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Archives for November 12, 2014

Expert Tips for Growing Early Tomato Varieties

In almost any climate, the best time to start most tomato seeds is six to eight weeks before your average last spring frost. This tried-and-true schedule provides juicy tomatoes by high summer, but many gardeners and cooks become impatient for sun-ripened tomatoes earlier. You can satisfy this premature tomato craving by learning how to grow extra-early tomatoes. By choosing varieties that mature quickly, starting those seeds a month ahead of your typical schedule — 10 to 12 weeks before your last spring frost — and then giving the plants special care, you’ll harvest tomatoes at the beginning of summer, when main-crop tomatoes are only beginning to bloom.

Most tomato varieties thrive in warm soils, so plan to grow your earliest tomatoes in containers for best results. In spring, when the plants start spending time outdoors, their roots will stay warmer in containers than they would if planted in the ground. You won’t need huge vessels because the stress from slightly cramped roots will push quick-maturing tomatoes to produce flowers and fruits in less time than usual. A 3-gallon bucket or a 12-inch-diameter pot or hanging basket will be about right for each plant. Ideally, each container should have a lip or handle for easy lifting.

Extra-Early Varieties

In the garden, indeterminate varieties that produce for many weeks are usually best, but certain compact, determinate varieties will provide you with more tomatoes sooner. Choose carefully — some early determinate varieties have much better flavor than others! The following open-pollinated, determinate tomato varieties have well-deserved reputations for delivering rich, main-season tomato flavor in record time:

‘Sophie’s Choice’ is a cool-tolerant heirloom tomato from Edmonton, Alberta, that produces round, red slicers on compact, 24-inch plants. Fruit size varies from egg-sized to baseball proportions, and the flavor of ‘Sophie’s Choice’ is mildly sweet with a pleasing balance of tangy aromatics.

‘Glacier,’ a smaller, red slicer, comes from Sweden and has potato-leaf foliage and a bushy growth habit. The bulky ‘Glacier’ tomato plant grows to 30 inches tall, and needs staking to support its concentrated crop.

‘Whippersnapper’ is a pink-red cherry tomato with a quirky growth habit. Short side branches spread out horizontally, making the ‘Whippersnapper’ tomato ideal for containers or hanging baskets. In Canada, this variety has gained a following after winning a race for first ripe tomato of the season.

Do not pinch or prune these or other quick-maturing determinate tomato varieties, because all stem tips will bear flowers and fruits, and then the plants will decline. You can try growing exceptionally early indeterminate varieties, such as ‘Stupice’ (small slicer) or ‘Bloody Butcher’ (large cherry), but their sprawling growth habits make them difficult to handle in containers. Growing these types outdoors in plastic-wrapped cages is a better bet.

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Tim’s Tips: Keep your garden chemicals from freezing

Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 3:00 am

Tim’s Tips: Keep your garden chemicals from freezing

Tim’s Tips Tim Lamprey

The Daily News of Newburyport

Do you know where your garden chemicals are?

Many people keep their garden insecticides, weedkillers and fungus controls in the garage or in a shed. Did you know that many of your liquid controls could freeze in an unheated garage or an unheated shed or barn?

Many of these liquids that ultimately freeze over the winter will have diminished ability to control the insects, diseases or weeds that you will be treating next year. In some cases, the product won’t work at all.

Any product that comes in an aerosol should also be kept from freezing. Now is the time to gather up all those liquids and aerosols and place them someplace where they won’t freeze over the winter.

You spend a lot of money on these liquid controls. Don’t let the winter ruin those products. Get them moved into an area where they won’t freeze.

Many of you enjoy having amaryllis in bloom for the holidays. It takes about six weeks from the time you plant the amaryllis until it is ready to bloom. Now is the time to buy your amaryllis bulbs and get them going if you want them in bloom in time for the holidays.

Paperwhite bulbs take only about four weeks from the time they are potted up until they are in bloom. There are now lightly scented paperwhites that are good for people who don’t like the scent of regular paperwhites.

If you have grown paperwhites in the past, you may find that the flower stalks tend to get floppy. Researchers have found that if you use a 2 or 3 percent solution of alcohol and water, you will have flower stalks that grow much shorter.

You can use most types of alcohol. If you have whiskey or other hard liquors, they will work. You can also use rubbing alcohol. You should not use beer or wine. We have a sheet at the store that tells you how to do the mix.

We have plenty of paperwhites in stock, but I have heard that they are in short supply from the growers. This may be the year that if you wait too long, you may not be able to buy the bulbs.

If you have plants that you brought inside for the winter, make sure to keep a close eye on them for signs of insect infestations. Once plants are inside, the insect populations can skyrocket very quickly.

One telltale sign of insect damage is a sticky residue on the leaves of your plants. This sticky residue is sugar that is excreted by the insects. The insects cannot digest all the sugars in the sap, and ultimately, they excrete out the sugar.

If you notice a problem on your plants, even if you treated the plants before you brought the plants indoors, get busy and use an appropriate insecticide to control the insects.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week. 


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014 3:00 am.

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Every Blooming Thing: A few tips for your garden – Appeal

Posted: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 4:35 pm

Updated: 5:21 pm, Tue Nov 11, 2014.

Every Blooming Thing: A few tips for your garden

Diane Cleland/For the Corning Observer

Garden tips have a way of getting around, especially those that really work. Some of these tips you may have heard of, or even used before, but they are worth repeating.

Turn a glass into a greenhouse; create a miniature green house for seedlings with an ordinary drinking glass or any clear glass or plastic container. Start your seeds in remoistened potting soil and cover them keeping the pot in a warm place to promote germination and growth. The container provides protection from cold air and holds in moisture. Just make sure the container is clear so light can get through.

Work wonders with Epson Salt, here is a rule of thumb for feeding Epsom salt to both tomatoes and roses, add one teaspoon of salt for every foot of height. Sprinkle it in a circle around the stem and work it in. If the leaves are turning yellow and looking mineral deficient, mix the salt with some water and spray it directly on the plant. Use this mineral feast twice a month for great flowers and fruit.

Make sure to soak clay pots in water for a few minutes before you plant in them. This will saturate the clay, so it will not absorb water from the potting mix.

Azaleas looking a little sickly? They could be lacking acid. This problem can be eliminated by combining one cup vinegar with one gallon water then spreading this combo around the base of the azalea. Continue to water several times with this mixture to raise the ph level. Another use for vinegar is to apply full strength directly on any weed or area of grass that you want to eliminate. Reapply to new growth until plants no longer come back.

Have a problem with slugs? The little devils are attracted to beer, and since they can’t swim, they crawl into the beer and drown. Bury a plastic butter tub or similar container to hold the beer. Only fill it about half full so they cannot climb back out. Be sure to empty the container every day or so and refill with beer.

Feed your roses with banana peels. Forget expensive fertilizers for your garden. Old banana peels work just as well for growing fabulous flowers and yummy veggies. That is because they are rich in potassium and phosphorus. Banana peels are especially helpful for roses. Save them until they are crisp and crumbly, cut them into small pieces, and bury them a few inches in the soil around your rosebush.

Simple trick to controlling an unruly hose. Sometimes it seems as if your garden hose has a mind of its own and refuses to coil back peacefully. Make hose handling easier by leaving the water on as you coil your hose up. This way you will avoid the frustration of the maddening kinks and twists of an empty hose.

It is beneficial to plant in small groups. This way plants can help each other out by shading each other’s roots and protection from winds.

Red Bluff Garden Club is affiliated with Cascade District Garden Club; California Garden Club, Inc; Pacific Region Garden Club, and national Garden Club, Inc. 


Tuesday, November 11, 2014 4:35 pm.

Updated: 5:21 pm.

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Arizona Gardeners: Tips for organizing a community garden

Community gardens are becoming more and more popular in Pinal County. If you are thinking about organizing one in your area, here are some ideas to get you started.

According to the American Community Gardening Association, there are many benefits that come from a community garden: “Community gardens provide a catalyst for neighborhood and community development, stimulate social interaction, encourage self-reliance, beautify neighborhoods, produce nutritious food, reduce family food budgets, conserve resources and create opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy and education.” Community gardens are a good way to build community pride, raise fresh fruits and vegetables and meet new friends with similar interests.  

In Pinal County, community gardens are blossoming in retirement communities, schoolyards and city neighborhoods. Each is different in its own way, but all of them share similarities. When setting up a community garden, it is important to really consider what we want it to do.

An obvious reason, and one that many place first in their thinking, is productivity. Most community gardens are designed to produce fruits, vegetables and flowers for a specific purpose. It may be that a group of people may want to join forces to grow fresh, locally grown food. Others may have it in mind to help bring additional food resources to a community that may not have a grocery store nearby. Still others may simply want to beautify a corner or a city lot.

Whatever the motivation, a community garden is a garden space that is shared by different individuals, families or working groups. Joint gardening efforts require patience, hard work, cooperation and commitment in order to succeed.  

Community gardens usually work best when each participant is assigned their own plot of ground instead of everyone working together on the full garden. In this last case, inevitably there will be those who feel that they are working harder and accomplishing more than others in the group. This often leads to conflict and hard feelings. When individuals or families have their own area to work, the potential for conflict is minimized. Working together under either scenario requires a shared understanding on the part of all individuals, a vision of what is to be achieved and a clear plan to make it happen. When these basic principles are violated, or do not exist, chaos can occur.

For these reasons, before any other plans are laid, it is important for participants to create a forum for planning and sharing. This will require that participants come together in some form of a public meeting. It is in these meetings that group decisions are made. One of the first decisions is to decide whether a community garden is right for the group. Everyone in the group should have an understanding of what is to be done, who is expected to do the various tasks and an agreement on a time line for accomplishing the work. Each person or family should come away with a firm commitment to lend a hand and do their part.

There will need to be some type of planning committee, someone who can coordinate the work. There are many details that must be coordinated and produced at the proper place and at the proper time. Resources like seeds, tools and fertilizers must be made available and properly maintained. The planning committee can help coordinate these tasks. There will be questions of funding, space allotment, youth activities, construction, maintenance and much more, all of which can be facilitated by the planning committee. Members of this committee must be committed to the success of the garden and have the time to devote to the project.

Most successful community gardens have a sponsor, that is, someone or some group that will be willing to help with donations of needed materials or space. A sponsor is not always necessary, especially if the group is willing to support the group with dues or membership fees, but a sponsor can be the difference between success and failure in many community gardens.

There are several key factors to consider when selecting a site for a community garden. The first is water. It has to come from somewhere, and water is expensive. Someone has to pay for it, donate it and make it available. That can be a huge investment. Fortunate is the community garden where a sponsor provides the water. If no sponsor is available, the planning committee must figure it out.

Another factor is the soil. It must be of sufficient quality to support the growth of plants. It is best to select a site that is free of caliche, salts, discarded contaminants like engine oil or other chemicals and perennial weeds like Bermuda grass, nutsedge and silverleaf nightshade. A soil with some sand as part of the mixture will provide the good water drainage that is so critical for plant health.

If the site is new for gardening, it will need to be deeply tilled to loosen the soil, amended with decomposed organic matter, leveled and formed into beds. Some type of irrigation system will need to be designed and installed. I recommend drip irrigation because it is easier to manage and tends to use less water than other systems. All participants will need to be prepared to properly seed, fertilize, irrigate, weed and provide for pest control. All of these should be discussed by the group in advance and have agreement on the steps to be taken. For example, if the garden will be grown under organic specifications, all of the participants will need to be in agreement and prepared to use organic pest control techniques to avoid contaminating a neighbor’s garden bed with conventional insecticides or herbicides.

The garden must be divided up into plots and assigned out based upon a previously agreed upon system. The allocation of plots can be first come-first serve, by lottery or by some other system of distribution. Many community gardens allow their participants to select their site based upon the drawing of lots to determine selection order.

There will need to be space set aside for secure storage of tools and supplies. If composting is part of the garden plan, it will be important to set aside space for that activity. Most composting systems as a minimum set aside three bins of at least 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet to provide sufficient volume for proper composting to occur. Paths between each garden bed that are at least 24 inches wide will allow for foot traffic and provide access for wheelbarrows and small garden carts.

Most successful community gardens develop a set of written rules and give them to their members. This allows all to know what the rules are and to know what is expected of them. It is a fact of human nature that we are more willing to abide by rules that we ourselves helped create, so it is important that this function be part of the agenda for early group meetings. The planning committee can help facilitate the discussion and distribution of the rules.

Good communication is essential. When all know what is expected and have an active part in developing future plans, excitement for the project generally will remain strong and vibrant. For this purpose, many community gardens have an all weather bulletin board where notices and communications are posted.

If children are part of the group, many community garden organizations create special areas for them to work their own plots. Here they can plant whatever they want and work at their own speed. Special garden related activities help them keep interest in the garden.  

A community garden can be an engaging and fun experience but planning is critical. The rewards will be obvious when a bumper crop is shared with family and friends.

For more information on gardening techniques you can call, email or visit the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension office in Casa Grande, 820 E. Cottonwood Lane, Building C, in Casa Grande. The telephone is  520-836-5221, ext. 202.  

Rick Gibson is an agricultural extension agent and the director of the Cooperative Extension in Pinal County. His email address is

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Garden Bridge passes first planning hurdle

Lambeth council approves Heatherwick’s Thames crossing


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This Pared-Down Vacation Home is Called the ‘Twitter House’

After working with architect Richard Williams on the restoration of their D.C. house, the couple enlisted him for this project, giving him a budget of just $500K, which included furniture and landscaping. On a plot right on Lake Ontario, next to the home that Crittenden Frum’s mother shared with her husband, the couple tasked Williams with creating a “concise building,” both in price and in aesthetic.

Blessedly, unlike a few painfully “of the moment” hotels we could name, the Twitter theme didn’t manifest itself too overtly. “It was about very simple ideas,” Williams tells Dwell. “How do you reduce a house to the absolute bare essentials?” Here’s how they did it.

invisible_plan-facade-wood-siding-aluminum-kitchen.jpgPhoto by Christopher Wahl/Dwell

“As you approach, you can already see the lake right through the house,” Frum tells the magazine. “That’s the most arresting thing about it.” The windows on the lake-facing side of the home were kept slightly out of alignment with the those on the north side (↑), so as to encourage a cooling cross-breeze; important here given the lack of air-conditioning. But beyond low-impact building, Frum wanted the place to be light in “your claims on people’s attention… Not to say, ‘Look at me,’ but to say, ‘We are going to be as invisible as possible.'”

invisible_plan-kitchen-ikea-cabinets-concrete-floor.jpgPhoto by Christopher Wahl/Dwell

The living, dining, and kitchen areas take up the west end of the home (↑), while the east is reserved for the master suite, and the combined guest room and study. Working with Toronto-based interior designer Julie La Traverse, the couple implemented an Ikea galley kitchen with countertops of stainless steel. The floors are made of poured concrete. A wide strip of oak paneling runs along the wall and ceiling of the north wall (↑), helping define the corridor that runs from the front door through the kitchen.

Visit Dwell to check out the 1,500-square-foot home’s living and dining areas, lake-facing wraparound porch, and the cheap and “low-key furniture” the couple filled it with.

· Modern Lakeside Retreat Stripped Down to the Basics [Dwell]

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Contemporary-style Weston home is site sensitive

Editor’s note: This article is from the November/December 2014 issue of Design New England. Read the full edition. For regular updates from editors and contributors visit Design New England’s blog.

Greg Premru

The house built in the 1970s retains its contemporary sensibility with a reconfigured front entry that features a glass door set in a glass wall, a dramatic front hall, and a deeply cantilevered peaked roof.

Rather these homeowners-to-be envisioned a home that was informal, contemporary, not too big. Moving from a large, traditional house in Wellesley, Massachusetts, this couple were looking for a change.

Still, they had no set ideas when they assembled a team that included interior designer Sheldon Tager of Sheldon Tager Associates in Newton, Massachusetts, who has worked with them on other homes; woodworker and landscape designer Hank Gilpin of Lincoln, Rhode Island, a personal friend and design mentor; and architect Adolfo Perez of Newton, sought out for his sleek style sensibility. When they found the right site, they would be ready to build. To everyone’s surprise, including their own, the empty nesters fell for a 1970s contemporary-style house on a quiet cul-de-sac in Weston, Massachusetts, that was showing its age.

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“We can’t figure out what made us buy this,” one of the homeowners says with a laugh. “It was a leap of faith for us in every way,” his wife chimes in. “The house was tired, and the 1½-acre lot was an overgrown mishmash. Still, it was an amazing property.

“What first attracted us to the house, I think, was the size and the fact that it’s Modern,” she adds. “Then Hank walked around the yard with us and showed us what we had. We’re not gardeners, but we could see his excitement.”

“The original owner was an astute plant collector,” says Gilpin. “She bought plants from all the great propagators in the Northeast and never stopped collecting. We found a yard planted with the most amazing varieties of valuable old trees, shrubs, and perennials, all species that thrive in the diffused light of that high canopy.”

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The house stands in a copse of tall white pine trees. Broad-leaved evergreens such as azalea and rhododendron grow in the acid soil of their shade. “When we installed the landscaping, 85 percent of the plants we used were already there,” says Gilpin. “We just moved them.” Now, mossy stones form planted beds while bluestone pavers delineate several seating areas. A brook spills into the yard, splashing down a stony waterfall and forming a pool. Shaded, serene, and mysterious, the backyard feels like an arboretum.

The 6,000-square-foot house with deep roof overhangs was ripe for a redesign. “I have worked with houses of that vintage before, and I like the style,” says Perez. “Good contemporary design is timeless. We respected the shape and the structure of the house, but took it back to the studs to reconfigure the interior.”

His plan located the living room in a soaring two-story space whose tall windows bring in the wooded surroundings. A less formal family room abuts the kitchen, which is designed around a large island and looks toward an adjoining sunroom, also oriented to the back garden.

“The house has a beautiful setting, so we created this indoor-outdoor orientation,” Perez says. “It’s open and simple, not like traditional New England rooms that are small boxes with small windows.”

The master bedroom suite is on the first floor, while additional bedrooms and a home office occupy the upper level. To update the exterior, Perez replaced the original vertical siding with stucco. And to house part of the owner’s collection of classic cars, he designed a large garage.

Hans Schaefer of Art/Set LLC of Attleboro, Massachusetts, was the builder. A longtime associate of Gilpin, he trained as an artist at the Rhode Island School of Design and participated in the design of the house as well as its execution.

“I was a strong collaborator,” he says, pointing to the front entry with its wall of glass as an important element of which he is especially proud. “I also designed and built the copper Chinese[-style] top of the firepit.”

Today, his wife, artist Sarah Mott, is responsible for the garden’s maintenance.

For the homeowners, Modern interior design was intimidating until Tager took them to Artefact Home|Garden in Belmont, Massachusetts. “We knew we wanted Modern, but we are not minimalists,” says the wife. “Sheldon introduced us to furnishings that are warm and comfortable but contemporary.”

“She is not a big color person,” Tager adds. “So we worked in a quieter palette to create a sort of flowing, serene feeling. Even the leopard-print rug in the dining room is quiet without being boring.”

He devoted a lot of time to perfecting the color of the flooring, which is quartersawn oak lightened with white stain. The peaked wood ceilings of the sunroom and family room were given a warm honey-toned finish. The only departure from the neutral decor happens in the upstairs office, where the walls are lined with boldly patterned black paper.

“He’s a dramatic guy,” Tager says of the husband, “so his office reflects that.”

There are no curtains on the windows. “They’re like paintings, showing us what’s outside,” Tager says. “You can’t ignore what’s out there.”

The owners have placed several sculptures in their garden, including a large red metal piece by Middleborough, Massachusetts, artist Rob Lorenson. Despite their nongardener status, they appreciate their woodland more and more as they use it and see how its good bones and intriguing plantings create interesting vistas year-round.

“They find the garden beautiful,” says Gilpin with satisfaction.

Design decision: Enter here

“When you see that front entry, you know you’re in store for something special,” says interior designer Sheldon Tager. He, as well as architect Adolfo Perez, landscape designer Hank Gilpin, and builder Hans Schaefer, takes special pride in the dramatic front entrance, which features a glass door set into a glass wall and overhung by a deeply cantilevered and peaked roof. There is not a single pillar anywhere. The step just below the door is made up of three enormous granite slabs that appear to float above the ground, so that it seems to jut out into space.

The design developed over time and at the behest of the owners, who wanted drama at the front door.

“We went through many, many iterations,” says Gilpin, noting this was the hardest part of the job. “When we figured out that we could cantilever the roof, it all came together.”

The team also figured out how to set granite slabs before all the outside doors, cementing them into place so that they appear to float. While none is as large as the one at the front entry, each of the floating steps functions as a rustic, artistic transition between the outside and the inside.

Design decision: Gardens for all seasons

“It’s no big deal to have a beautiful garden in the spring,” landscape designer Hank Gilpin says, “but here in New England, we look out at our gardens from inside the house for five or six months of the year. That’s why we design our gardens for winter first, then fall, then summer, and then spring.”

He points out that a number of trees and shrubs have beautiful winter form that is obscured by the other seasons’ greenery. Many varieties of Acer palmatum (threadleaf Japanese maple), for example, grow twisting trunks that are especially beautiful when outlined with snow. Sideways-slanting winter light illuminates bark colors that are eclipsed in the summer. Gilpin touts Fagus sylvatica, or European beech, as another tree that has a strong winter presence.

“When low winter sun shines on the cinnamon-colored bark of some trees,” Gilpin says, “it shines like fire.”

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Richmond seeks ideas to connect Greenway with Bay Trail

RICHMOND — The public is invited to help plan a connecter that will link the Richmond Greenway with the Bay Trail along Garrard Boulevard.

A “feedback station” will be set up on the Greenway at Second Street from 2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 13 and 14 where the community can offer ideas to representatives from the nonprofit Pogo Park organization and landscape architecture graduate students from UC Berkeley.

According to the Trails for Richmond Action Committee, “completing the western end of the Greenway will provide a safe walking, jogging and bicycling connection with the Richmond Plunge, Keller Beach and the rest of Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline to the south as well as Point Pinole Regional Shoreline to the north.”

Richmond leads all cities in completed miles of Bay Trail and the connecter will help provide residents access to recreational opportunities on the shoreline.

Last month a $335,000 project was approved by the city that will build a section of trail along Garrard near the Richmond Plunge and the Ferry Point tunnel.

W.R. Forde Associates was contracted for the project, which will include “widening the sidewalk along the Plunge to provide an off road Class I trail to be shared by pedestrians and bicyclists,” according to TRAC, along with directional signs, street trees and landscaping.

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Green Story: Site Structures Landscape, Inc.

Site Structures Landscape is a Business Partner with the Green Alliance. Their fall yard clean-up offer is going on now.

Site Structures Landscape, Inc. Bringing “Green” Back to Landscaping

Site Structures Landscape, Inc. offers customers a winning combination of innovative lawn care, honest work, and green alternatives in an industry known for harmful use of pesticides and chemicals. Owner Charlie Bourdages launched the Eliot, Maine company in 1996. Since then, he and his team have found a myriad of ways to incorporate sustainability into their landscaping (lawns, gardens, etc.) and hardscaping (stone, pavement, and brick) practices. New clients meet with project managers Ben Woods and Curt Rose to discuss their “green” options. According to Nicole Tracy, the office manager of Site Structures, their commitment to sustainability came about naturally. “It’s simple; we live here,” she explains. “We want to be responsible members of our community. By treating our planet well, we’re helping both the environment and the people in the communities we serve. It’s the backbone of what we do.”

Site Structures has found many creative ways to make their business practices more sustainable. They are huge proponents of chemical free lawn care, and promote their environmentally friendly services in their pamphlets and monthly email blasts. Site Structures is also a member of Seacoast Buy Local. Whenever possible, they source their building and lawn care materials locally, supporting our New England economies and decreasing their carbon footprint. They also purchase their business cards and uniforms from local vendors.

At their home base in Eliot, Site Structures has made special efforts to go green. Recycling is complete and thorough, and the Site Structures team is diligent with their water conservation efforts. Much of their office furniture has been reused, and some of the desks are repurposed doors. Their CFL lights and efficient heating systems are on timers, which aid in energy conservation. Printing is minimal in the Site Structures office, but when they do print, they use their Energy Star printers and copiers.

Plants, mulch, and people are transported by Site Structures nearly every day. To lessen their impact on the environment, Site Structures uses a fleet of trucks that run on b5 BioDiesel. Charlie also drives a Prius around to work sites. Carpooling is a part of life at Site Structures; the team tries to use as little fuel as possible to do their work.

The Site Structures team is also very involved in the community. As a business, Site Structures works with the Cross Roads House, Jon G Lovering Health Center, the Rotary Club, and more. On a personal level, the Site Structures team still gives back. For example, Charlie is an avid biker involved in NorEast Cycling, the Portsmouth Criterium, and Seacoast Velo.

Every year, Charlie participates in the Green Industry Conference in Louisville, Kentucky to learn about new developments in the eco-friendly lawn care industry. Site Structures is committed to offering the best sustainable lawn care options in the business. They are aggressive in their efforts to learn about new developments, and Charlie is excited to incorporate new ideas and technologies into their business. Site Structures is looking forward to incorporating more green business initiatives in their office, like sustainable printing. The team is also actively looking for more ways to give back to their community.

To schedule your fall clean-up service, click here.

To see Site Structure’s full sustainability certification and learn more about the Green Alliance, click here.

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SoCal: A glimpse of Descanso Gardens’ new 5-acre oak woodland

You’ll soon be able to walk through a part of Descanso Gardens that has been off-limits to visitors for three decades and recaptures some of what the L.A. Basin looked like in its native state.

Five acres that will reopen to the public on Saturday have been re-envisioned as an oak woodland at the La Cañada Flintridge gardens.

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The new green space starts at the edge of the existing Rose Garden and connects to the California Natives Garden. Though still a work in progress — some plants and grasses have yet to fill in — it’s a sweet area with a woodsy feel that’s very different from other parts of the gardens where camellias and roses abound.

It begins near a small lodge that faces the lake and was built in the 1940s by then owner E. Manchester Boddy. Trails wind past recent plantings of hummingbird sage, coast sunflowers, monkey flowers and toyon.

Mulch covers sparse patches that next spring should erupt with wildlflowers and native grasses (and keep a lid on invasive plants too).

“The great thing about the oaks in this section is they were already here,” Juliann Rooke, chief operating officer, said during a media preview Monday.

Engelmann, or Pasadena, oaks were planted here too, but it’s the coast live oaks that dominate what’s referred to as the savanna.

The oaks in this section are healthier than the ones on the other side of the 160-acre gardens. The famed camellia bushes planted in the trees’ understory decades ago require watering, which damages the oaks.

It’s a struggle the oaks may not win, Rooke said, which makes preserving the woodland specimens all the more important.

Along the trails, you can catch views of the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance and bird-watch along the  lake.

The landscaping project at the L.A. County park cost $1.2 million and took about 18 months. But clearing the area started earlier.

In the 1980s, it had been planted with eucalyptus trees, which towered over the oaks and started crowding them out. About 100 eucalyptus trees were removed over time, making way for plans to rethink how to landscape and preserve the area.

The woodland opens Saturday when visitors may take a family walk at 10:30 a.m. and guided walks at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

There’s also a model of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mars rover that will be on display from 9 to 10:30 a.m. (You can lie down and let the rover roll over your body.)

Admission to Descanso Gardens costs $9 for adults and $5 for children 5 to 12. It’s open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas.

Info: Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive; (818) 949-4200

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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