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Archives for March 21, 2014

Tips for Organic Farmers Growing Tomatoes from Seed

Each tomato inflorescence usually has between 4 and 12 flowers that are formed and mature sequentially on a raceme. Individual flowers are perfect, with six bright yellow petals that curve outward, away from the flower as the flower matures. The ovary can have anywhere from 2 (especially in cherry types) to 15 or more locules, which contain the ovules. The six stamens have compact fused anthers that form a yellow cone, 0.5 to 0.75 in (1.3 to 2 cm) long, that surrounds the pistil, with its style and stigma that usually terminates within the cone but can occasionally extend slightly beyond the tip of the cone, which has a small opening. The anthers have slit openings on the interior of the cone, and when pollen dehisces it will shower out of these pores with any kind of motion of the flowers, whether from wind or insect visitation.

As the anther cone of the flower usually points downward, the pollen will thoroughly cover the bulbous stigma, it is well within the anther cone as it is with most modern tomatoes, or the cone is exerted out of the tip of the cone as it often is with many heirlooms. The pollen, which is shed over a 2-day period, will usually pollinate its own stigma within the anther cone, supplying the pistil with plenty of pollen to fertilize a full complement of ovules.

However, the stigma is often receptive a day before pollen shed and remains receptive 2 or 3 days after the pollen from its flower has shed. This means that there are opportunities for crossing to occur, especially with the exerted stigma of the older varieties. When the style pushes the stigma out of the end of the anther cone, it is exposed to possible insect activity. While tomato flowers are not visited by a wide number of insect species, they are often visited by several types of bumblebees (Bombus spp.). Bumblebees have a unique way of clinging to the flowers upside down while vibrating their wings rapidly and shaking the pollen out of the cone onto their abdomen. If the stigma is exerted then it is possible that pollen on their abdomen from a previous flower can be transferred to the flower they are currently visiting, producing a cross-pollination. This is obviously much less likely to occur with more modern tomato varieties, which have stigmas that are well encased in the anther cone; other insect pollinators, however, will sometimes pry the flowers open and cause a cross to occur.

Climatic and Geographic Suitability

Tomatoes can have problems setting seed at temperatures that are too high or too low. At temperatures above 90°F (32°C) and below 60°F (16°C) the pollen of many varieties will be affected and fertilization of ovules will be impeded, both resulting in poor seed set. In extensive experiments with tomato pollination in the 1930s, Ora Smith of Cornell University found that the optimum temperature for pollen to germinate on the stigmatic surface is 85°F (29°C); at 100°F (38°C) or 50°F (10°C) pollen germination was virtually stopped. Smith found that even at favorable temperatures pollen tube growth is slow, taking 2 to 3 days to reach the ovules following pollination. This means that, even if temperatures are favorable at the time of pollination, any temperature swings below 60°F (16°C) or above 90°F (32°C) may severely slow or stop the growth of the pollen tube on its journey to the ovules. Therefore, even when the temperature for pollen tube growth is at or near the optimum during the day, if the temperature drops to lows at or near 50°F (10°C) during the night, any of the pollen tubes that started their journey within the last day or two can stop growing. Alternatively, in hot climates the pollen can germinate and start growing during the cooler temperatures of the morning or evening and then be stifled when hot temperatures approach or exceed 100°F (38°C) in the middle of the day. Once the pollen tube stops it usually will not resume growth. If this happens repeatedly over the course of the several days that the flower is receptive then there is a good chance that most of the embryos won’t be fertilized; hence the fruit won’t “set” and will abort.

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March Gardening Tips From UConn

March Gardening Tips From UConn


Published on Thursday, 20 March 2014 09:24

Written by UConn Extension

Despite the lingering cold weather, on this first day of Spring you can start making garden plans. The UConn Extension has these tips for March.

1. Make plans to attend the UConn Garden Conference on March 21, 2014. Go to for more information.

2. Carefully remove winter mulches from planting beds as snow melts and temperatures warm.

3. Add limestone, fertilizer or organic materials as recommended and incorporate into planting beds.

4. As ground becomes workable, de-thatch the lawn if you find an inch or more of thatch; seed any bare spots.

5. Seeds of annual flowers and vegetables that require 10-12 weeks of growth before transplanting can be sown indoors now.

6. Plant seeds of cold weather vegetables like spinach, peas, lettuce and broccoli as soon as soil is workable.

7. Soak mail order bare-root plants for about an hour before planting.

8. Start saving plastic milk jugs or 2 liter containers to use for individual hot caps or cloches. They will fit nicely over small garden plants, creating a free miniature greenhouse.

9. Clean-up and sharpen garden tools and take an inventory of supplies you will need for the upcoming growing season.

10. Get your soil tested through the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory before any major planting or fertilizing venture. Soils sent in before April 1 will avoid the spring rush.

Visit the UConn Extension here for more information about Connecticut gardening, agriculture, natural resources and more.

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• Tips to improve your gardening in spring (391 views)


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Garden Tips: Use hardy perennials to plant in containers

Marketers are trying to start a new trend in gardening: planting perennials in containers. Advertisements showing annuals and perennials planted together in pots have been evident. However, I am not sure this is a trend that gardeners in our area will want to try.

Locally, we are usually not concerned about hardy garden perennials surviving the winter, even after the cold temperatures we experienced this past winter. When planted in the garden, the soil provides insulation, keeping roots at temperatures above the ambient air temperature. When planted in containers, the perennial roots are subjected to colder temperatures close to the air temperature.

There are options for overwintering perennials in container gardens. One way to protect roots is to dig holes and sink the pots in the ground. That may be OK for a few small pots, but it would be a monumental task for me because I have large pots.

A less troublesome way to protect potted perennials is by grouping and placing them in a protected spot on the ground, such as in an alcove or corner and mulching them with compost or straw.

Perhaps the best option is to move the potted perennials into an unheated structure where the temperature will stay cool but above freezing. An unheated garage is the most likely place to meet these criteria. (With the number of sizable containers I have, this would mean parking my car outside all winter.)

Before storing, prepare containerized perennials for winter. This is done by not fertilizing or heavily watering the plants in late summer and fall. You want growth to slow and stop so the plants can prepare for winter’s cold temperatures. However, still water regularly to keep the plants from becoming drought stressed.

Before placing the plants and pots in storage, ensure the plants are fully dormant by waiting for the temperature to drop below 30 degrees on successive nights. While stored, periodically check the potting mix. If it is dry, water sparingly to keep the mixture slightly moist.

If you decide to follow this trend, select only hardy perennials. Proven Winners, a company that develops and markets annuals, perennials and flowering shrubs suggests choosing ones that are hardy in our United States Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone or one zone colder if you will be overwintering them in an unheated garage or burying the pots in the ground. Since we live in Hardiness Zones 6a to 7b, select perennials hardy in Zones 6a to 7b or Zones 5a to 6b. If you must leave the pots more exposed, the USDA recommends plants that are at least one to two zones colder than your region.

I am sticking with annual flowers in my containers. I want to park my car in the garage and I’m not digging big pits in the yard. I also like the option of trying flower and color combinations each year. That’s what makes container gardening fun for me.

— Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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Urban farming, Easter crafts, home electronics and gardening prep tips: AM …

H21AMLINKART53.JPGView full sizeLearn about raising chickens in urban areas at a library talk.

CHICKENS AND VEGGIES: The Lee Road branch of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Library offers the following classes on gardening and raising chickens. Both are at 7 p.m. , free and registration is required; call (216) 932-3600. The library is located at 2345 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights.

Monday, March 24: Garden Planning by Plant Type. Learn how to grow plants in three plant families – alliums (garlic and onions), brassicales (cabbage, kale and collards) and solanales (tomatoes and peppers).

Monday, March 31: Backyard Chicken Keeping: A representative from the city of Cleveland Heights and Cleveland Heights residents who raise chickens discuss city regulations and tips.

EASTER DECOR: If you’re feeling crafty when thinking about Easter, now is the time to start making stuff. You’ll find instructions for making vases out of hollowed-out eggshells, kids’ crafts, DIY Easter baskets, centerpieces and more at this Martha Stewart web page.

TIMELY TIPS: The gardening experts at Fiskars, which makes lawn and garden tools, offer these  tips for prepping for spring gardening:

1. Draw up a garden plan to be sure that you’re using your available space in the best way. Fiskars garden expert Dee Nash shares tips on how to get started with a simple garden plan.

 2. Decide which seeds to start indoors and which seeds will be sown directly in the ground outdoors. Fiskars garden expert Robin Haglund helps identify which seeds to get growing and which to save for planting outside after the threat of frost.


3. Take inventory of tools and supplies, and make a list of what needs to be replaced or replenished.

TESTING SPEAKERS: Wireless speakers, which allow you to stream music into any room of the house, are gaining in popularity. Many Wi-Fi speaker systems can be linked together to work in a multichannel setup.

Consumer Reports recently evaluated the Play:1 speaker from Sonos, the SoundTouch 20 from Bose and Samsung’s Shape M7 on performance, functions and price. Here’s what the testers found.

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ANN LOVEJOY | Simplify garden care by design

Years ago, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the making of a televised series called “Great Gardens of the World,” contributing a chapter on garden design to its accompanying book. During the research phase, I visited some of England’s great gardens and met the celebrated gardeners whose books I deeply admired.

I recall a jet-lagged yet blissful evening spent at Tintinhull, taking a late-night bath, drinking tea made with an electric kettle in my room, and eating biscuits from the guest room tin. A small window was open to a soft breeze that carried in the mingled scents of apple blossom and manure. Somewhere nearby, a bird sang that could only be a nightingale, and later, I heard a cuckoo call. Amazing!

I was fascinated to notice that the same plants were blooming all across England and in my own garden. It made me feel that I could indeed create a garden like the ones in picture books I loved. Over time, I visited many famous gardens and saw how they were cared for. Slowly, I began to realize that the beautiful borders had more complicated back stories than I supposed. In many places, I met teams of skilled gardeners and heard their work plans for a given year. I toured greenhouses, potting sheds, and nursery beds bigger than my entire garden. Guide books classified anything under 10 acres as a small garden. Hmmm.

I saw, over and over, the power of structure; almost anything looks pretty good against an ancient wall, a clipped hedge, or a stone arbor. However, I was surprised by how often magnificent territorial views were shut out by high hedges. True, they framed an interior view well, but the (to me) grander natural vistas were often ignored. I noticed that while enclosure certainly gives definition and strength to a garden, it also limits it. I realized how much classic European design traditions value the hand of man over the works of nature.

Back home, such observations led me to rethink my ideas about garden design. Though many of us hire an occasional helper or crew, I knew almost nobody with a trained garden staff.

We do, however, have countryside every bit as lovely as that of England. A surprising number of North American plants are treasured in English gardens, many from the Pacific Northwest (including the red alder!). Could we make up what we lacked in heritage masonry with powerful plants and architectural plantings?

In my view, we can. Our native flora offers a full palette of architectural plants, from madronas and vine maples to garryas, huckleberries, and Oregon grapes. Potent naturalistic designs based on wide curves look more at home here than angular imitation classics. Both modest and ultramodern homes sit well within mixed border gardens that blend woody and perennial evergreens with sweeps of seasonal color. Such gardens have power and presence year round and are easier to care for than elaborate borders, large lawns and sharp-angled paths.

Where gardens include lawns, they are far easier to mow when paths and beds are gently curved instead of tightly angular. In our wet winters, brick or stone paths can be treacherously slick. Paths stay drier and provide safe footing in any weather if they are made like French drains, filled with crushed gravel to carry off excess water. Such paths are easily kept weed free with flame weeders (such fun).

In mixed borders, the beds are filled with compatible evergreens, perennials, bulbs and grasses. Any available space holds a running carpet of ground covers that help keep weeds at bay. This community of plants must be kept in balance, so annual editing is required. However, the overall care is far less than that of perennial borders and the garden looks attractive in any season.

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North Mountain redevelopment planned

A northwest Phoenix area is ready to move to its next chapter after a two-decade slide into blight.

The City Council on March 19 unanimously approved the North Mountain Redevelopment Area plan, which will shape a 2,500-acre site over a decade. The plan outlines a set of goals and strategies for land uses, upgraded infrastructure and public transportation to the area, roughly 10 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix.

The redevelopment area stretches into several council districts. Metrocenter mall is its high-profile landmark.

“It (Metrocenter) had the potential of turning into a slum,” said District 1 Councilwoman Thelda Williams. “Now, it will bring confidence to neighbors, businesses and will bring potential retailers seeking space inside the mall.”

When the council designated the area a blight using state laws in February 2013, it asked residents, businesses and other stakeholders what they would like to see it become. The council asked for economic development, light-rail extension, such recreational amenities as swimming pools, college campuses and a cleanup.

District 3 Councilman Bill Gates said word is out about the designation and that businesses are inquiring.

“In meetings as recently as last week, we have had real-estate brokers interested in learning more about the area, the designation and what it ultimately means,” Gates said. “We have also had a group approach the city and is working to install a frisbee golf course in the area.”

History of area

The area’s boundary is 19th and 15th avenues on the east; Alice Avenue, Butler Drive and the Arizona Canal on the south; 35th Avenue on the west;and Cholla Street, Sahuaro and Peoria avenues on the north.

The area is home to such landmarks as the Rose Mofford Sports Complex, the Arizona Canal and the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. It is home to 26,000 people, according to the plan.

It also has 300 businesses, including Metrocenter, which opened in the early 1970s as growth marched to the northwest. The mall and surrounding area thrived until about the early 1990s, when the demographics and housing began to change.

The Great Recession pushed the area into greater decline, city officials said. Retail was hit hard as major retail outlets shuttered at Metrocenter.

According to the plan, the average retail vacancy rate between Peoria and Dunlap avenues and Interstate 17 and 35th Avenue is 28 percent. Citywide, the rate is 12.4 percent.

Vacant buildings attract graffiti, and a lack of property maintenance causes blight, hindering investment, according to the report.

About the plan

The goals of the plan are to bring private investment and development to the area, market underused property, get rid of blight, upgrade infrastructure and create jobs.

“It’s a multiyear effort,” said Alan Stephenson, Phoenix’s Planning and Development Department’s acting director. “There are no set time frames for it and no set cost for it. It’s not redeveloping one site. … It’s a multiple-year action plan for the community to revitalize the area.”

The city’s role would be to do such things as improve parks and provide lighting for parking lots, he said.

Redevelopment can turn controversial, especially if it calls for condemning property and uprooting residents. Many times, those residents are from middle-class or low-income areas, according to national publications.

The North Mountain plan is not expected to take such an approach.

“The city is not going to condemn any private property as a result of the plan,” Stephenson said. “We do not have the legal authority to condemn private property and then turn it over to other interests for redevelopment anymore.”

The draft plan also proposes to raise taxes to pay for services. A city services district, for example, would impose a special property tax to bolster public safety, fire protection, refuse collection or landscape maintenance.

Since the council declared the area blighted nearly a year ago, the city staff has identified possible funding sources to help cover costs, Stephenson said. They include low-interest loans, design-assistance grants and support from government partners, private and quasi-public groups, and foundations. Additional sources could become available later, Stephenson said.

Metrocenter mall

Warren Fink, CEO of Carlyle Development Group, bought Metrocenter mall several years ago. A redevelopment district allows certain movement to make businesses more efficient to make changes economically, Fink said.

He is not a stranger to redevelopment projects. Fink’s group worked on two major projects over four years.

Fink is a 40-year veteran of the commercial real-estate industry. Of that, he spent 15 years focused entirely on redeveloping and repositioning projects.

One of those projects took place near Oakland between 2002 and 2007. The Emeryville Redevelopment Agency was approved in 1976 and dissolved in 2012. Its plan eliminated economic and visual blight in 95 percent of Emeryville, according to the city’s website.

“We redeveloped 20 acres into 370,000 square feet of open-lifestyle retail and 250 condos on top of retail shops,” Fink said.

Carlyle is the largest landowner in the North Mountain Development Area, and Fink envisions sharply reducing the 30 percent vacancy rate at Metrocenter.

His vision would allow for other uses, such as a venue for a college campus, health care, senior housing or office space. These ideas would require working closely with the city for zoning changes, he said.

Councilwoman Williams said that although conditions at the mall have improved, landscaping, rerouting traffic and adding buildings on its outer ring would give the old mall a chance for a strong comeback.

Plan’s highlights

The North Mountain Redevelopment Area plan focuses on five areas: economic development, connectivity, recreation, safety and code compliance, and community education and engagement. It has three phases. Following are highlights:

• Identify sites with high potential for development or adaptive reuse, such as turning a vacant big box building into a restaurant.

• Strong use of Planned Unit Development, which gives businesses greater flexibility to bring new uses to the area.

• Work with Ottawa University to expand college campuses. This would include looking at the feasibility of unifying sports programs into the Rose Mofford Sports Complex and a possible light-rail expansion to bring fans to the complex.

• Extending light rail 3.2 miles along 19th Avenue from Montebello to Dunlap Avenue and west toward Metrocenter. The plan projects 5,000 additional riders daily.

• The city’s Street Transportation Department would study area streets to improve their appearance. Funds for the improvements could come from a possible tax increase.

• Install new streetlights, crosswalks and left-turn lanes along Dunlap from 31st to 43rd avenues.

• Partner with the Maricopa Association of Governments, Valley Metro, other cities and an ad hoc citizens committee to update the Phoenix Bikeway Plan.


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Better Home, Better Living Show is back

The 39th Annual Better Home and Better Living Show is back and will take place at the Fairgrounds Saturday and Sunday. The show is presented by the western Kansas Broadcast Center. Services at the show are designed to improve your home and lifestyle. Exhibits include flowers, landscaping ideas, financial advisors, home improvement ideas, construction companies and car dealers. For show information contact: Ivaree Prewitt 620-276-2366.

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Ideas4Landscaping Review | Learn How to Design and Build the Home …

Ideas4Landscaping Review | Learn How to Design and Build the Home Landscape –

PRWEB.COM Newswire

Seattle, WA (PRWEB) March 20, 2014

Ideas4Landscaping is the latest landscape designing course for men who want to learn how to redesign their home’s landscape without hiring costly landscape designers. This course provides people with over 7000 landscaping ideas, and detailed instructions to make these landscaping projects. In addition, this course is made by Helen Whitfield, a master landscape designer who has over 20 years of experience in the landscape design industry. Since Helen Whitfield released the “Ideas4Landscaping” course, many people have used it to find the best way to design their dream home landscape. Accordingly, Brian Sanson from the site performed a full Ideas4Landscaping review that points out whether this course is worth buying.

The review on the site indicates that in this course, people will learn how to make landscape designs for their house easily. The course also covers tips to design and build front yards, backyards, and gardens. In addition, by following this course, people will get to know tips to become a professional landscaper.

Upon ordering the Ideas4Landscaping course, Helen Whitfield will provide a tutorial video and 5 special gifts such as:

  • “Ideas4Landscaping Over 7000 Landscaping Ideas – Now You Can Create Your Dream Garden Or Yard Easily” video: this video covers 7250 breathtaking landscaping designs, high-resolution photographs, and step-by-step plans to make these home landscape designs.
  • Bonus # 1: Landscaping Secrets Revealed Guide: In this book, people will find over 1000 landscaping pictures in 60 categories such as backyards, decks, driveways, facades, garages, gardens, fountains, front yards, gazebos, hedges, Japanese gardens, lakes, pools, flowers, pergolas, and lawns.
  • Bonus # 2: How To Make Your Home Energy And Cost Efficient Guide: in this book, people will discover how to save energy at home, and how to save money on water bills.
  • Bonus # 3: 120 Premium Landscaping Videos
  • Bonus # 4: How To Grow Your Organic Vegetables – Creating Your Own Organic Food Garden In 5 Minutes Or Less Guide
  • Bonus # 5: Free Lifetime Membership Area

Brian Sanson from the site says, “Ideas4Landscaping is a new landscape design course that is specifically designed for beginners who have no experience in planning and designing front yards or gardens. This course covers step-by-step plans and detailed instructions that help people build any type of landscape. In addition, people will have 60 days to decide if they want to keep the Ideas4Landscaping course or get their money back.”

If people wish to view pros and cons from a full Ideas4Landscaping review, they could visit the website:

For more information about the Ideas4Landscaping course, get a direct access to the official site.


About Brian Sanson: Brian Sanson is an editor of the website In this website, Brian Sanson provides people with a collection of easy tips for landscape design.

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Extended forecast spurs caution for eager planters

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) — The calendar may proclaim that spring has arrived, but experts advise against breaking out your gardening duds and flower pots just yet.

Temperatures are expected to rise well into the 60s by Friday, but they won’t stay there, according to the National Weather Service in Indianapolis. Lows will drop back into the 20s and 30s this weekend and remain there into the middle of next week.

“It looks like we’re going to have a later spring than we’ve had in the past,” Jason Puma, a NWS meteorologist, told the Vincennes Sun-Commercial ( ). “Climate-wise, over the next two months, it looks like there’s a good chance for below-normal temperatures.

“But at least it’s not those negative or single-digit temperatures we have been seeing.”

Generally, the average March high for southwestern Indiana is about 51 degrees and the average low around 32. Things typically warm up in April with average highs at about 63 and lows in the mid-40s.

The last frost for this area usually occurs sometime between April 15 and April 25, but Puma said given the long-range forecast, the risk of overnight frost could last well into May.

Jenny Nettles, the garden center manager at Perk-A-Lawn Gardens, 2470 Maranatha Lane, said in as little as two or three weeks the green houses will begin filling up with annual flowers, things like brightly-colored petunias, begonias and geraniums, but that doesn’t mean people should plant them right away.

“Any frost will hit those harder because they’re more tender,” she said. “Annuals should wait awhile. We usually tell people to plant those around Mother’s Day. By then, we’ve usually had some good weather.”

But, Nettles pointed out, several local landscaping businesses are already hard at work preparing people’s outdoor flower beds. Several perennials are already starting to poke through the ground, somewhat teased by recent warm weather.

And most perennials, Nettles said, will be fine as long as they don’t begin to bloom before winter weather is gone for good.

“We’re going as hard as we can right now,” said Garth Whewell, the general manager at Landscapes by Dallas Foster, 3729 N. Camp Arthur Road. “We have a pretty small window anyway, and this winter hasn’t helped.

“But as far as planting those popular annual flowers goes, it will at least be another month before we would advise that.”

Valerie Clingerman, an educator in agriculture and natural resources with the Knox County Purdue Extension office, said while there isn’t an exact science when it comes deciding the best time to plant flowers and garden vegetables, there are a few guiding indicators people can use.

Most experts agree the last frost in southern Indiana is typically around the end of April, and planting can then begin in early May. But perhaps more important to consider than air temperature is soil temperature, Clingerman said.

For flowers and outdoor landscaping, the “magic number,” she says, is 50 degrees. For gardening, it should be higher, usually at least 60 degrees.

And those numbers, she said, could take awhile to reach this year given the harsh winter weather. The ground is pretty frozen, she said, and will take awhile to thaw.

“It will depend on soil moisture as well,” she said. “If the soil is very moist, the temperature will rise more slowly. And if there is a lot of cover on the soil, like mulch, then that will take longer, too.

“You want to go out and work the soil up in your gardens and landscape areas. That will release the moisture and allow it to dry faster.”

But for those who simply can’t wait until May to beautify the exterior of your home with flowers, there are things you can do to protect them should another frost strike. If temperatures drop below 32 degrees at night, they will need to be covered.

But most people, Clingerman said, do this incorrectly.

“It’s always possible that southern portions of the state could plant by April 15,” she said. “But that does leave a chance that you’ll have to cover them or bring them inside.

“If you can’t bring them inside, cover them with newspaper, old sheets or some kind of paper or cloth material,” she said. “A lot of people use plastic, but plastic amplifies cold air. You don’t want to use plastic. That’s really bad.”


Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial,

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Vincennes Sun-Commercial.

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