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Archives for August 5, 2013

Events coming up in the Lewisville area

Free sports physicals offered

Free sports physicals will be offered by Main Street Medical Care. The clinic will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3 at the Main Street Medical Care, 571 West Main Street, Suite 120.

Applications sought for Lewisville 2025 committee appointments

Lewisville residents are being encouraged to participate in a community visioning process that will result in a Lewisville 2025 long-range plan as the city nears its 100th birthday.

Applications are being accepted from people interested in serving on a Lewisville 2025 committee. These volunteer teams will work with the city staff and a professional consultant to study in detail some of the major issues and opportunities facing Lewisville. Topics expected to be part of the plan include land use, housing, infrastructure, quality of life, financial stability, neighborhood vitality and service delivery.

Committee applications are available on the City website, Application deadline is July 31, with appointments being made by City Council in August.

Two online surveys are active through July 31 for residents to offer their input and ideas on a range of long-term issues facing the city. Links to the surveys also are available on the City website.

Visioning is generally described as a process by which a community decides the future it wants and then plans how to achieve that future. Broad-based participation is important in order to achieve a clear vision that can be shared and supported by the community at large.

Lewisville last went through a similar process when the Lewisville 2010 plan was developed in 1999 and 2000. Many of the major elements of that plan have been implemented in the ensuing years, including an emphasis on neighborhood programs and revitalization of the historic Old Town district.

Developing the plan will take months of research, study and discussion before the final plan is unveiled in the second half of 2014.

City receives petitions calling for an election on alcohol sales

The city secretary’s office is in the process of verifying signatures on a petition submitted last week by a group trying to call a citywide election to allow the sale of packaged hard liquor at local retail outlets. If sufficient signatures are verified, the Lewisville City Council is expected to set a November election date.

Currently, retail stores in Lewisville can sell packaged beer and wine, but not hard liquor. Licensed restaurants can sell beer, wine and liquor for on-premises consumption only.

The petitions were collected by Total Wine and More, a liquor retailer that recently staged a successful petition drive and election in Plano to legalize the retail sale of hard liquor in that city. Lewisville petitions were submitted July 19, and appear to contain about 5,000 signatures. In order to meet the state requirement of 35 percent of the number of residents who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election, at least 4,422 signatures would have to be verified as coming from Lewisville residents who are registered voters.

According to state law, if sufficient signatures are verified, City Council must schedule an election to decide the issue. The city would add the measure to the November statewide ballot in order to share election costs with Denton and Dallas counties, but it still would cost the city between $10,000 and $15,000 to conduct the election.

Two shows left in free summer concert series at MCL Grand

The popular “Sounds of Lewisville” concert series, a free family favorite since 1991, has two shows left in the 2013 season. Decades will perform Tuesday, July 30. And Escape, a Journey tribute band, will play on Thursday, Aug. 1, after being rained out earlier this month.

Both concerts will begin at 7 p.m., in the courtyard of the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater, 100 N. Charles Street in the heart of historic Old Town Lewisville. The annual series is presented by Lewisville Convention and Visitors Bureau with assistance from Parks and Leisure Services and the MCL Grand.

Next year’s “Sounds of Lewisville” concerts are expected to move to the Old Town Park Plaza currently under construction across the street from the MCL Grand. The park will feature a permanent stage in front of a large grass lawn.

For more information about the “Sounds of Lewisville” concerts, call 972.219.8446 or visit

Mandatory watering restrictions continue through August

Lewisville City Council has authorized mandatory restrictions on outdoor watering for all residential, commercial and industrial customers through Aug. 31.

While the restrictions are in effect, residential customers are limited to outdoor watering twice per week, coinciding with their regularly scheduled trash collection days. Commercial and industrial customers are limited to outdoor watering on Wednesday and Saturday only. Outdoor watering is allowed only between the hours of 5-9 a.m. and 7-11 p.m. on the assigned days. There is no daytime watering and no Sunday watering allowed.

Hand-watering (including foundations, gardens and planters) is allowed.

A first violation will result in a warning letter or door tag, a second violation will receive a warning citation, and each subsequent violation will be issued a citation with a fine of up to $500.

Although the mandatory restrictions are scheduled to last through Aug. 31, the Council could extend the measures if conditions require continued conservation. Lewisville was one of the last North Texas communities to adopt mandatory watering restrictions in 2013.

This is the first time Lewisville has implemented mandatory Stage 2 components of its Water Conversation Plan due to drought conditions. The city has been under Stage 1 voluntary measures since October 2006 as Texas endures a historic statewide drought. The mandatory restrictions that took effect July 1 are identical to the voluntary measures already in effect, with the addition of enforcement measures.

Local road survey to run through end of month

The City of Lewisville will conduct a pavement condition survey now through the end of July. Data Transfer Solutions will drive city-maintained streets with a Mobile Asset Collection vehicle — a van equipped with cameras and other equipment — to collect video and GPS data in the roadway. DTS staff may be required to drive a road several times to collect the required data. When completed, the study will help the city establish need-based priorities related to street construction and maintenance.

Blood drive scheduled

Community Life Church will host a community health awareness and blood drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3. The event will be held at the church, 975 Fox Ave. The event will include mini-physicals and give residents the chance to learn more about their health.

For information contact Shawn Figart at 972-221-1400.

NAMI course set

NAMI Denton County, the local organization of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will offer its Family-to-Family Education Program beginning July 8 from 6 to 8:45 p.m. The course will be held on eight Mondays at Crossroads Bible Church, 8101 FM 407 in Double Oak.

NAMI Family-to-Family is a free education program for family caregivers of adults living with mental illness. The course provides a broad perspective that will help parents, spouses, siblings and adult children better understand and support loved ones living with mental illness, while taking care of their own needs.

The course provides:

* Information about major mental illnesses and current research on their biological aspects

* Information about treatment strategies and prospects for recovery

* Empathy based on the subjective “lived experience” of a person living with mental illness

* Specific skills for communication, problem-solving, handling crises and relapse

* Coping skills for family caregivers to alleviate worry, stress and emotional overload

* Guidance on finding appropriate mental health care and supports in the community and how to advocate for them

Mental illnesses covered in the course include major depression, major anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia.

For information or to register for the course please contact Esther Fidler at or call 469-671-0421.

Aquarium unveils new turtle rescue center

SEA LIFE Aquarium Grapevine recently unveiled its new Turtle Rescue Center. The new exhibit is open to the public and provides a permanent home for two non-releasable endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, Roxy and Squirt.

The Turtle Rescue Center includes display tanks that were specially designed to the depth the turtles are able to safely dive based on their injuries, as well as educational information on conservation and turtle rescue.

Before being transferred to SEA LIFE Aquarium, both injured Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles were rescued and rehabilitated by Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) in Port Aransas. Roxy was found stranded off Mustang Island Gulf Beach in 2007 after both left limbs were bitten off and her right limb suffered a large bite, limiting mobility on her left side. Squirt was found stranded on the Padre Island National Seashore in 2009 after a boat strike caused paralysis of both rear flippers and a cracked shell, affecting his ability to dive. Due to the severity of their injuries, both turtles are unable to return to their natural habitat and will now live out the rest of their lives in the safety of SEA LIFE Aquarium.

In addition to seeing the two endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles in the new exhibit, visitors will also be able to learn about Flip, a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle found stranded on the shores of the Netherlands. SEA LIFE Aquarium Grapevine, along with their sister attraction in Holland, coordinated the turtle’s rehabilitation, transport back to the U.S., and worked alongside ARK to assist with the turtle’s release back into its native Gulf of Mexico in November 2012. In the aquarium’s ocean tank, guests can also view the non-releasable green sea turtle Hope, who was rescued after being hit by a boat off the coast of Florida.

In celebration of the Turtle Rescue Center opening, SEA LIFE will also commemorate its second anniversary with cake for guests served at 4 p.m. on the second level of the attraction (while supplies last).

Admission is $19 for adults, $15 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for kids 2 and under. Buy special discounted tickets online at

Applications for Citizens Police Academy accepted in July

Lewisville Police Department will begin taking applications next week for the Citizens Police Academy.

Classes start on Thursday, Sept. 5, and are held every Thursday night for 13 weeks, plus two Saturday morning classes in October. A final practical exercise will be held in November before the class graduation. Students must not miss more than two sessions in order to graduate.

The Academy’s slogan is “Understanding through Education.” Students will learn from police officers about their roles in their specific fields, including hands-on experiences at the firing range and other training facilities.

Upon completion of the class, students will be able to join the Lewisville Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association. This qualifies them for ride-a-longs with officers.

Eight-week classes coming to NCTC Flower Mound

A new program offering a “fast track” to college credit will debut on the Flower Mound campus of North Central TexasCollege this fall.

Under the new pilot program that will begin this fall, students can take eight-week courses instead of the traditional 16-week classes.

The first eight-week session will begin Aug. 26 and run through Oct. 18. The second session will begin Oct. 21 and last until Dec. 13.

Traditional college courses including Government, Psychology, Economics, Math, English, History, Sociology and Music will be offered in this pilot program.

Students will register for these classes just like they register for any Fall 2013 class. Those students wishing to take classes during the second eight-week session will be allowed to register for those classes up until the first day of class.

For information contact the student success center in Flower Mound at 972-899-8412 and speak with Desir DeMange or Diana Salih.

City to offer free landscaping classes

The city, along with Texas AM AgriLife Extension, will offer a monthly series of free landscaping classes. Classes will focus on ways to reduce landscape water use and save money on monthly water bills. The series will run through August on the first Tuesday of each month, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the city’s Kealy Operations Center, 1100 North Kealy St. Light refreshments will be provided.

Registration is required so presenters can prepare sufficient materials for participants. Register online at in the latest news tab under the landscape class information, by email to or call 972-219-3504. Registration is open to the public, and Lewisville residency is not required.

Planned class topics will include efficient irrigation systems; use of native and adaptive plants; rain water collection; use of turf, groundcover and hardscaping to conserve water; and tree selection for North Texas. Scheduled classes are:

Aug. 6: trees for North Texas

Trees provide shade, shelter and beauty for all. Learn what trees are best suited for Denton County and then how to plant, water and take care of trees.

Lewisville Summer Musicals sets season at MCL Grand

The third season of Lewisville Summer Musicals will bring five musical plays and tributes to the Performance Hall of the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater, with performance held weekends in July and August. Season and single-show tickets are on sale now.

Performance times are 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on both days of each show. Ticket prices for individual shows are $26, $28 or $30, depending on the seating. Discounts are available for seniors, or for groups of 12 or more. Season ticket packages are available.

All ticket sales will be through Texas Family Musicals at its website,

For information call 800-547-4697.

DCTA offers Saturday savings

The Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) is now offering a special discount to families for travel on Saturdays through Aug. 17. The new Family Fun Pass allows a family (two adults and four children) to travel from Denton to Dallas and all the way to Fort Worth for only $10 on Saturdays by purchasing a Regional Day Pass or on DCTA only with a local system day pass for $6.

Families looking to explore outside of Denton County can take the A-train, transfer to Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Green Line and connect to many new family destinations served by DART, Trinity Railway Express (TRE) and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) with a Regional Day Pass ($10). The Main Street Arts Festival in downtown Fort Worth is this weekend and with the promotion continuing through mid-August, families can continue to save when going to new places like the Perot Museum or Summer Adventures in Fair Park.

Passengers who already have a monthly or annual pass can also take advantage of the Saturday savings, making those passes an even better value.

Regional and Local Day Passes can be purchased at all DCTA ticket outlets or through any ticket vending machine located on A-train station platforms. For route and schedule information visit or call customer service for information.

Summer food service program open sites

During the school year, kids get nutritious meals at school. But kids are just as busy and just as hungry during the summer break.

In an effort to help families in today’s challenging economic times S. Tracy Howard Project is sponsoring the Summer Food Service Program and meals will be provided to all children 18 years and younger without charge and are the same for all children regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability, and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service. The program began June 10 and will continue through Aug. 24, serving breakfast Monday through Saturday between 10-11 a.m. and lunch noon to 1:30 p.m. A balanced, hot meal and beverage will be provided at the:

Bay Shore / Parc Lake Village 1901 Lakeview Cr Lewisville

Willow Ridge 797 S. Old Orchard Lewisville

St. Charles Place Apartments 1090 S. Charles St Lewisville

Oak Tree Village 1595 Old Orchard Lane Lewisville

All meals will be offered in accordance with federal law and USDA policy this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.

There are no residency restrictions; children from any city are allowed to participate. The program is funded through a grant from the USDA.

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Views sought on play area revamp

A two-week public consultation on improvements to Moorfield Park play area in Grimsbury, Banbury, began on Tuesday.

An exhibition of planned improvements is on display in the town hall for two weeks to enable residents and park users to comment on the proposals and put forward their own ideas on the £100,000 update.

Moorfield is the latest Banbury park to be given a makeover by Banbury Town Council, and chairman of the council’s general services committee, Councillor Colin Clarke said the council needs to make sure children have a safe place to play.

He said: “The town council has a responsibilty to ensure that parks and play areas are fit for purpose. This means making sure that playground equipment is modern, safe, and meets the expectations of today’s young people.”

He added: “The public consultation will give people the opportunity to express their views and the council will take into account what residents say.”

The exhibition will be open until August 9 from 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday, and from 10am to 4pm on Saturday.

The most recent Banbury play park improved by Banbury Town Council was completed in September 2012. Pupils from Queensway Primary School held a celebration to mark the opening of the revamped Browning Road Park after they helped design the new play area.

The £120,000 refurbishment was commissioned and overseen by the town council and the facelift included the installation of new play equipment – to meet current health and safety standards.

Landscaping and improved drainage work was also carried out after consultation with residents.

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Sweet summer Microsoft job has lessons for teen, company

We’re in that special time of year when kids are trying to squeeze in the last bit of vacation before heading back to school.

I’m hoping that 17-year-old Kresten Thorndahl makes the most of it.

Thorndahl spent nearly all of his summer vacation toiling in the world’s largest software factory.

Not on the Microsoft kitchen or landscaping crews, where you might expect to see a high-schooler.

No, Thorndahl spent six of his eight weeks of school vacation working alongside executives and others in Microsoft’s global education sales group. Among other things, he helped them tailor products for students and improve their “innovative schools” program.

Thorndahl was a newcomer to Redmond — and America — but not Microsoft. He has been working at the company’s Denmark headquarters in Copenhagen since he was 15, first as an intern and then a full-fledged “blue badge” employee while still in middle school. That made him perhaps the youngest European employee, but Microsoft declined to discuss worker ages with me.

Either way, Thorndahl’s success and the influence he’s had on co-workers make you wonder why there aren’t more opportunities for students to engage with big companies before college, when most internship programs begin.

In Denmark, he is allowed to work six to eight hours a week through a program the company originally set up for college students. He generally goes to the office four days a week after school.

“They just made an exception for me,” he said, as we chatted on a bench next to Microsoft’s soccer field last week.

Teens do occasionally find summer jobs at Microsoft, especially programming prodigies or those with family connections.

The record for youngest Microsoft employee appears to be held by Zillow co-founder Lloyd Frink, who started at 14 back in 1979. Frink’s mom and Mary Gates, Bill’s mother, introduced their boys at a Lakeside School auction since both were interested in computers.

That led to a lunch in Bellevue, after which Frink was offered a summer job that continued for 10 summers, through his graduation from Stanford. Frink eventually became a Microsoft group program manager and helped start Expedia.

Frink is all for bringing teens into companies, especially because they’re becoming computer savvy at younger ages.

“A little bit of it is giving back to the community, but you learn from it as well,” he said. “If you find the right people, they can add value.”

“Innovation and new ideas”

Thorndahl isn’t sure where his career will take him, but he expects to work at Microsoft through college, where he plans to major in business and minor in computer science. When he graduates from college, he would have 10 years at the company and experience that would make some chief executives jealous.

Asked about long-term plans, he smiles and shrugs a bit.

“Three years ago I wanted to be a chef,” he said. “I really can’t say what I want to do in 10 to 15 years because I’m still only 17. I don’t know how it’s going to evolve and all that, but I know that it’s going to be in a tech company with innovation and new ideas.”

How the doors opened

Thorndahl is more than lucky. Drive and personal character opened one door after another for the teen, whose story may inspire job hunters of all ages.

It started when he was 13 and elected president of the student council at his K-9 school in Ordrup, a suburb of Copenhagen. That connected him with a nonprofit organization supporting Danish students, where he was elected to a board position handling its technology policies.

That same year, Denmark allocated $100 million for education technology and sought guidance on how it should be invested. This is similar to the process school districts here and around the U.S. are going through as they modernize their systems and prepare for new curriculum and testing requiring more computer use.

At 14, Thorndahl was invited to an education technology conference with teachers groups, government agencies and companies, including Microsoft Denmark.

“At this conference I bump into a guy who asked me what the hell a young kid like me was doing at that kind of conference,” Thorndahl recalled. “I told him … and told him my story and some of the ideas that I had and some of the policies that the organization had for students and how we would use the money and (technology) in education.”

It must have been quite a first impression. The Microsoft rep suggested a partnership with the Danish students organization. The partnership didn’t pan out at first, but three months later Microsoft offered him a weeklong internship.

Again, he made a good impression. “After that week he asked me whether I wanted a job,” he said.

Changing perspectives

Once on board, Thorndahl sorted out the partnership. He set up a program of student-led tech “patrols” that manage schools’ technology and help teachers use equipment. It has since expanded to 100 schools and has $30,000 in federal funding.

After his sister spent time in Australia studying law, he was inspired to pursue work abroad with Microsoft, perhaps at its Europe headquarters in Ireland.

Summer internships are usually for software developers, which Thorndahl isn’t, but his request came through at the start of this summer: He was invited to work at global headquarters in Redmond, with two weeks’ notice.

Thorndahl had never traveled abroad alone or to the U.S., but he booked a flight and found lodging with a Danish family in Kenmore. Then he moved closer, to the Bellevue home of Steve and Rebekah Jenkins, current and former Microsoft employees.

“Kresten very quickly impressed all of us that he came into contact with,” Jenkins said. “He’s this really interesting mixture of young, enthusiastic, bold, selfless thinker and individual — and then he’s part kid still.”

At work, Thorndahl changed the perspective of Jenkins, a 15-year veteran and senior director of government partners. The teen reminded Jenkins “to be bold and think broadly.”

“You sometimes apply constraints to your thinking and then you come into contact with one of these people who just doesn’t do that. They have a good idea, they think it’s a good idea and they push that idea or work on that idea,” Jenkins said. “That’s where Kresten really struck me in my work.”

Making himself an asset

One day during their commute, Thorndahl turned to Jenkins and said, “I did something bold today.”

Thorndahl had sketched out a concept for the Internet Explorer business. He caught a shuttle across campus to the IE team’s building and stuffed it in the inbox of the group vice president.

“I just put it in his box, so he can see it when he gets back,” Thorndahl told me. “That was just a little idea and I thought, why not?”

Another bold moment came at an employee meeting where Thorndahl took the opportunity to introduce himself to a few people in the room: Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner and Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood.

“That was because I was in that internal meeting and I was just like, ‘I have to meet them, I have to say hi and shake their hand,’ ” he told me.

Thorndahl was also getting things done, according to Anthony Salcito, vice president of worldwide education.

“He did real work like an employee would do,” he said, adding that Thorndahl “was actually an asset to the team.”

Looking ahead

The team took the opportunity to expose Thorndahl to how things work at headquarters, since relatively few Danish employees get that chance.

“Not only can he learn that for his own benefit, but he can bring it back to the local subsidiary,” Salcito said.

The education group also provided an internship this summer to a San Diego teen heading to college this fall.

Salcito said he was inspired to continue bringing in high-schoolers. He expects Thorndahl to keep the ball rolling when he returns to work in Copenhagen.

“I said ‘Kresten, get me a program in place to help do this going forward. I want to have interns rotating through Microsoft every summer,’ ” Salcito said. “He’s working on the plan.”

Brier Dudley’s column appears Mondays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or

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Guardians of Beauty


23 Blog Street

You’ll find easy weekly menu ideas, recipes, craft ideas, random thoughts – and you never know what else!

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Plants love coffee: And other crazy good gardening advice from horticulture …

Think it’s possible to coax a Japanese mountain spring, something like what you may find near Mount Fuji, to flow a stones’ throw from your local garden beds so you can grow wasabi?

Think again. Growing wasabi isn’t something to attempt in Houston’s terrain. It doesn’t do well so why bother?

That’s just some of the wise advice from the witty Bob Randall, one of the founders of Urban Harvest and the author of Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers for Metro-Houston. This gent alongside master gardener Jean Fefer — consider the duo the cognoscenti of horticulture — offered a cornucopia of sage wisdom during a three-hour Urban Harvest fall gardening 101 class at the University of Houston.

Gardening, Randall says, is more complicated than understanding Houston highways, but not as complicated as raising a teenager.

Somewhere in between commuting and screwing up children, you may be able to harvest a delicious bounty of fruits and vegetables such as the girthy straight eight cucumber that swelled from my own container garden. The cuke coupled palatably with a crisp heirloom tomato, some olives and a simple vinaigrette in a fresher-than-fresh Greek salad — a perfect dish for cooling off during a hot-as-hell weekend.

Now that was satisfying.

 Gardening is more complicated than understanding Houston highways, but not as complicated as raising a teenager.

About gardening: You can go at it alone and many do. That means conducting trial and error experiments. After all, what do you have to lose? Yet with so many resources at your disposal, why would you want to trust your gardening prowess — and your ego — to a game of chance?

In reality, there’s a lot to lose by not seeking help from experts. Failed attempts may lead you to feel that you have a kiss-of-death complex brought on by your dearth of green thumb goodness. You may feel inclined to give up gardening all together, cursing the compost gods while you disassemble your raised garden beds and replace them with water-sucking Saint Augustine sod.

Urban Harvest has an ambitious lineup of classes that focus on supporting beginning growers, experienced gardeners and everyone in between. Below are five tips I gleaned from the masters of produce that will surely assist in your journey down the garden path.

1. Soil is the most important element

Without good soil, just throw in the towel. Soil is one of the critical components of a thriving garden. It should drain well, it should be rich in nutrients and it should allow the plants to easily set roots. Sandy loam, a perfect mixture of clay and sand that contains humus, is preferred.

2. Complement soil with nutrient-rich additions

As plants grow, they deplete the soil from essential nutrients and minerals, particularly crops that require lots of sustenance such as tomatoes. Unless your setup suffers from erosion or you are adding height to your garden beds, there’s never a need to incorporate more soil. Rather, mix in compost or humus and fertilizer, and top off with mulch. Such organic matter decomposes over time and may account for waning ground levels.

3. Coffee grounds

Coffee does more than provide you with your morning jolt of caffeine. Mixing in previously brewed coffee grounds will improve soil conditions by supplementing phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper quantities. As coffee degrades, the grounds release nitrogen, which helps plants develop stockier stalks. Worms also have a penchant for coffee. Who knew?

4. Don’t till and kill the soil

Tilling the soil with hand tools will keep the loam light and fluffy, but tilling also destroys valuable organisms that dwell underneath the surface, including the beneficial effects of worms.

5. Water the soil, not the plants

Plants absorb water and nutrients through their roots. In warmer weather, moisture in the leaves will most likely evaporate before it reaches the soil. Wetness on the foliage may also contribute to fungal diseases.

Moral of the story? Use a dripping system that waters the soil and not a sprinkler system that broadcasts liquid and drenches the whole crop.

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Don’t treat aphids on butterfly weed: Garden Advice column

Wade and Sandy Perrin painted a baseball field onto the deck of their backyard. (Photo by Chris Granger, | The Times-Picayune) More home and garden photos »

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Harvest cucumbers while they are young

My cucumbers are big but not so beautiful. They have really hard seeds and are yellowish. What do they need?

A shorter life. To ensure tenderness, harvest cucumbers when they are young — no more than 5-8 inches long. Pickling cucumbers are ready at 2-3 inches. Wait until dew or rain has dried before harvesting to prevent spread of disease.

I’m afraid I may have giant hogweed. A new plant shot up 6 feet in my backyard and has big heads of tiny white flowers. How can I remove it without getting burned by the toxic sap?

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Giant hogweed doesn’t produce flowers until it has lived for over a year, so your plant is not giant hogweed. Growing 8-14 feet high, hogweed also dwarfs most look-alikes. You can identify your volunteer plant at this comparison webpage: Hogweed sap is phototoxic, i.e. it makes skin susceptible to severe burn when exposed to sunlight. The stems of hogweed are hollow and kids have used them as “spyglasses,” with painful results. Our state has a program to eliminate hogweed. Hogweed patches should be reported for eradication to the Plant Protection and Weed Management Section of the Maryland Department of Agriculture 410-841-5920.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at

Plant of the week

Hardy begonia


This year many Maryland gardeners are growing annual begonias as replacements for disease-plagued impatiens. Like impatiens, these begonias will go back to the earth with the first frost, never to rise again. However the genus Begonia is huge, with over 1,000 named species, and one, Begonia grandis, is hardy in Maryland, returning year after year. Perennial begonias bear pendulous clusters of light pink flowers rising above 24-inch plants with light-green succulent, heart-shaped leaves. They flower from July to October, but even when not flowering, the leaves are attractive with red veining. Plant in partial to full shade in moist, not wet, conditions. Small bulbs will form in the leaf axils of the plant and will seed themselves nearby. In Zone 6, hardy begonias benefit from a winter mulching. They are late to emerge in spring, so be careful not to disturb them. — Christine McComas

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Inventor from InventHelp Designs Convenient Herb-Garden Hydration System …


Inventor from InventHelp Designs Convenient Herb-Garden Hydration System (MTN-1580)

PRWEB.COM Newswire

Pittsburgh, PA (PRWEB) July 31, 2013

Many people like to use fresh herbs on food whenever they’re available, but sometimes the time and effort needed to maintain an outdoor herb garden deters them from taking on the responsibility. This inspired an inventor from Fishkill, N.Y., to design an alternative method of caring for an herb garden both indoors and outdoors throughout the year.

“I needed a watering system that not only was easy to use but saved me from having to water my plants on a daily basis and allowed for convenient transport between the indoors and outdoors,” he said.

Ideal for organic-food enthusiasts, vegetarians and foodies, the new product, YEAR ROUND GARDEN, provides a convenient way to nourish and maintain an herb garden year-round. It eliminates the need to water each plant manually each day, which enables the user to leave for long periods without worrying. In addition, the system makes it easier to move the plants indoors or outdoors, and it customizes temperature and amounts for each plant. The inventor has created a prototype of his idea.

The original design was submitted to the Manhattan office of InventHelp. It is currently available for licensing or sale to manufacturers or marketers. For more information, write Dept. 12-MTN-1580, InventHelp, 217 Ninth Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or call (412) 288-1300 ext. 1368. Learn more about InventHelp’s Invention Submission Services at

Read the full story at

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From the ground up: NewBo demonstrates universal design principles in gardens

Have you ever seen a garden designed using universal design principles? Would you like to discover different varieties of delicious vegetables to grow in your own garden? The Learning Garden at NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids, offers visitors all that and more. Linn County Master Gardner and NewBo City Market volunteer Lori Klopfenstein describes the project and what you will find when you go for a visit.

Q: What is the story on that garden project going on at the NewBo Market?

A: The Learning Garden is a joint community outreach project between the NewBo City Market and Linn County Extension Master Gardeners. Located directly in front of the NewBo’s 5,000 gallon, rooster-emblazoned cistern, the purpose of the Learning Garden is to promote nutritional self-sufficiency by demonstrating the growing, harvesting and preparation of food crops. During the growing season, there will be a presentation on some aspect of food production technique each Saturday at 10 a.m. at the garden site (a list of upcoming presentations is at the end of this article).

This year the garden plan has focused on plants that are included in the Slow Food USA’s “Ark of Taste,” varieties of food crops typically grown in our Midwestern region that are at risk of becoming extinct. (For more detailed information on the Ark of Taste, go to Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah has been the generous sponsor of this year’s Learning Garden plant materials. At the moment, you can find squash, corn, ground cherries, tomatoes, peppers, beans and watermelon all trying to make up for lost growing time in three of the eventual five raised beds that will comprise the 2013 Learning Garden. (For detailed information on each of the plants being grown in the Learning Garden this year, go to

The Learning Garden was designed using the principals of universal design, a design philosophy that strives to make any space accessible to the greatest possible range of individuals. To this end, it consists of five raised masonry beds — raised for access by people of all heights, as well as those in chairs, and masonry for durability and to provide a working ledge. Three of the five beds are finished at this time, with the remaining two to be finished in time for cool season planting. Each bed is 4-feet-by-26-feet long and roughly 2 1/2 feet high. There is a base layer of gravel in each for drainage and the remaining 18 or so inches is compost. Before this area is considered complete, there will be some sort of level, permeable path laid between each bed. The beds are spaced 36 inches apart from each other. This construction project has been executed by volunteers.

The Learning Garden is a work in progress. Plans for 2014 include a continuation of the raised bed curriculum, a permanent compost demo site, hops grown on the “living wall” structures already installed near the Learning Garden (to subsequently be brewed for a NewBo Market beer), and “living tunnels” for the playground area, which is also under development. Master Gardener demonstrations each Saturday in August will include: Judy Stevens this week; Debbie Main on Aug. 17 and Beulah Dvorak on Aug. 24. Taste the garden bounty at an event at 10 a.m. Aug. 31.


  • Koi for a Cause, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at Morley’s gardens, 6702 Spring Cove Ct. NE, Cedar Rapids. Free with donation of a non-perishable food item for the HACAP Food Reservoir or monetary donation to Eastern Iowa’s food drive to be Free From Hunger.
  • “Visit to the Farm,” 4 p.m. today at 825 Abbe Hills Rd., Mount Vernon. The event, sponsored by Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa, will focus on urban conservation, sustainable vegetable production and practicing conservation on farmland to improve water quality. Free. Contact: (515) 232-5661,
  • From Seed to Table, 1 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at First Congregational Church, 361 17th St. SE. Linn County Master Gardener Barb Wing will follow a growing season from planting to menu planning. Get tips for favorites and new varieties and how to adapt to a very dry growing season.
  • NewBo Learning Garden Speaker, 10 a.m. Saturday at NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids. Linn County Master Gardener Judy Stevens will give practical advice and answer questions about vegetables. Free.

Questions on gardening, land use or local foods? Contact Michelle Kenyon Brown, community ag programs manager at Linn County Extension,

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