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Archives for September 13, 2014

Tattnall changes prototype for AARP plans in Macon-Bibb

Local State

Mercer students raise money for food bank with Watermelon Bust

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New children’s area at wildflower center doubles garden space


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Conway task force envisions park, senior housing for Rose property

CONWAY — So, what’s the latest plan for developing the Rose property in the center of town?

How about a community park and housing for the elderly?

A special task force representing many town boards has settled on that idea for the 11 acres of undeveloped riverfront property, and will be seeking town money to work out the details.

The cornfield, which sits on a floodplain, was acquired seven years ago after a town meeting voted to exchange a house and storage shed on Fournier Road for the property, which was owned by town resident Greg Rose. Since then, it has been eyed as a possible location for a new town highway garage, a public safety complex, a community sewage treatment system, senior housing and soccer fields.

“Taking into consideration the many good ideas and proposals set forth for use of the former Rose Property, the ad hoc Task Force recommends a unified plan incorporating senior housing, South River flood mitigation and a community park,” the plan reads. “The Task Force believes that the restrictions on the property make it incompatible with higher impact uses such as a soccer field or extensive parking areas.”

According to task force member David Chichester, those limitations include endangered species regulations overseen by Natural Heritage, a state program under the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife that must approve any use changes on the land.

According to the plan, the park would leave room for a senior housing project and South River flood mitigation measures. It would comprise mainly natural features with few areas that would need to be maintained.

“Integration with the Senior Housing project would provide a beautiful and functional backyard for its residents,” the plan reads.

Pixie Holbrook, the chairwoman of Conway’s Housing Committee, said that project would consist of six duplexes for a total of 12 apartments of about 1,000 square feet each, a senior center, and a storage facility. Three of the duplexes will be placed along Shelburne Falls Road, and the other three would be on the property below them.

To fund the architectural, legal and financial aspects of the project, the committee will request $67,000 of town Community Preservation Act tax dollars at the next town meeting, Holbrook said.

“There are no cost projections just yet, but it will be funded by several methods, none of which will draw on town taxes,” said Holbrook.

Holbrook said she thinks the proposed park will complement the senior housing project.

“The town park will be a real asset to our project, bringing neighbors to enjoy the adjacent land,” she said. “We have always planned for a community garden available to our seniors there, which is also part of the park plan.”

The flood mitigation project is part of the South River Restoration project being carried out by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. In 2013, voters approved spending $100,000 of Community Preservation Act money to fund the project, part of which includes lowering a portion of the property by 2 feet to give water a place to pool during flooding. The project would also place weirs and rock deflectors in the river to steer water away from the riverbank.

The proposed design would also include a covered gazebo, pavilion or shed, where community members could meditate, read or have small concerts or other town events. Other features would include nature trails by the river, landscaping and natural spaces that would attract butterflies and wildlife, and places to play horseshoes or bocce and other lawn games.

According to the proposal, governance and responsibility for the park would be given to an existing town committee, like the Parks and Recreation Committee.

Name the park

The plan also calls for a townwide contest to name the park.

Chichester said the creation of a park would give the town good passive recreation space to complement the town’s various active recreation areas and be enjoyed by all members of the community.

“There were a lot of different ideas that came up over the course of this, but we thought the best thing to do would be to have a nice natural park, and it’s very appropriate with the senior housing project nearby so that they can enjoy the park,” he said.

Chichester said the park could serve as a place to which town residents could contribute memorials for loved ones, such as benches or plants.

The task force is composed of representatives from the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, the Housing Committee, Open Space Committee, Parks and Recreation Committee, and the Friends of the South River.

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Christopher Farms an oasis of floral beauty

Located along the Lake Michigan shoreline in northeastern Sheboygan County are the artistic and educational gardens of Jay Christopher.

The property hosts 150,000 daffodils, 20 varieties of oak trees, magnolia trees, apple and cherry orchards, vineyards, farmland, peonies, irises and practically every plant indigenous to Sheboygan County. This year a new garden has been installed, featuring two acres of 80 variations of hostas under age-old trees.

Christopher Farm Gardens, located in the Town of Mosel, not only gives visiting groups great ideas for what they can do in their own gardens, but also provides fresh produce, such as cucumbers, rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and grapes, which are shared with the family, staff and area civic organizations.

A walking tour of the property gives a glimpse of the detail that went into the planning and design of the expansive garden, which started out as a hobby farm when Christopher bought the initial 27 acres in 1997. More than 40 acquisitions later, the property now spans 400 acres with more than a mile of lakefront views.

An Illinois-native, Christopher is a successful entrepreneur with many business endeavors, including supporting Doris Christopher with founding Pampered Chef. Busy with work, the Christophers were invited to Elkhart Lake for some rest and relaxation. That foray into Wisconsin led the Christophers to seek some land of their own, finally settling in Sheboygan County.

Over the years the property has grown and with the help of designer Kelly Bahrs of Kelly’s Landscape Design and a dedicated team from Greenscape Lawn Landscape. An onsite staff of more than 20 continues to nurture the land, creating a sanctuary for local wildlife and a treasure trove of ideas for area garden clubs and flora and fauna connoisseurs.

Every year groups from around the region tour the gardens, oohing and ahhing at all they find among the pathways.

A tour through “Bear Woods” opens to Lake Michigan and more than once a visitor has been so turned around that they ask, “What lake is that?” Christopher said. He just shakes his head in amazement.

Water features play a large part of the Christopher Farm Garden landscape, starting with the view over the bluffs of Lake Michigan down to several ponds, a man-made waterfall and specially-designed, rock-encrusted trails for water swales that flow during large rainstorms.

About 300 different crops are grown on leased farm land and within the groves and gardens. Last year, an entire acre of corn was dedicated to feeding the homebound via Meals On Wheels of Sheboygan County.

“We do a lot to give back to the community,” Christopher said, adding that both Bookworm Gardens and Meals On Wheels have hosted fundraisers here.

It also serves as a getaway for friends and family.

“There are always people visiting,” Christopher said. His grandchildren, who are raised in the Chicago area, have many ways to enjoy the gardens including fishing in one of the farm’s four ponds, to playing hide-and-seek among the sculptures and oversized yard art.

Riding on the private train is also a blast, but adults seem to enjoy it more than the kids, Christopher said.

Today the Christopher Farm Gardens is used to provide educational experiences while conserving the land.

“We have almost every different type of plant that is available for zone 4, which is the zone that we are in,” Bahrs said.

A children’s education farm features chickens and an ode to the Great Lakes watershed.

Throughout the farm children can see “how does the farm relate to their house in Illinois? How far is it to California and Green Bay? We also try to get the kids to plant things, to learn how they grow and to take care of them…there are so many different aspects of education,” she said.

For Christopher, gardening is a love.

“I grew up with a father who had to decide between horticulture and law. While he did become a Chicago lawyer, his passion was gardening. He took us to flower shops and nurseries and I really absorbed it and got to enjoy it. Landscaping is an important aspect of it,” he said.

Purchasing the land in the Town of Mosel gave him a fresh pallet to work on.

“We could do anything we wanted, with enough creativity,” he said.

The property is in a constant state of motion with new and redesigned gardens being managed every year.

Water features are a large component of the gardens, the biggest of those being Lake Michigan.

“It’s one mile of lakefront that adds to the farm environment. The sounds of the northwest winds sweeping across, the color changes as sand is kicked up, there’s purple and blue; the changing cloud formations; there are plusses you don’t see inland.

“You wake up to the sun, a fireball in the sky.”

So which of the gardens is his favorite?

“Whatever one I am working on,” he laughed.


For more information about Christopher Farm and Gardens, visit

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Website has low-water landscape designs – U

If you are looking to upgrade your landscape or just love gardens, then the website is for you.

The San Diego County Water Authority’s WaterSmart landscaping website has thousands of pictures of plants and garden designs that are well-suited to the region’s Mediterranean climate. Take visual tours of beautiful, water-efficient landscapes through photographs that include hotlinks to plant information screens.

Pictures are organized by landscape category to make them easy to find. Explore galleries of ideas for backyards, front yards, hillsides, patios, planters and other outdoor living areas.

Just looking for plants? The website offers more than 1,000 plants, along with search tools that make plants easy to find. Explore lawn alternatives, butterfly-attracting plants, plants for fire safety, California natives and more.

While you’re exploring, save plant and garden images you like, then print reports about them before you shop.

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East Sacramento garden is a consuming passion

Eileen Starns loves to cook. The East Sacramento woman also loves to garden.

So, what’s more convenient then growing her own ingredients? When she needs fresh herbs or tomatoes, all Starns has to do is step outside her kitchen door.

Starns is among many city dwellers who’ve embraced “edible gardening.” That trend has helped make the annual East Sacramento Edible Gardens tour a fast-growing success.

Held during Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork celebration, the tour brings home the concept that food grown closer tastes better. It can look good, too.

“This is real farm-to-fork; it’s urban farming at its roots,” explained Susann Hadler of Soroptimist International of Sacramento, the tour’s host.

Now in its fourth year, today’s tour showcases six gardens packed with food as well as beauty. Adding to the ambiance, members of the Sacramento Symphonic Winds will provide live music for guests at each garden. UC master gardeners will answer questions.

Proceeds support Soroptimist charities including Sierra Forever Families’ Camp Wonder and St. John’s Program for Real Change. Organizers expect more than 1,000 patrons to take part.

Starns was one of those ticketed guests on last year’s tour. That’s what inspired her to open her garden to visitors today.

“I went on the tour with my son, grandchildren and a friend,” Starns recalled. “My friend said, ‘Eileen, your garden is so beautiful, you should be on this tour.’ So I stepped up and volunteered. I feel very honored they chose me.”

This year’s featured gardens and gardeners all came to the tour through similar routes. They saw the tour as guests, then asked to take part.

“We have sign-up sheets at the gardens during the tour,” Hadler said. “A lot of people want to be part of it.”

That spirit reflects Sacramento’s self-awareness as the Farm-to-Fork Capital. And these gardens demonstrate that growing food can produce beautiful landscapes as well as meals.

At first glance, Starns’ garden is a cottage-style fantasy of flowers, framed by picket fence. The edible plants are tucked among more traditional ornamental landscaping. Bumblebees happily buzz spikes of lavender, rosemary and sage. Creeping thyme forms a fragrant carpet of green leading to the front door. Flowering crabapples tempt birds with clusters of red-and-gold fruit. Roses, hydrangeas and butterfly bushes greet visitors with bushels of blooms in soft pastel hues.

In particular, Starns used several shades of blue flowers from the ground-hugging ajuga and little forget-me-nots to the 7-foot-tall lilac bushes and morning glories climbing over arbors. They may not be “edible,” but help beneficial insects.

“I love blue in the garden,” she said. “Bees love blue flowers, too.”

On a quiet street near Sutter Memorial Hospital, her two-bedroom home sits on a snug lot, but she’s made the most of her limited space.

“When I bought the house six years ago, I just had lawn,” Starns said.

After a year of planning, she started digging in earnest, creating patios, raised beds and garden rooms. (A landscaper helped with the bigger elements such as pouring concrete and building shade structures.)

Some additions are unexpected. For example, she turned a north-facing side yard into an enchanting “Secret Garden,” full of gnomes, hostas and ferns.

“Every little nook and cranny has something special,” Hadler said. “There’s so much to look at.”

A retired library assistant, Starns decorated her garden “rooms” like her warm and cozy house – with lots of interesting objects. Painted white, mismatched wicker and bamboo chairs invite visitors to sit awhile on a shady patio. Dozens of charming birdhouses perch on the rafters. In shabby-chic country style, salvaged shelves and tables hold pots of succulents and whimsical knickknacks.

“I love garage sales, I love little shops,” Starns said with a semi-guilty smile. “I can’t resist.”

Some items are useful as well as decorative. A collection of vintage galvanized buckets and tubs hangs near her potting shed. In winter, they catch rain that Starns saves for later use for her container plants. Most of the in-ground landscape is on drip irrigation.

Along the fences hang several mirrors, catching the light and the flower-filled views.

“I love to decorate the garden,” Starns said. “I’m always looking for things; I’m running out of space. I learned the garden is more than the plants. In winter, it gives me other things to look at when the garden is mostly dormant. I don’t like bare fences.”

Throughout the garden, Starns combined pretty edible plants with ornamentals. Dozens of herbs line the edges of her flower beds, awaiting their turn in tea or culinary creations. Sweet potato vines look just as nice as the nearby clematis. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and basil have their own space in raised beds, brightened with marigolds.

Starns manages to harvest a lot from her small space, she said. For cookies and pudding, Starns has persimmon pulp in the freezer from her Fuyu tree. For lemonade or sauces, she has lemon juice, harvested from her Meyer lemon trees.

In the backyard, she kept a sliver of grass as a play area for her grandkids: Oliver, 9, and Fiona, 6. They visit Grandma three mornings a week before going to school.

“They’re getting into gardening, too,” she said. “Their father loves to garden. My grandson surprises me with all the plant names he knows.”

That’s part of the appeal of today’s tour: Kids are welcome and admitted free.

“A lot of families participate on the tour,” Hadler said. “It’s a great opportunity for children to see: This is where food comes from.”

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

• Read more articles by Debbie Arrington

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Gardening class offers tips on fruit trees

A dozen local gardeners listened attentively as Gary Slanga, a certified Master Gardener, discussed the best methods and practices for fruit trees, vines and shrubs.

The Bell County Master Gardeners held a class on home fruit production at the Harker Heights Activity Center on Monday.

The presentation included handouts, and showed detailed color photos from Slanga’s own yard and garden. He described what fruits are most successful, and how soil types, soil pH and the number of chilling hours during winter in Central Texas help those plants to prosper here.

“Peaches, blackberries, pecans, and grapes are the four most popular, and the ones we get the most inquiries about around here,” Slanga said. The lecture also covered persimmons, kumquats, apricots, tangerines, figs, blackberries, strawberries, grapes, pomegranates and citrus fruits.

When selecting trees to grow, Slanga addressed the pros and cons of choosing a tree self-pollinating vs. those trees requiring pollination from neighboring trees, birds and insects.

Slanga mentioned maintenance concerns such as the best times spray or fertilize, to checking for good soil drainage, not suffocate your tree’s root flare and base with dirt or mulch, and how managing fruit load on branches yields higher quality results. Planters must decide if they want fruits to be astringent or nonastringent, or if they want to produce stone-free, cling-free, semi-cling, or cling varieties of peaches and apricots.

“When you buy your plant at the nursery, do not trim the roots because they’ve probably already done that for you,” Slanga advised. “Get it in the ground as soon as you can, but keep it cool and moist until then.”

Pruning strategies will vary with each type of fruit tree, so it’s important to know your tree and how to best prune it. he said. Older trees are pruned less aggressively than younger trees. Open-vase pruning is a technique that encourages peach trees to flourish.

“Trim out the (branch going straight up the middle) on the tree at 24 inches to make it easy to harvest and spray,” Slanga said. The open air and fewer branches help to improve fruit quality, and the method helps the tree fight bugs. Slanga cautioned not to prune the central leader of an apple tree, because this may kill it within four to five years.

Nancy Niemann has a lot of peach trees on her property in Nolanville, and said she learned about pruning peach trees, “and I hadn’t been doing that.”

John Eberhardt and his wife Peggy of Copperas Cove came to learn more about their lemon trees.

“We didn’t know about the soil in this part of Bell County, and what you have to do when you’re planting in this soil,” John Eberhardt said.

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This week’s gardening tips: autumn wildflowers, spring flowering bulbs … – The Times-Picayune

Control caterpillar problems on ornamentals with a pesticide containing Bt, spinosad, carbaryl or a pyrethroid like permethrin or bifenthrin. Bt is a bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis) that only attacks caterpillars and is harmless to other organisms. It’s essentially nontoxic and is appropriate for use by organic gardeners. Spinosad is also organic. Make applications before damage is too extensive, and make sure the damage is fresh and the caterpillars are still active before you treat. Keep these materials well away from butterfly gardens. They’re also toxic to butterfly caterpillars.

Start watching for the wonderful display of autumn wildflowers that appear along local roads, highways and interstates now through early December.

Spring flowering bulbs begin appearing in local nurseries this month. Go ahead and purchase them, but there is no hurry to plant them. Bulb planting is generally done in late October and November. If you intend to order spring bulbs online, get your order off soon.

From now on, avoid applying fertilizers containing nitrogen to most landscape plants. Fertilizing trees, shrubs, lawns and ground covers this late can reduce hardiness and promote winter cold injury.

Mulches may have decayed and thinned out in beds over the summer. Replenish mulch layers with fresh material to maintain about a 2- to 3-inch thickness. Place the new mulch right on top of the old mulch.

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Indira Naidoo shares balcony gardening tips

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Naidoo doesn’t buy into the idea that some people don’t have a “green thumb”, and thinks that we all have the ability lurking inside us somewhere. Growing up, she said she was a reluctant gardener, with very little interest in spending time in the garden.

“My parents were gardeners – there was always a vegie patch somewhere in our back garden but we were just very reluctant as children. When mum would say, ‘can you go down and pick some lettuce for the salad?’ we’d go, ‘oh yeah, ok mum,’ but it was never something we were engaged with or seemed to enjoy,” she said,

Indira Naidoo says there's only one thing you need to be able to grow a garden  sunlight.

Indira Naidoo says there’s only one thing you need to be able to grow a garden – sunlight. Photo: Alan Benson

Her family now can’t really believe that almost out of nowhere, a passion for gardening came about.

“It obviously was always there bubbling away at the surface. I just basically had a few things that have happened that have made me go, ‘oh’ – the aha moment I guess – that this was actually combining a lot of my passions that I wasn’t aware of before.”

For others still waiting for that moment to arrive, Naidoo says people just need to give it a go.

“We’re all scared we’re going to stuff up, and people believe things like ‘I can’t grow anything’ – all those sorts of things we say to ourselves which I said to myself as well. I think it’s just more of a case of give it a go and start small and you’d be surprised,” she says.

“You’ve got to remember 100 years ago we all grew and cooked our own food – it wasn’t a special skill that only horticulturists and the Don Burkes and the Jamie Duries did for us – we all did it ourselves. So it couldn’t have been that difficult.”

Naidoo says there’s only one thing you need to be able to grow a garden – and it has nothing to do with space. Instead, it’s all about the sunlight.

“Most vegetables and herbs need six to eight hours of direct sunlight for you to get really lush, productive results, and you get that from north facing light. But obviously you can still grow things if your light varies and it’s coming from the west or even the south, but you have to change what you grow,” she says.

So whether it’s a full balcony, or even a tiny window-sill, Naidoo says wherever the sun hits is where your best growing spot is.

For people who have limited or no experience with gardening, she suggests starting very small.

“I always recommend that people start with a few small containers of herbs – that’s’ a really good way to get a sense of how often you need to water it and what bugs are going to attack it and how much care it requires,” she says.

“Especially the woody herbs – almost nothing can go wrong with oregano and thyme, rosemary, sage – they’re quite hardy. So I recommend start with those and just see how you go and again even just with the window sill, you can get started, you don’t really need as much space at all.”

Next, progress to softer herbs like parsley and basil.

“When you think, ‘hey, this is pretty easy – I’m not killing much’, move onto lettuces, green spinach, silver beet, and those sorts of things. I always have these growing on my balcony, I use them so much in my cooking.”

Next up, tomatoes are a great first vegetable to try out.

“I find that they’re a quite an easy variety, particularly the small ones like cherry and grape – they don’t tend to have big problems, they grow well and they bush in small pots or baskets,” she says.

“Then start doing the root ones which I find lots of fun – so the carrots, potatoes and things like that. It’s quite a thrill when you pull out a potato from a pot on the balcony and go ‘wow, that’s amazing’.

As the author of best-seller The Edible Garden, Naidoo is now on a crusade to get others on board. And with more people embracing inner city, apartment living, it seems there are a lot of us who could take a leaf out of her book.

Naidoo will be at Floriade’s Inspiration Hub on September 14, sharing her secrets for transforming small spaces into food producing hubs.

“Whether you have a balcony or a window sill, or a little terrace or maybe just a couple of pots hanging off your fence, I’ll be showing people some tips and sort of the new products on the market as well, and kind of giving them advice about what kind of conditions you need to maximise productivity,” she says.

“I’ll also be giving them some ideas about what they can cook using some of the things that they’ve grown as well.”

And even now, she says she’s still impressed when her produce growns.

“Even if you only get to cherry tomatoes – it’s such a thrill when you see that cherry tomato come through and you go, ‘oh my God, I grew that myself.'”

Indira Naidoo is presenting at the Floriade Inspiration Hub, Sunday, September 14, at 10.30am, 11.30am and 1.30pm.

Transforming your balcony garden

Got your gardening gloves at the ready? Here are some tips from Indira Naidoo for setting up your balcony garden:

Start small: “It’s about taking it in stages and doing it in manageable lots, and not overwhelming yourself.”

Give your plants the right light: You need six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day so make sure pots are positioned accordingly. You may also need to raise plants to maximise the sunlight.

Keep it light: Don’t forget balconies have weight restrictions. “I always recommend for people to chat to their body corporate or strata committee if they’re not sure how much weight their balcony can take. I use fibre glass pots, because they’re really strong but they’re very light, so they’re perfect for balconies.”

Get your drainage right: “What the plants need is free draining bottoms to them so when the plants are watered, the water needs to actually be able to come out and not clog their roots at the bottom. What I would do is put some sort of pebbles at the bottom of your blocks and then put your soil, and that helps the water sort of percolate through and drip through the pebbles and it’s not going to mess up your balcony.”

Feed your garden: On top of watering, you also need to give your plants the nutrients they need. “Get a really good quality organic potting mix and a really good manure like a good chicken manure or cow manure or good compost. Vegetables and herbs are really hungry feeders, so you really need to give them as much fertiliser and good quality soil when they first start off.”

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Fall clean-up tips for your lawn and garden tools

Fall clean-up tips for your lawn and garden tools

Fall clean-up tips for your lawn and garden tools

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2014 10:00 pm

Updated: 12:31 am, Fri Sep 12, 2014.

Fall clean-up tips for your lawn and garden tools

Brandpoint (BPT)

San Diego Community News Network

(BPT) – As the temperature drops, your lawn and garden will start settling into a dormant state. As you prep your landscaping and garden for a winter’s slumber, it’s a good idea to review the tools you used all summer. Taking care of this task now will ensure they’re in good shape come spring when it’s time to use them again.

From sharpening edges of blades to making certain the tool is still doing the job it was designed to do, put all your lawn and garden tools through a thorough fall cleaning. Here are some tips:

* Lawn mowers – Check your owner’s manual for information about sharpening the mower deck blades and what to do with any unused gasoline before putting the mower into storage. It’s a good idea to keep the mower in a dry location where moisture won’t collect and potentially rust the blades.

* Hand trimmers – Hand clippers, tree trimmers and saws all take a beating during the summer. Check these tools to make certain the handles are still secure, the cutting blades are sharp and the locking mechanisms all work. If anything isn’t up to par, replace the tool so you have it ready for the first sign of spring.

* Chainsaws – These heavy machines get put through their paces, and they can be taxing on people, too, after extended use. If you’re ready to upgrade your chainsaw, the Husqvarna low-weight 436Li is quiet, easy to operate and has the same power as gas machines. The 536LiXP and the T536LiXP models are also available, and they come with low maintenance and high-performance delivery. All battery-operated chainsaws come with two rechargeable batteries that can be interchanged with any Husqvarna hand tools you might already have in your collection. The batteries have a 40-minute charge time, helping to keep the tools lightweight and quiet.

* Weed trimmers – These tools are invaluable for keeping the grasses and weeds trimmed around trees and garden edging. In the fall, be sure to replace the string so you’ll have a fresh spool come spring. Also check the air filter on the tool. If it is dirty, replace the filter to allow your machine to perform at its best.

* Hoses – When it’s time to store your hoses for the winter, check all the connections to make certain nothing leaks; replace the connectors if you notice water spraying or dribbling from a connection. And if the hose itself is leaking, put it on your list to be replaced. Make certain you’ve drained all the water out before putting the hoses away for winter. If you have a hose cart, roll up the hose neatly without any kinks. Otherwise, you can just roll the hose into a neat pile of loops for storage in a dry place.

With all of your lawn and garden tools safely stored for the winter months, you’ll know they’ll be ready the minute you need them in the spring.


Thursday, September 11, 2014 10:00 pm.

Updated: 12:31 am.

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