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Archives for November 28, 2014

This week’s gardening tips: poinsettia care

Where you display your poinsettias depends on your overall decoration plans, but if you can locate your plants near a window, it will lengthen their attractive life. Also, avoid warm areas on top of television sets, near air vents or next to heaters. Feel the soil in the pot every day; when it begins to feel dry, water generously. Slip the pot out of the decorative cover, water at a sink, and let it drain there. Put it back in the decorative cover and place back on display.

Late November through early December is usually peak season for the leaves of our deciduous trees and shrubs to show their best color. Although we will never achieve the spectacular displays common in some parts of the country, we usually see some decent color.

Trees that are most reliable about producing fall color here include green ash, sweet gum, crape myrtle, ginkgo, Southern sugar maple, Shumard oak, red maple, Japanese maple, flowering pear and Chinese pistachio. Shrubs such as sumac, Virginia willow and deciduous viburnums also have good fall color.

Over the next few weeks, do not rake up and throw away leaves that fall from your deciduous trees. Use fallen leaves as mulch around shrubs, flowers and vegetables. Pile up the fallen leaves and allow them to decay into valuable compost.

Adding compost or other forms of organic matter is a key part of bed preparation. Why throw away perfectly good organic matter generated by your landscape and then go and spend money buying mulch or organic matter?

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The Family Garden: Bring winter birds into your yard with these tips

Late fall and winter in the garden are filled with a flurry of activity as winter birds move in during the snowy season. Many of our colorful backyard birds can be attracted simply by providing the three things they need: food, shelter and water.

Feeding birds can be as simple as sprinkling nutritious bird seed on a flat surface or purchasing a basic feeder.

As the weather begins to turn, here are some great projects the family can enjoy together that are sure to bring cheerful songbirds into your yard and garden.

Make your own suet

Birds love suet, a mixture of fat, seed, berries, nuts and other items packed with nutrition. Woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches are especially drawn to suet cakes and suet feeders. While suet cakes are quite inexpensive at the bird shop or garden center, it is fun to make your own using items you may already have around the house. Start by creating a fatty substance to hold the seeds and other items together. Most people use simple lard, but you can mix in or use a number of other items as well, including bacon grease, peanut butter or leftover fat from deer or other game animals. Customize your homemade suet cakes by the type of birds you wish to attract. Use dried or whole berries if you hope to see robins or bluebirds, for example. Pour the mixture into forms of different shapes and sizes and allow to cool.

Fruit strings

Robins, waxwings, bluebirds and other birds love fruit, and you can help them out during the winter months by stringing together whole cranberries, cherries, grapes, raisins, orange slices and more to create colorful decorations to hang and wrap around backyard trees and shrubs. You also can include other items such as whole peanuts, popcorn, pine cones dipped in peanut butter and rolled in seed and whatever other items you and your family can dream up.

Cookie-cutter hanging feeders

Kids will enjoy “baking” their own bird feeders using simple cookie-cutter shapes. Make bird biscuits using bird seed and lard or gelatin, press into a thicker biscuit or cookie cutter or a muffin pan, insert a string or wire hanger and allow to harden. In no time you’ll have decorative mini bird feeders to hang from trees, shrubs and poles.

Hanging citrus feeders

One of the easiest bird feeder projects is to simply slice an orange or grapefruit in half, scoop out the insides (or leave it for the birds), spread with peanut butter or lard and roll in nutritious seed. Or, fill the hollowed out “bowl” with seeds or nuts. Insert a dowel or small trig for a perch, hang from trees and shrubs and watch the birds begin to feed.

Sunflower feeder

If you’ve got leftover sunflowers in the garden, cut them back and hang from branches or poles or against tree trunks for easy feeders. Giant sunflowers laden with seeds make easy, nutritious feeders just as they come. Mount the whole flower rather than trying to pick out the individual seeds. The birds will do that for you.

— Rob Zimmer: 920-419-3734,; on Twitter @YardMD

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Great British Gardens: Hidcote Manor Garden – A Hidden Garden of Eden in …


Hidcote Manor Garden was built in the early 20th century by the Anglo-American Lawrence Johnston. The garden is in The Cotswolds and is famous for its numerous garden ‘rooms’, enclosed by clipped hedges and containing a wide variety of both common and exotic plants. The design had a strong influence on garden design for the rest of that century.

The Story of Hidcote

We normally assume that gardens are designed by professionals, landscape architects, master gardeners or in earlier times architects and artists. So when seeing the gardens at Hidcote it can be a shock to discover that this ground-breaking garden was the work of a rank amateur, and not even a true Englishman.


Lawrence Johnston circa 1927 in Mrs Winthrop’s garden with Frank Adams

Lawrence Waterbury Johnston was born in Paris in 1871, the son of a wealthy Bostonian stock-broker, so he was technically an American, but after graduating from Trinity College at Cambridge University he became a naturalized British subject in 1900 and as if to prove his patriotism, joined the British Army and served in South Africa in the Second Boer War.

Shortly after his military service he joined his now re-married mother, Mrs Gertrude Winthrop, at the house she bought in 1907, Hidcote Manor. This was a 300 acre property in The Cotswolds near the village of Hidcote Bartram, which in turn was near an expat community of American artists at Broadway, Worcestershire. John Singer Sargent was the most prominent of them and they were joined by British composers and artists such as Edward Elgar, Vaughan Williams, J. M. Barrie and most significantly for Lawrence Johnston’s life, the great Arts and Crafts designer William Morris.

Major Johnston, as he was now known, lived a very private life and was shy to the point of being a recluse. An interest in plants had been created by his exposure to the unique flora of South Africa during the Boer War and so he began to design and build gardens around the 17th century Manor house at Hidcote. When they took possession there was no real garden at the Manor, just a large kitchen garden, lawns and shrubberies.

Johnston created a unique garden at Hidcote. Although the property was large, the actual gardens only occupy 10 acres of it. Because there was no garden before, Johnston took a field and started from scratch, an experience many amateur gardeners can identify with. He did not have the ancient hedges and vistas seen in many older English gardens and indeed the open, wind-swept nature of his field may have been his inspiration to create not a grand estate but a series of interconnected rooms, many with individual themes and some so small as to rival the smallest town garden today.

We will likely never know the influences on his design, since he was too busy gardening to do much writing and too shy to boast of his achievements. We can only see his mind through his work. He was probably inspired by gardening books of the time and one that seems a very likely candidate was The Art and Craft of Garden Making by Thomas H. Mawson, a garden designer of the time. Johnston did not however hire Mawson or for that matter his more famous fellow professional, Edwin Lutyens, but he was influenced by the partnership of Lutyens and the equally famous Gertrude Jekyll. It was Jekyll in particular, with books like Colour in the Flower Garden, published in 1908, that seems to have strongly influenced his innovative development of single colour gardens.

Although he started the gardens shortly after moving into the Manor, the First World War interrupted his gardening, since he was still in the Army. He fought in Flanders and when the war ended returned to his garden. There never were fully-drawn up plans and Johnston probably worked directly on the ground. The gardens at Kiftsgate Court, owned by Heather Muir were very close and the two became friends and exchanged gardening ideas. Edith Wharton, who also lived nearby and was a lover of Italian gardens, may also have been an influence.

As the garden proceeded he hired a Head Gardener, Frank Adams, and they made an excellent team They visited the Chelsea Flower Show together, as was the style of the time, with owner and gardener consulting over what ideas to incorporate and what plants to buy. During the 1920’s he employed 12 full-time gardeners, which was not such a large number as it may at first seem, as large numbers of household and gardening staff was typical of many British homes in this period.

He became especially interested in rare plants and frequently visited the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, Surrey. He collected alpine plants which were in vogue at the time and grew hundreds in pots and a rock-garden. He also joined the famed plant collector George Forrest on a plant-collecting expedition to Yunnan, China, and funded expeditions by other collectors.

One of the plants he collected in China, Mahonia siamensis, which was too tender for Hidcote, is still growing in Johnston’s second garden, Jardin Serre de la Madone in the hills behind Menton, France. It was normal at the time for the better-off to winter in the South of France and Menton was a popular destination for the British. Johnston owned this garden from 1924 to his death in 1958 and as the years went on spent more time there and less time at Hidcote. That garden too has been restored and can be visited.

In 1930 Country Life magazine published two articles on the garden and a few years later the famous designer Russell Page made a radio show on it. This increased its the fame and the garden began to be open in a limited way to the public – or at least to invited visitors. In 1948 Johnston gave Hidcote to the National Trust and it was the first garden owned by the Trust, who before that had been interested only in houses. For some years the garden was under the control of Graham Thomas, the National Trust’s garden consultant and himself a famous gardener and author. In recent years the plantings have been restored as much as possible to Johnston’s original intentions, which were more flamboyant and Edwardian that previously recognized, with more use of tropical plants and annuals for summer display.

The Garden


The Arts and Crafts movement adored the medieval and early Renaissance. In gardens, that meant simple shapes, rectangles, squares and circles. Part of the genius of Hidcote is the way in which the layout is ‘formal’, with simple geometry, but the spaces are filled with a cottage-style profusion of plants. A similar approach can be seen in much of the work of Gertrude Jekyll. In keeping with the Arts and Crafts tradition, all materials used in the garden are natural – various types of stone as paving and low walls, gravel, timber for structures and wrought-iron for gates.

Hedges rather than fences and walls are used to create the enclosures, and Johnston developed the tapestry hedge, using a variety of plants, rather than just one, for some of his hedges. Others are made of the traditional English hedging plant, yew.

The basic layout is a cross, with the shorter axis running from the rear of the Manor House and dominated by a large open lawn area – The Theatre Lawn, 400 feet long surrounded by 7 foot Yew hedges. The cross-axis is formed on one side by the 600 foot long narrow lawn called the Long Walk, which is flanked by deciduous Hornbeam hedges. The axis on the opposite side is not prominent and is simply a narrow alley flanked by clipped beech trees. This is also the boundary of an area adjoining the house containing work areas and a kitchen garden, as well as the Rose Garden. To either side of the Long Walk is the network of small gardens, each with a different theme and enclosed by various hedges.


Some of the hedges are clipped as topiary, the most prominent being the pair of peacocks in the Fuchsia Garden, which is a square garden with an intricate knot pattern clipped in boxwood. Other themes are the White Garden, the Stilt Garden, with hedges raised on clean trunks and the famous Red Borders, where Johnston created perhaps the first single color garden, a breakthrough comparable to Gainsborough’s Blue Boy in art. Other less formal gardens follow the natural stream running across the property and include the woodland areas around the core of the gardens. In all there are over 20 distinct parts to this masterpiece in the articulation of space and the organization of color.


Hidcote has a great influence in gardens that were to follow it. Most directly related is probably Sissinghurst, the garden created by Vita Sackville-West in the 1930’s. The general concept of order created by lines and hedges, combined with informal planting became the dominant theme of British and to a lesser extend North American garden design for most of the 20th century. The Room Outside, by John Brookes, arguably one of the most influential garden books of the last decades of the 20th century, was inspired by, and promoted, a small-scale version of Johnston’s approach.

Johnston had an influence on plants too and one of his plants, a selected form of lavender called Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ is a dwarf English lavender still grown very widely today.

Further Reading

The Garden at Hidcote, by Fred Whitsey and Tony Lord (2011)

Hidcote: The Garden and Lawrence Johnston, by Graham S. Pearson (2009)

Hidcote the Making of a Garden, by E. Clarke (2009)

Hidcote Manor Garden, by A. Pavord (1993)

Hidcote Manor Garden: Hidcote Bartrim, by V. Sackville-West (1952)

There is a television documentaryHidcote: A Garden for all Seasons (2011) featuring the work of the current head gardener, Glyn Jones, to uncover more about the very private Major Johnston and his garden.

Practical Information

The address of the Manor is Hidcote Bartrim, near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. The garden is close to Stratford-on-Avon and could be fitted in with a visit there.

The gardens are open every day from May to the end of September. They are only open on Saturday and Sunday from November to the end of February. In March, April and October they are open on some weekdays as well as weekends and you should consult the National Trust for precise days in those periods and for actual opening-hours each day, which vary with the seasons.

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Byron Bay garden design blends with surrounding bush landscape

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Water Crisis Targeted By City, Experts

Due to worsening drought conditions statewide, the Long Beach Water Commission last week declared a Stage 1 Water Supply Shortage, which means more watering restrictions for city residents and business owners. 

Now, Long Beach water customers will be restricted to a two-day per week watering schedule. Landscape irrigation with potable water will be limited to Mondays and Thursdays, effective through March 2015. Additionally, swimming pools and spas may not be filled during that same time period. 

Other restrictions, already in effect since February, will remain so. The full list of restrictions is available below.

The declaration further stresses the need for water customers in Long Beach to help offset the impact of the severe drought and reservoir water shortage. Currently, key reservoirs throughout the state are at very low levels, with Lake Oroville and San Luis Reservoir at 29% and 20% capacity, respectively. Officials project that Lake Oroville may reach its lowest-recorded level in history before the end of this year.

Forecasts for the next three months, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, show normal precipitation but above normal temperatures. And, experts say that even above-normal precipitation this coming spring season would probably not be enough to lift California out of the drought.

Experts and policy makers speaking this week during a forum at the Aquarium of the Pacific echoed how important it is to conserve water, especially now that California is in the midst of a water crisis. The group of meteorologists, hydrologists, oceanographers and others met to discuss strategies for dealing with the crisis now as well as dealing with demand in the future. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Congressman Alan Lowthenal also attended to show their support for water conservation.

Jerry Schubel, president and CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific, summarized the experts’ findings. He said urgent action is required now and new strategies are required so that increasing water demand is met while supply is increased.

“We must adopt a new and permanent culture of water conservation in California and reduce water use across the board, from agricultural and industrial to domestic and municipal uses,” he said.

A full report will be made available later, but Schubel’s summary included recommendations about restricting outdoor water use on landscaping, increasing the use of recycled water, more stormwater capture, smarter water meters, permeable pavement, graywater systems, a new tiered pricing structure that protects those least able to pay, a groundwater inventory and a public education program, among other ideas.

Mayor Garcia applauded the efforts of the panelists to generate new ideas to pull California out of the water crisis. He said he wants Long Beach to be a model for the state, and asked that city residents be understanding about fleet vehicles being a little dirtier than usual (from less washing) and parks being a little more brown than normal.

He also announced that the city would be taking part in a social media campaign to conserve water. The hashtag #SaveWaterLB is going to be used to share stories about what can be done and what is being done to conserve.

Congressman Lowenthal found a silver lining on the water crisis, stating that he believes now is a good time to educate the public about the importance of the natural resource and figure out how to better protect the state against droughts in the future.

Research professor Dave Meko, who studies tree rings in a laboratory at the University of Arizona, said this is just one drought — others, even worse ones, have taken place throughout history and likely will recur. That’s why he believes it is so important to act today to prepare for potential shortages in the future.

James Famiglietti, a hydrologist for the University of California, Irvine, and senior scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, uses satellites to study groundwater levels around the world. He said groundwater use in California has been a free-for-all and the issue needs to be solved before it gets worse.

“The groundwater is unmanaged and rapidly depleted, and we need to put on the brakes,” he said.

Coming back to today’s severe drought, officials highlighted the fact that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will use half of all of its stored water in the 2014 calendar year.

“As the state’s reservoirs continue to reach record lows, this Stage 1 declaration, the first in Long Beach Water’s history, should signal the state of emergency we really are in,” Kevin Wattier, general manager of the Long Beach Water Department, said in a release. “This declaration will help avoid or lessen the impact of the severe water shortage that will occur if key watersheds experience only normal to below-normal precipitation this winter.”

Report water violations online at or by calling 570-2455. The department also has a new, downloadable Report A Water Waster mobile application.

Long Beach Water Restrictions Now

• Long Beach residents and businesses may only irrigate landscaping on Mondays and Thursdays through March 31, 2015.

• That landscaping can be watered only for 10 minutes per station per day, or 20 minutes per station per day when using efficient rotating nozzles.

• Irrigation may only take place before 9 a.m. or after 4 p.m. on watering days.

• Landscape may not be watered beyond saturation, causing significant runoff.

• Residents and businesses cannot hose down hardscape with a hose, unless using a pressurized cleaning device.

• Residents cannot fill swimming pools and spas with potable water.

• No one can wash a vehicle with a hose, unless that hose has a water shut-off attachment.

• Restaurants cannot serve water to customers without the customer requesting it.

• Hotels and motels must post signs to notify patrons that they can choose not to have linens and towels washed daily.

• Residents and businesses cannot allow the wasting of water due to breaks, leaks or other malfunctions in the plumbing or distribution system.

Long Beach’s Water Department will continue to monitor water waste reports, and residents can report water violations online at or call 570-2455. The department also has a Report a Water Waster mobile app available for download.

Ashleigh Ruhl can be reached

Editor’s Note: Long Beach Water Commission President Harry Saltzgaver is the Executive Editor of Gazette Newspapers.

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How ‘Extension’ affects Mason County

POINT PLEASANT — We at the Mason County WVU Extension Office hope that the Extension Service is a valuable part of the Mason County agricultural program and the youth work in our county.

It is my opinion, as the agricultural extension agent, that there is nothing more important than the general extension work that should be done on a daily basis. This includes office visits, telephone calls and emails from clients, as well as home visits and farm visits. If agents ever get too busy to keep these things a priority, Extension will be in serious trouble. These activities are what has made Extension great over the past years.

I have always tried to be a source of information to people throughout this region of the country.

As an agent, I have always tried to be very accessible to anyone who needs assistance. I have always tried to treat all people equally and respectfully regardless of race, sex, creed, color, social status or economic status. My phone rings constantly, emails come in regularly, and visitors are a part of the daily operation of the Mason County Extension Office.

I am also a great believer in farm and home visits. Visits are the only accurate and sensible way to understand and diagnose a problem that a client might be having. Visits also show a client that we in Extension truly care.

It has always been my goal to meet the needs of the West Virginia Taxpayer who is paying Extension salaries. This goal should be accomplished with hard work, respect and fairness to all.

When asked to highlight a few of the current agricultural-related programs that Extension is involved in, I would have to discuss the Farm to School Program.

Farm to School Program

The Farm to School Program could possibly be the best overall program for Agricultural Marketing that I have seen and been involved in during my 42 years of professional agriculture work.

Programs of this kind may yield multiple benefits including the provision of the highest quality produce (that is with the greatest freshness, taste, nutrition, and safety) to school children, support of Mason County agricultural livelihoods, and a contribution to local economic development. In addition, such efforts can address, at least in part, the emerging epidemic of obesity and diet-related diseases among school-age children by introducing healthy foods and eating habits.

I became involved in the Farm to School program about three years ago. This interest was developed after attending a food conference in Charleston. Different food service directors from across the state voiced their desires to purchase locally grown products from their areas for use in their local school systems. It was very evident to this agent what the scope of this project could develop into for Mason County farmers and producers.

I developed a presentation on the Farm to School program to present to the Mason County Food Service Director Cristi Rulen. When I sat down in Mrs. Rulen’s office to “sell her on the program,” the first thing she said was “thank goodness someone has finally come to help us get this program started in the Mason County School System.” From that day forth, the program has grown and improved in this county. Mason County producers are also providing various products to other county school systems whenever and wherever possible.

I believed that for the Farm to School program to be successful and beneficial to the growers and school system, it was necessary to get as many producers involved as possible. This group would need to include large producers, small producers, Amish producers, 4-H producers and FFA producers. Public meetings were conducted and presentations were given to explain the program to anyone who expressed an interest in becoming involved.

A Good Agricultural Practices training was planned and conducted for producers of the Ohio Valley area. This was a cooperative effort between the WVU Extension Service and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. Meetings were also conducted to discuss and explain product liability.

We in Extension then became involved in providing in-service and production training to participating producers. This training has covered such topics as proper rules and procedures for getting into schools, school personnel relationships, crop planting schedules, high tunnel management, crop harvesting, how to provide a good product and others.

I have also spent countless hours in scheduling deliveries, assisting growers with deliveries to make them more comfortable and working with school personnel to help make the program successful.

My goal for the Farm to School program is to increase producer participation, increase volume of products sold to school systems, promote crop planning and strengthen this industrial market for Mason County producers while providing the schools with fresh, locally grown products.

Involvement in state activities

Vegetable and fruit production should be an important activity in any county in West Virginia. This area can be very beneficial to the economy of a county and should improve the income to many residents of West Virginia.

For the West Virginia University Extension Service to be involved in this major project, it is important that we provide training activities and conferences to inform the public. With this in mind, I was involved in two statewide programs to provide information to clients. These activities were the West Virginia Small Farms Conference in Morgantown and the Local Food Expo in Huntington.

I taught a class on Farm to School program participation as part of the West Virginia Small Farms Conference.

I also helped organize the local food expo, obtained members for the producer’s panel, obtained food products and served as a facilitator for one of the meeting tables.

The Small Farms Conference brought together many experts, including West Virginia University Extension agents and experience with more than 70 classes covering everything from beekeeping to farm taxes.

People learned about more than 50 issues and methods that can make their farms and families more profitable, including new crops. We’ve learned from our farmers that it’s more than answering what opportunities are out there; it’s about teaching them how to embrace the opportunities.

The conference began with daylong intensive workshops covering the topics of high tunnel construction and management, cheese making, poultry processing, grant writing, alternative energy and youth entrepreneurship.

Some daylong workshops offered field trips to nearby WVU facilities for hands-on experiences. Other workshops, like grant writing, used class time to help attendees hone specific skills. The Youth Entrepreneurship Workshop gave young agriculturalists an open forum to exchange ideas and learn from professionals.

The conference offered more than 70 classes, including returning favorites, such as post-harvest storage, edible landscaping, marketing, agritourism, managing a layer flock, wind and solar energy, as well as classes about timely and important topics in horticulture and farmers market management.

Huntington 30 Mile Meal partnered with the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition to host an exhibition of local food producers in the Huntington/Tri-State area. The Huntington Local Food Expo took place at the Big Sandy Conference Center located in Huntington.

The Local Foods Expo provided regional food growers, producers and processors with an opportunity to connect with buyers from restaurants, grocery stores, schools, institutions and other food venues. Not intended for individual consumers, the event was intended to help foster long-term sales relationships between these buyers and farmers. Other partners on the Huntington Expo included WVU Extension Service and the Charleston Area Alliance.

Attendees enjoyed a tasting showcase of foods prepared with locally grown fruits and vegetables, a group speed dating session helping farmers and buyers get to know each other, and panel discussions on building relationships between farms and food service. An area of exhibition space was reserved for organizations and agencies providing products and services to assist producers, such as product liability insurance, food packaging products, training and affordable loans.

An additional outcome was to create a buyer/grower directory of local food growers and buyers interested in volume sales, to increase the overall sale of locally produced goods in West Virginia. The directory will include detailed information about the needs of each buyer and the products available from each grower; it was distributed at the expo and made available to the public.

Agricultural Involvement in Youth Development

We at the Mason County Extension Office have always believed that one area that is very important to any agricultural Extension agent is the area of teaching in a classroom setting.

The Mason County Extension Service receives annual support of $20,000 from the Mason County Board of Education. For this reason, we feel that it is extremely important for our Extension office to have as much presence in our local schools as possible. We are always willing to teach classes, judge events, help with activities and be an advisor whenever and wherever we can.

This past year, we taught a poultry production unit to two classes of fifth-grade students at New Haven Elementary School. Along with the basics of poultry production, an incubator was installed with fertilized eggs. Web cameras were utilized. Students and the public were able to monitor the progress through hatching 24 hours per day from any computer location.

We are also in the process of working with teachers and parents of Beale Elementary School in the planning, development and operation of a quarter-mile walking track located on the school grounds. This track will be used for school activities for the entire community.

I also presented a program at the Mason county Retired Teachers meeting on “Lawn and Garden Care.” This is a group of very interested people and good extension service supporters.

One activity that Extension agents and local business partners started is the Mason County Large Pumpkin Contest. This contest was planned, organized and conducted for the past few years. This contest is open to all residents of Mason County. Our local Southern States Co-op Store provides a $100 first place gift certificate and a $50 second place gift certificate for winners. Southern States also provides free pumpkin seeds to anyone who requests them.

This contest serves as an outstanding way for Extension agents to provide teaching to the students of our county. This agricultural agent and our 4-H agent go to the elementary schools and present programs to classes concerning plant biology and plant care. Students are encouraged to participate in the Large Pumpkin Contest and seeds are given to students for spring planting. This year we also gave out pumpkin seeds at the Outdoor Youth Expo.

The Outdoor Youth Expo is another great opportunity for Extension to be involved in positive youth development. The Outdoor Youth Expo was started in 2000 as an activity to demonstrate to youth and parents the importance that the outdoors could play in the daily activities of a Mason County family.

Extension, the Mason County School System, Pleasant Valley Hospital, local businesses, local organizations and many interested adults plan and conduct this two day event. All Mason County fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students are transported to the Point Pleasant National Guard Armory for a half day presentation of outdoor related presentations, programs and booth displays. Students receive good training, good information, and great outdoor related door prizes. This is a great cooperative effort involving many youth interested individuals.

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Looking for holiday decorating ideas? Check out the Altrusa Holiday Home Tour – Marshfield News

A fun way to kick off the holiday season, and to gather some ideas, is to tour the area homes that participate in the annual Holiday Home Tour sponsored by Altrusa Club of Marshfield.

The homes can be toured in any order during the weekend of the event.

The home of Erin Drawz, 712 S. Oak Ave., is a cozy Cape Cod style home built in 1941. The tour features an eclectic collection of Christmas décor and trees. Christmas is one of Erin’s passions and she has been collecting decorations and ornaments since her first tree in her bedroom as a young child.

As you stroll through the home you will see trees scattered throughout, from the entrance featuring crystal to the upper floor with teddy bears and reindeer. A particular treasure is the Nativity set painted by Erin’s father. Featured throughout the house are collections of Santas, snowmen, reindeer, and elves including a retro themed tree.

It’s a trip back in time when you visit the home of Joe and Jodi Chojnacki, 609 W. Fifth St. This lovely home features historical architecture inside and out and is listed on the National Register of Historic Homes. The family has been lovingly restoring ‘The Hefko House’ to maintain it’s historical style. The maple hardwood floors, custom built-ins, mullioned windows, and leaded glass doors are typical of the late 1880s when the home was built.

The house is decorated with a multitude of white Christmas lights, garlands, nutcrackers, wreaths, and a traditional Christmas tree. Extensive landscaping, fencing, and cobblestone paved driveway continue the historic style of this house which is their home.

The home of Michael and Barb Smith, 9151 Oak Trail, is nestled in the woods and features a vintage covered tree. Beautiful ornaments of Christmas past and present are among the ornaments on 16-foot-tall trees. The bright twinkling lights and glittering ornaments create a serene scene.

The former house at Fox Fire Botanical Garden, M220 Fox Fire, was purchased by Bob and Sam Steiner. The home sat vacant without utilities for four years.

The couple has worked hard to bring it back to life adding craftsmen style elements, new kitchen/mudroom and lots of color. This is truly a labor of love. Double dressed for the holidays, the Steiner’s have readied the home to celebrate both Christmas and Chanukah. Three holiday trees were cut down on their 16-acre property and an unorthodox menorah encompasses the entire width of the stone fireplace. The tour will also include photos and stories about the home from before the renovation.

If you go

What: Holiday Home Tour

When: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6

Cost: Advance tickets cost $10 per person and are available at the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce office and the Marshfield Public Library. Day of tickets cost $15 per person.

To learn more about Altrusa Club of Marshfield

Check the club’s Facebook page at Altrusa Club of Marshfield

Telephone: 715-207-3071

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Is there an affordable way to recycle greywater?

Watering with residential greywater

Watering with residential greywater

Using “greywater” from sinks, showers and washing machines to irrigate outdoor gardens is a great way to increase the productivity of backyard ecosystems while reducing household water use by as much as 30 percent. Pictured: A backyard garden watered with residential greywater.

Posted: Thursday, November 27, 2014 6:00 am

Is there an affordable way to recycle greywater?

By EarthTalk®
E – The Environmental Magazine

Fayette Tribune

Dear EarthTalk: I know that some large buildings filter some of their wastewater to irrigate exterior landscaping. Is there an affordable way to do this at home? — Bill P., Salem, Ore.

Now that solar panels are so commonplace on rooftops across the country, reusing so-called greywater — that is, the waste water from sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines — for landscape irrigation may be the next frontier in the greening of the American home, especially if you live in an arid region where water use is restricted. In fact, reusing your greywater may be the only way to keep your lawn and garden healthy without taking more than your fair share of the community’s precious freshwater reserves.

“Using water from sinks, showers and washing machines to irrigate plants is a way to increase the productivity of sustainable backyard ecosystems that produce food, clean water and shelter wildlife,” reports Greywater Action, a California-based non-profit dedicated to educating and empowering people to use water sustainably. According to the group, a typical U.S. single family home can reduce water use by as much as 30 percent by installing some kind of greywater reclamation system while simultaneously reducing pollution into nearby water bodies by filtering out contaminants locally. Capturing and reusing greywater can also be part of the battle against climate change, given that you’ll be helping grow plants that sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide while reducing demand on a regional wastewater treatment facility that’s likely powered by fossil fuels.

The simplest way to get into home greywater reuse is to install a “laundry-to-landscape” system that sends washing machine wastewater outside via a diversion tank and hose that can be moved around to irrigate specific sections of the yard. Equipment costs for such a set-up max out at $200, but labor and expertise may tack on another few hundred dollars. Handy homeowners can do much of the work in setting up such systems themselves, though those without much home repair or plumbing experience might at least consult a professional. Greywater Action suggests one way to reduce costs is by digging trenches for diversion pipes and mulch basins yourself — or enlist friends who want to support the effort and learn about residential greywater reuse in the process.

A more comprehensive system can draw wastewater from sinks, showers and tubs, too — and then filter and distribute it to backyard landscaping via a drip irrigation network. Getting such a system professionally installed can run upwards of $5,000.

Either way, once the greywater diversion system is in place, you’ll need to be careful about what goes down the drain, given how it might affect the plants and soils right outside. “In any greywater system, it is essential to put nothing toxic down the drain — no bleach, no dye, no bath salts, no cleanser, no shampoo with unpronounceable ingredients, and no products containing boron, which is toxic to plants,” adds Greywater Action.

For more information on installing a greywater reuse system yourself, check out the resources section of Greywater Action’s website, where you’ll find diagrams, written instructions and even videos to make the job go smoother. Those more inclined to hire a professional can browse through listings of qualified installers across the country. And if you want to see how it’s done first-hand, sign up to attend one of Greywater Action’s one-day workshops on how to install a greywater catchment and diversion system in a residential setting.

CONTACT: Greywater Action,

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine, Send questions to

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Thursday, November 27, 2014 6:00 am.

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Landscaping: Getting rid of the grass to be green

Auburn resident Ellen Stephens has always loved gardening — and her yard is a reflection of that dedication.
“Touching the soil, caring for plants, creating beautiful spaces; it’s like breathing air for me. I have to have them, I have to do it,” she said in an email.
Bright blossoms, green herbs, eclectic succulents provide plenty of color. But these days, the only bit of grass is a small strip in the back yard.
Stephens, who is a member of the Auburn Garden Club and completed the master gardener program in 2003, spent the summer re-landscaping to slash water use.
She tackled the mammoth project on her own, gradually turning her ideas into reality as she created the transformation.
When the Stephenses purchased the home 12 years ago, the yard was carpeted in green grass.  The house also backs up to wetlands, creating a rural feeling and providing plenty of opportunity to view wildlife.
Stephens has gradually transformed sections of the landscape over the years. But the big push came this summer.
When Stephens began planning the project, she knew she wanted mainly drought-resistant plants. She also knew she wanted her work to blend seamlessly with existing planting beds.
“I enjoy designing and landscaping and passed that on to my daughters,” she said. “They both love gardening and have beautiful yards and gardens. We spend a lot of time together in each other’s yards.”
The first step of the project was letting the lawn go dormant, which took several weeks. Then came the labor-intensive job of pulling up the dead sod.
“I started digging from the corner,” she said.
Once she had the yard down to bare dirt,  Stephens topped off the sprinklers and put down cardboard for weed control.
She was working on a tight budget, so she reached out to several local arborists, finally finding one who agreed to provide her with free wood chips. It took two loads to achieve the looked she wanted.
“He was very generous and really nice,” she said. “I really appreciated it.”
Stephens kept a few of her favorite plants. There are still a couple of rose bushes in the front. But they are surrounded by lots of drought-friendly society garlic, Santa Barbara daisies and daylilies. The equally low-water-use abelia variegatam is a transplant from the backyard.
Stephens loves natural rock and used plenty of it to create perimeters and accents.
The new centerpiece of the front yard is a circular planted area enclosed with a rock retaining wall. In the middle is a white crape myrtle bush, surrounded by more gazanias, society garlic and Santa Barbara daisies.
Stephens also added a few pieces of garden art to the new landscape — driftwood and some vintage touches. A hand-made ladder is a find from a local antiques shop. Inside it, a small galvanized tub filled with flowers hangs from an old hay hook.  Nearby, there’s a watering can from the same era.
An old milk can and an old plow add to the ambiance.
“I love it because my dad had a similar one,” she said about the plow. “He was a farmer. … I wanted a plow and wanted something tall. I just found the ladder and the milk can and it all goes together.”
The top third of the front yard has a foundation of good garden soil — a couple of loads — topped with cedar bark and numerous plantings. Along the side, an approximately 2-foot-wide strip of river rock runs front to back. Next to that is a low brick wall that matches brick work on the house and a brick-lined planter.
Along the side toward the back yard, Stephens put in an herb garden between the fence and the rock path. It is planted with rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil and two kinds of parsley.
Adding color are sage, coreopsis and salvia. A flourishing Amistad salvia is still in bloom with large purple flowers.
It attracts lots of bees and hummingbirds and will last until the first frost, she said.
There are more artistic touches, too, including  a little wagon that belonged to Stephens’ dad.
“It’s over 100 years old,” she said.
The small section of remaining lawn takes up the center of the back yard.  On the left of  it, a  bark-covered section has areas of plantings, including circles of potted succulents.
The seating areas make the most of the panoramic view of wildland.
“I can look out and see turkeys, quail, deer and even coyotes,” Stephens said.
A patio on the right-hand side of the yard has non-fruit-bearing olive trees in large pots. Behind it, the vegetable garden,  enclosed with a fence,   has a half dozen raised beds and a composting area. There’s also a lemon tree and a lime tree.
“I have winter and summer vegetable gardens,” Stephens said.
Next to the house, there’s a koi pond that’s 3.5 feet deep — deep enough to keep out the raccoons. But, just in case, a safety tunnel provides a place for the fish to hide.
Stephens said she is grateful that family members provided a helping hand during the landscaping project.
“I thank my son-in-law Nick Mattia for installing the ½-inch drip line (I did all the drip to each plant) and thank my daughter Sara Mattia for tilling and helping me move some of the big rocks,” she said in an email.
Stephens is still fine-tuning the landscape.
“There’s always something else to do,” she said.
Auburn Garden Club president Richard Huntley recently visited  Stephens’ yard to get ideas for his own drought-resistant landscaping.
“I was amazed to see how she transformed the yard (front and back) into something so beautiful and functional,” Huntley said in an email.  “She had removed the grass by herself and did most of the work on the transformation by herself.  It definitely turned out to be the yard of the future and an inspiration for me to get going on my own yard.”

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Enjoy water fixtures all year by winterizing for cold season

For many people with backyard ponds, fountains and other water-garden fixtures, the arrival of cold weather means draining the pipes and pulling the plug.

But water gardens can be attractive winter gardens, too, with the right preparation and landscaping.

Turning off a garden’s water fixtures may not be necessary, depending on where you live, said Keith Folsom, president of Springdale Water Gardens in Greenville, Virginia. “Their wintertime effect is always different and attractive with the use of landscape lighting and the right plants.”

“We had an extremely cold winter here last year but it wasn’t a problem,” he said. “Pay attention and know how much water you’re using below the ice. You have to keep that flow topped off.”

Ensure that water lines and fixtures are drained if you do decide to turn them off so they won’t expand with freezing and break, Folsom said. “Running water, on the other hand, prevents icing. That’s one of the reasons I tell people to keep them running.”

Landscaping around water fixtures can mean simply adding a few evergreens for contrast against snow, or stringing some lights around the ice.

“People who live in the South will most likely keep their ponds going, and use cold and frost-tolerant landscaping for visual interest,” said Tavia Tawney, technical services manager for Aquascape Inc. in Chicago.

It’s best to maintain water gardens throughout the year rather than scramble to get things done before winter sets in, she said.

“It is not advisable to do any major cleaning once the fish are ‘hibernating’ because that is very stressful for them,” she said.


Aquascape Inc. tip sheet:

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