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It’s the day that changed a family’s life forever. On April 8, 2009, eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford disappeared while walking home from school in Woodstock. The abduction garnered national media coverage, led to the largest search in the OPP’s history and sparked an Internet frenzy focused as much on the girl’s family and life, as her disappearance. The hopes of thousands were crushed with the arrest in May of two people for the girl’s murder. Tori’s body was found in a remote woods near Mount Forest, Ont., in July.

As the fifth anniversary of Tori’s death nears, Free Press reporter Randy Richmond talked to family members about their lives, hopes and memories.


April 8, 2009:

Morning: Victoria (Tori) Stafford is taken to school by grandmother Linda Winters. Tori borrows a pair of butterfly earrings from her mother. In the lineup for the bell at the end of the day, Tori asks if she can go back in the classroom to get the earrings. She returns after the bell rings and the other children have left.

3:32 p.m.

Tori is seen on a nearby high school surveillance camera walking up Fyfe Ave. with a woman later identified as Terri-Lynne McClintic. With the promise of seeing a puppy, McClintic leads Tori to a Honda Civic parked in nearby nursing home. She pushes Tori into the back seat and gets in. Michael Rafferty drives the car to Hwy. 401 and toward Guelph. Tori cowers on the floor for most of the drive, covered in Rafferty’s jacket.

3:55 p.m.

A friend calls Tori at home and leaves a voicemail about a plan to watch a movie at Tori’s house together. When Tori’s brother Daryn gets home from school, his mother tells him Tori hasn’t come home.

5 p.m. (approx)

Rafferty drives to a Home Depot in Guelph, where McClintic buys a claw hammer and garbage bags.

5:20 p.m. to 6:04 p.m.:

Family members begin looking for Tori.

6:04 p.m.

Winters reports to police Tori is missing. Police begin searching the school and neighbourhood.

Before dusk:

Tori is sexually assaulted and killed in a farmer’s field near Mount Forest. Her body is put into two garbage bags and hidden under a pile of rocks.

8 p.m.

McClintic and Rafferty drive to Cambridge where they wash his car, throw out old clothing and the hammer, and change into new clothes. They’re back in Woodstock by midnight.


Terri-Lynne McClintic: Pleaded guilty April 30, 2010, to first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Michael Rafferty: Found guilty May 11, 2012, of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm. Appealing conviction.


Tara McDonald, mother:

The day Tori was born, the moment my family was complete. It was the most important moment of my life. Watching the bond between them from Day 1 was just so beautiful to watch!”

Rodney Stafford, father:

The love she showed for her brother. Every time I would pick the kids up, Victoria would scream ‘Daddy’ and coming running for hugs. The last weekend (before the kidnapping) I watched as she skipped a rock at Pittock Lake with Daryn and my father.”

Doreen Graichen, grandmother:

I took the girls (her granddaughters) to the ballet for Christmas to see The Nutcracker. I think Tori must have been about five at the time. I will never forget the magic of that night and how the girls sat silent and eyes frozen watching every move on the stage. Somewhere through the ballet, Tori slipped off her seat and began kneeling on the carpet in front of her with her little arms wrapped around the railing, never taking her eyes off the stage. That evening was priceless to me.”

James Goris, stepfather:

The day Tori got her new dress I bought for her stuck in the spokes of her bicycle. She shouted for help but insisted I rescue the dress, too. She didn’t care about her scraped knee, the dress was more important.”


How many times a day do you check the time?

Every time Tara McDonald does that on April 8, she will think of what was happening at that exact time five years ago.

Her eight-year-old daughter Tori walking out of school, meeting a woman on the street, being pushed into a car and driven out of town. McDonald starting to wonder why her daughter isn’t home yet, calling the houses of friends, driving around the neighbourhood.

Each April 8 is the same.

“You’ll just look at the clock to see what time it is and you will think, ‘Oh, this is what time this was happening,’ ” McDonald says.

“And when the day passes, you’re like, ‘Whew, I made it past one more year. I survived one more year.’ ”

As the fifth anniversary of the day her daughter was kidnapped comes closer, McDonald calls what she’s doing as more survival than living.

“I miss her more than I think about what happened to her. That’s the only way to survive it. Otherwise you’re going to lose your marbles.”

She acknowledges, though, she’s getting slowly better. For the first three April 8ths, she spent the day in bed. She’s given up drugs, no longer lives in the fishbowl of Woodstock and remains in a steady relationship with boyfriend James Goris.

McDonald also has a couple of projects on the go, including one that might surprise a few people: regaining certification as a doula — an assistant to pregnant women.

Watching the births of children after losing your own might sound like punishment. McDonald disagrees.

“Birth is amazing. It’s incredible and I think it will help a lot. Being there and seeing new life coming into the world will give me purpose.”

McDonald also is writing a book about her daughter’s short life and ending, the police investigation and trials through the eyes of a mother who at one time was a suspect in Tori’s disappearance.

She wants people to really know her daughter, and what was lost. She wants parents to know how the horror can happen to anyone.

In a sad irony, her book will replace the journal she began writing for Tori many years ago, one of those pretty notebooks that provide ideas and blank spaces for moms to fill in for their daughter’s wedding day.

“I was so proud when I bought it. I thought, ‘This is so beautiful.’ ”

McDonald gets angry looking at the journal now, flipping through the final pages that are waiting for messages about her daughter’s first dates, proms and boyfriends.

“Look at how it tapers off to nothing.”

For a time the most famous, or infamous, mother in Canada, McDonald has always responded to challenges with a mixture of humour and toughness.

“Everybody tells me how strong I am. I don’t see myself like that at all. If people knew what I was like behind closed doors, strong is the last word they would use.”

Her son Daryn is living with family in Woodstock, an arrangement made a couple of years ago, but the pair remain close.

“I try not to put this on Daryn . . . but he’s a huge reason I’m still alive,” McDonald says.

With Michael Rafferty appealing his conviction for murdering Tori, McDonald knows she has a struggle ahead.

She says, however, that when the court proceedings are done, she will take Rafferty up on his surprising courtroom request the pair have a private conversation some day.

“He had some reason he called me out in the courtroom that day and I need to know what it is. Who knows.”

But if Rafferty or co-killer Terri-Lynne McClintic are expecting forgiveness, they’ve got the wrong person.

“People keep asking us if we’re ever going to be able to forgive them because we’re not going to move on until they’re forgiven. I just can’t see it happening. Ever. How do you forgive two people who destroyed your life on a whim?”


On a break at one job site last year, Rodney Stafford stared at the ground where a tattered garbage bag rustled. Behind him, a crew smashed landscaping rocks with hammers.

“It sent me into a frenzy.”

Yet he has one word when he’s asked what he’ll be doing on the fifth anniversary of his daughter’s kidnapping, brutal death by hammer and disposal of her body in a garbage bag.


Stafford was already struggling when his daughter Tori was kidnapped April 8, 2009. He was trying to get his high school education and re-establish consistent relations with his two young children.

Five years later, a full-time job and a more stable family life with a new son and established partner are signs of recovery.

Justice is another matter.

“Since (Michael) Rafferty’s trial, every time he comes back to court I get more and more enraged. We are all forced to relive the horrific events from that day,” he says.

“Now that I’m working 40 hours a week, paying into the system, I’m finding it a little bit harder to do so knowing that I’m keeping this idiot alive and helping him get through his schooling and whatever.”

The man he’s referring to is, of course, Michael Rafferty, the man convicted of killing his daughter Tori and in the midst of appealing his conviction.

The pain never goes away. A song on the radio can trigger despair and a call to his counsellor.

“Walking down the street seeing any Honda Civic just turns my stomach,” Stafford says. That’s the model of car Rafferty drove to kidnap Tori.

“Then you see the guys with the hammers breaking rocks. Seeing normal people with hammers shouldn’t affect you.”

As April 8 approaches, Stafford admits to a tumble of mixed emotions. What happens if Rafferty gets a new trial?​

“I think it should happen again because what the sick bastard is really about Canadians need to know. There are still people naive about this kind of situation, that it will never happen to them.”

Like other family members, Stafford struggles as well with how much of his daughter he wants to share with strangers.

The disappearance, search, arrests and trials made national headlines and twice Stafford rode through Canada raising money for ChildFind.

“I want her name to travel as long as I’m alive. As long as I’m alive I’m going to put it out there. She should never be forgotten. She should never be tucked away,” Stafford says.

At the same time, however, he’s dreading being asked about his daughter at work April 8.

Every good memory of Tori can raise a bad memory.

Stafford is proud and honoured the Grade 8 pupils at Oliver Stephens elementary school want to honour Tori — who would have graduated with them — at their ceremony this spring.

“They want to send her through with the graduating class. I want to be there,” he says, hesitating for a moment. “But she’s not going to be there.”


Not too long ago, Doreen Graichen went through her home and took down most of the purple ribbons and mementoes of her granddaughter that people had given her.

Some of the dozens of mementoes she had to throw away; others are tucked away in boxes.

She calls it a “cleansing.”

“God bless the people who have been there supporting us the whole time, years worth of time,” she says

“I think it’s just time that we let her rest. It doesn’t mean that we will ever forget her. But when I think of Tori, I want to think of the good times.”

Despite her best efforts, Graichen knows that won’t be possible Tuesday, the fifth anniversary of Tori’s death.

“I know that I will relive every moment of that afternoon. I’ll never forget any of it . . . the horrors of that day.”

She and Rodney and his son Daryn drove through Woodstock for hours that night, looking at parks and bikepaths where Tori might be playing.

Her voice still breaks when she recalls Daryn saying late that night nobody had better be doing anything bad to Tori or abusing her.

She provided the only answer she could. Let’s not think that.

“The next week was just zombie land. We didn’t know what to do, what to think, nothing. The whole thing was just horrible.”

The week turned into months that turned into years that have damaged her family, with some members estranged from others, she says.

“It has changed everyone I know that was close to Tori,” Graichen says.

“I’ve gone from anger and hatred to grieving and acceptance. The only thing I worry about, and it’s premature I know, is the appeal. If by some freak of nature, he’s granted another trial, I hope it takes many many years and I hope I’m not around anymore because I can’t live you through that.”

In the meantime, she will work to keep her home and her mind clean with only the good memories of Tori.

“Happy memories are a safe place for her to exist.”

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Native lilacs in UC Davis’ New Front Yard series

Ellen Zagory sees examples every day; city gardeners are embracing the concept of the “New Front Yard.”

“Reducing water use doesn’t mean brown and dry,” said Zagory, the UC Davis Arboretum’s horticulture director. “By using careful plant choices, we can celebrate our region and create at home our own regional landscapes.”

This concept of right (low-water) plants in the right (drought-stricken) place is at the heart of the New Front Yard, the arboretum’s current series of water-wise plants. Today, the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on the UC Davis campus will offer these plants to local gardeners during its first public sale of the spring.

“In Davis, it’s become a big thing,” Zagory said. “We’re seeing a lot of sheet mulching (as people remove lawns).”

But what will replace that grass? As the name suggests, the New Front Yard features a palette of free-flowering California native plants that make attractive easy-care landscaping. Besides using less water than turf and most traditional landscaping, these shrubs, trees and groundcovers attract beneficial insects and support bees and birds.

Re-planting a drastically different landscape takes time, consideration and water. Even drought-tolerant plants need regular irrigation to get established.

“There’s concern that it may take too much water to establish a new landscape,” Zagory said. “Although, it’s less than a lawn.”

City lawns do serve a purpose; turf is better than plain dirt. Besides its potential beauty and landscape uses, the grass helps cool its surroundings.

“People are really worried about bare earth and a heat island effect,” Zagory noted. “We don’t want people to just kill their lawn and walk away.”

Use this spring for research.

“As you develop your low-maintenance, low-water landscape, take time to enjoy the colors of spring and early summer and look for new ideas for plants to extend your landscape’s seasonal interest,” Zagory said. “Spring is a great time to be out in the garden – both your own and those of plant-minded friends. Take a pad or a smartphone and note the colors and blooms you like the best and plan to add them to your personal patch of earth.”

Lilacs in particular are enjoying a spectacular spring bloom, thanks in part to early December’s string of sub-freezing nights.

“The cold snap was good for them,” Zagory said. “In my own garden, my Lavender Lady (lilac) has more flowers than it’s ever had.”

Drought-tolerant California native lilacs – ceanothus – smell like their namesake but are unrelated to true (and thirstier) European or Asian lilacs, which are varieties of Syringa (such as Lavender Lady). Several ceanothus are part of the New Front Yard collection.

Our drought-tolerant native lilacs are having a knock-out spring, too.

“Our Concha (ceanothus) is absolutely solid blue – amazing,” Zagory said. “You can hardly see any green (leaves), there are so many flowers.”

The onslaught of spring lilacs all at once may be weather-related, too, but tied to spring warmth, not December cold.

“It was cool, cool, cool, then we had this warm spike,” Zagory said. “The buds that were developing all came (open) at once. It creates this illusion that they may be blooming more than normal (because all the flowers open at the same time). But it sure is stunning.”

Gardeners will get other benefits from December’s deep freeze.

“Cold also is good because it knocks down pests that can become real pesky,” said Zagory, noting some invasive insects are killed by sub-freezing temperatures.

But watch out for aphids – especially after recent rain.

“The rain will make it horrible for aphids this year,” Zagory said. “But we’ve been seeing a lot of soldier beetles, too. They’re pretty good aphid-eaters.”

Adding flowering native plants to your landscape helps attract these “good guys” to protect and pollinate the garden. Said Zagory, “Early flowering California natives like redbuds are followed by later blooming toyon and coyote brush; these are especially attractive (to) many insect visitors.

“Miner bees will use early spring flower nectar and pollen for energy and to feed their young,” she added. “Spring plants provide food for beneficial insects, like early emerging pollinators such as native bumblebees as well as aphid-eating insects like ladybird beetles, soldier beetles, lacewings and hover flies that provide free, natural pest control in the garden.”

Save water and money, too? That makes those California lilacs smell even better.

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

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Plymouth Yard and Garden Expo



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    Landscaping and yard ideas, plant sales and family activities will be part of Plymouth’s Yard and Garden Expo. The event will be held on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    More than 100 exhibitors will include local park and recreation groups, and lawn care, garden, landscape and remodeling businesses. Fresh flowers, bird feeders, plants and food will be available at a Minnesota market.

    A Saturday kids’ environment fair will feature hands-on learning activities and animals from the Minnesota Zoomobile and a bald eagle from the University of Minnesota Raptor Center.

    The location is at Plymouth Creek Center Fieldhouse, 14800 34th Av. N.

    Admission for adults is $5, and all proceeds will benefit Plymouth’s Millennium Garden.

    Tom Meersman Twitter: @stribmeers

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    Jane Goodall on New Gardens for a Changing World

    This is an excerpt from Jane Goodall’s new book Seeds of Hope.

    Gardening is changing. Until recently, modern landscaping and gardening was oriented more toward maintaining lawns and decorating beds with flowers and shrubs. In order to keep the grass green and exotic decorative plants alive, gardeners relied on liberal doses of water as well as chemical fertilizers, pesticides and “weed killers,” such as Roundup Ready.

    At one time a young man was paid, one day a week, to help Olly with the garden at The Birches. We did not realize that he was using herbicide on the lawn to get rid of moss and other small weeds, as well as a particularly vicious pesticide to deal with the snails and slugs. When we found out, we were horrified. About six months after we dispensed with his services, we heard, for the first time in several years, the bang, bang, bang of a song thrush smashing open snails against a rock. Gradually other birds reappeared, and now the whole area is protected for conservation and the use of chemicals strongly discouraged. So many people are concerned about the terrible environmental degradation of our planet, and so often they feel helpless and hopeless in the face of all that is wrong. The most important thing, as I am constantly saying, is to think about small ways in which we can make a difference — every day. And people lucky enough to have gardens can truly make a difference by maintaining the land in an environmentally friendly way.

    Right now the biggest new gardening trend in the United States is the elimination of fertilizer-​dependent and water-​draining grass lawns. Instead, gardeners are discovering the joys of creating more environmentally friendly habitats with native trees and plants — those that have been living in the area for hundreds of years and are adapted to the climate.

    My botanist friend Robin Kobaly is an advisor to people who want to grow drought-​tolerant gardens with native plants in the Southwest. She says that people are especially enthusiastic about native plants when they live in arid areas, but even in other parts of the country, where there’s more rainfall, gardeners are getting sick of the amount of water it takes to keep grass lawns green. At the moment, gardening with drought-​tolerant native plants is just a popular eco-​conscious trend. But soon, five to six years from now, Robin believes, “it will be imperative for everyone to change how they landscape and garden as the overriding reality of the lack of water becomes apparent.”

    This new gardening movement not only reduces water waste but also provides an attractive habitat for the local wildlife. Last month Gombe videographer Bill Wallauer wrote to tell me about how he and his wife, Kristin, were transforming their “typical ridiculous American lawn” into a native plant habitat for bees and other insects and birds and a whole host of small creatures.

    Bill put in a stream, a pond and a wetland for water-​loving plant species. He created two areas of high-​wildlife-​value shrub species, planted numerous coneflower and aster species and is propagating native grass.

    “My favorite spot is our beautiful native-​woodland-​wildflowers area, which has species like wild ginger, wild leak, and trillium,” he recently wrote to me. So far he has recorded 37 bird species in their “tiny little backyard.”

    I have to say that while it may seem small to him after the wilderness of Gombe, it is clearly rather large compared to the postage-​stamp-​size gardens that most people have — if they have a garden at all. But even the smallest of gardens can make a difference for the wildlife that is struggling to survive. Almost everyone I meet wants to save wild animals and insects, but they often don’t realize how important it is to preserve the anchors of the wildlife community — the native plants.

    In urban areas where the gardens and yards are often small, some communities are joining together to create wildlife havens. There is, for example, the “Pollinator Pathway” in Seattle — where a group of neighbors have transformed the scruffy strips of grass in front of their homes, between the sidewalk and the street, into a mile-​long bee-​pollinator corridor, planted with native plants that attract and nourish bees. Other neighborhoods and individual properties are havens for migrating birds. Robin tells her gardening clients, “Think of your garden as a gas station for migrating birds, a place where they can fill up their tanks — they can’t migrate if they don’t have fuel.”

    It is exciting to think that our gardens can be part of a growing effort to restore health to our planet. To this end, enormous efforts are also being made by young people all around the world through the JGI Roots Shoots program.

    Excerpted from Seeds of Hope by Jane Goodall,  © 2014.  Excerpted by permission Hachette Book Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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    Native plants are effective in landscaping lawns, gardens

    Posted: Saturday, April 5, 2014 10:15 am

    Native plants are effective in landscaping lawns, gardens

    By Francis Skalicky
    Missouri Department of Conservation

    Buffalo Reflex – Buffalo, Missouri


    When it comes to attractive plants on lawns and in flower gardens, beauty doesn’t have to be imported from elsewhere. Native varieties work well, too.    

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    Redefining beautiy in home gardens

    By Lynne Smith

    Posted Apr. 5, 2014 @ 3:36 pm


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    Gardening: Plotting a course on your allotment

    As any allotmenteer would tell you, April is a volatile month when it comes to growing your own.

    The weather can change in the blink of an eye and the dreaded ‘f’ word – that’s frost in case you were wondering – still hangs in the air.

    But according to gardening expert and BBC Two regular Terry Walton, it’s a wonderful time as people really start to get to work on their plots.

    “April is the start of the gardening year for us really, and a time when we start thinking about planting things like shallots, broad beans, potatoes and cabbages,” says the Rhondda-based grower, who’s been growing his own fruit and veg since he was a child.

    “It can be a tricky month because April weather is so changeable.

    “Even though we get lovely sunny days it can still frost over very easily, so allotment owners should be prepared for any sudden change in the weather.”

    This is the kind of no-nonsense advice that Terry scatters in his new book, The Allotment Almanac: Month-by-Month on the Plot (Transworld, £15).

    And, as the name suggests, it’s a guide to keeping your plot growing and going.

    “I look at what’s best practice during each month and in different types of weather but also try to give a flavour for the sense of camaraderie and community that exists at my allotment in the Rhondda valley.

    “It’s about the banter and the cups of tea.

    “If you run out of something you can ask someone for help, everybody is really helpful.

    “You can trade vegetables for something you’d like; for me, it’s like going back to the days of bartering.

    “If the whole of society worked like an allotment community then the world would be a very nice place indeed.”

    As listerners to the Jeremy Vine show on Radio Two will already know, Terry’s crops get a lot of love and attention. He makes daily trips to the allotment, tending to his patch for a minimum of four hours a day and at this time of year, frost isn’t far from his mind.

    For Terry and the rest of the allotment community, frost is a spring time nemesis and a constant threat to vegetables which could wither and die in the bitter April nights.

    So Terry’s advice to combat it?

    “If there’s an expected frost and any potatoes start to pop their heads above ground, it’s good to draw earth over the emerging shoots with a wide-bladed hoe.

    “They’ll be protected like this for a day or two at least. Potatoes and cabbages can usually take care of themselves during turbulent weather, but smaller plants like runner beans and Brussels sprouts should be protected and probably planted more towards May.”

    On the plus side, this is the month where the weather becomes generally warmer and the nights lighter, so there’s lots more time to work outdoors.

    “Although I usually work in the mornings, April marks the start of warmer weather and longer sunlight so, practically, it’s easier to get more work done during the day,” adds Terry.

    “There’s nothing like growing your own veg, and there’s such a difference in taste between them and ones you buy in a supermarket.

    “Until recently, nobody realised there was a flavour to them. When people started tasting home-grown stuff they started tasting freshness and different flavours.

    “It’s also much cheaper than buying vegetables, although it does need a lot of time investment. A packet of seeds doesn’t cost much and growing it is fairly minimal.

    “But remember that Mother Nature will always have the final say about when to plant them.”

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    Gardening guidelines and tips for April

    The Viola tricolor, which is native to Europe and was  introduced into North America, is a member of the pansy family.

    Photo by Becky Trammell/Special to the Times Record News

    The Viola tricolor, which is native to Europe and was introduced into North America, is a member of the pansy family.

    April is also a month full of gardening activities. All planting activities should be gauged by your ability to provide adequate water.

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    Contact Wichita County Master Gardeners through the county Extension office at 716-8610 or at Or, visit

    © 2014 Times Record News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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    Gardening expert shares top tips for April

    Gardening expert Colin Parbery from charity The Share Community shares top tips for April.

    Colin Parbery from charity The Share Community

    Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party”… Well, I think that is what Robin Williams is quoted as saying.

    Like any good party, your garden will benefit from a little planning but ultimately it’s your guests that make it a success.

    Taking a look at the use of colour can modify the overall style of your garden as well as reflecting your personal taste.

    The use of a colour wheel can help in forming effective colour combinations.

    Opposite colours on the wheel, such as blue and yellow mix well together. We often find these combinations in nature and are gentle on the eyes.

    Adjacent colours are strongly contrasting. For example, yellow, orange and red. These are more difficult to mix but can be used to dramatic effect.

    In the vegetable garden, we can now start to sow beetroot, carrots, and lettuce. At this time of year, there is a significant difference between night and day temperatures, so it is ideal for sowing parsley but far too early for basil.

    House plants, citrus and any patio plants that you have kept in overwinter can be put outside, taking care to place them in the shade to they don’t get sunburnt.

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    Extension: Tips on growing culinary, medicinal herbs – Winston

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    Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 10:30 pm

    Extension: Tips on growing culinary, medicinal herbs

    Mary Jac Brennan/Special Correspondent

    Winston-Salem Journal

    Q: What is the difference between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs? Can both be grown in our area?

    Answer: Culinary and medicinal are terms that refer to the end use of the herb after harvest. Culinary herbs are typically used in cooking. Some of the more popular commercially grown herbs that will grow well include cilantro, chives, dill, French tarragon, horseradish, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, sweet basil and thyme. Medicinal herbs have been grown for hundreds of years as traditional medicines. Some of our modern medicines are derived from herbs or are manufactured in laboratories to mimic the botanical compounds found in medicinal herbs. Herbs such as American ginseng, black cohosh, bloodroot, purple coneflower, pale purple coneflower, narrow leaf purple coneflower, false unicorn, and goldenseal are examples of herbs grown for medicinal uses. Both culinary and medicinal herbs can be grown in our area. Each herb has specific conditions for growth. Research the herb you are interested in growing and set up a small test plot to see if you enjoy growing it. More information is available in the following leaflets from the Extension: (culinary herbs) (medicinal herbs).

    Q: I have heard that using no-till practices is good for the soil. How do you grow vegetables in a no-till system?

    Answer: No-till is an agricultural practice most often associated with agronomic or row crops such as soybeans, wheat and corn. It is a practice that can be used with vegetable crops under the right soil conditions. Our clay soil must be amended. Adding organic matter to the soil will help improve the structure, workability and water-holding capacity. A two-inch layer of compost added to the soil surface and then worked in to a depth of 4 to 6 inches works well. Raising your seed or planting beds in the garden is a good idea. Some growers construct permanent raised beds. Avoid walking on your seed/planting beds as compaction will destroy your hard work. Use of wheat straw mulch during the growing season helps to protect the soil from winds and pelting raindrops. There is the added benefit of turning the straw under as another source of organic matter at the end of the growing season. Once the soil structure has been improved, use hand tools to turn under and prepare your seed/planting beds. Tilling pulverizes soil particles, allowing water to evaporate more quickly. Tilling also disturbs soil microbes, the tiny livestock that is helping to promote nutrient uptake through healthy roots. Tilling exposes weeds from the dormant weed seedbed underneath the soil surface. Moving to no-till gardening is a transitional process and it may take some time and hard work. It may take as long as a season to move away from churning power equipment, but doing so will reduce your workload, save money on fuel and equipment, as well as reduce the noise pollution in the spring.

    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, April 3, 2014 10:30 pm.

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