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Archives for June 27, 2014

Big changes considered for Hyde Park Village

TAMPA — The master plan is still very much a work in progress, but the developer hoping to remake Hyde Park Village is ready to talk about a few of the biggest changes they envision. And at least one part of the plan involves likely taking down one of the emptier and less appealing buildings in the site and constructing a new one.

“I think we’ll probably going to be ready to come back to the community later this summer and begin the dialogue,” said Louis C. Masiello, vice president of development for WS Development, which bought the property last year. “We don’t expect to show a fixed plan and then start to build right away … This is beginning a collaboration with the neighborhood and the city.”

Masiello listed the four ideas that have advanced the most in their thinking.

First, a significant architectural renovation throughout the village, but largely “dealing with the buildings we have,” he said. “This is about sprucing up the aesthetic look, not changing the bones of buildings, because these are stores doing business.” That means remaking the facades of many locations and conducting an overall refresh of the most visible areas.

Second, some property-wide improvements in the public areas. Fixing sidewalks, improving the landscaping, adding seating and improving the plaza area to make a more pleasant experience. This does not mean re-arranging any streets, but where there’s a chance to possibly expand a sidewalk or improve the pedestrian flow, Masiello said this is the time to do it.

Third, the “H Block” building will almost certainly have to come down. This is the largely empty wedge-shaped building on the southern side of the property that now houses the mall management offices. “We’ve all but determined that this really needs to be replaced with a new building,” Masiello said. “But therein lies the opportunity. We can build a jewel of a building, and the aesthetic of the building will need a tremendous amount of public input. We want this to be a public process.”

Here there’s some good news for those who are fans of the Oxford Exchange renovated building on Kennedy Boulevard. Masiello has hired the same architecture firm that designed the Oxford Exchange, the Atlanta-based firm of Smith Dalia. The new Hyde Park Village won’t be a copycat version however, Masiello said, but will very much use that firm’s talent with taking existing buildings and re-making them into revitalized classic-style spaces.

Fourth, Masiello said they are working through selecting new tenants for the space, and after a May exhibit at retail trade shows, they’re fielding significant interest. “There’s quite a bit of interest from stores in high fashion,” he said, and some announcements may come in the next couple months. “These are places with very cutting edge apparel that might have only a handful of outlets in the country. One in New York. One in L.A.”

A boutique grocery store is definitely in the mix, Masiello said, likely at the north-end of a rebuild “Block H” building. “A Dean DeLuca-type of operator would be great,” he said. “To the extent this may be a national brand, it would have to be a specialty grocer.” Masiello chuckled at the mention of a Walmart Neighborhood market, saying “it would have to be a more creative format.”

If the idea of adding residential units to the area was on the back burner before, Masiello said “It’s way, way on the back burner now.”

Likely none of their plans will require any re-zoning of the property, he said, but likely lots of items will need city approval and approval from the Architectural Review Commission, which he welcomes.

As for any potential start date for heavy construction, Masiello said not to expect any before the holidays, particularly because stores rely on that season so much. After the turn of the year, however, if plans meet with neighborhood approval, then Masiello said people can expect a good bit of activity on the site.

(813) 259-7919

Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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A Case of Uncreative Destruction

In my mailbox several days ago was a bill from Time Warner Cable, a West Elm furniture catalog, a coupon for a cleaning service and letters for three previous tenants who moved out years ago. The only piece of mail I didn’t throw away or put back in the box with a passive-aggressive note for the postman was the New Yorker.

Like many Americans, I have developed a careful strategy for dealing with the U.S. Postal Service: Use UPS or FedEx whenever possible. A few years ago, Evan Baehr and Will Davis decided to do something…

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Returning Katchewan Lakes to its glory days

Barefoot children fishing in a pond is what new owners had in mind when they bought Katchewan Lakes.

As a result of their restoration efforts, it’s become a weekly occurrence.

The recreational area and campgrounds, remembered fondly by Streator residents who grew up between the 1950s and 1990s, has been closed to the public for most of the last decade as it fell into disrepair. Last summer’s flooding added to the damage.

Chris Wildy and his family bought the 38-acre campground on the south end of Barr Street nestled against the Vermilion River to restore it, and open it not only to campers, but also the public. The project seemed like a natural fit for Wildy, who owns his own landscaping business, Wildy Lawn Care in Streator.

“We want to bring the simple things like swimming in a lake, fishing barefoot by the pond to a whole new generation of children and help families create memories that will last a lifetime,” said Jessica Elliot, who assists Wildy, her boyfriend, in running the facility.

The campground features a small swimming lake with a sandy beach. Swimming is open to the public seven days a week from noon until 7 p.m. That makes Katchewan the lone public outdoor swimming area in Streator, since the city pool closed in 2003. The lake’s depth ranges from 8 to 20 feet, Wildy said. Daily passes are $4.

“We’re hoping to get new beach sand for that area,” Wildy said of the campgrounds born as an outdoor swimming area more than 50 years ago.

There’s an access point on the Vermilion River for canoes, kayaks or paddle boats to launch for a $5 charge. Councilman Ed Brozak listed adding another canoe launch option near Streator as a goal after the Sandy Ford takeout was closed to the public in 2012. The Hopalong Cassidy Canoe Launch attracts about 25 to 50 people on weekends, Brozak has said, and the three-hour float upstream from Hopalong is featured in Mike Svob’s “Paddling Illinois.”

Additionally, seasonal or day passes are sold for the campground’s two lakes and a pond, and a pavilion is available for rent or used to host activities, such as Friday movie nights or Saturday dances. The campground has a store, too.

For urban explorers, remnants of the former Barr brick company can be seen along walking trails.

While Wildy hasn’t advertised the reopening, the campground has had a busy start. Nineteen annual camping sites have been sold with about eight to 12 additional campers staying over the weekends. Memorial Day and Father’s Day were the busiest weekends. Guests can park RVs and campers or pitch a tent.

Visitors have arrived from as far as Arkansas and Texas, and a group of girls stayed at Katchewan on their way to California, Wildy said.

“We’ve had people stay on their way across the country and others stay in the area for local events, including people who stayed here during the (Starved Rock Country) marathon,” Wildy said.

Getting out-of-towners to stay in the Streator area is a huge plus, said Councilwoman Tara Bedei, who also sits on the Streator Tourism board and took a tour of the place. Even though the campground is technically out of the city limits in unincorporated South Streator, chances are visitors will spend money in the community at restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations, she said.

Also, the city’s comprehensive plan outlined the need for a hotel or lodging in the Streator area.

“It’s good to have options,” Bedei said. “It’s helpful too that they are bringing back activities for the area. It’s nice to see people investing and believing in our community.”

Wildy and Elliot have a number of ideas for the future, including adding wireless Internet, barrel train rides, liquid propane exchanges, a fenced-in playground and a dog park, but they know they can only tackle one project at a time.

“We’re excited about its potential,” Wildy said. “There’s a lot of opportunity here and a lot we can offer. We definitely have plenty of ideas.”

Go to, search for “Katchewan Lakes Campground” on Facebook or call 815-310-0265 for more information.

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Botany’s New Boys

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Garden clubs retool for a new generation

MINNEAPOLIS – You don’t have to have gray hair to join a garden club, but you probably have a few silver strands if you belong to one.

The average age of a garden club member is “about 75 . maybe a little older,” said Rene Lynch, president of the Federated Garden Clubs of Minnesota (FGCM).

It wasn’t always that way.

In 1955, the year the FGCM was formed, the typical garden club member was a woman in her late 20s or early 30s, according to Lynch.

It was the golden age for garden clubs, and groups sprouted like weeds around the Twin Cities. World War II was over, the GIs had come home and were buying houses in developing first-ring suburbs.

Their wives, eager to beautify their landscape and make friends in their new neighborhoods, joined local garden clubs.

“Women were at home. That’s how it got started in Minnesota,” said Lynch. “Each community had dozens of clubs.”

Today, some of those clubs are still around, but most have fewer members than they used to. Women are less likely to be home in the cul-de-sac all day long – and more likely to be rushing home from a job to whip up a quickie meal before dashing off to a baseball game.

“Young moms are so busy,” noted Liz Genovese, a retired preschool teacher in Edina who joined her neighborhood garden club about five years ago. “They’re working full-time or at least part-time. It’s not the same pace.”

People who do find time for gardening are less likely to join a club, now that garden-related websites are just a Google click away. “There’s lots of ways people get information now that they didn’t have available to them then,” Lynch said.

Many clubs have remained vital with a core of committed gardeners. But some once-vibrant clubs no longer exist.

Lynch estimates clubs have been disappearing for the past 10 years. And each lost club represents a lifetime of garden know-how that could have been shared.

“There’s this wonderful accumulated knowledge of all these people who have been gardening for 50 years,” she said. Virtual garden instruction can’t compare with “putting your actual hands in the dirt and having someone show you how to do something.”

The clubs that are thriving are those that are adapting to changing lifestyles – and garden trends. Some are committing themselves to current hot-button issues, such as protecting pollinators by planting native habitat. Others are actively recruiting new members outside their traditional demographic base.

“Garden clubs in the future aren’t going to exist like they exist today,” Lynch said. The ritual of holding regular club meetings, for example, will probably have to change. “Young people don’t want another meeting. They get enough of that at work. With technology, officers will meet online and text back and forth.”

Here’s a look at how three longtime Twin Cities garden clubs have evolved over the decades:

Turn-around tale

Diggers, a group with members in Robbinsdale and Plymouth, is one of the oldest garden clubs in the Twin Cities, dating back to the early 1940s during Eleanor Roosevelt’s World War II Victory Garden initiative.

While most local garden clubs are dealing with declining membership, Diggers defies the trend. “They’ve increased membership regularly, possibly the only club that has,” said Lynch.

What’s their secret? “One person, with a special personality,” Lynch said. “She’s definitely a factor.”

“She” is Irene Johnson of Robbinsdale. Johnson joined Diggers about six years ago, after attending its annual flower show and seeing a sign promoting the club. She owned a large piece of land and wanted to learn about gardening and landscaping. “I knew very little,” she said.

At the time she joined, the club had only about six members. “It used to be a very vibrant club, but as people became older, the club had dwindled,” Johnson said.

Soon after she joined, she was given the job of publicity. So she started distributing fliers all over town, to promote the club and its events. “I’d go to events and pass ‘em out. I walked blocks, and put ‘em in doors,” she said. “If the people were outside, I talked to them. I got to meet a lot of people.”

Some of them decided to give the club a try, and the new energy they brought created a ripple effect. Diggers’ membership is now more than 80 people. “My goal was to get all ages – and some men – and we accomplished it,” Johnson said.

New members have brought different gardening interests, and Diggers tries to accommodate them. “We have a lot more people who live in townhomes and apartments, and they’re interested in smaller-scale alternatives, such as fairy gardens and container gardens,” Johnson said.

In addition to an annual flower show, plant sale and holiday gala, Diggers also hosts seminars and field trips and helped restore the garden at the historic Robbinsdale library.

“It was a lot of work to get things turned around,” Johnson said. “But now people are literally coming to us, to join.”

Greening the community

Back in the 1950s, garden clubs in Edina sprouted by neighborhood, with catchy names that combined nearby streets. (“Kelodale” for Kellogg and Wooddale Avenues; “Winahbar” for Windsor, Cahill and Barry). But you didn’t have to live in the neighborhood to join its club.

Janet Chandler was living in southwest Minneapolis when she joined Kelodale about 40 years ago. “We did not have a garden club” in her neighborhood at the time, she said, and she had friends who lived in Edina.

Chandler wanted to learn more about gardening and expand her plant repertoire. She lived in an older house but many of the gardeners she met at that time had new houses and were looking for ideas for their new landscapes. And “they were community-oriented. They wanted to make the community look nice.”

Over time, neighborhood clubs came together to form the Edina Garden Council, an umbrella organization to tackle bigger-picture projects, such as an annual flower show. “That was something a lot of members were interested in,” said Chandler, who served as the council’s president in 1982.

Council members also have taken the lead in several environmental initiatives, including pollinator preservation, buckthorn removal and recycling.

Genovese’s own garden has evolved similarly, she said. “I have gone from looking for pretty flowers to appreciating native plants,” she said, adding pollinator-friendly natives, such as milkweed and Joe Pye-weed to her landscape. “It’s kind of a journey.”

Garden guys – and gals

Most local garden clubs were formed by and for women. But the Men’s Garden Club of Minneapolis, formed in 1942, was an exception. “We were a refuge for the men,” said longtime member Kent Petterson, owner of Terrace Horticultural Books in St. Paul. “We would get guys who wanted to join a local garden club but were turned down. The women wanted to keep their clubs for women.”

Early members included some big names in local horticultural circles, including Leon Snyder and others who helped establish the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Most garden clubs met during the day, but the Men’s Garden Club met in the evening, over a catered dinner, a tradition that continues, the second Tuesday of each month. “A lot of members come right from work, and they’re hungry,” said president Randi Larson. But sharing a meal together is about more than food. “It’s about fellowship and sociability. You can sit at the table and talk. It doesn’t have to be garden-related.”

The men-only tradition began to shift in the late 1980s, when the Men’s Garden Club of America, with which the local club was affiliated, changed its bylaws to allow women. Soon afterward, Petterson recruited the first female member. Today, the club has 82 members, almost half of whom are female. “The guys were having so much fun, their wives decided they wanted to join.”

One of those wives was president Larson, who joined in 2007; her husband, Larry, has been a member since 2001.

The club’s name, however, didn’t reflect its new membership until about three years ago, when it was rechristened the Men’s and Women’s Garden Club of Minneapolis. “A lot of long-timers were upset about the name change,” she said. Although women were welcome, some felt the tradition of the original name should be preserved. Several gender-neutral names were considered, and finally “and women” was added to the club’s name. “It was a compromise,” Petterson said.

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Trowel and Glove: Marin garden calendar for the week of June 28, 2014

Click photo to enlarge


Garden exchange: The Marin Open Garden Project encourages residents to bring their excess backyard-grown fruit and vegetables to the following locations for a free exchange with other gardeners on Saturdays: San Anselmo from 9 to 10 a.m. on the San Anselmo Town Hall lawn; San Rafael from 9 to 10 a.m. at Pueblo Park at Hacienda Way in Santa Venetia; Mill Valley from 10 to 11 a.m. on the Greenwood School front porch at 17 Buena Vista Ave.; Tamalpais Valley at 427 Marin Ave. from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.; and Novato at the corner of Ferris Drive and Nova Lane from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Go to or email

Harvest exchange: West Marin Commons offers a weekly harvest exchange at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays at the Livery Stable gardens on the commons in Point Reyes Station. Go to

Ranch tours: The Marin Conservation League offers tours of the Nicasio Native Grass Ranch with talks on “Strategies for Carbon Sequestration” at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. June 29. Call 485-6257 or go to for reservations and directions.

Nursery volunteers: Volunteers are sought to help in Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy nurseries from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays at Tennessee Valley, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays at Muir Woods or 1. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays or 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Marin Headlands. Call 561-3077 or go to

Garden work days: Volunteers are sought to help improve native pollinator habitat and create demonstration gardens in partnership with the California Native Plant Society Marin Chapter at 10 a.m. on first Thursdays at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary at 376 Greenwood Beach Road in Tiburon. Call 388-2524, ext. 11 or email or

Nursery days: The SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) native plant nursery days are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and weekends. Call 663-8590, ext. 114, or email to register and for directions.

Garden visits: Marin Master Gardeners and the Marin Municipal Water District offer free residential Bay-Friendly Garden Walks to MMWD customers. The year-round service helps homeowners identify water-saving opportunities and soil conservation techniques for their landscaping. Call 473-4204 to request a visit to your garden.

Garden volunteers: Marin Open Garden Project (MOGP) volunteers are available to help Marin residents glean excess fruit from their trees for donations to local organizations serving people in need and to build raised beds to start vegetable gardens through the MicroGardens program. MGOP also offers a garden tool lending library. Go to or email

Harvesting volunteers: The Marin Organic Glean Team seeks volunteers to harvest extras from the fields at various farms for the organic school lunch and gleaning program. Call 663-9667 or go to

San Francisco

Botanical garden: The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, at Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park, offers several ongoing events. $7; free to San Francisco residents, members and school groups. Call 661-1316 or go to Free docent tours leave from the Strybing Bookstore near the main gate at 1:30 p.m. weekdays, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. weekends; and from the north entrance at 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Groups of 10 or more can call ahead for special-focus tours.

Floral palace: The Conservatory of Flowers, at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, displays permanent galleries of tropical plant species as well as changing special exhibits from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. $2 to $7; free on first Tuesdays. Call 831-2090 or go to Volunteers are sought to serve as Jungle Guides and docents. Call 637-4326 or email

Around the Bay

Landscape garden: Cornerstone Gardens is a permanent, gallery-style garden featuring walk-through installations by international landscape designers on nine acres at 23570 Highway 121 in Sonoma. Free. Call 707-933-3010 or go to

Rose ranch: Garden Valley Ranch rose garden at 498 Pepper Road in Petaluma is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Self-guided and group tours are available. $2 to $10. Call 707-795-0919 or go to

Burbank’s home: The Luther Burbank Home at Santa Rosa and Sonoma avenues in Santa Rosa has docent-led tours of the greenhouse and a portion of the gardens every half hour from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. $7. Call 707-524-5445.

Olive ranch: McEvoy Ranch at 5935 Red Hill Road in Petaluma offers tips on planting olive trees and has olive trees for sale by appointment. Call 707-769-4123 or go to

Garden volunteers: Wednesdays are volunteer days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center at 15290 Coleman Valley Road in Occidental. The garden’s organic nursery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends through June 29. Call 707-874-1557, ext. 201, or go to

Botanical garden: Quarryhill Botanical Garden at 12841 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen covers 61 acres and showcases a large selection of scientifically documented wild source temperate Asian plants. The garden is open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $5 to $10. A “Flower Essence Walk” with Kathleen Aspenns is at 10:30 a.m. June 28. $10 to $15. Call 707-996-3166 or go to

Lavender festival: The annual Sonoma Lavender Festival is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 28 and 29 at Sonoma Lavender Farm at 8537 Sonoma Highway in Kenwood. $15 to $20. Call 707-523-4411 or go to or

The Trowel Glove Calendar appears Saturdays. Send high-resolution jpg photo attachments and details about your event to or mail to Home and Garden Calendar/Lifestyles, Marin Independent Journal, 4000 Civic Center Drive, Suite 301, San Rafael, CA 94903. Items should be sent two weeks in advance. Photos should be a minimum of 2 megabytes and include caption information. Include a daytime phone number on your release.

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Gardening column: Cross-pollination, seeding flowers and watering tips

Q: I have several raised beds that due to limited space had to be built close together. I’m told that certain plants could cross-pollinate and that I might have some strange vegetables as a result. Which vegetables are likely to do this and how do I handle it?

A: Cross-pollination does often take place among certain members of the winter squash, pumpkin and gourd family because they are closely related. It would be best to plant these vegetables as far as possible from each other. Other vegetables rarely if ever cross-pollinate so they can be planted close to each other without a problem.

Q: I have all my annual flowers planted and in hanging baskets and they were blooming so nicely, but now they seem to have almost stopped adding new bloom. What can I do to get them to bloom again?

A: The goal of every plant is to make seed so as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the bloom has shriveled and now looks like it is dead. Actually it isn’t dead — the plant is busy applying its energy to turning the stamen of that dead looking blossom into seed (stamen is the pollen-producing reproductive organ of a flower). By pinching or snipping all those dried up looking blossoms off, your plant will continue to bloom. This is called deadheading and if you do this routinely your annuals will bloom all summer in their effort to make seed. (Waves and certain other hybrid petunias do not need deadheading.)

Some perennials will respond this way as well, but there are those that only bloom once a season. All the same, even if your lilac (as an example) only blooms once a season, if you clip off the dried seedpod soon after it blooms, the plant will spend its energy feeding the roots and setting buds for next year’s bloom time.

Don’t forget to make the compost tea I’ve talked about, and then spray the foliage of all your plants. Doing this a couple times a week will feed the plant and help it to continue blooming strongly all season long.

Watering tips:

•We’ve been getting a lot of rain this season, but keep an eye on plants that may be positioned in such a way that they didn’t receive enough. Those could be plants that are close to the house, under the eaves, under trees, etc.

•Plants do best when their roots are kept evenly moist. To make certain this happens; you will probably have to help by watering especially when the dry season arrives.

•When you water, it is best to give the plants 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water per week throughout the season.

•When manually watering, unless you have a sprinkler system or soaker hose in place, waving the hose over the area a few times, or setting the sprinkler for 15 minutes will only wet the foliage.

•Best method is to check the soil under and around the planting area. If the surface soil is wet but you aren’t sure, dig into the soil with your trowel an inch or two. This will let you know if the moisture has reached the root level.

•If you discover the soil is dry except for the surface, set the hose sprayer on gentle (or use a wand) and hold it right at the root zone while counting to 1,000 by 10s.

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Gardening Tips: Beware of ticks lurking in tall grassy areas.

Ticks in your landscape, flower beds and around your home can be a problem for you, your family and your pets during the summer.

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This week’s gardening tips: remove spent flowers, pull up petunias, plant … – The Times

This week’s gardening tips: Remove spent flowers from annuals such as marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, gaillardia and rudbeckia to encourage them to continue blooming as long as possible. If you planted petunias this spring, don’t be surprised if they begin to look poorly sometime in July.

Petunias generally do not tolerate the intense heat of summer this far south. Pull them up and replace them with more heat-tolerant bedding plants, such as blue daze, celosia, coleus, gaillardia, lantana, ornamental sweet potato, Profusion zinnia, marigold, melampodium, narrow-leaf zinnia, pentas, periwinkle, purslane, salvia, scaevola or torenia.

Gardeners often work outdoors in early morning and late afternoon to avoid the heat, but these also are times when mosquitoes are active. West Nile virus is still a concern, and you should always put on an effective mosquito repellent before going out to work in your garden. Remember to reapply as needed, which is likely more often than you think given how much we sweat this time of the year.

Plant a row or two of peanuts in the home garden now as early summer crops are pulled up. Shell raw peanuts and plant about three to four seeds per foot of row. Water daily until the seeds come up. They will be ready to harvest in October. Peanuts make an excellent green manure crop.

Just as the peanut plants come into flower, turn them under. They will enrich the soil with nitrogen and organic matter. Allow the bed to sit for a few weeks while the organic matter decomposes, and you will be ready to plant a fall crop.

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Tips on sharpening knives and other blades

Q: My gardening clippers are dull, but when I asked someone at the local hardware store about getting them sharpened, they suggested I just replace them. I’d rather not. Does anyone do this kind of service?

Linda M., South Burlington, Vermont

A: Good tools are worth keeping, and worth keeping sharp. There are a variety of possible sources for this service, including — yes — hardware stores, handyman businesses, and tool repair and lawn mower repair shops. Some services will come to you; others require you to bring implements to them.

Among items that benefit from occasional sharpening are scissors, knives, garbage disposals, lawn mower blades, pruners, hedge shears, shovels, hoes, grass clippers and machetes.

Tool sharpening is usually a good value. Top-rated pros told our team that their charges are often $10 or less per item. One said that a new turbo saw blade costs $55, but he can sharpen one for $7.

A sharp tool provides a cleaner cut, while a blunt or dull one may rip or tear. This is important for pruning and shearing; a clean cut helps a plant heal faster. Also, keeping your lawn mower blade sharp will prevent grass from ripping or tearing, which can stress your lawn and make it harder for it to bounce back from pest infestations or drought.

How often you should sharpen implements and blades depends on how often you use them, experts say. Many tools are fine with annual sharpening. Lawn mower blades should be sharpened at the start of the mowing season, but more frequent sharpening — as often as every eight to 10 mows — is even better. Hedge trimmers ideally should be sharpened a couple times a year.

There are three basic types of blade maintenance techniques:

• Grinding, which requires a grinding wheel, whetstone or honing block to remove tiny portions of blade to reveal a new, sharpened edge.

• Steeling, which uses a hard cylindrical rod to smooth roughness that occurs after a blade is ground. Steeling realigns the blade edge between grindings to maintain an optimal angle.

• Stropping, which involves using a leather strip, with or without an abrasive, to buff the blade to straighten the edge. While leather strops are most common, cloth and paper can also be used.

To help tools and blades keep their edge:

• Perform cutting tasks on softer surfaces such as wood, plastic or cardstock rather than glass, ceramic or marble, which can damage or break the blade tip.

• Store knives in blocks or sheaths to protect delicate tips and edges.

• Wash and dry after each use, preferably by hand. Store them properly after drying.

• Periodically ground and steel your blades, or hire someone to do it.

• Occasionally toss a few ice cubes into your kitchen sink disposal, as some experts say it helps to sharpen the disposal blades.

Send questions to

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