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Archives for May 12, 2014

Separating airman answers critics

To some, Staff Sgt. Aaron Driver is a truth-teller, laying out the hard realities of the toll everything from repeated deployments to Mickey Mouse regulations have taken on rank-and-file airmen and their families.

Others have called him everything from a selfish whiner to a cancer on the Air Force.

Driver’s very public breakup from the Air Force — in a letter published April 21 in Air Force Times — has gone viral, spawning a forcewide debate on issues such as why people enlist, the burdens deployments place on troops and what the military owes people for their service.

Driver, a 24-year-old radar technician, said in his letter that he has decided not to re-enlist in August after six years in the Air Force.

With no money and few options coming out of high school, Driver said, the Air Force at first looked like a great way to gain skills, earn money for college, and receive benefits such as health care and a pension after 20 years.

But repeated deployments to places like South America and Southwest Asia placed a severe strain on his marriage to his wife, Jennifer. Constant threats to cut benefits left him wondering if a key reason he joined the military was about to be yanked away from him. His duties were “mind-numbing and joyless.” And he felt his leadership unnecessarily went out of its way to make life difficult for airmen.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, Driver said, came in March, when his first sergeant read him the riot act at lunchtime over his out-of-regulation mustache. Coming during Mustache March — a forcewide event heavily promoted by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and celebrating a famed fighter pilot who proudly flaunted grooming regulations — the chastisement particularly rankled Driver and seemed contrary to the point of a morale-building exercise.

“Six years, multiple deployments and several mental breakdowns later, I am ready to put the Air Force in my past forever,” Driver wrote. “The Air Force has given me a lot, but what it took in return was more valuable. I had been held back, limited and sucked dry of all happiness. That first sergeant may have been crazy, but he helped me realize that I was crazy too.”

Driver’s “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore” moment touched a nerve — especially at a time when thousands of airmen worry that force reductions will eliminate their jobs.

And in a May 2 interview, Driver said he thinks the vehement reactions from some against his letter underline the cultural problems he was trying to point out.

“It seems the idea that we have to suffer and sacrifice — it doesn’t have to be miserable,” said Driver, a Savannah, Ga., native who is currently deployed from Hunter Army Airfield to Southwest Asia, but would not say exactly where. “But to point that out is apparently taboo.”

Some commenters responding to Driver’s letter pointed out that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had been raging for years by the time Driver signed up, and said the deployments should not have surprised him.

“What did you think was going to happen?” one commenter asked.

Driver disputed the suggestion he didn’t realize that deployments would be a fact of life or that he would have to sacrifice in his career. The problem, he said, is that high ops tempos strain families — and the “suck it up” attitude only encourages airmen to ignore the problems and stresses they’re having. And at a time when high rates of post-traumatic stress, divorce and suicide are plaguing the military, that’s a dangerous message to send, Driver said.

“I’m certainly not a fool,” Driver said. “I knew what I was getting into. And most people do when they join. But when you try to mention that it’s becoming a problem and you’re suffering, you get told to kind of suck it up, make it work. And it’s even worse when they tell you that as the force cuts continue, the deployments are going to increase, and you’re going to have to do more with less. You can’t help but judge that sacrifice and say, is it really worth it?”

And after airmen have returned home from a deployment, the looming threat of another tour often prevents them from truly relaxing and reconnecting with their families, Driver said.

“Even when you’re home and you’re relaxing, in that dwell time in between, it’s always, when is the next one?” Driver said. “Is it going to happen randomly? It’s just that dread. It had a big part on affecting me mentally. It was even hard to enjoy time at home, because you’ve got the next one sitting right there on the horizon.”

At some point, Driver said, he and other airmen have to start thinking more about themselves and their families than what they owe the Air Force.

“I’ve always said, service before self,” Driver said. “But when there’s no self left, there’s obviously going to be no service. You’re going to have to take care of that self.”

Driver said that, in writing the letter, he wanted to spark a broader conversation about the burdens all airmen are bearing, and didn’t want it to be primarily about his own personal experiences — which he acknowledged are less stressful than those of many other airmen.

“I obviously have not had it as bad as a lot of other people have,” Driver said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to your family. And when your family spends so much time without you, that has a big impact on your life. Some people are OK with that sacrifice, and some people aren’t. But I know a lot of people that, there’s a certain breaking point when it’s just too much.”

Several commenters criticized Driver for focusing so heavily on the benefits when he signed up, and for ignoring that a military career is a life of service.

“Did this guy really think that he was just going to get great pay, benefits, retirement and a career skill without sacrifice?” commenter Dan Gerke said. “Duty, patriotism and an exchange of sweat and equity were apparently not part of his dream.”

Driver said that attitude ignores the reality that many people join the all-volunteer force because of its benefits, which are regularly being threatened with cuts.

“A lot of the people that reacted in a negative way had these absolute ideas in their mind, like, you have to join because of patriotism to be right, and if you didn’t, you’re wrong,” Driver said. “You don’t have to disregard your own needs to be in the military, and you certainly don’t have to deny reality to be a good [noncommissioned officer], as a lot of people accused me of not being. It says a lot when the initial reaction to someone that speaks up is, tell him to suck it up, shut up or get out.”

But for roughly every commenter who criticized Driver, there was another who understood where he was coming from, and said he had made good points that were worth debating.

“The Air Force DOES NOT NEED unthinking, blue-bleeding, pain-enduring, regulation-following cheerleaders,” commenter Mathew Lowrey said. “Listen to this airman’s critique, and ask yourself if he could be right. Face some facts, critics: The Air Force RECRUITS [and] did not only pitch selfless service in its recruitment efforts. And you, dear critics, are proving this airman’s point.”

And while airmen are struggling to maintain their home lives, Driver said, it doesn’t help when leadership unnecessarily picks fights over minor infractions — such as his mustache.

Much of the debate online centered around Driver’s mustache anecdote. In the interview, Driver said it was his attempt to start a discussion about misplaced priorities on the part of some Air Force leaders.

“It was an example — a poor one, I admit — of the style-over-substance attitude that’s become so prevalent,” Driver said. “You’ve got a lot of these [Air Force Instructions] that don’t make a lot of sense at the end of the day. And anytime you try to bring up, what’s the reason behind it? It’s always defended with the argument of the slippery slope, the idea that if you have one thing go, it’s all going to go. But at the end of the day, the slippery slope argument doesn’t make a lot of sense, because I guarantee you, if you let me grow a mustache, I’m not going to just stop doing my job.”

Driver said that he’s worn his mustache for several years, and received an award for serving as his unit’s official monitor for this year’s Mustache March contest.

“So you go from being rewarded for it, and it’s a big morale booster, and I got everyone in the shop to grow one, and it’s something that built camaraderie and we all enjoyed it, and then to have it treated at the end kind of as this big problem, just misses the whole point,” Driver said.

Driver said he was glad his letter set off the conversation he had hoped for, and said he does not regret writing it. He said that much of the reaction he personally received was positive. His fellow airmen were supportive, he said. He showed the letter to his supervisor before it was published, he said, and after it came out, his commander came by and asked him if he was OK.

After Driver leaves the Air Force, he hopes to start his own landscaping business.

“I’ve always been into horticulture and landscaping,” Driver said. “I do a lot of food growing, and fruit trees. Hopefully, we’ll see where it goes.”■

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Plants, bugs, crafts and more at Locust Grove fair – The Courier

More than 1,000 people showed up despite stormy skies Sunday at Locust Grove for the annual Gardeners’ Fair and Silent Auction.

They browsed flowers, herbs and vegetables, gardening tools, lawn ornaments, handmade crafts and many other locally produced goods on the last day of the three-day event, celebrating its 19th year in Louisville.

“It’s a real community event,” said Locust Grove executive director Carol Ely.

She estimated around 3,000 people visited 80 vendor booths on the historic property since the event started Friday. More than just a place for people and families to peruse the booths, the event also showcased Locust Grove, a national historic landmark where three presidents visited over the years and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark stopped upon the completion of their cross-continent expedition in 1806.

Julie Michael of Louisville and three generations of her family have made a trip to the fair for the past eight years, this year shopping nine people strong.

“We love to support Locust Grove,” she said. “And the local vendors.”

More than 1,000 people showed up despite stormy skies Sunday at Locust Grove for the annual Gardeners’ Fair and Silent Auction. (Arza Barnett/The Courier-Journal)

She was at the fair to browse through the countless flowers set in pots and baskets across the lawn — which was strewn with hay to cover the muddy muck caused by storms the previous two days.

One booth specialized in a kind of gardening supply that isn’t generally available at your everyday nursery: insects used for “biocontrol” of garden pests. The first two that stood out at the Entomology Solutions booth — also called Bugs Behaving Badly — were ladybugs and preying mantises, the “poster children” for beneficial insects, said owner and entomologist Blair Leano-Helvey.

The idea is to use natural predators — or “beneficials” — to kill plant-damaging pests, instead of insecticide, she said. “It’s not a new science,” she said, but as organic produce and plants are becoming more and more popular, people are looking for ways to keep crops healthy in a more earth-friendly way. “You can’t get much more organic than beneficials,” she said.

Nadine Stevens, 85, of Louisville, who has been gardening for more than 60 years and has made a trip to the Locust Grove gardeners’ fair for the past five years, looked at the Bugs Behaving Badly booth with interest, but didn’t seem totally sold on the idea. Any way to use fewer pesticides, though, “is a good thing,” she said.

It’s that kind of interaction, introducing people to new ideas and educating the public about the natural world, that makes the event what it is, Ely said. And even if bugs and plants aren’t your thing, there are so many other booths and products, and even tours of the property itself, that no one should go away from the fair empty handed, she said.

“There is something everyone can relate to.”

Reporter Mark Boxley can be reached at (502) 582-4241 or on Twitter at @Boxleyland.

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Students pitch designs for Nashville neighborhoods

City planners for years have been struggling with how to spur redevelopment in retail areas across Nashville that are long past their prime.

A group of University of Tennessee architecture and design students have been hard at work in recent months studying some of those areas, from Antioch to Bellevue, to come up with ideas for projects that could add momentum to those efforts.

The Metro Planning Department identified about a dozen areas across Nashville for the students in Knoxville and at the Georgia Institute of Technology to develop concepts for bringing economic growth, connections to public transit, and more urban-style affordable housing to the areas.

The students’ projects were showcased recently by the Nashville Civic Design Center, a nonprofit group that promotes public involvement in urban planning and development projects.

Bellevue Mall area

The rundown mall has long been a focus of Metro planners. Student Laura Flores incorporated ideas to redevelop the mall into a mixed-use community and expanded on that idea, focusing on a retail strip south of the mall. The proposal calls for rethinking the retail corridor to the south of the mall, implementing green space into mixed-use parcels that allow easier transition between the retail environment and nearby neighborhoods.

Bellevue Civic

A student called for rethinking the connection between the civic center at Bellevue Middle School and creating a more uniform landscape between it, the new library, and Red Caboose Park. Student Melissa Dooley suggested adding landscaping that tied in all of these components so that they worked together to create a sense of place.


Student Kyle Nichols proposed redeveloping an underused supermarket retail center on Clarksville Pike at West Hamilton Avenue into more residential housing, revamping the corridor with improved streetscaping and building more roads for better connectivity and to handle traffic from new residents more effectively. The proposal also calls for transit-oriented affordable housing.

Talbot’s Corner

Near the intersection of West Trinity Lane and Interstate 65, student Kyle Jenkins proposed redeveloping an old hotel to establish a mixed-use walkable community, with green space and plenty of square feet for new uses. The proposal also called for adding better transitions and better roads to adjacent neighborhoods.

Wedgewood at Interstate 65

The area that is wedged between the interstate and a CSX rail line is an industrial hub that is quite isolated. Student Dylan Buc proposed forming a creative corridor for this part of Nashville just south of downtown that offers a better transition into the Wedgewood Houston residential neighborhood to the east with better roadway connections into and out of the district.

Reach Josh Brown at 615-726-5964 and on Twitter @joshbrownnews.

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Buckingham plot to help special needs children – The News

The owner of a plot of land along a dead end road in Buckingham is hoping to turn part of the property into a place where special needs children can get away from it all.

Mark Tracy has been transforming his 5500 Higginbotham Road land into Artful Gardens for the past two years and is working on getting nonprofit status and a license to work as a nursery.

“The reason for it all is Cody,” Tracy said, speaking about his 9-year-old nephew who is autistic. “Two years ago he moved down here. I realized there’s not enough things around in this area for special needs kids, so we’re trying to build a park that’s for them.”

On a recent Thursday, students from the Easter Seals Lily Academy in Fort Myers, a school for children with autism and related disabilities, were invited to the park.

The half-dozen students spent a lot of time splatter-painting wooden benches, enjoying the free-spirited painting style.

“They like it better when they do their own thing,” said Maria Botero, director at the academy. “This is more in tune with an autistic child. They all love it.”

Tracy’s dream for Artful Gardens involves activities like this and a lot more.

The six-acre gardens is expected to officially open later this year.

But for Tracy, the plans run deeper and are much more involved than just a play area for special needs children.

“I would eventually like to build a home, dorm-style, for autistic and special needs people so they could live and work here,” he said.

Tracy added the park will also be for the parents and caregivers of those special needs children.

“They need to take a break, too,” he said.,

Tracy plans to hold fundraising events there and eventually hire adults with disabilities to work in the gardens, building furniture, etc.

The gardens are about 75 percent complete with several pavilions under construction and an orchard on the property.

The gardens are a labor of love for the retired landscaper, railroad worker and bar owner.

“He does this as a hobby,” said his sister Gail Strope. Tracy is building a home on the property for her and Cody.

Tracy has turned the property into an eclectic, colorful wonderland with covered rest areas, clumps of flowers and trees, paths, shallow stream-beds and sculptures.

He and his three full-time Artful Gardens employees have built, decorated and painted a lot on their own, but Tracy welcomes any area artists to come out and let their muses run free on whatever surface is handy.

“They can come out and do whatever they want,” he said. “It will always keep on changing, the painting or the way it looks. I might get bored with one area and dismantle it and rebuild.”

He hopes, in the long run, many will come out to enjoy.

Connect with this reporter: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook) @MichaelBraunNP (Twitter)


Artful Gardens is at 5500 Higginbotham Road, off Orange River Boulevard, in Buckingham.

To contact Mark Tracy: His cell is 239-980-3960 and his email is

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Diggin’ In: Landscaping at Mount Vernon


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Monday, May 12, 2014 1:06 AM EDT

Diggin’ In: Landscaping at Mount Vernon

George Washington’s historic home of Mount Vernon contains landscaping designed by Washington himself. (Mount Vernon/Newport News Daily Press/MCT)

As a young surveyor and before serving as our country’s first president, George Washington developed the ability to measure up a landscape and to take advantage of its natural features. He also had an eye for spatial awareness, and learned by observation, by reading, and by the study of new styles of landscape design.

Later, he put those skills to use creating a landscape plant for his now-historic home, Mount Vernon in Fairfax, Va., along the banks of the Potomac River, according to Mount Vernon curators.

The public can see Washington’s vision and purpose for the estate’s grounds in a new exhibit “Gardens Groves: George Washington’s Landscape and Mount Vernon.” The exhibit includes five 18th-century views of Mount Vernon — oil paintings of the river and land fronts of the mansion. Two special drawings that detail the layout of the grounds will be on view through Aug. 17, while the entire exhibit can be seen until January 2016.

“These artwork records record details of the landscape we would not otherwise know, information that continues to inform our ongoing research and restoration efforts,” says exhibit curator Adam Erby.

Built in stages 1758-1778, Washington’s estate and its gardens are owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which was found as a preservation group in 1853.

When George Washington returned to Mount Vernon after the American Revolution, 1775-1783, he found the estate needed extensive repairs and improvements. The buildings and grounds surrounding the mansion lacked a cohesive design because they had happened over time out of necessity rather than beauty, according to curators. Instead, he wanted a plan for “pleasure grounds” that enhanced the site’s natural beauty, which featured the crest of a hill overlooking the Potomac River.

the gardens landscape

Three of the four principle gardens — the upper or pleasure garden; the fruit garden and nursery; and the botanical garden — have all been restored to their 18th-century appearance, using recent research and archaeological evidence as guidelines.

“The lower or kitchen garden remains as it was implemented in 1937, based on research at the time and its design is reflective of the Colonial Revival landscape movement,” says Dean Norton, director of horticulture

Washington included a modern greenhouse in the upper garden, according to curators. Completed in 1789, it housed his semi-tropical and tropical plants during winter months. In spring, container plants were put out in the garden. Tall triple-hung windows allowed beneficial southern light, and could be opened to allow good air flow. A heating system with a stove room on the north side of the greenhouse attached to a series of flues that ran under the stone floor, heating the floor of the greenhouse.

What were the original gardens like?

The lower or kitchen garden was the first space created in 1760. It was a garden of necessity, benefitting survival and good health. For 254 years, vegetables, fruits, and berries have been cultivated within those garden walls.

The upper garden began in 1763 as a fruit and nut garden but became a pleasure place whe Washington began his new landscape plan. Pleasure gardens — plots flowers were grown for beauty and not for use — were not that common in the 18th century. Even in Washington’s pleasure garden, flowers were only grown in borders that surrounded larger beds of edibles.

The botanical garden was Washington’s own experimental space. He fondly called this small space his little garden and kept detailed records as to what he planted and where, according to curators. The space was intended to try out different types of plants that might be “Virginia-proof,” or could survive the harsh conditions of both winter and the summer.

The area known as fruit garden and nursery began as a failed attempt at a vineyard, according to curators. Today, fruit trees are planted in the arrangement that Washington recorded in his diaries. The nursery area was where plants that required more space were planted — grasses, vegetables and ornamentals.

What notes of interest did Washington leave about his gardens?

At age 16, in his “Journal of my Journey over the Mountains” he wrote “. about 4 miles higher up the river we went through the most beautiful Groves of Sugar trees spent the best part of the Day admiring the Trees and the richness of the land.” Washington loved nature and upon return from the Revolutionary War he decided to mimic nature by creating a naturalistic garden. He spent 18 months on the design. Once it was completed, he returned to his passion — farming — and let the gardeners he hired take care of day-to-day maintenance.

Washington left a great deal of information about his plans for Mount Vernon Estate, through his letters and diary entries, and there are a few drawings — for example, the arrangement of greenhouse spaces and the ha-ha wall (a landscape barrier that keeps grazing animals from entering turf spaces) on the east lawn.

Washington mentions specific landscape features in his writings, such as a deer park, groves, shrubberies, and wilderness areas, but in most cases does not go into much detail, according to curators.

In a letter to his land manager in 1776, he shares his intention to create groves to the north and south of his house. They are to be planted in a random fashion, “And that at the South, of all the clever kind of Trees (especially flowering ones) that can be got, such as Crab apple, Poplar, Dogwood.”

Some of Washington’s best quotes are about agriculture, nature, and trees, and the comfort and peace he derived from the cultivation of the earth and the plants themselves, including one to Arthur Young in August 1786: “Agriculture has ever been amongst the most favourite amusements of my life.”

Did Washington favor certain plants?

Washington seemed to be partial to trees and shrubs that bloomed. He especially favored dogwoods and redbuds, so much so that he planted a circle of dogwood with a redbud in the center. The forests that surrounded Mount Vernon were full of native plants needed to lushly landscape a country seat — like poplars, elms, maples, catalpas, ash, mulberries, dogwoods, redbuds, fringe trees, service berries, sassafras that were available for transplanting. He also ordered trees from three nurseries, John Bartram’s and William Hamilton’s, both near Philadelphia, and William Prince’s in Flushing, Long Island, N.Y. Washington was interested in new plants and called them exotic, which could mean from a different state or from far distances.

Is the landscape re-creation complete?

Research is ongoing to make sure his estate is represented as accurately as possible, according to curators. Archaeologists are looking for gravel paths that were created in the wilderness areas in the hope that those landscape features can be restored. Exploration for the six ovals Washington mentions he wants to create on the bowling green to highlight the plants that he purchased from John Bartram’s nursery will begin within the next few years.

What does the landscape says about his love for the land?

Washington’s desire to conserve forest trees meant he tried to create living fences, trees planted close enough together to keep animals out of cultivated areas. He also preferred that his work force make fence rails out of already downed trees rather than cut live trees down, according to curators.

Washington wrote to William Drayton on March 25, 1786: “Nothing in my opinion would contribute more to the welfare of these states, than the proper management of our lands; and nothing in this State particularly, seems to be less understood. The present mode of cropping practiced among us, is destructive to landed property; and must, if persisted in much longer, ultimately ruin the holders of it.”



-Learn more about George Washington’s early days through author Phil Levy, who wrote the book “Where the Cherry Tree Grew: The Story of Ferry Farm, George Washington’s Boyhood Home” at



Location: A picturesque drive to the southern end of the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway, Mount Vernon is located in Fairfax County, Va., about 16 miles from Washington, D.C.

Size: 500 acres; 50 acres are open to the public. Mount Vernon consisted of 8,000 acres during George Washington’s lifetime. Gardens comprise more than six acres, and the George Washington: Pioneer Farmer site encompasses four acres.

Hours: April-August, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; March, September, October, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November — February, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission: adults, $18; senior citizens, $17; children age 6-11, when accompanied by an adult, $9; and children under age 5, free. Learn more at or 703-780-2000.

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IT’S THE WEEKEND: May gardening tips from allotment blogger Sean O’Dobhain

IT’S THE WEEKEND: May gardening tips from allotment blogger Sean O’Dobhain

MAY GARDENING: Brassicas to be planted

HERE’S the latest column from our allotment columnist Sean O’Dobhain, from Cwmbran


I LOVE the month of May with the warmer temperatures and the promise of summer just around the corner. It’s now that the customary avenues of bamboo canes spring up on plot after plot as the supports for the runner and climbing beans. Some rows are so long I wonder how any family can eat so many beans! I’ve found that 16 runner bean plants, plus a small wigwam of French beans give my family ample to eat fresh plus loads for the freezer.

Plant runner beans in free draining soil and add some organic matter before planting to retain moisture as they don’t like it too dry.

If you are putting out plants sown under glass last month then remember to harden them off first by placing them outside for a few days but avoiding a frost at night.

Alternatively, it’s the right time to sow direct; pop a couple of beans at the foot of each cane and thin to one strong plant. Whether planting or sowing, protect against slug attack.

As I want Brussels sprouts for Christmas lunch it’s time to plant them and the other brassicas too; plants like cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower. A few simple things are essential for healthy brassicas. First, ensure that the ground is firm; it always feels a bit odd to me, treading down a nicely dug bed with booted feet, but brassicas need firm ground. Secondly, once the ground is firm, add a sprinkling of lime, brassicas won’t grow well in acidic soils. Add some general fertilizer if required (but don’t mix manure with lime) and rake both the lime and fertilizer into the surface before planting.

Some brassicas can become large plants; sprouts for example, need a good 60-80cm between them to grow well. I plant my sprouts out in the bed first then plant summer cabbages in-between the rows. The cabbages are finished by the autumn and the sprouts are able to go on and develop in the space. Remember, pigeons and white butterflies will decimate a brassica crop; always protect plants with some kind of frame and net.

Indoor tomatoes can be set out in the greenhouse too and outdoor varieties on the plot. As I have vine or ‘indeterminate’ varieties of tomatoes, I need to start pinching out the side shoots that grow between a main leaf and stem. This will ensure that the tomato plant will develop truss after truss of flowers and fruit as it grows on a single stem tied on to a cane. If you have a bush or ‘determinate’ variety then side shoots should be left in place.

Lastly this month, I’m planting out delicious sweet corn, raised in root trainers in April. Plant, or sow direct now, in blocks rather than lines to help with pollination; F1 varieties such as Swift or Incredible should do well.

Other allotment jobs for May

• Check summer and winter squashes sown last month, if their roots are through the bottom then re-pot into larger containers. Wait until June when the weather is warm enough before planting outside.

• Plant out any remaining lettuce and place cucumbers into cold frames or a greenhouse.

• Continue to direct sow in shallow drills: carrots, turnip, broad beans, swede, lettuce, radish, peas and beetroot as required.

• Sow winter cabbage like Tundra F1 or Ormskirk Savoy for planting out in July.

• It’s not too late to plant seed potatoes, get them planted in trenches now.

• Weeds and slugs are a problem now; hoe regularly and use slug control around young plants.

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Top Ten Bee-Friendly Tips: #3-Plant an Herb Garden and Let Half of It Blooom



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    In the Yard

    Top Ten Bee-Friendly Tips: #3-Plant an Herb Garden and Let Half of It Blooom

    Posted by: Rhonda Hayes

    Updated: May 11, 2014 – 5:47 AM

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    For years I’ve been saying that herbs are the best plants anyone can grow. They’re easy and forgiving. They’re tasty and fragrant. They’re beautiful. And one more thing, they’re great for bees.

    Plant an herb garden and let it grow for a while. Pinch and pluck the leaves for any number of uses, like cooking or cosmetics, eat the flowers, eat the foliage, go for it, because most herbs love to be sheared and pruned; the act of harvesting actually makes them grow fuller and bushier.

    Then do something for the bees. Stop snipping and picking half of the herbs, or more if you’re feeling generous, and allow them to bloom. Herbs are always trying to bloom, you’ll see their stems start to lengthen like in the case of oregano or sometimes the leaves grow smaller and even change shape, as does basil or mint. Pretty soon the flowers will be covered with bees.

    Bees love herb blooms because many consist of lots of little florets, perfectly shaped for browsing and foraging. When bees can work over a large number of blooms in a small area, it helps them to save energy while increasing the amount of nectar they can consume. Herbs save them from making extra trips back to the hive and that’s a good thing.

    Bee on fennel flowers

    Yes, herbs are easy to grow. But some gardening publications will say they thrive on neglect. It is true that established plants can survive without much attention, but whether planted in the ground or in containers a new herb garden needs care at first; lots of sunlight, well-drained soil and adequate water. (And no matter what you see on Pinterest, you can’t grow herbs in Mason jars. Without a hole for water to drain, they will quickly rot.)

    Here’s a list of herbs to start your bee-friendly garden. Get bzzzzy!

    Lemon balm                              


    Anise hyssop
















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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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