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Archives for March 10, 2014

Expert digs up tips for all-weather gardening

MASON CITY | Being a weather-resistant — or all-weather — gardener is a skill worth cultivating in North Iowa, attendees at a gardening workshop were told Sunday at the Home and Landscaping Show.

“It’s what to do when Mother Nature doesn’t play well with others,” said John Sjolinder, a gardener and executive director of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Cerro Gordo County.

To help plants survive in cases of extreme wet weather or drought, both of which occurred during the 2013 growing season, Sjolinder suggested it’s always wise to diversify.

“And just get used to the idea that some of your plants aren’t going to make it,” he said.

The weather is what it is.

“But we as gardeners can take a much more active approach to planting,” Sjolinder said. “We can be smarter about our plants and what they need and how and where to plant them.”

Choosing plants native to the Upper Midwest is always wise.

Beyond that, talking with successful gardeners is always helpful, especially if their land is similar to yours.

” ‘Steal’ plants from your neighbors,” Sjolinder said. “Get tips from people that have been successful.”

Sjolinder also recommended being realistic about plant hardiness.

Although the growing zones are shifting north, borderline plants for our area do not tend to do well, he said.

Plants hardy to Zone 4 will be most reliable.

Container gardens offer flexibility by being easy to move from one location to another.

In a discussion that included much science background relating to what plants need to survive, Sjolinder explained how some plants do better than others in extreme dry or wet conditions.

Plants that do well in sun, for example, tend to have small, thick leaves. They don’t lose moisture during the day, Sjolinder said.

If a plant does not survive, remember that trial and error is a part of the learning process.

“Killing plants is not a bad thing,” Sjolinder said. “It’s a way to find out what works and what doesn’t.”

There can be enough success to plant again next year.

Bob and Sally Becker of Mason City were among the gardeners who attended the session to pick up a few pointers.

Last year, they had some ornamental plants that wilted in the drought and didn’t come back, said Sally.

“I think we really have a better idea of what to do this year so we don’t have the same problems,” she said afterward.

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Gardener: Tips for getting a jump on the gardening season, part 1 – Columbus Ledger

There is a season for everything, but this is ridiculous. Winter shows no signs of letting up in many parts of the country, and many people I know are “done with winter” as I’ve heard many times lately. Out of patience, many of us will try to defy the odds, throw care to the wind and accelerate the beginning of the planting season with reckless abandon.

Fortunately the downside of such a gamble is minimal. Perhaps a few flats of mushy annuals that will need to be replanted, along with repeating the time it takes to do so. Yet any time spent outdoors in the fresh air on a beautiful warm sunny day is never wasted. However, if you’d like to improve your odds of success in beating Mother Nature at her own game, try a few of these tricks to jumpstart your gardening season.

The first place to start if you’re digging in the dirt well ahead of the first average frost date in your area is to purchase plant varieties that are considered hardy. That’s a term that references a plant’s winter toughness for your area or growing zone. Keep in mind, a plant variety that is hardy in Atlanta’s zone 7 doesn’t make it hardy in Denver’s zone 5, for example. Know your zone and do your homework to seek out hardy varieties of the plants you want to add to your garden. The bonus is that you also will have plants more likely to last longer in fall and beyond than similar non-hardy options. If you still have seeds to plant, it works for this, too. Most seed companies list this information routinely in catalogues and online and frequently hype its hardiness tolerance.

Another technique I often use includes applying a thick layer of organic mulch around the base of all my plants. Not only does it keep the roots warmer, it also helps to maintain the soil temperatures at a more even level and can reduce the chances of the ground freezing or heaving. It’s important to note that mulch will do nothing for any winter damage above ground. Yet, as long as what’s underground is still alive, there is a good chance of partial or even full recovery above. On the other hand, when it’s practical, as with spinach or strawberries, you can cover the entire plant in a layer of straw mulch to add an additional barrier of protection for the roots and foliage. The mulch is light enough so as not to smother the plants and still allows enough light in for plants to function.

Physical barriers are another effective way to retain and capture a few extra degrees of heat while keeping killing frost off of young plants especially. There are numerous versions of protective covers you can place over plants for light protection, yet they often make the difference between survival or not, particularly for tender new plants placed in the ground before the last risk of frost has passed. One common choice is known as floating row covers. The material is typically made of fabric that is strong yet so light, it can actually lie directly on the plants as though it appears the fabric is floating, hence its name. Alternatively, you can support row cover material with metal wire, conduit, or PVC pipes stuck into the garden beds. The row cover material is placed over the frame supports, a few inches to a foot or so above the plants. It is then pulled tightly and secured around all the edges with bricks, soil or whatever you may have that is convenient and sturdy enough to hold it in place.

Row cover material made for such purpose is designed to allow light, water and air in but provide a protective barrier from frost and pests. When the sides are secured around the bed completely, several extra degrees of warmth can be retained and could make the difference in survival for marginally hardy plants.

Check back next week for more techniques designed to help extend your gardening season.

Joe Lamp’l is the host and executive producer of Growing a Greener World on national public television, and the founder of The joe gardener� Company, devoted to environmentally responsible gardening and sustainable outdoor living.

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Armstrong Garden Centers Offers Water-Saving Tips For Customers Living In …

drought_cracked earthCalifornia is experiencing one of its driest years in history, and a major concern among garden center retailers is the perception of residents, who might think the best way to conserve water is to forgo landscaping on their own properties.

In February, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency and called on residents to voluntarily decrease their water use by 20 percent. State officials have reported that 17 communities are in danger of running out of water in the coming weeks.

Retailers now have the challenge of communicating to their customers that conservation doesn’t have to mean sacrificing lush landscaping.

Altering Public Perception

“There is a worry the wrong message will resonate with the end consumer not to plant and let their yard suffer,” says James Russell, vice president and general manager of Armstrong Garden Centers.

“The message to target the plants rather than the way water is applied is having an effect. A short-sighted message promoted by those that sell so-called drought tolerant shrubs is taking hold and is shunning those who want a lusher tropical look,” says Russell. “A recent newscast showed a homeowner in the shadows not wanting to be on camera because her lawn and landscape were so green and lush. Balance is what we need. Succulents and native shrubs are great and should be a part of living in California.”

Russell says he believes growers should not allow the drought to take away what many people enjoy about living in California.

“If the media and government messaging continue to target plants as the reason we are in a drought, the effects will be a dry-looking, rock garden type of California,” he says. “We have the technology in irrigation control and devices that, if implemented, should not stop a consumer from having their garden of choice.”

If retailers can get the word out on how to best water, as well as the fact that most flowers do not need as much water as they are typically given, Californians could live between low water years without sacrificing the beauty of flowers in their homes and communities.

“Our company message is ‘Don’t change your garden; change the way you water!’ Research shows that California gardeners over water their gardens by as much as 50 percent,” Russell says.

Tips For Your Customers

Armstrong Garden Centers’ experts suggest that gardens and landscapes would actually be healthier if residents watered less, but more effectively.

Here are ten simple tips from Armstrong Garden Centers that could help your customers save water outdoors in a drought:

  • Water early in the morning: Set automatic sprinklers to run in the early morning and finish before 8 a.m. This will reduce evaporation and will lessen the likelihood of water waste from interference from winds. It will also reduce plant disease and water damage.
  • Mulch: Placing a layer of organic mulch on the soil surface around plants can save hundreds of gallons of water each year. Mulch prevents water evaporation and also stops weeds from growing.
  • Repair and adjust sprinklers: Observe sprinklers as they run. Adjust them as necessary to reduce overspray on sidewalks, roads and patios etc. Repair damaged sprinklers immediately. Check pipes for leaks. Quick repairs and adjustments can save as much as 500 gallons each year.
  • Water deeper, but less often: Most gardens on automatic sprinkling systems in California are over watered. Change systems to water every other day or every third day. At the same time, increase the times by only 50 to 75 percent. There will be less evaporation and water will be further down to where roots can access it.
  • Change watering times with the seasons: Gardeners should adjusts automatic systems at least three times per year. Highest frequency will be July to October, lowest will be November to March, with April to June somewhere in between. During periods of rain, turn off automatic systems.
  • Use trigger sprayers when hand-watering: Every hose should be equipped with a trigger sprayer so water is not wasted. Also, use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks.
  • Minimize water loss in pots: Use water-retentive potting soils such as Danish Potting Soil in all container gardens. Add soil polymers to potting soil and planting time. Polymers store water for plants’ use as the soil dries.
  • Add lots of compost to your soil: Adding store-bought or homemade compost to planting beds and pots will decrease the amount water needed. Clay soils that are amended with organic matter will accept and retain water better. Sandy soils improved with compost will have improved water absorption and retention.
  • Use organic fertilizers: Organic fertilizers slowly release nutrients into the soil at a natural rate that matches plants’ needs. With a slow, even feeding there is no overabundance of soft green growth that chemical fertilizers produce. Thus, plants need less water when fed organically.
  • Install a smart sprinkler controller: The latest technology can help dramatically reduce water use (and water bills). These wireless “smart controllers” activate automatic sprinklers via computer based on current weather data and information about the specifics of your garden. This type of controller can save 40 gallons or more each day.

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Good Samaritan rescues driver after truck tips over

Published: March 10, 2014 7:56 AM

The incident happened at the intersection of Stewart

You need the latest version of the Adobe Flash Player to view the video related to this article. Download Now.

The incident happened at the intersection of Stewart Avenue and Merchants Boulevard yesterday. (3/10/14)

GARDEN CITY – Police say a Good Samaritan came to the rescue of a driver whose truck tipped over and caught fire in Garden City. 

The incident happened at the intersection of Stewart Avenue and Merchants Boulevard yesterday. 

In pictures obtained by News 12, you can see the Good Samaritan jumping in and climbing into the cab of the truck to pull the driver out. 

READ MORE: Long Island Top Stories

Witnesses say the truck caught fire moments later. 

It is unclear how badly the driver was injured, or what caused the truck to tip over. 

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Tips on deer and critter control in the garden


Q: Any ideas for dealing with the deer and wildlife that are ravaging my garden?

A: Browsing by deer and woodchucks has resulted in a large loss of plants at our Demonstration Gardens at Cornell Cooperative headquarters in Stony Point. To deal with this we have fenced in some gardens, use spray repellents, and accept some damage and use plants that are rarely eaten.

Your Cooperative Extension will have a guideline list of plants and their susceptibility to deer browsing. There is no list for woodchucks, which eat many vegetables and flowers. We have fenced in our Native Plant, Annual Cutting, Rain, Container and Shade gardens with great success. For deer, Cornell recommends using a fence at least 8 feet high. To deter woodchucks from digging under the fence, make an L-shaped bend 1 foot up from the lower edge of the fence and bury it a few inches underground. If rabbits are a problem, use fencing with very small holes.

Spray repellents work if they are applied consistently, changing brands a few times through the season so the animals don’t get used to them. Spray repellents have worked in our Fern Garden.

The Lower Hudson Valley has a very large population of deer. They are pressured for food sources and are eating plants such as ferns that are on the rarely eaten list, a list that they clearly don’t read!

Unfenced and unsprayed, our Hillside Garden and Ralph Snodsmith Perennial Gardens are evolving into gardens with fewer plants that are rarely browsed. Because the plants eaten by deer in one area can be very different from those eaten in another area, you should keep track of what is browsed in your garden.

Our Ornamental Grass Garden and our aromatic plant filled Herb Garden are, dare I say it and tempt fate, never browsed.

Starting April 27, at 1 p.m. on the last Sunday of each month through October, you can join the master gardeners for take a free hour-long tour of our Demonstration Gardens and ask us questions beginning at 1 p.m. at the Cornell headquarters in Stony Point. For more information, call 845-429-7085 or visit

Donna De Sousa, Suffern, master gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland

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Reigate garden designer to make Chelsea Flower Show debut

Reigate garden designer to make Chelsea Flower Show debut

Reigate garden designer Matthew Childs is celebrating making his debut at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

Matthew’s design talent will be on show as city fund management firm Brewin Dolphin’s Main Avenue garden in the show, due to take place in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea from May 20 to 24.

Brewin Dolphin, which has an office in Reigate, will be making its third consecutive appearance in the Main Avenue.

Since graduating in 2009, Matthew has risen in the industry to win a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) gold and ‘best in category’ at the 2012 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, followed by ‘best in show’ in 2013 for his Ecover Garden.

This summer he will be competing with the crème de la crème of landscape architects and garden designers at Chelsea.

Drawing on nature as his inspiration for the Brewin Dolphin garden, Matthew’s design follows a classical, symmetrical layout, but is also contemporary and forward-thinking, with water used to capture a sense of calm, and two monumental copper arches and a wide zig-zag path dividing the garden into distinct areas, with the apertures in the arches acting as frames for focal points.

Matthew’s planting concept is spring-like in its colour palate, with greens, whites and zingy yellows offset by drifts of crimson and purple.

Matthew has chosen to work with the award-winning teams from Bowles and Wyer and Hortus Loci to respectively, build, source and grow plants for the garden.

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BBC’s The One Show garden design competition returns to Hampton Court

By Sarah Cosgrove
Friday, 07 March 2014

The BBC and the RHS are again teaming up to encourage amateur gardeners to get designing at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Britain’s Great Garden Festival will be part of the show, which runs from July 8 to the 13, and is a competition which tasks gardeners to design a 12m by 12m garden, which celebrates where they live. The winner will get the opportunity to work with top designer Adam Frost.

Entrants will need to think of ways to reflect their community’s heritage, buildings, foods, people or plants or other aspects of their local life. Judges will be looking for originality and good use of plants.

The closing date for entries is midday on March 24. Judges will select the three most promising amateur designers, who will then compete against each other for the grand prize – an opportunity to work with professional mentors to create their garden in time for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in July.

The two mentors, The One Show gardener Christine Walkden and RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal-winning designer Adam Frost, will teach them more about plants, garden design and landscaping, and then will help them create The One Show Garden at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show manager Dave Green said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for someone passionate about gardening and design to learn from one of the UK’s top garden designers and best loved plantswomen. The winner’s journey to bring the garden to life at one of Britain’s most popular gardening shows will be challenging, inspirational and rewarding.”

Last year attracted hundreds of designs, according to The One Show’s deputy editor Michael Armit.

He added: “The garden has also more than doubled in size so the stakes are even higher. The judges are going to be looking for something very special to create impact and make the best use of the larger space.”

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Home Improvement Show Ends – KULR


The Home Improvement Show wrapped up Sunday, and thousands of people turned out to see what new vendors have to offer.

There were 650 exhibits with many displays that offered landscaping ideas. The show typically attracts 30,000 people, but organizers expected record-breaking numbers due to the weather. “This is the first really nice weekend we’ve had here in Billings in quite a long time. People have cabin fever. They’re itching to get out and start their projects,” Mark Hedin said.

The Home Improvement Show wrapped up at 5:00 PM. If you missed it this year, the next show takes place in the fall at MetraPark.

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Outdoor Living Show Brings in Iowans Eager for Spring

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – If you’re one of many people eagerly anticipating spring, you may have found yourself at this weekend’s Outdoor Living Show at Hawkeye Downs. Vendors brought landscaping ideas and the latest mowers to display.

From brick ovens to brick patios, there are plenty of projects to occupy your time this spring.

“It’s been a long winter, and it’s nice to see people getting out and coming out to the show,” said Kevin Manternach, owner of Outdoor Creations.

But he said a deep ground frost and a thick snow cover could delay plans for planting and other outdoor activities.

“It’s going to slow everything up a little bit,” Manternach explained. “Once the sun shines and the snow’s gone, everybody’s going to be eager to get out and get going with things, but we’re going to have to wait until some of that frost comes out of the ground before we can do a whole lot.”

As soon as temperatures allow, Manternach said creating outdoor living spaces with fire pits and water fountains are popular this year. If it’s gardening you’re wanting to get into, keep a close eye on plants that went into the ground last fall, as frost heaves could be a big problem.

“If you plant plants in the fall, they need to have gotten their roots established, to keep the frost from heaving them,” said Devon Dietz, with Linn County Master Gardeners.

Jeff Gonzalez of TruGreen said you should also pay close attention to your lawn as things thaw out, especially if you let it grow last fall.

“A lot of times at the end of the year, people don’t mow before winter, and if their grass is long, it’s going to be susceptible to problems because there’s not enough airflow going through it,” Gonzalez explained.

Problems include snow mold and different types of fungus that can creep into grass roots.

“Getting a good fertilization right off the bat, to get it out of dormancy,” said Gonzalez.

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Models Preserve Wright’s Dreams

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