleyan University’s two-acre forest, to a seven-acre one being planted in Seattle. And Maine lawmakers just directed officials there to plant edible landscaping of fruit trees and shrubs around the Statehouse.

Jacke sees this type of gardening as a way to not only feed more people, but also to heal the planet. Some researchers say current agriculture is responsible for some of the most destructive practices on the planet, he said.

Ann Waickman, executive director of Helena Food Share, is excited and grateful that they are part of the 6th Ward Park redevelopment.

Fifteen percent of the population in Helena turns to Food Share for assistance and it is particularly concerned about losing the current community garden plots on its property when it expands its building in the future.

“I’m excited to not only increase access to fresh food,” she said, “but to build community through this park.”

And both she and Cara Orban, who manages the HFS Community Gardens, see the new garden as having great educational potential for kids and adults.

“Helena Farmers Market reaches an audience that already knows about nutritious local foods,” said Orban. “This garden will put it front and center for a whole new audience.”

“I see this as another chapter of how to re-use this park,” said Amy Teegarden, director of Helena Parks and Recreation Department. “It will be a new focus for the neighborhood and reconnect the neighborhood. It’s just been waiting for this to happen.”

Ever since the wading pools were removed in 2007-2008, few people even knows this patch of land is a park, she said. The parks department has been waiting for the transit station to be completed before taking any action on the adjoining park land.

“I always think it’s meant to happen,” she said, “when the partners appear.”

One of the things that will make it a good neighborhood park, Teegarden said, is the transit station, which provides buses for the neighborhood and people from across the community.

There are challenges ahead, they all admit. Not only does the park have at least four different soil types, but some of the soil may have been contaminated by industrial use and will need to be removed and replaced. Funding partners are also needed. The city put forward an initial $13,000 for an irrigation system to be installed, she said.

This money needs to be supplemented with grants and other funding.

“What the city brings to this is the space and long term support,” said Teegarden. “The partnerships are what will make it successful. I’m just excited for this new chapter in the 6th Ward’s history.”

Longtime 6th Ward resident Rose Casey, who’s lived in the neighborhood since 1977, said the neighborhood supports the plan.

“It was a popular park back in 1977,” she said, when kids used the pool. The new edible forest garden “is probably a good use of the land,” she added. While the neighborhood’s first wish had been for new tennis courts, the cost of building and maintaining these didn’t prove feasible. “So this came along and it really seemed like a good idea.”

The 6th Ward neighborhood has never given up on the idea of recreating itself as a center for homes and community businesses. “What happened in the Great Northern Center could happen here,” she said. “The 6th Ward Neighborhood Association has given a big approval for this park … it fits into our vision.

“We appreciate good ideas that bring back the character of the neighborhood,” Casey said. Young families are beginning to move back into the neighborhood. Often, the young parents grew up in the 6th Ward. “It’s not just a decaying neighborhood, it’s found new life.”

Casey, who’s raised five children in the 6th Ward and has 19 grandchildren, said “we are very invested in the neighborhood.

“I know what it takes to turn an idea into reality,” she said of those who’ve led this effort. “I admire their spirit of cooperation with the neighborhood and their tenacity. They’re doing it the right way and I appreciate that.”

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Have innovative ideas on future water use? Share them at meetings

LAYTON — With the summer sizzle on and the word “drought” being part of many casual conversations, Utah’s water managers want to discuss the state’s future water needs, and they want the public to participate.

With Utah being the second-driest state in the nation, and among the fastest growing, Gov. Gary Herbert wants to hear from residents who might have innovative ideas on how to address the state’s future water situation.

A town hall meeting will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday in the Layton City Council Chambers, 437 N. Wasatch Drive.

A public comment period will be followed by a breakout session on specific areas of focus, officials say.

Those who cannot attend the meeting can submit their ideas at

The town hall meetings being held across the state are to address the water needs for future populations, said Scott Paxman, assistant general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

The meetings are not related to the current drought conditions the state is experiencing, Paxman said, but are more about developing plans for the future.

With a growing population in the future sharing the same water resources of today, Paxman said, there might be a time when homeowners have to make a philosophical change when it comes to their outdoor landscaping.

“But,” he said, “people like their lawns.”

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Learn your landscape for successful planting

I f the breeze hits a yoshino cherry tree in your yard the right way, it can look like pink snow falling from the sky.

Some plant lovers view the cherry as one of the most beautiful flowering ornamental trees.

But accord ing to Clyde Jones, a master gardener who volunteers at the 3.5-acre Discovery Garden at University of Florida IFAS Extension in Tavares, it’s not a goo d tree to grow Central Florida.

“Don’t bring them down here,” said Jones, who is familiar with the trees from the National Cherry B lossom Festival in Washington D.C., which commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city.

He fav ors the flatwoods plum or Chickasaw plum.

Trying to dig up ideas for some good plants to grow here, you might want to learn Central’s Florida’s landscape first, he said.

Jones on Saturday led an hour-long class, “Plant This, Not That,” and taught about which plants are recommended for Central Florida and which should be avoided.

Jones said one of the biggest misconception about Central Florida — at least to newcomer plant growers — is Florida’s tropical climate.

“We get hard freezes here too,” Jones said.

Want to add grace and beauty by planting Japanese maple? It’s too hot and humid for most of them, he said. However, the Japanese maple glowing embers can work fine here, the state of Georgia’s Gold Medal winner for 2005.

“It does need afternoon shade,” he said.

Croton is an extensive flowering plant genus in the spurge family — and look nice, but can be an expensive plant to maintain.

Jones prefers daylilies.

“There’s a million different colors,” Jones said.

The queen palm is most suited for acidic, well-drained soils and grows best in the full sun.

“It can suffer cold damage,” Jones said.

He prefers the sabal palmetto, also known as cabbage palm — a very dense, 10- to 15-foot-diameter, round crown of deeply cut, curved, palmate leaves.

Like the Sylvester palm tree, popular for landscaping, lining avenues and as accent trees on golf courses.

“They are OK, but have pretty heavy spikes,” Jones said. “Don’t plant them near your pool.”

Bearded iris is among the most elegant — and easy to grow — flowers of spring. But it must stay 30 days in temperatures below 40 to survive, Jones said.

Jones likes the Louisiana iris, which has a wider color range that most iris.

“It’s a beautiful thing and its very cold tolerant,” he said.

Jones has seen plenty of Holland tulips at Holland’s Keukenhof, advertised as the world’s most beautiful spring garden.

But for Central Florida, he likes amaryllis, a small genus of flowering bulbs.

“They just grow well here,” he said.

The class was part of a “Saturday in the Garden” speaker series held on the first Saturday of each month at UF/IFAS Extension.

Karen Casalese, of Tavares, wanted to get advice on her crape myrtle.

“It was very informative class,” she said.

For information on the “Saturday in the Garden” series, call 352-343-4101 or g o to

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Vibrant Landscapes Offers New Maintenance Services For Owners And Renters

The Canberra based gardening company have introduced a range of services aimed at those who do not require drastic changes.


Canberra, Australia – July 6, 2013 /MarketersMedia/ —

One of the best parts of living in Australia is the amount of time one can comfortably spend outdoors, and the garden is a safe place in which families and friends can gather around the barbeque or relax on a lazy afternoon. The garden does however require almost constant maintenance to look its best, and busy home owners and those with family often find too much competition for their time to dedicate enough to horticulture. Vibrant Landscapes are now looking to lift that burden by offering a full range of maintenance services alongside their creative endeavours.

The Canberra Gardener is quickly gaining recognition for their affordable gardening services offering Canberra lawn mowing, guttering services, garden maintenance services and an end of lease garden clean up for renters.

The clean-up services allows those approaching the end of their rental lease to have their garden expertly cleaned up and beautified so that the landlord and the tenants who follow will find it in its best possible state. The garden maintenance service includes mowing, pruning, watering and planting to keep a garden looking tip top.

Vibrant Landscapes are passionate about creating and maintain beautiful gardens but they are just as passionate about timekeeping and value for money. Their mantra’s are “we turn up on time, and do an honest job” and “making the world a better place, one garden at a time” and they live by those promises, believing punctuality and value for money are the least customers should expect.

A spokesperson for Vibrant Landscapes explained their evolution, “We started this business because we are passionate about the creative side of gardening, but we soon understood that what many gardens need is not necessarily a total revolution but a degree of tender loving care that home owners are too busy to provide themselves. The maintenance services we offer allow people to make the best of what they have and make the garden once again a space they love to spend time in. Once they feel comfortable again in the space, we know they can start to see the potential for the creative work we can do.”

Vibrant Landscapes: Vibrant Landscapes is a gardening and landscaping service operating in Canberra, Australia. They aim to bring excellence and integrity to everything they do, which extends from lawn mowing services to gardening, landscaping and full redesign services. The company makes regular special offers to attract new customers and has an online portfolio of gardens they have created and maintained.

For more information about us, please visit

Contact Info:
Name: Andrew Bobinskas
Phone: 1300698427
Organization: Vibrant Landscapes


Via: MarketersMedia PR Distribution

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GCFM Meets; Summer Garden Tours

By Carol Stocker

At the recent annual meeting of the GCFM in Mansfield, outgoing President Heidi Kost-Gross was lauded for her efforts championing the fight against electronic billboards. She reported that the 13,000 membership of the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts was up slightly from last year.There were also reports on efforts to stem the Asian Long Horn Beetle South of Worcester and about its top notch Flower Show School.

The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program will host the opening of several private gardens new to the tour, including five in Bristol County, Saturday, July 13, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. These are the Coolidge-Goldman Garden, 340 Barneys Joy Road, Dartmouth, The Meadows, 189 Smith Neck Road, The Meadows at 191 Smith Neck Road, both in South Dartmouth, Anne Almy’s Garden 1100 Horseneck Road, Westport, and Penny Garden, 246 River Road, Westport.

The Meadows was designed in 1910 by Warren Manning for ambassador Alanson B. Houghton and his brother Arthur and their families. In 1937 The North House garden was redesigned by the celebrated Ellen Biddle Shipman and is currently being restored by the present owners. James O’Day has written a new book about the estate.

There will also be an Open Day program Saturday, July 20, 10 4 p.m. in Middlesex County, which will include Glenluce Garden, 18 Marlboro Road, Stow, A Secret Garden at 19 Washington Ave., Sterling, Rock Bottom Garden, 47 Marlboro Road, Stow, Maple Grove, 16 School Street Boylston, and the must-see Brigham Hill Farm, 128 Brigham Hill Road, North Grafton.

For more information on all of these, visit and

The Boothbay Region Garden Club of Boothbay Harbor in Maine will host its Home and Garden Tour July 26 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased through the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce (207-633-2353).

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Gardening tips and a blueprint for life

July 6th 1:14 am | Seth Kantner

Tip No. 1: Water.

For nearly 20 years now, June has been my traditional time to travel to villages, running Maniilaq Association’s garden project.

When the ice breaks up on the Kobuk, I have to boat away from my birthplace and lifelong home, and go to work. The land is lit in sun, the river flooding, birds singing and the beavers busy all night in their lakes. It’s a bountiful and beautiful time of year and I don’t much want to leave.

But I grew up with a tradition of folks seeking summer work — commercial fishing and construction jobs — and this job is a short-season one, and linked directly to endless sunlight. As a result the work is manic and rewarding and stressful — like in nature, I guess — all those blueberries and fireweed and lousewort’s leaping to life in spring. All the spruce tips greening, the willows and alders and birches leafing out, swans and geese and loons laying eggs, and thousands of caribou having kids. None of them waste a moment, and I enjoy their tight schedule.

Tip No. 2: Everything needs love and care.

After spending Breakup on ice and walking the tundra, every village I travel to is an incredible oasis of wrecked equipment. Trucks with flat tires slump where they died; new snowgoes, wrecked snowgoes, upside down half-dismantled snowgoes; boats buried in tall young willows, and four-wheelers in all stages of death and disrepair.

Lurking back in the brush are the yellow monsters, heavy equipment randomly rusting behind homes and city office buildings — backhoes and dozers, graters and dump trucks and loaders left after countless construction projects over the decades.

Landing in Kobuk, my assistant, Linnea Wik and I hurry down the steps of the Era Alaska Caravan into sweltering heat. The pilots race to unload case after case of Pepsi. I marvel at the irony — how these pilots stay in great shape, handling so much canned pop.

This heat wave arrived directly after a frigid fog off the coast ice. I’m wilting and lusting after one of those blue cans though I don’t drink pop. Linnea has been in California; she smiles in the sun and carries boxes of plants across the dusty gravel.

I head for the shore, to search for our program rototiller. The sun burns my shoulders. The leaves are green along the riverbank. I wish a cloud would appear in the sky. I spot the handles of the tiller in Alex Sheldon’s yard. Shedding sled dogs rise in the heat to growl at me.

I’ve known Alex since I was a kid. He’s an Inupiaq man, handsome and humorous. Fifty years back he was friends with Linnea’s and my parents—back before all this clutter came to the Arctic. Later, he ran the Iditarod, and one winter borrowed my lead dog, Murphy, to run around the village. Now he’s out of town, and the recent flood has made rubble of his yard. The red Troybuilt tiller is forlorn, packed with mud and grass and wet caribou hair. When I pull the starter I hear sand grating. The exhaust coughs up orange rusty water. It’s depressing. I used to love small engines, and this one needs a lot of that now.

Linnea and I give up on the machine; we haul shovels and rakes and her pride and joy—her broadfork–to Nina Harvey’s garden to till the soil. Along the sleepy street we acquire a young man on a bicycle. He rides circles around us. He’s wiry and thin, and talks more and faster and louder than villagers generally do. “I’m Guy Moyer. The Guy Moyer, I like to say, since my grandfather Guy Moyer passed away. He was a great gardener. I’m contemplating having a garden. I’m cultivating the thought.”

Within a few minutes Guy makes use of my entire repertoire of little big words: nemesis, detrimental, exponential, dichotomy, etc. “I’m like an XM radio,” he says. “What channel do you want to hear?”

For the next two hours while we work, he rattles on. Nina gets worn down by the chatter, or overheated, and she climbs the steps up to her house. Guy tells stories, always returning to details of stealing carrots from his grandfather’s garden, the joy of plucking a large one, the feel of rubbing it clean on his shirt. He even does a Rambo-like imitation of himself as a five-year-old, making a night raid on Guy Moyer’s famed garden. He crouches behind fireweeds, pretending to inhale the “longs” he used to find (unfinished cigarette butts) and then sprints toward the rows we’ve tilled.

“I call them aisles,” he says, moving fast. “Not rows. I looked for the little markers. You know why? To find the carrot aisles.”

I find myself wishing for a pencil, to write down his words. My memory is useless for these things; my mind like one of those automatic toilets at the Anchorage airport — WHOOSH — flushing randomly before I want it to, everything gone. I wish someone would line this dude out with his own Inupiaq comedy show on TV. From the far end of Nina’s garden the sunshine of Linnea’s smile agrees with me.

Tip No. 3: Talk to your plants.

From Kobuk, George Douglas boats us and our plants down to Shungnak. Before we leave, Guy offers George a pound of bread yeast. Apparently the Kobuk school gave out pounds of it this spring. “Thought you might want to make pizza,” Guy says. George says no thanks, he has plenty. In my mind I’m thinking, Yeah, right, guys. You’re talking homebrew.

George swings a blue 36-pack of Pepsi into his boat. “It’s the quality, not the quantity,” he says when I question him about his purchase. I nod, wondering about sunstroke. Maybe I have it.

The boat ride is splendid, just in time to save me from melting. At Shungnak we disperse plants, and then hide out in the clinic, letting the sun swing north.

At 9 p.m., we head to work again. Shungnak is more wrecked vehicles, with a backdrop of stunningly beautiful scenery, the tundra a huge green fling to the mountains at the pale blue edge of the sky. It’s stifling out still, the Death Star glaring from the north. Linnea and I assist a woman named Johanna planting her tilled silt soil. She has a cloud of kids and quickly more show up. It’s fun, but stressful with so many little feet trampling around the unfenced garden.

“I could plant?” a little boy asks. He’s eight, maybe. I start to answer, but from the lake in the middle of town I hear the chortling call of a grebe. I pause, call to the bird. The serious little boy asks what kind of duck it is, and I tell him of searching for grebe eggs, when I was a kid.

“Let’s go look,” he urges. “You want to? Come on. I find some last year.”

I’m surprised. I remember my brother and me searching with kayaks. The eggs weren’t easy to find. I’d like to join the boy, to acknowledge and encourage him. But we have work to do. “We have to work,” I say.

When we are done, George strolls up wearing trunks and a tanktop. He hands me a shopping bag. Inside are huge wedges of homemade pizza, hot still, with corn meal on the bottom of the crust, and fresh red peppers, olives and pepperoni on top. Open-mouthed, Linnea and I stare into the bag, not believing our fortune.

We stroll toward our next job, famished and searching for shade. Finally we sit on a dusty plywood box to eat. The little boy appears again. He has a grebe egg in his hand. How did he find it so fast? “Let’s go look more,” he urges. “Come on.”

“I have to work,” I say, agonizingly. “I know it doesn’t look it, sitting here eating. But we have to.” I explain how to check if the egg is good–with a cup of water—and that a floater should go back in the nest.

The little boy goes away again, and an old friend saunters up. He tells us the boy’s name, of him setting rabbit snares by himself, and how it was him who found the man down along the river. He tells of suicide and hardship and abandonment. “He’s the one who found the body.”

In sober silence we walk down to Wesley Wood’s old garden. It’s cooler there by the water, and Wesley’s daughters and relatives are turning the mucky soil. The bugs come out and join us. After midnight Linnea and I carry our tools up the hill. Some of our plants left outside have been stolen. Kids play by the steps of the tribal office. One of them is the little boy. “How to grow?” he asks, so serious.

I hand him a cabbage start, explaining as best I can. Our plants are drooped, wilted yet again today. I’m hot and tired, so impressed, and nearly hopeless. “Here,” I say. “These are the roots.”

Tip # 4: Love your garden.

In Ambler, after dispersing plants, I chat with Gladys Jones. She tells me she and Lawrence are building a log cabin at camp now. Previously, they built their own home, and then a grocery store, too, that they manage together.

Her words and accomplishments seem surreal here in the dusty and worn tribal office. “Where did you find such an energetic husband?” I joke thoughtlessly.

“I think it’s me,” Gladys says with a small smile. “And I want to study to be a physician’s assistant. It’s good being busy.”

Later, the villages and people begin to blur. In Noorvik, we rent a boat ride upriver to Kiana. The drivers turn out to be two smiling teenaged girls, Tinmiaq and Iriqtaq Hailstone. “We’ve just did three more episodes for our reality show,” they tell us proudly. I nod blankly; I’ve never owned a TV. I’m worried about these cabbage plants in the open boat. The girls turn to Linnea, explaining the show.

Working in Kiana late into the night, we’re accompanied by two girls, aged four and five, Danielle and Shayden. They’re sun-cooked, red-cheeked, their bare arms and legs lumpy with bug welts. They watch and help and never complain, all the while squinting and scratching and waving away mosquitoes. Only once Shayden holds out a can of WD-40, asking quietly, “This one is bug dope?”

In Deering, Marlene Moto wears a back brace like something out of a science fiction movie. Somehow she scurries across a maze of dog diggings, to point out where she wants another garden. She stands staring off across the distant sweep of land, like she’s done that every day of her life.

In Kivalina, at the last garden, my new tiller won’t run. Again Linnea happily presses her human-powered broadfork into the soil. I give up and join her. Beside us the Swan ladies cut blubber off ugruk hides. Laughter drifts over from their work. Old Joe Swan putters with the little tiller engine. “You got the power,” he croons to it.

“Is he a rototiller whisperer?” Linnea murmurs.

“I’ve heard of talking to plants,” I tell Joe. “But not to engines.”

“I’m more accustomed to hearing people swear at them,” Linnea whispers again.

“Oh, you have to talk to them,” Joe says. “You’ve got the power…”

Smiling, Linnea and I turn back to the soil. Occasionally we pull out a shard of glass, a chunk of rusted steel, caribou teeth, a .22 cartridge. Suddenly I remember something Guy blurted out up in Kobuk. “I like to stay positive,” he said. “Too many people here hook both wires up to the negative terminal.”

I think about those words, and my past and future, our region’s past and future, as we continue gently pressing tiny turnip starts into the dark earth. And watering them.


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Marianne Ophardt: Tips for buying a garden hose

Garden hoses can be vexing things. They are heavy and a nuisance to haul around the yard, plus they can kink. Nevertheless, they are an essential gardening tool. Last year when we needed a new one, I did not do much research and bought what seemed to be a long-lasting quality hose. The problem was that it weighed a ton and became a chore to move.

I should have taken more time to do my homework. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Garden hoses typically come in two diameters, 5/8 inches and 3/4 inches. You even can find hoses that are one inch in diameter. Many gardeners find that a 5/8 inch hose is adequate for their purposes. The 3/4 inch hoses tend to be more expensive and heavier.

Garden hoses also come in different lengths, from 25 to 100 feet long. Of course, the longer the hose, the heavier and the more costly. (Notice the trend?) The longer the hose, the lower the volume of water per minute that it delivers. To calculate this, go to:

The material a hose is made out of also greatly influences its price. As with any garden tool, the better the quality, the higher the price.
Rubber and PVC reinforced hoses generally are more expensive and more flexible. High-end reinforced hoses are more resistant to abrasions, punctures and bursts. You also will find that the more a hose is reinforced, the higher the cost and the heavier the hose. The best-quality hoses will have hexagonal or octagonal brass couplings.

There also are coiled hoses. These are typically 3/8 inch diameter and usually come in 25- or 50-foot lengths. They are made out of polyurethane. They are lighter, easy to get out and use on the patio for watering containers, but they tend to kink when extended and often tangle when coiled.

Quality garden hoses can be pricy. To keep your hose in good condition, here are some tips:

1. Store your hose where it will be protected from degradation by ultraviolet light.

2. Don’t leave the hose where cars or bikes will run over it.

3. Don’t let your hose kink, causing a spot that will be weak.

4. Drain and coil your hose after every use, coiling it into loops about 24 to 36 inches in diameter. Store the coiled hose flat and off the ground in a container like a hose pot. Hanging a hose from a single hook can damage the walls of the hose, so use an arched hose rack.
There are also hose reels that can be used to coil and store hoses.

5. Drain the water from the hose before it freezes in the fall and then store it in your garage or storage shed over the winter.

Safety note

Many garden hoses, especially older types, have been deemed unsafe for use for drinking water because of harmful chemicals and heavy metals that they contain. While many of the new hoses today are labeled as safe for drinking water, it’s still best not to make a practice of drinking from them because germs, molds and bacteria can build up inside.

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

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Garden Q&A: Tips to help a nonblooming begonia – Tribune

Jessica Walliser
Freelance Columnist
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Tribune-Review Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts ‘The Organic Gardeners’ at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including ‘Grow Organic’ and ‘Good Bug, Bad Bug.’

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Friday – July 5, 2013

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By Jessica Walliser

Published: Saturday, July 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Updated 12 hours ago

Question: I have an angel wing begonia that is over 7 feet tall. It never blooms. Do you know why?

Answer: First off, kudos to you for growing such a large begonia! Angel wings are among my favorite types of begonias, and they are an excellent choice for shady garden areas. Since yours is so large, I’m going to assume you grow it in a container as a patio plant during the warmer months and then as a houseplant in the winter.

Angel wing begonias are a hybrid of two types of begonias. They derive their common name from the elongated, wing-like shape of their leaves. The foliage of some cultivars is mottled with white or silver spots and blotches. Flowers are often white, pink or red and should occur steadily throughout the summer months and then sporadically during the winter.

Like most other types of begonias, angel wings thrive in tropical conditions — high humidity, moderate moisture and dappled sunlight. Keep the plant shaded in the heat of the afternoon to prevent sunscald on the leaves.

If you have the plant in these conditions and it still fails to bloom, it may be time to repot it with some fresh, high-quality potting soil. If it has been in the same container for three or more years, you may want to consider moving it into a slightly larger pot. Repotting is best done just before active growth in April or early May.

In the meantime, you should begin an in-season fertilization program for your begonia. Use an organic, water-soluble fertilizer (my favorites are liquid kelp and fish hydroslate) every three weeks from March through August. Dilute it with the irrigation water according to label instructions. Do not fertilize with any products containing more nitrogen than phosphorous as this will cause the plant to generate more growth at the expense of flower production.

Another thing you may want to consider is giving your plant a good haircut. Angel wing begonias are quite tolerant of heavy pruning, and doing so will help manage the size and often promotes flowering. You can even root the branches you trim by dipping their ends in rooting hormone and inserting them into a pot of sterile potting mix.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners� at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic� and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.� Her website is

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., Third Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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Tips for garden railroading

Garden railroading combines the best of landscaping, gardening and large-scale model trains.

Here are some tips from Doug Blaine of Bachmann Trains, which produces many kinds of trains:

* Set up your train in a section of the yard that’s at least 72 square feet, relatively flat, with little foot traffic and close to an electrical source.

* Any large-scale starter set that includes enough brass or stainless steel track to make a simple 12-foot circle is ideal for beginners.

* It’s important to dig a trench 2 to 3 inches deep for the roadbed and fill it with crushed rock to ensure that your track remains even and steady.

* If you decide to add a tunnel to your track, Blaine suggests building the tunnel no longer than your arm, so that you can easily remove obstructions inside the tunnel, if necessary.

* Once a garden railroad is established, it can run throughout the year by adding a snow plow to the locomotive — to plow the tracks in the winter months, Blaine said.

* Good plants for garden railroading include: Irish or Scotch moss to simulate lawns; miniature elms help create scale; and dwarf alberta spruce, which can be planted in groves to create a miniature forest.

* It’s traditional to celebrate the completion of your garden railroad with a golden spike party. More information on garden railroading at

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Design your home gardens

Just as a well kept home speaks volumes of the owner, a garden and its landscape too plays a vital role in reflecting the owner’s creativity, taste and style. A professionally designed landscape with its varied elements of water bodies and exotic greenery has, indeed, become an inevitable part of contemporary architecture, lending it depth and variety.

Landscaping can be broadly classified in two, traditional and contemporary. “A traditional landscape is one that’s not in order. But the contemporary style is one which is structured and where exists a clarity in style,” says Sandhya Mohandas an architect based in Calicut known for her designs with a minimalistic approach. “The quality of a landscape depends largely on its design,” she says. “The two aspects that have to be taken into account while designing is its softscape and hardscape.”

The hardscape consists of elements that cannot be moved like pathways, water bodies, retaining walls, seating area and the compound wall, while softscape consists of plants such as shrubs, grass and trees and all the green elements. If a sprawling lawn is inevitable to a typical landscaped garden now it’s being increasingly replaced by gravel, wood chips, water bodies and pebbles. “Maintenance and upkeep of lawns have become an expensive affair,” says Sandhya as she goes on to elaborate how extensive use of hardscape elements have contributed to the water shortage in Kerala.

Pathways have become a highlight of most of the sprawling landscaped gar dens and the two popular ways of doing it is either by using concrete or by using interlocking tiles in a bed of gravel. These methods prevent water from reaching the ground thus reducing the water table. “This calls for responsible designing keeping in mind careful preservation of Nature and its various aspects.”

Sandhya is against the use of artificial green elements in a landscape. She even feels strongly for anything that restricts the free growth of plants.

“A reason why I am against the use of potted plants and even Bonsai in my designs.” Design according to the architect depends invariably on the texture and rigidity of the landscape and softscape. “They can even be whacky and weird and still emanate a positive energy with clever designing.”

She cites the example of a garden full of trees which was destroyed by a devastating storm. “The uprooted trees were carefully planted back into the soil upside down and blooms of different hues were made to grow on the roots, magically transforming them.”

A believer of minimalism, Sandhya is an advocate of ‘less is more’, which is vividly portrayed in her designs as well. She recommends Zen garden for houses with less com pound area. Zen gardens can lend any landscape a beauty without much clutter. It creates a miniature stylised landscape through carefully composed arrangement of rocks, water features, trees and bushes and uses gravel and sands to represent ripples in water. Zen Garden is relatively small, surrounded by a wall.

“They don’t replicate nature in its physical form but they replicate its essence in a very unique way. More than the elements it’s the placement that is of extreme importance. A Zen garden is ideal for meditational purpose and consists mainly of hardscape. Even lighting plays a major role in landscaping by creating points of interest.”

Coming back to contemporary designs, Sandhya cites the example of the Mughal gardens of a different era that came close to the style with its structured look and demarcations for each and every elements like the fountain and other water bodies. “To sum it up contemporary landscaping is clever designing with lot of thought for detailing. The landscape should integrate with the structure or building it holds and enhance its appearance.”

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