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Archives for July 19, 2013

Gardening Tips: Buy or grow peaches locally

Posted: Friday, July 19, 2013 11:08 am

Gardening Tips: Buy or grow peaches locally

By Matthew Stevens

The Daily Herald, Roanoke Rapids, NC


Peach season is here in Halifax County, and it’s a great time to get them from local vendors.

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Friday, July 19, 2013 11:08 am.

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Harrisonburg Gardening 101: Composting & Other Garden Tips

Harrisonburg Gardening 101: Composting Other Garden Tips

Renee — May 6th, 2011


Arts Culture, FYI, Top Story


This is the 3rd post in our local gardening mini-series. Previous posts can be found at this link. I’ll reiterate that I’m no expert! I just do a lot of reading about gardens online and I started my own small plot here in Harrisonburg for the first time last year.

For this installment in the mini-series, I’ll just cover some tips that I’ve learned and found online. If you have more tips, please share them in the comments!


Composting is easy, and it helps reduce your contributions to the landfill while it also helps your garden grow! I started composting last year and got a good batch to add to my garden this spring instead of buying fertilizer at the store. Here’s how you do it:

  • Create a compost bin. Some people use open piles contained with fencing or wood pallets, and some use raised bins that can be easily spun to mix the compost, or specialized barrels like the ones sold recently by the city and county. Another method (and the one that I use) is to drill holes in an old garbage can like this and roll it around the yard every once in a while to thoroughly mix the contents. The holes are a necessity for proper air flow and drainage.

3 skid compost bins

  • Save kitchen scraps like vegetable peels and coffee grounds instead of throwing them in the trash can or garbage disposal. (A list of compostable items can be found at this link.) In the winter when it’s cold outside, I keep fresh fruit and vegetable scraps in a plastic coffee container with holes poked in the lid and layer the vegetable matter with used coffee grounds until I am able to empty the container outside every few days. I have never noticed a smell while the container is closed. There are also special cans you can buy for storing compost materials temporarily in your kitchen, and even indoor composters.
  • In your compost bin, layer the kitchen scraps with yard waste like grass clippings and any other compostable materials. I use newspaper-based pelleted litter for my rabbit and empty that into the bin occasionally, too. There is a formula for mixing “green” and “brown” materials, described here, but you don’t have to follow it to the letter to get good compost, just provide your pile with a variety of materials.
  • Keep your compost sponge-damp. You don’t want it to be too soggy or it will create swamp-like conditions (and smell), but it does need some moistness for the beneficial organisms to survive and break down your compost. When it’s breaking down, it will have a sweet earthy smell.
  • Over time, you will notice your compost breaking down into dark, fertile soil. You can keep two separate piles to ensure the materials have completely broken down in one before it’s time to add it to your garden, or you can just empty the contents of the bin into your garden about a month before you plan to plant anything and start a new batch in your bin.
  • Another way to add compost to your soil is to make “compost tea”. This is basically compost soaked in water to create a liquid fertilizer. For “high end” compost tea, you can add fish emulsion or molasses and apply with a sprayer as explained in this video.

Growing Upwards

Both small and large gardens can benefit by growing vegetables up posts and trellises vertically. This can allow you to plant more plants per square foot, but also creates shady spots, so plan carefully so you don’t overshade plants that don’t climb and need full sun. “Indeterminate” tomatoes can grow long vines and can be tied to tall stakes or tied to strings from above to encourage vertical growth, and other plants like climbing beans and peas naturally grow up fences and trellises.

pea teepee
Tomato Support

For a natural look, you can create low fences or tall “teepees” out of sticks for your vegetables to climb. Another popular method is the “three sisters” garden, which has corn planted in the center, surrounded by pole beans which vine up the stem of the corn, and squash, which shade the ground to keep the moisture in. Below is a photo of a “three sisters” garden.

The Three Sisters at the end of May

The most extreme example of vertical gardening I’ve seen is YouTube user John from “Growing Your Greens” who has converted his suburban California lawn into a raised-bed garden with many vertical gardening features (skip to 2:20 for the garden tour):

Finding Gardening Information Online

The web is a treasure trove of gardening information, (both good and bad – so if you hear something that sounds crazy, try to find verification to make sure it’s not bad advice)! YouTube is a great resource for instructional videos. I enjoy watching videos by Christian from “The Produce Garden” in the winter because he’s in Australia where they are in the opposite seasons and I can get ideas ahead of time to implement in the summer! Patti Moreno, “The Garden Girl“, has a lot of good ideas and how-to videos, too. If you’re planting a certain variety of vegetable and want specific tips, search for it on YouTube and you’ll find plenty of people willing to share their tips with you!

Another thing I enjoy doing is reading gardening blogs. If you find a few with similar planting zones to our area, you will get especially useful information. Bloggers in Florida and California have a much longer growing season, so I enjoy reading Northern US blogs such as Chiot’s Run and Annie’s Kitchen Garden to get more usable advice.

Have a garden question? Just “Google it”! If you find information that’s especially helpful to people in the Harrisonburg area, please share it in the comments!

Photos by Flickr Users knittingbrow, found_drama, inkandpen, and philcalvert under the Creative Commons license (hover over photos for links and attributions).

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Six tips to help wildlife in the heat

With temperatures of 35C forecast for parts of the UK next week, there’s little respite in sight for wildlife that is wilting in the sun. Here are six tips to help pets and garden fauna to beat the heat.


A simple yet effective way of providing relief. Val Osborne, head of the RSPB’s wildlife enquiries team, explains:

“The hot weather could be causing natural water sources to dry up, meaning birds and hedgehogs could be left without anything to drink. Turning your outside space into a home for nature by doing simple things like topping up your birdbath, creating a make-shift pond from a washing-up tub or putting down a saucer filled with water could offer a vital lifeline to some of our garden favourites that are already fighting against declines.”

Supplementary food

Drier conditions make worms tunnel further into the soil, becoming scarce for the wildlife that usually feasts on them, such as blackbirds, robins, hedgehogs and frogs. To compensate, additional food should be left out to make sure suitable nutrition is provided throughout the summer to such animals. A novel substitute to earthworms is dog or cat food, which blackbirds readily take and feed to their chicks. The texture of tinned meaty chunks is perfect as it avoids hard lumps that cause birds to choke. Black sunflower seeds, mild grated cheese, and of course, bird seed, are also recommended, but make sure to steer well clear of any salts, which are toxic to birds.

Taking care of gardens and allotments

Regularly watered plants, and habitat-orientated gardens are a lifeline for bees and butterflies. Osborne says:

“If the hot, dry conditions carry on we may see wild plants start to die. If that happens, our gardens and the well-watered plants in them will become even more important to these insects.”

Maintaining allotments is also vital for providing respite from the weather – log or stone piles are inviting for their damp, shaded conditions, whilst a nest box is a no-brainer. Start thinking of next year too – do you have enough space to incorporate a few hedges, a wildflower and herb patch, a pond or bog area, and an overgrown/undisturbed section?

Summer heat and garden wildlife : Hedgehog corridor
The hedgehog corridor: create a nature highway in your garden. Photograph: RSPB

Nature highways

Your garden is part of a bigger home for wildlife. Linking gardens together enables creatures, such as hedgehogs and toads, to move between your garden and those of your neighbours. Creating such nature highways and corridors – ie shrubby borders; leaving gaps beneath fences – raises the quality of the whole street for wildlife.

Be aware of the time

Head veterinary surgeon at Battersea Dogs Cats Home, Shaun Opperman, says dog owners should avoid walks between 11am and 3pm, as these are the hottest times of the day. “Keep walks short and do indoor activities if your dog wants to play,” he says. Also keep in mind that walking dogs on hot surfaces can be dangerous for their paw pads, and ensure pets have plenty of shade if in the garden or on a picnic.

Summer foods

Dogs like lollies too. Opperman suggests that refreshing treats can be a brilliant way to help dogs cool down in the heat:

“Make ice lollies for dogs by mixing their food with some water and freezing it in a plastic cup. Remove it from the cup before giving it to your dog. Just like us, dogs and cats can get very uncomfortable in hot weather.”

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Garden Tips: Watering a little every day not enough in the Tri-City climate

With only six to eight inches of rain a year, even novice area gardeners know that adequate moisture is essential to successfully growing lawns, gardens and landscape plants.

However, not every gardener knows how to correctly water. The tendency is to water a little every day during the summer, such as 15 minutes once a day. That sometimes isn’t enough.

Only 5 percent of the water that plants absorb through their roots is used for growth. The majority (95 percent) is lost through transpiration, which is the loss of water vapor from the pores in leaf surfaces. High temperatures, wind and sun increase the rate of transpiration, increasing a plant’s need for water.

To be able to absorb from the soil, water in the location of the water-absorbing roots. As plants become established, the roots typically move out radially from the root ball. Water that once was applied near the trunk or base should be applied further in the root zone. For established shade trees, the root zone area extends from the drip line (the outermost reach of the branches) and beyond.

If a lawn is watered just 15 minutes every day, depending on the output of the irrigation system, adequate moisture probably is not reaching the roots. The major portion of the root systems landscape trees are found in the top 12 to 18 inches of soil. Shallow, daily watering during a hot summer may keep a lawn alive, but it probably is not providing enough water.

When plants suffer from drought, they wilt or show other signs of stress. Some respond to this stress with yellowing and dropping of leaves. Others develop a disorder called “leaf scorch,” where the edges of the leaves turn brown and crispy, or brown tissue develops between the leaf veins.

Certain plants may show the same symptoms even if there is enough moisture. The problem may be that the root system is inadequate to keep up with the demands put on the plant by transpiration. This can happen when a plant is transplanted in late spring or early summer and the roots have not had time to grow to support the top of the plant. This also happens if the root system is impaired by being planted too deep or by restricted roots. Some plants tend to show leaf scorch because they aren’t well adapted to a hot, dry climate.

If a plant looks stressed, check the soil moisture. Be sure to deep-water once a week. A mature shade tree with a spread of 30 feet should be receiving at least 350 gallons of water once a week during our hot and breezy weather.

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

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Kent designer’s dune garden is a finalist


A garden on shifting sands at Camber near Rye by Kent designer Jo Thompson is through to the final rounds of the Society of Garden Designers 2013 Awards.

A simple design lies behind a complex brief. The garden had to offer its owner privacy as the space is continuous with the public beach, provide shelter from salty winds and be in keeping with the area’s Site of Special Scientific Interest status.

Sea Gem, Camber Sands by Jo Thompson

Jo Thompson’s garden for Sea Gem incorporates curvaceous seating, a barbeque pit, rinsing stations for sandy feet and cedar decking which leads to a timber gate. Rope from the Historic Dockyard in Chatham provides an appropriate nautical boundary fence. The dunes are planted with tough species that will cope with sand and the climate.

Jo said: “Right from the start this garden was all about the elements. The strong, salty winds, its constant state of flux and finding plants that will take hold and not blow away. I am delighted with the result.”

The Society of Garden Designers has been championing excellence in garden design for 30 years. It is the only professional association for garden designers in the UK and counts some of the UK’s leading garden and landscape designers among its growing membership.

 The annual awards programme, in its second year, is designed to recognise and reward outstanding achievement in the garden and landscape design profession, from private domestic gardens to engaging public spaces. Out of a total of 95 projects, 35 have been named as finalists.

 The next round of judging will take place in October and the winners will be announced at the SGD Awards ceremony in London on January 24, 2014.

Jo Thompson’s garden design practice is in Stone Street, Cranbrook. She set up her practice six years ago, after studying garden design at the English Gardening School, and is now recognised as one of the country’s leading garden designers.


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Ernest Hemingway Birthday: 55th Dearborn Garden Walk


Walk through Hemingway’s ‘The Garden of Eden’ and other Hemingway inspired Garden Vignettes created by Chicago’s top interior designers, hear from Hemingway experts, and take a sidewalk tour of historic Dearborn Parkway during the 55th Dearborn Garden Walk on July 21.

(RELEASE) During this year’s 55th Dearborn Garden Walk, presented by the North Dearborn Association, a Near North Neighborhood organization, visitors can delight in some of Chicago’s most unique private, rear gardens, many featuring outdoor garden vignettes created by Chicago designers inspired by the life and works of Nobel Prize winning author Ernest Hemingway. The event will take place on Sunday, July 21st, 2013 from 12pm-5pm and tickets are $30 (advance) / $35 (gate).

Year after year, visitors travel from all over the country to experience this annual event and walk away with ideas for their own outdoor spaces. Approximately twenty private rear gardens are featured and range from minimalist to classic small gardens and patio/terrace designs, each showcasing the most creative use of outdoor space in an urban setting. Many of the gardens are created around entertaining and sitting areas, offering city dwellers additional living quarters in the warmer months.

During the walk, guests will have the opportunity to follow the adventurous and well-documented life and times of Ernest Hemingway as they tour garden vignettes inspired by his life and works. Chicago designers are set to create dramatic outdoor spaces utilizing a variety of outdoor tables, chairs, colorful cushions, linens, floral decorations, and other accessories including fine china, crystal, and flatware. From Cuba, Paris, and Spain with a nod to Oak Park, Illinois, this will certainly be a most spectacular interpretation of all things Hemingway.

This year’s designers include: Stanley Smith and Amanda Wolfson, Oak Street Design; Maura Braun Designs; Ramsey Jay Prince, RJP Designs; Elizabeth Drake, Elizabeth Drake Designs; Hunter Kaiser – Creative for Life; and Stephen Gertz of Milieu Design.

As an added perk to the program this year, visitors will also have the opportunity to listen to Hemingway author and scholar Dr. Nancy Sindelar, a member of the Board of Directors of The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, Illinois and author of the forthcoming publication, Papa’s Places. Dr. Sindelar will be speaking at dedicated times throughout the afternoon at the Hotel Indigo at 1244 N. Dearborn Parkway. Stuart W. Hubbard, a former Associate Professor of English at the University of Kansas where he taught undergraduate classes on American Literature and Composition and Rhetoric, will be leading an informal discussion on “Ernest Hemingway in Chicago” outlining his early life in and around the city and the effect the area had on his personality and writing. Hubbard’s discussion will take place in the rear courtyard of Hemingway’s former residence at 1239 North Dearborn Parkway. Access to the courtyard is through the hallway of the building in which visitors will have the opportunity to take a look at a collection of Hemingway memorabilia that will be on display.

As with each year, visitors can participate in an hour-long, wonderfully entertaining and educational sidewalk guided tour of historic Dearborn Parkway that highlights the outstanding architectural facades in the neighborhood. The architectural tour, which starts at 1:30pm, 3:30pm, and 5:00pm, includes both pre and post-Chicago fire structures, sites that have been used in movies, homes formerly occupied by famous celebrities, and even a US President.

Nonrefundable tickets are $35.00 on July 21, 2013 and $30.00 in advance. Advance sales end on Saturday, July 20th, 2013 at 12:00pm – all advance ticket purchasers are automatically entered in drawings for goods and services from neighborhood businesses. Admission includes a Dearborn Garden Walk program with a map for a self-guided tour of the gardens, live jazz and classical music in select gardens, and guided architectural walking tours of historic Dearborn Parkway.

The program booth will be at Latin Middle School, 45 West North Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60610. Children 16 years of age and younger accompanied by an adult, as well as North Dearborn Association Partner in

Preservation members, are free. For ticket purchase information, please call: 312-632-1241 or visit online at:

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Top Home Design Tips for Small Spaces: NYC Home and Garden Designer …

NYC home and garden designer Amber Freda provides home design tips and discusses ways to maximize a home’s design potential in a few easy steps.

New York, NY (PRWEB) July 17, 2013

As a NYC landscaper and interior designer, the challenges of designing for small spaces are a daily occurrence. There are sofas and planters that don’t fit through doors, unappealing views of neighboring buildings, and the need to maximize every square inch of real estate in the most attractive way possible. To help people who may feel overwhelmed by the idea of trying to design their own small spaces, here are a few home design tips to help get you on your way to designing like a pro.


A small space will feel larger the less clutter there appears to be. Having lots of individual, free-standing cabinets and dressers will sometimes make the space feel smaller and more hodgepodge. Consider having streamlined, built-in cabinets put in, instead, for storage of books, clothing, and other objects.


Let no corner go wasted in a small space. Make use of the vertical height of a room by having cabinets reach all the way up to the ceiling wherever possible. Choose furniture pieces that can serve more than one function. Murphy beds are an excellent way to make the space more usable for different functions — i.e. bedroom at night and office workspace by day. Mirrors can also help make the space feel larger. Opt for fewer, larger pieces of furniture, rather than lots of smaller ones. A connection should exist between the interior and exterior of a home, so that the garden appears to flow outward as a natural extension of the inner space. It’s important to create a sense of rhythm and flow that is as seamless as it is beautiful.


It’s interesting how groups of three objects generally look better than groups of two or four. For whatever reason, odd number pairings work better and stand out more visually than even numbered pairings. It’s easier to create symmetry in even numbered groupings, but odd numbers are more dynamic and visually appealing.


One of the most important influencers of mood in a space is the lighting. It’s important to have a mix of task, accent, and ambient lighting to make the space at once both visually appealing and as functional as possible. For an outdoor space, try to have a mix of high-voltage sconce lighting and low-voltage up-lighting mixed in with the plants themselves. For indoors, a mix of overhead lighting and soft, ambient lamps is usually ideal.


Long spaces can be broken up into separate “rooms” to help create a cozier, more intimate feeling. Terraces and decks can easily be divided up by having part of the space used for one task – i.e. dining, and another part for something else, i.e. comfortable lounge seating. A long living room might have a cozy conversational seating area, and a separate area for curling up on your own with a good book. Furniture and rugs can be placed in such a way as to create a separation of the different spaces for the feeling of multiple rooms all in one place.


It’s generally helpful to design a room or outdoor space with one dominant color in mind, along with one secondary color, and also a third accent color. If there is any existing furniture, choose colors that already exist in the largest patterns of the furniture. To make the space feel bigger, try using the darkest colors at floor level (i.e. wood floors or rugs) contrasted with light colored walls and furniture, with the brightest at ceiling level, much the same as the earth is darkest at soil level and brightest when you look up at the sky. Light colors will generally make a space feel larger than darker colors. On the other hand, dark colors will make a small space feel cozy — add some soft textured pieces like velvet or wool to make it even more inviting.


Contrast is one of the most important features of good design. Square and rectangular shapes often look more interesting when paired with one or two round shapes. Contrast can also be created by pairing high contrast colors together or by using textures that are quite different – for example, a fluffy white pillow on a smooth leather couch. Ask what the existing style of the space is and then bring in furniture and décor that mostly matches that style, but also don’t be afraid to put in a few touches that are a little different. For example, a contemporary loft with a lot of metal and clean lines might look more interesting with a few soft, round shapes mixed in for contrast.


Every well-designed space should have something that draws the eye to it right away. It might be a fireplace, a piece of art, a paint color, a great view, or a piece of furniture – whatever it is, it has star power and people can’t help but gaze at it. The focal point will also set the mood of the room as playful, formal, traditional, contemporary, artsy, rustic, etc. Don’t be afraid of using large focal points sparingly, such as a single large painting, in a small space, especially in a color that recedes (like blue) to make the space feel bigger. One large piece of furniture, such as a four-poster bed, can also make the room feel larger than it actually is.

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