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Archives for March 28, 2014

Early Spring Gardening Tips From Charlie Nardozzi

Vermont Garden Journal host Charlie Nardozzi is getting ready for spring and wants to help you get in the mood, too!

Charlie will present “Early Spring Gardening Tips” on Thursday, April 10th at 6:00 p.m. at the Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education at Shelburne Museum.

We’ll begin the evening with a delicious “grazing dinner” by Sugarsnap, and there will be a cash bar for beer and wine. Charlie will share a presentation about early spring gardening, and the take your questions for the rest of the evening.

This event is free and open to the public but because seating is limited reservations are required. Please click here to reserve your seat(s).

Call Ty Robertson at 802.654.4309 if you have any questions.

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Spring Gardening Tips

The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Eliza Fournier joins us to talk about spring gardening. She brings tips and reminders on how to clear out the damage from a long Chicago winter and prepare for bountiful seasons ahead.

View a slideshow and read tips on how to start your own garden below.

Kathie Hayden, Manager of Plant Information Services at the Chicago Botanic Garden, gave us 5 foolproof tips on how to start a garden (for those of us who don’t have a green thumb!)

5 Tips on How to Start your Own Garden 

1 – Decide what type of garden you want to grow

Hayden: “What type of garden are you looking to grow? What plants interest you? What appeals to you the most? Vegetables? Perennials? Something with lots of colors? Annual? Trees and shrubs? Native plants?”

2 – Determining Light Requirements

“You need to really study how much sun you have, how much shade you have, locations for planting, etc. It is critical that you plant the right plant in the right place. If you put something requiring full sun in a shady garden, you are doomed for failure no matter what you plant.”

Sun vs. Shade

3 – Compost, compost, compost

“No matter what your soil is like, it can always use compost. I can’t say enough about that. If the soil has not been worked in a while, it’s desperately needing compost. If it has been worked, if you move to a new home and there were gardeners in the house previously, it can’t hurt to add compost.”

4 – Purchase healthy plants

“If you are viewing plants that are off-color or have spots, or are smaller or have an unhealthy look, don’t buy them. It’s important to purchase healthy plants, preferably from a local source.”

5 – Don’t Kill Your Plants with Kindness

“Once your plants are established, which can take 2-3 years, don’t over-water them. With the exception of annuals, plants are resilient. During the drought a few years back, people were over-watering their plants. They killed their plants with kindness. Established plants, perennials, trees and shrubs only require one inch of water, once a week. And native plants don’t require that much water. If you have nutritious soil and add compost on a yearly basis, maybe you don’t need to fertilize.”


~ Photos courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

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Extension: Some tips on improving garden soil – Winston

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:00 pm

Extension: Some tips on improving garden soil

Mary Jac Brennan/Forsyth Extension

Winston-Salem Journal

Q: What do you recommend that I add to my soil to make it good soil for gardening?

Answer: Overall, the best time to build better garden soil is in the fall. But there are some practices you can put into place now. Organic farmers use these practices because their soil is the foundation of everything else that happens on the farm. Don’t use your entire garden space during one season. Divide the space into use areas by season. Grow your summer garden, but in your fall garden grow a cover crop such as buckwheat or summer peas. Turn the cover crop and use it as a green manure about three weeks before you want to start your fall garden. Another practice is to use wheat or rye straw as mulch in your summer garden. Place a 4-inch layer of mulch on top of any bare soil between plants and in the rows. At the end of the season, you can allow the mulch to mellow in place and turn it under three weeks prior to spring planting. If you want to grow a winter cover crop, turn the mulch under three weeks prior to planting your cereal rye or crimson clover.

If you are starting from scratch, consider purchasing a bag of quality compost such as Carolina Dynamite or a bagged mushroom compost to add to your garden. Add enough compost to cover the planting area to a depth of 2 inches. Work the compost into the top 4 inches of the soil surface. Prior to adding any compost, collect a soil sample for testing. Sample boxes and the appropriate paperwork are available in our office. You may return filled boxes to our office for delivery to Raleigh or you may send your samples through the U.S. Postal Service. Soil testing is completed by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agronomic Lab in Raleigh. There is no charge for soil tests from April 1 through Nov. 27. You will receive your report in six weeks. You may not be able to use the reported results for this summer’s garden, but you will have a starting point for your fall planting.

Go online

To watch video on planting radishes, see this story at

Q: I am looking for an easy vegetable to grow with a kindergarten class. What would you suggest?

Answer: One of the easiest and fastest growing vegetables is the radish. The word in Greek means “fast appearing.” You can plant radish seeds directly into the garden or into containers and they will be ready to harvest in 25 to 30 days. Perhaps you can keep a calendar of growth with the children as you watch the garden progress. Radish seeds are large enough for small fingers. Space the seeds 1-inch apart or thin extra seedlings after they germinate so that there is proper spacing. The seeds only need to be planted ½-inch deep. There are many colors of radishes, including red, pink, white and black. Radishes are in the mustard family and are considered a cool-season vegetable, meaning that they grow best in the cool times of the year. It is great to garden with children. Children who have at least five contacts with a new food like radishes are more likely to try it on their own.

Mary Jac Brennan is the commercial horticulture agent for small farms and local food for the Forsyth Cooperative Extension. For information on home and gardening issues, contact the Forsyth Cooperative Extension office at or call (336) 703-2850.


Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:00 pm.

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Garden Tips: Add to berry garden with blueberries planted in pots

Spring is here. I was worried that the winter cold might have killed the two raspberry plants I planted in wine barrels last spring, but throughout the containers, new little sprouts are starting to break the soil surface.

They are Raspberry Shortcake plants, the first thornless dwarf raspberry marketed to gardeners for growing in containers. They come from Fall Creek Farm Nursery, which is right in step with two new gardening trends, growing berries and growing food in container gardens.

Fall Creek’s mission is to develop
“new berry varieties specifically for home gardeners.” Their breeders are looking for berries that are easy to grow, have exceptional ornamental value and produce lots of good tasting fruit. They want to transform berry gardening and have registered the name of BrazelBerries for their line of home garden berries.

This year, I want to add blueberries to my berry garden. Fall Creek offers three blueberry cultivars for gardeners. I usually don’t recommend growing blueberries in local gardens because most home garden soils are alkaline (with a pH of 8 or above) and low in organic matter. Blueberries only do well when grown in acid (with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5) soil that is fairly high in organic matter. This is not a problem if you grow them in pots with a potting mix.

While Fall Creek offers blueberry cultivars, my choice is Jelly Bean. Jelly Bean is the most cold hardy (United States Department of Agriculture Zones 4 to 8) of the three and has the largest berries. It is a little “puffball of a plant” growing to a height and width of only 1 to 2 feet, perfect for a barrel planting.

Despite being a compact dwarf bush, Jelly Bean reportedly yields plenty of large, tasty sweet berries in the middle of summer. But it is not just about the berries. The spherical, mounded plant can be ornamental, with bright green leaves in spring that turn darker green in summer and then red in late summer and fall.

I will be placing my blueberry plant in a barrel planter with large holes in the bottom for drainage. Fall Creek recommends growing their blueberries in sizable pots of 16 inches or more in diameter.

When planting berries or veggies in containers, use a quality potting mix
that drains well. A mix that is predominantly peat moss or coconut coir mixed with compost, pumice and perlite works well.

Once planted, Fall Creek recommends that your blueberry plants be in full sun. However, our summer heat and sun is so extreme, a site where they will get some shade late in the day would probably be a good idea.

Keep the soil consistently moist, because blueberries are not tolerant of drought or excess moisture. Fertilize the plants once a year in early spring with a fertilizer recommended for acid-loving plants.

The plants should be pruned in late winter or early spring while still dormant, removing the canes that fruited the year before. That’s because Jelly Bean and the other two blueberries (Peach Sorbet and Blueberry Glaze) produce new canes each year, but will only produce fruit on the canes that grew the previous year.

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

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Beauty by Design: Down the garden path – Regina Leader

Many life lessons can be learned in a garden. One of them could be that a garden is a life in progress. Nothing is ever done.

Since Bill Terry and Rosemary Bates worked on their book about outstanding gardens, they have found their insights “have been honed, our senses better tuned. We have sharpened our appreciation of shades of green: foliage in its variation of form, size, and colour in all seasons. We are more inclined to look beyond the flowers to include in our view the texture of bark, the curve of a bough, the wonder of a seed pod, the overall balance. We see, where we might not have seen before, the etched patterns of moss and lichen on granite.�

The authors have done a superb job of sharing the stories of 11 gardens and their passionate gardeners along with their interplay with other arts including poetry, pottery and painting. Conversations are interwoven with rich memories and influences that include locales far beyond the Pacific Northwest.

The book was designed by Peter Kahut and the arrangement of full-colour photos in various sizes throughout the book revealing the seasons, shapes, colours and textures is pleasing and tantalizing. Most of the photos were taken by Bill Terry, whose garden is on the Sunshine Coast.

Des Kennedy, who has lived on Denman Island with his wife Sandy since 1972, thinks “gardeners are a whole subset of the human race. They are primarily engaged in the creation of beauty, with a delighted sense of what’s important in life.�

The surrounding stone walls of the Kennedy garden were inspired by terraces on the island of Corfu. The house and outbuildings are “hand-hewn� and create a fairy tale of trellises, fences, ponds and plants grown from seeds or cuttings in an “ecology of enchantment,� (the title of Des Kennedy’s 1998 book.)

The only two-page photo spread is in the chapter about “The Man Who Loves Conifers.� Glen Patterson has a third-floor roof garden in Vancouver’s West End.

Patterson created the rooftop garden with engineers and a project manager along with “arm-twisting and negotiation with city hall.� He was captivated by the Kyoto temple gardens in Japan. Highrise towers are a backdrop to the 120-year-old maple, the 15-foot-high black pine, the blue and Japanese pine and a variety of alpine plants — three floors up.

On the Saanich Peninsula of Vancouver Island, poets Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier tend “a mature garden with a decidedly Asian design and architecture.�

They see two worlds in the garden. Lane’s is close up: a tiny beetle on a stone. Crozier sees the geese overhead and is used to a view with no impediment. She’s from the Prairies of Saskatchewan and Lane grew up in Vernon in the Okanagan Valley.

Because of his poor eyesight as a child, Lane came to appreciate the details that he calls “the intimacies� of the living world.

As Patrick Lane writes in his memoir: “Done well, a garden is a poem, and the old lesson of gardening is the same in poetry: what is not there is just as important as what is.�

Painter Eve Diener, in the chapter “The Landscape is Within Me,� says, “Walking through the garden is the same as walking through a painting.�

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Exotic theme for spring Society of Garden Designers conference

By Sarah Cosgrove
Sunday, 16 March 2014

As the sun has started to make an appearance, the thoughts of the Society of Garden Designers (SGD) is turning to the exotic with its spring conference.

The conference on April 26 is entitled Exotic and aims to celebrate the flamboyant, the extreme, and the extraordinary in garden design. Leading garden designer Sarah Eberle, plantsman Daniel J Hinkley, Bali resident garden designer and author Made Wijaya and ethnobotanist James Wong are all due to speak at the event. John Wyer of Bowles and Wyer will be chair the conference.

The speakers will examine what is meant by the term exotic and how it is not a static description – plants that not so long ago were labelled as exotic are now accessible to all, widely available and grown. Similarly plants that can seem exotic can still be hardy in most parts of the country. 

There will also be a range of stalls at the event. Delegates can book online or call the SGD office on 01989 566665 for tickets.

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Rachel Lambert Mellon, garden designer, 1910-2014

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WMass Home Show starts in West Springfield

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Thousands of people considering home improvement or home remodeling is coming to West Springfield over the next few days.

More than 400 exhibits and hundreds of vendors have set up displays at The Original Western Massachusetts Home Show on the Eastern States Exposition Grounds.

People can look at, and order, the latest innovations in home building and landscaping. Homeowners and home builders alike come here for ideas and new products.

Ted Stusick of Wilbraham Landscaper told 22News, “There are a lot of interesting new tiles that are out, and we’re looking at some of those things.”

“And why their older windows are experiencing a lot of heat loss and why the new windows will basically almost cut that in half,” said Craig Opal of Window World of WMass.

The home show runs through Sunday at the Big E.

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Brick sidewalks to be replaced with cement slabs

First Street’s brick sidewalks — an aesthetic element of 1970s downtown redevelopment — are about to disappear.

“The new sidewalks will mirror those in front of the Andaz (hotel on First Street) — 2-foot-square cement slabs with brick inlay covering the utilities. It’s going to be safer for pedestrians and cheaper for the city to maintain,” Dave Perazzo, the city’s Parks, Trees and Facilities manager, told the Tree Advisory Commission on Wednesday night.

Perazzo said the brick sidewalks, which are now about 40 years old, are “worn, outdated or damaged” in places. “Many pieces are stained and crumbling,” he said.

Plans for new sidewalks and landscaping are tied to downtown’s two-way street conversion project. Converting portions of First and Second streets from one-way to two-way traffic was approved as part of the city’s 2012 Downtown Specific Plan for development. The construction and traffic signal work has already begun and is expected to finish by the end of May.

Along with the traffic change, the city created a landscaping plan for the adjacent streetscape. The city will remove 46 unhealthy trees and upgrade crosswalks to current federal safety standards. The landscaping work is scheduled to begin next week.

Tree commissioners, who offered suggestions as to which types of trees they would like to see replanted, also questioned the wisdom of replacing the brick sidewalks with concrete slabs.

“Who approved this design for the sidewalk?” asked Commissioner Seth Pare-Mayer. “Going from brick to concrete seems like a step back to me.”

After city staff explained that the decision came as part of the Downtown Specific Plan, Pare-Mayer lamented not being involved in that process. “The character of downtown is going to change drastically,” he said. “It’s going to feel more like Walnut Creek.”

But staff stressed that the bricks posed a safety threat and said the change will be cheaper for the city in the long-run.

“We will still have brick on the sidewalk, covering the utility lines,” said Perazzo. “That way, if we need to access utilities, we can just remove a few bricks instead of a large concrete slab. So we’ll retain a bit of the old look.”

The project will only replace 31 of the 46 removed trees since new street safety standards will not allow as many trees to be planted. The new trees — a mix of maple, oak and laurel species — should grow into a canopy over the sidewalk to shade pedestrians during the warm summer months.

“In the past, we haven’t been able to properly prune the trees because of the configuration of the road and the health of the trees,” said Perazzo. “This new construct will allow us to take better care of trees we have.”

Perazzo said many of the current trees have grown too big for their planter boxes in the cement, making many of them sickly and weak. The new boxes will be larger, allowing the trees to grow better.

In this initial phase of the streetscape plan, 23 shade trees will be planted along First Street, between Franklin and Main streets, with eight additional trees to be planted throughout the area. The cost of the new trees will be about $10,500 and comes from the city’s tree replacement fund. Eventually, more trees will be removed and replaced along Second Street.

The streetscape project will also update the sidewalk crossings to current Americans with Disabilities Act standards, moving the sidewalk ramps closer to the crosswalks. Previously, these non-compliant ramps were permitted, since the city hadn’t done any road work in the area. But once the two-way street project moved forward, it became a requirement to update the ramps.

The full street landscape plan also calls for about $80,000 worth of new benches to be installed in the area. Six to eight benches will be placed along First Street from Main to School Streets, and will be funded by the city’s Public Art Fund.

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Angie’s List: Tips for hiring landscape contractor – Winston

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:00 pm

Angie’s List: Tips for hiring landscape contractor

Angie Hicks/

Winston-Salem Journal

Are you planning to hire help to spruce up your property this year?

Before you dig too deeply into hiring a landscaping contractor, take time to do two things:

• Be clear about what you want to achieve. If you only want yard work, check out companies that specialize in residential lawn services. If you want design or installation services, you’ll need a full-service landscaper. These landscapers can plan and install patios, walkways, water features, drainage, erosion systems, retaining walls and other services. They can take a job from design to completion, or provide a plan that you carry out.

• Gather your ideas. Be ready to offer as much detail about your preferences as possible. For inspiration, print, copy or tear out images from landscaping websites, magazines and books.

Now you are ready for initial conversations with several companies that are appropriately licensed, bonded, insured and have earned recommendations from friends or family. Keep in mind that while some companies offer free consultations, others charge. But if they are hired they will deduct the fee from the job price.

Here are questions to ask prospective landscapers:

• Can I see your plan? A drawing is the best way to be sure you can envision what a landscaper proposes. Ask each bidder to provide a design sketch. They may charge a fee if you want to keep it, but they should at least be able to let you see it. In addition, ask for photos of projects they’ve done that are similar to what you want.

• What’s your process? Ask about basic work practices and what materials and equipment will be used. For example, will they dig your patio out by hand or use machinery?

• What’s your experience? Make sure the contractor has the experience, manpower and skill to handle your project. How long has the company been in business? Does it have an office in addition to a website?

Ask for references and contact several. Consider visiting homes with completed work. Relying on website photos isn’t a good idea, since you can’t be sure they weren’t purchased.

Find out what kind of training the contractor and his or her staff have undergone. Do they belong to local, state or national landscaping associations?

• What’s your guarantee? Reputable landscaping contractors should be willing to guarantee their work for at least two years, preferably five. Ask about separate warranties for plants.

• How well do you communicate? Ask each bidder for the best way to communicate so you’re likely to get a timely response.

Angie’s Home Guide, written by Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, appears in the Winston-Salem Journal on the fourth Friday of every month. Readers may send questions to Angie at or by mail to Angie’s List, 1030 E. Washington Street, Indianapolis, Ind., 46202. An archive of Angie’s Home guide is available at the Journal’s website at

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Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:00 pm.

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