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Archives for March 19, 2014

Gardener: Tips for getting a jump on the gardening season, part 2

Last week I discussed several simple methods to help extend your gardening season. This week I explore more options for giving you a head start in the garden. These methods work equally well at season’s end with the potential to provide a year-round garden.

Insulation is the key to keeping plants safe when cold temperatures threaten. Whatever you can find to trap and retain heat will go a long way toward defying the killing conditions of frost and cold that would otherwise bring an early demise to tender heat loving-plants. Blankets, plastic, buckets and the like all can serve to add critical protection on such nights. Be sure the covering protects the foliage and that it extends all the way to the ground. This ensures that warmth from the soil is trapped, which will add a few extra degrees under cover.

A cloche is an insulating cover made for such purpose. Perhaps you’ve seen these attractive bell shaped glass covers. Dating back to the early 1600’s cloches were and still are a common and effective method of protecting tender plants and food crops. A cloche substitute that I often use is to place plastic milk jugs with the bottom cut out, over my plants. A bamboo stake or stick helps hold it in place, and the lid from the jug can be removed the next morning to allow excessive heat to escape. Plastic soda bottles work just as well. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to protect tender plants through those nights when frost and freezing temperatures are likely. A milk or soda-drinking family can amass quite a collection of cloche-like covers in no time, plus they stack up well for storage when not in use.

Cold frames are perhaps the best and most popular methods food gardeners use for insulating their plants from temperatures far lower than most plants can handle otherwise. Think of a cold frame as a mini greenhouse. The basic premise is a sturdy, insulating enclosure around the plants and a glass or plastic top or lid that allows sunlight in to heat the space. Because of its excellent heat trapping quality, all cold frames must provide that all-important way for heat to escape during the day. Cold frames can be constructed from wood, cinder blocks, hay bales and more.

A sufficiently insulated cold frame can provide an environment warm enough to allow tender plants to thrive all the way until spring, even in the harshest conditions as my friend and colleague Niki Jabbour, author of “The Year Round Vegetable Gardener” (Storey Publishing, $19.95), can attest. She gardens year round from her home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she harvests more than 30 different crops – even in mid-winter!

Container-grown plants offer the benefit of portability in allowing you to maneuver plants away from “Jack Frost.” Having the ability to move plants to a protected area and back again can buy you several weeks or more of extended growing time. The trick to making this work for large containers or those too heavy or cumbersome to move easily, is to place them on top of rolling platforms. I’ve seen several designs in better garden centers marketed for such purposes or you can search online. You also can easily make them yourself.

Microclimates are another technique commonly used to take advantage of pockets of warmer conditions. Think of microclimates as nothing more than small areas or unique growing environments that tend to stay a bit warmer their surrounding area. Typical reasons these areas exist is because they are often protected from wind, driving rain, frost or snow, or because they benefit from heat radiating off a building or protected area. When planted or placed near a brick or stone wall, heat absorbed and retained during the day is released at night. Plants in close proximity will benefit from this exchange. This mini environment can potentially allow plants to survive outdoors when otherwise they could not.

There is a season for everything, but it doesn’t mean you have to delay or stop gardening just because of cooler temperatures. Extending the season is an exciting and rewarding endeavor made easier by knowing a few easy-to-apply techniques.

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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Tips to get your lawn and garden spring ready – Regina Leader

Spring officially arrives this week. Winter is very slowly coming to an end — finally! Are you itching to start preparing your lawn and garden? Can’t blame you for that.

To help you get a head start, the experts at Husqvarna a large producer of lawn and garden equipment, have come up with the following six tips to get the most out of your lawn and garden this year:

1. Clean up, blow and rake: Start the spring-cleaning when the snow has melted and the soil dries up a bit. Remove layers of leaves that can lead to the grass moulding or decaying. (They recommend the Husqvarna 125B blower to get the leaves off the lawn, without disturbing the grass and soil.)

2. Clear away weeds: Get rid of any weeds as early as possible, before the sun gives it energy to start growing. Also be sure to cut away withered leaves and grass from cultivated parts of the garden.

3. Loosen the soil: Soil loosening makes it possible for the oxygen to reach the roots of the plants – and makes for a better-looking flowerbed. In smaller beds hand tools do the trick, but if you’re working with larger areas, a rotary cultivator is best.

4. Trim the hedges: A good-looking hedge starts with the hedge cutters. Hedges with leaves should be trimmed during winter or early spring. Conifers are better trimmed during the growing period, one time early spring and once in the middle of the summer. (They recommend the Husqvarna 122HD60, designed to be easy for home owners  to operate.)

5. Mow the lawn: The lawn needs time to recover after the winter. Remember not to cut the grass too short. With a grass level of 5-9 cm you will have a fine, sustainable lawn.

6. Trim: The secret to an immaculate-looking garden is in the detail. If you want your lawn and flower beds to look good, make sure you trim the edges!

Follow Irene Seiberling on Twitter at

Remember not to cut grass too short as you prepare your lawn this spring. HUSQVARNA  photo

Remember not to cut grass too short as you prepare your lawn this spring. HUSQVARNA photo

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Garden Seed Tips: Organizing Seeds, Understanding Seed Catalogs and More …

Seeds! A word pretty much every gardener loves to hear. Happily browsing your garden seed catalogs and hauling out your existing vegetable seed stash signals that spring is near — or already here. It’s a time of planning, dreaming, mapping and imagining the homegrown harvests to come.

Watch this video to get some basic tips about garden seeds, such as organizing seeds by month so you can easily find what you need to sow as the growing season progresses. You’ll also get tips on understanding some of the terms you’ll come across in your garden seed catalogs. Knowing the common designations for seeds can help you tailor your seed order to best fit your needs and goals for the year.

The video also provides a handy chart on how long seeds of various crops generally stay viable. Germination rates will decrease over time, and some seeds will last longer than others and still achieve good germination, while with other crops — such as lettuce — you will likely have better luck replacing older seed with fresh seed.

Get More Tips With These Great Gardening Resources

The tool mentioned in the video — our popular Vegetable Garden Planner — can help you map out your garden design, space crops, know when to plant which crops in your exact location, and much more.

Try our gardening apps, including our When to Plant App, Garden Insects Guide and Food Gardening Guide, for lots of essential garden know-how.

Need crop-specific growing information? Browse our Crops at a Glance Guide for advice on planting and caring for dozens of garden crops.

Happy gardening!

Shelley Stonebrook is MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine’s main gardening editor. She’s passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food and taking care of our environment. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and .

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Rachel Mellon, an Heiress Known for Her Green Thumb, Dies at 103

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Historic downtown Vero Beach named city’s first Economic Development Zone

VERO BEACH — The City Council voted Tuesday night to create the city’s first Economic Development Zone.

By a 4-1 vote, the council formed the zone, which includes the historic downtown, at the urging of a group of downtown business owners. As properties in the zone appreciate in value, the higher taxes will pay into a trust fund, and from there will pay for improvement projects.

The zone includes about 530 commercial real estate parcels in some of the longest inhabited parts of the city and is roughly framed by U.S. 1 on the east and near 20th Avenue to the west, and the North Relief Canal south to 16th Street.

A recent assessment of properties in the zone counted almost $192 million in total, about 9 percent of Vero Beach’s taxable value.

Only commercial properties would pay taxes into the zone’s trust fund. Areas in the new zone include the U.S. 1 corridor, the Arts District, the 14th Avenue and 17th Street business districts and the Twin Pairs through downtown.

The new zone also includes the Original Town neighborhood. Subdivided for the Indian River Farms Land Co. in 1913, it is now a mix of homes, apartments, offices and churches.

Only commercial land may be involved in an Economic Development Zone, said architect Peter Jones, who chairs a committee of area business and land owners who support the trust fund. However, adjacent areas might benefit from sidewalk improvements and historical markers.

The committee has been meeting for more than a year, after a city ordinance passed in May 2012 allowed tax increment financing, which captures any increase in taxes for a certain area because of increased property value and puts it in a trust fund for improvements to that area.

The amount isn’t likely to be large, at least not at first, according to a report by Timothy McGarry, the city’s director of planning and development. Finance officials told him a 1 percent rise in property values in the zone would generate about $3,700 at the city’s current tax rate. Five consecutive such years would garner $56,000; after 10 years, $210,000. Jones said there also may be state and federal grant money possible.

Tuesday’s dissenting vote was from Councilwoman Pilar Turner. She expressed concern that beach and Miracle Mile property owners might someday want their own Economic Development Zones, further reducing the city’s tax base.

“They’re getting special treatment in (the downtown) area and not others,” Turner said.

Twenty-one downtown business and property owners will serve on a new city advisory committee to develop suggested capital projects inside the downtown area. Jones said so far only concepts for projects have been discussed.

City Manager James O’Connor said City Council will have the final say on how money in the trust fund is spent. Some ideas discussed so far include landscaping, added parking and decorative banners.

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Daycare coming to Lohmans Crossing – Austin American

Lakeway City Council members approved a special-use permit for a childcare facility at the southeast corner of Lohmans Crossing and Rolling Green Drive at the March 17 council meeting.

The 8,000-square-foot childcare facility, which will be called Little Sunshine Playhouse, sits on 1.3 acres owned by Lakeway LS Development, LLC. Developer Stephen Brown said the facility would house 136 students on a daily basis and that the facility will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Their business model is to provide valet service for their clients,” Troy Anderson, director of building and development services, said. “When the children are delivered to the facility, an employee comes out to meet them at their vehicle and unloads the passengers. It provides for a quick turnover of cars, and they aren’t expecting too much queuing of vehicles.”

The assisted pickup method results in car lines no longer than two or three cars, Brown said. The facility is made to look like a “high-end” home, Brown said, using stucco and rock.

“Outdoor playtime is from 10 to 11 (a.m.) and 4 to 5 (p.m.), so not super early in the morning or obviously not late in the evening,” Brown said. “The unique features include kid cams, so you can dial into where your child is in the facility and see them at any time of the day.”

One resident attended the meeting to voice their support of the project, and several other residents emailed letters of support.

“I endorse this facility,” resident Peter Brodnitz said. “I was not too pleased with some of the earlier ideas about how to use this lot. I think that the architecture here looks just lovely. I’d like to speak to the architect about landscaping the driveway area, but overall I think it’s a good idea.”

Council members asked questions of how traffic would be handled and were informed by Anderson that entrances will be built both off of Lohmans Crossing and Rolling Green Drive. Councilman Joe Bain said several residents had complained to him about the potential for a playscape on the property and said he would like to see a solid fence around the playscape, but the matter was dropped when other councilmembers disagreed.

“I love the idea of the kiddy cam,” Councilwoman Dee Ann Burns said. “When I took my little boy to preschool, I stayed outside and looked through the window. You need kiddy cams.”

The motion to grant the special use permit passed unanimously.

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TMLIA, Stout students collaborate on lake issues

Tainter Menomin Lake Improvement Association, a nonprofit volunteer organization, was formed in 1990.

“It has a long history of trying to identifying timely and current issues that will create a better situation and build partnerships that assist in improving the situation,” said Ron Verdon, the president of the association and former department chair and program director for the art program at UW-Stout. “I think a big part of [TMLIA] is education, so my educational background is valuable.”

The retiree felt getting involved in the lake association was extremely important after recognizing how much he uses the surrounding lakes for fishing: “We have a wonderful opportunity here to work as a community to pull people together and create a much better environment than we’ve seen in the past.”

As resident of Lake Tainter, a farm owner and city property owner, Verdon and his wife feel that they are able to contribute ideas from a comprehensive perspective. But, he admits, in addition to both his knowledge and that of the TMLIA’s board members, there are many other partnerships that play a key role in a successful recovery of Menomonie waters. “What we really know is that none of us can do it by ourselves,” he said. “We need to partner with the county, conservation office, city, and Department of Natural Resources.”

Improving the lakes

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wrote a proposal with input from the public and the lake association. The document reports on the Phospohorus Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) and is what Verdon likes to call the recovery program for Lake Tainter and Menomin. The document was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2012.

“It recognizes — from not only a state level, but also a federal level — the impaired waters that we have,” Verdon said. The report helped to establish a plan to achieve the association’s goal: Clean and safe waters by 2018.

In October 2013, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources also approved an erosion grant that would run through June 30, 2014. “The purpose of this grant was to identify an effective strategy to deal with [58] erosion sites on the Red Cedar river above Lake Tainter,” Verdon said.

In 2012, a position was established on the TMLIA board of directors for a student to lend a voice for UW-Stout. Danny Jay, an applied social science major, has been the most recent director, remaining on the board since January 2013. “We established this position because we felt it would be extremely critical to have student participation and input,” Verdon said. “Danny has been doing a wonderful job of sharing insights and bringing student involvement to us.”

Jay has been able to raise awareness on campus among UW-Stout students. “Last semester I started a collective of students who are interested in promoting lake health and lake benefits on campus,” said Jay. “As a result, many students began working on lake-related research projects. Other students made an effort to assist in volunteer opportunities that assist with cleaning the lake.”

In fact, last fall Sigma Lambda Chi, an honors construction organization, assisted TMLIA by surveying multiple cross-sections of the Red Cedar River. The data provided critical information for the consulting group, hired by TMLIA, to write the erosion report, which was funded by a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“They had a very keen interest in the environment and what I really liked about it was the fact that they were utilizing expertise from their own program,” Verdon said.

Not only were the students able to apply their skills learned in the classroom to real life, they also greatly contributed to the association and the community. “Without their commitment, it would have been very challenging for us to put [the project] on a very short schedule,” Verdon said. “We were right at the end of the season and needed to get it done before the snow hit — otherwise this would have been pushed out another year.”

With the help of UW-Stout students, TMLIA will be looking for a finished report this week — just a mere three months since the project started in November.

Verdon and Jay stress that there are several ways for students and the public to get involved. The annual Red Cedar Land, Water, and People Conference was held at UW-Stout Memorial Student Center on March 13. Verdon noted that this event not only educates the community, but also “provides students, the general public, and professionals an opportunity to network, and is very instrumental in building these partnerships.”

The networking opportunity is not limited to the local community of Menomonie; the conference also brought in regional and national speakers.

On April 5, the association is holding a Waterfront Landscaping Workshop in the Dunn County Judicial Center from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The workshop will inform lake shore owners — and anyone else interested — how to landscape their waterfront in a way that ensures the best water and shoreline quality.

Although the details have yet to be finalized, Jay is working to connect students, faculty and community members who are interested in learning about the lake. “At these meetings, we are hoping to educate, brainstorm, conduct research, and work on changing and promoting lake-related policies,” he said.

For more information about the Tainter Menomin Lake Improvement Association, visit Email Ron Verdon,, or Danny Jay,, with any questions or to volunteer to collaborate in the efforts to improve Menomonie waters.

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Garden Views: What is an Extension Master Gardener?

Every Extension Master Gardener has been asked the same questions time after time.  What do Master Gardeners do?  How can you get to be a Master Gardener?  So, it is time to answer those questions.

The process of becoming an Extension Master Gardener begins with an application to your local Extension office.  There is a selection process and then candidates complete course work through the University of Minnesota Extension.  Volunteer time and additional continuing education is done each year.

Who are we?  We are your neighbors, co-workers, friends and relatives.  We are a true cross section of the community.  We are volunteers who enjoy gardening or landscaping, have a desire for life-long learning and have a strong interest in sharing what we learn with others.

What do we do?  Extension Master Gardeners educate, educate, educate.  We do that by answering your questions and explaining how to achieve the results you need.  The pest and disease recommendations are based on University of Minnesota’s best practices in care and management of plants and promote a healthier environment. You will find Ask a Master Gardener booths at garden centers, civic celebrations, farmers markets and the County Fair.  We are in schools working with young people, in churches and retirement communities. At times we offer classes.  For example the April 12th Home and Landscape Fair at Bunker Activity Center offers 21 concurrent sessions on perennials, vegetables, landscaping, habitat, etc. (Further information at the web site

We work with Habitat for Humanity providing landscape design and instruction and also design beautiful demonstration gardens for non-formal and formal learning experiences.  We answer horticulture questions via the Arboretum Yard and Garden line and Extension’s Ask A Master Gardener web site.  We provide outreach services through a therapeutic horticulture program.

Extension Master Gardeners in Anoka County also help residents identify plants and diagnose common insect and disease problems at Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinics at Bunker every Wednesday mid-May through August.

We also support organizations such as Great River Greening, local watershed districts and Anoka County Parks and Recreation and conduct research for University of Minnesota Extension.

The Anoka County Master Gardeners invite you to visit our web page    Have a wonderful spring and summer. You will be seeing us and we will be there for you.

Barbara Harlan is an Anoka County Master Gardener.

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New Garden Landscaping And Nursery Inc

Five application Tree and Shrub Health Care Program is designed to feed and protect your plants. 

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Ramona landscaper wins awards at Garden Masters show

By Karen Brainard

For the sixth consecutive year, Ramona landscaper Scotty Ensign was invited to participate in the Garden Masters exposition at the San Diego Spring Home and Garden Show and, as in the past, he walked away with awards.

Scotty and Rose Ensign sit in front of their Bella Vista garden that won three awards at the Garden Masters Exposition. Photo/Doug Sooley

“I’ve won a different award every year,” said the owner of Scotty’s Plantscapes.

For his Italian-themed garden at this year’s show, held Feb. 28 to March 2, Scotty won Best Intimate Garden and Best Educational Signage, along with Perfect  Nomenclature recognition.

Participation in the Garden Masters is invitation-only.

This year 17 landscapers were in the exposition, featuring full-scale individual-themed gardens. The landscapers have only 3 1/2 days before the show to assemble their gardens.

“It’s a lot of work. You have to be a master at what you do to be able to create a garden that we produce in three days,” said Scotty.

“Scotty was born to do this,” said his wife, Rose, who assists him each year.  “I love it. It’s a wonderful thing to dive into because it’s creative.”

The couple’s garden this year was titled “Bella Vista” and included a sunken entertainment area with a home theater.

“Let yourself take in the flavors of Italy and let it inspire your creativity to come out,” the Ensigns wrote about their design. “This year’s display reminds us to take in our surroundings and let it inspire us to feel like we do when we’re travelling on vacation, when we let our hair down, play and express our creative side.”

Incorporated into Bella Vista were a wooden pergola with bougainvillea climbing the posts, a fire ring, a water feature with a disappearing pond, country manor walls and a stone-top tumbled paver patio, a flagstone walkway with Dymondia groundcover in its joints, landscape lighting, and Italian-themed drought-tolerant plants.

The Bella Vista garden developed by Scotty Ensign of Scotty’s Plantscapes includes a sunken entertainment area with a home theater. Photo/Doug Sooley

The show is hosted by the San Diego Horticulture Society so education is a important part of the display, noted Rose. Landscapers must meet certain criteria with signage identifying plants. Besides including the genus and species names of each plant, Rose added information such as care and growing habit.

The extra effort paid off as the Ensigns were recognized for “Perfect Nomenclature.”

Although setting up the garden is a lot of work, Rose noted that they have involved other family members and it becomes a special time for all of them to work side by side for three days.

Scotty seems to thrive on developing innovative gardens.

“Last year I built a gold mine,” he said, explaining his garden focused on the gold rush days and even included a Model T.

Even more unusual was his creation in the 2012 Garden Masters when he took his inspiration from “The Hobbit” by producing the home of Bilbo Baggins.

Among the Ensigns’ contributors this year were Ramona businesses Ransom Brothers Lumber and Rudi Stockalper Company.

Related posts:

  1. Drought-tolerant plants are subject of Garden Club meeting adline
  2. Ramona’s Community Garden
  3. 11 grapplers advance to Masters
  4. Julian Daffodil Show moves into town hall
  5. Vendors needed for Garden Tour

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on Mar 18 2014. Filed under Backcountry, Featured Story, Local Spotlight, News, Ramona.
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