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Archives for March 26, 2014

Bunny Guinness’s top tips for spring gardening

Thrips are the biggest problem for commercial growers. Patrick Allpress, who
grows a thousand acres and is chair of, recommends
lightly and regularly watering leeks in July and August when it is dry,
which gives good control.Patrick harvests leeks from July to May. They sell
baby leeks, ideal for stir fries and soups, as well as large ones.

Leeks can be sown from February to May, with the earlier ones under cover, so
get some varieties in now. The new hybrids such as Belton
( and Krypton ( stand well through
the winter, have good flavour and are easy to grow.

Wasabi is my new hot vegetable. It is a beautiful plant, with mid-green, lush
leaves and white flowers. Tom Amery, of the Wasabi Company exports his to
Spain, Italy and Portugal. He says that over the years it has survived
minus 20C. They grow it in gravel beds surrounded by running water which
moderates the temperature. This growing method is called “Sawa”. I am
growing it using the “Oka” growing method (also used in Japan) whereby it
grows in soil or a pot. Mine is in a nine-litre (two-gallon) pot standing in
a saucer of water in heavy shade. In extremely cold winters, I bring it into
a more protected, shady site.

This is a must-have veg for cooks, and gardeners who love food. The pastes you
can buy are not a patch on the real thing. Research has shown that,
medicinally, wasabi is good for osteoporosis and cancer among other
conditions. I put the leaves in salad, fry them in oil and salt, and play
around with the tasty flowers, too. My plant is a year old and I will check
it to see signs of the rhizome swelling, which will probably happen later on
this year. I will lift it and use the main rhizome – by then 3-4cm (1-1½in)
in diameter and 5-10cm (2-4in) long – and then propagate new plants from the
smaller side roots. Pulling off the outside leaves (leaving the stalks on)
for eating, encourages the rhizome development. You can buy plants from the
Wasabi Company (£7.50,

Another favourite is my globe artichokes. I am about to make more by pulling
off several suckers from the outside of the plant. These will be about 20cm
(8in) long and have a couple of shoots. Pop them in a pot with grit and
compost, put in a shadyish spot and keep moist. I find this easier and
quicker than from seed.

You often find interesting seed packets when abroad. A couple of weeks ago, I
was in a Chicago supermarket, where Dill ‘Tetra’ (from Botanical Interests)
caught my eye, as it is a variety that is apparently slow to bolt. It is a
fabulous herb with fish and essential in gravlax. I will be sowing that
shortly, along with a figure-of-eight-shaped gourd called ‘Birdhouse’. Other
finds were seeds of Stevia rebaudiana, the sugar substitute – I have cut
back on sugar so may need it (from
– and a penstemon called ‘Rocky Mountain Blue’, which is easy to grow, long
lived and blooms for a month or so. You are limited to five seed packets
outside the EU:sometimes they are a dead loss, but more often than not they
are well worth it.

*Bunny Guinness won Garden Writer of the Year at the LSL Property Press Awards

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Discovering Your Green Thumb: Beginner Tips for Organic Gardening

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In this day and age we are overwhelmed by the number of choices at the supermarket. When we take the time to read the labels, it can be somewhat shocking to see the list of ingredients for what we are lead to believe to be “fresh” or “organic”.

Yes, there are companies that provide organic options at these markets but they come at a sizable price. Instead of paying the premium maybe you should consider your own foray into the world of organics. Perhaps you can find your green thumb and start your own little garden?

Here are a few beginner tips for organic gardening that should bring you up to speed on what’s needed to keep it free of pesticides.

Beginner Tips for Organic Gardening

The following will you give you a crash course on the available options and methods behind gardening (without pesticides):

Think Native  Your best bet when growing plants/fruits is to start with ones found within your local environment (the native ones). The native plants already have adapted to the weather conditions and battling insects and other critters.

By choosing native you will find growing them to be far easier than transplanting ones from regions greatly different than yours

Go For Toughness – Vegetables can be quite difficult for the first time gardener because a quick freeze, sporadic weather patterns, or unbearable heat waves can wipe out your efforts in no time at all.

A smart choice for beginners would be to go with fruit – specifically: fruit bearing trees. These are very, very tough. You can plant them and pretty much let them do their thing because they can handle the weather. There are many options whether you’re seeking an Asian pear tree for sale (always a great starter choice), oranges that can handle the heat, or robust apple trees that seem to handle just about any condition.

A little bonus, too, is that once they’re going you don’t have to do much actual gardening to keep them viable – a bit of watering and you’re good to go – no mucking about with fertilizers.

Find Their Companion(s) – Think about how your plants aid one another during their growth. This is the idea behind companion planting.

Part of the benefit of companion planting, in an organic sense, is that many plants naturally repel insects and other critters that would eat your efforts. For example – growing garlic next to plants will repel aphids and ants.

Space also comes into play. A selection of plants that share the ground well, like tomatoes and carrots, allows you to use a smaller area which also leads to less watering and maintenance.

Study the Soil – If you’re using soil from around your area then take the time to get it tested for pesticides and other contaminants. Otherwise, it would be advised that you seek suppliers which offer soil that passes the organic grade.

Consider Tech Options – Gardening has come a long way since digging a hole, throwing in some seeds, and covering it back up. Technology and better understanding of the growth process has introduced, to the market, many different options for growing in small spaces such as through hydroponic gardening kits, vertical gardening kits, or embracing the limited space and following the suggestions of those practicing what’s known as “balcony gardening”.

A Small Bonus

Since you’ve decided to give organic gardening a go you will also gain the advantage that you now have a near endless supply of vegetables and fruit which could be used for juice fasting. On top of that – the leftovers from juicing can be reused as fertilizer for your organic garden. It’s a total win/win!

You don’t need a gigantic piece of land to enjoy the benefits of organic gardening. Start small, in fact.

Find your green thumb by growing the fruits and veggies you love. When you feel comfortable and experienced you’re always welcome to expand and try new things. Start with great, organic supplies and you will grow great, organic food.

Are you ready to put your green thumb to good work?

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Category: Featured Articles, greenovations, Home Garden

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Garden designer’s love set in south-west stone

PORT Fairy company Bamstone is basking in glory with three key awards yesterday at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.

  • Bamstone managing director Michael Steel (left) and garden designer Mark Browning in his award-winning creation at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. Picture: Greg Sullavan

PORT Fairy company Bamstone is basking in glory with three key awards yesterday at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.

The company’s cut bluestone quarried from Yambuk was a prominent component of acclaimed Melbourne landscape designer Mark Browning’s winning entry called The Patriach’s Garden, inspired by his family’s personal tragedy.

Bamstone managing director Michael Steel and his wife Cheryl, who attended the awards presentation, paid tribute to their employees who cut and shaped 50 tonnes of bluestone for the exhibit.

“It was a great effort by the team from quarry to factory and then delivering two semi-trailer loads to the exhibition centre,” Mr Steel told The Standard.

“There were hundreds of work hours in cutting and shaping the stone and assembling it.

“This is the largest flower show in the southern hemisphere and the awards showcase Port Fairy — it’s massive exposure for us.”

Bamstone and Mr Browning previously worked together for a 2007 entry in the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in England, where he won a silver award.

“We’ve known Mark for more than 10 years and he regularly uses our stone in his works,” Mr Steel said.

“Last year he said ‘let’s get together again’ and he came down to our factory. Later, over lots of brainstorming and a couple of glasses of red, he came up with his design as a tribute to his father Graham, who died last year from kidney disease.

“We worked from his full-scale drawings and also added a surprise addition — a chaise lounge cut from a single piece of bluestone.” The design features various bluestone shapes pointing to the central patriarch figure with spines representing family connections and features a kidney-shaped window.

Portraits by Mr Browning’s children of their grandfather were displayed in the set.

“It shows that life goes on through his memory,” Mr Steel said.

The Patriach’s Garden was voted best in show, the gold show garden and best construction. A total of 13 designers entered the 19th annual flower show, at which Mr Browning also won a gold medal last year.

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Wolverley garden designer selected as finalist at Grand Designs Live

Wolverley garden designer selected as finalist at Grand Designs Live

TOP FOUR: Ben Harrison, 23, is in the running to be named Garden Designer of the Year.

A WOLVERLEY garden designer has been selected as a finalist at this year’s show garden competition at Grand Designs Live in London.

Ben Harrison, 23, is in the running to be named Garden Designer of the Year at the event, which takes place at the Excel Arena from May 2 to May 11.

His show garden will be judged by Grand Designs TV presenter Kevin McCloud and celebrity garden designer James Alexander-Sinclair.

Mr Harrison said: “I was on holiday in Cancun when I got the email to say I’d been selected. I was over the moon. It’s nice to be recognised, I must be doing something right.”

Last October, Mr Harrison was also selected as a finalist at the Grand Designs show at the NEC in Birmingham with his first show garden based on recycling and up-cycling objects using websites like Freecycle and eBay.

This year, the idea behind entries is Introducing Colour to Your Garden. The gardens need to be practical and stylish and represent the Grand Design ethos.

Mr Harrison, who has been running his own business BH Designs for three years, said: “I originally trained as a draughtsman but I wanted to do something a bit more creative so I did a two-year apprenticeship in landscaping and then I was given the opportunity to work for myself. I thought why not combine the two, I’ve got a passion for it.”

“I’m looking to do Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) shows. Grand Designs is an indoor show, RHS needs to be much bigger and they have more requirements. I’m working towards it so maybe I’ll enter next year.”

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Flower and Garden Show: Designers draw on classics to turn over a new leaf

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March 26, 2014

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Designers Carolyn and Jobe Blackman in their Library garden.

Designers Carolyn and Joby Blackman in their library garden. Photo: Justin McManus

Autumn. The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. A poetic time to seek inspiration at the 19th Flower and Garden Show, which opens on Wednesday in the heritage-listed Carlton Gardens.

This year, 13 designers have used lush floral plantings in a riot of colours from deep red to orange, yellow and rich pastels to create their show gardens. A far cry from the ubiquitous yuccas and cordylines that dominated the horticultural landscape during the dry years. Trees, too, have been used to great effect, with many of them displaying stunning autumn foliage.

Carolyn and Joby Blackman, from Vivid Design, have created The Gardener’s Library based on the words of Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero: ”If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need.”

Designers Jobe and Carolyn Blackman in their Library garden.

In the words of Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero: ‘If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need.’ Photo: Justin McManus

The result is an English-built conservatory housing a traditional library complete with books, terrariums, botanic prints by Craig Lidgerwood and a wingback chair from where one can admire the elegant clipped, pleached small-leafed lime trees (Tilia cordata “Greenspire”), in front of a carpet of giant, bright red geraniums flanking a steel water feature and beyond the ”imagined” driveway, a flower border evocative of a traditional English garden in a palette of harmonious shades.

Copses of crepe myrtles and silver birches encompass a small seat, whittled by Joby Blackman, the perfect retreat to sit and read a book.

Espaliered olives and rosemary are planted at the library entrance and on the side a stand of ”Autumn blaze” acers, the red/orange foliage a testament to this glorious season. A stonemason has inscribed Cicero’s immortal words in a plaque which takes centre stage in the bluestone ”driveway”.

The Blackmans chose plants that are both beautiful to look at, and hardy, a must for the Australian climate.

Trees, too, play an important part in the overall design. ”Trees are very important in home gardens, however small,” Carolyn Blackman says. ”We need to put trees back into gardening otherwise it will be catastrophic for the environment.”

The garden, built by Semken Landscaping, has been designed for a collective of independent nurseries ”where you can’t buy a hammer or a stepladder”. The conservatory, made by Mervyn Montgomery from Hampton Conservatories in England, was shipped out in pieces.

The Blackmans needed someone to assemble it and Mr Montgomery suggested his son Lindsey, who is in Melbourne at the moment. ”It’s helped us out and given him some holiday money,” the Blackmans said.

The Blackmans – along with best in show garden winner Mark Browning from Cycas Landscape Design – are the recipients of a gold show garden award for their Gardener’s Library.

Lisa Ellis won first place in the Boutique Gardens category for The Midnight Garden which was created in conjunction with the Astronomical Society of Victoria.



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$9.1 million Lafitte Greenway project gets underway, but much work remains … – The Times

Construction officially got underway Tuesday (March 25) on New Orleans’ long-awaited Lafitte Greenway Bicycle and Pedestrian Path, an idea some eight years in the making. But officials warned that much work remains to make the project a success.

“This is one of those city-wide transformation projects,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a groundbreaking event, flanked by representatives from a half-dozen government agencies and community groups that have contributed to the park’s development.

The 2.6 mile pathway will stretch along a vacant rail corridor from City Park to Armstrong Park, connecting six historic neighborhoods from Bayou St. John and Mid-City down to the French Quarter. The project’s $9.1 million first phase will include a paved bike path, landscaping, lighting and ball fields on a patch of property adjacent to the Lafitte housing development near Claiborne Avenue.

The first phase is scheduled to be completed in late winter 2015.

The project — funded entirely with federal disaster recovery grants, according to the city — will add a major piece of recreational infrastructure and possibly serve as a bicycle commuter corridor. But the city does not yet have a plan for security or maintenance of the new park.

Landrieu and other officials touted the corridor’s potential to connect diverse neighborhoods. But cyclists could find themselves targets as they make their way through some areas that have historically struggled with high crime rates, particularly if they travel the park at night.

The park will likely be open from dawn to dusk, but its nature as an open bike path means commuters may ignore the official operating hours.

Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant and Councilwoman Susan Guidry, acknowledged in interviews the potential for security issues, and said that a future management board run by community representatives would be tasked with brainstorming security ideas.


Guidry, who heads the council’s Public Safety Committee, said such ideas might include cameras, additional lighting, and geographic signage that will help potential 911 callers give first-responders their location.

It also remains to be seen exactly how the park will be maintained. The New Orleans Recreation Department is “at capacity,” Grant said, so private individuals and entities will have to step up to raise money and help with keeping it clean and maintained.

Guidry was optimistic that the community would make this “perpetual” project a success.

The Friends of Lafitte Corridor, a well-organized community group, is already in place, and politicians have shown they are highly motivated to make the project a success. 

The project faced long odds when it was first conceived, Grant said.  The soil, much of which was contaminated with benzene, had to be remediated. Property had to be purchased. Cooperation between several government agencies had to be coordinated. 

The Greenway has been a citizen led project from the start, Landrieu said, and that will help ensure that it’s a success. 

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Jeanne Nelson: Ideas will improve Levee Park

In thinking how Winona currently uses Levee Park, I’ll suggest a fairly basic idea that can be expanded on by the park committee. The total plan consists of two phases, but I’ll focus on the first phase at this time.

The first phase consists of three basic elements:

One, bring the water to the park in the form of an interactive water feature or fountain rather than opening the levee wall. All kinds of designs exist in various cities that range from simple to complex. The design should become a focal point of the park. Placing the fountain at the foot of Main Street where the Wilkie used to be located will provide an attractive view from the Main Street area and from the bridge.

Two, using modern, low-maintenance materials, build one large pavilion or multiple interconnected smaller pavilions that can be used as gathering areas for public use. Lots of creative ideas can be incorporated into the construction: fireplaces, movable walls to accommodate weather, WiFi, artistic elements, etc.

Three, focus on the two restaurants already existing at either end of the park. Encourage, enable and promote their development to the degree that enhances the function of the park.

Proper landscaping, walkways, adequate lighting and security cameras must be incorporated throughout the park.

The second phase focuses on the old bathhouse area across the main river channel from Levee Park.

All of the above is the easy part as I see it. In addition to Levee Park, the bigger part is to convince Winona that company is coming. That means pull the weeds, clean up the horrible downtown alleys, wash windows and repair buildings. The old buildings could have an air of elegance about them, but landlords either are not aware or don’t care that many buildings appear slovenly and unkempt.

The medians on Main Street have needed attention for the past 20 years. Put in new bark, get rid of rotting tree stumps and replant where needed. In addition, attention should be given to the landscaping of the two Winona welcome signs at either end of town.

Winona can’t afford another failed attempt to move on this park project.

I encourage a drive to Wabasha to witness how a small town with limited resources displays its community pride through good stewardship of its assets.

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The Dirt: Landscaping book; speedy vegetables to grow



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    “Landscaping Ideas That Work” by Julie Moir Messervy

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    Landscaping possibilities

    Julie Moir Messervy understands the challenges involved in making sense of outdoor spaces. The landscape designer helps readers envision the possibilities and turn them into realities in her new book, “Landscaping Ideas That Work” (Taunton Press, $21.95).

    The book guides users in assessing their property, identifying their style preferences and determining what they need and want in their yards. But mostly, it helps them envision the outcome by providing plenty of photos and descriptions of landscapes and features.

    Messervy covers all the elements of a beautiful and useful landscape, from paving options to plants. For some features, she addresses the benefits and drawbacks and provides a guide to the relative cost of options.

    Fast-growing vegetables

    Sometimes, impatience is a virtue.

    Certain vegetables are at their tastiest when they’re very young. Those are the plants Mark Diacono and Lia Leendertz focus on in “The Speedy Vegetable Garden” (Timber Press, $18.95).

    The book covers plants requiring a range of effort, from seeds that need only be soaked before they’re enjoyed to veggies with a fairly fast turnaround from planting to harvest. Also included are sprouts, micro greens, edible flowers and salad greens.

    Diacono and Leendertz, who are journalists as well as gardeners, include instructions for growing and harvesting the vegetables and recipes for enjoying what you’ve grown.

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    REDLANDS: Garden tour set for late April – Press

    The Redlands Horticultural and Improvement Society will celebrate its 125th anniversary with a garden show only, dispensing with the flower show that has been a part of its annual celebration for about 100 years.

    “We are going back to what we did when we first started,” said society President Chris Sedmack. “We wanted to make a change and to see if people like seeing gardens more than the flower show.”

    The lack of sufficient volunteers to staff the massive show, which has been held in recent years at Esri, the geographic systems information company on New York Street, and the advancing age of many volunteers also figured into the decision to forego the flower show, Sedmack said.

    This year’s tour, titled “125 Years Beautifying Redlands, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” will feature six home gardens and one business. The focus will be on visitors enjoying spring in the city as well as the showcase gardens, Sedmack said. Past tours included just four home gardens.

    In spring 1889, the Redlands Horticultural Society, then a men’s club, merged with the women’s community improvement group to form the Redlands Horticultural and Improvement Society. Club membership now numbers nearly 250 families.

    Homes featured this year are those of Tim and Mary Andersen, 1655 Henrietta St.; Dennis Houlihan and Mike Coleman, 309 Felisa Court; Don and Arlene Benson, 1228 S. Center St.; Susan Schroeder, 840 Serpentine Drive; Jo Ann Levine, 1014 W. Sunset Drive; Polly Sholl, 30802 Miradero St.; and the Cutler Group Building, 201 Cajon St.

    The Andersens designed their landscaping to encircle their home. They recycled broken concrete from an old driveway, moved many existing plants and installed a drip system to conserve water. The private front yard is landscaped primarily with plants that have white flowers.

    At the Houlihan and Coleman home, two silk floss trees with natural plantings of bright red geraniums welcome visitors. The rear garden has two Canary Island date palms that create a canopy of shadel. A circular rose garden showcases brass cranes at its center.

    The Benson house is anchored by two planters of roses and the gardens include native plants, drought- tolerant succulents and cacti as well as plants from the horticultural society’s plant yard in Prospect Park. The garden features a koi pond a tea room niche, a living wall of succulents and a sweet pea corner.

    Levine has accented her succulent garden with unusual art and statuary. She chose the sunset orange color of the house to show off the plants and brighten gloomy days, she said.

    Schroeder replaced her grass with a drought-tolerant yard featuring cactus and succulents.

    Sholl’s gardens feature wisteria on the front pillars and Cecile Brunner roses, her father’s favorite, on the back of the side yard.

    The Cutler Building began as Redlands’ first mortuary in 1903. It became the YWCA in 1913 and remained so for 90 years. Tom Cutler has owned it for the past seven years and has done extensive renovations, including a courtyard filled with Japanese maples and succulents in colorful pots. Flower photos by Redlands Camera Club members will be on display in the courtyard.

    The Horticultural Society’s Uncommon Plant Sale, held twice a year at the plant yard in Prospect Park near the Carriage House, will coincide with the tour.

    “The money we raise will go straight back to Redlands,” said Barbara Herold, the group’s treasurer.


    The Redlands Horticultural and Improvement Society will host a garden tour and plant sale, but not its usual flower show, at the end of April.

    GARDEN TOUR: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 26 and 27. Tickets are $10 and will be sold at the featured gardens during tour hours.

    PLANT SALE: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 26 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 27 in Prospect Park near the Carriage House, 1352 Prospect Drive. Tour tickets are not needed.


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    Pet Connection: Be mindful of pets when landscaping

    If you have a pet, spring gardening can bring a great deal of frustration. The owner of a Labrador retriever, who wishes to remain unnamed, planted 100 gladiola bulbs. When she was done, she went into the house to clean up – while her dog dug up all 100 bulbs.

    Thankfully, the dog didn’t chew on or eat the bulbs, as they are toxic, causing extreme salivation, vomiting and diarrhea. With a little planning, though, you can have both a pet and a garden.

    Design and placement

    Pets can foil gardening efforts by using the garden as a place to relieve themselves, a nap spot or by digging up plants. Plus, some common garden plants can be poisonous to pets. Did you know that the foliage of both tomatoes and potatoes is toxic? To keep your garden and your pets safe, the best idea is to make your garden inaccessible to them.

    A raised-bed garden

    One elevated from the level of your yard – with concrete blocks or wood planks – works very well. You can build one in the size and shape of your choice, or seek out ready-made raised-bed gardens from online garden catalogs; all you have to do is find the right spot and put them together. A fence is the best way to keep your best friend in your good graces. A short decorative fence at the top of the raised-bed garden can work, although if you have a garden in the ground, you’ll need a taller, sturdier fence. Think about the placement of your garden.

    Judy Macomber, a master gardener who is a dog owner, says to examine your dog’s present habits. “Where does your dog sleep outside? Where are his paths for wandering the yard? Where does he find shade when it’s hot?” It’s much better to put the garden in an area where your dog hasn’t already established himself than it is to change those habits.

    Garden issues

    Gardens bring some potential dangers for pets. Many gardeners use a variety of products that can harm or even kill pets. Thankfully, safer alternatives exist. Choose plants wisely. The ASPCA has a comprehensive list of poisonous plants on its website: Print the list and take it with you when you shop for seeds or plants.

    Pesticides can be poisonous to your pet, and long-term exposure has been linked to cancer. Thankfully, they aren’t necessary in most home gardens. Instead, handpick insects off your plants or simply wash the plants with soap and water. A few drops of citrus dish soap in a spray bottle filled with water works well. Herbicides have also been linked to cancer, especially bladder cancer, in dogs. Avoid them by simply pulling or digging up the unwanted plants. If that’s not possible, pour boiling water on the weeds.

    Chemical fertilizers can burn your pet’s paws and are often toxic, but natural soil conditioners, such as those made from earthworm castings, are safe for you and your pets. Many online sites offer safe gardening tips as well as pet-safe pest-control solutions. Macomber recommends

    If you have questions about gardening in your locale, a master gardener in your area should be able to help. Find one at the American Horticulture Society’s website: Guest columnist Liz Palika is an award-winning writer and certified dog trainer. She shares her home with three dogs who are well-behaved in her flower and vegetable gardens. For more, go to

    The buzz

    Fear of flying got you earth-bound? Some airports are providing therapists to help – canine therapists, that is. Dogs are patrolling the halls of airports in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and Miami looking for people to pet them. The dogs and their handlers are trained to provide stress relief and comfort and to answer questions. Look for dogs wearing vests that say “Pet Me.”

    Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with

    • Read more articles by Liz Palika

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