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Archives for May 11, 2014

Vail ponders building smaller roundabout

VAIL — No matter the project, every foot of built or un-built space in Vail is valuable. An idea for a new roundabout at a new Interstate 70 roundabout will save quite a few feet from the path of construction equipment, a development that’s being cheered by neighbors.

While the proposed underpass — which would link Vail’s North and South Frontage roads about halfway between the main Vail and west Vail exits — has been envisioned for more than 20 years, it took the first on-the-ground work on the plan to reveal just how close the north roundabout would be to the Simba Run and Savoy Villas condos. The closest unit to the new roundabout would be about 50 feet — roughly the distance between the back of the room and the mayor’s seat in the Vail Town Council’s meeting room.

‘Every Foot Matters’

That distance had Simba Run and Savoy Villas residents concerned about additional noise, light and other impacts from the projects, and led to a mantra of “every foot matters.”

Trying to get a bit more distance between the road and the condos led to tinkering with ideas that included variations on a standard “T” intersection on the north side. That’s the kind of intersection used at Vail’s “Blue Cow Chute,” the intersection of South Frontage Road and Vail Valley Drive. There was also talk by some residents that Vail might be ready for stoplights — which, of course, is just crazy talk.

All that led to Tom Kassmel of the town’s engineering staff and consultants from Felsburg Holt Ullevig, a transportation planning company, to eventually land on the idea of using a “compact” roundabout on the north side.

That sort of roundabout is similar to the one at the entrance to Singletree in Edwards. It’s about 30 percent smaller than a standard roundabout’s 150-foot diameter — that’s roughly 105 feet.

Smaller Complications

There’s a complication with a smaller roundabout, though — big trucks can’t navigate around one without rolling their trailers into the island part — that makes landscaping tricky, at best, Kassmel said. And that’s one reason the Colorado Department of Transportation hasn’t yet approved a “compact” roundabout on the state highway system.

But, Kassmel told the council, the north frontage road doesn’t see much big-truck traffic, and the road could have signs prohibiting big rigs from turning there, sending them instead to the full-sized roundabouts at either main Vail or west Vail.

And, he said, if a big truck happened to run over some landscaping, it would still be able to navigate the roundabout without getting stuck.

A Welcome Idea

There’s still a lot of work to do on the project — even the preliminary design portion of the planning hasn’t started yet. But the idea for a smaller roundabout was welcomed by both council members and condo residents.

Charlie Calcaterra, a Simba Run resident and a member of the committee that’s been working with the town, said he’s confident that a plan putting a compact roundabout right between the condo complexes would be “positively received” by residents.

“This seems like a winner all around,” Calcaterra said.

Fellow Simba Run resident and longtime Vail architect Bill Pierce agreed.

“I want to thank the engineering team for going beyond the call of duty to come up with a solution that works for everyone,” Pierce said.

And, in this case, “everyone” really does mean “everyone.”

While the compact roundabout idea hasn’t yet been tried, or approved for use, on the state’s highway system — of which the North Frontage Road is a part — Martha Miller, a local engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation, smiled and nodded when council members asked if the department would give its blessing to the idea.

And all five council members present Tuesday — Dale Bugby and Dave Chapin were absent — endorsed the idea.

“I want to thank the engineering team for going beyond the call of duty to come up with a solution that works for everyone.”
Bill Pierce
Simba Run resident and Vail architect

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Stony Creek Quarry tour in Branford takes trip back in time

Stoney Creek Quarry worker Stacy Mancini leads vistors through a tour of the site May 10.
(Melanie Stengel — New Haven Register)

BRANFORD On Saturday morning, roughly 100 people enjoyed a jaunt through roughly 600 million years of history, courtesy of the Stony Creek Quarry.

At one point in its heyday, the granite pulled from the ground employed more than 400 workers. Today, that labor force has been whittled down to four.

“That was so long ago,” stone mason and former First Selectman Anthony “Unk” DaRos said Saturday. “Look around you. Look at the machines. They do all the work now. It was quite a place in its day.”

DaRos and former Guilford First Selectmen Carl Balestracci, two men whose quarrying backgrounds run about as deep as the vein of granite that run through this region of Connecticut earth, played the role of tour guides on Saturday.

DaRos said the early 1900s marked Stony Creek’s heyday. In 1870 there were roughly 370 residents who lived in Stony Creek. DaRos said that by 1900 that number had boomed to about 1,400. With progress came more businesses, like blacksmiths and carpenters.

“All because of the quarry,” DaRos said.

But quarry life back then was not for the weak. If monstrous slabs of granite or explosions didn’t hurt you, the air could literally kill you.

“You were going to get hurt sooner or later,” DaRos said. “The stonecutters called it consumption.”

The truth was that men cutting stone did so inside enclosed buildings. Silica, a mineral found within the rocks pulled out of the quarry, entered the air during the stonecutting process.

“Actually it was silicosis,” he said about the lung disease that claimed the lives of most stonecutters before they reached the age of 45. “This quarry was noted for it.”

DaRos said the reason stonecutters worked in an enclosed space was because “the labor department in those days thought it wasn’t nice to have men working outside.”

As he spoke, standing at the foot of the now-defunct old quarry site, his voice could be heard echoing off a series of towering, pink granite walls. DaRos spoke for roughly an hour. The former first selectman is a stone mason himself by trade. His grandparents once ran a boarding house at the quarry. Balestracci’s grandfather was a stonecutter himself during the early 1900s.

DaRos explained how in those days nobody knew what silicosis was. He as a boy watching some of the “old-timers” succumb to the disease. There was the relentless coughing, the first sign of the disease’s onset. DaRos said that the only thing the stonecutters had that controlled the coughing was whisky.

“It got so bad that they drank on the job,” he added. “I always say when I look around, thank God the country is already built. Today you would never be able to do what these men did.”

Many of the east coast’s most recognizable buildings and bridges were completed thanks to the granite pulled from Stony Creek Quarry. It can be seen in the base of the George Washington Bridge, the foundation of the Statue of Liberty and in New York City street curbs. In New Haven the granite can be seen in the steps of Yale University’s Woolsey Hall. Further east down the shore, the same granite helps protect the coastline at Hammonasset Beach State Park, courtesy of several breakwater slabs installed in 1955.

DaRos said the last stone was pulled out of the old quarry site in the mid 1980s. Just beyond the peak of the old quarry’s northern wall, a new quarry carries on the granite tradition. Quarry worker Stacy Mancini, who’s worked at the quarry for 10 years, said there’s enough stone left at the new quarry to last for another 350 years.

Mancini led visitors on a tour of the new quarry site, pointing out that excavators are busy digging even deeper. She explained that the quarry is producing two sets of granite product. The pinker, more colorful stone is known as aggregate granite. Today, there are machines scattered throughout the quarry’s upper bowl that are used to crush the aggregate granite into pebbles commonly used in landscaping. The standard dimensional granite is used in everything from countertops to buildings.

“We label it steak and hamburger,” she said. “The steak is the large solid granite. Hamburger is obviously the aggregate that we use in things like our driveways.”

Mancini said the latest granite hauled out of the quarry is being used in New York City’s Battery Park. Last summer, Stony Creek granite was used for the city’s Federal Plaza. Another recently finished project featuring the quarry’s granite is Quinnipiac University’s new Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

“The quarry is doing a lot of business right now,” she said. “There are always orders on the board.”

Call Evan Lips at 203-789-5727. Have questions, feedback or ideas about our news coverage? Connect directly with the editors of the New Haven Register at

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The Upcycled Garden

Self-proclaimed “Garden Junkers” Patrick McChesney and Sherri Johnson stick plants in almost anything sitting empty on their properties. Moss roses are tucked in a hanging dust bin. Petunias cascade from different levels of a cream separator. Mini gardens sprout in wheelbarrows and washtubs. “The rustier and more dented the better,” says McChesney who is currently installing the front end of a vintage truck into the side of a small hill in his landscaping. “What some people consider junk, I consider yard art with character.” And what could be more “green” than recycling containers and metal that might otherwise end up in the landfill?

This spring, think outside the terracotta pot and use your imagination when planting containers. Flowers can flourish in almost anything as long as they have proper drainage and exposure to light. Galvanized buckets and tubs, copper boilers, vintage carpenter’s tool boxes, crates, wire baskets, suitcases and Radio Flyer wagons all make great containers. One of my favorite planters is an old, red Emerson seed separator that I purchased at an auction. I lined the cavities at the top of the machine with thick plastic, poked holes in the bottom for drainage, filled it with soil, and planted both cascading and upright flowers. With smaller containers at its base on the steps, it became a focal point on our front porch.

If you need a bigger planter, try a wheelbarrow, claw footed bathtub, or a canoe. I have an old wheelbarrow upturned in the garden with flowers planted to look like they “spilled” out. Another idea is to set up a vintage iron bedframe in the garden with the side rails level with the ground. Filled with flowers, it literally becomes a flower “bed”. Long chicken feeders or hollowed out logs make effective border planters. For an upright, layered planter, paint an old dresser a bright color, set it outside, and plant flowers in the opened drawers. An old chair with no seat can hold a pot of bright flowers and is easy to move to various locations such as a porch, by a fence, or by a mailbox.

If you want an unusual hanging planter, add wire or small chain and an S hook to a colander, a globe cut in half and hung upside down, or a birdcage. A scale with plants added to the hanging basket would work well. For a wall, try attaching a fishing creel, a vintage mailbox that opens at the top, or a pair of bright rain boots nailed right through the rubber rim. Fill with ferns or bright flowers.

Upcycling your garden doesn’t need to focus just on planters. Repurposed trellises can be made from metal grids, vintage bedsprings, or funky 1970s room dividers. Make a tipi trellis out of old garden tools by sinking the long handles partially into the ground and tying the tops together just under the metal part of the tools. Old grates, metal headboards, or vintage implements are not only sturdy trellises but also become focal points in your landscaping.

The Garden Junkers recommend taking a good look around your barn, garage, or attic for great pieces. “Have an open mind and get creative,” Johnson says. “Yard art is everywhere, and the more imaginative you are, the more fun your yard will look!”

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Scoreboards and butterfly gardens: Is parent fundraising equitable in …

Now Montgomery school leaders are asking: Should more be done to spread the wealth?

Such questions have become increasingly pointed in Montgomery, a high-performing school district where both prosperity and poverty exist and where gaps in student achievement are a continuing challenge. To that end, school officials have launched a review of the district’s policy on contributions made to improve facilities.

“If it’s good enough for any kid in Chevy Chase, it’s good enough for my kid, too,” said Melinda Anderson, a parent in Aspen Hill who argued at a community meeting last week that all school upgrades are important and that equity needs to be paramount.

“You’re not building a deck on the back of your house,” she said. “You’re adding an enhancement to a public school.”

Montgomery does not allow private donations for facility improvements that are considered essential or the responsibility of the school system. Donations are allowed for what some view as extras — a video scoreboard, a butterfly garden, additional landscaping or playground equipment.

Several big-ticket projects have attracted particular attention, including a million-dollar artificial-turf field at Thomas S. Wootton High School’s stadium and a $247,000 improvement project at Westbrook Elementary School in Bethesda.

A Washington Post analysis last year showed that of 126 privately funded school improvement projects in the past three years, 22 have cost between $10,000 and $1.3 million, and almost all of them happened in more affluent communities with fewer minority students.

School leaders say they don’t want to turn down community efforts to improve schools. But some PTAs and booster clubs raise much more than others. Some communities have deeper pockets.

“How do we find a way to create a level playing field?” asked school board Vice President Patricia O’Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase).

In Montgomery, facility fundraising projects are reviewed by the district under a 2002 policy that includes consideration of whether they “foster or exacerbate inequity.” But there are no specific mechanisms for making judgment calls, officials said.

At the community meetings last week, some parents suggested a network be created — perhaps through the countywide PTA — so that schools with fundraising talents could help schools that lack such know-how.

Others proposed concrete financial help: the creation of an equity fund so that a certain portion of money might go toward projects in poorer schools.

An example came up from Portland, Ore., where one-third of contributions over $10,000 are steered to such a fund. Portland’s fund is for teachers and staff — which Montgomery does not allow — but some pointed to the concept as a model.

Others did not embrace the idea or suggested voluntary contributions or a smaller diversion: 5 percent, 10 percent or 20 percent.

“If we knew we had to work 20 percent harder for everything we had, I think our contributions would drop,” said Bill Burchett, booster club president at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, who said fundraising is already a struggle.

Burchett said that while some may criticize million-dollar athletic fields at schools in more affluent areas, higher-needs schools are getting such fields as the schools are modernized. When private funding has been used for artificial-turf fields, he said, it’s been “a great break” for taxpayers and the school system.

Many at the meetings liked the idea of greater involvement, in a variety of possible ways, by the Montgomery County Public Schools Educational Foundation. “I think the foundation could play a greater role,” Yolanda Johnson Pruitt, the executive director, told those gathered one night.

Steve Schuck, another Richard Montgomery booster club officer, said the examination of facility donations raises issues of equity in other areas. What about other PTA and booster club fundraising, or athletic department or school construction funding?

“It should be a broader look at equity across the system accounting for money both going in and coming out,” he said.

Bruce Crispell, director of long-range planning for Montgomery schools, said that for now the issue is only facility fundraising. Following the community meetings last week, a report will be prepared, and a board committee is expected to consider the policy next school year.

Crispell’s office has consulted with other school systems in the region and found none with a practical way to protect against inequity in contributions, he said.

In his analysis, Crispell said, nearly half of 124 projects in the past three years cost less than $1,000. They included such things as the butterfly garden, tree planting, a walkway and a security gate .

To parent Melinda Anderson, such projects are not unimportant.

“The feeling you draw from a school sends a message to children, to parents, to staff,” she said. “If it enhances it for the better, it should not be limited to the financial capacity of those parents.”

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Busch Gardens, Bad Boy Mowers give Salisbury homeowner a new front yard

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Busch Gardens® Williamsburg’s talented team of landscaping pros braved the rainy, windy weather on April 28 to makeover Salisbury, Md. resident Noami Donohoe’s front yard. Donohoe was the winner of this year’s Busch Gardens Landscape Giveaway Presented by Bad Boy Mowers®. The giveaway package included a custom landscape design consultation, landscaping supplies and professional installation from the team responsible for maintaining Busch Gardens as the world’s most beautiful theme park. Donohoe also received a brand-new Bad Boy Mower, the official mower of Busch Gardens, as an additional surprise during the landscape reveal presentation. In Donohoe’s submission story, she shared that she could not afford to purchase a lawn mower.

Busch Gardens’ Director of Landscaping Erick Elliott consulted with Donohoe to discuss design elements that she wanted to see incorporated into her front-yard makeover. Donohoe, a disabled veteran, has limited mobility due to service-related injuries so the team chose to incorporate low-maintenance landscaping elements in the design. Per the homeowner’s request, the team designed a formal garden that infuses shrubs and perennials to provide year-round beauty and color. Elliott also included several signature elements to the landscape design including a water feature, native plants and a habitat garden.

“For this project we included low water use flowers and plants that can thrive in a variety of conditions. We also designed a habitat garden for the homeowner,” Elliott said.

Busch Gardens joined with the National Wildlife Federation in 2007 to build a habitat garden near the park’s Jack Hanna’s Wild Reserve.

“Similar to the certified habitat garden at Busch Gardens, Noami’s yard now provides the four basic needs for the survival of wildlife: food, water, shelter and a place to raise young,” said Elliott.

Kim Martinez, Regional Education Manager for the National Wildlife Federation, also visited the Donohoe’s home to certify the yard as an official Certified Habitat Garden®. Visit for more information about certified habitat gardens.

In March, the park hosted the Busch Gardens Landscape Giveaway Presented by Bad Boy Mowers via Facebook. Participants were invited to submit a photo of their home and a story about why they deserved to win the giveaway. Hundreds of entries poured in. The entries were narrowed down to 20 finalists and Donohoe was randomly selected as this year’s winner. To read Donohoe’s submission story visit Busch Gardens’ official Facebook page – For a behind-the-scenes look at the yard transformation, visit Busch Gardens’ official blog –

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Gardening Books Offer Tips And Celebrate A Love Of Plants

By Michele Buberniak, Bedford Branch Librarian

Time to get growing!

Here are some new gardening titles that you may enjoy while counting off the days until the danger of frost is past and it is safe to plant your own space. Some books on the list are the “how-to” type while others simply celebrate the love of plants, so enjoy!


The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature by Tammi Hartung, 2014

Thanks to the whimsical drawings of wildlife in this book, the animals look harmless, but as any gardener knows, many animals love plants as much as we do. As the title states, this author believes in harmony and offers great tips for attracting helpful predators as well as pollinators to the yard and using decoy plants and other methods to deter wildlife for consuming everything we grow.

The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture: Creating an Edible Ecosystem by Christopher Shein with Julie Thompson, 2013

“Permaculture,” or permanent agriculture, is defined as a method of growing vegetables in an efficient way by creating great soil using decomposed plant matter, efficient watering and other techniques in order to re-use the same space on a long-term basis. According to Shein, who grew up in Ann Arbor, the idea was first formalized in Australia in the 1970s. He is passionate on the subject and has written chapters on the basics of permaculture, garden designs, the best choices for plants and tips for seed saving and storing.


Garden Rescue: First Aid for Plants and Flowers by Jo Whittingham, 2013

As with all Dorling Kindersley publications, this book has great photos and clear, large text that helps the reader or browser gather information at a glance. The book is written for those who are new to gardening and the problems that can come with it, but this book may also serve as a refresher for experienced growers. The book is divided into sections that include vegetables and fruits as well as ornamental plants and includes information on trees, shrubs, climbers, perennials, bulbs, bedding plants and lawns. The very first section is entitled “Know Your Garden” and it explains how plants work and the importance of the right site and soil. Especially helpful within this heading are the two page spreads that explain what is normal for the plant categories. The “Don’t Panic” pages will make you smile and may even teach you something you don’t already know. Although more academic diagnostic books have been published, this book is helpful with charts useful in identifying problems and info bites. The photos of the pests could have been larger for identification purposes but it is a start for further research.

Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers. Photography by Robert Llewellyn, text by Teri Dunn Chace, 2013

Photographer Robert Llewellyn has produced stunning images of some flowers in 28 of the most common plant families using a variety of techniques. The photos have a white, backlit appearance reminiscent of botanical drawings and are quite striking. In many cases, this lighting makes the petals appear translucent, and it enhances the beauty of the blooms in a way we cannot visualize in a garden setting.

Teri Dunn Chase provided the text that accompanies the photos in each plant family section. As a writer and editor, she has contributed to many publications such as “Horticulture and North American Gardener” and books including “How to Eradicate Invasive Plants” and “The Anxious Gardener’s Book of Answers.”

Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places that Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales by Marta McDowell, 2013

If you love Peter Rabbit, gardening or watercolors, you will love this book and possibly want your own copy. Every page is a delight, filled with photos, sketches, paintings and most importantly, the story of Beatrix Potter.

Gardeners will appreciate the list at the end of the book of plants that Beatrix grew in her own gardens as well as those that are in her stories.


The Sugar Maker’s Companion: An Integrated Approach to Producing Syrup from Maple Birch and Walnut Trees by Michael Farrell, 2013

Michael Farrell said this book is written primarily for those interested in actual syrup production, and those doing it for a hobby might prefer a more concise guide. If you want to start production, be sure to read one of the first chapters, “Is Sugaring for You?”

Other chapters are devoted to topics such as sugarhouse design and construction, gathering techniques and marketing. Readers may be surprised to learn that a wide variety of maples and black walnut trees also produce sap.

Small spaces

Fine Gardening Pocket Gardens: Design ideas for Small-Space Gardening by the editors of Fine Gardening Magazine, 2013

“Pocket Gardening” is a term loosely defined as planting in small spaces. This book contains great ideas from the folks at the reputable Fine Gardening Magazine. Gardening basics are included along with ideas and designs for ornamental and edible crops — yes, it is okay to mix in vegetables with flowers. Be sure to check out the list of plants for small places at the back of the book and the directions for pruning trees in order keep them small.

The author of the tree pruning tips is Janet Macunovich, a landscape designer, Michigan resident and a monthly contributor to the publication Michigan Gardener.

Community gardening

Community gardening is an idea that has become popular in many urban and some rural areas around the country. It provides a garden space for local residents to grow vegetables for healthy food options, especially on a limited budget.

In many areas, local government agencies have partnered with neighborhoods, churches and other organizations to turn vacant, overgrown lots into a shared productive garden space. In some communities, dedicated plots already exist and may be owned by an organization.

Community Gardening by editors Ellen Kirby and Elizabeth Peters, 2008

This title contains the success stories of various community gardens from around the country, including those that grow vegetables and those that are grown for area beautification. In addition to the benefit of healthy food, growing plants fosters a sense of personal satisfaction and in a shared space encourages cooperation among the participants. With great advice from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for organic and sustainable gardening methods, all gardeners should enjoy this selection.

Be sure to stop in at the library as see our great collection of gardening and plant books.

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Back to your roots: Alan Tichmarsh tips on growing exotic vegetables

Soil, site and situation

Root vegetables need the right set of conditions to grow into quality crops. Give them a sunny situation with good soil that’s free from stones, or the roots will bend or grow stumpy. The soil should be reasonably well drained, or roots rot in the ground, given a wet season, and won’t keep well into autumn. That said, don’t let it dry out badly in summer or else the plants will run to seed without forming a root. Avoid recently manured ground since this makes root crops difficult to peel. Deep topsoil is essential for growing long root crops such as salsify and scorzonera. 

Also avoid newly cultivated ground, particularly a plot that was previously grass, since it will contain lots of soil pests that tunnel into and ruin root crops.

Prepare the ground

Ideally, choose a patch of ground that’s been well dug over during the winter, and which has not had manure or high-nitrogen feeds applied for at least a year or two. If the soil needs organic matter, then it’s OK to work in the contents of used growing bags, bags of bought soil improver or well-rotted garden compost, but avoid anything else. Shortly before sowing, hoe off any weeds, then sprinkle a dressing of general-purpose fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone over the area and rake it well in. 

Sowing the seeds

Sowing times vary for different root crops, so always check the instructions on the packet. Parsnips, salsify and scorzonera are best sown as early as possible to give them the long growing season they need. Don’t sow beetroot before late April or it will run to seed, but fast-growing crops such as kohl rabi, baby beetroots, salad carrots and radishes can be sown in small batches several weeks apart to provide a regular supply for the kitchen. Oriental radishes (mooli type) should not be sown before late June or they too will run to seed.

Always sow root veg where you want the crop to grow to maturity, since seedlings do not transplant well. To sow, make a long, straight, shallow groove or “drill” with the corner of a rake or hoe. If the soil is heavyish, sprinkle sharp sand or horticultural vermiculite along the base of the drill about a quarter of an inch deep to improve germination. Sprinkle the seeds thinly and evenly along the row, then cover to their own depth with sifted topsoil or, on heavy soil, use sand or vermiculite. After sowing, label each row and water in.

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Instant Organic Garden: Asparagus Tips

Asparagus is a very popular garden vegetable, but since it’s a perennial it will take up room in your small garden, even though your harvest lasts only one season per year. The good news is that your asparagus plants can be productive for as many as thirty years and the harvest will increase every year!

Start with two year old crowns, male plants are most productive. This is what the crowns look like.

Growing and harvesting asparagus is a balancing act. You want to enjoy a good harvest, but you also need to make sure you don’t deplete the strength of the plants. If you stop harvesting too soon, the plants will send up big ferns and put a lot of energy into the roots. The next year the spears would be thick as a thumb and after that – a big toe! Once your asparagus are established, your goal is to keep continuing your harvest for a long time so the plants don’t get too big.

The trick for the best results in a small garden involves plant spacing and harvest timing. Plant them five inches apart and six inches deep. Spread the thick roots out carefully and cover with soil. Use the pattern shown here to get five plants per square foot.

This is MUCH closer than most gardening manuals recommend, but there are several reasons why we do it this way. First, in our raised bed gardens we have very deep, fertile soil, so each plant doesn’t need as much room.

That’s why I plant them so close together originally. We want them to crowd together and compete for nutrients and not become gigantic. What a wonderful problem to have – a long harvest period for your tender, tasty asparagus!

The first year they’ll send up skinny little shoots, which aren’t very good for eating. Let them grow up into ferns which will soak up the sun all spring and summer and send energy into the roots.

By September your asparagus should be bright green ferns three to five feet tall. You may see some red berries as well. Once the weather starts to cool down your ferns will start to turn a bit brown and die back. Cut them off at the bottom and throw the ferns away. If you let the berries drop to the ground, you’ll have tiny little asparagus plants starting in your garden next year, so feel free to dispose of the ferns in the trash unless you have a hot compost pile.

After their first year, they’ll use their stored energy to send up thicker spears – starting with pencil thickness. These are great to eat – tender and tasty! Use a sharp knife to cut them off below the surface before the buds start to open out into the beginnings of branches. Every time you cut a spear, another will pop up to take its place. If you harvest too long you’ll deplete the plant’s energy, so go easy the first year. Enjoy those thin shoots for 3 – 6 weeks.

The next year is when you’ll be getting a significant harvest of pinky or finger sized shoots. Harvest them for a longer period so they don’t store up too much energy for next year’s crop.

From then on you’ll harvest for longer and longer periods to maintain the balance between harvest times and spear sizes. Enjoy! 

Eric Eitel is a farmer, father, personal trainer and owner of Instant Organic Garden Southern Maryland, a business that builds raised bed gardens for homeowners, schools, restaurants and businesses. He gives talks and teaches classes on how to make gardening easy. 443-771-3003 




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Edible garden design, Art-A-Whirl and cool containers



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    Jamie Durie will appear at Pahl’s Market in Apple Valley on May 17.

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    Edible garden tips and tricks

    How can you make your veggie and herb gardens look as good as they taste? Jamie Durie, Australian horticulturist, HGTV star and author of “Edible Garden Design,” will share tips on planting a pleasing garden, as well as demonstrating landscape design tricks for your back-yard retreat. Durie’s talk and book signing is from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Pahl’s Market, 6885 W. 160th St., Apple Valley. Cost is $30 and includes a copy of Durie’s book. For tickets, go to

    Northeast art show

    Art-A-Whirl is a chance to get a close look at artists, their private studios and one-of-a-kind artworks for your home that you won’t find in a catalog or chain store. The annual art extravaganza and sale in northeast Minneapolis features sculpture, pottery, paintings, textiles, metalwork, photography, mixed media and other works by more than 500 artists. The open studio tours include demonstrations, live performances and large-scale exhibitions. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. next Sunday. For details and an Art-A-Whirl map, go to

    Cool containers

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    GREEN THUMBS UP: The basics of garden design

    By Suzanne Mahler

    Posted May. 10, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

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