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Archives for May 15, 2014

Sugarloaf Twp. promotes officer to full-time

Sugarloaf Township’s police force now has five full-time officers with the promotion of a part-time officer.

Supervisors promoted Patrolman Jude Allen to full-time status Tuesday night. Chief Josh Winters said he started interviewing for additional part-time officers. He expects the interview process to continue into the summer.

In a related matter, the supervisors entered an agreement for police and first responder response with Hollenback Township.

Solicitor Joseph Ferdinand said the township had an agreement with Hollenback from Dec. 22, 2012, regarding the response at the top of the mountain at the township line. County mapping changed the line, but both townships want to maintain the traditional areas of service, he said.

The agreement doesn’t affect where people pay taxes or change addresses, Ferdinand said, but continues the service that traditionally was rendered. Emergency service has approved the agreement, he said.

Emergency management director Tom Mundie pointed out a problem area on the Little Nescopeck Creek that could lead to flooding. A tree fell in the creek below the Walp Road bridge, which created a blockage, he said.

Fire Chief Duane Hildebrand noted the fire company handled 54 calls, and will host an all-you-can-eat breakfast this Sunday.


Zoning officer Jim Caffray, who was absent, reported the number of complaints about illegal burning is on the rise, and he wanted to remind residents that burning is only permitted Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Only organic matter, such as tree limbs, leaves and clean wood, may be burned. Any material that causes black smoke or odors cannot be burned. Other items that cannot be burned include table refuse, animal and vegetable matter, garbage or construction debris.


The Tomhicken Recreation Board met in April. Supervisor Jack Weaver said that the individual who wanted to use a jump house at the playground will be allowed to do so, but will be responsible for the paperwork with the rental company. Sugarloaf will not be responsible.

The supervisors also agreed to hire someone to clean the Tomhicken Recreation Building for $35 a week, if needed.

The Sugarloaf Recreation Board met in May, and the board dedicated an engraved bench to honor long-time Supervisor Earl Miller’s contribution to the recreation board and Larock Field. The bench was placed in the children’s playground area.

Supervisors appointed Raleigh Masters and Bob Brownlee to the recreation board, filling two of three vacancies.

Following an inspection, the board also came up with a wish list for the field, which includes a truckload of mulch, a new sign at the tennis courts and landscaping. Several people stepped up for other improvements.

The Valley Vets donated a new flag to the park.


Supervisors Rick Weaver and Richard Yost and Chief Winters met with representatives from the Pilot truck stop, the state Department of Transportation, Sen. John Gordner and a representative from Rep. Tarah Toohil’s office on May 2.

Yost thought the meeting was very productive, and they exchanged a lot of good ideas for signs and other suggestions. Signage seems to the problem, as trucks don’t know where to go, he said.

“We came up with some good ideas,” Winters said. “We want to make it dummy-proof. I think it’s going to help.”

The matter now rests with the truck stop, he said.

Joint authority

The supervisors will meet along with Conyngham Borough Council for a hearing on forming a joint authority on June 7 at the Conyngham Borough Building. Both communities are expected to act on the ordinance forming the authority following the hearing.

Sugarloaf residents are welcome to attend, as this is not only a borough meeting, but a township meeting, Weaver said.

“We’re having our meeting there,” he said.

Ferdinand noted that residents can review the ordinance at the township building prior to the meeting.

The township is also looking for two people to serve as representatives on the new authority. People who are interested should stop at the township building or send a letter, Weaver said.


Supervisors will come up with a bid packet and advertise for bids to pay St. Johns Road from Route 93 to the Butler Township line.

The road department has been busy with street sweeping, equipment maintenance, including the street sweeper, pothole patching and cutting up fallen trees.


The supervisors approved the Hildebrand subdivision, which was approved by the planning commission, and granted a 90-day extension to Red Truck LLC, as its previous extension was expiring the end of May. The commission is waiting on a review of a traffic impact assessment for Red Truck.


The supervisors approved a proposal from RJD Engineering for an inflow and infiltration study of the sewer lines at the top of the mountain. The township is mandated to complete the study, Weaver, and costs will be presented at the next meeting.

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OCtech Foundation symposium energizes gardening crowd

The chatter was all about plants and gardening. As the crowd mingled during the two-day OCtech Foundation’s Home Garden Symposium, people exchanged growing tips and admired the ribbon winners at the flower show. They tapped into the plethora of knowledge that speakers Amy Dabbs and Andy Cabe came to share. And no one went away empty handed as the Orangeburg Master Gardeners handed out free zinnia plants.

Each year, the lineup of presenters, the flower show and the silent auction are declared “the best they have ever seen” by many attendees. This year, the “friend raiser,” as OCtech College President Dr. Walter Tobin likes to call it, brought the public wonderful opportunities to learn even more about gardening.

Amy Dabbs, Clemson extension agent from Charleston, gave the crowd plenty to think about as she presented tips on how to best go about buying plants for their yards. Dabbs emphasized doing a little planning and research before even heading to the store. Making a list and keeping to it as well as being able to recognize a healthy plant are important if you want your yard and garden to thrive, Dabbs said.

“My personal plant list includes oakleaf hydrangea, Echinacea, creeping plum yew, Hibiscus Texas star — all plants I really like and that do well in my yard,” she said.

Dabbs shared her personal experience of landscaping the yard around her newly-built home and finding ways to solve problems by selecting the right plants for each situation. She also cautioned against impulse buying, which often results in poor plant choices.

Her presentation was followed by “Dueling Designers” Vonnie Bozard and Lynn Garrick, who potted up two shade-loving planters, demonstrating two very different design ideas.

Wednesday’s events began with a sumptuous buffet and viewing of silent auction items. Bids were placed on a wide variety of donated plants and garden-related items. OCtech Sustainable Agriculture students were on hand to sell vegetable and bedding plants grown in the campus greenhouses.

Andy Cabe, director of the gardens at Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens, awed the crowd with a presentation on “The Top Fifty Plants for Southern Gardens.” As pictures of the chosen plants were shown on the wall screen, Cabe touched on the outstanding features that make each plant special and worthy of including in the home garden.

“For me, the selection changes over time, but what you see here today are things that grow well here and that we rely on at the botanical gardens,” he said. “You can depend on them.”

Cabe also shared his Top 10 List of plants the botanical gardens will feature annually that are the “cream-of-the-crop choices that can work well in any garden and will add beauty and interest to any landscape.” The list can be viewed on line at

“Everybody owes it to themselves to splurge every now and then and make a ridiculous (plant) purchase — buy something expensive,” Cabe told those attending. “You deserve it for all the hard work you put into your garden.”

Jim Elliott of the Avian Conservation Center finished out the afternoon program with a Birds of Prey flight demonstration. Three different trained birds from the center flew over the indoor audience on command. Elliott’s presentation included information on how birds are rehabilitated at the Charleston facility and the importance of all birds in the ecosystem.

* Contact the writer: 138 Nature’s Trail, Bamberg, SC 29003.

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Tone down elaborate Discovery Gardens plan in Paso Robles

As much as we love gardens, we’re having a hard time wrapping our brains around the decision to allow a Disneyesque garden/tourist attraction — complete with greenery, mazes, a tunnel, an artificial lake and other water features — at a resort planned for the eastern entrance to Paso Robles.

The Entrada de Paso Robles resort was approved several years ago with 200 hotel rooms, 80 casitas, a conference center and, originally, a 27-hole golf course. Since the original approval, the property off Highway 46 East changed hands — it’s now owned by Ken Hunter III — and so did the vision for the property. Hunter wants a series of gardens there, rather than a golf course. Now that he’s received the blessing of the city Planning Commission, construction of Discovery Gardens — to be built in the project’s first phase — could begin as early as next year.

On the plus side, Discovery Gardens will require significantly less water than the golf course. According to Paso Robles City Manager Jim App, the gardens will use just 90 acre feet per year, compared to the 500 acre feet that the golf course would have required. When recycled water becomes available, the gardens will be required to tap into that.

Another consideration: There already are a fair number of golf courses in our county – including the Hunter Ranch Golf Course located across the highway from the future resort.

We agree that, especially from the standpoint of water savings, the gardens are a better use of the property than a golf course. But why does this have to be an either/or? Is there no other possible use for the land? Or for that matter, why such a large garden? Why not start with something small — ideally a garden showcasing drought tolerant plants?

We are, after all, in the middle of a drought, and in this water miserly environment, symbolism counts for a lot. Just look at the fuss that was kicked up when the Hearst Castle swimming pool was refilled for a Lady Gaga video. What message will it send, then, when we see manicured green hedges, flowering trees and gurgling fountains rising in the otherwise dry Paso landscape, even if the gardens do use far less water than a golf course?

With some major tweaking, though, this could be transformed into an attraction more compatible with the surrounding area and the hot, dry Paso climate. This is an opportunity to entertain and educate, by showcasing the beauty and variety of native landscaping — including plants, rocks and outdoor sculptures — that use little or no water.

We strongly urge the planners of Discovery Gardens to tone down the fairy-tale aspects of the project and give us something that reflects the reality we face in water-starved California.

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A water-wise landscape can save you time and money on the water bill

Following on the heels of such a dry winter, and with two hits of early heat already, spring rains are a welcome sight this year. Gardening and landscaping to reduce the need for watering can be a really good way to reduce water bills and conserve water. As our population grows, and the variety of ways we use our land grows with it, demand for water resources may outpace the present-day supply. 

Did you know that our area uses up to two to three times as much water in summer months than during the winter? When dry conditions impact our area, water consumption can become a problem. If you want to try something new in the garden and yard this spring, here are some ideas you might consider to conserve water:

Get to know your yard

Just like our great state, your yard contains several microclimates, which are areas with specific growing conditions. One patch may be sunnier and drier; water may tend to pool in another corner.  Take time when planning to notice conditions such as the intensity and duration of sunlight, humidity, soil type, and wind direction in each part of your garden. Selecting the right plant for the right place will reduce failed plantings and frustrations. Putting each plant in the right place can reduce the costs of watering or help soak up extra water, preventing runoff.

Plant a resilient rain garden

In soggy spots of the garden, plants that soak up rain water can really thrive, and they can slow the delivery of water to the sewer. But how do rain gardens fair when the weather is dry? Surprisingly well, if you select the right plant for the job. Many Pacific Northwest native plants can tolerate both wetter and drier conditions, making them perfect for tolerating droughts between rains. In sunnier areas, try bald-hip rose, red twig dogwood, or western fescue, among others. In shadier areas, vine maple, Oregon grape, or small-fruited bulrush may work well. 

Plant a drought-resistant oasis

Xeriscaping, on the other hand, is the practice of selecting plants that are drought tolerant to reduce or eliminate the need for adding water. And it doesn’t have to mean a yard filled with rocks, either. A major water hog for many families is the lawn, which has a tendency to turn crisp and brown in times of drought. One strategy for reducing water use during the summer may be to build up your own tolerance of a dry and dusty yard. If that isn’t for you, consider seeding with more resilient grass species that can take the heat, such as blue wild rye or annual hair grass, or substitute groundcovers like kinnikinnick, creeping mahonia, or stonecrop.  

Compost and mulch

Improving the health of the soil by adding more organic matter will help to increase the soil’s ability to hold moisture, reducing the frequency with which you need to water. Our soils in this region are composed mostly of sand and clay, with some silt and loam mixed in. Adding more organic matter (you might think of it as the original quicker-picker-upper) especially helps to speed up abortion of water and slow down its release. Once water has made it into the soil, you probably wouldn’t want to see it just bake away on a hot, sunny day. Even in our cooler and moister climate, garden beds can benefit from three inches of organic mulch to help shade, cool and keep moist the soil below. Just be sure to look for weed free versions. 

Weed-free means water-less

Become a Weed Watcher and help prevent weeds from robbing your garden of moisture! These uninvited guests in our yards and gardens rob soils of moisture and nutrients, making it difficult for the plants we cultivate to compete for resources. Keeping a vigilant eye out for weeds and removing them properly or reporting them is essential to healthy and water-wise plot! Also, consider watering in the cool evening hours to slow down evaporation and transpiration.  If you and your family are really excited about better understanding Oregon’s climate, consider contributing as a citizen-scientist to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, where you can help track weather.

Much of the information in this article is drawn from the Regional Water Consortium’s 7 Basic Steps for Creating Water Efficient Landscapes, which is an excellent resource for starting to think about water-wise gardening. For more information, feel free to contact the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District at

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Experts Share Summer Gardening Tips

It’s getting hot out there, and your plants are feeling it too. The desert climate presents special dilemmas for your vegetables and ornamentals. You can’t put sunglasses and SPF on your seedlings, so what can you do to protect them from the heat? How do you keep your garden alive and thriving through fall?

Get more advice from Norm and Angela here.


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Take Better Photos Of Public Gardens With These 5 Tips

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Gardener: Tips for growing great tomatoes – starting off right

What would spring be without a refresher on tomato growing success? Even veteran gardeners can experience challenges in growing these beauties to perfection. To be sure, I’ve had my share of challenges along the way. But over the years, I’ve honed my skills to master even the greatest challenges Mother Nature can throw my way. So here are a few of the non-negotiable steps you should employ now and every season to improve your tomato growing talent and get your plants off to the best start possible.

– Location is key. Pick a sunny spot that gets at least six-hours per day. More is better so find the sunniest spot that works. Your plants will be fuller, fruit will form faster, and taste best the more sun they get. Next, don’t plant too closely together. Keep your plants separated by at least two-feet in all directions. It’s amazing how large they will get and they need room to grow while receiving adequate light and air circulation. Your plants will be much healthier for it.

– Start with great soil. Starting with great soil and a healthy plant puts you well on your way to an abundant harvest. You can eliminate most of your tomato growing challenges with these two simple mandates. Well-amended soil, full of rich compost and other organic material can be your secret weapon to having the best tomatoes around.

To illustrate this point, last year I grew tomatoes in raised beds, amended with about two-inches each of compost and composted cow manure. As an experiment, in a neighboring bed, I grew tomatoes in just topsoil – no compost or manure. Over the next three months, the composted tomato bed outperformed the competition in every way, in spite of my best efforts to nurture the non-amended tomato plants to perfection. The composted plants grew vigorously, free from pests and diseases. As the season matured, so did the plants. They were heavy with abundant, delicious large red tomatoes right up until frost. The plants in the other bed did okay but fell short in every category. They were not as lush, and had more disease issues and ultimately less fruit.

– Plant them deep. Planting seedlings deep, very deep is a unique technique used for tomato plants. They’re one of the few vegetables that will grow roots along the stem if they’re in contact with soil. I leave about two sets of leaves showing above the soil when I plant new seedlings. This step will ensure a larger root area and a more vigorous plant.

In the planting hole, I add a tablespoon or two of dolomitic limestone and mix it into the soil. This step can help ward off a condition known as blossom end rot in emerging fruit. Cover the plant and water it in thoroughly. You may want to provide some liquid fertilizer now for a quick boost. As an organic gardener, I prefer to use fish emulsion and sea kelp. This adds nitrogen and phosphorus to get the plants off to a good start.

– Manage the water. Tomato plants like deep watering while keeping the soil consistently moist. A soaker hose is best for this because it allows the water to soak deeply into the soil, without saturating it to excess. Soakers are also great for not wetting the foliage above. Leaves that remain wet for too long can promote diseases that can be avoided by keeping water off the plants.

– Add Mulch. The final step for a great start is to add a two or three inch layer of mulch once the plants are settled. Mulch will help keep the moisture in the soil, prevent soil-borne diseases from splashing on plants and reduce weeds.

These guidelines will get your tomato plants off to a great start. Like with so many examples in gardening and life, how you start out makes all the difference in the world with the success of the harvest.

Joe Lamp’l is the host and executive producer of Growing a Greener World on national public television, and the founder of The joe gardener� Company, devoted to environmentally responsible gardening and sustainable outdoor living.

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Tips for high yields in a small or thirsty garden

How can you get the most yield from a garden where space is limited, and water is too?

Plant smart, and pay attention to the soil.

“Your garden is only as good as your soil,” says David Salman, chief horticulturist at High Country Gardens, a Santa Fe, N.M., catalog that specializes in native and low-water plants.

Find out what nutrients your soil has — and what it’s missing — with a soil test, available through local cooperative extension offices at a nominal fee (home soil-test kits are less reliable, according to the Colorado State University Extension).

Encourage plant health by fertilizing with natural, organic fertilizers, which include fish emulsion and liquid seaweed, says Salman. Limit the use of chemical fertilizers because they don’t help build the soil.

“You will have more nutritionally complete vegetables if you have healthy soil,” he promises.

One trick Salmon recommends, especially for gardeners living in new housing developments, is adding a soil inoculant called mycorrhiza, a beneficial fungi. It’s found naturally in healthy soil, but often needs to be added to a new garden.

“New gardens in new subdivisions, their soil is scraped off as part of construction,” says Salman. “You need to put beneficial fungi back in.”

Peas, beans and soybeans could benefit from legume inoculants, which are species-specific (a soybean inoculant cannot be used to improve peas’ growth). Read product labels carefully or ask your gardening center for assistance.

“Your beans will do OK (without it), but if you really want to crank out the beans, you can do that with the inoculant,” says Salman. “It’s kind of a ‘grandma’s secret’ to growing great beans.”

Plants that can offer high yields with low watering include leafy vegetables such as kale, lettuce and spinach; beans, snow peas and sugar snap peas; and some varieties of cucumbers and squash, he says. Plant vining beans and peas if you have space or can grow them up a fence or trellis; plant bush beans and peas in large pots if space is limited.

Sarah J. Browning, an extension educator for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, suggests planting radishes, carrots, peppers, zucchini and summer squash for summertime bounty. Peppers grow well in dry conditions, says Browning, and root crops such don’t need frequent watering.

“If you watered them well and then mulched them, I think you could get a crop with fairly small amounts of water input,” she says.

Plant radishes early in the season or in part shade, and mulch them and other plants to retain moisture and combat weeds.

Browning recommends the cherry tomato cultivar Sun Gold and the slicers Big Beef and Celebrity as great-tasting high producers. Also look for disease-resistant tomato varieties, which are easier to grow. Browning refers tomato lovers to Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences Extension’s “Tomato Report 2011,” which lists the best varieties in its tomato trials.

Melissa Ozawa, a features editor for gardening at Martha Stewart Living magazine, recommends growing okra and Swiss chard; both are heat- and drought-tolerant. Melons also can handle less water once established because of their deep root systems, she says.

Not all vegetables grow well in all regions, so read seed packets, matching days to maturation to your region’s growing season, Salman advises.

“One of the big problems with horticulture in this country is everyone tries to be one-size-fits-all, and this is just too big of a continent to do that,” he says. “You don’t want to grow a 120-day watermelon in Denver. They can grow those in Texas, but the maturation period in Denver is much shorter.”

Prolific, water-wise herbs include basil, oregano, parsley, thyme and rosemary, says Browning.

Salman offers space-saving planting tips for herbs: Plant lavender and oregano along the dryer edges of your garden, since they’re the most heat-tolerant, and plant Greek oregano and dill, plus annual herbs such as basil and cilantro, among the root vegetables.

Try growing perennials such as rosemary, English thyme, tarragon and lavender in your ornamental beds. They don’t require your vegetable garden’s mineral-rich soil, says Salman.

Drought-tolerant flower varieties include coneflowers, hummingbird mint, salvia and blanket flowers, according to Ozawa. Other cutting-garden winners are cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers and larkspur, says Salman. His favorite late-season bloomer is the Mexican sunflower.

“If there’s a bee or butterfly in a 10-mile radius, they’ll find that Mexican sunflower,” he says.



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