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Archives for July 5, 2014

Judi Lloyd: Gardening tips for July

This oppressive heat is truly not very conducive to gardening tasks. I know that I have to force myself to get out there early each day to take care of some of the chores that need to be done when it’s this hot. But, just like us, the plants and trees are stressing out also. I’ve outlined some duties you will need to take care of to keep your plants healthy.

Flowers: Remove dead leaves to minimize disease problems. An application of slow release fertilizer (or cottonseed meal) is needed in mid-summer for flower beds and container plantings. Pinch back asters and mums one last time.

Vegetables: Removing weeds and diseased plants will help keep your garden healthy. Heat waves often result in reduced fruit set, especially in tomatoes. So, expect a lull in production following hot weather. Growing garlic? Harvest when about half the leaves turn brown.

Trees and shrubs: Remove spent flower clusters on crape myrtles to encourage more blooms. Hand pulling weeds is preferable or you can “spot treat” them with herbicides.

Lawns: Lawns need 1” of water each week. If your soil is sandy and it doesn’t rain, you’ll have to water by applying 1/3” every 3 days. Localized dry spots of brown or dying turf often occur where irrigation systems don’t sufficiently cover. Remember to check soil in these areas. Don’t cut lawns too short. They do better in hot dry weather to be a bit longer. Leave the bag off your mower and let the clippings fly. They will rot very quickly in warm weather, returning valuable nitrogen to growing grass.

Fruits: Pick peaches as soon as they begin to soften. Prune back vigorous canes on blueberry bushes.

House plants: Check them daily and water as needed. Add another dose of slow release fertilizer.

Useful Notes: 

• If you need to spray plants for summertime pests, do so in early morning or at dusk to prevent chemical burn on the foliage.

• Do not add diseased fruits and vegetables to compost bins or piles.

• Beware of powdery mildew, which is caused by moisture and humidity. Help prevent it by watering in the cool of the morning when roots can absorb water but excess will evaporate as the day warms. Also, avoid overhead sprinkling in mildew-prone areas.

• Re-apply mulch to help conserve moisture.

I hope this helps both you and your garden get through the month of July. In the steamy heat of the late afternoon, kick back and enjoy a glass of wine as you peer out of your air-conditioned home at the fruits of your efforts.


Judi Lloyd lives in River Bend and can be contacted at

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Expert tips for starting your own vegetable garden

Starting an vegetable garden can be a simple and easy way to save money, get outside and connect with nature. But where do you begin?

For those that have never planted and cultivated a veggie garden, the thought of starting one may seem daunting. That’s why Riverhead LOCAL sat down with Robin Simmen, a community horticulture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, who provided some simple tips for starting a veggie garden.

What to grow?

The best place to start, Simmen said, is to decide what you’d like to plant in your veggie garden.

“You have to ask yourself – what is the purpose to your garden?” said Simmen. “Is it for fun or are you are doing it to save some money?”

If you are looking to save money, Simmen recommends using your garden spaces to plant herbs, which are typically expensive in the supermarket. Great herbs to plant, she said, include basil, mint, cilantro, thyme and sage — all of which can be hung to dry out for use in winter, when it’s too cold to grow.

To save even more money, Simmen said you may also want to think about planting things that come back year after year, including asparagus, rhubarb and oregano, all of which, Simmen said are fun and easy to grow.

If you’re looking to plant a garden for fun with your children, Simmen highly recommends planting beans — and any kind of beans.

“Beans are something that kids can grow themselves. They can plant a seed and watch what happens. A child can see a whole life-cycle of a plant in just one season,” said Simmen.

“Beans are also very easy to grow,” she said, adding that beans are especially special since they start out so small and then grow into something amazing, just like a child.

Other veggies that are easy to grow include tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, pumpkins and even watermelon — just remember that watermelon requires rich soil.

There is one item that Simmen recommends to not plant — corn.

While this crop might be a fun thing to tackle when you’ve got some experience under your belt, it’s not ideal for newbies. According to Simmen, corn is a difficult veggie to grow mainly because to get it to fruit, it requires cross-pollination, which means you would need to plant a lot of it to reap the fruits of your labor.

“Corn would not be on the top of my list to plant,” said Simmen, adding, “plus we have plenty of it to buy at our local farm stands.”

Preparing the Bed

Once you decided the purpose of your garden and made a list of veggies that you plan to plant, Simmen said to think about size and mark out a spot for your garden. If you don’t have a lot of space, she suggested considering building raised garden beds.

“Raised garden beds are wonderful. They make access to the garden really clear and easy for kids, as well as for those that have accessibility issues,” she said. Raised garden beds also help keep your garden soil at a high quality.

Simmen also recommended mixing your garden up by adding trellises to grow some of your vegetables vertically.

With your garden mapped out, Simmen said to next prepare your soil and then begin planting either seeds or pre-started veggies plants that are available at many area nurseries.

Nurturing your garden

The most important part of caring for your vegetable garden is watering it, said Simmen.

To ensure that your garden is watered properly, she recommended installing a drip system. If that is not feasible, Simmen said to either hand-water with a watering can or a hose.

“You don’t want to use a sprinkler system,” said Simmen. “Sprinkler systems tend to drench.” It’s important to remember that it is very possible to over-water your plants; make sure you research what the right amount of water is for your particular patch of vegetables.

Time is also important when watering.

Simmen said it is best to water your veggies between midnight and before noon, but the optimal time is 5:30 a.m.

“You want to encourage growth and not bacteria and fungus, which can build up if water sits on your plants too long,” said Simmen.

Protecting your Veggies

Everyone knows that Riverhead and the North Fork are highly populated by deer, which will help themselves to backyard vegetable gardens. While there are many deterrents on the market, Simmen said the best thing to do is erect a fence, and a high one at that. She recommends your fence be at least 8-feet high to prevent hungry deer from wandering into your yard.

“You can try other methods, but it will break your heart in the end. A fence is the best way to go,” she said.

Check back next week to read tips on patio gardening.

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Garden Tips: You don’t need expensive soil for raised-bed gardens

Today’s homeowners have smaller yards and less space for vegetable gardening. Many have opted to use raised beds as a way to maximize space and minimize garden maintenance.

“Square-foot” gardening is a raised-bed system for optimizing garden production promoted by Mel Bartholemew. His system includes using a potting mix that he calls Mel’s Mix. It contains compost, peat moss and coarse vermiculite. It can be pricy, especially when filling numerous beds.

Gardeners wanting to grow vegetables in raised beds do not need to invest in an expensive soil or potting mix. They can use their own soil in low-sided raised beds.

First, after setting up the beds, take the native soil in the pathways around the beds and mix it with good quality compost (no more than 10 percent by volume).

If there is not enough soil to fill the beds, bring in topsoil. True topsoil is natural surface soil scraped up and transported to a site. Topsoil in many regions is more desirable than the subsoil (the soil layer beneath the topsoil) because natural processes have created a crumbly soil structure that is conducive to good plant growth. However, digging and transporting topsoil generally destroys this crumbly structure and nullifies its benefits.

Dr. Craig Cogger, Washington State University Extension soil specialist, recommends sandy landscaping fill as a compromise, but notes that it will hold little water and dry quickly. (True topsoil in our region generally lacks the crumbly structure found in areas with more rainfall.)

Sandy landscaping fill is sandy soil mixed with organic matter. Probably much of what is sold commercially as topsoil in our region is sandy landscaping fill. If you decide to buy this kind, ask where the soil came from and what it contains.

Buy soil or fill from a reputable company. Not all soils sold as topsoil should be used in raised-bed gardens. It can contain broken glass, too many rocks, wood waste and other debris. Inspect the topsoil before you buy and before accepting delivery. You also do not want soil that might have come from an area that was treated with long-term residual herbicides or other chemicals.

Ask if the company has had the topsoil tested or knows how much organic matter it contains. If the topsoil or landscape fill already contains 10 percent or more organic matter by volume (5 percent by weight), you do not need to add compost or other organic matter.

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, WSU Extension horticulturist, says that 10 percent organic matter is adequate from a fertility perspective. Adding substantially more of it to soil contributes to high nutrient levels that can lead to plant health problems. Chalker-Scott recommends having the soil tested to determine the organic matter content and nutrient levels.

Finally, if the soil is distinctly different from the native soil beneath, it can impede drainage. Cogger recommends mixing the introduced soil with native soil as the bed is built to create a textural gradient that will allow for better drainage.

For more information, read the WSU Extension Fact Sheet on raised beds at

— Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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Litchfield ‘Garden Goddess’ creates Edens for clients

Laurie Gaboardi —
Gwenythe B. Harvey, whose The Garden Goddess, LLC, Horticultural Services recently won a 2013 Best of Bantam Award in the Landscape Designer category, is shown above with her dog Abbey Road.

View and purchase photos

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Skinflower, in Phoenicia, celebrates fifth year

Sunday Dawne-Marie with her peonies.  (photos by Violet Snow)

Sunday Dawne-Marie with her peonies. (photos by Violet Snow)

During her 18 years as a tattoo artist, said Sunday Dawne-Marie of Skinflower Cosmic Arts in Phoenicia, “I’ve watched how tattoos age, how people react to having them over time. I can give advice.” For instance, when parents create tattoos celebrating their children, she points out, “If you dedicate this much space to your first daughter, what if you have three more kids? You’d better plan ahead for them too.”

On Sunday, July 6, at 3 p.m., she will celebrate Skinflower’s fifth anniversary with a live reggae concert outside the shop on the Phoenicia boardwalk, performed by the Kingston-based electrodub band Bomb Mob. That evening, she’ll sponsor a showing of the 1972 Jamaican film The Harder They Come at STS Playhouse.

Before Skinflower’s arrival, another proprietor opened a tattoo shop at the Phoenicia Plaza on Route 28, but he lasted less than a year. “Being in town is definitely an advantage,” said Sunday, “but I had been tattooing a long time when I came up here.” Now 43, she attracted a sizable following during her ten years working at a tattoo parlor in Westbury, Long Island, and many of those past customers enjoy coming upstate for a new piece of body art and a mini-vacation. She figures she’s bringing business to the hotels, restaurants, and gift shops in town. “The Nest Egg,” she remarked, “has sold a lot of fudge to my clients.”

About half of Skinflower’s business comes from past Long Island customers, and the remainder are mostly locals. Occasionally tourists stop by, but they have to be willing to return at a later date. At this point, her weekends are booked till November, weekdays till September.

Although Sunday attributes her success to experience, she is also an artist with a prolific output on paper and canvas, as well as a penchant for making art out of trash and found objects. “I’ve been an artist since I drew Clifford, the Big Red Dog, when I was three,” she said. “I still remember people saying, ‘Oh, that’s amazing!’ That positive reinforcement stayed with me, so I stuck with it.”

A high school dropout, she tells kids to stay in school, if only so they don’t have to deal with the stress of entering the work force at a young age. She found her first job at a greenhouse, which led to landscaping and floral design. Her first tattoos were made when she was in her mid-20s, traveling around the country and living in a truck. In New York City, she landed a job as the tattoist at a piercing shop at Houston Street and Sixth Avenue, then moved to a shop on West Broadway. “I sucked,” she sighed. “I was really green. I did a whole bunch of tattoos, which is the only way to get good. I started working right when tattooing became legal again in the city, after being illegal for 30 years.”

Following a trip to Europe and nine months in Africa, she returned to the U.S. to work at a friend’s shop on Long Island. Her boyfriend, who had grown up in Woodstock, lured her to the country air, and they bought a run-down house in Olive, down the road from his grandparents’ home. The gradually renovated house is a work of art in itself, with Sunday’s drawings and works by other artists on the wood-paneled walls, sprawling flower beds out front.


Fitting it to the body part

Residents of the Catskills, she finds, have different tastes from Long Islanders. “There I did a lot of heaven versus hell, good versus evil. Someone would say, ‘I want this angel being pulled into heaven by other angels and pulled into hell by demons.’ There are a lot of Catholics. Up here you get, ‘I want a tree,’ or ‘I want a flower that represents everyone I’ve ever known.’ In both places, they like animals. Down there I did more fairies, up here I do more nature.”

Part of her job is to help customers design their tattoos. “Some people have a vague notion of what they want and just trust me to come up with a design,” she said. “Some have a folder of drawings they’ve made. Some have a wrinkly old paper they’ve been carrying around for ten years in their wallet. I take whatever they give me and design something.” She not only has to make an attractive, lasting picture, but she has to ensure that it will fit whatever part of the body it adorns.

Corset tattoo by Sunday.

Corset tattoo by Sunday.

One of her most memorable tattoos was created for a Greene County woman who had had a double mastectomy. “She’d had lots of surgeries and scars,” said Sunday, “so I tattooed a corset on her torso. Later, I did a portrait of her and the corset tattoo, on her husband’s forearm.”

She tends to be outspoken, suggesting constructive alternatives if she thinks someone has a bad idea. Many people are attracted to skulls and other death themes that they later regret. Memorial tattoos are popular, but, said Sunday, “Sometimes it’s a can of worms, unless it’s your mom, grandma, or child. What if another friend dies, do you get a tattoo of them too?”

At the shop, customers can peruse her albums of tattoos and drawings to stimulate their ideas. Sunday is willing to discuss the plans for a tattoo at length and often does research. “If I have to draw a peony, I can do it out of my head. I’m looking at them all the time,” she said, nodding at the bush of pink blooms at the center of her garden. “If I’m doing an elephant, I have to look at a bunch of elephants.” When the customer shows up for the appointment, she will have a drawing ready to show and is happy to make changes as desired. If the client’s concept is vague, she’ll start with something simple and allow the ideas to flow in conversation as she’s applying the ink.

Each tattoo artist has a particular style. Sunday describes hers as “detail-oriented and fine. Even when it’s a traditional Japanese piece, there’s a fineness to it that I can’t seem to help.”

She does very little advertising, since, as she put it, “The ads are on the people.”


Skinflower Cosmic Arts will celebrate its fifth anniversary with music by Bomb Mob at 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 6, on the Phoenicia boardwalk, located on the south side of Main Street. Refreshments will be served, and there is no charge for admission. The screening of The Harder They Come, starring reggae musician Jimmy Cliff, will begin at 7 p.m., at STS Playhouse, 10 Church Street, Phoenicia. Admission to the film is also free, with Skinflower donating $5 per attendee to the theater. For more information on the shop, see

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Sound Off: Readers have much to say about Better Jacksonville Plan – Florida Times

The Better Jacksonville Plan, approved almost 15 years ago, was a $2.25 billion comprehensive growth management program that provided road and infrastructure improvements, environmental preservation, targeted economic development and developed new and improved public facilities, such as a new downtown library and the county courthouse. Duval County voters voted in a half-cent sales tax to fund the projects. We asked members of the Times-Union/ Email Interactive Group for their opinions on whether the money has been well spent and whether there are areas that should have been addressed but weren’t. Here is a representative sampling of the responses:

I am not happy with the politics that put the courthouse over the original budgeted amount. These people use our money like they are playing Monopoly. I am happy with many of the things that were done — the downtown library is something we can be proud of — but upset that some of the projects road projects were not completed as we voted on. Several of the overpasses were not completed and we are starting to see traffic issues again. The Girvin Road and San Pablo Road widening are on hold now and those areas are getting very congested. We were given what the money was going to be used for and then after approval, it was changed.

Gus Gustafson, East Arlington

This tax has produced big changes for the city. Who wants it to stop? It is time our citizens quit thinking so small.

Robert A. Taylor, Jacksonville

I want so badly for the Downtown area of Jacksonville to be as wonderful as it could be. If $2.5 billion has been spent downtown over the past 15 years, I’d love to have someone give us a tour of the improvements. Roads are a mess; sidewalks cracked and broken; and anywhere outside of the six-block area surrounding the Landing can get scary after dark. And now we can’t even get a water taxi to cross the river. The skyway is a wonderful, and courageous, concept. But it needs to be extended east along Bay to the park and stadium; west toward Riverside; and South through San Marco. Look at Portland Oregon, Sacramento, Baltimore downtown areas for ideas and inspiration.

Robert Frary, Jacksonville Beach

I find two exceptions to the monies that were spent: 1. The new County Courthouse was overbuilt and is too grandiose; 2. Requirements were not put in place to support the library system. Separate funds should be in place to support the growth and maintenance of the libraries, the buildings as well as the purchase of books and materials. All of the libraries are in need of constant maintenance. … Doesn’t our mayor and City Council realize how important the libraries and their growth are to the education of the all the citizens of Jacksonville?

Barbara Hall, San Marco area

The only thing I feel I can comment on about the Greater Jacksonville Plan is concerning the new Duval courthouse. I have seen some road improvements in the area but nowhere near enough to say that there has been a significant improvement overall. It is my understanding that road maintenance is financed by various taxes. I know that a half-cent sales tax increase was voted in by the citizenry to help finance this program. What I don’t understand is why some of that money had to be used to improve roads that should have been maintained all along. Is this an indication that not enough taxes are collected to do this? Or possibly that taxes earmarked for road maintenance are used on other things? … I feel that I must address improved public facilities. Man has always built magnificent edifices to his own greatness and the new courthouse has exceeded all reason. If this building isn’t a sinful waste of public funds I don’t know what is. To begin with, it wasn’t finished on time or on budget. The cost and type of materials are obscene. Rooms are as large as some people’s house and the cost of heating and cooling it must be an astronomical cost to the taxpayer. All of this to impress who? And for what reason? Is this to show how considerable the city government is?… People want a more efficient administration not a more impressive one.

Larry Watkins, Ortega

I think it was great and they should do it again.

Joey Stevens, Julington Creek

The $2.25 billion has been spent on WHAT? We have a courthouse that looks like Aphrodite’s Palace and had to spend more money on so they could properly install handicapped entrances. We have potholes and road issues in every part of town, but we have a ginormous scoreboard and pools at the stadium that the mayor and our City Council approved money for; bicyclists and pedestrians are killed every day due to lack of infrastructure; the landscaping in the city parks is overgrown and trash cans overflow every weekend after the public tries to enjoy them only to end up seeing dead ducks and algae blooms in the park lakes; homeless people still sleep outside in the elements across the street from the missions and are not cared for properly like the mayor promised during his campaign; and what impactful environmental preservation has been done along the St. Johns River that the mayor also promised during his campaign? Cancelling the water taxis does not count as saving the environment.

Keri Kidder, Riverside

To the best of my recollection, the amount of money spent to construct the Duval County Courthouse was millions and millions and millions more than projected to be spent when the comprehensive growth management program was approved. In my opinion, the decision makers “required and demanded” a lot of nice things to have, even though some of them were more expensive than needed to get the project completed. If the same applied to the other projects in the approved plan, there was gross everexpenditure of program funds.

Jim Mckoy, Mandarin

I am disappointed that the infrastructure seems to me to be deteriorating instead of improving. I would like to see an accounting specifically of how /where the special tax money has been spent. The roadsides are a mess all the time … many need mowing and trash pick-up. Our parks, in some areas seem better, in others less user-friendly every week. With the conversation regarding tax increase for paying for the pension mess, I am reluctant to support another tax increase without clear accouting.

Marie Hix, Baymeadows area

Overall, I think the money was well spent. But we should have invested more into the Skyway, not just roads. Great asset for Jacksonville as we seek to attract the knowledge workers that will build our economy, and we are absolutely overlooking it in favor of short-term tax giveaways and corporate welfare anytime any business says it is hiring.

Daniel Burstein, Southside

The Better Jacksonville Plan was a wonderful idea at it’s inception. Most of the funds were spent properly; however, many of the uses of expenditures have been called into question over the years. The city needs to address each neighborhood, going forward, with the needed improvements necessary to maintain the quality of life each citizen in that particular neighborhood has come to expect. Routine maintenance such as mowing, cleaning of streets, repair of roadways and walkways as needed. Remove litter and junk and abandoned vehicles, and enforce the city codes for clean residential and business properties. Start with the basics and folks will see that the city is trying.

Bill Durst, Arlington

I was not a resident of the city at the time when the Better Jacksonville Plan was approved. I have, however, now lived in the city for over 11 years, and have been very aware of the significant number of improvements to the infrastructure of the city. I live on the eastern side of the city near the Intracoastal Waterway. Such things as the widening of Hodges, the widening of Beach Blvd., the new Beach Blvd. bridge over the Intracoastal, the widening of Kernan, the Kernan overpass on Atlantic Blvd. … the list goes on and on, and these projects were started and concluded during the brief period Jacksonville has been the city of my residence. I have the impression that Jacksonville has a vision of its future, and is putting improvements in place to implement that vision very well. Prior to this experience, I do not recall seeing this much tangible evidence of progress resulting from a tax increase in such a compressed period of time.

Bill Wirth, Intracoastal West

NO! Not well spent in the interest of residents of Jacksonville. Areas still flooding with roads/streets poorly maintained, the Courthouse (JOKE), took forever to build, massive over cost, poor location as to access and parking. Truly a monument to a less than productive mayor. … And now our present mayor who hasn’t accomplished much except a lot of talk, who has in his promises to the African-American community failed there also.

Tom W. Simmons, Oceanway

The Better Jacksonville Plan provided many road and infrastructure improvements to many areas of town. However, expansion plans on Collins Road between Highway 17 and Blanding Boulevard have yet to begin. This community has had to endure this narrow stretch of road for too long. Cut through car traffic, increased pedestrian traffic and flooding from McGirts Creek along this long winding road, need to be addressed.

Angela DeMonbreun, Westside

The money funding the Better Jacksonville Plan needs to address the areas in decline such as roadways and median maintenance and trash removal and cleaning on a regular basis. Trash and litter is not being addressed on a regular basis, nor is updated landscaping and improvements for the highways entering the area. Jacksonville needs a new facelift to greet people entertaining the idea of moving here. Voters should take a stand in wanting the appearance of their city to improve downtown and elsewhere. I think we need a bigger bang for the buck!!

J. McInnis, Clay County

Is tax money ever well spent? Are promises from those who want more tax money ever kept? I remember when bridge tolls were a dime. We were told in 20 years the bridge would be paid for and the tax dropped. So after 20 years, they raised the tax to a quarter. I can’t remember how many years passed before the toll was dropped totally. Anyway, the last time I tried to go to the library the hours they were open had shrunk. They seem to have less workers so it doesn’t look like a lot has been spent there.

Pat Milbee, Southside

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New downtown Edmonds building will house post office and 43 apartments …

Artist's rendering of the new building that will occupy the northwest corner of Bell Street and Second Avenue N.  Developed by Edmonds 2020 LLC, the building will offer 43 apartment rental units, 57 underground parking spaces, and will house the Edmonds Post Office.

Artist’s rendering of the new building that will occupy the northwest corner of Bell Street and Second Avenue N. Developed by Edmonds 2020 LLC, the building will offer 43 apartment rental units, 57 underground parking spaces, and will house the Edmonds Post Office.

Downtown walkers and others have probably noticed the traffic cones, temporary fencing, and construction equipment being staged in the vacant space just north of the Edmonds Post Office. It’s all part of preparing for construction to get underway later this month on a new mixed use residential/commercial building at Second Avenue North and Bell Street.

“We’re really excited to get moving on this project,” said Doug Spee of Edmonds 2020 LLC, who is managing the project. “We’ve owned this site (the western half of the block along Second Avenue North between Main and Bell) for about five years now, and have been actively working with the City of Edmonds to get the project permitted and ready to go.”

The Edmonds Post Office will move from its current location to the new building in late 2015.  According to project manager Doug Spee, the old building will be taken down and replaced with something that fits with the super location at Second and Main. I'm just getting started on ideas, and would welcome suggestions, he said.

The Edmonds Post Office will move from its current location to the new building in late 2015. According to project manager Doug Spee, the old building will be taken down and replaced with something that fits with the super location at Second and Main. “I’m just getting started on ideas, and would welcome suggestions,” he said.

In keeping with the character and ambiance of the downtown core, the residential side of the new building will be set back 11 feet from the sidewalks along Bell Street with grass and landscaping filling the space. The commercial space occupied by the new post office will border the edge of sidewalk along Second Avenue.

The facade employs a mix of brick and other materials and a staggered roof line to impart a varied overall look. It will offer 43 residential apartment units and 57 underground parking spaces. The U.S. Post Office will be the sole commercial tenant, and will occupy the space on the new building’s southwest corner.

Construction equipment is being staged in the vacant area at Second and Bell in preparation for breaking ground on the new building later this month.

Construction equipment is being staged in the vacant area at Second and Bell in preparation for breaking ground on the new building later this month.

“The post office will continue to operate in its current space until construction is complete,” said Spee. “Look for a fast switchover late next year, when the post office will close on Saturday in the old location, and open Monday in the new space.”

The new design utilizes the existing Post Office loading dock, and gives the Post Office a more efficient space within which to operate. The current space is approximately 8000 square feet. The new space will be about half that.

“We’ve been working with the Post Office to design a space that meets their needs and helps them control costs,” added Spee. “The current space is about twice as large as they need, so we worked with them to design the new facility to be smaller, more efficient, and most importantly, more cost-effective.”

Spee plans to demolish and redevelop the old post office building into something that fits in with the great location on Main Street. “We’re just getting started on several ideas and would welcome suggestions from the community,” he said.

Spee expects that the new building will be complete sometime in late 2015.

– Story and photos by Larry Vogel


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Tribute to a gardening celebrity

Johannesburg – Lynton Johnson, a horticulturist, landscaping lecturer, national landscaping judge and the Talk Radio 702 radio gardening expert for 24 years died on 20 June, 2014 and recently the gardening industry paid tribute to him.

Born in Durban on June 19, 1944, he matriculated from Ixopo High School, KwaZulu-Natal in 1963.

He studied horticulture at the Pretoria Tech before moving to the Boksburg Parks Department (1964-1966).

After two years at Eckards Nursery, Bedfordview (1967-1969), Johnson joined Calder’s Nursery, also in Bedfordview, as a design landscaper (1969-1971).

In 1972, he joined the Kempton Park city council as chief horticulturist and remained there until 1995.

With 23 years of experience in gardening in frost zones on the East Rand, Johnson was an expert on gardening for winter.

Lynton Johnson believed gardeners should make more use of grasses, as seen in this grass garden designed by Diarmuid Gavin.


“All gardens can be planted to anticipate the cold of the winter months, if you plan ahead”, he said. “Experiment a little. Don’t take it for granted that you are in a cold area and nothing will survive, unless it is bare and bleak in winter.

“Some of the plants will have a different look in winter but will still attract attention.

“For instance, the ornamental grasses add colour to a winter garden in shades of bronze, silver, maroon and red,” he said.

“Berried plants brighten up the winter months. Consider the crataegus, cotoneaster and heavenly bamboo. There is also a range of flowering plants, such as proteas, pin-cushions, ericas, flowering fruit trees such as quinces, citrus in a wide variety, almonds and apricots, not to mention spectacular exotics like camellias, azalea varieties or indigenous plants such as hypoestes and sutherlandia.

“The list goes on and one, if you are prepared to think and plan,” added Johnson.

Landscaping lecturer

During the era of the Rand Show (1984-2000), Johnson won 25 gold medals and was awarded the WAS floating trophy for landscape design and implementation three times.

Johnson went on to serve as a national examiner for landscape design at the Pretoria Technikon, and in 1986 became a lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology in landscape design and plant material studies.

One of his most famous lectures was on how to move trees in winter.

“The trick with tree transplanting is to not damage the bark as this causes die-back and opens infection sites.

“Another tip is to mark the north side of the tree before you move it, and keep the tree facing north when you replant it”, said Johnson.

“Why? Imagine that you could slice a tree through the centre. All the north facing cells of the tree are fat and happy.

“They have no idea about hardships. On the south side of the tree are all the cells that live in the cold shadows. They know about hardship.

“Place those north facing playboy cells into a new south facing home in the cold and dark… and your tree has a good chance of taking a nose dive,” he said.

“It is also more difficult to transplant an evergreen tree than a deciduous one. This is because the leaves require moisture and nutrients all year round in evergreen trees, whereas deciduous trees are dormant in winter – which means less chance of trauma.”

Judge and broadcaster

Between 1990 and 1998 Johnson served on the judging panel of the Institute of Landscape Architects of South Africaand the Interior Plantscapers Association of South Africa.

He was the national co-ordinating judge for the South African Landscapers Institute (Sali) Awards of Excellence (1988-1995) and was on the Gauteng Sali panel of judges (1988-2007).

Johnson became the gardening expert on Radio 702 Talk Radio in 1990 and over a period of 24 years answered thousands of gardening queries from loyal listeners until his last broadcast in late May this year.

A regular author of magazine features from 1965, Johnson was also the author of three books, The Wayward Lemon and the Garrulous Gnome (1996), New Life for Old Gardens (1998) and the A-Z of Gardening Maintenance (2005).

In 2008, the South African Green Industries Council inducted Johnson in their honours roll – the highest award that can be bestowed on a member of the green industries.

Johnson leaves three sons.


Now is a good time to plant trees with striking branching patterns or bark.

Conifers are useful windbreaks in very cold gardens. They are evergreen, frost hardy and need little maintenance, but do require regular watering throughout the year. Spread insecticide granules around the base to control cypress aphids.

Primulas make a dainty carpet of white and mauve under trees and between other shade-loving annuals. Primroses and primulas need their roots to be moist and cool and a mulch of coarse compost or leaf mould will help. White flowering primulas are useful for lightening shady spots.

Roses that are not doing well can be dug up and planted in fresh soil in a place where they receive six hours of sunshine a day. While it is too soon to begin pruning, particularly in those areas that experience very cold winters and heavy frosts, it is time to check pruning equipment in preparation for next month and to make sure these are sharpened. Blunt secateurs, loppers and pruning saws will bruise and damage plants and disease may result.

Saturday Star

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2014 Ghana Garden and Flower Show

2014 Ghana Garden and Flower Show

Excerpt from 2013 Ghana Garden and Flower Show.Excerpt from 2013 Ghana Garden and Flower Show.

Excerpt from 2013 Ghana Garden and Flower Show.

By Amba Mpoke-Bigg 

Lush green grass, cool shady acacia, frangipani  and mango trees, flowerbeds alive with color and fragrance. Orchids resplendent in their exotic tropical beauty. No, I’m not talking about the Garden of Eden. These images are all around us, in a small but growing number of cultivated gardens in Ghana.

Creating an oasis in the concrete-covered city which is Accra, these gardens offer a sanctuary from the heat and dust of everyday life.

And there is more to these gardens than beauty. Backyards full of vegetable beds, peppers, okros, an abundance of fruit trees….the list goes on and on. Their owners can simply wake up in the morning, pick a couple ripe avocado,  tomatoes, a sprig of cilantro, a bunch of spring onions, buy some kenkey and freshly fried fish, and voila!…they have a breakfast fit for kings.

And that’s the central message Stratcomm  Africa wants to share with  its second annual  Ghana Garden Flower Show, to be held  at the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park Accra  from 29 August – 8th September, 2014. The theme of this year’s event is Gardening for Value: Health, Beauty, Jobs and Income.

Excerpt from 2013 Ghana Garden and Flower Show.Excerpt from 2013 Ghana Garden and Flower Show.

Excerpt from 2013 Ghana Garden and Flower Show.

Stratcomm’s gardening initiative is aimed at promoting tourism, healthier and modern lifestyles, and also creating employment and income earning opportunities that support Ghana’s growth and development. Their hope is educate  the public about the beauty and benefits of gardens and gardening. It also seeks to create awareness about the commercial and psychological benefits of urban beautification and gardening.


A media launch for the show was held Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at the Department of Parks Gardens at Cantonments in   Accra. It was chaired by Mrs. Karen Hendrickson, co-author of ‘Ghana’s Beautiful Gardens” – a coffee table book showcasing some of the nation’s loveliest home gardens.

Addressing the journalists, exhibitors and gardening enthusiasts in attendance, Florence Benson, the Managing Director of Floben’s Creation  – a landscaping and gardening business,  made the point that Ghana had neglected gardening as an income generating venture. Addressing the gathering, she sought to inspire all listeners.

“Ghana has the right conditions to help it become a major exporter

but sadly, we seem to import many of the flowers we use, “ she stated. “ My hope is that soon, we can develop our abundant fertile lands to plant flowers for export. ’’

I remember gardening in boarding school. It was typically a way of “punishing” someone for some misdeed or misfortune. It was also a mandatory exercise for us, with the idea that somehow getting in touch with the earth and soil would instill some sense of the value of nature.

Sadly, it seemed to do the opposite. Gardening, for many, evokes the word ‘drudge’. We think of sweating in the sweltering sun, labouring with blistered hands – as we were forced by our teachers and seniors to obey the house and school rules.

But now, I have the opportunity to think of gardening as life, sustenance, health and therapy. These days I as nurse my avocado pits in glass jars, carefully balanced on my window sill so that the plants can get the best sunlight. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction.

I watch my orchids like a hawk, literally willing and talking them into flowering  with the amazing blooms they are capable of.

Speaking of blooms, Esther Cobbah, CEO of Stratcomm Africa, announced the arrival of  “Bloom” – a new Garden Flower Magazine  to be launched at the show. This quarterly magazine will be full of tips and advice on everything from buying a lawn mower to dealing with pests. It would also feature interviews with horticulturists and people in the industry.


The Garden and Flowers Show promises to have something for everyone. So I urge you to keep the date open. You will be surprised at what you can discover. See you there.

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Homework: Mt. Lebanon garden events; Master Gardeners in Greenburg – Tribune

Mt. Lebanon garden events

Get caught up in the enchantment gardening brings at the 24th annual Mt. Lebanon Public Library Garden Party on July 12 and Garden Tour on July 13.

The tour, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature six gardens, complete with sophisticated landscaping, varieties of annuals and perennials and creative ideas for gardeners of all levels. All gardens are owned and managed by Mt. Lebanon residents.

Tourgoers also are invited to visit the Library Gardeners’ Courtyard Garden, which is a certified wildlife habitat. There also will be a plant sale at the library.

The two-hour Garden Party kicks off the gardening fun the evening before the tour at 6 p.m. All proceeds from the party and tour benefit the Mt. Lebanon Public Library.

Tickets for the party are $30. Tour tickets are $20, $15 in advance.

Details: 412-531-1912

Growing herbs

If you want to add a little fresh mint to your dishes, Chef Odette Smith-Ransome, instructor of culinary arts at The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, has some tips for growing it.

Because it’s a perennial herb, mint will come up each year. According to Smith-Ransome, “it is so easy to grow and so versatile.â€�

Tips for growing mint (and other herbs):

• Be sure to snap the top leaf off each branch to encourage growth.

• Many herbs do not like a lot of heat, so if you know it’s going to be exceptionally sunny or hot, slide them in the shade and give a little extra water.

• Use potted herbs, rather than planting directly into the ground because herbs like mint and basil have invasive roots.

Master gardeners will take questions

The Penn State Master Gardeners of Westmoreland County will sponsor an informational open house July 19 where visitors can ask horticultural questions at the Donohoe Center grounds in Greensburg.

Visitors will see garden features like a dwarf conifer bed, more than 100 varieties of day lilies and examples of compost bins.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Light refreshments will be provided, and admission is free.

Details: 724-837-1402

IKEA improves Billy bookcase

IKEA is updating its iconic Billy bookcases.

The company says the new bookcases will look the same, but have a more durable and scratch-resistant veneer, stronger shelves, rounded edges to be more kid-friendly and more customizable options, like glass shelves.

The new Billy bookcases, which come in a variety of sizes and prices, will be available starting in August in the United States.

— Staff and wire reports

Send Homework items to Features in care of Sue Jones, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, D.L. Clark Building, 503 Martindale St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212; fax 412-320-7966; or email

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