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Archives for August 25, 2013

Sunday Homes: Kings Crossing gem

The formal living area is just off of the grand entry and features custom woodwork around the windows, crown moulding, a wood-trimmed fireplace and gorgeous white and gray marble floors.

The formal living area is just off of the grand entry and features custom woodwork around the windows, crown moulding, a wood-trimmed fireplace and gorgeous white and gray marble floors.

Home has enough space to entertain, yet is still perfect for a family

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A deer-resistant, drought-tolerant hummingbird haven

Master Gardener Janice Sather has overcome many challenges while landscaping her property.
(Full-size photo)

Janice Sather was a frustrated gardener while living in Alaska. The short growing season and temperature extremes made it awfully hard to pursue her love of plants.

When she and her husband, Curt, moved to the Painted Hills area of Spokane Valley in 2007, she traded that frustration for a new challenge:

How do you create a pleasing landscape on a barren, sloping three-quarter-acre lot that has rocky soil and is frequented by deer?

“We basically started with nothing,” Sather said. “There were ponderosa pines, grass and weeds in our backyard and that was it.”

She had a few ideas about how she wanted the yard to look but knew she needed some help. That came from Nate Lynch, owner of Special Additions Landscaping, who was referred by a local nursery. He put in a rock staircase, paver sidewalk and rock walls, which provided the structure she needed. He also installed the rock features needed for an attractive waterfall that cascades into pools of water.

Other help has come from Sather’s brother, who built a deck, and her husband, who is a welder. He made a 7-foot-tall steel fence to enclose their front yard and many sturdy plant supports. And the three of them teamed up to make a few raised beds.

Sather became a Spokane County Master Gardener three years ago and has used a lot of that knowledge when choosing plants for her garden.

“I was so excited to be in Spokane because it has a lot longer growing season than Alaska,” she said. “I’ve tried just about everything I could get my hands on but have focused on native and drought-tolerant plants because I don’t have an established irrigation system in the back.”

She has planted a wide variety of drought-tolerant plants that includes hummingbird mint (Agastache), beardtongue (penstemon), mock orange (Philadelphus), ocean spray (holodiscus discolor), oakleaf sumac (Rhus trilobata), spirea and yarrow.

Then there is the problem of deer, which come freely into the unfenced backyard.

“I have a lot of deer, so that’s been a learning experience through a lot of trial and error,” Sather said. “I’ve done pretty well finding a lot of plants that are both drought-tolerant and that the deer won’t bother.”

The deer have primarily nibbled on the shrubs, so she has put wire cages around them to help them become established. The only shrub the deer have left alone is an oakleaf sumac.

The plants they haven’t bothered at all include those in the sage (salvia) family, stonecrop (sedum), Apache plume (fallugia paradoxa), globe mallow (sphaeralcea), buffaloberry (shepherdia rotundifolia), catmint (nepeta), rabbitbrush (chrysothamnus nauseosus) and skullcap (scutilleria), which is a groundcover.

Despite the deer problems, she has intentionally planted for wildlife. Sather has put in plants that provide nectar and cover for different animals to enjoy. Hummingbirds apparently appreciate those efforts.

“I have more hummingbirds this year than ever,” she said. “They’re constantly around and even land on me. I think I must have the happiest hummingbirds in all of Spokane.”

Her main sources for native and drought-tolerant plants are Desert Jewels Nursery in Spokane, Plants of the Wild in Tekoa, Wash., and The Friends of Manito plant sales.

Sather has sage advice for others with challenging landscapes:

“Work with what you have. If you think this is the type of landscape you might want, be patient because native plants take time to get established,” she said.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached at For a more complete list of drought- tolerant and deer-resistant plants, visit susansinthegarden.

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Grow Wyo: The sweet spot – Casper Star

Back when I was a county agent, I learned a trick to help farmers and ranchers save 75 percent of their time, effort and water by establishing alfalfa with seeds. The trick was to delay planting this perennial feed source till late August. Think about it, in August, the soil is warm. If you apply water to this warm soil, the alfalfa seed quickly germinates, and by October an established crop is ready to go into winter. If farmers and ranchers plant in the spring, they had to water and care for their crops throughout the heat of the summer. This trick can be applied to gardening and landscaping as well.

If you’ve been procrastinating putting in a new lawn, now is the time. Your soils are warm. With a little water, grass seed germination takes place much quicker than in spring when the soils are cold. Most lawn grasses, and especially Kentucky bluegrass, performs at its best in the cool of the season. Sure, it’s hot now, but we’re heading into the cool of autumn, and by October the lawn you planted in August will be fully established. The same goes for sodding a new lawn. Planting now will save you enormous amounts of time and water compared to a spring time planting.

This is also an excellent time to be planting trees, shrubs, perennial flowers and ornamental. Plant food is made by the plant itself through photosynthesis – the conversion of sunlight into glucose (plant food). Most plants are done growing for the season, but they are still photosynthesizing and storing this plant food for the long haul of winter. Their energy levels are at their highest levels of the year right now, making for a wonderful time to plant. They will easily establish themselves before winter sets in at a fraction of the water and your time. As a garden center owner, I know that the 2014 crop of trees, shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses are ready now at a time of year when most people are done gardening.

In other words, right now you have the pick of the litter, so to speak.

And if you want a late autumn harvest of veggies, consider planting spinach, radishes and other cool season crops like carrots and lettuce now. The same trick applies: warm soils, quick germination and heading towards the cool of autumn. Late season veggies, by the way, are much tastier than spring grown veggies because in late autumn they store their plant sugars for the onslaught of winter. That means sweeter food for you and your family.

So whether you’re a savvy gardener or a procrastinating one; now is the time to do some late season gardening for great results.

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Soil testing for more productive land

Greg Bowman


I can’t believe that September is not that far off. The recent cooler temperatures have me thinking about fall. I am spending a lot of time at the ball park watching my daughter the center fielder play.

Plus, it won’t be long before my wife and I and the Anglands will be making our Saturday trips to see the Dawgs play. Also, our 4-H’ers will soon crank up the fall show season with all the goats, lambs, hogs, steers and heifers.

It is a busy time, but a great time of year. One activity that can assist you in gardening, landscaping and agricultural practices is soil testing.

I know, if you are ever around a county agent they seem to teach about soil testing. We don’t want to sound like broken records, but soil analysis is a great way to check on the nutrient status of your soil and to obtain sound liming and fertilization recommendations based on what is going on under the soil surface.

All agents want clients to have success in whatever they are growing or raising and a soil test is a tool to get you there.

I will be sharing information from a UGA publication by Leticia Sonon and David Kissel on this topic.

For starters, normally you can get a general recommendation for liming and fertilizing in most publications without soil testing. You may get great results also.

The benefits of taking a soil test every two to three years is to take out the guesswork. Fertilizers for example are more expensive in todays world so why put out a product that you may not need or put out at too high a rate. Also, working in your garden or producing hay for winter storage is hard work. You might as well give yourself a good shot at a good harvest so use the tool of soil testing.

Most soil samples we receive in the office are for vegetable gardens, home lawns, hayfields and pasture plus row crops. People want to get a bumper crop on the garden and also want their yard to look great. Farmers want to make sure they are putting out the right amount of fertilizer and lime for production too. When in animal or crop production you can be taking on a big fertilizer bill so you don’t want to waste money.

How do you sample and when? A good idea is to take soil samples in advance of planting time or before things green up in spring. Many folks will sample this time of year to mainly check on that pH status. If they need lime, they can get it out and hopefully start raising that soil pH before the next growing season.

Let’s use a home vegetable garden as the example in how to sample. You will need a digging tool. This can be a trowel, shovel, spade or a hand probe. You will need a good clean plastic bucket to put your samples in. Stay away from buckets that have been used to contain fertilizer or lime before.

This can throw off the analysis results. Before you sample, you need to know proper sampling depths. For a garden, you need to collect sample to a depth of 6 inches. A lawn on the other hand, you would take samples to a depth of 4 inches. Knowing the correct sampling depths is important.

Ok, you have your tools and you are ready to take samples. In your garden spot, you need to go back and forth in a zig zag pattern and randomly stop 8-10 times. Each time you collect a sample, put in the clean bucket. When collecting, push the tool to the desired depth in the soil. Push the handle forward and with the tool still in the soil, make a wide opening. Then, you will cut a slice from the side of the opening that is of uniform thickness. The slice should be ¼ inch thick, 2 inches wide and should extend from the top of the ground to the depth of the cut. If a garden, six inches long. When you take you samples, remember be random where you take them, but make sure you get a good sampling of the entire garden spot. You will then mix the samples completely in the bucket. We will need a pint of that mixed soil to send to the lab.

When you come in, we will get your information, transfer to the official UGA Soil Sampling bag and you will pay $9 per sample. With all the wet weather, it is a good idea to let the sample air dry overnight on clean white paper on a dry surface.

For more information contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email

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“Turn On” Exhibit Adds to Beacon Art Scene

August 25, 2013

By Amy Lipton

The thriving Beacon art scene of summer 2013 has been a long time coming. It’s had many fits and starts over the past 10 years with the first big push being the much-heralded opening of Dia:Beacon in May 2003. Dia’s world-class art collection of mostly minimalist work from the 1960s – present has been a must-see stop for the international art world cognoscenti.

The problem for years was that Dia’s interaction with the town of Beacon and its burgeoning art scene was less than desirable. Geographically divided from town, Dia visitors by train tended to come and leave without ever making it up the hill to Beacon. With the 2008 arrival of Dia Director Philippe Vergne and Susan Sayre Batton as Managing Director in 2011, things have changed for the better.

There’s been a growing public outreach effort and excellent programming of gallery and artist talks, dance concerts, poetry readings and Community Free Days that coincide with Beacon’s Second Saturday gallery activities.

Turn on includes works using light as medium by Joseph Ayers. Image courtesy of the artist

“Turn on” includes works using light as medium by Joseph Ayers. Image courtesy of the artist

The Beacon Arts Organization along with Cold Spring resident Carl Van Brunt’s Gallery gave Beacon its first big push towards becoming an important destination for artists and art lovers. Unfortunately Van Brunt Gallery closed their doors in 2011. The former Beacon High School was initially taken over and turned into art studios and exhibition space by the short lived and ill-fated Beacon Cultural Foundation.

Despite these setbacks, Beacon now boasts a number of interesting art venues and gallery spaces. Some current highlights include Beacon Artists Union (BAU), Hudson Beach Glass (2nd floor art gallery), Mad Dooley Gallery, Matteawan Gallery and Theo Ganz Studio. Another promising development is Kunsthalle Beacon or KUBE at the former Beacon High School, which is being operated by Ethan Cohen, a New York City Gallery owner and curator. He has been involved in discovering and promoting Chinese contemporary artists since 1987 and was among the first to present the work of the now infamous Chinese artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei.

The current exhibition at KUBE is titled Turn On. Curated by artist Joseph Ayers and Ethan Cohen the show includes artists who use light as medium. The exhibition space is darkened and the individual artworks provide the only light sources in the room. The benefit of the darkness is that each work takes on its own space for viewing, not distracting from one another and the overall room feels mysterious and dramatic.

A large text-based work by James Mulvaney. Photo by Brian Doyle

A large text-based work by James Mulvaney. Photo by Brian Doyle

A large wall text piece by Ivan Navarro reads Yes Olafur Eliason using a string of Christmas lights and references the name of the established Icelandic artist, internationally known for his perceptual sculpture and installations that use light and other phenomena. Another large text-based work by James Mulvaney reads How Can Free Will Matter Anymore. These words are painted and lit on a wooden sign to resemble a tattered billboard. They comment on advertising’s bombardment of the senses – constantly testing our ability to make choices based upon need and not seduction.

There are three time-based video works, one is a large wall projection titled More or Less a Dissolution of Self (2009), by Ayers. What seems to be an abstraction of light strips based on a grid or map, upon closer inspection reveals the emergence of a repetitive outlined figure. This work is mesmerizing and a bit eerie, questioning the human figure’s presence in this digitized environment. Brian Doyle presents a 10-minute video montage of various cinematic but non-narrative lit scenarios – simply titled Light.

Whatever (2013), a neon wall piece by Robert Brush, could be a wry comment on the entire endeavor of participating in a group show – as always the artwork’s meaning is determined by its context. Maybe the intention is that viewers give it “whatever” meaning they want to? The exhibition takes on a decidedly political tone with the inclusion of DumbAss (2013), a self described heavy metal music video by Ai Weiwei where he recreates every detail of his prison cell as well as his guards’ fantasies during his 81-day detention in China as a political prisoner in 2011.

A neon wall piece by Robert Brush. Photo by Brian Doyle

A neon wall piece by Robert Brush. Photo by Brian Doyle

Turn On is a compelling exhibition, made the more so by its timing which coincides with two important light-based museum exhibitions in New York. James Turrell at the Guggenheim Museum includes Aten Reign (2013), a major new project that recasts the Guggenheim rotunda as an enormous volume filled with shifting artificial and natural light.

Currently at the Whitney Museum is Robert Irwin’s 1977 work Scrim veil—Black rectangle—Natural light, a large-scale installation that engages the Whitney’s iconic Breuer building and the natural light that emanates from the large window in the fourth floor gallery space.

Irwin is also well known for his gardens and landscaping at Dia:Beacon and less so for his modified windows that change ever so subtly as clear glass panes are placed in different positions among the frosted glass panes, creating reflective light patterns that change with the sunlight throughout the building.

Kunsthalle Beacon (KUBE) is located at 211 Fishkill Ave., Beacon, NY 12508. The closing reception for Turn On will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 31, followed by the screening of Alison Klayman’s award winning documentary Never Sorry on the artist Ai Weiwei.

Participating artists in the exhibition are Isaac Aden, Joseph Ayers, Robert Brush, Mina Cheon, Brian Doyle, James Mulvaney, Ivan Navarro, Nara Park, Ai Weiwei, Emil Alzamora and Steve Lambert. For viewing the exhibition by appointment please call Joseph Ayers at 646-709-9488.

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Speakers cover bees, bats, ferns, Victory Gardens

Conference speakers cover a wide range of topics, from bees and bats to ferns and vertical landscaping. Here is the schedule.

Friday, Sept. 20

9-10:15 a.m., Keynote address,  Great Gardens of the World, Vincent Simeone. Detailed information on a wide variety of unusual and exotic species of plants, picturesque views of natural and cultivated areas and helpful information on garden design and popular trends.

10:45 a.m.-noon, Historic Landscape Preservation: Reinventing an Aging Landscape, Vincent Simeone. Explore the world of historic landscape preservation and how to rehabilitate a landscape.

Vertical Gardening, Mark Dwyer. Plant selection along with the use of various structures can maximize the beauty of your garden while minimizing the “footprint” of these plants in narrow or limited spaces. 

The Herbs and Plants of Beatrice Potter’s World, Jan Powers. A look at the herbs and plants of Peter Rabbit. 

River Clean-up, Michael Coyne-Logan. The history and mission of Living Lands and Waters, a Hampton, Ill.-based environmental organization founded by river clean-up man Chad Pregracke.

1:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m.

Ferns and Mosses, Mark Dwyer. Ferns offer color and texture in the garden and moss have value as a groundcover.

Urban Agriculture Research, Sam Wortman. Economically sustainable food production and the potential environmental issues limiting the growth of urban agriculture.

Patterns in Nature that Inspire Japanese Gardens and the Connections Between Garden and Architecture, Tim Gruner. A sense of calm and peace, the opportunity for fresh, clear thought and awe of nature’s rejuvenative ability are some of the things that can occur in a garden space that might exist in the midde of a busy city or in one’s own backyard.

Plant Clinic Year in Review, Suzanne Bissonnette. Problems with trees and other ornamentals seen in Illinois during this growing season.

Gardening in Miniature, Kathryn Newman. Learn how to creat entire landscapes in a planter. Tips, techniques and easy-to-grow plants.

3:15-4:30 p.m.

All America Selections, Diane Blazek. A look into the past and future of this nonprofit plant testing organization.

Proper Tree Pruning, Less is not More, Scott Carlson. Learn to anticipate a tree’s growth and understand its response to pruning so that the proper cut is made today.

New Trends in Hardscapes, Dave Schneider. Concrete pavers and stone walls for outdoor living spaces.

Organic or Conventional? Jeff Hawes. Strategies of soil management, plant nutrition and pest management to improve your gardening.

Saturday, Sept. 21

9-10:45 a.m., Keynote address, American Home Landscapes, Denise Adams. A historical perspective of the evolution of America’s residential landscape.

10:45 a.m.-12 noon, Sustainable Gardens: Creating and Maintaining a Gravel Garden, Jeff Epping. Based on concepts developed by German horticulturist Cassian Schmidt, these gardens are as lush, green and colorful as any perennial border.

Horticulture Judging: and the ribbon goes to…, Jim Schmidt. The qualities that make common horticulture exhibits blue ribbon winners.

Ancient Gardeners and Gardens, Michael Wiant. Learn how early people laid the groundwork for the gardens and food we grow today.

Beekeeping Basics, Phil Crandall. Beekeeping and encouraging bees to your landscape.

Gardening in Miniature, Kathryn Newman. Learn how to creat entire landscapes in a planter. Tips, techniques and easy-to-grow plants.

1:30-2:45 p.m.

Made Wild by Pompous Catalogues from Florists and Seedsmen…, Denise Adams. How to use old plant catalogs as a research tool.

Sustainable Gardens: Designs and Plants for Greener Gardens, Jeff Epping. How to grow beautiful gardens that require less time, water and chemical inputs.

Bats, Vera Blevins. Putting fears aside, looking at bats as important indicators of a healthy environment and how we can play a part in planning for their future. Live bats present.

Chicago Victory Gardens: Yesterday and Tomorrow, LaManda Joy. The pivitol role of Chicago in the World War II Victory Garden movement and how the city is, once again, playing a leading role in urban food production.







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GOOD TO GROW: August Gardening Tips

  Denise Norma talk about what we should be doing in our landscapes now that the worst of the summer temperatures are behind us.  Deadhead your flowering plants to keep them in bloom, water your fruit trees to ensure a good crop next spring, plan for the spring by reviewing your current landscape, and pull those pesky weeds!  Aired Aug. 24, 2013.

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Some tips to keep garden pests away

We are all bugged by something or other, and this time of year the bugging seems to reach a crescendo. Here is my short list of the most effective bug controls which are, for the most part, no further away than your kitchen.


They love to suck our blood and there are many birds and other “insectivores” like frogs and toads that like to gobble them up. Fact is, we can’t afford to live without them as they are a primary food source for so many desirable wildlife. However, keeping them under control around the cottage and home is something that I understand.

Empty bird baths once a week: Mosquitoes gestate over a 10- day period when temperatures hover around 26 C, so changing standing water once a week becomes an important habit.

Give it a shake: Mosquitoes emerge from standing water through the water surface as adults. The tension on the top of the water is required for a successful escape. If you stir up the water once a day that is enough for most mosquitoes to bite the dust before they mature into adults.

Waterfalls or fountains: Mosquitoes do not breed in moving water.


The people who sell many garden retailers their ant controls tell me that the demand for them has exploded over the last few years.

Here are some at-the-ready controls: Cucumber peels: Place the greenside-down. When ants crawl over the cucumber peel they high-tail it elsewhere as they hate its bitterness. Spray them with a liquid that contains one cup sugar, three tablespoons Boric Acid or Borax laundry soap and three cups of warm water (warm water will dissolve the Borax more readily than cold). Keep away from children and pets.


We move on to bigger critters. Rabbits make me laugh out loud many days as they chase each other around the vegetable garden. But they appear much less cute as they chow down on my Swiss chard and carrot tops. Here is how to control them: Apply a cocktail of blood meal, sprinkled with cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce and some human hair. Two raw eggs, one litre of water, and one teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Mix in a spray bottle and apply to the ground where the problem persists. The eggs should be rotten for best results.

Chicken wire fence. One metre high and buried at least six inches deep.


There are reported to be 10 times as many deer today than when the Europeans arrived here about 500 years ago. And they live on about 10 per cent of the land mass of that historic time. You do the math. And we wonder why they are persistent and widespread.

Rotten eggs: Of all of the homemade recipes that people have recommended to me over the years, it is always the ones that feature rotten eggs prominently that get the best results as a deer repellent, based on anecdotal evidence. Mix three rotten eggs in a litre of water and add hot pepper sauce and garlic for good measure (to taste – the deer’s, not yours).


It is wasp season after all, and nobody is very fond of the garden variety wasp. A store purchased wasp trap can be baited using one third non-carbonated fruit juice and two-thirds water. The fake wasp nests that you find at retailers are effective also, I have found. Wasps are territorial, which is to say that they do not invade each other’s turf. To avoid wasp wars, they politely go elsewhere when a wasp nest is already in the vicinity.

Mark Cullen appears on Canada AM every Wednesday morning at 8:40. He is spokesperson for Home Hardware Lawn and Garden. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at

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Fall maintenance: end-of-summer gardening tips

Provided by

It’s easy to get the gardening bug in springtime, when humans themselves feel like new sprouts finally getting out into the sun (or, for some of us, like vampires emerging from dusky lairs). But as the summer growing season comes to a close and the crowds at the garden centers and farmer’s markets dwindle, we feel resigned to letting it all die and shifting our attention to the fall lineup. This year, don’t let the changing seasons become an excuse to turn back into a vampire (or to watch them on TV). Fall brings plenty of reasons to stay active in the garden, including buying and planting new stuff and gearing up to extend your dirty pursuits into the cold seasons.

Killer Deals on Remainder Plants

Those poor specimens left on the racks at garden centers at the end of summera little droopy, a little dry, and surely a little sad, feeling like the forgotten gifts on the Island of Misfit Toys. But just like the square-wheeled train and the spotted elephant, those “aged” plants just need a good home, and they can be rescued for a fraction of what you’d pay for this year’s hottest toys (or healthiest plants).

Late summer is THE time to watch for sales at garden centers. Annuals are fire-saled, not surprisingly, but the real deals are the perennials that will thrive when planted in fall. Expect savings of 50% or more on many plants. And if something looks especially tired, try to negotiate the price down further; retailers know these plants have one last chance at yielding any revenue. Many sales also include garden tools, as the stores have to clear shelf space for winter merchandise.

Good Time for Planting

Flower children know that fall is when you plant many bulbs for spring emergence. It’s also a good time to transplant trees, divide and replant perennials and lay sod or re-seed the lawn. For many plants, late summer and fall are preferable to spring because the ground is warm (good for digging and encouraging root growth) and the sun’s heat is less intense (good for foliage and your water bill). You can even plant a late summer garden for one last crop yield.

When you’re emptying the shelves at your garden center, ask about planting and maintenance for this time of year and through the winter. Most perennials and trees will survive their first winter if their roots take hold before hard freezes set in, while some plantings should be watered periodically through winter, particularly if it’s a dry one. (Keep in mind that new trees do best in the long run if they’re watered regularly for three years, not for just the first season or year like most people commit to.)

Cold Frames and Hot Beds

A cold frame, for those who aren’t familiar, essentially is a mini greenhouse that lets you grow cool crops, such as lettuce, well into fall. Most cold frames are simple DIY affairs constructed with four short walls (or you can dig a hole instead) topped with an old storm window. As such, they’re perhaps one of the original examples of upcycling, back when it was referred to as “using up some of that old crap in the shed.” If you build a cold frame now you’ll get to use it twice before next summer because they’re also handy for starting and hardening plants a little early in spring. Nervous about making your own, or think now would be a nice time to build a garden shed? Call a handyman!

A hot bed is a nice, warm pile of poop. Horse poop, to be precise. You can turn a cold frame into a hot bed by digging down about 2 feet, adding 18 inches of manure — that is, fresh manure — and tamping it well. Top the poop with about 6 inches of sand to fill the hole. As the manure decomposes it creates heat, making the sand a toasty place to set pots and flats for growing plants in fall and even winter. If you’re not the kind of person who relishes a Saturday outing to gather manure, or you’re stuck in a one-horse town, you can create a hot bed with electric soil-heating cable (available online and through garden supply stores).

Homegrown Help

For fall and every other season, the best sources of gardening information are local gardening and landscape professionals, as well as state and local extension services. These folks know what works best in your climate and can steer you toward local stores and other resources for getting what you need. The most comprehensive extension programs typically are run by state agricultural (“ag”) universities and offer online content and call-in help lines manned by certified Master Gardeners. Many cities have small extension offices and can be great sources for finding cheap mulch and other garden materials, and don’t be afraid to call for help from a landscaper. Whether you’re a resident of Podunk, Illinois or Baltimore, Maryland, landscapers are there for you.

Philip Schmidt writes for

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6 Tips for Using Seaweed in the Garden

When fresh seaweed is applied to garden beds as mulch, the application can help mitigate weeds, and won’t introduce new weeds or pests the way some bark mulch can. As the seaweed breaks down, it contributes to a lightweight loamy soil. Seaweed can even be brewed into a nutrient-rich tea. Here are six tips for collecting and using seaweed:

Photograph by H Matthew Howarth.

How to Use Seaweed in your Garden:

1. Collect seaweed mid-beach: Says EarthEasy’s Greg Seaman, collecting seaweed from the middle of the beach is your best bet. Seaweed that’s mid-beach is far enough from the water to have had an opportunity to dry out somewhat, but it’s not so dry that land-lubbing bugs have had the chance to get to it.

2. Don’t over-harvest: Seaweed has a crucial role in the ecosystem of beaches, so it’s important not to strip beaches of it entirely. Greg suggests picking no more than a third of the seaweed from any one patch.

3. Use fresh seaweed: According to the Royal Horticulture Society, incorporating fresh seaweed into the garden can be a good substitute for farmyard manure. There’s no need to allow seaweed to dry before adding it directly to garden beds.

4. Layer thickly: Seaweed should be added to gardens in relatively substantial quantities. Greg Seaman recommends two applications of seaweed, each about 4 to 6 inches deep. The Royal Horticulture Society recommends a barrow load per square foot of garden. If you aren’t able to find seaweed in these large amounts, even a small application mixed with compost or other amendments will be beneficial.

5. Add it to your compost pile: According to the Rodale Book of Composting, digging fresh seaweed into your existing compost pile can speed up composting. Existing compost bacteria will feast on the alginic acid in seaweed leaves, kickstarting the process.

6. Make a tea: Fresh seaweed can also be used to brew a nutritive tea. Fill a large bucket with rinsed seaweed and fill with fresh rain or hose water. Allow the “tea” to brew for several weeks, stirring occassionally. Strain the nutrient-rich liquid into a spray bottle and use as an organic (and free) plant food! More details on The Hedge Combers.

Above: A 2011 study at the University of Rhode Island tested the effects of green seaweed (ulva spp) on sweet corn, proving its potential as an affordable resource in coastal agriculture. Photograph by Kqedquest.

Above: Gather seaweed into large trash barrels or net bags to transport to the garden. Photograph courtesy of Farm for Life Project.

If you’re not near a beach, consider Neptune’s Harvest Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer, recommended by Brooklyn gardener Marie Viljoen in 10 Secrets for Growing an Urban Balcony Garden.

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