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Archives for November 18, 2014

Gardening tips from the Engebretsons



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    Repeat color schemes in your garden.

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    • When designing a garden area, view it from different directions and take notes of the light, shade and elevation. Draw up designs on paper.

    • Repeat colors and textures throughout the garden. “We did grasses, evergreens, hosta, coneflowers and the colors maroon and gold,” said Dan Engebretson.

    • Do your homework on a plant’s requirements before buying it. That said, if a plant you purchased doesn’t do well in one area, try moving it to another area, hopefully one with more suitable soil and light conditions.

    • If you live in a townhouse development, present designs to your association board for approval. “We were lucky to have friends and neighbors who value gardens. And it doesn’t hurt if one owns a tractor to haul rocks,” said Dan.

    • Try to be environmentally friendly by minimizing chemicals, using organic fertilizers and avoiding products that are harmful to bees.

    Lynn Underwood

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    Gardening tips: Technique that will keep you growing greens all winter

    Winter is here, but that doesn’t mean you have to put your green thumb into hibernation. Kirsten Sweet, senior editor of “Birds and Blooms” joins FOX6 WakeUp with the ins and outs of windowsill gardening.


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    Cold storage: Alan Titchmarsh tips on putting the garden to bed for winter

    Dahlia tubers and summer bulbs

    Ensure bulbs and tubers are free from soil and completely dry before storing, then spread out on slatted trays or use netting suspended from the ceiling if space is short – good air circulation prevents a lot of storage problems.

    Check the bulbs regularly and cut out any rotting or damaged parts. Dust the damaged areas liberally with green or yellow sulphur powder, allow to dry and keep separate from the healthy bulbs.  

    Garden products

    Store unopened bags of compost under cover or, if they are left outside, raise them off the ground and cover with plastic so the rain doesn’t get in. Don’t use opened bags of compost for sowing seeds or cuttings next year, as microorganisms may have got into the bag. It’s best worked into the garden to improve the soil.

    Store bottles of chemicals or liquid feed and packets of feed under cover in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. If well stored, they should remain fit to use for several years.If fertiliser or soluble feeds become damp, add them to the compost heap and mix well with the other ingredients.

    Garden tools

    Use racks to hang large or long-handled tools on shed or garage walls to save space. To prevent rusting, clean and oil metal blades before putting the tools away for winter. Clean and oil small tools, such as secateurs, and store them in clear plastic stacking boxes or in a “garden drawer” in a utility room indoors where they won’t rust or get lost.

    Small garden sundries, such as gloves, balls of string, raffia and plant labels, are best kept in clear-plastic stacking boxes or in one of those multi-compartment storage units used by handymen for nails and screws, as they make it easy to keep a lot of stuff in a small space while keeping it readily accessible.

    Outdoor storage

    In small gardens without a garage or shed, consider installing a lockable chest or upright outdoor cupboard for storing essential tools, a small mower or a barbecue etc. These are available from DIY chains, the internet and catalogues such as that produced by Two Wests Elliott (01246 451077,  

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    Matt Keightley to design Sentebale garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015

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    Committee eyeing visual improvements along 23rd Street

    COLUMBUS — A local group wants to enhance the appearance of a major transportation route through Columbus to impress businesses eyeing the city while giving visitors a good first impression.

    Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s Streetscaping Committee is working with the Nebraska Department of Roads on a plan that could add aesthetic improvements along 23rd Street when the highway is reconstructed a few years from now.

    “There are areas that we feel could definitely benefit from a change in look,” committee member Joe Steffensmeier told the Columbus Planning Commission during a presentation last week.

    The Streetscaping Committee has been working with the Department of Roads and city officials for about 18 months on the plan, which would coincide with a state project currently scheduled to begin around 2020 that will reconstruct a stretch of U.S. Highway 30 in Columbus.

    Committee members believe the major highway overhaul, which may not occur again for decades, provides the perfect opportunity to make visual improvements.

    “If we truly want to improve the aesthetics and the appearance of the city, now is the time that we need to get involved,” said Dennis Hirschbrunner, a member of both the Streetscaping Committee and planning commission.

    The Nebraska Department of Roads also supports the beautification plan, as long as any changes to the state right of way don’t create safety issues, according to Kevin Domogalla, the department’s District 3 engineer based in Norfolk.

    Ultimately, the Department of Roads must approve any plan before it can be implemented.

    Local committee members haven’t gotten to that point yet, but they do have some preliminary ideas.

    Vanessa Oceguera, a committee member who also serves as executive director of Keep Columbus Beautiful, said the group is looking at using colored or stamped concrete on certain medians to create a uniform look along 23rd Street.

    Landscaping is also an option, as well as the addition of illuminated street signs like those found in Norfolk.

    Although the specific details are far from finalized, Steffensmeier said the project will benefit the city by serving as a selling feature that helps attract new businesses and workers.

    “We want to create that really positive first impression when you drive through our community,” he said.

    The only concern about the overall project came from planning commission member John Lippert, who believes business owners might object to the possibility of adding center medians to a stretch of 23rd Street where the dividers were removed years ago.

    “There could be some strong resistance by some of the property owners,” he said, noting that the medians eliminate some left-turn lanes.

    A decision on whether to add center medians lies with the Department of Roads and won’t be made until after a design team completes a traffic analysis as part of the project’s scoping study, according to Domogalla.

    “Based on the analysis, they will come up with a recommendation as to what the best geometric configuration to meet the scope and the need of the project (is),” he said in an email. “Raised medians will more than likely be one of the options considered.”

    Steffensmeier said the city will be asked to cover the cost of the aesthetic upgrades, but additional funding could come from property owners or grants.

    A budget for the work hasn’t been set and Steffensmeier said the improvements could be phased in over several years if needed.

    Hirschbrunner also recommended bringing a professional consultant on board as the project progresses.

    “A consultant would be money well spent,” he said.

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    AmCan seeking greener possibilities near school

    A lush landscape of trees, green grass and a community garden could someday abound near Donaldson Way Elementary School in American Canyon.

    The open space located between the school and Community Park 1 is currently underused, according to one landscaping expert who was asked by the city to assess the property.

    Some local residents have complained about the unsightly plot of land, calling it “ugly.”

    But transforming it into something enjoyable for the community is a real possibility, said Dylan Buterbaugh at a recent joint meeting of the American Canyon Parks and Community Services Commission and the Open Space Advisory Committee.

    “This area is underused,” said Buterbaugh, a recent graduate of UC Davis who studied the area as part of his senior project in landscape architecture. There are many of uses “that could be beneficial” to the community.

    Buterbaugh recommended a joint-use plan because the city and school district own portions of the land. He envisioned planting trees and grass as well as a robust community garden that could serve as an outdoor classroom for elementary students to enjoy.

    “Kids always do better if they’re learning outside,” said Buterbaugh, who grew up in American Canyon.

    Many of the commissioners attending the Nov. 13 meeting welcomed the proposed plan.

    “It looks like a great idea,” said Commissioner Mathew Plate, who wondered about funding for Buterbaugh’s ideas.

    Parks and Recreation Director Creighton Wright said that no money was currently available to landscape the property.

    However, Wright is looking into applying for a grant from the State Water Resources Control Board that could help finance the work.

    The grant would come from the Guidelines for the Drought Response Outreach Program for Schools (DROPS), which supports “projects that reduce stormwater pollution and provide multiple benefits,” including having “an education/outreach component,” according to the agency’s website.

    Wright estimates the cost of Buterbaugh’s recommendations would range between $30,000 and $60,000.

    Bringing change to the area began when the school embarked on a restoration project for Rio Del Mar, a creek that runs through the campus.

    That effort sought to beautify what is primarily a flood control channel, while offering students the opportunity to learn more about ecology, water quality and science.

    “The project excelled by generating enthusiasm in the students, and provided insight about their role within the community, as well as how knowledge about the sciences could be applied to environmental problems,” Buterbaugh wrote in his presentation to the city.

    Students helped clean up the creek bed, removing trash as well as invasive plant species. They later wrote reports that were featured at a school environmental fair.

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    SEPTA plans approved for adding parking near North Wales station

    North Wales Plenty has changed since the last time SEPTA discussed the possibility of adding parking near its North Wales station.

    More state funding has become available for transportation related projects, the transit agency is moving ahead quickly on plans to build a parking garage near its Lansdale station – and they’ve brought back a full set of plans to add 74 new parking spaces on Beaver Street adjacent to the current station.

    “SEPTA was here (in 2013) with a temporary option. We were in the middle of a budget crisis, but we understood the need for parking lot expansion at this facility,” said Taron Booker, SEPTA manager of civil engineering design.

    “Our funding issues didn’t allow us to do a full design, so today I’m proud to announce that we are here to do a full design, full asphalt paving – which we didn’t have last time – and 74 new parking stalls,” he said.

    The new parking lot will be located just northwest of the current station, on a parcel currently owned by SEPTA that’s bounded by the rail tracks to its south and Beaver Street to the east. Four handicapped-accessible spaces would be located closest to Beaver Street, which would be buffered by a thin row of trees from the lot, and a crosswalk would be located at the southern end of the new lot to connect to the current one.

    Several water retention basins would be added to the site, which is shaped roughly like two overlapping triangles with their base along the railroad tracks, and a thick line of trees would buffer the northeast edge of the site with a retention wall to be added to prevent flooding of the neighboring properties across a four-foot grade change.

    “This site really has no landscaping, it’s really kind of a barren area,” Booker said, so SEPTA’s objectives were to identify “the best way possible to get the most parking we can, but at the same time make sure we don’t cause any detriment to the surrounding area.”

    Booker and the SEPTA design team asked borough council to approve a total of seven waivers for the project, including a parking space width of 18 feet similar to that seen at other stations in their network and recently approved for the agency’s proposed Lansdale parking garage. Other waivers include permissions for the retaining wall to be built on the property line between the lot and neighboring property, instead of requiring a setback and the necessary construction easement; waivers seeking to limit screening along the rail tracks where fencing will be added instead; permission to proceed with plans approved by a civil engineer rather than a landscape architect which SEPTA does not have on staff; and waivers regarding the bond and escrow typically set aside for similar projects but which SEPTA and its funding sources do not allow.

    “The escrow account, you put up money up front to make sure you’re not going anywhere. That’s more made for developers – if you start a project, and halfway through the market stops and you leave, it’s the borough’s way of recouping the costs,” Booker said.

    “SEPTA is here, and we hope we’re not going anywhere anytime soon, so we’ll be easy to find and if there is any issue you can always contact us,” he said.

    In response to questions from residents and council, Booker said prices for parking in the new spaces would be roughly $1 per day, identical to prices in the current parking across the street, a new payment kiosk would be installed to cover that lot, and traffic studies performed when the project would have been over 130 spaces showed little impact to the surrounding area due to the commuter nature of those parking. Soil testing revealed higher than normal levels of cobalt and boron on the property, but none above levels that would require remediation, and councilman (and landscaper) Jim Cherry made suggestions about the types of trees to be used in the buffers.

    Construction will likely start in March 2015 and SEPTA hopes to “be finished by Labor Day of the same year,” Booker said, and work on the lot property will have minimal impact to traffic elsewhere beyond occasional lane restrictions on Beaver Street when striping is done there.

    Council unanimously approved the plans along with the waivers requested by SEPTA, and thanked the design team for refining their plans and former council member Greta Martin Washington for seeking further refinements to the initial proposal last year.

    “They had some ideas, but Greta and the other council members said to SEPTA ‘It’s got to be a top-notch plan, or you’re not getting all of those waivers,’ so they went back to the drawing board and came back with a beautiful plan tonight,” said solicitor Greg Gifford.

    North Wales’ borough council next meets at 7 p.m. on Nov. 25 at the borough municipal building, 300 School Street. For more information or meeting agendas and materials visit

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    Design With the Drought In Mind

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    LSU conference focuses on landscaping

    BATON ROUGE — A plant materials conference for nursery, landscape and garden center professionals is planned Dec. 5 at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden in Baton Rouge.

    The session is presented by the LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association. It will feature presentations by LSU AgCenter experts and industry professionals.

    AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings said the program will include a review of new plants for 2015 from Robert “Buddy” Lee with PDSI in Loxley, Alabama; Michele Andre with Ball Horticulture in Jefferson, Louisiana, and Jack O’Donnell with Bailey Nurseries in St. Paul, Minnesota.

    LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill will present information on Louisiana “super plants” for 2015.

    Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. and the conference will conclude at 2 p.m.

    Cost to attend is $30 per person. Attendance is limited to the first 70 individuals with paid registrations by Nov. 24.

    More information and registration forms are available from Owings at 985-543-4125, 225-603-8096 or

    The Botanic Gardens at Burden is off Interstate 10 at 4560 Essen Lane.

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