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Archives for March 8, 2014

4 gardening tips for this spring

By David Scott
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Posted Feb. 28, 2014 @ 4:54 pm

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Easy Planting Tips For Hibiscus Plants

Who can possibly dislike flowers? Be it roses, tulips, daisies or carnations, flowers mesmerize all. But the thought of regularly caring for flowering plants pull us back from growing them.

The good news however is, there are several flowering plants that require very little care yet produce spectacular blooms. One of such plants that are easy to grow is hibiscus. Known for its bright, extravagant, trumpet-like blooms, hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants which boasts several hundred species that are native to tropical, sub-tropical and warm-temperate regions of the world. Some of the hibiscus plants are annual plants whereas some can live for over two years.

Easy Planting Tips For Hibiscus Plants

If we talk about hibiscus rosa-sinensis (species of hibiscus commonly known to us as Chinese hibiscus or China rose) specifically, the most strikingly beautiful feature of this hibiscus plant is it’s large and vivid red, showy flowers.

ALSO SEE: Caring For Your Aloe Vera Plant

Also, the foliage of hibiscus plant with its dark green and glossy leaves provide for a beautiful contrast with the plant’s impressive blossoms, thus making the plant look like an aesthetically pleasing treat to eyes.

So if you are ready to gear up on your plans of growing hibiscus, we have some planting tips for hibiscus that might come in handy for you.

Some important planting tips for hibiscus plants are:

Choosing The Perfect Spot
First important planting tip for hibiscus is choosing the right spot for your plant. Make sure that you plant your hibiscus in a sunny location. Only in case of hot climate zones, plant your hibiscus in a spot that is slightly shady.

Soil Requirement
This is definitely one of the important planting tips for hibiscus. To make sure that your hibiscus is strongly rooted and grows well, plant it in well-drained soil, i.e., the kind of soil that does not retain water when it rains.

However, if the soil in your garden does hold water, you can always improve the soil’s drainage by amending the ground with a small amount of organic material (peat, sand, moss or manure) prior to planting hibiscus.

How To Plant?
Grow it as a single plant, as a hedge plant or in containers, if given the right treatment, hibiscus plants can flourish in any way. When growing multiple plants, make sure that each plant is spaced 3 to 6 feet apart.

Also one important planting tip for hibiscus is that while digging the hole, make sure that the hole is only as deep as the root ball and 2 to 3 times wider.

Water Requirement
Hibiscus plants are water thirsty and can only thrive and produce those beautiful blossoms if sufficient water is given to them. So watering hibiscus plants on a regular basis is definitely one of the most important growing tips for hibiscus plant.

However, it is important here to understand that your plant has to remain moist and not wet so while watering your hibiscus plant, make sure not to drown it.

So, all hibiscus needs is proper drainage and enough water to thrive. Does not that sound easy? I hope that these growing tips for hibiscus plants prove helpful to you.

If you have some more planting tips for hibiscus plants or some quick tips on how to keep those blossoms spectacular throughout the year, do write to us!

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Winter garden tips

By Katie Marks

Posted Feb. 20, 2014 @ 9:40 am

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Tips from Toby: Spring cleaning your home, preparing your lawn and garden

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – We know tomorrow is spring forward time, and we also know it’s time to check the batteries in our smoke detector. Let’s take it a step further.

It looks like the snow and ice are finally moving out of the area and making way for spring. This is a very important time of the year to get your lawn and home ready for warmer temperatures.

We talked it about it over a month ago, but we had a few snowstorms and a thing called the polar vortex that interrupted spring a bit longer, but now it really is time to short mow your lawn. A short mow will cut off that top layer of dead grass and expose the new green grass that is sprouting underneath. Lower your mower height as low as you can without scalping the lawn. Be sure to bag the clippings so they don’t cover the lawn and you’ll have green grass just in time for St. Paddy’s Day.

While you are checking those smoke detector batteries, now is a great time to schedule a full electrical system tune up. Call our friends at Teague Electric and they will not only replace all your smoke detector batteries, but they will clean all the detectors and check out your entire electric system. This includes tightening all circuits, checking outlets and much more all for under a hundred bucks!

It won’t be too long before we will be switching on the AC. Now is a great time to check your furnace filter and also be sure to schedule your tune up from a professional. This should include checking the system for any leaks, cleaning the inside and outside units and making sure everything is running efficiently.

Finally that mower and other lawn equipment have been sitting in the garage for quite a while. From your string trimmers to mower, clean them up, sharpen blades and make sure everything is running well. It’s a good idea to start up all the small engines and make sure it’s all running smoothly, and if not get them in for service before you need them or you could be waiting a couple of weeks without a mower.

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Spring Cleaning Tips for the Garden [Spring Cleaning Week]

spring cleaning tips for the garden

Published on March 7th, 2014
by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg


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spring cleaning tips for the garden

Our friends over at Crafting a Green World are hosting Spring Cleaning Week this week… and, like many other sites in the Important Media network, we wanted to join in. Sure, we’ve published numerous posts in the past about greening up your house cleaning routine… but, as I tried to think of a uniquely sustainablog-gy way to contribute to this effort, I thought “Why not move outdoors?” Yep, your garden space will need “cleaning up” in preparation for Spring planting… so here are some tips I uncovered for getting your soil ready for those tomato plants!

7 Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Vegetable Gardening Space

  1. Weed: It’s amazing how hardy some weeds can be – I know I’ve already got a few in my square foot gardening space, and even more in the beds (which I’m slowly converting to food plants). Marie Ionatti at notes that we’re now in the best season for weeding, because damp soils and weed seedlings make for easy pulling. Once you done that, get proactive about keeping those weeds out
  2. Turn: Did you plant cover crops last Fall? Good for you… now it’s time to turn ‘em over into the soil.
  3. Loosen: OK, if you didn’t plant cover crops, you still want to loosen up the soil to get air back into it.
  4. Compost: that soil needs organic matter to get it back into growing shape, so Ionatti also suggests  “top dressing” your space with 2-3″ of fresh compost. Other gardeners recommend other organic amendments, from wood ash, bone meal, and limestone, to straw and goat manure (which requires no composting).
  5. Rake: OK, so this is more of an aesthetic consideration, but it’ll do your motivation a world of good to rake those beds neat and even.
  6. Mulch: Whether it’s bark, leaves, or straw, mulching not only helps control weeds, but also helps hold moisture in the soil. And, of course, it gives your gardening space that nice finished look.
  7. Plant: Yeah, go ahead and get started! Spinach and peas can work well before the last frost hits.

Got other tasks you wouldn’t dream of leaving off a Spring cleaning list for the garden? Let us know…

Image credit: Rjabinnik and Rounien via photopin cc

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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at

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Cheyenne River Youth Project Promotes Health, Sovereignty With Organic …

As the winter begins to wind down, gardening season is just around the corner, and the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP) is gearing up for its Get Out and Garden! Program designed to promote food sovereignty, agricultural development and community health through organic gardening. The free classes begin Thursday, March 13, and will include practical life skills-based training from seed to harvest and beyond.

RELATED: Cheyenne River Youth Project Turns 25, Launches Endowment and Keya Cafe Featuring Homegrown Food

The classes are open to all community members in helping to build a sustainable food system on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. This year’s programs include:

Thursday, March 13 (5:30-7 p.m.): Gardening Basics—An introduction to garden preparation concepts for beginning gardeners. Michelle and Rick Grosek of Bear Butte Gardens outside of Sturgis will be visiting to lead the discussion. They have many years of Prairie gardening experience to share with everyone. While the class will be aimed at beginners, Michelle and Rick are an excellent resource for any gardener seeking to learn more.

Thursday, March 27 (5:30-7 p.m.): Backyard Poultry Keeping—If you are a fresh egg enthusiast this is the class for you! Topics to be covered include chicken coop construction, bird varieties, and chicken health. There will be baby chicks, as well. This is one not to miss!

Thursday, April 10 (5:30-7 p.m.): Building and Designing your Garden—This class will focus specifically on preparing and designing a garden plot that fits the needs of your family and the conditions of your growing site. Participants will learn about several different styles of garden design. At the conclusion of the class participants will have drafted their own garden design and a plan for implementing it!

Thursday, April 24 (5:30-7 p.m.): Garden and Craft Entrepreneurship—Ever thought about selling the extra vegetables in your garden or the crafts you put together at home? Join us for an introductory presentation on food and craft entrepreneurship led by Four Bands Community Fund. This is a must attend for all those interested in having a booth at the CRYP Farmer’s Market during the 2014 season.

Thursday, May 8 (5:30-7 p.m.): Garden Irrigation and Organic Fertilization—Gardening on the water weary prairie is not always an easy task! This program will focus on cost and time efficient ways to irrigate your garden crops during the dry summer months. Organic and DIY methods of garden fertilization will also be covered.

CRYP youth members learn about organic gardening. (Ryan Devlin)

The focus of CRYP’s gardening programs is the award-winning Winyan Toka Win (which means “Leading Lady” in Lakota) Organic garden, which is planted and managed throughout the growing season by community children and teen youth through the Gardening Club, classes and internships.

The two-acre plot not only provides organic fruits and vegetables to the local community, but also jobs and a host of other life skills that include cooking, canning and marketing vegetables and food items at the CRYP Farmers’ Market.
CRYP’s gardening program is made possible by many individuals and community members and through the support of our partners, including the Northwest Area Foundation, National Relief Charities, the J.R. Albert Foundation, the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation (DARE), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Notah Begay III Foundation.

To make a cash or in-kind donation to support our Get Out and Garden! Program, please visit CRYP’s website at and click on the Donate Now button.

For more information on the classes, contact Ryan Devlin at, or follow CRYP on Facebook at for updates and details.

Founded in 1988, the Cheyenne River Youth Project is dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities, ensuring strong, self-sufficient families and communities. Today, CRYP provides a wide variety of programs and services to the community, covering nearly 3 million acres in South Dakota.

RELATED: Cheyenne River Youth Project Gives its Children a Better Life

‘Diabetes Is Not Our Way’: Cheyenne River Youth Release a Prevention Campaign

RELATED: Cheyenne River Teens Learn Healthy Eating and Diabetes Prevetion

CRYP incorporates traditional Lakota values with organic gardening. (Ryan Devlin)


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Outdoor living trends: Cozy seating, garden rooms, small water features

Last week, the Yard, Garden Patio Show wrapped up the show season, which began with the Northwest Flower Garden Show in early February and continued with the Portland Home Garden Show. After seeing them all, one thing’s for certain: The trend in outdoor living is getting a little makeover.

Garden rooms and cozy seating areas edged out the large kitchens and massive fireplaces so popular over the past few years. Water features calmed down, too. Though there were a few small waterfalls, most designers went for something different, everything from a soundless water wall to an aluminum animal trough accepting water from faucets made of plumbing parts.

At all three shows, sustainability was more significant than ever. My challenge of the season is to figure out how to make a bark edging for one of my beds like the one in the “Abundant Nature, the Urban Edible Garden” designed by volunteers from the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers. Like the rest of the display, it was magical.

Some other observations:

  • Miniature gardens and terrariums largely disappeared.
  • Glass glittered everywhere: bird baths, water fountains, chandeliers and sculpture.
  • Edible gardening is way beyond a trend.
  • Sustainability is a given.
  • Living walls seem about to fall down.
  • Art and arbors come full circle.
  • In the realm of plants, gold reigns.

Popular plants

1. OK, I’m calling it. Once again, hellebore is Plant of the Year, with a capital P. Garden displays overflowed with these gorgeous winter-bloomers, and it seemed like every third person walked out of the shows clutching some. With advances in breeding over the past decade or so, it’s no surprise hellebores are getting such attention. Flowers that once were single, nodding and an almost-boring white-green now come in the darkest purple to the whitest white, some freckled or margined in another color. Many flowers turn their faces to the sky, easier to be enjoyed from above.

2. Coming in as Color of the Year were gold-foliaged plants, everything from the up-and-coming ‘Chief Joseph’ lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) to yellow forms of yucca such as ‘Color Guard’ and ‘Gold Sword.’ As one shopper said, “We need the bright color in winter.” She’s right, but it doesn’t have to be winter. The garden can always use a flash of gold. Just don’t overdo it.

3. We don’t have far to look to see moss in the Northwest, but it showed up in garden displays in unusual ways, most notably as place mats in the “Bountiful Feast” garden by Jenna Bayer Garden Design and Showscapes. The soft stuff also appeared in green walls, peeked from hanging baskets and bubbled between path pavers.

Second time around

4. Sustainability has become a hallmark in all three Northwest shows, but “Abundant Nature — An Enchanted Food Forest” at YGP took it to new heights this year. Made by volunteers from the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers, the exquisitely detailed garden included a moss-covered hobbit mound that grew from a foundation of old tires and a ruin garden made of all manner of salvaged material, including bricks and architectural pieces. The highlight for me: two Celtic-styled doors — one for the hobbit house and one for a garden shed — created out of old fencing by Jane Hart of Jane’s Backyard.

Patio perfect

Outdoor entertaining is on a more intimate footing this year. Rather than giant-sized kitchens, fireplaces and big-screen TVs, there were upholstered sofas and pillows in conversational arrangements; tables set for dining; even a massage table surrounded by sweet-smelling cedar and warmed by a nearby fire.

LMeyer Design and JP Stone Contractors worked around a ’60s theme with a curved black banquette; black and white polka-dotted square seats; and a lava lamp.

5. In “Come Alive Outside” by Dennis’ 7 Dees Landscaping and Garden Centers, the style was sophisticated country chic under a peaked glass house.

Circle around

6. It’s too early to tell if it will roll into a trend, but circles were everywhere, especially as entryway arbors made of metal. But there were orbs, spheres, round sculptures and Patrick Gracewood’s laser-cut steel panels, fashioned from his original paper cut art and featuring circles within squares, which signify heaven on Earth.

— Kym Pokorny

Kym Pokorny covers gardens for national magazines and other media. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @kympokorny

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Fort Collins landscape program series set to kick off

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Learn more about permaculture in a session planned for 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at Midtown Arts Center, 3750 S. Mason St.

Permaculture is far more than a gardening technique; it is a philosophy of working with, rather than against, nature. Seeking to imitate naturally occurring patterns, permaculture is most commonly applied to landscape design.

Patrick Padden, permaculture educator, will share ideas about how to make your own yard more sustainable and organic.

This is the first of three landscape programs in the annual Residential Environmental Program Series.

• Unique and Functional Xeriscape on April 2, features Loretta Mannix, The Horticulture Consultant. Discover how to create a well-designed landscape with design tips for transitioning from lawn to garden beds, including a variety of exceptional, underused plants.

• Wildscaping 101: Habitat Hero Landscaping on April 9 is with plantswoman and author Lauren Springer Odgen and plant biologist and author Susan Tweit. Learn why and how to provide habitat for songbirds and pollinators, while saving water.

Information and RSVP:, call (970) 221-6700, email or TDD (970) 224-6003.

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Green living: For homeowners, ideas flow in to ease drought

Green living: For homeowners, ideas flow in to ease drought


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Anna Bjšrnsdotter tends to her peach tree in the garden of her Long Beach home on Wednesday afternoon.

L.A. County offers residential water rebates

There are a variety of programs to help residents conserve water, including the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Water District’s rain barrel rebate.

The water district offers a $75 rebate when a resident buys a rain barrel, which can be used to collect water and irrigate plants, trees and gardens.

Larry Rich, Long Beach’s sustainability coordinator, said that a 1,000-square-foot roof can shed 600 gallons of water during a storm that produces 1 inch of rain.

The county’s water district also gives rebates for high-efficiency toilets and soil moisture systems,

Visit for more information on those rebates.

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California also offers advice on how to conserve water at The site lists programs, rebates, landscaping tips and factoids such as: “A leaky faucet can waste 1,500 gallons of water per month.”

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth and final story in a series on environmentally friendly, or green, homes in Long Beach.

Beneath dark clouds and driving rain, Larry Rich pulled his parka over his head and pushed on quickly, raising his voice to be heard above the sound of sloshing muck beneath his feet as he treaded over to a concrete shelter and took cover under a corrugated aluminum roof.

As he spoke with a sense of urgency about California’s drought, water from the roof of the building, which houses landscaping tools and stone features, flowed onto the ground and into a handful of rain barrels designed to catch precipitation to be used for irrigating plants and trees.

Even in the face of the powerful winter storm that hit the state last week, Rich wasn’t hesitant to share his message about saving money and doing one’s part for the environment.

He shrugged off the irony of delivering such a message in driving rain because it seems lately that people are starting to get his point that water conservation is important.

Since Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared California in a drought in January, Rich, Long Beach’s sustainability coordinator, has been hearing from more homeowners interested in water conservation.

“We saw an uptick in people being interested in rain barrels,” Rich said.

Rich could be fielding even more calls from Long Beach residents following Brown’s highly publicized signing of legislation earlier this week to assist drought-affected communities and provide funding to make better use of local water supplies.

Although some believe that the drought will pass and water in the future will be plentiful, others such as Rich fear that climate change could bring abouta “new norm” for California.

Such a change could bring more drought conditions to the Western U.S., which is currently in a three-year period of severe drought, and stronger storms to much the rest of the nation, such as the East Coast’s current “polar vortex” phenomenon.

Regardless of whether people are climate change believers or naysayers, the region always has been a place with moderate rainfall in the winter and almost no precipitation in the summer, Rich noted.

It’s Rich’s practice to keep the drought in mind at all times and plan for the long term – and he hopes Brown’s declaration will continue to help make people aware that they live in a region without a lot of rainfall.

“For us, it’s always a drought,” Rich said. “We’re in this for the long haul in terms of greening our city and society.”

Rich was talking about the importance of water conservation at Willow Springs Park, a 47-acre, city-owned property with a master plan to gradually restore habitat to California native plants and provide enhanced public access and amenities.

He treats the park like it’s a microcosm of the city. As he walked around the park, he spoke enthusiastically about what homeowners can do to conserve water.

Besides helping being more environmentally conscious, there are real dollar incentives for making homes more green and water-efficient – and despite the dark clouds that have recently produced some much-needed precipitation, there is still one of the worst droughts in California history to consider, Rich said.

Rich, who has been the sustainability coordinator since 2008, when the city’s Office of Sustainability was formed, can rattle off a long list of incentives offered by the city and the county, some of which have come and gone.

The Laundry to Landscape program, also known as the gray water pilot program, enabled residents to use their washing machines to provide water for landscapes. The program was started in 2011 and since has ended.

The city conducted 33 gray water installations. The program had mixed results, but it taught Rich and his staff a great deal, he said.

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Skaneateles Town Board learns about landscaping portion of Western Gateway …

SKANEATELES | The Skaneateles Town Board hopes to soon seek bids for the landscaping portion of its Western Gateway Improvement Project that saw renovations done to U.S. Route 20 on the western end of town.

After the project finally broke ground in August 2012 after years of delay, the landscaping portion was cut out of the original plan because of a lack of funding. The town hopes to complete that portion with a combination of donations and either grant funding or town money.

At Thursday’s meeting, Larry Hasard, the New York State Department of Transportation resident engineer for western Onondaga County, was on hand to answer questions and provide guidance about the landscaping portion.

Hasard said he understood the town wished to move forward with that portion but wanted to make changes to the original landscaping plans and would help figure out what the town wants to do and how it can do it with “the least amount of bureaucracy.”

Supervisor Mary Sennett said she felt the Western Gateway landscaping is supposed to complement the landscaping already in place throughout the village, but the current plan seems out of context and separate from what’s already been done.

“This is essentially an extension of the sidewalk area that runs through the center of Skaneateles,” she said. “It’s not in keeping with the streetscapes in the rest of the community.”

As an engineer, Hasard said he was not involved with the development of the landscaping plan but believes it represents a plan that is acceptable in terms of safety and visibility for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

Still, Sennett said she feels the current plan does not fit in with the existing appearance of the village along Genesee Street.

“I think that’s my no. 1 concern – to preserve the look and feel of what we’re used to in the community,” she said.

Hasard said the town can “basically do anything you’d like” in terms of altering the original plan, as long as the new ideas are consistent with the location and plant types set out originally.

All the town needs to do, he said, is to confirm that it will do the work and then update its insurance and contractor for the project.

The town can delete plants – such as shrubbery and grasses that were not popular originally – without a problem. But Hasard said changing species of plants would take some work, since the DOT would need to approve the new plan.

“That’s really what our only interest is – just making sure those efforts are consistent with the use of the highway,” he said, reiterating the importance of safety and visibility as part of the landscaping.

He said a DOT landscape architect could provide better guidance on choosing acceptable species, and the board hopes to have one at a future meeting.

Councilor Nancy Murray said the town will seek donations for the landscaping – particular to purchase trees and possibly memorial plaques and benches – but could not seek donations until it used up its original grant funding.

Hasard noted, though, that the Western Gateway project exceeded its budget, so the original grant funds were depleted. The infrastructure for planting, however, was put in place during the construction, he said.

Councilor Connie Brace asked if the town could obtain a new grant for the landscaping, while Murray said she received two pledges and at least 10 phone calls from people interested in donating.

Murrray suggested the town stick with the original plan of 16 trees but delete the grasses from the plan.

“We’ll make a board decision on that when the time comes,” she said.


  • The board voted unanimously to authorize closing the town Transfer Station on June 10 for an employee training day.
  • The board approved requests from the Skaneateles YMCA and Community Center to use Austin Park, Searing Fitness to use Clift Park, and Grace Chapel to use Clift Park.
  • The board approved rules for the farmer’s market, which include the Saturday market starting at 9 a.m. and both Thursday and Saturday markets running from May through October.
  • The board voted unanimously to establish a Planning and Zoning Subcommittee that will include two members of the Planning Board, two members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and two members of the Town Board.
  • The board voted unanimously to transfer $11,000 from the Water Consolidated Repair Reserve Fund for an upcoming project.
  • Sennett reported the town court received a Justice Court Assistance Program grant to make updates to the court office.
  • Councilor Claire Howard said she attended a recent Comprehensive Plan Review Committee meeting, where the committee finished reviewing the text of the document. The hope is to submit the plan to the town and village review committee by April.

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